With about one year to go before we must leave the EU, we still don’t know exactly what Brexit means.
The former EU ambassador Sir Ivor Rogers warned that the free trade deal the UK government thinks it can get would take about ten years to negotiate.
What might we be giving up by leaving the EU? Well, the United Kingdom for a start. It seems to me increasingly likely that the UK will break up. It seems unlikely that we can have seamless trade across the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland without being in the customs union. Scotland voted to remain.
By all projections that I’ve seen, prosperity will be a casualty of Brexit, and the north east, the least affluent region of England, will suffer disproportionately. The economy of the North East is likely to shrink by 11 per cent, even if the UK has a comprehensive trade deal with the EU, but is likely to shrink by 16 per cent if we leave with no deal.
These are ‘leaked’ figures of the government’s analysis. Why does the information have to be leaked? Surely in a democracy, the information should be made public, and should have been made public before the referendum.
The UK currently has a trade deal with 27 members of the EU, plus 60 to 70 other countries through our membership of the EU. When we leave we might have a trade deal (inferior) with the USA, which is introducing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium. A deal with the USA could include opening up the NHS to competition from American firms. Mrs May has refused to rule this out.
The reciprocal agreement on health will be a casualty. We will no longer be able to use the health service of the European country in which we are holidaying (or living) at the local price. There may also be problems with access to drugs because we will no longer be part of the European Health Group and will be out of the customs union.
We are not getting any more money (in real terms) for the NHS. The US-EU open skies agreement will end for Britain on Brexit. So far, the US has offered the UK an inferior deal. The European Arrest Warrant allows easier arrest of criminals throughout Europe. On Brexit, the UK will have no extradition agreements with any countries in Europe.
Possibly some people voted leave believing that the government would control immigration. The latest figures suggest this will not be the case. Immigration from EU countries has fallen, but from non-EU countries it has increased.
With an ageing population there is a need for a young, mobile and skilled workforce to pay taxes to support the elderly. The exodus of European doctors and nurses will have a detrimental impact on health and social care.
If we have learned anything from history, it is that progress comes from peace and trade.