Brexit Bites, 2 February 2018

Feb 01, 2018

A leaked paper showing that the UK will be worse off regardless of what Brexit deal is reached has dominated the Brexit debate this week.  In other news, a two minute meeting was all it took for EU foreign ministers to approve guidelines to transition the UK out of the EU while Irish government departments must provide details of how many staff will be needed to manage a ‘no deal’ Brexit by the end of the week.

More leaks

Leaked government documents on how the UK will fare after Brexit have dominated the media this week.  The revelation that no matter what Brexit deal is reached, it will damage the UK economy came as the Eurozone posted its strongest GDP growth in the last ten years.

The paper, released by Buzzfeed, says that over the next 15 years, economic growth in the UK will be as much as eight percent lower if the UK leaves without a deal and has to revert to trading under World Trade Organisation rules. A trade deal with the EU could see growth reduced by five percent, while the path of strict alignment with the EU could mean growth is two percent lower.  Northern Ireland is one of three regions in the UK expected to be hardest hit.

And the above estimates assume that the UK can secure a trade deal with the United States and rollover many existing trade teals that the EU has.  This, according to critics is no mean task.

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has dismissed the papers, saying they were very “preliminary” and didn’t address the deal she is trying to get. Pro-Brexit Minister Steve Baker told MPs in Parliament this week that forecasts drawn up by civil servants are “always wrong” while the Justice Minister Philip Lee said that if the numbers were “anywhere near right” the Government’s approach to Brexit should be seriously questioned.

Despite the dismissal of the papers by the Prime Minister, the House of Commons are now under pressure to vote to have the papers published in full.    

EU meets to examine UK transition

A two minute meeting on Monday was all it took for EU foreign ministers to approve transition negotiating guidelines which say that the UK will formally cease its membership of the EU from March 2019.

While the UK will have no involvement in the decision making of the EU from that date, it will retain the rights and obligations of being a Member State until the end of the transition period.  The transition period is seen as essential by the UK and EU to ensure that businesses and citizens are not exposed to catastrophic disruption when the UK ceases its membership of the EU.

In a press conference following the meeting, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said that during the transition period, the UK would not be able to implement any new trade deals or other international agreements without the permission of the EU.

“As part of the transition the U.K. will remain bound from the obligations stemming from all existing EU international agreements, for instance for trade and aviation. This is crucial for the good functioning of the single market and the customs union,” Mr Barnier said.

 Downing Street officials responded saying “We are pleased that the EU has now agreed its position which is clearly well aligned with the proposal made by the prime minister in her Florence speech.” Opposition parties in the UK were left furious with this position as they see it as an ‘ultimatum’ from the EU. 

In Florence in September, May clearly acknowledged that the UK would lose its EU voting rights after the official withdrawal date. But her speech had hinted that the UK might be able to start work on trade deals during any transition period.   

Brexit Shorts

  • Irish government departments have been told to make contingency plans for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit
  • Brexit deal must work for Northern Ireland communities, says Sir Keir Starmer, Brexit Shadow Secretary
  • NHS Heads warn that patients could face delays in getting medication after Brexit

Read all of our Brexit updates on the dedicated Brexit section of our website.