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Image of Alan Winters10 December 2018

L. Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory 

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration are being presented as a means to end the uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with Europe. But in an explainer for the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe, Professor L Alan Winters argues that this is not the case. Uncertainty will continue regardless of what happens to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Briefly, he argues that, if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by Parliament and the EU:

  • The backstop it mandates requires a customs union between the UK and the EU and that most EU regulations for goods will apply in Northern Ireland. However, there is no regulatory alignment between the rest of the UK and the EU and so, if the backstop came into operation, there would be border formalities both in the Irish Sea and as UK goods entered the EU via any other route.
  • Negotiating a trade agreement with the EU will take a lot longer than the 21 months allowed for it in the Withdrawal Agreement, not least because every EU member state has a veto over trade agreements.
  • The Political Declaration that defines the parameters for that negotiation is imprecise in critical places and is, anyway, non-binding.

However, neither would rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement resolve the uncertainty. There is a wide range of possible outcomes all but one of which impose serious economic harm and/or require further negotiation. The option that involves least uncertainty and cost would be to remain within the EU; however, trying to achieve that outcome involves both significant political risks and the risk of ‘no deal’ if the attempt failed.

‘Through a glass, darkly’ is biblical – 1 Corinthians 13:12 – and is interpreted as meaning that we can see only imprecisely and via a mirror, but that, in the end, all will become clear. Seems about the best we can hope for.

Read the full article, What are the options for the UK’s trading relationship with the EU after Brexit?

December 10th, 2018

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Photo of Emily Lydgate21 November 2018

Dr Emily Lydgate is a lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex and a fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

Even if the draft Withdrawal Agreement is ultimately rejected, it provides more clarity on what the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) want in future relationship negotiations. Notably, it has prompted the EU to develop its call for a ‘level playing field’ in the areas of environmental and labour standards, State Aid and competition policy into a set of binding commitments now agreed by the UK Government. This blog examines the requirements for environmental standards and regulation. The EU has already indicated that it will seek ‘Level Playing Field’ commitments in any agreement, including a ‘Canada-style’ deal. These environmental commitments will likely comprise a minimum standard that the EU will require in any negotiated future relationship. (more…)

November 21st, 2018

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16 November 2018

Alasdair Smith is an Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and is a member of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

The UK Cabinet has signed off the draft EU Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and the Political Declaration (PD) about the future UK-EU trade relationship. The WA has had such a rocky reception in the Conservative Party that the future path of decision-making is a bit uncertain, but it is likely that these documents will also be agreed by the EU summit later this month. The decision-making then passes one way or another to the UK Parliament. Politics has dominated this week’s debates, but decisions need to be informed by economic assessment. Let’s consider the economic costs and benefits of the choices which Parliament will have to make.

(more…)

November 16th, 2018

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Image of Alasdair Smith11 June 2018

Alasdair Smith is an Emeritus Professor of Economics and Dr Peter Holmes is Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex. They are both Fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

On June 7, after prolonged internal discussion, the UK government published its paper proposing the extension to the whole UK of the ‘backstop’ provision in the EU draft withdrawal agreement to incorporate Northern Ireland (NI) into the EU’s customs territory until another solution can be found for the problem of the Irish border. The UK is unenthusiastic about the backstop and hopes it will not be needed, but wants any backstop to cover the whole UK, so as to avoid the need for border inspections of trade between NI and the rest of the UK (GB). Perhaps surprisingly, the government paper does not address the fact that the EU’s proposal is for NI to be included in a ‘common regulatory area’ as well as in a de facto customs union: any backstop needs to deal with regulation as well as customs. (more…)

June 11th, 2018

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22 May 2018

Alasdair Smith is an Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and is a member of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

Not before time, the UK government is giving attention to the ‘backstop’ provision which will be written into the Withdrawal Agreement for Brexit to avoid a hard border in Ireland.  But rather than focussing on how to sell this politically in the UK, the government needs to address the more pressing question of whether the European Union (EU) will agree to the UK’s preferred version of the backstop. (more…)

May 22nd, 2018

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