Brexit Briefings

Grassroots Hub

Brexit Briefings

    February 10, 2023
  • Security & Migration

    Posted by Amelia Hughes

    'Taking back control of our borders’ was one of the main slogans of the Vote Leave campaign, which told its supporters that immigration would go down.

    That has not happened – immigration from the EU has gone down but overall immigration has not. Despite that, there are still labour shortages in key areas – including the NHS - where EU workers had previously filled gaps.

    Neither has Brexit led to a reduction in irregular migration, notably across the Channel. Indeed, by removing the UK from the EU’s ‘Dublin Regulation’, it has made it more difficult to return asylum seekers to EU countries where they first arrived, for their claims to be processed there.

    The UK is not part of European schemes – it opted out of these even before Brexit - to encourage the migration of skilled people or to provide legal routes to resettle people from war-torn parts of the world. If there are no legal routes, desperate people will try other means.

    The UK receives – and always has received - relatively few asylum claims compared to many EU countries: in 2021, EU countries overall received about double the number of applications per capita as the UK. In 2020, when compared with EU countries, the UK ranked 14th in terms of the number of asylum applications per capita.

    Brexit has also made it more difficult to work and exchange crime and justice information with authorities in EU countries, notably to prevent known criminals from entering the UK. In particular, UK border authorities no longer have instant access to the full data held by authorities in the EU. The UK is no longer a member of the EU’s crime-fighting body Europol.

    The UK is now also outside the European Arrest Warrant scheme, which means it is now more difficult to extradite to the UK from Europe people who have committed serious offences in the UK. In the past, the EAW enabled the arrest of, for example, terrorists who had plotted explosions in London in 2005. Between 2009 and 2014, 63 suspects for child sex offences, 27 for rape and 44 for murder were extradited back to Britain to face charges.

    All this means Brexit has left the UK more vulnerable to organised crime, including terrorism, major financial crime and people trafficking.

    Over 630 000 people applied for asylum in the EU (about 14 per ten thousand of population) compared to under 50 000 in the UK (about 7.5 per ten thousand of population) – source UN. 

  • February 10, 2023
  • The Retained EU Law Bill

    Posted by Amelia Hughes

    Retained EU Law Bill 

    Democrats need to be vigilant about talk of ‘Brexit opportunities’ and especially the Retained EU Law Bill tabled on 22 September 2022 and passed by 280 votes to 225 at its second reading on 25 October.  

    This Bill and a series of related measures to remove or weaken protections provided by EU law looks like cover for stripping away democratic rights and high EU standards for food and other products, as well as employment, environmental, health and consumer protection. For example, holiday and sick pay, parental leave, pension guarantees and safe limits on working time could be scrapped by Ministers using ‘secondary legislation’, i.e. without full debate in the Commons. Such protections could even just disappear from the statute book overnight, without any debate, as a result of an irresponsible ‘sunset clause’ set for the end of 2023.  

    This is a bonfire of laws that work, to replace them either with a vacuum or with laws that make life worse.  TUC leader Frances O’Grady has said: “If this bill becomes law, vital protections could disappear overnight.” 

    This process is also set to: 

    • waste vast civil service time, with Britain in the worst economic crisis in decades; 
    • create chaos in courts and employment tribunals, as long-established case law is invalidated; 
    • cause massive uncertainty for businesses; 
    • create additional trade barriers with the EU, by weakening UK regulation so that products for the UK market may not meet standards needed for export to the EU; 
    • potentially provoke a trade war with the EU, by breaking the level playing field clauses in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, intended to prevent a deregulatory race to the bottom; 
    • fail to respect the rights of the devolved nations to legislate for their jurisdictions. 

    Many argue that the government will have no choice but to accept amendments watering down the Bill – for example by extending the sunset clause to 2026 – given the intense criticism from business, trade unions, consumer organisations, environmentalists and apolitical mass movements like the National Trust and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.  

    But simply removing the worst aspects of this Bill would not end the Brexit government’s dangerous overall agenda of doctrinaire deregulation and divergence from tried and tested EU law.  

    A ream of other legislation is in the pipeline, on areas such as data protection, financial services, public procurement and many more. All of it will need to be scrutinised and fiercely opposed in any areas where it poses risks to individual rights, the economy or the environment.  

    The government has not identified any significant, credible opportunities from Brexit. Jacob-Rees Mogg’s nine-point list - he obviously couldn’t find a tenth – was ridiculed even by many on his own side. For example, his proposal to allow energy inefficient vacuum cleaners in the UK was a charter for manufacturers to dump stocks of obsolete goods that they are no longer allowed to sell in the EU and that they are not interested in making, or making parts for, in the future.  

    Despite a biased consultation, businesses and consumer organisations have given an emphatic thumbs down to the government’s nostalgia-fuelled idea of allowing products to be labelled solely in old imperial measures. Imperial measures were already used perfectly legally alongside metric ones when the UK was in the EU. Many younger Brits do not even understand imperial measures. Their sole use would prevent products from being exported and inhibit trade. 

