Shining a light on the Brexit options: A report from the People’s Vote


Foreword
One of the many valid criticisms of Theresa May’s Brexit plan is that it provided little clarity about
the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union. The biggest questions, on
everything from trade to security, were left unanswered until after we were supposed to leave. The
proposed deal, however, did at least have the virtue of being a plan that was agreed and signed off
with the European Commission which has made it abundantly clear how various forms of fantasy Brexit are unacceptable – that we will not be allowed to “have our cake and eat it”. Following Parliament’s decisive rejection of the Prime Minister’s proposals, there has been renewed interest in whether, even at this late stage, some other form of Brexit deal could be agreed. Many of the advocates of such proposals are motivated by a genuine sense of the national interest and the need to prevent the deep damage that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would do to our society. It is surely right that such proposals are given serious consideration but, equally, that they are also subject to the same minimal standards of scrutiny that led so many MPs to conclude they could not support the Government’s Brexit plan. The same is true of the proposal that the UK should leave the EU without a deal.

The two alternative Brexit ‘deals’ discussed in this paper are known as ‘Norway Plus’ and ‘Labour’s Brexit plan’. The former proposes applying to re-join the European Economic Area and negotiating a customs union. The latter appears to be a plan to stay in a customs union with some additional guarantees over employment rights and environmental protections. As such, both would involve having a closer long-term relationship with EU institutions than the Prime Minister’s proposal. But neither could be realised without parliament accepting the binding withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland backstop, along with a different non-binding political declaration. It is hard to see how MPs opposed to the withdrawal agreement could vote for either plan. Both options face many other hurdles, not least the impact on our sovereignty because they would mean the UK would have to follow EU rules over which we would have scant influence. The advocates of Norway Plus have sometimes argued that negotiating their deal would be swift and
easy, would significantly reduce payments to the EU and would allow the UK government to end freedom of movement. Labour has said it wants a deal involving a “new and strong” relationship to the single market that would maintain frictionless trade, a floor on workers’ rights and environmental standards, and
membership of a customs union with the EU. However, the party has also said that free movement will end, and called for an exemption from EU state aid rules, which rules out membership of the EEA. Labour also says it wants to have “a say” over future EU trade deals, something the EU says isn’t possible. Many of those advocating that the UK leaves the EU with no deal see it not just as a least-worst
option but rather as a desirable one. Indeed, some have even argued the UK would “thrive” in such a scenario, despite countless dire warnings from business, trade unions, farmers, the City, the NHS, universities, the Bank of England and Organizations would do very little to mitigate the wide-ranging damage. Claims that the effects of no deal could be mitigated through ‘side deals’ with the EU are also highly contested but have successfully allowed the proponents of no deal to muddy the waters and evade scrutiny. 

All three alternative plans share many similarities with the arguments made for Brexit in 2016 when big promises were made with little regard for what could actually be delivered. Indeed, after the 2016 referendum and the political debate since, it is more important than ever that political leaders are straight with the public about the reality of any proposal to leave the EU. Decisions that are
taken in the next few weeks will affect our country, our communities and our children for decades to come. If Parliament is to agree a different form of Brexit, it must not, cannot and will not do so on the basis of vague, contradictory or inaccurate claims. 

This paper poses five fundamental questions for advocates of Norway Plus, five fundamental questions for advocates of Labour’s Brexit plan and 50 wide-ranging questions for those pushing for no deal. It is only right that these questions are confronted over the coming days, when the principles of clarity, scrutiny and honesty will be crucial for Parliament to do its job properly. The Questions that advocates of ‘Norway Plus’ must answer 

1. How long would it take to negotiate?
Some advocates of Norway Plus argue that it could be negotiated swiftly and easily. They have suggested that the 21-month transition period set out in the withdrawal agreement would provide sufficient time to negotiate the new relationship.
But EEA accession could take years to negotiate, and would require agreement by all 30 EEA member states (the 27 remaining members of the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), also involving national parliaments. Furthermore, because Norway Plus would involve staying in a customs union, the UK would not simply be negotiating off-the-shelf EFTA or EEA membership. The EFTA Convention would need to be changed to exempt us from its trade deals requirement
while we would then need to negotiate separately add-ons for agriculture and fisheries, which are excluded from the EEA Agreement.This would likely mean a long and complex set of negotiations.

Some advocates of Norway Plus have argued:
• It would be quick to negotiate: “There is more than enough time to negotiate and conclude a new Political Declaration enshrining a Norway style arrangement as the basis for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.” (Better Brexit website)1
• It would be finalised and implemented during transition: “The transition (‘Implementation Period’) would give us the time we would need to finalise and implement the agreement with the EU and the EFTA states.”(Better Brexit website)2
But this is unlikely to be possible because:
• Accession to EFTA and the EEA is complex: The UK would have to negotiate an accession treaty to EFTA with the four members of this organisation: Switzerland and the three EEA EFTA members. The UK would then have to negotiate an EEA accession treaty with the 31 entities which are members of the EEA: the EU, its 27 member states and the three EEA EFTA members. As former EU legal counsel Jean-Claude Piris has pointed out, “to enter into force, they would involve a ratification by all contracting parties in accordance with their own procedures (art 128(2) EEA). Experience shows that this will take time.”

• Adding a customs union complicates matters further: Norway Plus is not an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution, because it envisages a bespoke model of EFTA and customs membership. EFTA is not a customs union but its members operate trade deals, both individually and collectively. Specifically, the EFTA Convention requires that any acceding state applies “to become a party to [its] free trade agreements”.4 EFTA would therefore have to agree to waive the trade-deal requirement. We would also need a bespoke agriculture and fisheries agreement from day one, to stop both those industries going over the cliff-edge. This could be hugely time-consuming.

1http://betterbrexit.org.uk/
2http://betterbrexit.org.uk/
3https://esharp.eu/debates/the-uk-and-europe/why-the-uk-will-not-become-an-eea-member-after-brexit
4EFTA Convention, Article 56(3): http://www.efta.int/sites/default/files/documents/legal-texts/eftaconvention/Vaduz%20Convention%20Agreement.pdf
4

2. Would the backstop still be required?
There is confusion among advocates of Norway Plus on this issue. Some have suggested the Northern Ireland backstop could be removed from the withdrawal agreement. Others have said it would remain in the text but would certainly never come into force. The reality is that any deal will include the backstop because the UK could not negotiate – let alone ratify – accession to the EEA and EFTA before its departure from the EU. And there is no guarantee it would not come into force at the end of the transition period because there is no certainty about how long the negotiation would take or, indeed, if it would be successful.
Some advocates of Norway Plus have argued:
• We could ditch the backstop: “But we wouldn’t need the backstop which is what is causing so much angst amongst my colleagues and many MPs across the House of Commons.”(Nicky Morgan)5
• The backstop would never need to be used: “Eliminate the need for the Irish backstop to be activated because we would move seamlessly from the transition period into Common Market 2.0.” (Robert Halfon and Lucy Powell)6
But this is unlikely to be possible because:
• Any deal will include the backstop: The EU has been clear that the withdrawal agreement text cannot be re-opened and therefore any deal will include the backstop. As the European Commission has repeatedly said: “The withdrawal agreement… is not open for renegotiation.”7
• It is impossible to guarantee the backstop will not come into force: The Norway Plus proposal requires detailed negotiation to work and there is no guarantee that the two sides would reach agreement. If they did not, the backstop would necessarily be activated. As Michel Barnier has said, “The backstop must remain a credible backstop.”8 Even if the UK succeeded in negotiating membership of the EEA before the end of the transition period, and then triggered Article 127 of the EEA treaty to begin a process of departure from it, the EU would ensure that a trade deal could not follow without a new backstop.

