How free will you feel come January 2021?
Over the last few months, we dames have written many blogs on Covid-19 and how it has affected us personally. Apart from localised surges we have been enjoying the relative freedom thanks to lockdown easing and warm summer weather, allowing us all to spend plenty of time outdoors.
But all the while another clock continues to tick: the Brexit clock. Let us not forget that all the promises that were made to persuade voters to vote Leave in the 2016 Referendum have been broken. To get the withdrawal agreement though Parliament, Boris Johnson agreed terms with the EU which are now being reneged on.
There are less than six months in which to sign a trade agreement with the EU. The UK government rejected the sensible option to extend the transition period beyond December 31st 2020, which would have given time for participating countries to recover from the damage to economies and society from Covid-19.
Whatever – if any – deal we end up with, it is worth taking stock of what we are about to lose, if it has not already gone:
- Freedom of movement. European countries will treat British citizens as aliens and may require visas to enter. There will be no automatic right to live or work in European countries unless a bilateral agreement with each individual country is approved. British citizens can no longer compete on a level playing field for jobs in the EU, as with no freedom of movement across member states, they are at a significant disadvantage to EU citizens.
- Serious risks to public security due to a lack of cooperation. The UK risks losing its real-time access to a watchlist of suspected terrorists if it does not strike a comprehensive deal on justice and security with the EU. This includes the European arrest warrant, with the prospect of the UK becoming a haven for foreign criminals trying to evade justice from EU member states.
- British pound loses its value and the trend continues. Sterling has already lost one fifth of its value and may reach parity with the euro in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It is at its weakest level in 35 years. Bank of America analysts maintain that the volatility of sterling in recent years has been largely driven by the result of the Brexit vote and they warn that this is likely to intensify, rather than fall away, as the UK formally leaves the EU, with or without a trade deal.
- Food security and quality. This is a key example of promises broken. Michael Gove assured the British public that there would be no compromise on the security and quality of the food in the UK. The years of adherence to EU standards has ensured that the food we currently eat is of some of the best quality possible. We now know from leaked documents that all this is under threat. The NFU is lobbying the government, and Tory backbenchers are starting to flex their muscles, but they may well be ignored, as well as some of the major supermarkets’ statements on food standards. Recently Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, was in the UK discussing a trade deal. This will be held in extreme secrecy; some papers will not be made public until five years after a deal is signed.
- Post Covid recovery plan. To help repair the economic and social damage brought by the coronavirus pandemic, kick-start European recovery, and protect and create jobs, on 26 May 2020 the European Commission proposed a major recovery plan for Europe based on harnessing the full potential of the EU budget. The plan is structured, detailed and shows a cohesion that bears no resemblance to the litany of failures and backhanders perpetrated by HMG here. If only the UK could be benefiting from this, but we won’t.
These are just a few examples of what awaits us. Taking back control? Freedom from bureaucracy? I think not.