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“The Brexit Committee has warned that even under the most optimistic scenario, there may not be enough time to complete all necessary work before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. The Brexit Committee report also calls for an extension to the exit timetable if a deal has not been finalised.” — The Express
What *Have* They Been Doing?
Two years on from the June 2016 Brexit referendum and with almost one more year to go before the stated target date of March 29, 2019 and the Brexit Committee says that “even under the most optimistic scenario, there may not be enough time to complete all the necessary work before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.”
That’s the definition of ‘Low Ambition‘ right there.
Whether the fault lies in Brussels or at 10 Downing, or even because of the infighting that happens within the Conservative Party itself, governments need to remember that the people have spoken (and quite apart from that) sentiment continues to grow among the UK voting public for the government to ‘just get on with it’.
Even people who voted Remain now think the best thing for the country is for a quick and streamlined Brexit agreement — one that is fair to citizens and industry on both sides of the English Channel.
If two years and nine months isn’t enough time to get it done, what is?
Do the politicians in London and Brussels think they have carte blanche to spend the rest of the decade and part of the next to arrange a suitable Brexit deal? If so, that’s very telling… and not in a good way.
Citizens on both sides of Brexit need to know and industry needs to know what to expect so they can prepare for life after Brexit. And they needed to know a year ago.
How Hard Can it Be?
Most of the existing EU laws will simply continue unchanged following Brexit, therefore, more will stay the same than will change.
It was originally thought that the UK would be leaving The Common Fisheries Agreement by March 29, 2019, or at the latest, by July 2019.
Therefore the UK had been negotiating with the EU in good faith so they could make some basic decisions about how to manage UK fisheries after Brexit. Micheal Gove is surely an able enough minister to easily handle it, yet, the EU indicated that the Common Fisheries Agreement will remain in place until 2020 and there will be no negotiation about it. And that was the end of that.
Read this important article about UK fisheries policy between March 29, 2019 and January 1, 2021: Brexit: Michael Gove shares fishing industry ‘disappointment’
Actually, the EU might’ve done the UK a favour by sidelining fisheries policy until after Brexit. Imagine that!
As off-putting as that sounds, it dramatically lightens the load of UK government negotiators because it’s one less sector that needs to be debated with EU negotiating teams. All of which should have conspired to put both the UK and EU six months *ahead* of schedule on the Brexit negotiation timeline!
So we can’t blame Brexit delays on Micheal Gove, the Common Fisheries agreement, or the EU for delays to that timeline.
Both the UK and EU will remain members of NATO post-Brexit and as the UK already operates its own defence infrastructure there isn’t much change expected there.
Apart from arranging the return of any non-NATO-dedicated Royal Air Force jets presently in EU countries, or removing Royal Navy ships from EU waters (unless there by invitation of an EU country or while taking part in a NATO exercise) there isn’t much for Gavin Williamson the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom to handle for this part of Brexit. A few phone calls before the Brexit date should cover it.
So we can’t blame the lack of progress on Gavin Williamson or his EU defence counterparts for agreements not reached in time for Brexit.
CUSTOMS and SINGLE MARKET
Thus far, the EU seemed to be in denial that the UK was actually leaving the bloc, so quite logically from their point of view; Why would they want to entertain UK negotiations allowing the UK to leave the customs agreement and the EU’s single market architectures?
But now that the UK Parliament have voted in favour of the EU Withdrawal Bill you’d think the EU would accept the UK is leaving the bloc and that it is time to begin crafting an agreement setting the dates and terms to allow Britain to leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market.
But since the Withdrawal Bill passed last week, some in the EU suddenly began saying that negotiations with the UK can’t continue because the UK’s ruling Conservative party is ‘deeply divided’ and that ‘the EU can’t be certain who it is dealing with’ — yet, the UK government easily passed the EU Withdrawal Bill which it said it would do all along.
Full marks here to Prime Minister Theresa May for shepherding this bill through and making it look easy. Brilliant!
Read this important article about: How MP’s voted on the EU withdrawal bill amendments
Until the Withdrawal Bill was signed into law, any Brexit timeline delays were the fault of UK Conservative Party MP’s and the EU bore no particular blame for its lack of enthusiasm regarding the furtherance of Brexit negotiations.
However, now that the bill has been made into law, negotiations must begin in earnest.
FREE TRADE BETWEEN THE UK and THE EU POST-BREXIT
Almost everything that applies to the delays in the customs and single market negotiations (see above) applies here too.
To reiterate: Until the Withdrawal Bill was signed into UK law, delays to the negotiation timeline are to be blamed on the UK side and not on the EU side for the simple reason that until the UK side got serious about Brexit, why would the EU get serious about it?
Fortunately, and better late than never, PM Theresa May got the job done and now things must advance in the interests of industry and citizens on both sides of the Channel.