5https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGYxEcQE8ew
6https://labourlist.org/wp-content/

3. How much would the UK end up paying?
Advocates of Norway Plus have repeatedly suggested the UK would end up paying significantly less into the EU budget than we currently do as a full member of the EU with a seat at the table where we have a voice, a vote and a veto. But Norway currently pays only a little less per capita than the UK and, given the UK’s weak
negotiating position once we have left the EU, there is little evidence to suggest the EU would demand significantly lower payments from us for the same level of market access.
Some advocates of Norway Plus have argued:
• We would pay ‘substantially less’ than we do today: “As members of the EFTA pillar of the EEA we would pay for what we access from Single Market programmes and agencies. This would be substantially less than our contribution as a member of the EU.” (Better Brexit website)9
• We could pay around half what we do today: “The annual amount would equate to not much more than half the amount we currently pay.” (Robert Halfon and Lucy Powell)10
But this is unlikely to be accurate because:
• Norway makes a significant contribution: “Although EEA members do not pay directly into the EU budget, they do contribute to and receive funding from specific EU programmes such as the Horizon 2020. They also offer direct financial assistance to less developed EU member states – for example, Norway is contributing €391m every year between 2014 and 2021.
Although sometimes presented as a ‘voluntary’ contribution, the EEA agreement explicitly references the “need to reduce the economic and social disparities.” (Open Europe)11
• Norway’s per capita contributions are not significantly lower than what we pay today: According to calculations by Open Europe, once what Norway receives back from the EU is taken into account, in 2015 Norway’s per capita net contribution was 88% that of the UK – £100.03 compared to £113.79.12
• There is no evidence that the EU would allow the UK to pay less than Norway: “The EU would certainly refuse any British request to participate less, proportionally, than the current financial participation of Norway. On the contrary, given that the EU will lose the contribution of the UK as an EU member[and] the EU’s commitments to its poorer Members, the weak bargaining power of the UK, the EU would probably ask for more.” (Jean-Claude Piris)13

9http://betterbrexit.org.uk/
10https://labourlist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Common-Market-2.0.pdf
11https://openeurope.org.uk/intelligence/britain-and-the-eu/as-the-uk-searches-for-a-post-brexit-plan-is-theeea-a-viable-option/
12https://openeurope.org.uk/intelligence/britain-and-the-eu/as-the-uk-searches-for-a-post-brexit-plan-is-theeea-a-viable-option/
13https://esharp.eu/debates/the-uk-and-europe/why-the-uk-will-not-become-an-eea-member-after-brexit

4. Would the UK continue to apply the EU’s free movement rules?
It has been claimed that a Norway Plus arrangement would give the UK significantly greater control over immigration policy than we currently have in the EU.
But the principle of free movement of people, which has been of immense economic and social value to the UK, is not negotiable for the EU. Claims that the UK could use Article 112 of the EEA agreement to suspend free movement are highly contested. Article114 provides that, if they did, any other EEA member could take ‘proportionate rebalancing measures.’ Some advocates of Norway Plus have argued:
• The UK would ‘regain control’ over immigration policy: “We regain control over
immigration: articles 112 and 113 of the EEA agreement enable any EEA country to suspend and reform any one of the four freedoms.” (Stephen Kinnock)14
• The UK could immediately pull an ‘emergency brake’: “[U]nder Article 112 (1) of the EEA Agreement, we will have an ‘emergency brake’ which will allow us to cap migration if events give rise to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature” (Nick Boles)15
• The UK could seek an ‘opt-out’ from free movement: “Under Common Market 2.0, the UK [would] have a right to seek a de-facto opt-out from freedom of movement.” (Robert Halfon and Lucy Powell)16
But this may not be accurate because:
• Joining the EEA means abiding by EU free movement rules in full: It is clear from the past two years of negotiations that the application of free movement rules for members of the EEA is non-negotiable for the EU.
• It is unlikely the ‘emergency brake’ could be used immediately: For Article 112 to be activated, the difficulties would have to appear after the member state’s EEA accession; in Britain’s case, the bitter political controversy over free movement has been apparent for several years already. The emergency brake has only never been used by an EEA member once – Liechtenstein in 1997. The differences between the UK and Liechtenstein (which has a population of just 38,000) are obvious. As Jean-Claude Piris has noted, the emergency brake hasn’t been used since, “maybe because article 114 provides that, if it would, any other EEA member could take ‘proportionate rebalancing measures’”.17
• Talk of an ‘opt-out’ from free movement is baseless: While it is strictly true that Article 113 of the EEA Agreement allows for a renegotiation between the UK and the other EEA countries the suggestion the UK could secure a long-term ‘opt-out’ from free movement is not only undesirable but also unsubstantiated. It is a non-starter for both the EU and EFTA.

14https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/forget-second-vote-norway-avoid-brexit-cliff-1-5799824
15http://betterbrexit.org.uk/
16https://labourlist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Common-Market-2.0.pdf
17https://esharp.eu/debates/the-uk-and-europe/why-the-uk-will-not-become-an-eea-member-after-brexit

