Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton Post by James Hammerton Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton Post by James Harris
For some time I have been saying that No Deal with the EU would
the disaster that some expect but I am beginning to get a bit
at the absence of confirmation from the politicians in
imagine why they don't say what's possible under a No Deal
I missing something?
Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton
What I can say is that if the EU will not budge on the requirement that
we can't move to talking about the trade relationship until
out the settling of accounts and we won't budge on our view
need to be talked about together then the talks will break down, and
then it's down to how much good will there is to try and
impact of the 'cliff edge', bearing in mind even that may
However, a further question to ponder is at what point do we get to the
stage where if no deal has been agreed, there won't be time to put the
necessary arrangements in place to mitigate the 'cliff edge'?
E.g. I've seen it suggested that expanding the ports and border
inspection posts (which are used to check animal origin food and
themselves) so they could handle UK --> EU exports would take 2 to 3
years due both to the need to build necessary infrastructure and to
hire/train the extra staff needed, which implies that even the entirety
of the Article 50 process would be the barest minimum time required for
this aspect of the problem to be addressed. The UK might also need to
expand capacity and that would need to be factored in.
I saw Kit Malthouse asking representatives of the ports and the customs
service about the changeover.
Do you have a link to this? Or do you remember which committee it was
and when it was?
I didn't. But thanks to the Internet, Treasury Committee, 14 Sept 2017.
Yes, there's quite a lot of it. ... Try 11:24 to 11:34.
So I watched the entirety of Kit Malthouse's questioning.
I got the impression he wasn't quite getting the point being made about
what the customs authorities of the EU would be doing on day 1 of
Brexit. We are of course free to not levy tariffs and to do minimal or
no customs checks and free to be flexible in how we transition our own
customs systems from the current state to the state desired after
Brexit, but if our exports get stopped and checked at the EU ports and
they don't have the capacity to support the volume, that will cause a
blockage that impacts traffic in both directions so we really do need
mitigation of the risks to occur on both sides.
I think his point was that we on our side could avoid the fabled cliff
edge while we developed the facilities for more-thorough checking. I was
surprised that the officials largely agreed with him.
Certainly we would have no control over what the EU side did.
And that's why I feel he was being a bit complacent. The cliff-edge is
not (solely) about what we will need to do to allow imports in, it's as
much about the trade going the other direction being blocked because,
e.g. we or the company concerned or the consignment concerned have not
been registered in advance as required under EU law, leading to document
checks and physical inspections and/or goods being refused entry. The
cliff edge cannot really be resolved with unilateral action - it will
require cooperation from the EU.
Post by James Harris Post by James Hammerton
That said, it should be possible for the EU authorities to also be
flexible on this and it is in their interest to do so precisely in order
to avoid said blockages which will cause harm both sides.
Maybe, thought it's worth bearing in mind that there are two bodies
involved in any EU-side trade: the country and the EU. Either one could
insist on punitive checks, for example as Spain sometimes does over
Such issues suggest that WTO trade would not be a disaster in itself but
an acrimonious breakup would be much more of a problem. I've been saying
that for a while on the assumption that we could just decide to go to
WTO but I hadn't considered things like the EU's demand for money which
seems to come with unhelpful emotion. One way or another that could lead
to bad feeling.
Oddly enough, the session we're discussing was spotted by Richard North,
What do you think?
I did try to read it. After the first three paragraphs I was annoyed at
North's childish and self-righteous manner (e.g. calling the witnesses
"three old hands ... blagging their way through the session" and
"belching out a dense smokescreen of unmitigated extruded verbal
material"). North is so much cleverer than everyone else.
Yes that's fair comment - he's been researching and blogging about the
issues related to Brexit for years and he's become rather impatient with
people who do seem not to be aware of the issues/legalities involved and
thus put forward propositions he thinks would be disastrous for the
country, like leaving the single market in the short term/Article 50
process (Flexit does sees us leave it many years down the line) and
especially anyone proposing 'no deal'/the WTO option (though he's clear
about interpreting that as literally no deal whatsoever).
Post by James Harris
I stuck with it for a page or so but the sneering continued and, I
thought, hinted at the North usual message that no solution would be as
good as the EEA/EFTA step that he has long known to be best.
:-) see the last line of the stuff I quote below...
