Brexit: Article 50, Gibraltar and Horse Passports

Zoe White is away on her honeymoon and will be returning in a few weeks having transformed into Zoe Chadwick. In the meantime her PLMR colleague Steven Gauge steps in to keep us up to date on the latest EU developments and how they will affect the equine sector.

The latest political news

Since Zoe’s last blog, Theresa May has now formally triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome. The clock is now ticking and by the 30th March 2019 the UK and the EU will have parted company. Between now and then, there's a lot of work to be done.

Negotiators need to settle the terms of the divorce and it’s all rather more complicated than just who gets the CD collection. Also, if Theresa May gets her way, they'll also have to agree the future framework for the UK and EU trading relationship.

What happens next is no longer solely up the UK government – The European Commission and its Member States are now formally involved and have a stake in an orderly separation.

There are elections in Germany and France coming that will somewhat complicate the timetable and delay the real start of negotiations.

The aim is to get everything settled by October 2018 so that the process of parliamentary ratification can be completed in time for the separation.

All change... or is it?

The tone of the debate is shifting a little. Theresa May has been talking about an ‘implementation period’ after Britain leaves, which is her preferred way of talking about a transition phase.

So, although the UK will definitely leave the EU in two years’ time, there may be a time period when nothing really changes and businesses are given more time to adjust and prepare for the new ways of doing business across EU borders.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has emerged as an issue as the complicated nuances of the Good Friday Agreement returned to the forefront of politicians minds.

Clearly no-one wants to see a return to a ‘hard’ border on what will be the only land link between the EU and the UK so a delicate compromise will need to be worked out.

Gibraltar also found its way into the debate as the Spanish Government was granted a veto by the EU negotiators on any issues that might affect their relationship with the tiny plot of British territory adjoining the Mediterranean coast.

The negotiations have almost literally started off as stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The parliamentary process that will be preparing the legal framework for the post-Brexit UK is known as the Great Repeal Bill.

This is only a working title at the moment as the Parliamentary clerks aren’t fond of value laden phrases like ‘great’ and the word ‘repeal’ is a little over enthusiastic too.

In reality the bill will automatically adopt all existing EU legislation into UK law. This is so that business can carry on as normal and Parliament can gradually change things as it sees fit over the following years.

How it affects the equine sector

It would appear that everyone is trying to keep things as calm as possible. Life goes on and that also applies equally to the equine sector.

With perfect timing, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs has this week announced a new consultation on equine identification regulations.

This is a consultation about the implementation of an EU regulation as, in spite of Brexit these regulations will come into force anyway.

Of course, once the UK leaves it could change them further. The regulation forms part of the EU Commission’s Five Point Action Plan on Food fraud that included a strengthening of the horse passport regime.

The main intentions behind the revised regulations is to ensure that horses don't enter the human food chain. Anyone with a view on horse passports can take part in the consultation by clicking here.

There 's nothing that focuses the mind of civil servants and politicians more than a looming deadline and so we'll see the Brexit negotiations become a whole lot more intense over the coming months.

When Zoe is back from her honeymoon she'll make sure to keep you up to speed on all the unfolding developments.