5. Would the UK become a rule-taker?
Advocates of Norway Plus have often exaggerated the degree to which the UK could influence EU policymaking. It is argued that the UK would apply only a small number of EU rules under their scenario because we would be outside of key EU legislative areas. However, when the EU passes a new law, EEA EFTA states are required to mirror it – and the Norwegian Government has confirmed that they accept three quarters of EU rules. Officials quite openly admit that Norway and Iceland are professional lobbyists in Brussels, interests when drafting new legislation. While this may not be entirely ineffective, it clearly offers Norway significantly less influence than the UK enjoys as a full member of the EU with a seat at the table.
Some advocates of Norway Plus have argued:
• The UK would have a voice, vote and veto: “Contrary to how the EEA is often
misrepresented, the UK would have a voice, vote and right of refusal over proposed new EEA law.” (Halfon and Powell)18
• Most EU rules would not apply to the UK: “In Common Market 2.0, most EU rules would not apply to us at all as we would be outside the common agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs policies… Only 28% [of EU rules] apply.” (Halfon and Powell) 19
But this requires clarification because:
• The UK would be legally obliged to adopt all EU rules relating to the single market: As JeanClaude Piris says, the UK would have to accept “as legally binding in its national law the transposition of all EU directives and regulations for the internal market, without participating in their decision ‘making’ but only on ‘shaping’ them (articles 99 and 102-104 of the EEA Agreement).”
20 Tellingly, the clause which enables EFTA member states to suspend
implementation of new laws – Article 102 – has never been activated in the EEA’s 25 years. A country can ‘delay’ legislation but has market access blocked if it does so. This is not the same as the voice, vote and veto the UK has as a full member of the EU. 
• Norway says it adopts three quarters of EU rules: Although Norway is outside the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, the Norwegian Government’s EEA Review Committee found that “Norway has incorporated approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation.”21 And, because the UK would have open borders with the EU thanks to being in the customs union, we could end up replicating or closely aligning with the CAP and CFP – meaning even more rules over which we would have no say.
• The EU would take a firmer line on the UK than on Norway: This is because the UK, as a significantly larger economy, would have more power to unbalance the single market.22

18http://betterbrexit.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Common-Market-2.0.pdf
19http://betterbrexit.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Common-Market-2.0.pdf
20https://esharp.eu/debates/the-uk-and-europe/why-the-uk-will-not-become-an-eea-member-after-brexit
21https://web.archive.org/web/20120127051142/http:/www.regjeringen.no/pages/36798821/PDFS/NOU2012201200020
00EN_PDFS.pdf
22https://www.ft.com/content/17e3993c-f32e-11e8-9623-d7f9881e729f

The Questions that advocates of Labour’s Brexit plan must answer
1. Could it really be negotiated before the UK has left the EU to avoid the
need for a backstop?
It is sometimes claimed that Labour could negotiate its own Brexit plan before the UK has left the EU, thereby avoiding the need for the backstop.
But the backstop would still be required. Even if the UK agreed to re-open discussions over the non-binding political declaration, this would be merely aspirational. The EU have made clear that the legally binding withdrawal agreement – including the backstop – cannot now be renegotiated.
Some have argued a Labour Brexit deal:
• Could be negotiated before the UK leaves the EU: “It’s a plan that can be negotiated with the EU, even at this late stage….” (Jeremy Corbyn)23
• Would mean ditching or re-negotiating the backstop: “[Labour] wouldn’t have all this
problem with the backstop etc because we want the whole of the United Kingdom to be in a permanent customs union with the EU.” (Shami Chakrabarti)24… “There certainly wouldn’t be a ‘backstop’ from which you can’t escape.” (Jeremy Corbyn)25
• Would have to avoid having the backstop: The Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca LongBailey, has said it is “not acceptable”.26
But this is unlikely to be accurate because:
• Labour’s plan would be merely aspirational: Even if a majority of MPs voted for a different kind of Brexit plan, a customs union with the EU would take a long time to negotiate with the EU. A new political declaration would be the diplomatic version of an IOU, neither binding not anything more than a statement of intention.
• Any deal will involve the backstop: Keir Starmer has acknowledged that Labour’s plan would involve the backstop, saying: “At this stage any deal probably does require a backstop and we’ve got to recognise that… There are problems with this backstop and we have got to recognise that but because we are in this stage of the exercise, nearly two years in, the chances now of a deal that doesn’t have a backstop are very, very slim.”27
• A customs union alone wouldn’t negate the backstop: Critically, being in the customs union alone wouldn’t resolve the backstop. The backstop also includes a single market in goods for Northern Ireland, which necessitates a sea border – this is the main reason for the DUP’s opposition. To get rid of the backstop altogether the UK would also need to have full single market membership including alignment on agriculture.

23https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/06/jeremy-corbyn-general-election-brexit-labour-theresa-may
24https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bv1yln/question-time-2018-06122018#t=00h13m18s
25https://www.euronews.com/2018/12/07/corbyn-interview
26http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/09121803.pdf
27https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/20/keir-starmer-northern-ireland-backstop-likely-in-any-brexit-scenario

2. Would it make the UK poorer?
Labour has advocated a ‘jobs-first’ Brexit which would prioritise jobs and the economy. One of the party’s six tests for any Brexit deal is that it must “deliver the exact same benefits as we currently have” and, even if there is some flexibility on that, clearly it would be impossible to go for a Brexit deal that made people poorer.
But the EU has consistently made clear that non-member states cannot enjoy the same level of market access as full members of the EU. And a wide range of economic forecasts, including the Government’s own, suggest every form of Brexit will harm the economy. A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research found that staying only in the customs union, as Labour proposes, would result in a 2% hit to GDP.
Some have argued that Labour’s Brexit plan:
• Wouldn’t make the UK poorer than if we stayed in the EU: “I wouldn’t be interested in a deal that would make the country poorer.” (Jeremy Corbyn)28
• Could retain the ‘exact same benefits’ as EU membership: “Labour will not support a deal that fails to reflect core British values and the six tests I have set out today… [including] does it deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?”29 (Keir Starmer)
But this is unrealistic because:
• The EU will not agree a deal that gives the UK the same benefits: The European Council’s negotiating guidelines are clear that “A non-member of the Union, that does not live up to the same obligations as a member, cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a member.”30
• Every form of Brexit will damage the UK economy: Forecasts and analysis by the Treasury and a number of think tanks have found that every form of Brexit will leave the UK poorer. A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research found the impact of staying in the customs union but not the EEA (as Labour proposes) would be a hit to GDP per capita of 2 per cent. 31

28https://www.euronews.com/2018/12/07/corbyn-interview
29https://labourlist.org/2017/03/keir-starmer-labour-has-six-tests-for-brexit-if-theyre-not-met-we-wont-back-the-finaldeal-in-parliament/
30https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/04/29/euco-brexit-guidelines/
31https://www.niesr.ac.uk/publications/economic-effects-government%E2%80%99s-proposed-brexit-deal

