Brexit 5: regimes and vaccines

Raab’s “powerful new regime”

This week in the House of Commons the Foreign Secretary set out Britain’s new, post-Brexit sanctions policy, a “powerful new regime” targeted at individuals and organisations involved in “notorious human rights violations and abuses”. In a statement to MPs, Dominic Raab revealed the names of the first forty-nine foreign citizens and organisations to face visa bans and asset freezes, with the measures coming into force immediately.

Historically, the UK has partnered with the EU to impose sanctions, but the measures announced on Monday represent the first time the UK will independently name and penalise individuals and organisations accused of human rights abuses.

The provenance of these individuals and organisations include some familiar foes, like Russia, but also some of the UK’s key diplomatic allies, like Saudi Arabia, including a close aide to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

There are, however, some notable omissions from Raab’s list, including Chinese officials involved in the brutal repression of Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang province. There was also no mention of Carrie Lam, whose support for a new, sweeping national security law in Hong Kong might just warrant a ticket to Raab’s bad books in the near future.

How do you solve a problem like China?

Meanwhile, former Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned against harming Chinese trade amid Brexit, arguing that Britain must “tread carefully” in how it manages its relationship with its third largest trading partner after the EU and US.

Britain, currently locked in rows with China over the new security laws in Hong Kong, but also over tech giant Huawei’s role in the 5G rollout, received a stark warning from the Chinese ambassador to the UK on Monday. Liu Xiaoming cautioned that it is “not in the UK’s interest” to make an enemy of Beijing.

On Tuesday, Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme that increasing levels of anti-Chinese sentiment in the UK’s political establishment was “alarming”. The Prime Minister is nonetheless set to announce a ban on new equipment supplied by Huawei in the UK’s 5G network due to US sanctions.

As the relationship continues to sour, who knows what this will mean for a post-Brexit trade deal?

“Vaccine? No thanks.”

Today, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected an offer to join the EU coronavirus vaccine scheme, claiming it could leave Britain waiting months to gain access to a new a treatment.

It comes after the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee revealed this week that participation was threatened by the UK’s refusal to pay increased budget contributions to the EU during 2020. Since Britain left the EU, Brussels has increased its budget by more than €4 billion to fund a variety of coronavirus-related schemes.

Johnson has again been accused of putting Brexit before health, following criticism that he “put Brexit before breathing” in March after failing to join the EU’s ventilator and personal protective equipment schemes.

Britain vs. WTO

The International Trade Secretary has this week warned Cabinet colleagues that Britain could face a legal challenge from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about its post-Brexit border plans. In a leaked email to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, Liz Truss set out concerns about plans to manage the border following the end of the transition period, including a lack of sufficient border controls, failures in tariff management and differences with the regime in Northern Ireland.

On 1 July, the UK lost its right to ask for an extension to the transition period under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. In the agreement, the UK promised to impose the EU customs code but Downing Street is now refusing to comply. Instead, it introduced plans last month to steadily phase in border checks until July 2021. Truss is worried that by waving EU imports through in the interim, Britain could face complaints in the WTO.

In the email, Truss reportedly warned that these plans could create a series of “logistical, political and reputational risks for the government”, including a challenge from the WTO, increased smuggling from the EU and the undermining of the UK’s international trade policy.

Truss, who is currently leading trade negotiations in the US, joins a long, long list of people already concerned that the UK may be as ready for Brexit on 1 January 2021 as it should be.

Another Windrush?

The House of Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union this week heard from representatives from community groups, including the3million and the Eastern European Resource Centre, about the experiences of EU citizens in the UK using the EU Settlement scheme.

MPs were warned that EU nationals are in danger of slipping through the cracks of the government’s application system for receiving “settled” or “pre-settled” status in the UK and face becoming part of another Windrush-style scandal.

The scheme is, according to campaigners, poorly designed and risks leaving some people behind, including vulnerable groups that do not understand that they need to register. Dr Kuba Jablonowski, a researcher at citizens’ group the3million, also warned that there was simply no way of telling how many people have been left out of the scheme so far, since there are no accurate statistics for how people many are currently eligible to register.

The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at