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Current Brexit antennae!May 2018

The political temperature was presented at a recent Brexit academic, industry and business meeting. Held in London – there was ample chance for the audience to participate the proceedings with questions, case studies and issues from their respective organisations and members therein.

The latest sense from the CBI and London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) putting Brexit under the microscope is that the EU will be “unforgiving” to the UK for voting out aka – “you brought Brexit to the table – so you can fix it”! This is what a punishment clause looks like. There is no magical thinking! Indeed: the EU has shaped itself since Brexit with a “new faith to deliver change”.

Certainly – Brexit is of interest but not a key issue for many of the 27 member nations. It’s of interest to the northern European nations – especially Belgium and Holland who are very engaged – but it’s of less interest to the southern EU nations. The key players are France and Germany and, of course, Ireland around whom the other 26 nations are gathered in a “protective huddle”.

There is huge concern about the challenge of the Irish border. The European council meeting at the end of June is seen as a key part of this debate.

The gamut and range of what the UK can be offered” in terms of legislation and trading is still being thrashed out by the EU. It is fair to say that the Brexit ball is in the EU’s court and they know it.

Customs is thought to be the thing that will take the longest time to resolve and may result in a “real” transition period. There continues to be much effort by the 27 to maintain the integrity of the single market which is bound to be “powerfully influential”.

The immigration issue, which focusses on access / movement to and from the UK and the 27 for talent and people is seen to be, at least if not more, important, than trade. Confusion reigns in a number of subjects including the movement and status of both children and of secondments. The essence of the negotiations (at the moment) is the pondering of a new “mobility” deal, a kind of labour agreement and whether there is a distinction between the EU and access to and from the rest of the world.

An immigration bill is planned for the end of 2018 or early 2019. However, uncertainty about immigration is seen as a key negotiating issue (and might mean that the timing of this bill is politic), but at minimum, a nuisance for and impacting on UK and European employers.

Brexit sentiment

When considering the civic culture of both Norway and Switzerland – concerns were expressed that after Brexit – the British will become “even more anti-EU” and that the EU will, as a consequence, become bullies. Akin to trading with the behemoth that is the US – the EU will adopt a “take or leave” trading attitude and become rules based players. The UK might have to espouse the “rule takers on the outside” game. Note: Canada.

Ergo – whatever happens in the Brexit debate – the importance of other groupings (such as the Commonwealth) will gain greater prominence.

Finally: a specific example of how the EU may well be one step ahead of the UK – and how it has its informative finger on the pulse – was highlighted. Clearly. In the wake of the recent Facebook anti-privacy debacle – the EU was on top of this, prepared and could see the situation coming. This suggests its political tentacles for problems “hitting the fan” are sharper than that of the UK. A lesson to be learned. 

Fundamentally: there is little “wriggle room” in the commission along the “metaphorical staircase”: there will be no Brexit “light bulb” moment.

Timetable

BSRIA members need to look out for this: coming up on the Brexit radar is the “complex” Withdrawal Bill; issues over immigration; and the Brexit White Paper. A chance to comment can be sent to clair.prosser@bsria.co.uk, Press Officer @ BSRIA, which will be fed directly to the CBI and onto the corridors of power – Westminster.

Schedule:

Ratification phase:

  • Approval by 72 per cent of member states.
  • Consent vote by European Parliament.
  • UK parliament passes bill implementing withdrawal treaty.

Deadline:    UK’s exit from EU on:  Friday 29th March 2019.

Transition phase:

  • Formal trade talks start.
  • UK seeks to replace 750 EU international deals.
  • Both sides prepare new immigration / customs / regulatory systems.
  • European elections: May 2019.

Deadline:    end of transition period: Thursday 31st December 2020.

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