3. What would be the UK’s relationship to the single market?
There is a striking lack of clarity over what relationship Labour is proposing the UK should have with the EEA. It is said that Labour’s plan would herald a “new and strong relationship” with the single market which keeps the same economic benefits while maintaining and extending protections for workers, consumers and the environment. But it is also argued that the plan would allow the UK to end free movement of people or that it would not turn the UK into a rule-taker.
Some have argued that Labour’s Brexit plan:
• Would keep the UK aligned with the EU in some areas: “Labour wants a close future relationship with the EU based on our values of internationalism, solidarity and equality – maintaining and extending rights, standards and protections.” (Labour’s website)32
• Would allow the UK to end free movement of people: “Freedom of movement of people will end when we leave the European Union.” (2017 Labour Manifesto)33
• Would not turn the UK into a rule-taker like Norway: “Unlike the Norway-plus option now being canvassed among MPs, our plan would not leave Britain as an across-the-board ruletaker of EU regulations without a say.” (Jeremy Corbyn)34
• At the same time, it would ensure the same trade benefits as EU membership: “We believe we could get the same benefits on trade, on customs union with the European Union.”
(Jeremy Corbyn)35
But this requires clarification because:
• It is unclear how workers’ rights and environmental standards could be guaranteed outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ: As the Social Market Foundation have said: “The European Communities Act guarantees that a worker’s ‘floor of rights’ can be enforced locally across the European Union in national courts. This platform of enforcing rights is not guaranteed in any trade agreement.”
36So if the UK ended up in a free trade agreement with the EU, outside of the jurisdiction of the ECJ, there would be little to block a future government lowering standards in these areas.
• Any effort to avoid following rules made by the EU would have severe economic
consequences: If Labour is committed to ending free movement and avoiding becoming an “across-the-board rule-taker”, the UK will by default not have the “same benefits” as it currently does as an EU member. Being outside the single market would mean a border in the Irish Sea and a new border in the Channel, and a hollowing-out of the UK’s services sector owing to an end to an end to financial services passporting and an end to automatic recognition of qualifications.

32https://labour.org.uk/issues/labours-plan-brexit/
33https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf
34https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/06/jeremy-corbyn-general-election-brexit-labour-theresa-may
35https://twitter.com/jamin2g/status/1064088901445459970?lang=en
36http://www.smf.co.uk/ask-expert-brexit-workers-rights/

4. Would the UK still follow EU state aid rules?
It has been suggested that Labour’s Brexit plan would allow the UK to avoid EU state aid rules. The reasons for this are not clear because EU state aid rules help ensure multinationals pay their taxes and would not prevent Labour from implementing the policies in its manifesto. But if a UK government – Labour or Conservative – tried to seek an unfair advantage, it would be given short shrift by the EU that has long made clear that any Brexit deal must prevent “unfair competition” on state aid. And the EU would have to insist on restrictions on state aid in a Customs Union agreement, as it has done with Turkey, because by allowing the UK to stay in a customs union the EU would be giving up its only possible weapon – the imposition of tariffs –against UK subsidies.
Some have argued that Labour’s plan:
• Would allow exemptions on state aid: “We would also seek to negotiate protections, clarifications or exemptions, where necessary, in relation to privatization and public service competition directives, state aid and procurement rules and the posted workers directive.”(Jeremy Corbyn)37… When asked by Andrew Marr in May 2018 “If the EU say you have to stick with our state aid rules and that’s that, what do you do then?” John McDonnell
replied: “I don’t think they will.”38
But this is unrealistic because:
• The EU’s negotiating guidelines prohibit undercutting on state aid: “The aim should be to prevent unfair competitive advantage that the UK could enjoy through undercutting of levels of protection with respect to, inter alia, competition and state aid, tax, social, environment and regulatory measures and practices.”39
• By asking to stay in a customs union, state aid rules are unavoidable: As George Peretz, cochair of the UK State Aid Law Association, has said: “in a customs union, we are asking the EU to give up the weapon WTO rules (countervailing measures) give it against U.K. subsidies. There was always going to have to be cast iron state aid rules in consequence.”40 The EU has already imposed a state-aid clause in the withdrawal agreement for this very reason.

37https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/26/jeremy-corbyn-to-confirm-labour-wants-a-customs-union-with-eu
38http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/06051802.pdf
39https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/33458/23-euco-art50-guidelines.pdf
40https://twitter.com/GeorgePeretzQC/status/1063872509043503105

5. Would the UK have any say over its trade policy?
It has been claimed that under Labour’s Brexit plan the UK could be in the customs union but have some decision-making power over the trade agreements that the EU negotiates. It is argued that the UK could have “a say” over EU trade deals. There is currently little clarity about what this would mean in practice or why the EU would agree to it.
What is clear is that the EU treaties grant the EU sole competence over its common commercial policy. For example, Turkey has no say over EU trade policy even though it is in a partial customs union. The default position is that the EU would continue to sign trade deals with third countries and, after each new deal, the UK would be forced to liberalise its markets for the new partner. The UK would have no formal say or voting rights in any negotiations and it would gain no automatic
reciprocal benefit from such a deal which would only apply to the EU.
Some have argued that Labour’s Brexit plan:
• Would allow the UK to have “a say” over EU trade policy: Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner has said: “we on the Labour Benches have been calling for a new permanent customs union with the EU in which we would have a say over future trade agreements.”41 …
Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has said Labour’s deal “would provide a permanent customs union with the right for Britain to have a say in future trade deals.”42
But this is unrealistic because:
• It is almost inconceivable that the EU would agree: Treaty of Lisbon, Article 207, says: “The common commercial policy shall be conducted in the context of the principles and objectives of the Union’s external action… The Commission shall conduct these negotiations in consultation with a special committee appointed by the Council to assist the Commission in this task and within the framework of such directives as the Council may issue to it.”43 Turkey, which is the customs union but not the EU, has no say over EU trade deals.
• Being in a customs union without a say would be very damaging: The EU would continue to sign trade deals with third countries, and after each new deal the UK would be forced to liberalise its markets for the new partner – despite a lack of participation or voting rights in any negotiations. Worse still, the trade deals would only apply to the EU. If the EU signed a deal with Australia, Australian goods would enjoy full access to the UK (with its shared EU tariff), but UK goods would enjoy no automatic reciprocal rights in Australia. Indeed, Australia – having already secured its advantage – would not be compelled to sign any reciprocal trade deal with the UK. If it did choose to do so, it would likely offer far inferior terms to the UK than to the EU. The UK would, after all, have little additional to offer, and consequently little leverage.

41https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2019-01-14b.861.0#g883.5
42http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/09121803.pdf
43https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228848/7310.pdf

The Questions that advocates of ‘No Deal’ must answer
Those advocating no deal have for far too long dodged scrutiny. Many of the claims made for no deal are inconsistent, contradictory or misleading, and it is clear that there is little agreement among proponents of no deal about precisely what it would entail or how ‘managed’ it would be.
Some recent examples include:
• A group called the Economists for Free Trade have argued that “No Deal increases our negotiating flexibility… particularly with regard to negotiating a future trade agreement with the EU”, ignoring the reality that the UK would be hit far worse than the EU by no deal, and that defaulting on our financial commitments would likely lead to a further erosion of trust and goodwill.44
• A recent report by Global Britain and Labour Leave makes a series of claims including that: no deal would “boost our GDP by up to 2%” because the UK wouldn’t pay the £39billion divorce bill; no deal would bring an “end [to] the political and economic uncertainty”; and “the Irish border issue will be solved by administrative measures”.45 There is little evidence for any of these claims.
• Former government minister Esther McVey said recently there should be “an
implementation period for a no deal” despite the fact no deal would mean rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement.
• The Transport Secretary has claimed there would be no new checks on lorries coming into the UK after a no deal exit, despite the fact the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said this would “open up the UK’s borders to potential abuse and breaches”. 46
No deal therefore poses endless questions, and it is time the advocates of this destructive form of Brexit come clean about the Brexit they wish to inflict on the country. Below are just 50 questions advocates of no deal must answer. There are many, many more.
1. What would be the cost to the UK economy of a no deal Brexit?
2. Do you anticipate there being a transition period as part of your plan?
3. How much would you be prepared to pay for access to the EU single market?
4. Do you anticipate any consequences for refusing to pay the “divorce bill”?
5. How long do you expect Britain’s accession to the WTO as an individual member to take,
and what do you make of news reports that this may get blocked by current members?
6. How long would it take for us to reach a free trade agreement with the EU?
7. How long would it take to renegotiate our free trade agreements with over 70 countries?