Not that the UK can suddenly afford to make Brexit ‘the EU’s emergency’ as the UK pursued the Withdrawal Bill in a most leisurely fashion over the past 32 months.
“A lack of planning on your part doesn’t necessarily constitute an emergency on my part.”
Yet because trading arrangements will benefit business on both sides of the Channel things must now move smartly along or delays will hurt business on both sides.
I wouldn’t want to be the German Chancellor or the British Prime Minister (for example) who failed to get a trade agreement ready in time for Brexit, or the leader who failed to make the necessary modifications to their respective departments to allow trade to continue uninterrupted.
IMMIGRATION and FREE MOVEMENT
It looks like this is a non-negotiable for the UK government. Too many British citizens spoke too loudly and too clearly for any UK Prime Minister to dare overrule their wishes.
Each EU citizen wishing to remain in the UK after Brexit will pay a nominal annual fee (about the price of a passport) and will be required to provide an up-to-date address and telephone number for the Home Office. Simple enough.
EU citizens wanting to move to the UK after Brexit will face the same requirements as EU citizens who’ve elected to stay on in Britain.
Non-EU citizens can probably expect about the same, although emigrating to the UK *after* Brexit will be much easier if you’re an EU citizen or Commonwealth citizen.
Now that the EU Withdrawal Bill Has Finally Passed It’s Time to Lift Those Anchors!
For industry, change is always negative but still doable. But late changes are lethal to business on both sides.
And UK leaders and EU27 leaders must remember that!
Industry needs clear and timely regulations (with a long lead time) that must rank higher than the ideological differences between the heads of European states (including the UK) higher than the (occasional) personality conflicts between politicians, and must always rank above the partisan politics within a country.
From the day the Withdrawal Bill was finally signed into law, every day must now count, be counted, and be accountable — or the UK and the EU27 will be racing with ‘their anchors still in the water’ against every other ‘ship of state’ in the world.
And that’s not how you win races, whether nautical or economic.
Time is running down on the Brexit clock (399 days and counting!) and the default path seems the only way that will allow a smooth and orderly Brexit in any sort of timeframe that could be construed as reasonable to British voters.
If the UK government chooses to simply photocopy existing EU trade regulations and then change those laws incrementally over a period of years, the UK should rightly expect to be invited by the European Union to continue their mutually beneficial trade relationship.
After all, how could the EU possibly be upset that the UK will voluntarily continue to follow European Union trade regulations in the pre-Brexit period?
However, this implies that until Brexit actually occurs, the UK will be obligated to consult with the EU on every incremental change made on those photocopied laws and regulations from now until the UK officially leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019. It’s not about polite diplomatic behavior, it’s about pragmatic self-interest.
The UK must begin today to re-prove that it intends — in all cases — to be a fair and reliable trading partner with the EU, and other countries are sure to be watching as this process unfolds. No amount of effort can be spared in this regard, because as so goes the UK trading relationship with the EU, so it will go between Britain and every other country in the world, after Brexit.
Trade After Brexit
Once March 29, 2019 has passed and the UK has officially left the European Union there will be no longer be any requirement for lengthy consultations with the EU on changes to British trade laws or regulations far in advance of them coming into effect.
That doesn’t mean that the UK shouldn’t continue to consult with the EU, it means that it doesn’t need to consult with the EU during the entire policy formation period. But once UK policy has been decided, the EU should continue to be the first to know about pending changes due to the bloc’s importance to the British economy.
As above, no effort should be spared in showing the EU every possible courtesy on even the most incremental of trade policy adjustments under consideration in the pre-Brexit timeframe.
And in the post-Brexit timeframe, a high level of communication and consultation must continue to define the relationship between the two sides.
Customs Law After Brexit
Unlike trade, the present customs union will end the day after Brexit which will be a very positive thing for the UK. After Brexit, the UK alone will be fully in charge of who can and can’t enter the country, and it should mount a Herculean effort now to identify and locate every single foreigner in the country, matching them to their home and workplace (or school) address.
Every non-British born resident in the country should be required to pay 100 pounds sterling per year, and also be required to provide their updated home and work/school address as often as it changes, no matter which country they originally hailed from. It’s the 21st century(!) all of this can be done on a UK.gov webform in less than 10 minutes per year.
Especially for those foreigners living in the United Kingdom anytime prior to Brexit day, the UK government should make the entire process as streamlined as possible.
Commonwealth Nations in the post-Brexit Timeframe
As the UK returns to its Commonwealth roots, immigration to the UK should thenceforth be sourced from Commonwealth nations.
Of course, there will always be a number of immigrants from the EU, America, and other countries. But as much as possible, the focus should be on the ‘all for one and one for all’ approach of Commonwealth nations — and one great way to keep that viable is by sourcing 2/3rds of the UK’s immigration requirements from the Commonwealth.