    But the fanatically deregulatory government is interested only in empty Brexiteer gesture politics rather than real opportunities that would bring genuine benefits.

  • November 23, 2022
  • Horizon Europe & Erasmus +

    Posted by Patrick McCoy

    Horizon Europe

    Horizon Europe is the EU’s research and innovation programme. Worth EUR 95.5 billion over 7 years, it is the third biggest part of the EU budget, after agriculture and regional funding. When the UK was a Member State, it vied with Germany to be the biggest beneficiary in financial terms, with France way back in third place.  

    Brexit has thrown that success away. By making cross-border scientific collaboration more difficult, Brexit is making it more difficult to save the planet from climate change, save lives from cancer and keep our economy competitive. 

    Horizon Europe carries enormous economic weight – research and innovation are universally recognised as key to success for modern businesses and to the prosperity of modern economies. The programme aims to create 300 000 jobs by 2040, of which 40% will be highly skilled jobs.   

    Horizon Europe is open not only to universities and research institutions but to the private sector, with a particular priority for small businesses.  The programme has many different components, ranging from funding under the European Research Council (ERC) for cutting edge projects led by stand-out individual scientists to European Innovation Council (EIC) support for ‘breakthrough innovation’ - transforming advanced research into successful products. 

    Before Brexit, the UK was also a leading voice – perhaps the leading voice – in setting the priorities and steering the Horizon programme politically. 

    Only re-joining the EU could give the UK back that influence and put us back in the lead in European science. Free movement and the single market are crucial to attracting the best – many world-class ERC backed researchers have left the UK since Brexit - and to turning science into prosperity.  

    But in the meantime, the UK urgently needs to get back in the Horizon Europe team - and Europe needs us back in it – so that the UK and the EU can compete better with the US and China.  

    UK scientists, researchers and innovators and their EU counterparts all want the UK back in.  

    Obtaining associated status to Horizon Europe would restore full participation rights to UK beneficiaries, though on less favourable financial and political terms than apply to EU members. The 16 countries with such an agreement include Iceland, Israel, Norway, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.  

    Negotiations on UK association were advanced, but the EU side is unwilling to conclude them as long as the UK is threatening to break international law by reneging on the Northern Ireland Protocol.  

    The European Movement would prefer the EU to keep the two issues separate and to go ahead and grant associated status to the UK. The EU should not punish scientists and researchers for the UK government’s dishonourable behaviour. But it is clear that the current situation has been created by the UK government’s conduct and the resulting – and understandable - loss of trust on the EU side. 

    The government is working up proposals for a UK scheme to replace the funding that UK beneficiaries of Horizon Europe will now lose. But Horizon is about cross-border collaboration, not just money and by definition cannot be replaced by any national level provision.  

    The longer it takes to agree UK participation in Horizon Europe, the more scientists and innovators will miss out, the greater will be the economic hit to the UK and (to a lesser extent) the EU and the harder it will become to reintegrate the UK later.  

    Erasmus +

    Erasmus + is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. It is now the world’s largest international mobility programme, for all abilities, backgrounds and ages. In 2019 alone, Erasmus + helped in total almost a million people to study, train or volunteer abroad.  

    Erasmus + enables – among many other things –  

    • Study in universities and other educational institutions abroad;
    • Hands-on experience abroad: work placements, internships, training;
    • Professional development exchanges for teachers, trainers, youth and sports workers; 
    • Support for networks linking local projects in different countries;
    • E-twinning: a platform for virtual communication between school students and teachers;
    • Adult learning and volunteering projects and exchanges; 
    • European Solidarity Corps: young people take part in projects for a more inclusive society. 

    There is a particular emphasis on opportunities for those suffering from various types of disadvantage. All Erasmus + projects must meet environmental criteria.  

    British young people - who either voted overwhelmingly to Remain or were too young to vote – have lost EU rights to work or study in the EU without red tape.  

    In 2017  - before the Brexit effect began to reduce numbers – there were about 17 000 UK participants in Erasmus +, while 32 000 EU nationals came to the UK. 

    Boris Johnson promised in January 2020 that the UK would continue to take part.  In the end the UK did not even seek association. And Scotland and Wales were dragged out of the scheme against the will of their elected parliaments (there will be special arrangements for Northern Irish students).  

    Regaining access to Erasmus + would reopen opportunities for all young people from all backgrounds (not just students), to acquire knowledge, learn new skills (including language skills) and to gain experience of other cultures.  

    Re-integration in Erasmus + can help the UK to regain some of the soft power Brexit threw away. Erasmus beneficiaries hosted here have often established lasting connections with the UK. 

    Self-exclusion from Erasmus + is costing the UK economy an estimated £243m a year, net. Visiting participants spend on everything from tuition fees to rent to food to entertainment. They are now taking that custom elsewhere, notably to Ireland. 

