‘To be, or not to be’ … Brexit, Act III (with apologies to William Shakespeare)
Scene 1: The risk profile of key border-related systems
On February 28, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee issued a statement that it had published as evidence, a National Audit Office memorandum, “The UK border: preparedness for EU exit update”.
Commenting on the memorandum the Committee Chair, Meg Hillier (Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch) said:
“The NAO’s memorandum shows that with the clock ticking down there remain serious questions about whether the UK will be prepared at the border if there is ‘no deal’ and what this would mean for individuals and businesses.
It is alarming that six of the eight critical IT systems needed are in danger of not being ready in time and that government assesses readiness of traders as one of its most significant risks”.
The Public Accounts Committee will be pressing for answers on preparations for EU exit this week.
Scene 2: Summary of Specific Negotiating Objectives ~ United States – United Kingdom negotiations
On February 28, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative submitted to Congress and released a summary of the Trump administration’s specific negotiating objectives for a United States-United Kingdom trade agreement.
The summary document consists of brief bullet point objectives.
Agricultural goods, the US objective is to secure: … ‘comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in the UK by reducing or eliminating tariffs’;
On the other hand, the agreement should provide for: … ‘reasonable adjustment periods for U.S. import-sensitive agricultural products, engaging in close consultation with Congress on such products before initiating tariff reduction negotiations’. (Emphasis added.)
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS):
Establish a mechanism to quickly remove unwarranted barriers that block the export of U.S. food and agricultural products in order to ‘obtain more open, equitable, and reciprocal market access’.
‘Include strong provisions on transparency and public consultation that require the UK to publish drafts of regulations, allow stakeholders in other countries to provide comments on those drafts, and require authorities to address significant issues raised by stakeholders and explain how the final measure achieves the stated objectives’. (Emphasis added.)
National Farmers’ Union (‘NFU’) President, Minette Batters, said:
“The NFU has been very clear on this point. It is imperative that any future trade deals, including a possible deal with the USA, do not allow the imports of food produced to lower standards than those required of British farmers”.
“British people value and demand the high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety that our own farmers adhere to. These world-leading standards must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of reaching rushed trade deals. We should not accept trade deals which allow food to be imported into this country produced in ways which would be illegal here”. (Emphasis added.)
Scene 3: The Attorney General’s ‘fig-leaf’
The so called “backstop” provision in the Withdrawal Agreement is intended to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland (an EU member state) and Northern Ireland. It has become a sticking point regarding approval of the UK Government’s Withdrawal Agreement and is fiercely opposed by the so called ‘Brexiteers’ and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.
At the time of writing (March 4) various recent reports, in the national and international press (Times, Telegraph, Reuters), suggest that the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, instead of trying to introduce either a hard time-limit or unilateral exit mechanism regarding the backstop, is trying to secure an arbitration mechanism that would allow Britain or the European Union to provide formal notice that the backstop should come to an end. Reportedly, the EU is resisting demands for such a mechanism, which would fall outside the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) jurisdiction and authority to resolve EU law disputes. (See Article 19, Treaty on European Union; Articles 267 and 344 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and the Judgment of the CJEU in Case C‑284/16, Achmea, of 6 March 2018.)
The issues summarised above, taken overall, only show a small part of the complexity of exiting the EU. They indicate that a delay beyond the current March 29th deadline looks sensible. Further, we can suggest that arguments in favour of a second referendum (that would ask if the reality of this Brexit is what was voted for), look much stronger …
(…) ‘For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When If he himself might [be permitted] his quietus [to] make’,
Or, is there really a concern that … ‘the native hue of resolution’ will be ‘sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought’, … ?