A vision for Britain’s post-Brexit trade & relations with the EU

Written by Tosin Murana, a Law student at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

European Union Quarter in Brussels, https://goo.gl/SiyF1Z

Thought Pieces introduce the issue that will be focused on during the month, outlining a vision of how Brexit can bring about a positive outcome in that key area. Follow our work at thinkingabout.org and @TA_Brexit on social media.

Trade

It seems the most concerning issue with Brexit is the future of trade. With negotiations on trade ongoing, there has been much anxiety over their outcome. Regarding the single market, what we currently see floating around is the notion that ‘Britain cannot have its cake and eat it’. But this idiom ignores what Britain has to offer as a country. Britain can in fact bake some more!

Yes, EU member state powers such as Germany could survive without a deal with the UK. But this would almost certainly come at the cost of it losing out on one of its biggest markets — especially within the automotive industry. The UK alone is the fourth biggest market for German car manufacturer BMW; it seems it would be an expensive price to pay if there was no post-Brexit deal.

“Britain is able to bake more cake that it can eat!”

Securing a free trade agreement should not be the be all and end all, as the U.K can make up the trade deficit by increasing trade with other nations and blocs. This way, we do not undermine the integrity of the single market, but Britain is able to bake more cake that it can eat!

Britain should look to pioneer new and innovative deals with emerging markets; such deals would also have the benefit of assisting developing countries with their economies. This works to secure strong future relationships when these economies are more developed. One example that will be focused on more next month is Ethiopia, which many expect to be Africa’s leading manufacturing hub.

An important concern is that Britain is too dependent on the EU, as evidenced in the import-export imbalance. A solution would be for Britain to further develop selected services and industries, providing more job opportunities while at the same time increasing exports and reducing the need for imports. Yes, in the short-term prices will increase but the long-term benefits to the economy can be considerable, it will encourage Britain to become more innovative with what it can provide as a country. This could lead to Britain creating even more valuable deals in future.

Research

British institutions are important to the EU and the EU is equally as important to British institutions. A large amount of research grants in the UK come from the European Research Council. Theresa May said in January that she welcomes agreement to collaborate with European partners on major research initiatives, moreover, she welcomes EU programs that are ‘value for money’ — this would include the likes of Horizon 2020.

“EU researching funding is an initiative that is ‘value for money’”

Similar to the Swiss model, the UK should continue to pay into the EU for research; EU researching funding is an initiative that is ‘value for money’. To do this Britain would have to negotiate free movement. If total free movement is not in the best interests of Britain, we should consider negotiating terms for free movement of academics, scientists and those in other professionals in research and innovation institutions.

The Irish Border

If the United Kingdom do leave the customs union — which looks very likely — some type of customs mechanism will be needed between the UK and Northern Ireland. The UK House of Lords suggest a bi-lateral trade agreement between the UK and Ireland; however, the EU has exclusive competence to negotiate trade deals with third-party countries.

“starting with a physical barrier could provide an opportunity to research and develop technological alternatives”

A hard and physical ‘customs check’ barrier between Ireland and the UK seems to be one of the only ways forward. But this does not have to be as negative as some commentators have made it out to be. Although we do not yet have the technology to track cross-border movements without the need of physical checking, starting with a physical barrier could provide an opportunity to research and develop technological alternatives.

European Court Of Justice

The future of our law and relationship with the European Court of Justice after Brexit is uncertain. However, Theresa May did provide some clarity on this during her speech in Florence: she would like’ for UK courts to take into account ECJ judgements when there is uncertainty under EU Law.’

However, as a law student I question, in regards to trade, which laws will take primacy? Will we still follow Strasbourg Jurisprudence? And will national courts be the final arbiters on trade matters? — If so, do national courts have the expertise to make these inherently political decisions?

“Parliament should vote on which EU laws should be brought into domestic law during the transitional period.”

To answer these questions, I propose that Parliament should vote on which EU laws should be brought into domestic law during the transitional period. This will improve our relationship with the EU as there will remain some consistency in our legislation.

Also, we need an independent body, possibly the House of Lords, for constant scrutiny of what is happening with the law outside of Britain and how this will affect Britain. Further, a House of Lords committee should be set up to focus on economic issues facing Britain and how this could influence domestic law. This committee should also monitor ECJ jurisprudence and assess its applicability to UK law; this will ensure a more collaborative relationship with Strasbourg.