    The government claims its Turing scheme has replaced Erasmus but this is false. Turing does provide some welcome opportunities, in particular for British people to study outside the EU. But Turing is one-way only, in contrast to the reciprocity and collaboration which underpins Erasmus+. And it offers little to those outside higher education. Erasmus + levels up far more than Turing.  

    The government should rebuild trust with the EU and its Member States and – as a top priority – open negotiations to allow the UK back into Erasmus + as a fully associated non-EU country.  

    Video: Back our Definitive Brexit Documentary Now - Byline TV (Documentary on Horizon Europe and much more coming soon)

    Erasmus Changing Lives Opening Minds | The Documentary - Bing video



  • November 23, 2022
  • Health & Funding

    Posted by Patrick McCoy

    Vote Leave claimed £350m a week extra could go to the NHS as a result of Brexit. That was never possible as the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget averaged about £200m a week, not £350m. 

    That contribution to the EU – lower per capita than many comparable countries – was the price of access to the single market, the loss of which is predicted to cause a 4-5% hit to GDP and at least a similar hit to the public finances (due to a fall in tax revenue) and to funds available for the NHS.  

    Leaving the EU also meant the UK had to spend more money on duplicating activities previously provided at EU level, including the regulation of medicines and the €13bn annual funding for the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme, of which the UK was a major beneficiary, not least for health research. 

    All in all, the government will - as a direct result of Brexit - have around £20 billion a year less available for public spending. That’s £385m less a week, not £350 million more. 

    So – while there has been an increase in spending on the NHS – that has come from higher taxes and cuts elsewhere, not from any ‘Brexit dividend’, which does not exist. 

    The UK is already outside key EU structures. Its exclusion from the Horizon research and innovation programme, with its huge health element, is a threat to UK’s leading position in medical research.  

    The EMA was based in London but left for Amsterdam in 2019, with the loss of 900 jobs in the UK. Evidence is emerging that, since Brexit, pharmaceutical companies have prioritised submitting new treatments to EMA and then undertaking clinical trials in the EU (and US), meaning they are likely to be rolled out in those jurisdictions before the UK.  

    The UK is now outside the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) which has a key role in data collection and sharing and advising the EU Commission and national governments.  

    The EU is now setting up a body to prepare for and prevent future pandemics: the Health Emergency, Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which will also pursue further collective EU procurement of key treatments, after the success of the EU’s Covid vaccine procurement.

    The EU has expressed a willingness for HERA to work with the UK, but the UK will be outside its decision-making structures and will have no voice in its policies.

    Video: Brexit: 'Spike' in NHS drug shortages – BBC Newsnight - YouTube

    In June 2022 94 000 full-time employment vacancies in the NHS, of which about 39 000 posts were for nurses and 8 000 for doctors. A survey published in November 2022 by the Nuffield Trust health think-tank estimated that Brexit had led to 4 000 fewer EU doctors working in the UK, with a particularly marked effect for anaesthetists, crucial for other doctors to be able to perform operations. Separate figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council show that the number of nurses and midwives coming to work in the UK dropped by over 90% between 2015 and 2022. 

    Before Brexit, it was possible to fill vacancies quickly and flexibly thanks to free movement, with people from countries with strong health systems who could spare these staff. Now the government is trying to recruit nurses from Nepal…something which raises serious ethical questions. 

    UK medical staff have also lost the automatic right to work in the EU – whether long-term or short-term, for example to provide specific expertise or to give or receive training.  

    The initial rules post-Brexit led to a grave shortage of social care workers, who generally do not earn enough (£25 700) to qualify for work permits. Some short-term schemes have been implemented to mitigate this – but it is not enough. The whole sector is in crisis. 

    Brexit means there is no longer a single market for medical devices, which has created or exacerbated supply problems, including for personal protective equipment. 

    UK divergence from EU data protection rules – as proposed by the government – would present a significant threat to collaboration between the NHS, other UK health organisations and EU counterparts. Transfers of data – both individual (for example when a patient moves) and collective – are crucial to addressing cross-border health threats such as Covid-19, enabling the movement of professionals and facilitating research. 

    Any EU member state can choose to fast track new medicines or vaccines, without waiting for full approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). So, it is a fallacy promoted by Boris Johnson that Brexit allowed the UK to roll out Covid-19 vaccines before others in Europe. 

    It is also a fallacy that the UK has out-performed the EU in vaccination coverage. By late summer 2021, after a slow start, the EU had caught up with the UK in terms of proportion of the population fully vaccinated, despite low take-ups in some eastern Member States bringing down the average.  

    The vaccination rate in richer EU member states such as Spain, Italy, Germany and France is, as of November 2022, higher than in the UK. 

    The EU had by September 2021 delivered 700 million vaccine doses to its own citizens and another 700 million to neighbouring and poorer regions, making it by far the world’s biggest donor. It has launched partnerships with Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean to support local manufacture of vaccines.

