Brexit talks

Withdrawal agreement and political declaration

November 25, 2018

The European Council approved a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on future trading arrangements with the UK. The agreement is legally binding, the political declaration is not. The agreement bears some relationship to the UK cabinet’s so called Chequers plan. In summary:

From March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020 there will be a transition from the UK’s departure from the EU to a new trading relationship with the bloc. There is provision for the transition period to be extended once only to allow more time for the trading arrangements to be negotiated.

During that transition the UK will remain within the EU customs union and the Single Market. The UK will have no say in any new trading legislation, it will continue to be subject to the European Court of Justice in relation to EU law and it will have no freedom to enter into any new trading agreeements with third countries.

Freedom of movement to and from the EU will continue. But citizens rights for British nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the UK will be safeguarded. EU nationals will be subject to immigration laws in the same way as nationals from other countries.

There will be an exit bill of around £40 billion.

There will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic though there will be more stringent trading arrangements. The UK will have no unilateral freedom to leave the customs union without a permanent mechanism in place to avoid a hard Irish border. If no alternatives are agreed during the transition, when the transition ends there will be a ‘back stop’ that will see the province bound into a deeper regulatory relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK.

EU member states will continue to have access to British fisheries. As far as financial services are concerned the UK and the EU member states would continue to have access to each other’s markets provided both sides’ regulations remain essentially aligned. The UK must set up an independent authority to police state aid which must take the advice of the European Commission on all decisions.

There is general agreement among British economists that the proposed form of Brexit will be damaging to the UK economy in the short and longer terms.

The deal has still to be approved by the British parliament. It was heavily defeated on January 15, 2019 largely due to opposition to the Irish backstop.



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Irish border question

What would no deal mean for Northern Ireland?

Hard border

The Irish Republic would put up a customs frontier to protect the EU from sub-standard goods. The UK would be obliged by WTO to set up its own border.  Free movement of people would continue under the terms of the Common Travel Area

Electricity supply

Emergency arrangements would be needed to offset the UK’s exclusion from the EU w ide electricity market


Punitive WTO tariffs on exports. Farmers near the border would have the complication of moving livestock and feed across a hard border.

Justice and security

Extradition of terrorist suspects would be a problem for the UK because of its exclusion f rom the European arrest warrant and Europol and other law enforcement and justice cooperation measures.

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Impact on research

There are 31,000 EU citizens in academic research in the UK.  Many universities are reliant on them to fill senior academic and research posts. We need to re-examine the visa system to ensure arbitrary barriers do not prevent more of them coming. Standard May 10, 2017.

The  prospect of Brexit is dampening the recruitment and retention of non-UK faculty and technical staff. FT February 2, 2019

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The price of leaving

When article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon is triggered the process of leaving the EU will begin. The first matter to resolve is UK’s financial liabilities that could amount to 60 bn euros.  These consist of the UK’s contribution to the 2104-2020 budget, commitments to common policies, future commitments including pension contributions.

The position of the 27 member states on the exact amount to be paid and when has yet to be settled. (FT February 25, 2017)



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£350 million per week?

There are those who complain that we pay £350 million to Brussels every week, and that we could spend the money better here, especially on more schools and the health service.

In principle, the UK pays to the European budget one per cent of GDP in a full year.  But to see the true picture, we get back over 50 per cent of that amount in the shape of the rebate of £75 million, and what the EU spends in the UK in support of farmers, regional development and university research in particular.

In 2014 the European expenditure in the UK amounted to £175 million per week. That left a net contribution by the UK to the EU budget of £100 million per week.

Outside the EU we would have the freedom in theory to spend the money we pay to Brussels, except for the rebate which would not come back as we would not be paying in, in other ways. Whether we would want to reduce farm support, university research or help for our regions in favour for example of the NHS would be a matter of intense political debate.  And if we wanted at some stage to resume business in Europe we would probably have to make payments to Brussels as Norway does.

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The EU is a group of countries

that have joined together to create a form of European government.

  • It doesn’t replace national governments.
  • It works alongside them.
  • It started in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome.
  • At the heart of the treaty are four freedoms of movement:
  • Of people, capital, goods and services, within the member states.



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Its main job is

to increase trade among its members and with other countries.



It also works to:

  • promote peace and democracy within Europe and beyond
  • promote the rights of the individual
  • combat cross border crime
  • protect the environment
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So how does it work?

It has three main institutions that make and enforce its laws:



  • The Commission that proposes laws
  • The Parliament and
  • the European Council that decide them.
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What it means at home

The water from the tap is safe to drink.

The air about you is safe to breathe.

The medicine you get from the pharmacy is labelled to give contents and expiry date.

The food you buy in the shops is labelled to give contents, including any allergens, and expiry date.

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What it means at work

You have a maximum length of working week before overtime.

You are guaranteed a minimum amount of holiday.

You get a minimum standard of health and safety at the workplace.

You are protected from discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, colour, religion or disability.

If you want to work in another member state your qualifications are recognised.

And if you can get a job, you can stay.

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What it means on holiday

If travelling abroad, you get compensation if your train or plane is late or cancelled.

You get compensation if your holiday package is not what you were sold.

There are no mobile charges if travelling in Europe.

And if you like swimming, EU rules have made water in rivers and at the seaside safe to bathe in.


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What it means at university

You can study at a university in the EU on the same conditions and fees as a local student.

If you want to do part of your degree in the EU you can get EU funds to help pay.

UK universities benefit disproportionately from EU research funds to the tune of £1bn per annum.  The government on leaving might distribute the equivalent amount from savings to universities. It might not.

Since 2014 the UK has received 11.4 bn euros from EU research funding.

There could be restrictions on the free movement of European students and academics to our universities’ loss.

Cambridge Vice-Chancellor said on March 1, 2016 at International Higher Education Forum:

  • EU funding provides about 16% of UK universities’ research budget
  • UK hosts 22%of European Research Council grants
  • 15% of UK university staff are from other member states
  • 200,000 UK students have studied in other member states under Erasmus programme.
  • 125 students from other member states are at UK universities.
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What it all adds up to

Clean and safe at home

Decent working conditions

Fair terms abroad: on holiday, at work, studying

This is a really good package

Why would you want to give it up?

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Financial fraud? Not what it seems

Certainly there is fraud, but not the way the papers report it.

The European Court of Auditors, whose members include a distinguished British accountant, does an annual check on payments by the European Commission.

The error rate is low.

In 2011 on a budget of 116 billion euros (£100 billion) the error rate was under four per cent.

Virtually all errors are found in the member states were 80 per cent of payments are made.

On payments made in Brussels eg on internal administration, in 2011 there was ‘no material error.’

So what happens with ‘errors’ ?
Click to go on

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Financial fraud? Errors more often

Errors are not the same as fraud.

Mostly they are in the recording and documentation.

Follow up action is taken.

When the Court of Auditors found problems in the recording of payments made in the regions of England, the European Commission stopped further payments and fined those responsible.

To get this into perspective.

In 2012/2013 fraud and error in the UK government’s Department of Work and Pensions amounted to £1.2 billion, a rate of 0.7 per cent.

The National Audit Office has qualified the department’s accounts every year for the last 20 years.

So how do we keep in touch with what’s going on?


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Some people say: EU is not democratic

Some people say:

  • The European Commission makes the laws but none of the Commissioners is elected.
  • Most of our laws are made in Brussels and we have little say in them.
  • EU laws take precedence over national laws the European Court of Justice decides in the case of dispute.
  • Brussels makes lots of stupid laws such as whether Women’s Institutes can re-use jam jars.

Not quite. Let’s check the facts.

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