44 https://www.economistsforfreetrade.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/No-Deal-is-the-Best-Deal-for-BritainUpload.pdf
45 https://globalbritain.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/GBLL-paper-30-Truths-Final-05.01.19.pdf
46 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/16/mps-call-for-pm-to-clarify-chris-graylings-post-brexit-borderpledge

8. What would happen to UK research projects currently in receipt of EU funding?
9. How will you ensure Parliamentary approval for no deal?
10. How will you ensure UK insurance contracts remain valid and recognised in the EU?
11. How will the UK meet its reporting obligations under current EU CO2 emissions targets?
12. Can you guarantee that there would be no shortages of medicines under no deal?
13. How will you honour the Good Friday Agreement under no deal?
14. How would you avoid a hard border in Ireland after no deal?
15. Does your plan guarantee the residency rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK?
16. How would the UK retain an economic sanctions policy as powerful as our current one as
part of the EU single market?
17. How would students continue to be able to participate in Erasmus+ student exchange
programmes?
18. What would keep UK phone providers from reintroducing roaming charges for
holidaymakers in the EU?
19. What would happen to the validity of UK driving licenses in the EU?
20. Would you countenance a lorry park on the M20 or elsewhere in Kent?
21. Can you guarantee that there would be no reduction whatsoever to UK workers’ rights?
22. Can you guarantee that there would be no reduction whatsoever to UK environmental
legislation?
23. How can you guarantee the safe handling, transport, and storage of radioactive materials
outside Euratom without a deal?
24. How will the electricity import and export via the UK-EU interconnectors in the North Sea
be controlled and regulated?
25. What would happen to the Single Energy Market, covering the island of Ireland?
26. How would UK police retain access to EU information sharing systems that help catch
criminals?
27. Would the UK keep access to EU medical trials databases like EudraVigilance and
EudraCT?
28. How would UK companies be able to defend themselves against unfair trading practices in
European markets?
29. Can you guarantee funding at current levels for farming and fishing?
30. Can you guarantee ESF and ERDF funding at current levels for UK social initiatives and
regional development?
31. How would you ensure no skills shortages would occur in UK industries as a result of
losing free movement?
15
32. How long would negotiations for Britain to join the WTO’s Government Procurement
Agreement take?
33. What impact would paying the EU’s common external tariff have on British exporters?
34. What goods would the UK impose zero tariffs on, given that under WTO rules such tariffs
would have to be applied to all WTO countries?
35. Would the UK’s new tariff schedule be subject to approval by Parliament?
36. Are British customs facilities prepared for a large increase in imports from non EU
countries?
37. Can you guarantee British citizens living in the EU will not lose their current rights?
38. How prepared are our government services for the return of large numbers of retired
British expats?
39. Can you guarantee that the Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border officials to
operate in France, will be unaffected?
40. Would British organisations still have access to the European Investment Bank?
41. Would there be enough ECMT permits available for British hauliers who need to go to the
EU?
42. Can you guarantee visa free travel to the EU after no deal?
43. Will British citizens be able to benefit from the European Health Insurance card?
44. How would no deal affect Civil Judicial Cooperation between the UK and EU countries?
45. What would keep European competitors from copying British products such as Stilton that
are currently protected in the EU under its geographical indicator scheme?
46. What would happen to the value of Sterling under a no deal Brexit?
47. Do you agree with Economists for Brexit’s Professor Patrick Minford when he says a no deal
Brexit would “mostly eliminate manufacturing”?
48. How many new civil servants and how much additional public expenditure would be
needed if the UK were to leave the EU with no deal?
49. Would British food exports to the EU be subject to sanitary checks on entry, and how
would this affect these exports?
50. Do you anticipate UK participation in the Galileo scheme under no deal?

Antoniazzi – Nobody voted to put medical supplies at risk


The National Pharmacy Association have stated Brexit-related fears are helping to drive the shortage, through what they call “unconscious stockpiling”.

Commenting, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:

“The serious problems in the supply of medicine only emphasise what a huge risk Brexit poses to our health service and family life.

“Nobody voted to put the supply of drugs and medicines at risk. It certainly didn’t feature on the side of any bus.

“The Government’s Brexit deal was decisively rejected by the Commons this week and Parliament is gridlocked. With medical supplies at risk we do not have the luxury of playing another round of fantasy Brexit and it is now time that Westminster understood that a People’s Vote is the only way forward.

“There is no kind of fantasy Brexit deal that can meet all the promises made. Now we know what Brexit looks like, the public should be given the opportunity to decide in a People’s Vote – is this the kind of deal we want, or is the deal we already have in the EU better? In the end, only the people can sort this out.”

Thanks to the People’s Vote for this post.

A quick guide to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement: Deal, No Deal or Dog’s Dinner?


If you want Marmite and I want jam on my toast, a slice with a bit of marmite and bit of jam won’t appeal to either of us.   And, it gets worse if we don’t know whether the people we are making breakfast for prefer jam or Marmite.  Then we cannot be sure what would make them happy.

That is exactly the problem with the EU Withdrawal Agreement (WA).  It’s a deal that pleases everyone a bit and nobody enough.  It’s not so much a ‘reasonable compromise’, as many Ministers are starting to say, as a Dog’s Dinner.  And it is exactly why we need a People’s Vote to clarify what we want and unite the country behind what we decide. 

I have read the WA and what people are calling a heads of agreement on our future trade relationship with the EU.  And here is what I have concluded:

Under the WA, the transition period from next April until the end of 2020 is the time when we and the EU would negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  During those twenty one months most things would be the same as now:

  • we would continue to pay into the EU
  • there would be free movement of people and
  • goods and services would move to and from the EU without new checks

However, we would have no say in any discussions: we would be ‘observers’ at various meetings.   And we would abide by any new rules or regulations brought in during that time.

Now that is fair enough really.  Honestly, it is.  It is a stand still period during which we are out of the EU and we are in the process of agreeing a future trade deal.

The trouble is imagine what the transition years will be like. 

