The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union

On 12th July the UK Government published the white paper “The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union”. The white paper sets out the UK Government’s negotiating position for leaving the European Union. It is important to note that the EU's position on, and reaction to, the UK paper is not clear yet.

Click here to view the white paper.

 

Here we summarise the key points and implications for the horticulture industry:

 

Trade in Goods Between the UK and the EU

The white paper proposes setting up “common rulebooks" for trade in goods and for trade in agri-food products. These common rulebooks will be designed to enable so-called frictionless trade in goods and products between the UK and the EU.

It would appear from how the paper is written that the EU Plant Health Regulations would be included in the common rulebook for agri-food products, but not necessarily the EU Directives covering the marketing of plants and plant products. DEFRA says that our future trading relationship with the EU, including phytosanitary controls for UK-EU trade, is subject to negotiation.

DEFRA states that they are "confident of building a new economic partnership with the EU through negotiation that ensures frictionless cross-border trade, whilst maintaining the UK's current high levels of plant health biosecurity"

The white paper proposes that trade in goods and agri-food products between the UK and the EU should be free from tariffs and quotas.

The white paper also proposes that there should also be a common rulebook on state aids in the interests of open and fair competition.

The white paper also proposes that a facilitated customs arrangement (FCA) should be developed over time between the UK and the EU. This would be designed as if the UK and the EU were a combined customs area removing the need for customs checks and controls. 

This means that businesses should be able to look forward to similar trading conditions post Brexit as they enjoy now, whereby movement of goods is tariff and quota-free, meaning no hold ups at customs and no restrictions on bringing material in nor exporting out.

 

Trade with the Rest of the World

The UK will become an independent member of the WTO and will lodge a UK schedule of tariffs and tariff rate quotas with the WTO.

The white paper proposes that the FCA should mean that where a good reaches the UK border, and the destination can be robustly demonstrated by a trusted trader, it will pay the UK tariff if destined for the UK and the EU tariff if destined for the EU.  Where the destination cannot be robustly demonstrated it will pay the higher of the 2 tariffs with repayment arrangements to be operable.

 

Movement of People

The white paper states that freedom of movement will end between the UK and the EU, but stresses the agreement already reached covering the existing situations. The white paper proposes that there should be no additional requirements for tourists and business visits from and to the EU. It also proposes co-operative accords in areas such as science and education to enable the UK to continue to participate in current EU programmes.

Agreements allowing Individuals to be able to move, live and work on the same basis as now up to the end of December 2020 are still in place. However, what happens after is yet to be set out, although the government is keen not to exclude workers who are required for business continuation, including seasonal workers.

This means it is highly likely that the horticulture industry will have access to skilled scientific based personnel for an extended period post-Brexit, filling a gap while our home-grown skills pool widens, although seasonal workers may have to apply for immigration status and/or work visas. Irish citizens will continue to have special status in the UK as they do now.

 

Institutional Arrangements

The white paper proposes a joint committee approach between the UK and the EU for technical discussions on areas such as changes to the common rulebooks. It also proposes that the UK should pay to be involved in several European organisations, including the European Chemical Agency. This means that the UK will still have access to European expertise in relevant areas, but does not state whether, for example, recommendations will be automatically adopted regarding pesticides and chemical use and the regulation thereof.

 

Disputes

If disputes cannot be settled informally, an independent arbitration panel is proposed.

 

Next Steps

18th October 2018 – Key EU Summit where both sides hope to agree future relations in outline prior to the 29th March 2019 deadline.

 

The HTA will continue to monitor and evaluate Brexit as the negotiations between the UK and EU progress. Further updates and information notes will be made available as the situation changes.