Friday, 15 July 2016

Brexit is far more than just a trade deal

To pick just one example, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is a decentralised agency of the European Union (EU), located in London. It began operating in 1995. The Agency is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the EU.

Leaving the single market puts into question whether it can continue to be based in London. Even staying in the EEA puts this into question unless we negotiate to retain it. EEA members have no voting rights and only limited management rights.

It is wholly separate to the matter of trade but if we want to keep it there are several questions over our involvement. If we want to gain management rights and voting rights then all other EEA members will want management rights too. This is unlikely. Thus, with a weakened UK, the Commission might (under pressure) move the agency and we might lose it altogether. A huge blow for the UK pharmaceutical industry.

Then there is also the continuance of leases, procurement contracts, existing joint projects within it and staffing issues. If we want to keep it we will have to pay for it and we will have to make concessions in unrelated areas, possibly agricultural quotas or something nobody up to press has even thought of. There are almost forty of these agencies from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). There is also Frontex and EASA. Inside these agencies are academic research programmes tied in with EU academic cooperation agreements.

Just imagine how pissed off Europe is going to be with us if we suddenly pull the plug on all of this. Without UK funding much of it disintegrates. You would think that gives us leverage but it doesn't. We have signed contracts and agreements and we would wreck our international standing should we simply rip them up and walk away. If we have funding agreements going to 2025 then we will stick to them.

So we shouldn't expect any draw down in budget contributions any time soon nor can we expect to pull out of these agencies without first developing our own domestic ministries to hand such affairs. In some cases we will want to do that as soon as possible but I don't see any value at all in replicating work on medicines at massive cost.

So Brexit is really a question of deciding how much of a relationship with the EU we want in the future and which elements we will phase out. None of this is going to happen quickly and not of it is going to happen without a negotiated departure.

So when you hear the likes of David Davis prattling on about a Canada style deal on tariffs, you just know the man is away with the fairies. A deal on tariffs doesn't even begin to address the process of unpicking forty years of integration. Not forgetting agencies under Common Security and Defence Policy. We won't be joining any European army but we most certainly will want joint operational capability with the EU whether it develops its own army or not.

If the EU steams ahead to become that superstate then it is a neighbour and an ally, and not something we can expect to close the door on even if we wanted to. There are going to be thousands of questions submitted to the government regarding all of these areas that affect just about every walk of life. You have to be naive in the extreme to believe this is just about trade and tariffs and whether or not we are going to comply with EU regulations.

We are going to need an army of technocrats going over absolutely everything with a fine tooth comb. One small decision has massive practical ramifications. Just one small disagreement over something like the European Banking Authority securing, selective opt outs, could stall the process for years.

With that in mind you have to be extremely cautious of what trade experts say and even specialist constitutional lawyers like Professor Michael Dougan haven't grasped the scale of it at the granular level. By attempting a bespoke deal we are opening up several Pandora's boxes all at once, introducing massive risks into the system along with multiple stalling points and delays. The only way to avoid this is to swallow the lot as is under the EEA agreement if only to reduce the risks and simplify the negotiations. The negotiations are already complex as it is with WTO transition to consider. Nobody in the field thinks that will be straightforward or without risk.

Were it as simple as just agreeing mutual recognition of standards and regulations with a wider agreement on tariffs then we could wrap this up in a couple of years, but the politicians involved at the moment simply haven't the first clue - especially not David Davis or Boris Johnson. They are dangerously clueless. These people are willing to introduce massive risk entirely unnecessarily for the sake of taking back "full control over our borders" for very little actual gain.

The danger for leavers is that the Tory right will steadfastly refuse to acknowledge reality and will push for their fantasies despite a mountain of evidence that suggests a non-EEA option would be seriously stupid. They will encounter the political realities during talks instead of before them - and when they hit the reality crunch they will have to dash back to the drawing board in a hurry. That could mean that the process will be aborted leaving everybody feeling sour with seriously dented relations with the EU. Nobody wins from that.

Theresa May as a remainer might well have pulled a serious fast one on the leavers by putting it all in the hands of Johnson, Davis and the rest of the Vote Lave idiots. The leavers will be delighted that these morons are in control and then May gets to walk away unscathed when they make a pigs ear of it.

In the end, we may not end up leaving by way of having to push the emergency stop button on Article 50 talks specifically because of the vacuous fools who campaigned to get us out. That might well be the genius of Theresa May. She has seen that the people most likely to keep us in the EU are the leavers themselves through their own ignorance and incompetence. A political masterstroke.

That is why pushing the Article 50 button now is wholly moronic. We at least need to win the battle about what sort of Brexit we want before we do. If at this point you are still thinking we can simply hit the button and see what happens, and that some sort of bespoke deal is a walk in the park then you are simply not using the sense you were born with.

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