    The EU brought economies of scale and market power to bear in collectively buying vaccines mostly at cheaper rates than the UK 

    The EU – and especially its richer countries – have also performed better in preventing deaths from Covid, almost certainly partly through having introduced confinement/lockdown measures and mask mandates earlier than the UK. The cumulative estimated totals from the beginning of the pandemic until 27 November 2022 were 3,158 deaths with Covid per million people in the UK and 2,608 in the EU (France 2,340, Germany 1,889, Bulgaria 5,606). 

    All countries worldwide have had both achievements and failures in Covid policy – for example, neither the UK’s nor the EU’s test and trace systems had the impact hoped for, while both jurisdictions’ Covid certification schemes for travel were broadly successful.  

    But the EU has overall performed fairly well on a global scale – and certainly better than the UK, albeit not dramatically so. The suggestion otherwise still being spread by some prominent pro-Brexit politicians is a falsehood that they maintain for ideological reasons. 

    Looking to the future, both the UK and the EU have now authorised new versions of existing vaccines, adapted to tackle the Omicron strains.  

  • November 23, 2022
  • Ukraine & Defence

    Posted by Patrick McCoy

    There is no doubt that the UK has been a leader in providing military support to Ukraine, though the EU has also made unprecedented efforts and adopted in every relevant field, from defence to trade to energy, determined policies to end reliance on and cut ties with Putin’s regime.  

    EU sanctions – not least against Russia - are very powerful sanctions, far more so that any single country’s sanctions because they represent full or partial exclusion from a huge market. 

    The EU has in general been much quicker than the UK to tackle the ‘Russian laundromat’ for ill-gotten money. 

    It has also adopted a much more generous and more effective policy towards Ukrainian refugees. 

    Putin wants to sow division in the West. He has welcomed Brexit, because it does that job for him.  

    The damage to the UK’s interests from not being at the EU’s top table is immense. The UK is not in the room when key – sometimes historic – decisions are taken. It is excluded from EU summits with the US and China. This is not ‘global Britain’. It is an isolated Britain. 

    The EU recognises that the UK has a huge amount to offer in terms of adding to Europe’s collective foreign policy clout. During the Brexit negotiations the EU offered talks on a foreign, defence and security policy agreement. Boris Johnson refused. This should be reversed. 

    President Macron recently launched an initiative known as ‘a European Political Community’ (EPC), for wider European geopolitical cooperation involving 17 non-EU states alongside the EU 27. The UK has decided to take part and should take full advantage of this as a staging post on its way back to the centre of Europe. The first EPC meeting in Prague in October 2022 focused on peace and security and 0n energy and was widely deemed a success. The UK is scheduled to hold the fourth meeting in early 2024, after Moldova and Spain in 2023.  

    Until we can be back in the EU, we have to work with the EU. 

    EU foreign and defence policy is based on the principle of each Member State continuing to have full control of its own policy. Where there is consensus, collective positions and action are taken. 

    In the case of military action, no Member State can ever be forced to take part – the Brexit faction’s scare stories about an EU army being foisted on the UK were entirely unfounded. 

    However, there are clear economies of scale and effectiveness gains in Member State forces working together, combining forces and avoiding unhelpful duplication.  This is in synergy with NATO – which warmly welcomes such cooperation – not in opposition to it. Indeed, being outside the EU means the UK risks being outflanked in NATO’s strategic discussions by the 21 – soon to be 23, with Finland and Sweden joining - EU states who are also NATO members. 

    Ironically, the UK as an EU member was a strong participant in defence cooperation – for example, the British Navy led EU collective efforts to combat marine piracy and protect EU shipping. Even after Brexit, bilateral and multilateral military cooperation, especially with France, is a key tenet of UK policy. 

    In November 2022, the EU Member States (all except Denmark and Malta) who participate in Permanent Structured Defence Cooperation (PESCO) accepted the UK’s request to take part in a key PESCO project, on military mobility.  This is clearly common sense in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and of the US’s existing participation in the PESCO military mobility project.  But this is only one of 60 PESCO projects overall and the nature of the UK participation – subject to agreement by EU states and with limited involvement in collective decision-making – is yet another manifestation of the loss of influence inherent in Brexit.  

    Another area where EU defence policy is an added value – one which has evolved enormously in recent years and is now lost to the UK – is in common procurement, where the scale of coordinated EU orders for military equipment means both more efficiency and cheaper prices.

    The EU’s huge economic and trade power is in itself a massive geopolitical asset and source of global influence. The single market is a powerful foreign policy tool as well as a domestic economic benefit.

  • November 23, 2022
  • Northern Ireland

    Posted by Patrick McCoy


    The government has been trying to get a bill though Parliament that would rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol and renege on the Brexit deal the government signed with the EU.  The Bill remains on the table and is now in the Lords, where it will face significant obstacles over the coming months. 

    However, following an intervention from the US, there was a major – and welcome change of tone from the UK government. The government has now – finally – entered negotiations, so far only at official level, based on the EU’s longstanding offer to significantly amend the way the Protocol works. 

    A softer Brexit, with the UK rejoining the single market and the customs union, would provide a huge boost to the UK’s ailing economy and mean there was no longer any need for the Protocol. 

