Brexit: is it a success yet?

This week, several stories have dominated the Brexit agenda including on police, fish and the tampon tax. While lost police data has fuelled growing public distrust in the UK police force, the UK’s fishing industry has also faced serious difficulties and finally, changes such as those to tampon tax have been hailed as Brexit “quick wins”. It seems the details that constitute what Brexit will actually look like remain as prominent and ongoing as ever, while we grapple for Brexit-fuelled successes.

Vital police data at risk
The UK police force has been under scrutiny over the past weeks. Following the tragic case of Sarah Everard, the police handling of her vigil and this morning’s conviction of a police officer for his membership of a banned neo-nazi organisation, it’s clear that our police force is facing some significant challenges.

To add to these, last week, it was revealed that When we left the EU, we lost access to the Schengen Information System (SIS II), which is home to crucial information on criminal records, fingerprints and wanted persons at the click of a button. Losing access to this system also meant losing access to 40,000 alerts about investigations across the Union.

The replacement system offered by the EU is significantly slower than the SIS II, releasing limited data in a matter of hours rather than seconds. The Lords EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee has warned that the speed of this system is of concern and that the EU could suspend it “if the UK chooses not to stay aligned with EU data protection rules in the future”, constituting yet another complication caused by Brexit. The police, facing mounting problems, seem the latest to be hit by Brexit complications.

Workers’ rights in jeopardy
Yesterday, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) highlighted “various initiatives” that the EU is pioneering to secure a high level of workers’ rights. The union body said that the UK has no such initiatives in the pipeline. As a result, it argued that the UK is “at a real risk” of falling behind the EU when it comes to workers’ rights and that subsequently, workers may look for employment elsewhere.

To rectify this problem, the TUC recommends the UK government launches a work-life balance directive and a transparent and predictable working conditions directive, both of which would allow employees to “digitally disconnect” outside working hours and provide employees with better job security. The UK government has yet to respond.

Vaccination, anyone?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has concluded that Europe’s vaccination rollout has been “unacceptably slow” in the fight against rising infections across the continent.

WHO director for Europe, Hans Kluge, has said that “we must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now”. Despite this advice, 18 European countries have severely limited the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination over the past few months due to health concerns that have been widely disproved. Germany is the latest country to join the growing list.

To fish or not to fish? That, depends on the EU…
The fishing industry remains a highly contentious part of the ongoing Brexit debate. Last week, the EU confirmed that it will place indefinite restrictions on British fishers who want to sell live mussels, oysters, clams and cockles to member states. Such restrictions could have a “severe” impact on the sector, claimed The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations. It seems the fight for the distribution of fish products continues…

Tampon tax has nothing to do with Brexit
This week, reports have described changes to tampon tax, hedgerows and sanctions as “quick wins” presented by the government to demonstrate the merits of Brexit. But if you dig beneath the surface, its less clear that these are ‘Brexit wins’ at all.

In particular, the tampon tax campaign was no quick win. It required 6.5 years of online campaigning and the lobbying efforts of many activists that span generations before me.

Brexit only really enabled the UK to end tampon tax a year earlier than any other EU country. During the Brexit referendum, the EU began the process of changing its tampon tax laws to enable any member state to end the tax if it so wishes. This process was sparked by a desire to prove that the EU is a modern institution. This law will come into effect in 2022, meaning the UK only ended the tax 12 months earlier . If tampon tax is to be hailed as one of Brexit’s ‘wins’, then you can draw your own conclusions as to how successful Brexit has really been.

Political consultancy
The Whitehouse team are experts in the impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients across the Member States of the European Union and the United Kingdom. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here. If you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse. at

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