With the passing of the June 30th deadline for an extension to the EU withdrawal period, it seems that the UK government is either determined to crash out of the Single Market without a deal, or believes that its brinkmanship will help secure a last minute one.
Neither are helpful for businesses trying to plan their trade with EU countries after December 31st. A no-deal scenario is widely seen as being catastrophic for UK agriculture, while any arrangement less favourable than the present one will increase the cost of trading with Europe and slow the process.
While the breezy referendum slogans of ‘frictionless trade’ and ‘the easiest trade deal in history’ recede into the past, it becomes clearer that trade to and from Northern Ireland – within the UK – will also become more bureaucratic. The prime minister’s October withdrawal agreement moving the border to the Irish Sea effectively leaves the country in the EU.
An independent UK will be a small player in negotiating deals with major global trading countries and groups. The government concession on a Trade & Agriculture Commission to protect UK farm standards is welcome, but how effective will it be in practice?
With the much vaunted free trade benefits post-Brexit difficult to discern, one might have expected the government to be highlighting the advantages of life outside the EU – for example the ability to regulate our own pesticides and to allow new technologies such as gene editing to help our plant and animal breeding. But it is strangely quiet – why?