Political Affairs Manager’s Blog – 26 January 2018

There is a phrase often used in Brussels that goes: “If you’re not at the table, then you are on the menu” writes Political Affairs Manager Clare Slipper, following a three-day study trip to the European Union’s power base.
And if you believe the press reports since the referendum outcome, you may not be blamed for thinking that the EU negotiators have not just put David Davis and his Brexit negotiating team on the menu; they have devoured them.

The UK Government’s unwavering position for the last 12 months has been that the UK will inevitably leave the European Single Market and the jurisdiction of the EU – give or take a ‘time limited implementation period’ where the UK and the EU adjust to a new Free Trade Agreement. 

What will that Free Trade Agreement consist of? The wish of NFU Scotland and of the UK farming unions is that trade can continue without any friction, tariffs or non-tariff barriers.
The UK Government thankfully shares that aim but, to arrive at this, the Brexit negotiators must make progress on ensuring regulatory alignment over a vast range of hugely technical issues such as sanitary and photo-sanitary measures; pesticides and plant breeding techniques; and veterinarian issues – to name a few.
Those issues will take time to work through.   The irony that this seems like an awful amount of work in order keep something that pretty much resembles the status quo is not lost.
But the reality is that the UK is not “on the menu” as far as this goal is concerned. In fact, the EU27 have put their cards on the table and made clear their mutual wish to ensure this new trading arrangement is as mutually beneficial, and as seamless, as possible.
Whilst the EU and the UK clearly have mutual interests here, it remains the case that the goodwill of the EU negotiators will remain paramount if any meaningful progress is to be made on the future relationship.
And with the March EU Council looming, and the Article 50 clock ticking loudly towards March 2019, progress is desperately needed. 

The UK has been a member of the EU for over 40 years, during which time it has built a fantastic network of friends within the other 27-member states, but also with third countries who have interests in the EU trading bloc.
In the future, the UK must become more global in its approach, building alliances with new partners who previously we might not have worked with.

But we will also need to keep our old friends close. In fact, these relationships will become more important than ever.  If we are not at the table – or even in the room – then the UK’s network will be its only lobbying tool.  

Perhaps David Davis and his negotiating team may need to add humble pie to their menu of Brexit asks. 


Author: Clare Slipper

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About The Author

Clare Slipper

Clare Slipper joined NFU Scotland in 2014 as the Union’s first dedicated Parliamentary Officer. Within her role, Clare briefs politicians in the Scottish, Westminster and European parliaments on key issues impacting Scottish food producers and represents members interests in the policy-making process. Clare started her career working for a public affairs and communications agency, where she worked with clients in the renewable energy and planning sectors. She graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Politics and Sociology in 2012.

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