    But the government insists on the hardest of hard Brexits. The Protocol is the only way to combine that with protecting the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and avoiding a land border in Ireland.  

    The government’s welcome decision to tone down, at least temporarily, its empty threats and to seek negotiation comes too late to avoid further damage to the UK’s reputation, tarnished by Brexit itself and the government’s confrontational attitude to Europe. 

    There is no doubt that the Protocol’s operation has been problematic for some businesses in Northern Ireland and for some in the rest of the UK who trade in the Northern Irish market. It is also clear that, without changes, the end of the ‘grace periods’ during which checks have not been fully implemented could cause significant further barriers to trade.  

    But the EU has offered to address these issues. Furthermore, there is democratic support for the Protocol. 53 of 90 elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly support it. Under the Withdrawal Agreement and UK implementing rules, the assembly will vote every four years, first in December 2024, on whether the Protocol should be maintained. 

    A recent poll by Queens University Belfast showed that 50% of Northern Irish voters currently believe the Assembly should vote in favour of maintaining the Protocol, with 41% opposed. 71% prefer a negotiated solution and 59% are opposed to unilateral action by the UK government. 

    As well as being dishonourable, dangerous and anti-democratic, ripping up the Protocol would be economically disastrous. It would mean a hugely damaging trade war with the EU, when the cost of living is already out of control. It would risk Northern Ireland’s place in the EU single market, which is bringing investment and jobs. 

    Ripping up the Protocol would mean even higher prices, and an even bigger cost-of-living crisis across the UK, and would risk more turmoil in Northern Ireland. It is the last thing the UK needs in these difficult times. The government should not only suspend, but remove definitively, its threat to behave like a rogue state by flagrantly breaking international law.  

    The Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 in effect removed the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That border had been a highly contentious issue at the centre of the ‘Troubles’ that had led to thousands of deaths and injuries over several decades.  

    But hard Brexit has removed the UK from the EU’s single market and customs union. That means goods passing from the UK into the Republic of Ireland – still part of the EU - now need to be checked for compliance with EU regulations and with customs requirements.   

    So a way had to be found for those checks to happen in a way compatible with the Good Friday Agreement, in other words without reinstating the land border.  

    The UK government and the EU therefore agreed the Protocol, under which customs and regulatory checks take place on goods moving from the rest of the UK into Northern Ireland. Those goods can then move freely, without further checks, from Northern Ireland into the EU’s single market. This allows Northern Ireland to remain in the single market, which is the likely reason why it has been growing faster than other parts of the UK. 

    However, the Democratic Unionist Party fiercely opposes the Protocol and has said it will not return to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive unless and until the Protocol is overridden. Given that the Assembly has not functioned since the last elections in May 2022, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris has said he will call new elections as he is legally required to do, though no date has been fixed and many experts predict that new elections would not break the impasse.  

  • November 23, 2022
  • Freedom of Movement

    Posted by Patrick McCoy


    UK citizens deserve to benefit from free movement, just as their European counterparts do. Conversely, the UK economy needs free movement to fill vacancies, end shortages and keep prices down. The NHS needs free movement to recruit the right staff and to help cut waiting lists.

    Post-Brexit, many people the UK needs either cannot come - for example, because the vacant jobs concerned do not pay over £25 700 a year - or do not want to come.

    Without free movement, the UK is unattractive to highly-skilled people – like doctors and nurses - from Europe, who have the choice of over 30 other countries where free movement does apply. The UK is also unattractive to those – for example fruit pickers - looking for short-term work, who now face enormous bureaucracy in return for minimal rights. 

    Free movement is not unconditional under EU law. People who are not employed or supported by family in the host country can be removed. People who have not contributed cannot get pensions or claim out-of-work benefits. It was a myth that someone could just ‘turn up at Dover and sign on the dole’. Free movement brings in much needed tax revenue that pays for public services.

    Leavers said free movement was unfair, that millions came to the UK but few Brits worked in the EU and that post-Brexit, everyone who wants to come to the UK has the same opportunities.

    But at least a million Brits were resident in the EU in 2016, most of them working. There were indeed many more EU citizens in the UK. But they have contributed hugely to the UK economy. Other member states also received  - and welcomed – big net inflows. For example, Germany’s net migration figures in 2021 increased to 329,000 people.  

    And free movement is different to other migration. It is a reciprocal right within the same economic area – a right which millions of UK citizens took advantage of, now snatched away by Brexit.

    Polling across the EU shows massive support for free movement and it is often selected as the EU’s most popular policy. In most EU countries, it is regarded as a different issue from immigration.

    There is huge evidence that free movement did not in general mean lower pay for British people. And it is open to EU governments to adopt - or allow employers and workers to agree - sectoral pay and conditions deals that remove any such risk. Many countries, like the Nordics, do just that.

    Brexit has cut wages in real terms. Brexit has contributed to soaring inflation and reduced purchasing power for the vast majority of people. For example, an LSE analysis says UK food prices have shot up by 6% as a direct result of Brexit.

