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Ed's Brexit round-up

16th Mar 2018 / By Ed Barker

All roads lead up to the next European Council meeting on March 22...

EdBarkerNPAThe reason for this is that this is next meeting of the Heads of European States – and with only a year to go until exit dates, what is discussed under Brexit will be key. Now I know I have said that many meetings are going to be key or vital, but I would take more notice of this one.

The reason being is that it will effectively draft what kind of transition (if any) we have after March 2019. For us in the pig sector we need that transition; a cliff edge (despite what some MPs have said) really is a scenario to be avoided at all costs.

Borders go up, checks take place, mutual standards are not recognised, breeding animals/material stay where they are, cull sows stay here, food prices go up. What we are hoping for (as are both the other European leaders and the Government) is that there will be a transitional deal agreed at least until the end of 2019, possibly March 2020, which will allow more time to thrash out what kind of future deal we have with the EU. It could well be that this transition allows a further transition (groan) – it all depends on how talks go!

Colour coded update

We understand that the Commission is soon to release an update report, showing the status of different parts of the Brexit negotiations, all colour coded red, amber and green. It will surprise few to hear that the Northern Ireland border issue will be red. However, it is expected to be a bit better in other areas. It seems as though differences between the UK and EU are closing on fisheries, on law-making during the transition and citizens’ rights for both UK nationals in Europe and vice versa. As with the bookmakers at Cheltenham and Eddie Jones, it is Ireland that is giving European policymakers the biggest concerns throughout the process.

What is happening with the customs union?

A few people have asked me what is meant by customs unions. As some may have heard, the Labour party wish to retain a customs union with the EU, whereas Theresa May has stated that she would not – but would still co-operate with the EU on customs.

Let me explain a bit!

In her view, the UK would act on the EU’s behalf when importing goods from the rest of the world. So, for example, at UK ports, the UK would apply EU customs duties on food and other imports destined for the EU market, while imposing its own rules on products that would remain in the UK. If a load of cooling fans from, the USA were to arrive at Harwich, UK customs officials would check the paperwork and determine the final destination. If the goods were staying in the UK, Britain would apply tariffs depending on its own trade deals.

But if the fans were going to the EU, British customs authorities would collect tariffs rate as if the goods had arrived at an EU port, and then pass the money on to Brussels. This of course relies on there being a shared sense of standards – what if something is being imported to the UK that is banned in the EU? Or vice versa?

Would these arrangements still stop those products from eventually finding their way into each other’s markets? This is why Ireland’s border matters of course – but so too does the EU’s view on how feasible this can be for UK authorities. Once again we are back in predictions.


And whilst we are on predictions, today is Gold Cup day. Keep an eye on Road to Respect, Definitely Red and Killultagh Vic (all part of the NPA service to members).