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#Brexit: Sir John Major says Prime Minister May must face down those who favour total disengagement with EU

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170228MajorChatman2In a speech given at Chatham House former Prime Minister John Major argued that Brexit is ‘an historic mistake’.

Major acknowledges that the decision has been made but says that a hard Brexit would pose a high risk where some might gain but where others may lose.

Major describes the referendum as one of the most divisive of our times. He has receive a torrent of correspondence from those supporting ‘Leave’ who say they voted for many reasons ranging from not receiving a response from their local MP on another matter, to having a disability payment stopped. The ‘Remain’ letters are characterized by a single objective: that of staying within the EU.

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Excerpts:

Scotland

“In Scotland, I believe a hard Brexit will encourage a second referendum on independence. This may seem improbable at the moment, but it would be reckless to ignore the risk.

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"As we saw last June, emotion and national pride can overcome economic self-interest. If Scotland were to become independent, both she and the UK would be diminished. That cannot be ignored as Brexit evolves.”

Northern Ireland

“The same is true of Northern Ireland. Many years of painstaking effort went into the Irish Peace Process which, even apart from Brexit , is at a fragile moment. Uncertainties over border restrictions between Ulster and the Republic are a serious threat – to the UK, to the peace process, and for Ireland, North and South. A special deal will be necessary.”

Lack of realism

“But I do observe we haven’t yet left the EU, and I have watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic. Obstacles are brushed aside as of no consequence, whilst opportunities are inflated beyond any reasonable expectation of delivery.

"If events go badly...whole communities will be worse off. The particular fear I have is that those most likely to be hurt will be those least able to protect themselves."

Remainers are shown a disregard that amounts to contempt

“After decades of campaigning, the anti-Europeans won their battle to take Britain out of Europe. But, in the afterglow of victory, their cheerleaders have shown a disregard that amounts to contempt for the 48% who believed our future was more secure within the European Union.

"This 48% care no less for our country than the 52% who voted to leave. They are every bit as patriotic. But they take a different view of Britain’s future role in the world, and are deeply worried for themselves, for their families, and for our country.

"A popular triumph at the polls – even in a referendum – does not take away the right to disagree – nor the right to express that dissent.

"Freedom of speech is absolute in our country. It’s not “arrogant” or “brazen” or “elitist”, or remotely “delusional” to express concern about our future after Brexit. Nor, by doing so, is this group undermining the will of the people: they are the people. Shouting down their legitimate comment is against all our traditions of tolerance. It does nothing to inform and everything to demean – and it is time it stopped."

Sovereignty of parliament

“Our Parliament exists to scrutinize the Executive. That is its job. So, it is depressing to see 'Leave' enthusiasts in Parliament acting against their own principles. To win the referendum, they asserted the sovereignty of our own Parliament: now, they speak and vote to deny that same Parliament any meaningful role in shaping, in overseeing, or in approving the outcome of our negotiations in Europe. Our Parliament is not a rubber stamp – and should not be treated as if it were.

"[Ignoring the parliament would …]be wrong in principle: it would also be unwise politically if – as it might – the will of the people evolves, and the reality of Brexit becomes unpopular. The negotiations to come are so crucial to our nation's future: but parliament must be free to debate and comment and advise."

— Chatham House (@ChathamHouse) 27 February 2017

Those who think negotiations will be all take and no give are ‘extraordinarily naïve’

“It all sounds very enticing. And – for the sake of our country – I hope the optimists are proved right. But I’m not sure they will be. My own experience of international negotiations – and the national self-interest that accompanies them – makes me doubt the rosy confidence being offered to the British people.

"Negotiations are all about 'give' and 'take'. We know what the Brexiteers wish to take: yet we hear nothing about what our country may have to give in return. If anyone genuinely believes that Europe will concede all we wish for – and exact no price for doing so – then they are extraordinarily naïve.”

Politics of exit

“Leaving the European Union is not just about trade. It will have political consequences. For over forty years, British foreign policy has been based upon the twin pillars of our relations with the United States and the European Union. To be straddled between these two economic and political giants has served us well.

"Outside the European Union, we become far more dependent upon the United States and – for four and possibly eight years – upon a president less predictable, less reliable and less attuned to our free market and socially liberal instincts than any of his predecessors.

"Despite the romantic view of committed Atlanticists, the “special relationship” is not a union of equals. I wish it were: but it isn’t; America dwarfs the UK in economic and military power. That, sadly – is fact.

"Once we are out of the EU, our relationship with the United States will change. She needs a close ally inside the EU: once outside, that can no longer be us.

"If we disagree with American policy, we may weaken our ties. But if we support it slavishly, we become seen as an American echo – an invidious role for a nation that has broken free from Europe to become more independent.”

The UK was a leader in Europe

“Until now, the world has seen the UK as a leader within Europe. We are the second largest economy, with hopes of one day overtaking Germany. We are one of only two nations with significant nuclear and military power. We have the widest, and deepest, foreign policy reach of any European nation.