    The way to deal with pressures on public services in some regions due to large numbers of incoming workers is to do what other countries do – use the benefits of free movement to provide flexible funding to support public services where necessary.

    Ending free movement has removed the rights of Brits – including performers – to work short-term abroad red-tape free. Visas are now usually necessary for working visits (except business meetings), even if someone is going to be working for their usual UK employer while in the EU.

    Long-term work in the EU requires a work permit granted by the host country – there are no EU- eligibility rules.  UK professional qualifications are no longer automatically recognised in the EU.


    Free movement is not just about living and/or working elsewhere in the EU.

    Brexit is making even going on a short holiday more complicated.

    Given that the UK has never been in the Schengen travel area, some checks were already necessary at ports and airports even before Brexit. But now those checks need to be more detailed and passports need to be stamped every time a British person enters or leaves the EU. Even if each person or car spends only 30 seconds or a minute more at a border post, this quickly leads to enormous queues, as we have seen this summer.

    British citizens still have the right to enter the EU visa-free. But from 2023, all non-EU citizens, including Brits, who do not need full visas will need to apply and pay for a digital visa waiver, under a new EU scheme known as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). The UK is planning to introduce a similar scheme for visiting EU citizens.

    UK citizens – as we are no longer EU citizens - are limited to spending 90 days in any 180 period, calculated on a rolling basis, as a visitor in the EU. As a result, some British people who used to spend long periods at second homes in the EU, while retaining a British base, have had to sell up. 

    Many British pensioners living in the EU – even if they have secured resident status under the Brexit citizens’ rights agreement between the UK and EU – have faced additional red tape challenges, notably over health care rights. They have also suffered a drop in the real value of their pensions owing to the weakening of sterling, as financial market confidence in the UK has fallen post-Brexit.

    Red tape complications have also led to some British residents of some EU countries losing the right to drive their vehicles.

    Before Brexit, British travellers in the EU and EEA could get EHIC cards allowing them access to state funded healthcare on an equal basis with residents of the host country. The government has introduced a replacement Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) scheme for UK travellers – but that may not benefit from the Europe-wide recognition EHIC cards brought.

    Roaming charges for reasonable use of mobile telecoms and data anywhere in the EU and EEA were definitively abolished by EU law in 2017, having largely been scrapped under earlier regulation. Those rules no longer apply to the UK. Three of the four main UK mobile operators are now charging extra fees – often a flat £2 per day - when Brits use their phones in Europe.

    Brexit has also made going on holiday with a family pet considerably more complicated. Pet owners now need to make arrangements with their vets to obtain documentation four months before travelling, with subsequent visits for vaccination and examination. This process now costs up to £300 and is valid only for one trip. EU pet passports – no longer accessible to Brits – are valid for the life of the animal, provided routine vaccinations and treatments are kept up to date.

    The easy movement of students both from the EU to the UK and vice-versa was a significant benefit of EU membership. But this, too, no longer applies: British students must obtain visas for long-term study in the EU. Meanwhile, higher fees and red tape are also discouraging EU students from applying for courses in the UK – formerly a major source of revenue for the UK economy as well as of young talent, given that a significant proportion of such students stayed in the UK to work after graduating. That option is no longer open to many of them.

  • November 23, 2022
  • Farming & Fishing

    Posted by Patrick McCoy

    The London School of Economics says Brexit already increased food prices by around six per cent. 

    A parliamentary report published in June 2022 described the impact of Brexit on the fishing industry as largely ‘unexpected and unwelcome’. 


    Hard Brexit means UK farmers, fishers and food industries are excluded from the single market.

    Trade barriers and delays at ports impact food worse than any other type of product, given that much is perishable and that food and veterinary regulations in the EU are – rightly –stringent and demand considerable administrative time. 

    Small farm businesses often cannot export at all, because they rely on transporters to the EU grouping loads from different suppliers – many hauliers no longer offer this service, as each product needs complex paperwork. If one set is incorrect the whole load may go off as a result of the delay.  

    The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is much criticised and far from perfect. But it ensures relatively cheap and sustainable food production and guarantees an income for farmers. Payments based on CAP rules will be halved by 2025 and removed completely by 2027. There has been no clear information from the UK government on how farmers’ reduced income will be mitigated. 

    UK farmers and environmental groups have been critical of aspects of the government’s (yet to be finalised) proposed replacement for the CAP, the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, has said that the government has shown a “total lack of understanding of how food production works.” 

    Meanwhile, farmers have suffered from sometimes crippling labour shortages caused by the end of free movement and inadequate attempts to replace it for agriculture with short-term schemes that provide workers with no rights, inflict endless red tape on employers and often do not even cover the categories of farm workers most urgently needed.  

    Labour shortages have led to thousands of healthy pigs being destroyed. 

    The government’s vain attempt to replace the benefits of the single market through trade deals with far-flung countries (Australia, New Zealand, perhaps later the US, India..) carries a triple risk.  