It will be a further 21 months of political games and uncertainty.  And we will continue to be taking our eye off the ball of other big policies that matter such as health, energy, education and social care.  

It has taken us over two years to agree what is actually a pretty straightforward WA: essentially the status quo minus influence on rules and preserving free movement.  If the transition period is extended, it will split the UK between GB and NI.  From the experience of the WA, it will take much longer than twenty one months to agree an FTA.  Maybe three years.  Maybe more.

As for the heads of agreement on the FTA, it sets out to be ambitious and comprehensive.  The aim is to have tariff free trade between the UK and the EU, as long as we share the same standards.  Both the EU and the UK teams agree this makes sense.  What does that mean?  Well if we create other FTAs – say with the USA – that alter our regulations, or we decide to change our regulations for other reasons, then there will have to be border checks and other sources of trade friction that reflect the changes.  It’s how trade deals operate.

So, the deal makes sense from the EU side but presents major dilemmas from the UK side.  We can avoid a harsh No Deal exit but that is just the beginning.  Even if we get a decent FTA we will be faced with the choice of either staying close to the EU (our biggest market) with no influence or cutting those ties and seeking growth elsewhere.   And I have to add that the irony here is that that growth could also be achieved anyhow without sacrificing our trade with the EU if we were to remain.

These questions should not be left to politicians to answer.  It’s a huge decision that will change our lives and those of our children for a long time.  That is why we need a People’s Vote: to look the decision in the eye and resolve the key questions now we know the real options.

Dr Domonic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic is a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

 

 

Ruth George’s Letter


If you are a High Peak resident then this is the likely reply if you have asked her for a People’s Vote. If you’ve not received one then write and let her know you want her to support a People’s Vote.

Thank you for contacting me about the campaign for a second vote on the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

I know that many people continue to be understandably disappointed with the outcome of the June 2016 referendum. In the run up to the referendum, I sought to set out a positive case for why I believed the UK should remain a member of the EU. However, the majority of people who took part in the referendum voted for the UK to leave the EU.

While I respect the referendum result, I believe no one can respect the way the Government has handled the Brexit negotiations over the past 18 months.

In my view, the Government has no credible plan, no solution to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland and no majority in Parliament for the Chequers proposals it is pushing ahead with. This divisive approach is threatening our country with either a bad deal that would harm jobs, rights and living standards, or no deal at all.

Parliament’s choice cannot simply be between a bad deal or no deal. I believe no deal would be a catastrophic outcome to these negotiations and the Government does not have the right to subject our country to chaos because of its own failure. However, there is an alternative.

I have long been calling on the Government to negotiate a new customs union with the EU that allows us to have a say in future trade deals, to protect jobs and manufacturing. I have also been calling for a new single market deal with rights and protections guaranteed. I consider these to be the basis of a sensible Brexit deal that would avoid disruption to our trading relationship with the EU, protect jobs and the economy, and ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately, the Government has refused to work with these proposals.

I will not support a bad Brexit deal in Parliament, nor will I support a vague agreement that gives no detail about the terms of our future relationship with the EU. I believe that would be giving the Government a blank cheque to go down the reckless path it is set on at present.

When a deal is finally presented to Parliament, I will weigh it very carefully, particularly against the concerns that many businesses in High Peak have raised with me. If the deal will not protect local businesses and jobs then I will not be able to support it, and I know many other MPs of all parties feel the same way about their local economy.

The government does not have a mandate for No Deal. It is not what people voted on in 2016.

As I have stated publicly, if the government is unable to negotiate a deal that can be agreed by Parliament, I believe that the British people should be able to vote to decide whether they would prefer to leave the European Union with no deal, or to seek to negotiate a better deal for the UK within the EU.

That would be the only way to ensure that the momentous decision made – whichever way it is decided – has the support of a majority, and that we have voted in full awareness of the consequences of our decision.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.

I’d like to send you an update on local issues in High Peak and my Parliamentary activity once a month.  If you’d like to receive this, please just reply YES to this email.
 
Kind regards
 
Ruth George MP
Member of Parliament for High Peak
 

Working for you in High Peak and Westminster 

Dominic’s Brexit: Would you have major surgery without Anaesthetic?


Imagine this scenario.  You visit your GP because you are feeling under the weather, he or she checks you over and says there is a simple solution.  It is take out one of your lungs and to do it without an anaesthetic.  Don’t worry.  It will be quick and easy.   The GP has recently read a report saying that the other lung will grow to replace the one they remove and it will help to cleanse and re-energise your general sense of being under par.

Well, that is how I feel right now about the deals being discussed about Brexit.

We have established that leaving the EU will mean pain.   It will mean seeing the demise of some industries in order for others to grow.  That’s the basic argument.  The choice between ‘No Deal’ or a ‘Soft Brexit’ all comes down to how quickly you want the pain to last.  A rapid exit will take 15 years to re-adjust and we start to grow again.  The slower, softer version might take 20 years or more and overall the ‘No Deal’ supporters are planning for a 50 year delay before we fully take advantage of leaving the EU.  Yes, I said 50 years. 

I don’t know about you, but 15 years of disruption, slower growth and who knows what for public services is not what I want. 

This week the picture became both clearer and more muddled.  Clearer about the reality of the cost of leaving in terms of our standards of living.  Clearer about what the two main political parties are saying about Brexit.  And clearer that the negotiations are more about politics than they are about making sure we make the right decision.  But muddled as to what the government is actually trying to achieve.  Not to mention just who is in charge. 

It is why we need a ‘People’s Vote’. 

When we voted in the referendum, the prognosis was that our removal from the EU would quick, painless and beneficial.  The reality is that while leaving might happen 1 minute after midnight at the end of next March, but the consequences will be slow, painful and with uncertain benefits.

If a doctor asked you to have major surgery, you would have to give your written permission once all the facts and risks of the procedure were explained.  It should be the same with Brexit.  Now we know the details, Parliament should seek our consent for the next step: leave on which terms or stay.

Dr Domonic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic is a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

Dominic’s Brexit: New UK divorce proposals could be applied to Brexit Process


New proposals for divorce law announced last week could be applied to the UK’s process of leaving the EU given the logic of the reforms and the acrimonious state of Brexit negotiations.

A consultation period was announced last Friday by Justice Secretary David Gaulke to gather people’s views on the laws covering divorce.  In launching the consultation, Mr Gaulke said:

“….. there’s been a growing coalition recognising that the animosity that is put into the system is not doing us any good…….

The fact that more and more voices have been saying it’s time to look at this again (suggests) … the time is certainly ripe to make this change.”

One feature of the reforms is especially attractive in resolving the problems we face as we try to negotiate our exit from the EU marriage.  This is the period of reflection set between deciding to divorce and the final moment when the marriage ends.  This pause allows couples time to reflect on the decision: in the words of the government (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-legal-requirements-for-divorce), to make sure that the decision to divorce continues to be a considered one, and that spouses have an opportunity to change course.

