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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.