"In Europe, we have often set policy: the Single Market; enlargement to the East; restraints upon expenditure – together with a host of less prominent policies. Our role within Europe has magnified the power of our nation state: once we leave, that will no longer be so. The prime minister knows all this: her policy to maintain a good relationship with Europe is surely right. But, at some time, she will have to face down those who favour total disengagement.”

We have made the EU weaker

“Our departure is also adding to domestic political problems across Europe. Britain has rejected the colossus of the EU. This has energised the anti-EU, anti-immigrant nationalists that are growing in number in France, Germany, Holland – and other European countries.

"None of these populist groups is sympathetic to the broadly tolerant and liberal instincts of the British. Nonetheless, their pitch is straightforward. If Britain – sober, stable, moderate, reliable Britain, with its ancient Parliament and anti-revolutionary history – can break free of a repressive bureaucracy in Brussels, why, then “so can anyone”. It is a potent appeal.”

Major describes “this kind of populism” as a potent “mixture of bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. It scapegoats minorities. It is a poison in any political system – destroying civility and decency and understanding. Here in the UK we should give it short shrift, for it is not the people we are – nor the country we are.”

Less cheap rhetoric

“In my own experience, the most successful results are obtained when talks are conducted with goodwill: it is much easier to reach agreement with a friend than a quarrelsome neighbour.

"But, behind the diplomatic civilities, the atmosphere is already sour. A little more charm, and a lot less cheap rhetoric, would do much to protect the UK’s interests.”

Show us the money

“Many believed this, yet the bitter irony is that the “divorce settlement” – that is, the cost of leaving Europe – may involve paying out much larger sums of money than that.

"[…] the bill will be substantial: billions, not millions, and very unpalatable. It will come as a nasty shock to voters who were not forewarned of this – even in the recent White Paper.”

You don’t leave a club without settling your bill

“One MP has referred to the estimated divorce payment as “a threat”, his argument being that “you pay to join a club but not to leave it”.

"Of course that is true: but when you leave any club, you are obliged to settle your debts, and that is what the European Union is going to expect the UK to do.

"There are liabilities to be met: pension costs, legacy costs, contingent liabilities, a proportional share of work-in-progress. The EU will argue we have a legal obligation to pay these bills.

"If there is a stand-off – perhaps because of a backlash against the size of the exit bill – then trade talks may have to await a Court decision, be delayed indefinitely – or scrapped altogether. In either event, the faint hope of a comprehensive trade deal by Spring 2019 will have gone.”

Three options left

Major outlined the three likely options should talks stall: leaving with a flimsy inadequate deal; a transitional relationship – three-five years – for which, as non-members, we would have to pay with an obligation to stay in the Customs Union and submit to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; or trading with the EU on a WTO basis.

“Some of the most committed Brexit supporters wish to have a clean break, and trade only under WTO rules. This would require tariffs on goods – with nothing to help services, and nothing to inhibit non-tariff barriers. […] it would be the worst possible outcome.

A radical enterprise economy

“We cannot move to a radical enterprise economy without moving away from a welfare state. Such a direction of policy, once understood by the public, would never command support. It would make all previous rows over social policy seem a minor distraction.

"However, it has worrying implications for public services such as the NHS – and for the vulnerable who, I’m delighted to say, the Government has pledged to help …. and I know how personally committed the Prime Minister is to this.”

Chances of sectoral trade deals are slim

“A new trade deal with Europe will be hugely complex. No-one should envy the Secretary of State and his negotiators. Some industries – cars and aerospace for example – hope for special, perhaps industry-to-industry, deals for their exports to Europe. The difficulties of this are legion: the chances of success are slim – not least since the German Chancellor is likely to rule out sectoral deals. Even if she does not, WTO rules expect agreements to cover all trade, not a few handpicked sectors.

"Domestic political hurdles arise, too: if cars and aerospace were to get favourable deals, why not textiles and widgets? How would the Government soothe the ire of those not receiving preferential treatment?"

Trade relations with the US

“Early actions confirm that President Trump has put protectionism at the heart of his trade policy. “America First” is more than a slogan.

"The UK runs a healthy trade surplus with America: President Trump may wish to narrow – or eliminate – that gap. That being so, British hopes should not be set too high.

Trade with China and India

"China and India are both attractive candidates for enhanced trade. But, in negotiation, India will seek immigration concessions for students and non-students alike which, prima facie, is in direct conflict with Government plans.

"China, as I know from experience, is a tough negotiator, and will strike a hard bargain. As she is the largest trading partner to 120 countries, and the largest export market for 70 of them, a trade agreement with the United Kingdom may not be one of her main priorities.”

And other countries…

“The government must also replicate the 53 deals struck on our behalf by the European Union. So far, only 12 are in play. There is a very, very long way to go, and the question arises: are 65 million Britons likely to get the same favourable outcome as 500 million Europeans?”

