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Ed's Brexit round-up - not much further on

8th Feb 2019 / By Ed Barker

Three weeks on from the meaningful vote in Parliament, and much to everyone’s lack of shock, we are not very much further ahead.

EdBarkerNPAAfter having been mandated by Parliament to reject the Withdrawal Agreement and instead seek changes to the ‘backstop’ arrangement, the Prime Minister has faced a solid wall from Brussels.

Understandably, the EU does not want to reopen fundamental discussions again, because it would mean having to find sign off from all 27 countries. The intransigence on their part is one of both practicality and of principle.

Nonetheless, the PM has been out and about in Ireland, Northern Ireland and across the EU to try and secure even the most modest change to the backstop that appears like some sense of compromise.

A semblance on consensus from within the UK appears on Wednesday, when Jeremy Corbyn made an offer to the PM to give his support in a Commons vote if she met his five demands to soften her Brexit plans.

Among the demands are a ‘permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union’, explicit legislation to protect workers’ rights, continued membership of key EU agencies, security cooperation and ‘close alignment’ to the single market for trade. This on the surface looks a sensible approach, however it may still lack the support of backbench MPs in both Labour and Conservative parties. Only time will tell.

As per previous posts, and after conversations with Defra and other agencies, here is a list of what we understand to be the case in the event of a ‘no deal’:

  • Imported products can still come in tariff free and subject to same inspection processes (i.e. very few) – to keep prices and availability comparable to what they are now. This will be the case for EU and rest of world as under WTO rules we cannot treat countries differently to each other.
  • Exports of pig products to EU unlikely to be hit by tariffs straight away (this is because there is a lot of EU quota to use up).
  • Exports to China and other 3rd countries where the UK has agreed bilateral deals are expected to be able to continue in the same way, but this is by no means guaranteed. Although no kickback has yet been experienced from those countries, we are still urging Government to have confirmed assurances from those countries in writing.
  • Pig products and live animals will be able to be exported but would be subject to inspection at borders on products going out to the EU. This would be hugely disruptive.
  • Live animals being exported will have to go via a Border inspection post in country of arrival. This would not happen on imported live animals
  • Ireland remains a major issue and there has been no tangible ideas on how to inspect movement of goods from north to south without a border in place. The infrastructure in Ireland to be able to deal with the above is currently minimal
  • EU nationals will be free to stay and register to be here as employees.
  • All existing free trade agreements that EU has with other countries (Japan, Canada) likely to cease for UK unless it can come up with a bilateral agreement in the interim. Very few have had any advanced progress so far of note to pig exports.

Still – the rugby has been pretty good.