Ed's Brexit round-up - has the Government got the message on tariffs?
7th Feb 2020 / By Ed Barker
2020 has, as expected gotten off to a quick start. Here is what we can make of the year so far:
Tariffs and trade
They took up most of our time in 2019 and it now appears that the Government is ready to come back to this again, this time without the backdrop of a no deal.
The Government has stated it expects to leave the EU fully by the end of 2020, which means that beyond this the UK will have to have its own trade policy. The position exactly of where the UK stands is unclear; usually a country or bloc publishes its negotiating mandates for every to see, so that it is clear and unambiguous.
The Government doesn’t appear to be doing that (possibly because it isn’t too sure what it wants to prioritise as of yet) and as a result the policy direction is unclear. It certainly seems as though a free trade agreement is to be sought with the EU, however this may only cover zero tariffs either way – which certainly does not mean that there isn’t friction at borders (even having no tariffs means that unless you are totally aligned on standards, then expect checks and paperwork at borders).
Aside from this, the UK will be setting out its own trade policy and tariffs to everyone else. We are pretty sure that we won't have the repeat of last year where the Government lowered all its own tariffs on imports, whilst expecting to face them on exports.
It seems as though some have learned in Government that this is maybe not the best way of doing business and we are now consulting with Government about tariff policy. We are also going to be meeting a number of officials over the next few months as to how we can allocate quotas from the EU for pork and pick apart tricky issues like ‘rules of origin’.
One thing that is definitely going to start to kick in over the next month or two is Government’s intent on banning some live exports.
We know this has been on the radar since it was in the Conservative manifesto, and soon we will be expecting a formal consultation on the matter. As many have pointed out already, it is a far more complex issue than is often presented by campaigners and politicians.
We know that the end goal is to ban calves or animals going on excessive journeys beyond the EU for slaughter. The trap is to make sure that within this, breeding pigs or slaughter pigs are not caught up as collateral. Watch this space.
Everyday I’m shufflin’
Another eagerly anticipated event over the coming week will be a Cabinet reshuffle. This has been on the cards since late December, and it has been said for us to expect a pretty comprehensive set of changes.
Within this, the Sec of State for Defra is expected to be part of the bonfire. With Defra enacting a huge amount of change in policy terms and also in legislation over the coming months, the PM will need someone there who can endure a gruelling workload.
Although the Government has a solid majority, it does not take much for a Bill to get knocked off course or held up by controversial issue that wasn’t deemed controversial at time of its publication.
Our core focus now really turns towards the Agriculture Bill, published last month.
The Bill now enters committee stage, where MPs on a committee study the contents line by line and make any suggested changes or amendments on a technical format. It is unlikely that any changes will be made without the Government agreeing to them as they hold a majority on the committee.
So far it appears that NPA concerns over food security and import standards are really being taken on by a number of MPs from all sides. It will be interesting to see what kind of traction they will have.
After this stage, the Bill goes to the Lords and then back to the Commons before receiving Royal Assent, possibly in May/June.