In response to questions, Major said that he had no ambition to be a back-seat driver; jokingly he said that his wife didn’t consider him a very good front-seat driver. When prime minister he said he did appreciate his predecessor’s (Margaret Thatcher) speeches but was happy if there was only one every eight months.

Brexit

Britain delays implementation of post-Brexit trade controls

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Britain said on Tuesday (14 Sseptember) it was delaying the implementation of some post-Brexit import controls, the second time they have been pushed back, citing pressures on businesses from the pandemic and global supply chain strain.

Britain left the European Union's single market at the end of last year but unlike Brussels which introduced border controls immediately, it staggered the introduction of import checks on goods such as food to give businesses time to adapt.

Having already delayed the introduction of checks by six months from April 1, the government has now pushed the need for full customs declarations and controls back to Jan. 1, 2022. Safety and security declarations will be required from July 1 next year.

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"We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we've set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls," Brexit minister David Frost said.

"Businesses will now have more time to prepare for these controls which will be phased in throughout 2022."

Industry sources in the logistics and customs sector have also said the government's infrastructure was not ready to impose full checks.

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Brexit

How the EU will help mitigate the impact of Brexit

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A €5 billion EU fund will support people, companies and countries affected by the UK's withdrawal from the Union, EU affairs.

The end of the Brexit transition period, on 31 December 2020, marked the end of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital between the EU and the UK, with adverse social and economic consequences for people, businesses and public administrations on both sides.

To help Europeans adapt to the changes, in July 2020 EU leaders agreed to create the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, a €5bn fund (in 2018 prices) to be paid until 2025. EU countries will start receiving the resources by December, following Parliament’s approval. MEPs are expected to vote on the fund during the September plenary session.

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How much will go to my country?

The fund will help all EU countries, but the plan is for the countries and sectors worst affected by Brexit to receive the most support. Ireland tops the list, followed by the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium.

Three factors are taken into account to determine the amount for each country: the importance of trade with the UK, the value of fish caught in the UK exclusive economic zone and the size of population living in EU maritime regions closest to the UK.

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Infographic explaining the Brexit Adjustment Reserve
Infographic showing how much support individual EU countries will receive from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve  

What can be financed by the fund?

Only measures specifically set up to counter the negative consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU will be eligible for funding. These may include:

  • Investment in job creation, including short-term work programmes, re-skilling and training
  • Reintegration of EU citizens who have left the UK as a result of Brexit
  • Support for businesses (especially SMEs), self-employed people and local communities
  • Building customs facilities and ensuring the functioning of border, phytosanitary and security controls
  • Certification and licensing schemes

The fund will cover expenditure incurred between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2023.

Fisheries and banking sectors

National governments are free to decide how much money goes to each area. However, countries that depend significantly on fisheries in the UK exclusive economic zone must commit a minimum amount of their national allocation to small-scale coastal fisheries, as well as local and regional communities dependent on fishing activities.

The financial and banking sectors, which may benefit from Brexit, are excluded.

Find out more 

Continue Reading

Brexit

How the EU will help mitigate the impact of Brexit

Published

on

A €5 billion EU fund will support people, companies and countries affected by the UK's withdrawal from the Union, EU affairs.

The end of the Brexit transition period, on 30 December 2020, marked the end of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital between the EU and the UK, with adverse social and economic consequences for people, businesses and public administrations on both sides.

To help Europeans adapt to the changes, in July 2020 EU leaders agreed to create the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, a €5 billion fund (in 2018 prices) to be paid until 2025. EU countries will start receiving the resources by December, following Parliament’s approval. MEPs are expected to vote on the fund during the September plenary session.

Advertisement

How much will go to my country?

The fund will help all EU countries, but the plan is for the countries and sectors worst affected by Brexit to receive the most support. Ireland tops the list, followed by the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium.

Three factors are taken into account to determine the amount for each country: the importance of trade with the UK, the value of fish caught in the UK exclusive economic zone and the size of population living in EU maritime regions closest to the UK.

Advertisement
Infographic explaining the Brexit Adjustment Reserve
Infographic showing how much support individual EU countries will receive from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve  

What can be financed by the fund?

Only measures specifically set up to counter the negative consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU will be eligible for funding. These may include:

  • Investment in job creation, including short-term work programmes, re-skilling and training
  • Reintegration of EU citizens who have left the UK as a result of Brexit
  • Support for businesses (especially SMEs), self-employed people and local communities
  • Building customs facilities and ensuring the functioning of border, phytosanitary and security controls
  • Certification and licensing schemes


The fund will cover expenditure incurred between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2023.

Fisheries and banking sectors

National governments are free to decide how much money goes to each area. However, countries that depend significantly on fisheries in the UK exclusive economic zone must commit a minimum amount of their national allocation to small-scale coastal fisheries, as well as local and regional communities dependent on fishing activities.

The financial and banking sectors, which may benefit from Brexit, are excluded.

Find out more 

Continue Reading
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