“The tyranny of the majority” – really?

The phrase “the tyranny of the majority” is one that has been bandied around a lot recently. Some might be tempted to simply shrug it off as another example of Remoaners doing a bit of moaning. But the phrase actually encapsulates a serious point about the limits of democracy in a diverse, modern society. Whether the Remain voters are using the phrase correctly is, however, another question.

John Major talked about “the tyranny of the majority” at some length last November. He first used the phrase in a speech to a dinner in Westminster. Sir John made it very clear that he wanted the views of the 48% who had voted “Remain” to be taken into account by the government during its negotiations with the EU.

Tim Farron and Tony Blair quickly came out in agreement (no surprises there) as did many others. A common theme was that another referendum should be held before Britain actually left the EU. The idea was that the simple majority of votes cast in June 2016 should not determine Britain’s future for ever. That seems to be what these Remain supporters mean by “the tyranny of the majority”.

But that is not how the phrase is usually meant nor used.

The phrase was first used by American founding father Alexander Hamilton during the drafting of the Constitution of the USA back in the 18th century. Hamilton worried that if there was a permanent majority of people with one viewpoint, they could use it to oppress and disempower those with a different viewpoint.

An example being bandied around at the time was that the densely populated industrial cities might use their voting power to penalise the more thinly populated agricultural areas. Perhaps agricultural exports would be highly taxed, but no taxes put on industrial exports. So those in rural communities would be economically penalised by a larger bloc of voters. That would be unfair.

Hamilton and his colleagues sought to get around this by setting up the electoral college system for the Presidential elections and the way states have weighted voting in the US Senate. Not a perfect solution, but at least they recognised the problem and made an effort to solve it.

A more recent example in the UK might be the fox hunting ban. A majority of the population live in urban areas and prefer not to see foxes hunted by florid-faced stereotypes in red jackets on horseback. The realities of the situation in rural areas played little part in the debate. The urban majority got their way, and look set to continue to get their way for the forseeable future.

That is a real example of “the tyranny of the majority”. One section of the nation has been permanently oppressed by another, larger section which has no stake in the outcome of the oppression. I do not recall Major, Blair or Farron objecting then.

By comparison the EU Referendum vote was a simple exercise in direct democracy. Now, you may or may not approve of referendums [I’ll come back to that another time], but “the tyranny of the majority” it most certainly is not.

Photo by Chatham House, London

The Government will fail the first Brexit test by not scrapping the London Convention

Release: Immediate

 

Words: 382

Contact: Alan Hastings – 07827 399 408

Fishing for Leave recently highlighted the immediate need for the government to denounce the London Convention.

DexEU and DEFRA’s response that “in regard to historical access to waters, no decisions have yet been taken on the UK’s position” and that “we endeavour to reach an agreement…. by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded”  is pitiful and suggests they have no intention of acting.

As lovely as it was to hear the government reiterate its position of caring for our fishing and coastal communities their response scarcely backs this rhetoric.

The London Convention must be denounced now to secure all access to our waters and obtain the strongest possible diplomatic hand.

This Convention gives historic rights for European vessels to fish in UK waters but only between 6 and 12 nautical miles from our shores.

Failing to scrap this Convention would allow the EU ‘back door’ access to this narrow strip as the convention will still apply to the UK upon withdrawal.

As the Convention requires two years notice it must be denounced immediately, and before Article 50 is triggered, to avoid an overlap allowing EU access to UK waters.

For 8 months there has only been rhetoric and no results. The government is well aware of this issue and their failure to act suggests they have no intention of securing our rich fishing waters.

Why are they not fully committed to securing this strong hand by controlling all access?

If the government does not act immediately on this easy and simple test of Brexit then it evidently has no intention of making a serious stand. The government and MP’s are about to fail this first test on Brexit.

It would show the opportunity of automatic repatriation of an industry, that could double to be worth approximately £6.3bn annually, is to be betrayed a second time. Fisheries will symbolise whether we’ve “taken back control of our borders” and will therefore be the “acid test” of Brexit.