Post by James Harris
On that, in fact, he might be right but I would hope that the government
would have it in their arsenal. We cannot know what the UK's fallback
plans are. From the outside, they seem to me to be too willing to give
away too much. I can accept and respect that approach: they want to
build a future partnership. But I wonder if they anticipated the
negativity and different political goals coming from the other side.
(One reason why leaving is the best choice.)
A number of Europeans whom I've heard interviewed say that the EU27
really do want a good deal as long as it's sufficiently worse for
Britain than the current arrangement. If so, the negotiations should be
rescue-able. But there are dangers and I can only hope the government is
ready for them.
As for the substance of customs arrangements which I guess was what you
wanted me to reply about perhaps you could paste any of North's comments
you had in mind and I'll respond here...?
So here's the bit that I think was most pertinent, where he points how a
comment *unremarked on by the committee* actually is an indicator of
(potentially serious) consequences of us becoming a 'third country':
"One thing that struck me though was Harra's admission that the current
electronic customs system at Dover lacked an "inventory link" which
meant that there was no way of tying together customs declarations with
the trucks that were carrying the goods. That required paper processing
at the port.
But if we do not have that information electronically, that means we
can't transmit it to the French, which means that they will also have to
check vehicle paperwork manually, adding to delays.
The thing here though is that, from Brexit day onwards, trucks carrying
foodstuffs of animal origin will have to be identified and then passed
on to Dunkirk or – for the most part – returned to Dover. There simply
isn't the capacity to handle them.
Then the more detailed screening will start. There will be a high
probability that any vehicle carrying chemicals – to which the REACH
Regulation applies - will be carrying goods which have not been
registered in accordance with EU law, having been registered by a
Thus, any vehicle carrying chemicals – and that can include things like
cleaning agents, adhesives, industrial solvents, paints, corrosion
treatments and much else – will have to be checked and registrations
verified. Full ingredient lists will have to be obtained and, in many
instances, physical inspections will have to be made.
Any truck carrying medicines, medical equipment, or medical devices,
will have to be checked. Those carrying consignments of machinery – and
even things such as household lawnmowers – will have to be checked, to
ensure that valid test certificates are in place.
Vehicles and vehicle parts will also need to be checked. Any that rely
on UK approvals may have to be refused entry, and returned to Dover.
Aircraft parts will likewise need to be checked.
Then, if there has been no deal, the loads on British-registered trucks
will have to be transhipped, as British vehicles will not be allowed
through, as the operators' licences will not be valid. Nor, or course,
will the driving licences, or the drivers' certificates of professional
Bearing in mind the limited space at Calais, there will be no room for
the bulk of the inspections, and with the number of truck being held for
inspection or return will quickly overwhelm the facilities. Mr Lodge's
two hours delay will be seen as an impossible pipe dream.
And it is then that we will see Operation Stack. If the vehicles and
loads cannot be cleared out of Calais port, that means that inbound
ferries will not be able to offload. And if they can't offload, they
can't return for new loads. And so the system grinds to a halt.
But nobody sitting though that Committee session would get any real idea
that this was the most likely consequence of Brexit – deal or no deal.
The real damage is done by Mrs May's determination leave the Single
Market. That is what is going to cause gridlock. "
Now, I only partially agree with him (I'm not yet convinced that leaving
the SM *in a managed manner* must cause gridlock), but his conclusion
isn't the reason I raised this. It's the fact that you often need to get
into the detail of how EU laws work and how deeply integrated UK systems
are with EU systems to realise what the problems with 'no deal' are, and
ISTM that committee did gloss over the details and the MPs failed to see
the enormity of the problems a poorly prepared Brexit may cause (the
HMRC guys may believe the government has this in hand and might not be
worried about it).
I think the scenario he outlines above is relevant to the literally no
deal scenario but ISTM he doesn't cater for, e.g. an agreement whereby
Britain and her EU exporting businesses are added to the list of
approved third countries and their exporters (perhaps with a requirement
to renew after a few years) so that all they need to do is ensure the
required paper work and checks are in place, where the customs checks
are gradually ramped up to full speed to allow time for any new
infrastructure to be built, etc.
However it would mean that customs checks would occur at the EU border,
which therefore would mean the border between Northern Ireland and the
Republic of Ireland, unless some special arrangements are made there.