    First, off subjecting consumers to lower quality, less sustainably and humanely produced food – like chlorinated chicken or hormone pumped beef.  

    Second, exposing UK farmers to unfair competition – Ms Batters says that they have been ‘ a pawn’ in such trade negotiations. The EU, with its seven times larger market, is much better placed than the UK to defend its corner in trade talks, where agriculture and food are always a key ‘battleground’.  

    Third, replacing short-haul transport of imported food from the EU with much more polluting long-haul journeys from many thousands of miles away. 

    Already, the government’s failure to introduce checks on imports from or via the EU – because such ‘controlling of borders’ risks even bigger traffic jams at UK ports - is placing our farmers at a further disadvantage compared to EU counterparts. It is also endangering food safety now that the UK is no longer part of EU early warning systems and information exchanges about suspect produce. 


    Some fishing communities saw Brexit as an opportunity to cut the numbers of European boats in UK waters and thus to catch more fish. But some British fishers also need reciprocal access to EU waters and most need to sell their fish in Europe - many species fished in UK waters are mainly eaten in EU countries.  

    Outside the single market, that has proved near impossible for many. Some species of shellfish caught and/or farmed in the UK have in practice been completely excluded from EU markets.  

    Even where that is not the case, the effect has been dramatic. For example, prawns from North Shields used to arrive in France the day after being caught. Now it takes three days. Longer if they are held up because of incorrect paperwork or because an entirely different product in the same lorry is not in full conformity. And prawns have a fresh shelf-life of five days! 

    Fishing businesses that once supported Brexit are increasingly critical of it. For example, CEO of UK Fisheries Jane Sandell told the Brexit-cheerleading Daily Express in early September 2022 that “We’re at 50 percent of the fishing opportunities that were available before Brexit, which means we’re at 50 percent of the turnover that we could be creating."  

    Eel producer Peter Wood has said he would never have voted for Brexit if he had known what the outcome would be for his business. As he put it: ‘Our customers have also got a raft of documentation to produce to allow the import to go ahead. So why buy from the UK? Might as well buy from another producer in France or the EU’.


  • November 23, 2022
  • Nature & Climate

    Posted by Patrick McCoy

    The UK successfully chaired COP26, took a constructive role in COP 27 after the PM had initially declined to attend and has until now been a strong voice globally and in Europe for ambitious net zero polices 

    Before Brexit, UK Ministers and MEPs often helped to outvote backsliding EU member states and get green policies passed. Tackling climate change is by definition a team effort. The UK used to be a leader in that team and we need to be again. That means close cooperation with the EU – but working with the EU still has less impact than working within it. 

    The UK government has talked about Brexit enabling it to overtake the EU in climate policy. Instead, there have been signs of it joining the backsliders. Jacob Rees-Mogg, until recently responsible for energy, extolled fossil fuel and decried ‘climate alarmism’, despite the fact that more than 80 per cent of the public is ‘somewhat or very concerned’ about climate change.  

    Thankfully, Rishi Sunak overturned Liz Truss’s proposal to authorise fracking. But many voices on the Conservative backbenches and some in the government continue to oppose the UK’s commitment to net zero by 2050. Very often, those who hold such views are also arch-Brexiteers: the negotiator of disastrous hard Brexit, Lord David Frost, who has even denied that there is a climate emergency, is a case in point.  

    Even if the UK did go further in the right direction than the EU, the effect would be limited as climate change does not stop at borders. Weaker policies in Europe or elsewhere would still damage the UK. The UK’s influence is diminished now it is acting alone, while the EU is a huge global player. 

    All in all, climate change policy is a classic example of how the Brexit mantra of taking back control is an illusion. Taking back full theoretical control of the nature of domestic climate legislation has little practical effect because only collective European action can be effective in an interconnected world dominated by huge jurisdictions: the US, China…and the EU. 

    There are also fears that the government intends to water down other environmental legislation, in a desperate attempt to undercut EU competitors and to reach trade deals with far away countries. Some experts suggest the UK’s deal with Australia is already an example of this. EU membership provides safeguards against this kind of cynical short-termist policymaking. 

    Long-distance trade also has a far higher environmental cost than trade with our EU neighbours.  

    The government’s Retained EU Law Bill could lead to protections for wildlife, habitats and biodiversity being scrapped by UK Ministers without proper parliamentary scrutiny or simply falling out of the statute book as a result of reckless ‘sunset clauses’ scrapping EU-based laws en masse on a given date, without replacing them.

    The government is also insisting that the UK will diverge from the EU’s global standard REACH scheme for chemical regulation. This presents risks both to the environment and to UK manufacturers’ capacity to export to the EU.  

    In general, the economic damage inflicted by Brexit is going to make it more difficult for UK governments to afford the upfront costs of prioritising environmentally friendly, renewable energy. 

    The current dumping of raw sewage around the UK’s coasts and in rivers is not a direct result of Brexit. Indeed, a number of EU countries – for example Poland in February 2022 and Spain in April 2022 - have been referred to the European Court of Justice over similar behaviour in recent years. The court ruled against the UK in 2017.  