The government must serve notice to denounce this Convention immediately. To demonstrate that it really does intend to repatriate and safeguard the nation’s greatest renewable resource.

If it does not then it looks like we’re going to have a backslide and betrayal of Brexit and that the government is all mouth and no trousers.

There is still time to lobby your MP to act on this – if you want to see our fishing grounds secured please send the letter in this link to them – http://www.ffl.org.uk/letter-to-mp/

The Law of the Land and Alien Law – a summary of CIB’s meeting, 15th March

On March 15th, the Campaign for an Independent Britain organised a meeting in the House of Lords to discuss the issue of alien legal systems in the UK.

We would like to thank Lord Pearson of Rannoch for arranging the venue and also our two visiting speakers, Anne Marie Waters of Sharia Watch and Torquil Dick-Erikson of Save British Justice.

Our Chairman, Edward Spalton, opened the meeting, introducing the speakers and the subject in question. What bound together the two subjects of Sharia law  and the European Arrest Warrant was their insistence “on imposing alien law and making it superior to our own law of the land. For some reason, which  I cannot fathom, there are presently and have been for two generations  now, many of our leading fellow countrymen and women who think so little of their own people, land and culture that they are willing to submit it to one or other or both of these projects.

Anne Marie explained that the problem with Sharia Law  was that, because the state does not enforce it and it thus has no legal validity in official UK Law, in reality, for many Muslims, particularly women, the situation is very different. “Most Muslims do not make an active choice to be Muslims, they are born in to their religion.  Their family life, community life, is inextricably bound up in the religion.” Islamic law – i.e., Sharia – is therefore the code by which they are bound and unofficially, in spite of its lack of formal legal status. This is a particular concern when it comes to family law.

In Sharia family law, a wife is worth less than her husband.  She cannot divorce of her volition, even if she subject to violence and abuse.  Her testimony in a family law dispute is worth only half of her husband’s.  This is intended to make it as difficult as possible for women to ‘win’ in any family law dispute.  The reason for this is simply because the Koran deems women to be worth less than men.  Furthermore, in Sharia law, the best interests of the child do not come first – again in defiance of the standards, principles, and spirit of British law.  The best interests of the child do not come first in sharia because Islam deems that children are the property of their fathers, who has sole power over their lives.  Mothers have no input and no rights.” To put it simply. these Sharia courts, for all their lack of official status, are still making decisions which have a huge impact on the lives of women and children in particular.

She concluded “We must stop pretending that there is nothing specific to Sharia that should worry us.  There is. It is a system predicated on male dominance, on violent punishment, on arbitrary whims of clerics, and on complete disregard for the humanity and rights of children.  Sharia is not compatible with Britain; it’s not compatible with our social values, our legal principles, or who we are as a nation.  Its practice should therefore not be permitted.  The fundamental principles of British law should instead be upheld as supreme.”

Torquil began by warning us that it still appears to be the Government’s intention to keep us invovled with the EU’s justice system on Brexit. Britain will try to remain in European Union security organisations and systems such as Europol – the EU’s law enforcement agency – and the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) after Brexit. These are the words of Amber Rudd, the current Home Secretary.

He went on to explain the fundamental differences between UK law and that of the EU. In your humble scribe’s opinion, this was one of the clearest explanations of the incompatibilities of the two systems that he has ever heard.  At the heart of Magna Carta was its commitment to individual freedom – a determination to limit the power of the king and to avoid the concentration of power into too few hands. Almost at the same time, on the Continent, Pope Innocent III was  setting up the Inquisition, which sought to “unify the functions of accusation and judgement, into the same hands, those of the Inquisitor. The function of defender was kept quite separate. With the Inquisition the dice were loaded in favour of the accuser.”

