If, like me, you struggle to get your head around the plot of Doctor Who, then you’ll have your work cut out understanding Brexit. It’s not entirely sure whether the politicians themselves fully comprehend the process but in an attempt to bring you up to date with the latest events, here’s a brief Brexit update.
What do we know so far? The EU began after the Second World War to foster economic co-operation. The reasoning was that countries that trade together are less likely to fight each other. It evolved into a single market where goods and people are able to move around as if the member states were one country.
The UK has voted to leave the European Union with a scheduled departure of 11pm on Friday 29 March, 2019. There are three key “divorce” issues:
- how much the UK owes the EU,
- what happens to the border in Northern Ireland and
- what happens to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and vice versa.
Agreement on these issues was reached on 8 December: the so-called Breakthrough Deal. There is also a plan to be finalised for a two-year transition period.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Prime Minister Theresa May was initially against Brexit, but now has no choice but to acquiesce to the British people. The day after the referendum, the pound slumped but it is now regaining its losses against the dollar, while remaining 15% down against the Euro. Indeed, the UK’s economy was estimated to have grown 1.8% in 2016, second only to Germany’s 1.9%.
The negotiating teams from both the UK and EU meet face-to-face for one week each month with the aim of getting the transition agreed in March, with a deal on permanent future relations hopefully agreed in the Autumn.
We hear a lot about Article 50. Basically this is merely a plan for any country that wishes to exit the EU. It stipulates that any member state deciding to withdraw must notify the European Council and negotiate its withdrawal with the EU, with two years to reach an agreement. It also states that the state wishing to leave cannot take part in EU internal discussions about its departure.
The Food Industry
According to a report issued last week, “Brexit risks increasing food prices, lowering safety and welfare standards, causing food shortages and worsening a public health crisis in the UK.”
A third of the food Britons eat currently comes from the EU. The UK already has a “catastrophic” £22.5bn trade deficit in food. The warning was issued to UK producers who will be under pressure to produce cheaper food after Brexit. The fear is that leaving the EU will lead to higher prices and a reduction in choice.
Named items that could increase significantly in price are beef, cheddar, tomatoes and broccoli but National Farmers Union director general, Terry Jones, called for a “well-regulated industry with short supply chains rather than adopting an ‘all-comers’ approach”. He believes this could act as a safeguard for standards and prevent food fraud.
The politicians have just over a year to smooth out the wrinkles in the deal. The same applies to British food manufacturers. They have the opportunity to take the bull by the horns and dictate the industry to their own high standards.
Finally, and for many people, most importantly, we will still be able to enter the Eurovision Song Contest. Participant countries need only to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union (which we are) which is independent of the EU.