The Brexit offer is pretty decent for a bad deal’ – Iain Macwhirter on the Brexit deal


One finds nothing to justify the brutal assault on the Scottish seed potato industry by browsing through the 1500 or so pages and annexes of the EU trade agreement.

Why were the Spuds of Scotland excluded? Did Boris Johnson leave them out of the deal only so that Nicola Sturgeon will have to complain about just, er, small potatoes?

If so, then Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t know him. There’s a lot to complain about in this document – particularly fishing, because for five and a half years, the industry won’t get proper access. Note, when the First Minister says that the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy is certainly better than this compromise, she is not aware of the fishing industry.

There had been casualties in this negotiation, of course, how could there not be. Erasmus international exchanges have vanished and will be replaced by a “Alan Turing” program that sends students abroad, as we were promised. Vacationers will have to enter a separate line at airports and will only be allowed to remain in one of the six countries for three months upon arrival. Dog passports are history. And it’ll be absolute hell for pet owners on holiday for four months. Under the Horizon system, however, scientific research cooperation will continue.

The substitution of Erasmus after Brexit would cost more than £ 100 million next year.

Phone companies say they have no plans for roaming charges to be reintroduced. They could reconsider, but since it would lose several clients, no organization would want to be the first to implement charges abroad. Cooperation in healthcare has yet to be determined, but, maybe along the lines of New Zealand’s ACC, it seems like anything might replace the EHIC system. Again, no European country would want to be the first to make visitors feel unwanted.

Hence, unless we have a second home in Europe or run import/export companies, most of us can hardly note the difference after January. Still, in the long term, it is possible that we will all get poorer. Thanks to the Covid 19 freezes, we’re going to get a lot poorer anyway, and it might be almost impossible to discern how much of our potential relative impoverishment is due to Brexit. A great deal depends on how well the new laws are handled by companies to ensure fair trade.

No one has yet found out how the complicated Brexit arbitration processes will operate, but some firms will certainly find it harder to do business in Europe. Fresh regulations on so-called “rules of origin” would be in place to ensure that British firms do not attempt to flood Europe with cheap products that they have just imported from elsewhere or priced below production costs. This is referred to as dumping.

Additional health regulations on food and farm products will be in place. It is not yet clear how, while many have already opened branches in the EU, financial service providers such as banks and insurance firms will work in Europe. To be recognised in the EU, some occupations, such as law, may require additional qualifications.

Yet the greatest challenges have been addressed. British goods and services will not be subject to tariffs and, more significantly, there will be no limits on how much Britain can sell in Europe. These are important achievements. The prime minister is correct in saying that this is better than Canada’s CETA deal, where there are many tariffs and quotas.

These are artificial regulatory obstacles to competition, insisting, for example, that kettles must have extra plugs or that car bumpers must be a certain height or that bananas must have a certain curvature. Much depends on whether Brussels wants to build so-called “non-tariff barriers.” Under world trade laws, these tiny limits are now illegal and it is impossible to imagine that they will be enforced after Brexit.

The level playing field is a two-way route, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. The EU must be very careful not to impose unfair barriers to UK goods and services, just as the UK must maintain fair trade by not dumping goods or lowering standards. This is because the EU and the European Court of Justice are independent of the ‘arbitration tribunals’ which will regulate trade.

It’s necessary here. The EU cannot enforce “lightning tariffs” or non-target tariffs arbitrarily.


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