Brexit Weekly: 5 Things

The summer is magic

You may be tricked into thinking that the summer period means it’s all gone quiet. If you are spending the summer months at work, you will have noticed a sharp fall in the number of incoming emails and the only sound you can hear from your desk is the one of fans (or air conditioning, for the lucky few). Much to your relief, the colleague who keeps bringing smelly food into the office is visiting the French riviera for a fortnight. And if you are on holiday, well, nothing else matters, does it?

But Brexit negotiators are already back at it. Talks have re-started, dominated yesterday by the difficult question of the Norther Irish border and followed today by discussions around the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

On the first issue, which remains the most politically sensitive and one that has thrown negotiations into a real deadlock, the UK is hoping to take a pragmatic approach. In practice, this would mean a longer transition period and more of what we have now (the despair of Brexiteers). But beyond the repeated reassurance that both the UK and the EU want to avoid a hard boarder at all costs, what we are all lamenting is a tad more detail on how this system will work in practice.

In the meantime, in the real world the Irish Central Statistics Office has reported a 7 per cent drop in Irish goods exports to Britain, the Republic’s largest trading partner in the EU. While this cannot be immediately linked to Brexit, the current state of affairs – and the uncertainty around the outcome of the negotiations – is not conducive to trade growth.


You better think (think)

Think about what you’re trying to do to me. This week we say goodbye to the Queen of Soul, who left us with a reminder that, sometimes, we got to think about the consequences of our actions.

A “March for the Future” will take place on 20th October in parallel with a summit of EU leaders, serving as a reminder to the UK Government and British citizens that they, too, would be better off if it thought about the consequence of Brexit again. And what would be better than another referendum to do that?

Campaigners seem to have gotten even more vocal given the increasing likelihood of a no-deal scenario, which Kristian Jensen, Denmark’s Finance Minister, said on today is now 50-50.

With former Brexit Secretary Davis Davis warning the EU that it is making “massive miscalculation” if they think the UK will not walk away without a deal and blaming the situation on the European Commission’s lack of flexibility over the conditions for exit, we better stop worrying about this possibility and start preparing for it.


A, B, Citizens

The UK Government plans to register EU citizens applying for settled status in alphabetical order (as opposed to a first come first served basis) has raised sharp criticism this week, particularly amongst those whose surname starts with a letter in the second half of the alphabet.

The European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, headed by Guy Verhofstadt, did not seem too pleased with the possibility either, having described the plan as one that “would be complicated, arbitrary and could create unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for millions of EU citizens already living in limbo”. Verhostadt went on to say that the current proposal is one that a “budget airline would be proud of”, however we are a little unsure Ryanair’s boss would be pleased with such a plan, having criticized the Government on many occasions over their current approach to Brexit negotiations.

While the system could potentially help the UK Home Office dealing with an unexpected flood of applications by EU citizens who can demonstrate to have lived in the UK for more than five years (including their family members), it will surely disappoint many applicants who may find themselves having to wait until after the transition period to have their “settled status” confirmed.


Come work with us

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) released a report which stated that 30% of workers in the domestic food and drink industry, the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, are EU migrant workers.

In an effort to prevent a massive shortfall in labour in the manufacturing industry, the CBI gave recommendations for how the immigration system could be changed. Chief amongst these recommendations was creating a system that measures contribution rather than focusing on net migration numbers. It also suggested a registration system for all migrants – similar to that currently in place in some EU countries – as well as a guarantee that the cost of hiring EU workers won’t become prohibitively expensive and that entry at the UK border will be stress-free.

With EU nationals net migration to Britain having dropped to 5-year low last year, a recent survey highlighted that companies are suffering from a “supply shock” across all levels, which is forcing companies to raise wages.


Mind your health

With much of the discussions surrounding Britain’s divorce from the EU happening at a political level, the question is still outstanding as to the practical implications that Brexit would have on citizen’s day to day lives.

A rise in food prices, super-inflation, a falling pound, having to pay £6 to visit your European country of choice, these are some of the – perhaps unintended – consequences of leaving a partner that’s been with you for over 40 years. Reduced consumer choice is also one of those, with businesses busy reviewing their supply chain to reduce reliance on EU partners.

But there is another concern to add to the list: access to safe drugs. When Britain leaves the EU, the UK will effectively become a third country and therefore exit the “pharmacovigilance” system coordinated by the European Medicine Agency, the EU agency on pharmaceuticals that will shortly be relocating to the Netherlands from London. Concerns were voiced this week by Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, who has warned that a solution should be found without delay. This would also possibly include increased resources for the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, which currently plays a major role in the approval of medicines across the EU.

The pharmaceutical sector is one of the most productive in the UK, with a turnover of £41.8 billion as indicated in recent report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee of the House of Commons.