With the Prime Minister’s Brexit Bill ‘on pause’, Brexit ‘flextended’ until January 31 and the country on course for a General Election on December 21, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about if and how the UK will leave the EU.
However, with the current House of Commons demonstrating support for the PM’s deal on October 22, when a majority voted in favour of the Bill for the first time, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)has looked to clarify what the new deal is and what businesses should do now.
What is in the new deal?
Sarah Baker, AHDB’s strategic insight manager, said: “Many aspects of the original deal are unchanged, including the treatment of citizens’ rights, the UK paying a ‘divorce bill’ and a transition period (until the end of 2020) when the UK will remain in the single market and customs union.
“The main area of difference is around the much contested ‘backstop’ agreement which outlines what happens if both parties fail to agree the details of a future trade deal. This has been replaced by a ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ which allows Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK’s customs territory, while following EU rules and applying EU VAT on goods. A key downside is that to ensure no customs check or controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic, there will be controls on some goods moving between Great Britain to Northern Ireland.”
Ms Baker added: “In addition, text around the future UK/EU relationship has altered, which suggests the UK is looking for a much looser future relationship with the EU, based on a free trade agreement.
“For instance, rather than agreeing to stick closely to EU regulations in the (legally-binding) withdrawal agreement, there is now a paragraph on maintaining a ‘level playing field’ in the (non-legally binding) political declaration.”
What will the impact be on agriculture?
Ms Baker said: “The Government has not published a detailed impact assessment alongside the deal. However, given most aspects have remained the same, we might expect the impact to be very similar to Theresa May’s deal, at least in the short term.”
AHDB has published a Horizon report assessing the impact of this deal compared to a No Deal Brexit, which can be downloaded HERE.
Ms Baker added: “Where things may begin to differ is over the longer term, if the UK takes a differing approach to regulation with the EU. This could conceivably cause challenges in UK/EU trade but might help develop UK trade with the rest of the world.”
What should I do to prepare?
Ms Baker said: “For now, it is unclear who will be leading the country come January 31, or what UK Parliament will look like. As a result, there are no guarantees as to whether or not the latest deal will pass and the possibility of a No Deal Brexit has not been removed.
“Farmers and growers may still need to make changes to be ready for No Deal, especially if they trade in some way with the EU.”