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Tough choices ahead in next stage of Brexit

A new report from the academic think tank The UK in a Changing Europe outlines several challenges facing the Government post-Brexit.

The group today issues the report, ‘Brexit: what’s next?’, which looks at the new trade deal the UK will negotiate with the EU; how the Government will devise and implement a whole raft of new policies; how to reshape the economy and hold the Union together – among other pressing issues.

Prof Hussein Kassim, professor of politics in the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies, is a senior fellow of The UK in a Changing Europe.

Prof Kassim said: “Since Friday the UK is no longer an EU member state, but the Government faces a huge task — and not only negotiating the UK’s future relations with the EU. This report looks at the choices that the Government will have to make on the shape of the economy, the new agencies it will need to create, and fundamental constitutional questions concerning parliament, the courts, and the United Kingdom itself.”

‘Brexit: what next?’ finds the Government has not only set itself the mammoth task of negotiating a new relationship with the EU in just 11 months, but also has to:

  • Develop and implement its own immigration, agriculture and environment policies, alongside its new trade policy. These will all require trade-offs between competing interests – and pose major administrative challenges.
  • Devise a coherent and comprehensive strategy to reshape the British economy after Brexit – in particular to mitigate the fall-out from a more distant trade relationship with the EU and deliver its promises to level up.
  • Set up new bodies to take on responsibilities from the EU, such as the proposed new Office for Environmental Protection, and the independent body to oversee the implementation of the agreement on citizens’ rights.
  • Keep the Union together in the face of pressures that are putting existing arrangements under strain: Westminster pushing through legislation against the wishes of the devolved assemblies; and Scotland and Northern Ireland chafing at the economic consequences of the Government’s Brexit deal.

The trade deal itself will be exceedingly challenging. The authors predict that the Government’s unwillingness to countenance an extension means it will be hard to agree anything other than ‘the barest of bare-bone deals’ in the next 11 months. The Government’s decision to prioritise the right to diverge from EU regulation in the future will limit what can be agreed: it will mean new trade friction for agriculture and manufacturing; and significant new barriers for service exports.

Whatever can be agreed on security will mean less access than now to the EU’s law enforcement and judicial cooperation tools. The EU will not allow a non-member state outside Schengen to the European Arrest Warrant, the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Record Information System. 

These are not the only areas where the UK faces tough negotiations. Also on the agenda are other minefields, such as fishing rights, data protection, intellectual property, aviation and road transport access, as well as the whole question of how the agreement is overseen, enforced and disputes resolved. The EU is likely to press for a role for the European Court of Justice, but the Government has insisted Brexit means an end to ECJ jurisdiction over the UK.

The report argues that ministers have refused to be honest with the public about the choices they will make, particularly in terms of economic impact, the increase in red tape, and growth in the size of the state.

Prof Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “Getting Brexit done, in the sense of leaving the European Union was, in a way, the easy bit. Now, the Government confronts the challenge not only of successfully concluding a set of complex negotiations in under a year, but also putting in place structures and policies to replace those of the EU. And perhaps most important and most challenging of all, it must address the political imperatives created by Brexit and its aftermath. These are sizeable and complex challenges, to say the least.”

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