Although ironically it was Napoleon’s armies which finally destroyed the power of the Inquisition in Spain, “Napoleon was a law-giver. His codes underlie many of Europe’s laws to this day. Unfortunately he did not adopt the English system, derived from Magna Carta, which aimed to limit the power of the State over the individual. Instead he adopted and adapted the essential methods of the inquisition. Continental European criminal-law systems are called ‘inquisitorial’ to this day. He adapted the system by re-orienting it, from the service of the Church to the service of the State.”

Of particular interest was Torquil’s  debunking of the myth that Continental law must be OK because all EU member states have signed the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR “does not contemplate what we in Britain would consider a right of Habeas Corpus. All it says, in article 6 is that a prisoner has a right to a public hearing before an impartial tribunal in a ‘reasonable’ time. But nowhere does it define what is ‘reasonable’.”

In the UK, a prisoner must appear in a public court within hours, or at most, a few days (with the exception of certain terrorist offences, but on much of the Continent, “for many EU states, under their Napoleonic-inquisitorial jurisdictions, it is considered ‘reasonable’ to keep a prisoner under lock and key with no public hearing for six months, extensible by three months at a time. These are the terms of the Commission’s Corpus Juris proposal for an embryo single uniform criminal code to cover the whole of Europe, including the British Isles.” Torquil mentioned Andrew Symeou, who spent nearly a year in a Greek prison on trumped-up charges as a result of being served with a European Arrest Warrant.  Torquil went on to ask “why do the European courts need to be able to keep a prisoner in prison for so long before formally charging him? There is a simple reason. In Britain, the Habeas Corpus right to a speedy public hearing after arrest ensures that the investigators have to find some pretty solid EVIDENCE of a prima facie case to answer BEFORE they arrest someone. This is based on Magna Carta’s article 38. It seems to us to be mere common sense.

On the continent, in contrast, they only need a suspicion, based on mere clues or what we would consider to be very flimsy and insufficient evidence, in order to arrest and imprison a person. They can then seek EVIDENCE AFTER they have arrested him. And of course it is quite “reasonable” for them to say that this can take months. This is the official reason. Of course there may also be other reasons, derived from the historic roots of their system in the Inquisition. In the bad old days they used the rack and thumbscrews, but nowadays they may be hoping that the harshness of unpredictably lengthy prison conditions will induce the prisoner to CONFESS.”

He proposed withdrawing from the ECHR as well as from participation in the EAW. We were able to cooperate with police forces within the EU before the EAW came into being and he urged that the UK should withdraw at once from the EAW, and replace it with an arrangement similar to that which prevailed before the EAW was brought in.”

Although criminal law may seem an esoteric issue, given how few of us are likely to find ourselves being charged with an offence, it is actually very important. “Criminal law is the basis of State power, and seizing control of the criminal law is essential if one is to take over an existing State, or to build a new State, as the EU seeks to do.  Why? Because the essential distinguishing feature of any State is the ability to use violent coercion on the bodies of the citizens – legally….Different peoples with different value-systems have different ideas of Right and Wrong, what is Justice and what is Injustice. We see this with crystal clarity when we consider Sharia law. But in any case, the criminal laws are the handle for regulating State power over the individual.  It is therefore in the criminal laws that the safeguards of our FREEDOM are to be found.”

So Brexit will not truly be Brexit unless we are free of the power of an alien legal system. “The two systems cannot co-exist in the same state. One must prevail.” These same comments could equally apply to Sharia Law as well.

The talks were followed by a lively question-and-answer session. 

Edward’s introduction can be downloaded here

Anne Marie’s speech can be  downloaded here

and Torquil’s speech can be downloaded here.

State of the Disunion as 60th anniversary celebrations approach

No doubt there were huge sighs of relief in Brussels that fewer Dutch voters than expected supported Geert Wilders’ anti-establishment PVV in the country’s recent General Election and that the VVD (Liberal) party, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte gained the most seats.

A few days before the European Union’s 27 remaining members meet to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of  Treaty of Rome, they can breathe more easily – at least for now. However, Mr Wilders was never going to become Prime Minister due to the multiplicity of political parties in the Netherlands, virtually all of which ruled out going into coalition with his party. If the PVV had become the largest party in the Dutch Parliament, it would have nonetheless emboldened anti-EU parties in France and Germany, where elections are also due later this year.