At last some common sense.   In a divorce, we do not expect the ‘will of the couple’ when they file for divorce to have to be delivered even if they change their mind.    They can look into the practical realities of what their divorce would mean and can decide to make a go of their relationship.  Many do. 

And that approach to divorce could be applied to the Brexit process.

Now we know more and more of the reality of what Brexit means, we need a chance to reflect on our decision.  Once the final deal is agreed and before we end our EU marriage, we need a People’s Vote to decide our future.

 

 

Dominic’s Brexit: What would Tigger say?


What would Tigger say?  Well, we heard what he would say when Jacob –  call me Brexit Tigger – Rees Mogg bounced and chortled before an audience of journalists this week to explain the benefits of a clean break Brexit. 

 The occasion was the launch of a report called ‘From Project Fear to Project Prosperity’ (you can find it here.) based on a paper written by his friendly economist chum Professor Patrick – the slasher – Minford.  Not a Winnie the Pooh character I know.  He is famous for telling Margaret Thatcher that the UK had no future in coal mining and steel making back in the 80s and we know where that ended but that is quite another story.  Wait till you hear what he thinks about farming and manufacturing  …..

 So what did we learn from Tigger?

 Well, the Brexit Tigger told us that if we leave the EU lock, stock and barrel it will be great because we can cut all tariffs on all goods straight away to make imports cheaper and to put more competitive pressure on business.  For example, the price of lamb, beef and chicken will fall dramatically as we will then import cheap food from the USA and elsewhere. 

 The issue the National Framers Union had picked up on in a report of their own is that most farms would struggle to survive under this scenario.   For example, the combined effects of less direct subsidies to landowners and lower protected prices for imports would mean a drop of over 50% in farm incomes.  Yes, 50%.  A Cardiff academic estimates some 25% would go bust and that employment will fall in the sector.   And even without these dramatic reductions in tariffs, a post Brexit will see the UK farming sector struggling to survive unless it can diversify.

 

But that is ok, as Slasher Minford tells us that the UK shouldn’t really see itself as an agricultural nation.  Much better to let them go to the wall and rely on imports for our food.  I am not joking.  That is what he thinks.  But isn’t farming the backbone of our nation?  Haven’t we tried to protect our farming heritage since the second word war exactly NOT to rely on imports?

 

Professor Minford also believes that our manufacturing industry is too inefficient and a dose of foreign competition would do it no harm.  In fact, previously he has gone as far as saying to a Parliamentary Committee that he thought that manufacturing (including automotive, aerospace, brewing and electronics) pharmaceutical) would quickly decline should we leave the EU.

 The next day Michael Gove gave some hints about the future of farming under his watch.  Don’t you think he has something of the Piglet about him?  Always a little anxious about something as if, maybe, he’s worried someone might whip out a knife and turn him into some nice chops and a few pounds of sausages. 

 According to Michael, he plans to end direct farm payments from 2021: a year earlier than the commitment made by Hammond to keep them going until 2022.  From 2021 payments to farms will not be to do with land ownership but with what farmers do to the land in terms of looking after what we call public goods: that includes clean air, clean water and providing ease of access for people to the countryside. 

 Whether it is Tigger or Piglet in charge, farms and farmers will be very different in the future.   Unless they can diversify and ‘add value’ to what they do like dairy farmers opening ice cream businesses, many will go bust.  The question is just how many holiday lets, campsites and ice cream outlets can the market really support.

 So that’s what Tigger would say.  And there is one more thing to say.  If you look at the Wikipage for Tigger you will discover that although he is always super optimistic, his antics often lead to chaos and trouble for himself and his friends.  He often undertakes tasks with gusto, only to later realize they were not as easy as he had originally imagined.  Ring a bell?

The mess that these characters are getting themselves and us into.  The damage they are knowingly about to wreak on our economy for the next 15 or more years with their plans.  We cannot let them decide what will happen. 

 That is why we need a People’s Vote on the final deal.  To take back our control of the process.

Dr Domonic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic will be a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

Dominic’s Brexit, Would you really buy this?


Why do we need a People’s Vote on Brexit?

 I was speaking to a friend who voted to leave the EU.  He told me he thought the mess we are in now reminds him of a time he was sold a secondhand car.  What was meant to be a ‘nice, low mileage reliable runner’ turned out to be a ‘shunt job’: the car turned out to be two halves of two different vehicles that had been written off and welded together.  And the clock on the car had been turned back to show a low mileage.   He wished he’d got a mechanic to look over the vehicle before parting with his cash.

 His point?  He thinks we need a People’s Vote now that we see the reality of the impact of various versions of Brexit compared with what was described in the referendum campaign.   He thinks our politicians cannot be relied upon to produce what is best for the country.

 The latest voice to warn of the consequences of our actions is Mervyn King, ex Governor of the Bank of England and someone in favour of Brexit.  He said this week that:

 “ …we are now being told that we have to accept a certain course of action (the Chequers Proposal) otherwise it would be catastrophic (No Deal) …..  it beggars belief that the sixth biggest economy in the world should get itself into that position.”.  

 It is time to bring in that mechanic to take a look at the Brexit car.  Is it a nice little runner or a shunt job? 

It is time for a People’s Vote.

 

Dr Domonic Swords

 

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic will be a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

 

The end of farming as we know it?


Thanks to Open Britain

Food, Agriculture & Fisheries

 

Key messages

 

  • The Government’s decision to leave the Customs Union and Single Market poses risks for consumers. The UK relies on the EU for 70% of its agricultural imports and the Government must guarantee there will be no tariffs on agricultural products or new regulatory burdens, especially given its aim to take the UK out of the customs’ union.

 

  • The Government should act to protect UK food security, ensuring UK-produced food is affordable, widely available and produced in a safe and sustainable way.

 

  • The Government must urgently set out its plans for replacing the Common Agricultural Policy, where EU subsidies make up 50-60% of farm income.  Farmers must not lose out.

 

  • The Government must clarify its plans for replacing the Common Fisheries Policy, which sends a quarter of a billion euros each year from the EU to UK fishermen. The fishing industry’s interests must be protected.

 

  • Brexit should force the Government to address Britain’s lack of food self-sufficiency with food prices now forecast to rise due to increased import costs.

 

Background[1]

 

  • UK Government position: The UK Government’s White paper on Exiting the European Union states that “leaving the EU offers the UK a significant opportunity to design new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming” and that it wants to ‘ensure a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment’. [2]

 

  • Brexit Implications: Brexit has serious implications for farming, with the common agriculture policy coming to an end. At the moment, EU subsidies account for 50 to 60 per cent of farm income. Brexit also brings Britain’s lack of food self-sufficiency in to focus, with food prices now forecast to rise due to increased import costs. Brexit might also have damaging repercussions for the fishing industry, which currently through the Common Fisheries Policy receives a quarter of a billion euros each year from the EU.

