Brexit: ‘Things can only get better’ say experts

John Rentoul
Friday 02 June 2023 11:28 BST
Where does the Brexit red tape end?

The problems of Brexit red tape have hit “low ebb”, according to David Henig, the independent trade adviser, in an Independent online event on Thursday. From this new baseline, “things can only get better”.

The panel agreed that there were changes that could be made, either by a Labour government or a Conservative one, over the next few years that would make trade easier without Britain going back into the EU single market or customs union.

Simon Calder, the Independent’s travel correspondent, said that the biggest single sin of Brexit on travel was the UK’s refusal to recognise EU identity cards. It has had a terrible effect on school trips coming to the UK, many of which are going to Ireland instead. It would be easy for the government to relax the rules.

Kate Devlin, the Independent’s political editor, said she thought Rishi Sunak’s government was pragmatic, and that the Windsor Framework showed that it could use better personal relationships with EU leaders to improve the Brexit deal.

Calder said he was optimistic that Northern Ireland’s exceptional status, being in both the UK and EU markets, would help make the case over time for a closer relationship with the EU for the whole of the UK.

Henig said he foresaw a “slow technical process” of permanent negotiation over the next two or three years. The new customs checks on goods coming from the EU to the UK in October are likely to be postponed again. There are likely to be agreements in different sectors that will make trade easier. And Britain might even join PEM, the Pan-Euro Mediterranean Convention, that would give it access to preferential rules of origin.

The panel also discussed Labour’s hardening line, with Keir Starmer this week saying “Britain’s future is outside the EU”, and why the Liberal Democrats are so reluctant to become the party of Rejoin – “because they were burned so badly in the 2019 election”, said Devlin.

You can watch a video of the whole discussion, chaired by John Rentoul, the Independent’s chief political commentator, here.

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