Even so, next weekend’s festivities cannot disguise the harsh fact that the EU is becalmed, with no clear sense of direction. Eurosceptic parties may not yet be on the verge of forming governments in Western Europe, but their support is growing steadily. In response, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has recently published a white paper offering five different future scenarios for the bloc’s future.

In a nutshell, these range from pressing on with ever closer union (Scenario 5) at one extreme to a reduction to nothing more than a Single Market (Scenario 2) at the other. The other three options are a two-speed Europe (Scenario 3), with some countries integrating faster than others, “Doing less more efficiently” (Scenario 4) and “Carrying on” (Scenario 1).

The ever-closer union option is unlikely to gain much favour in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Hungary. The current Polish government is a supporter of repatriating power from Brussels and the recent reappointment of Donald Tusk, a member of Poland’s biggest opposition party, as President of the European Council against the wishes of Poland’s government, is not going to improve relations between Warsaw and Brussels. Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski said that his country will “play a very rough game” in the European Union.

Hungary has no appetite for interference in its internal affairs by Brussels. The European Commission has criticised the construction of a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia, but Hungary has ignored the criticism and pressed on regardless.

Then there are Greece’s problems. Our friends in EPAM, a Greek Eurosceptic organisation, are organising protests against austerity outside several Greek embassies, including one in London, on Saturday 25th March. The organisation claims that austerity has bitten so deep into Greece’s fabric that lives are being lost as the country’s health service has reached the point of collapse. One article recently brought to our attention claims that “The country is rotting inside the EU and the eurozone. The Greek people have crashed economically. Greek cities, because of massive illegal immigration, look less like cities in Europe and more like cities in Afghanistan. Banks have begun the mass-confiscation of residences. The people are on the verge of revolt.

Of course, it is the Euro, one of the EU’s flagship policies, which has put Greece into its current straitjacket. Until recently, however, support for both the Euro and EU membership was remarkably strong. Almost two years ago, at the height of the last financial crisis, over 69% supported remaining within the Eurozone, with 56% wanting to keep the single currency even if it meant harsh austerity measures being imposed.

Such statistics act as a reality check to those of us in the UK whose dislike of the EU is so intense that we find it hard to figure out why other countries are not preparing to follow us out of the exit door.  We have never been keen on pooled sovereignty and for us, the EU’s “Ring of death” flag is a badge of shame. Across the Channel, things are viewed differently. Member states which suffered years of Soviet rule or military dictatorships view EU membership as a symbol break with a past they are all too keen to forget. While not all the EU’s leading lights are such gushing  federalists as the Belgian MEP and former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt,  there are still plenty of enthusiasts for the project. For instance the Spanish MEP  Esteban González Pons who called Brexit “selfish”, claimed that the EU was the “only alternative” in an increasingly globalised world and expressed the hope that one day, we would one day “come home”  – re-join the EU in other words.

Such sentiment seems almost laughable given that others in the EU clearly view  Brexit as a great opportunity to press on with closer union now the pesky foot-dragging Brits are going their own way.  We will no doubt hear much about how wonderful the EU is during next weekend’s celebrations, but once the festivities are over, the leaders of EU-27 will have to look long and hard at Mr Juncker’s five options for the EU’s future and coming to a consensus isn’t gong to be easy. Geert Wilders may not have achieved the breakthrough for which he hoped, which in turn has made Marine le Pen’s already difficult path to the Elysée Palace even harder, but the EU has only won a short-term reprieve.  A big fireworks display in Rome cannot disguise the fact that it faces a serious identity crisis which it shows little sign of being able to resolve.

Photo by Christopher Lotito

Some helpful insights from the Freight Transport Association

The really hard tasks will begin soon. Once Article 50 is triggered, the UK government will then have to negotiate a Brexit deal that will enable our trade with both the EU and the rest of the world to continue.