In addition, the UK should continue to spend .7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid — but spend it in Commonwealth nations exclusively.
This means that the British government must find other nations to take over its existing foreign aid commitments in non-Commonwealth nations so that Britain can concentrate on building a better Commonwealth.
Done right, every pound sterling spent in Commonwealth foreign aid should return a minimum of two pounds sterling to the UK, as a rising tide in a finite environment like the Commonwealth will lift all boats, which is quite unlike spending that same amount of foreign aid in the wider world.
One example of how Britain could benefit in the post-Brexit timeframe with a policy that favours Commonwealth nations is that UK universities, colleges and trade schools should see a vast increase in enrollment from the 2 billion citizens of Commonwealth nations.
Time is Tight
Although Brexit once seemed far-off, time is getting a little tight. Much needs to be accomplished in the remaining 399 days until Brexit.
The best way to do that is to harmonize UK trade law with EU trade law and then make incremental changes over time. That’s how not to lose.
How to win is to engage with Commonwealth nations as never before in ways that work to benefit both the United Kingdom and every Commonwealth member nation.
Keeping our EU friendships healthy on the one hand while updating our Commonwealth friendships for the 21st century on the other hand, is irrevocably in Britain’s best interests, thereby creating a new paradigm that will allow the UK to work to its strengths over the next 100 years.
A new report by a prestigious polling firm says that a so-called ‘No-Deal’ WTO-style Brexit will cost one EU country €5.5 billion over the next two years, as opposed to a Brexit with a trade agreement where losses for that country would likely total €1.5 billion over the next two years.
That country is the Republic of Ireland.
“A hard Brexit could cost the Irish economy more than €5.5 billion over the next two years, a government-commissioned report has said.
A “soft” Brexit including a transition arrangement would cost less than €1.5 billion over the period, highlighting the importance to Ireland of the UK’s withdrawal talks with the EU.
The study by Copenhagen Economics, which examined four possible scenarios, also warns that the UK will probably take at least five years to implement new trade agreements, complicating Irish efforts at contingency planning.
[Ireland’s ‘Taoiseach’ which is the official title of the Irish Prime Minister] Leo Varadkar said last night that a comprehensive free-trade deal with the UK would be the best way to avoid a hard border. After a meeting with Theresa May, the UK prime minister, he said: “We both prefer [the option] by which we can avoid a hard border in Ireland, and that is through a comprehensive free trade and customs arrangement.
“That is the best way we can avoid any new barriers — north and south, and also east and west.”” — The Times
Other EU Nations Would Take a Hit in the ‘No-Deal’ Scenario
We can extrapolate that other EU countries would also take an economic hit in a ‘No-Deal’ scenario, but due to their much larger economies when compared to Ireland, such losses would amount to tens or even hundreds of billions over the same two-year period. Just think of all those German cars that wouldn’t be sold in the UK due to the higher tariffs that would automatically be imposed on EU countries in a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit!
Almost every country in the world uses WTO rules as the foundation of their trading relationship with other countries (but important to note) those same countries also diligently pursue bilateral trade deals with their important trading partners that allow both sides to legally sidestep the more costly WTO tariff ruleset in favour of something that works better for both partners. (And that trading relationship/tariff structure can be anything the two sides want in regards to any trade that happens between them)
So if country A and country B decide they want to trade, they’re completely free to build a better tariff structure than the comparatively expensive WTO ruleset, and that agreement will thenceforth supercede the WTO tariff structure. However, it only applies on trade between those two countries — the rest of their trade with the world would still be conducted under the auspices of the WTO.
It’s a pretty basic thing. Countries that do anything more than a smattering of trade between them negotiate bilateral free trade agreements to bypass the more onerous WTO trade rules and tariff regime.
There’s Still Time to Negotiate a Trade Deal with the EU
As of this writing there are 409 days remaining until Brexit and either we will have a trade agreement with the EU, or we won’t. If not, it will be costly for both sides, but more costly for the EU by one order of magnitude!
However, saying that there are 409 days remaining ’til Brexit — isn’t the same as saying there are 409 days left to negotiate a free trade agreement. Far from it!
The two sides have 258 days to arrange a free trade agreement. Let’s hope our politicians (and theirs) are up to the job (and if not, why are we paying them?) otherwise almost everything that citizens and businesses purchase will become much more expensive on both sides of the English Channel in the post-Brexit timeframe.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has stressed that October 29, 2018 is the last date that both sides can agree a trade and customs deal before the UK must begin readying for the implementation of WTO trade rules. And on that point both sides agree. Even six months (during the period from October 29, 2018 to March 29, 2019) would barely suffice to put in place the necessary measures and standards to allow industry to prepare for life after Brexit.
UK and EU voters should remember who did, and who didn’t, get a free trade agreement signed when they head to the polling booth at the next election.