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08 February 2017

Brexit report by British Marine

British Marine is the membership organisation for the leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry. This is their update on BREXIT!

Senior External Relations Executive, Andrew Harries, provides an update on where the Government has got to in its preparations for the negotiations on exiting the European Union and discusses the ‘hard’ and soft’ Brexit options.

Plenty has happened since my last update (October 2016), so bear with me as I try and round things up for you and set out what the coming months will hold. Let’s start with growth. In the last quarter of 2016 (October to December) the UK saw 0.6% growth, which is encouraging and was supported by the weak pound continuing to boost UK exports. There is still plenty of risk ahead in the coming years, but given the forecasts made ahead of the Referendum vote last June and straight after it, the UK economy is showing great resilience.

The story from Westminster has been equally interesting. Towards the end of last year the  Government was taken to court, with a challenge to its assertions that its executive powers allowed it to trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament. The High Court ruled against the Government (much to the disgust of much of the UK press), promptly leading Government to appeal to the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court. On Tuesday (24 January) the Supreme Court, by a margin of eight to three, confirmed that an Act of Parliament was required to start the Article 50 proceedings. And, to the relief of Ministers, they also confirmed that the Government was not legally obliged to consult the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales during its negotiations.

There will be no further challenge to this ruling and, in fact, ahead of the Court’s decision the Government had hinted that it would produce a very short Bill to put to Parliament (both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will have to vote on the Bill) to trigger Article 50. This was published on Thursday (26 January) and I can confirm it is very, very short! While it is highly unlikely that MPs and Peers will seek to overturn the “will of the people”, I expect the Bill to receive significant scrutiny and there to be a few attempts to work in various caveats. All of which will be done in five days of Parliamentary debate (‘remain’ MPs are not happy about this), so that the Prime Minister can meet her end of March deadline for triggering Article 50.

Just before the Supreme Court’s ruling, Prime Minister Theresa May gave the first clear indications of what the UK’s EU exit strategy would be, beyond “Brexit means Brexit”. This was important, given the long running uncertainty over whether or not the UK would seek a:

  • ‘hard’ Brexit - no access to single market, out of the customs union and potentially reverting to World Trade Organisation tariffs; or a
  • ‘soft’ Brexit – maintaining some form of access to the single market and customs union

It certainly helped to provide some of the clarity and certainty that we and every other industry have been calling for. However, whether or not this clarity was entirely good news or welcomed is another thing. In a speech at Lancaster House, Mrs May set out her core principles for negotiating the UK’s departure from the EU, as well as tackling the effects of the negotiations back home. The key points were:

  • Bringing back the rule of law to UK courts, removing the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice
  • Maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland
  • Controlling immigration – removing free movement of people, while allowing the best and brightest to work and study here
  • Rights for EU nationals residing in the UK and UK nationals residing in the EU
  • Protection of workers’ rights
  • Free trade with European markets
  • New trade agreements with other countries
  • Making the UK the best place for science and innovation
  • A smooth, orderly Brexit

As Mrs May pointed out, having the ability to set our own free trade agreements with Europe and the rest of the world, and putting an end to free movement of Europeans means that the UK cannot maintain its membership of the single market or stay within the customs union. Most of the feedback British Marine has received from members indicates that maintaining access to the single market and customs union were priorities for the industry, so we will have to consider carefully what Mrs May’s direction means for us. In the final remarks of her speech, Mrs May also hinted at what the future could include when she stated that no deal with the EU was preferable to a bad deal.

So, plenty for businesses and their representative bodies to consider from that lot. British Marine will be considering all of this, in consultation with our members and other bodies like the CBI, and providing updates as and when we can. We should be helped by the Prime Minister’s so called ‘U-turn’, in which she confirmed on Wednesday (25 January) that her Government would publish a White Paper on its negotiation strategy ("a bold vision for Britain for the future") which Parliament will debate. And, hot off the press, that White Paper (The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union) was published today (2 February).

Taking a step away from Brexit, although this is all still connected, there are a few other significant issues going on in the UK. The first is the rumblings from the SNP in Scotland over a second referendum vote to leave the UK, should Scotland be taken out of the EU (you will recall that Scotland voted strongly in favour of remain). The polls would suggest that there is not quite the appetite among the Scottish people for another referendum at the moment, but this is definitely a situation to pay close attention to.

The second concerns the ‘business as usual’ work the Government must get on with. On Monday 23 January the Government published its long awaited Industrial Strategy Green Paper which sets out its aims to improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country. British Marine is reviewing this document (all 132 pages of it) and would welcome any input that members have. We’ll be engaging members more on this in the coming weeks.

And the third was a small visit by Mrs May to the USA to meet with the new president, Donald Trump. There have already been positive rumblings coming from the new resident at the White House about US/UK trade deals, so we will be keeping close tabs on this in the coming months and years.

Finally, an update on what work and communications will be coming out of Marine House over the next few months. We will be publishing shortly an update on what our recent Brexit survey of members discovered. While there was a disappointing response rate, meaning we can’t take a clear industry position from the survey, what we got will help direct our work and future engagement with the industry and its stakeholders. Part of this will be the production and publication of some basic guidance documents to help members understand some of the conversations around issues like the single market, the customs union and immigration. This was one of the clearest requests from members who responded to the survey.

And we are building ever closer ties with Ministers and civil servants in the key Departments for marine (Business, Transport, International Trade and Exiting the EU). We and member companies have already had productive meetings with the Department for International Trade and we are making good progress towards setting up similar meetings with the Department for Exiting the EU and the Department for Business and Industrial Strategy. We will continue to put calls out for feedback to help inform these meetings, so keep an eye on Latest News and the British Marine website. And as always, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us if you have any questions.

Please note; this article was published by British Marine: on 30th January 2017.

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