As an example of how complex this might be, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has published a submission it made to Parliament, expressing a number of concerns facing the industry.  Like many organisations involved in trade with the EU, the FTA wishes to ensure that we do not face huge disruption as a result of Mrs May’s decision that we will leave the Single Market.

The piece is worth reading in full, but a few points are worth highlighting:-

  1. There will almost certainly need to be a transitional trading arrangement between the UK and the EU. Negotiating a full trade deal may be very tight, if not unachievable, within the two year timescale of Article 50.
  2. No deal will give us as unfettered access to the Single Market as EEA membership would have done. There will inevitably have to be some trade-offs.
  3. Increased Border controls will be very time-consuming. Falling back on the WTO option would be particularly bad in this respect. The port of Dover would suffer more than anywhere else as freight movements are predicted to rise to between 14,000 and 16,000 per day in the next decade.
  4. Although tariffs are falling worldwide, some sectors of the economy would suffer if tariff-free access to the EU were lost. Tariffs of 10% or more could be imposed on motor vehicles, for instance.
  5. The biggest worry is that the EU may not want to tackle trade issues until after Brexit.  Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief negotiator, made a statement suggesting that the two-year period following the formal triggering of article 50 would only be devoted to withdrawal arrangements and that issues related to the post-Brexit trade relationship with the EU would only be dealt with post-Brexit.  While this is only one person’s opinion and that other voices within the EU are keen to avoid such a disastrous scenario, it shows that the UK’s negotiators will be facing some quite difficult individuals on the other side of the table.

No, Brexit is not going to be easy. We can but hope that the Government has been preparing for these eventualities and knows what it wants before the negotiations begin.

 

Another nail in the coffin of the Single Market?

Last month, an event occurred which got little fanfare, but is likely to have a significant effect on the future of the UK, especially after Brexit. What happened was that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement has now entered into force

Lord Lamont, the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote in The Telegraph:wto

The single market is open to all advanced economies, in exchange for paying a relatively modest tariff of 3 to 4 per cent, something that evidently does not stop non-EU countries from selling within it.

‘Every developed country has access to the single market. The EU has a relatively low external tariff with the exception of certain goods such as agriculture.’[i]

When taken prima facie, Lord Lamont’s comments are seemingly correct. Only those countries who are essentially rogue states or have violated international agreements don’t have the ability to conduct trade with the EU, and the EU’s external tariffs are fairly low.

But Tariffs are only half of the story.

The problem of tariffs could be easily addressed by the UK signing a goods Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU. Given the high volume of UK- EU 27 trade, this is seemingly a given.

A basic FTA need not take long to complete. The EU’s earlier iteration the European Economic Community (EEC) concluded basic FTAs in the early 70’s that took 6-7 months to agree, sign and come into force.

But the other half of the story relates to non-tariff barriers (NTBs), sometimes called “Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs)”. These comprise everything else that can slow down trade or make it more expensive or complex.

The European Commission describes the Single Market as:

‘…one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. The Commission works to remove or reduce barriers to intra-EU trade and prevent the creation of new ones so enterprises can trade freely in the EU and beyond. It applies Treaty rules prohibiting quantitative restrictions on imports and exports (Articles 34 to 36 TFEU ) and manages the notification procedures on technical regulations (2015/1535) and technical barriers to trade.’[ii]

So the Single Market goes beyond tariff reduction, and encompasses far more than just a Free Trade agreement. This is why the ‘remain’ side in the EU referendum campaign were so concerned about the UK leaving the European Union’s Single Market.

‘Remainers’ believe that after Brexit, even if the UK does get a Free Trade Agreement, our importers and exporters will be deluged with red tape, endless forms, checks and other barriers to entry as we will be operating outside the Single Market.

These are valid concerns, but we believe they are largely exaggerated – and here are the reasons why:

wco

The EU has signed up to the WCO

In July 2007[iii], the EU signed up to the World Customs Organization (WCO) which works to enhance customs co-operation between signatory countries and works to simplify issues such as Rules of Origin (ROO).