 

  • Leaving the Single Market and customs union would risk tariffs on UK export! Even EEA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) facing tariffs on agricultural products. Such tariffs could have a potentially devastating impact on farms, which operate under very tight margins. Leaving the customs union could also leave UK exports subject to rigorous customs checks, which would place an additional burden on food producers. The presidents of all four of the UK farming unions have called for “full, unfettered access to the Single Market”. EU external rates include almost 30% on sugar & confectionary, 20% on animal products, 12% on fish & fish products and 21% on beverages and tobacco.[3]  the UK’s Food & Drink Federation has noted that over 70% of food and drink imports are from the EU and has called for a tariff-free customs union with the EU where the Government must prioritise tariff-free market access via a comprehensive UK-EU trade deal before proceeding with the Article 50 exit negotiation process.[4] 

 

  • UK Farming Trade: The UK Government’s White paper on exiting the European Union acknowledges that the UK is a net importer of agri-foods goods and that the UK has a trade deficit of £17bn when it comes to agricultural trade, with over 70% of the UK’s agricultural imports coming from the EU27.[5] According to the National Farmers’ Union, the EU single market is farming’s biggest export destination by far, with 75% of UK agriculture exports being sold to the EU. In the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the NFU argue that the UK must ensure that famers’ access is not constrained by tariff or non-tariff barriers, such as burdensome inspections at UK borders. The NFU warn that any future bilateral free trade arrangements with 3rd countries need to take into consideration that many UK farm businesses would be unable to survive if current tariff barriers were removed or slashed. [6]

 

  • Farm payments: The Government has guaranteed current levels of funding to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020[7][8], however Andrea Leadsom, a prominent leave campaigner and the Environment Secretary stated in January 2017 that “As we prepare to leave the EU, I will be looking at scrapping the rules that hold us back”.[9] The NFU have called for current levels of public investment in farming to be maintained in the transition from the CAP to a domestic agricultural policy and that any transition should be gradual.[10] 

 

  • Fisheries concerns: Outside of the Common Fisheries Policy, the UK would be able to devise its own fisheries policy. However, when it comes to international agreements on shared waters with the EU, the UK would be in a position of weakness when it comes to negotiating Total Allowable Catches (TACs). The UK will also need to see how it would continue to trade fish and fisheries-based products with the EU, where even in the EEA, fisheries is not covered and non-EU member states have to pay tariffs. Tariffs of up to 25% could apply on some products. As concerns funding, the UK Government would have to decide whether it would want to replace the EU’s Maritime and Fisheries fund.[11] Some EU member states have been looking into continued access to UK territorial waters post-Brexit and have suggested that UK tariff-free access to EU waters would be contingent on such an arrangement. [12]   

 

[1]Unless otherwise stated, information taken from “Progressive Principles for Brexit negotiations” January 2017 https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/in/pages/11527/attachments/original/1484328213/OBFAB_progressive_principles_Brexit_final.pdf?1484328213

[2]The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, February 2017, p.41 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/589191/The_United_Kingdoms_exit_from_and_partnership_with_the_EU_Web.pdf

[3] http://foodresearch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Fod-and-Brexit-briefing-paper-2.pdf

[4] https://www.fdf.org.uk/priorities-eu-manifesto-market.aspx

[5]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/589191/The_United_Kingdoms_exit_from_and_partnership_with_the_EU_Web.pdf

[6] http://www.nfuonline.com/assets/80290

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-philip-hammond-guarantees-eu-funding-beyond-date-uk-leaves-the-eu

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/environment-secretary-sets-out-ambition-for-food-and-farming-industry

[9] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/environment-secretary-sets-out-ambition-for-food-and-farming-industry

[10] http://www.nfuonline.com/assets/94690

[11] http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/brexitcfp/

[12] https://www.ft.com/content/958c7e28-0f1c-11e7-b030-768954394623

Report from Ruth George MP for High Peak on her consultation on Brexit with her constituents.


This letter was sent to all the people who registered for the event. Thank you Ruth for taking an interest. We hope given the results you feel able to campaign fully for remain in the Labour party.

Thank you to all the 300+ people who came to my meetings on Brexit last weekend and responded to my survey on which options you would prefer for our deal with the European Union.
 
If you haven’t yet completed the short survey, I’d be grateful if you could, and pass it on to friends in High Peak to have their say.  Whether you voted Remain or Leave, I’d like to hear from all sides: https://ruthforhighpeak.co.uk/featured/ruth-george-mp-survey-want-brexit/
 
Now the Government has been forced to give Parliament a ‘Meaningful vote’ on the deal, I’d like to hear views from as many constituents as possible before that vote, so I’m continuing the survey and will hold more open discussion meetings around High Peak in the weeks to come.
 
Our deal with the European Union will affect this country for generations, and at last weekend’s meetings, many concerns were raised about how our deal is shaping up and the local impact:
 

  • Ensuring access for local businesses to free trade with Europe within a Customs Union.
  • £40 billion ‘exit payment’ and impact of a predicted economic downturn on the least well off
  • Our ability to travel, study and work abroad – employers were worried they might not be able to recruit skilled staff from the EU, jeopardising local jobs if contracts can’t be fulfilled.
  • EU citizens leaving the UK, and high vacancies in the NHS.
  • Continuing subsidies for farming and the upland environment so land management is viable.
  • Protection of our food standards and environmental safeguards, consumer rights and rights at work.
  • Loss of the EU Social Fund that supports many local charities, businesses and organisations.

Although High Peak voted almost equally for Remain and Leave in the referendum, there were only two contributions from Leave supporters, despite requests at both meetings.
 
One speaker in Buxton felt trust would be lost if we did not leave the EU.  So I’m particularly keen for people who voted Leave to complete my survey to find out what they want from our deal.
 
This week I voted in Parliament for amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill to:
 

  • Preserve all our current rights and protections, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • Future-proof our environmental protections
  • Require an Economic Impact Assessment of the final deal before Parliament votes on it
  • Enable us to have a Transition Period to avoid chaos at our borders in March 2019
  • Limit the huge ‘Henry VIII’ powers which give individual government ministers the power to make laws on almost anything without consulting Parliament.

However, Conservative and DUP MPs opposed all these practical improvements to the Bill, so none of them were passed.  In consequence, I believe the Bill is not fit for purpose, so I voted against it.
 
The Bill has now passed to the House of Lords where it may be amended.  If the government disagree with any of the Lords’ amendments, then MPs will vote whether or not to approve them.
 
The debate and votes on Brexit will continue and I welcome hearing from all my constituents – whichever way you voted in the Referendum – on what you want from Brexit and how it will affect individuals, businesses and communities in High Peak.
 
Thank you for letting me know how you feel on this, and on all the other important issues facing our country.
 
With kind regards