The Civil Service has two years to work out the divorce settlement. This has nothing to do with going forward, trade etc. it is purely the separation.
What rights will citizens have following the divorce? If the EU citizens in the UK have no rights will they stay? If they do not who will do their jobs? If the UK citizens abroad have no rights such as free medical care are they likely to return? How will the NHS and Local Government cope with approximately 2 million mainly elderly coming home to the UK and requiring treatment, social care etc?
For example, what would happen in respect of the European Health Insurance Card? Would British citizens pay for the amendment of the systems in all the other 27 countries to keep a version of the EHIC card? Assume we were to say yes, if it is to be ready for the cut over then there is less than 12 months in which to achieve agreement, if one is to allow sufficient time to amend the systems, is this feasible? Based on my experience of Government programmes, I seriously doubt this deadline could be achieved.
Mr Gove has said that he does not want us to be part of the single market. So no Norway solution for us. Ok, what does this mean?
- We will need to agree a separate trade deal with the EU on behalf of all its members and further individual agreements with all those countries having a trade deal with the EU.
- When we leave all the countries with trading agreements with the EU will no longer have agreements with the UK. OK we could negotiate in parallel, that should shorten the time? Unfortunately this is unlikely as the main parties America, India etc. have all said they will wait upon us agreeing an arrangement with Europe to discuss their arrangement with us.
- It is therefore highly likely we will revert to the World Trade Organisation rules and trade under those rules, which are not as favourable as our present rules.
- At the same time the UK may be breaking up. Scotland may seek independence. There is also the problem associated with the requirement for a Border between Eire and Northern Ireland, which could cause us issues there as well.
- This is without any of those other matters “Events, dear boy, events” that Harold Macmillan described so wonderfully.
On balance if the Civil Service achieved most of this in ten years, I would be surprised. I do not think the UK Civil Service has the diplomats and the civil servants necessary to push through all the changes required in less time. Nor is it fair to expect them to.
Would Parliament be able to keep up with the amount of legislation required? Parliament needs to unpick 40 years of legislation. At present it sits for about 150 days a year and I doubt, unless they start to sit for 210 days they have any hope of achieving the required task.
So for eight years at least we can expect to trade under WTO rules. This is good for Government, as it will provide a lot of revenue from the tariffs we will be required to apply. Unfortunately, for business it will be not so good. Manufactures who import will need to pay those tariffs thus increasing their costs. To compete in their old markets these businesses may be forced to absorb the tariffs on their sales goods. Not good.
These companies have a fiduciary duty to Shareholders which could mean they would relocate within Europe to avoid these costs and with assistance being made available for inward investment, it is highly likely Companies will go. Thus increasing unemployment and the requirement for benefit payments but with a smaller base for tax receipts.
Can the British Civil Service cope? Of course it can, if given sufficient time and money but it looks like they will get neither.