From the European Commission’s own press release:

‘On 30 June 2007, the Council of the World Customs Organization (WCO) decided to accept the request of the European Union to join the WCO as of 1st July 2007. This decision grants to the European Union rights and obligations on an interim basis akin to those enjoyed by WCO Members.

‘The WCO plays an important role in promoting international customs co-operation and addressing new challenges for customs and trade. It is deeply involved in designing and implementing policies worldwide that integrate measures, which help ensure supply chain security, combat counterfeiting, promote trade and development, as well as guarantee efficient collection of customs revenues. Membership of the WCO highlights and confirms the central role and competence of the EU in international discussions on customs issues including customs reform. EU involvement in the WCO will focus on the full spectrum of customs issues, in particular the following broad areas:

  • Nomenclature and classification in the framework of the Harmonised system;
  • Origin of goods;
  • Customs value;
  • Simplification and harmonisation of customs procedures and trade facilitation;
  • Development of supply chain security standards;
  • Development of IPR enforcement standards;
  • Capacity building for customs modernisation and reforms, including in the context of development cooperation;
  • Mutual Administrative Assistance for the prevention, investigation and repression of customs offences.

‘The EU is a contracting party to several WCO Conventions, and contributes to the work of this organisation, including by ensuring presence and coordination with the Member States in defining and representing EU positions in the relevant bodies managing these conventions.’

The UK signed up to the WCO in the 1950’s and is a signatory in its own right, so will be able to address customs issues with the EU via this body after Brexit.

Harmonisation with EU rules

The UK’s rules and regulations are already synchronised with EU/EEA (European Economic Area) regulations and standards after decades of membership. This will also be true on the day after Brexit due to the Great Repeal Bill. Hence a strong (if not overwhelming) argument for ‘rules equivalence’ can be made.

The WTO Agreement on Rules of Origin (ROO)

This agreement encourages WTO countries (including all EU countries) to have fair and transparent rules pertaining to Rules of Origin:

 wtostructure

These rules state that:

‘Rules of origin shall not themselves create restrictive, distorting, or disruptive effects on international trade.  They shall not pose unduly strict requirements or require the fulfilment of a certain condition not related to manufacturing or processing, as a prerequisite for the determination of the country of origin….rules of origin are administered in a consistent, uniform, impartial and reasonable manner’.[iv]

Guidelines in the EU treaties

treatylisbon

Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty states that:

‘The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation.[v]

As the UK will become a new ‘neighbouring country’ after Brexit, the EU is compelled to deal with us according to the Article 8 terms.

WTO Technical barriers to trade Agreement

The TBT agreement is key – it means that signatories (again, including the EU) agree to abide by rules about international product and technical standards. From the European Commission’s website:

‘The TBT notification procedure helps prevent the creation of international technical barriers to trade. It was introduced by the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT Agreement), a multilateral agreement administered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It gives participants advanced knowledge of new technical regulations or conformity assessment procedures envisioned by other countries. The EU’s participation in the TBT Agreement helps businesses in EU countries access markets outside the EU.’

Aim of the TBT notification procedure

To avoid any potential technical barriers to trade, WTO Members submit national legislation at draft stage to other members of the TBT Agreement. They can then assess the impact on their exports and identify any provisions breaching the Agreement.

While allowing all WTO Members to maintain their right to adopt regulations, the TBT Agreement aims to:

  • prevent the creation of unnecessary and unjustified technical barriers to international trade;
  • prevent the adoption of protectionist measures;
  • encourage global harmonisation and mutual recognition of technical standards;
  • Enhance transparency.[vi]

The commission somewhat downplays the TBT agreement, however. What it actually states is that:

‘Members shall ensure that in respect of technical regulations, products imported from the territory of any Member shall be accorded treatment no less favourable than that accorded to like products of national origin and to like products originating in any other country.

‘Members shall ensure that technical regulations are not prepared, adopted or applied with a view to or with the effect of creating unnecessary obstacles to international trade.

