Brexit 5: Tensions continue to bubble away, as another lockdown looms

September 25, 2020 5:21 pm

De-facto internal border in Kent proposed

Earlier this week, the government announced that truck drivers will need a permit to enter Kent after the Brexit transition period ends. The announcement came after a letter from cabinet minister Michael Gove warned that, without a free trade deal, queues 7,000-trucks-long could clog up roads around the port of Dover and Channel Tunnel. Under government plans revealed in a leaked document, the Kent Access Permit will be issued only to drivers who have completed all the paperwork necessary to board a ferry or Eurotunnel train to Calais. However, there are some practical considerations which have yet to be answered by the government, with no information on enforcement mechanisms yet released. Industry leaders have reacted unfavourably to the announcement too, bewildered that the government is blaming industry for these measures, despite them begging for details of the preparations they will have to make as a matter of urgency for the last six months.

 

Business still failing to prepare for Brexit

According to a poll conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce, only half of UK firms that trade internationally have considered the impact of Brexit on their business. It said only 52 per cent of them had carried out a risk assessment ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period. What is clear is that there is a complete mismatch in communications between industry and government on Brexit preparations. Gove’s messaging is strong, stating “the consequences of a lack of business preparedness will be not just economic opportunities missed for those companies who don’t prepare, but potentially much wider disruption”. However, businesses still have unanswered questions relating to rules of origin, labelling, and the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland and are calling for government to ramp up engagement with business urgently.

 

France hit back at UK posturing on post-Brexit transport delays

Amongst all the uproar in the UK regarding the potential transport delays at the border, France has dismissed this week’s ‘dire’ British warnings and labelled the actions of government as tactical posturing. France’s Europe minister Clément Beaune when asked about statements from Michael Gove about the proposed Kent border, “It won’t work, so let’s not waste time with these unfortunate tactical games and let’s negotiate fairly.” Tensions between the European Union and United Kingdom have flared up in recent weeks, with the EU increasingly perplexed at the British government’s attempt to rewrite an international treaty signed less than a year ago after fraught negotiations. They are also baffled by the UK’s apparent lack of technical preparation for new customs arrangements. Many sticking points still remain, but Michel Barnier has left London today in a positive mood, despite no big breakthroughs. One official has claimed “it seems like the tide is turning.”

 

Labour now looking beyond Brexit?

Labour have often been criticised for not drawing a line in the sand, clearly outlining their position on Brexit. At the Labour Party conference, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has had her say, claiming that “Labour lost the last general election. Brexit has happened. We are now in the implementation period and the debate now isn’t over Leave and Remain, it’s about whether the government can deliver a deal … we need to make sure the government delivers on that now.” Opposition leader Keir Starmer echoed the same message, urging the party to move on from the leave and remain debate. However, with deal talks having stalled in recent weeks over the key issues of state aid and fishing rights, Starmer has warned Boris Johnson the Labour Party will not necessarily vote for his Brexit deal when he brings it back to Parliament.

 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also looks beyond Brexit

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, has warned of “difficult decisions ahead” as he revealed his latest package of measures to try and support the economy up over the coming winter. With a second wave of Covid-19 expected, and further plans of lockdown on the cards, this scheme is estimated in government to support between two and five million people, who are likely to have their incomes topped up. His announcement follows many weeks of calls for a replacement for furlough – the support system that saw the chancellor use public finances to prop up the wages of millions of people to prevent economic disaster. With the UK reeling from its worst economic performance in recent times, and with many people who were on the furlough scheme now expected to lose their jobs due to not qualifying for the new Job Support Scheme, the coming winter months will present a significant challenge for the chancellor and government.

 

The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at chris.whitehouse@whitehouseconsulting.co.uk

September 25, 2020 5:21 pm

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