Ed's Brexit round-up
20th Jul 2018 / By Ed Barker
There has been a huge amount of interest this week in the Prime Minister's Chequers plan and her subsequent White Paper on Brexit and trade.
Overall, the direction of the Chequers Plan is encouraging for the UK pig industry. The reason for this is because the plan makes specific mention of the need to maintain a harmonised set of standards for agri-food products, by the use of a ‘common rule book’. What this means in practice is that the UK wants to have a free trade area in goods, by having the same standards in place that we have already. The reason for this, simply put, is to prevent a hard border having to be imposed on the Irish border whilst also ensuring that nothing has to be stopped and checked at a Border Inspection Post on the continent or in the UK before onward transit. This also means that this is little chance in allowing lost standard imports from the USA or South America.
Aside from agri-food products, there are some notable omissions or areas that we remained concerned by. Firstly, the wording on migrant labour is exceedingly vague; the Cabinet has agreed to end total freedom of movement, but as part of the plan want to offer a ‘mobility framework’ which could replicate some existing arrangements for tourists, students or workers. The text of the agreement reads as though it is taking into account migrant labour related to the services sector, as opposed to permanent workers in agricultural sectors, and their allied industries.
Secondly, there is great ambiguity over customs and trade. Instead of joining the EU’s customs union, the UK is pushing for a ‘facilitated customs arrangement’ with the EU, which will allow it to pursue an independent trade policy, yet appearing to be in EU Customs Union in all but name. The UK plan revolves around using novel IT systems that will allow HMRC to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU where goods are going to the EU via the UK and vice-versa. In addition, there is little mention of VAT and how that will be collected. Anyone who has dealt with the RPA may be sceptical of the Government’s ability to deliver large IT projects.