‘Where technical regulations are required and relevant international standards exist or their completion is imminent, Members shall use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for their technical regulations. Members shall give positive consideration to accepting as equivalent technical regulations of other Members, even if these regulations differ from their own, provided they are satisfied that these regulations adequately fulfil the objectives of their own regulations.’[vii]

Since UK regulations and standards will be equivalent to their EU counterparts from day one, and will continue to meet international standards going forward, it will be extremely difficult for the EU to reject UK products sold into the EU market.

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

The most recent agreement, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) will further increase trade co-operation.

As the WTO website states:

‘The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.’[viii]

Perhaps especially important for Northern Ireland post-Brexit, the TFA also states that:

‘Each Member shall ensure that its authorities and agencies responsible for border controls and procedures dealing with the importation, exportation, and transit of goods cooperate with one another and coordinate their activities in order to facilitate trade.

‘Each Member shall, to the extent possible and practicable, cooperate on mutually agreed terms with other Members with whom it shares a common border with a view to coordinating procedures at border crossings to facilitate cross-border trade.’

The WCO welcomed the ratification of the TFA agreement in their press release of 22 February 2017, in which they wrote:

‘The World Customs Organization (WCO) congratulates the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the entry into force today of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; an agreement that will expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, and which sets out measures for effective cooperation between Customs and other authorities, as well as provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

‘The WCO takes this opportunity to highlight that it will continue to seek improvements throughout the global supply chain to obtain the highest levels of safety, security and integrity, which will enhance trade facilitation for compliant actors. This will ultimately have a positive effect on the relationship between all border agencies and the Private Sector.

‘The entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is an important milestone for the international trade and Customs community, coming about as a result of the fact that it has been ratified by 110 WTO Members, which pushes it above the threshold needed to take effect, namely ratification by two-thirds of the WTO’s 164 Members.’[ix]

In conclusion:

  • The volume and UK and EU will likely at least sign a basic goods FTA; meaning tariff-free goods trade will continue.
  • The UK’s rules and regulations are already synchronised with EU regulations and standards. This will also be true on the day after Brexit.
  • The UK and EU are signed up to the WCO, which exists to help simplify and resolve customs issues.
  • The WTO TBT agreement prohibits the EU from banning UK goods that meet international standards.
  • The WTO agreement on Rules of Origin means that the EU will have to ensure rules of origin are administered “in a consistent, uniform, impartial and reasonable manner” when dealing with exports from the UK.
  • The WTO Trade Facilitation agreement means the EU must co-operate with the UK on issues around the “movement, release and clearance of goods”.

When we combine these factors together we see that after Brexit, UK trade with the EU will be very similar after Brexit as before Brexit.

The EU has signed up to many agreements and treaties which in effect reduce the uniqueness of the single market.

Britain can therefore essentially have almost duplicate trade relationship by falling back on these international agreements (if necessary) which would mean that the UK could have the majority of the benefits of Single Market membership, but be free to choose which rules to obey when not exporting to the EU 27 countries or for domestic sale.

The TFA might not then be the final nail in the Single Market coffin (it is still useful to EEA members), but it is one substantial step towards reducing the importance of the Single Market to a post-Brexit UK.


[i] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/not-only-can-britain-can-leave-the-eu-and-have-access-to-the-sin/

[ii] https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market_en

[iii] https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/international-affairs/international-customs-cooperation-mutual-administrative-assistance-agreements/world-customs-organization_en

[iv] https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/22-roo_e.htm

[v] http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-1-common-provisions/6-article-8.html

[vi] https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/barriers-to-trade/tbt_en

[vii] https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/17-tbt.pdf

[viii] https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tradfa_e/tradfa_introduction_e.htm

[ix] http://www.wcoomd.org/en/media/newsroom/2017/february/wco-welcomes-entry-into-force-of-the-wto-trade-facilitation-agreement.aspx

This article first appeared on the Bruges Group website and is used with permission.