    However, Brexit will make it more difficult to put this right, in three ways: 

    • Brexit means the UK is no longer bound by EU environmental regulations – though the Brexit deal continues to place some obligations on the UK - and has removed the ‘stick’ of the kind legal action by the EU mentioned above;
    • The UK is less wealthy, making it more difficult to fund investment in our water system;
    • Brexit has created supply chain problems and raised import costs, including for sewage treatment materials – this was a major factor in sewage dumping earlier in 2022, though more recent dumping has been caused by the infrastructure’s inability to deal with sudden heavy rainfall after a period of drought, long before the sewage reaches treatment plants.

    The UK – with many other Member States – was also referred to the Court over air pollution levels. As with sewage, the UK is now no longer subject to EU sanctions, which have proved to be a deterrent – albeit only partially effective – to persistent offending. 

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  • November 23, 2022
  • Economy & Trade

    Posted by Patrick McCoy

    Brexit is not the only cause, but it has made the cost-of-living crisis worse than it needs to be. 

    The government’s own Office Budget Responsibility (OBR) says Brexit will cut UK productivity over the next few years by 4%, which makes everyone poorer. 

    The Centre for European Reform’s economic modelling suggests that the UK economy is already 5.2% smaller than it would be if Brexit had not happened. A smaller economy means higher levels of taxes are needed to fund public services. 

    The Resolution Foundation estimates that Brexit will have cost the average two-worker family almost £1000 a year by 2030.  

    The London School of Economics says Brexit has increased food prices by around six per cent. 

    This is no surprise: 

    • Brexit makes trade harder – the OBR estimates it will reduce UK trade by 15% - and increases red tape, which adds to administration costs for importers; 
    • Delays at ports also increase costs, because time is money 
    • Brexit has also led to severe labour shortages in some sectors, such as agriculture, which also leads to lower output and higher prices. 

    The Centre for European Reform (CER) estimates that UK trade in goods has fallen by 13.6% as a result of Brexit and that investment in the UK from abroad is 13.7 per cent lower. 

    The trade deals done by the UK government since Brexit will do little or nothing to offset the disastrous effects of the fall in trade with the EU – the government’s own estimates of the economic benefits of the deal with Australia is that it will increase UK GDP by less than 0.1 per cent by 2035.

    The CER estimates that the damage from Brexit has already reached over 5 per cent of GDP. 

    These deals could also in effect lower the high EU standards that before Brexit applied to imports to the UK – products like meat pumped with hormones or produced to animal welfare standards lower than our own could soon be on our shelves.  

    Unfair competition from farmers on the other side of the world could put British farmers out of business. 

    Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, endorsed by Rishi Sunak, leaves every UK enterprise that takes part in cross-border trade - as an exporter and importer or both - at a disadvantage compared to its EU competitors. Put starkly, it is always easier for companies from Leipzig, Lisbon or Lille to work with each other than it is for a company from Liverpool to work with any of them.   

    That needs to change, and the European Movement UK believes nothing should be off the table to achieve that – including membership of the customs union and the single market. 

    All countries have been buffeted by the pandemic and by energy and food price shocks caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

    But the UK is the only one to have given itself a further massive shock through Brexit, which the American economist Adam Posen has described as “the UK declaring a trade war on itself.” In effect Brexit has made every UK company less competitive relative to its counterparts across the EU.  

    It is no coincidence that the UK is the only major economy not to have recovered all the ground it lost during the pandemic – our economy remains 0.4% smaller than when the pandemic struck.   

    The pound (at 7 November 2022) is about 30 % lower against the dollar and 12% lower against the euro than it was before the referendum in June 2016. All this is making imports, including energy and food, even more expensive. A further fall could put the viability of the whole UK economy at risk.

    UK annual inflation in September 2022 was 10.1 %, slightly lower than the EU overall, but most economists think the UK figure would be lower without the effects of Brexit described above. High inflation in the UK is also combined with fast rising mortgage costs and even worse 2023 growth forecasts (0.3% - IMF, and likely to be revised down) than for the euro area (0.5%). This is a lethal combination for standards of living. Real average household disposable income is forecast by the Resolution Foundation to fall by 4% in 2022-23 and 7% (11% for the poorest fifth) in 2023-24 

    A reduction in economic activity caused by Brexit is hitting the government’s tax revenues and narrowing its options for dealing with the crisis. Furthermore, the unfunded tax cuts proposed by Liz Truss’s government to ‘seize the opportunities of Brexit’, although now reversed by Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, have further undermined confidence and the UK’s global position, necessitating a new round of austerity measures (tax rises and spending cuts) that will further hit everyone in the pocket.

    The public understands that Brexit has made the economic crisis worse – over two-thirds of voters, including 57% of leave voters told pollsters earlier this year that Brexit had made the cost of living higher. More generally, recent YouGov polls consistently show a clear majority of around 52% believing the UK was wrong to leave the EU, with only 35% believing the decision was right.  


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