Zoe Chadwick from PLMR explains what the latest updates from parliament mean for the equine industry.
What's going on with Brexit?
The clock is ticking. There are now only 17 months to go until we formally leave the EU, and we are still, in truth, not that much wiser about what's actually going to happen. Here’s hoping we get some kind of direction soon!
In the meantime, here’s the six things you need to know about that have happened over the last month:
- Theresa May’s leadership has been thrown into question (again) following her shaky speech at Party Conference and strong mutterings of a leadership challenge. It's argued that her lack of support from her Cabinet might undermine her credibility at the negotiating table.
The weaker May’s credibility, the more uncertainty we'll have around timelines and key issues such as trade and movement across borders – the result of these discussions will have a huge impact on equine businesses in terms of how easy it’s going to be to move horses, and indeed staff, across borders.
- The negotiations in Brussels seem to have been at a standoff. The EU27 (all the EU member states, apart from the UK) insist that the negotiations (on key issues such as trade) won't progress until the divorce settlement is decided on.
Both sides have now pledged to do more to accelerate the talks, and just last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel has raised hopes of Brexit talks being able to move on to trade in December.
However Donald Tusk, President of the European Council has said that they'd all have to work “really hard” to make this happen. May also wants the EU to discuss the “transition period” – the period of up to two years that the Government is looking to secure to soften the blow of the UK’s departure from the EU.
This would basically see the UK keep its existing relationship with the EU until 2021.
As with everything Brexit-related, this is up for discussion. Nonetheless, a transition period would, for all intents and purposes, be positive for the equine industry – not least because it will provide a degree of stability.
If it happens the way it has been talked about, the transition period would mean that the UK could stay in the single market for up to two years, which would make trade for equestrian businesses smoother, at least until 2021.
- There's been a lot of rather alarming talk about a “No Deal” arrangement – i.e. a scenario where the negotiations fail and the UK just leaves the EU in March 2019. This screams uncertainty.
Politicians and businesses are urging for a plan, or at least further clarity on what this would mean for the UK, and our relationship with the EU and the rest of the world.
Hopefully, if negotiations turn to trade in the comings months, and a transition period is agreed, talk of a “no deal” will subside. This will create more certainty for equestrian businesses and help with their future business plans.
- The EU Withdrawal Bill (the “Repeal Bill”) also seems to have hit an obstacle.
The debate, which was scheduled in the House of Commons for this week, has been delayed until possibly next year.
This is because of the number of amendments that Labour and some Conservative rebels have introduced to the bill, with the hope of slowing down the passage of leaving the EU.
The longer this takes, the more uncertainty this places on all business, including in across equine sector.
- Meanwhile, EU officials have increased engagement with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, just in case he becomes Prime Minister during the Brexit negotiations. Corbyn is meeting with Chief Brussels negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and he claims that “Labour stands ready to take up responsibility for the Brexit negotiations”.
It would be a whole different ball game if Labour were in charge of the negotiations. Not least because they are much more in favour of remaining within the single market and customs union in some shape or form.
At this stage it’s unlikely that Labour are going to come to power, but if they did, arguably the future of trade and movement of horses and equine goods would be a bit clearer!
- Finally (and hoping to end on a slightly more promising note) Theresa May is writing to 100,000 EU citizens to offer reassurance and to say that EU citizens lawfully in the UK will be able to stay, post-Brexit.
May states that the Government and EU are in “touching distance” of an agreement on citizens’ rights, with the outstanding issues being about rights such as voting in elections, onward movement and bringing in family members rather than their permission to stay in the UK.
This will be welcome news to EU citizens working in the equine industry, as well as the people who employ them, and I will keep you updated as talks on this issue conclude.
I hope that gives you a helpful whistle-stop tour of the Brexit situation at present.
The issues most prevalent to the equine industry remain trade and the movement of people. The Government seems to be make some progress on the latter, which is very positive news for those EU nationals in the UK’s equine industry, and we hope for further clarification on that soon.
With regards to trade, we hope that Angela Merkel is correct, and that talks can move to trade as early as December.
This will provide the equine industry with a bit more of a steer on how the movement of horses and equine goods will work after March 2019, and I’ll of course keep you posted along the way.