Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Things Britain should do to soften the Brexit blow

Earlier today, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill passed the final House of Lords stage, meaning it will soon achieve Royal Assent and become an Act of Parliament in time for Prime Minister Theresa May to start Brexit negotiations at the end of this month.

Unfortunately, neither of the amendments suggested by the House of Lords will be included, as they were rejected 335-287 and 331-286 respectively, meaning the rights of EU citizens in the UK will be uncertain once Britain formally leaves the EU and Parliament will not be able to block the final deal.

However, during the negotiations, there is still time to make sure that Britain's exit from the EU will not be as socio-economically painful or damaging as some believe-and here is how:

1. Make sure Britain still has access to the Single Market-and can advocate reform of international trade. It is important we avoid having to sign up to World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs which will severely harm Britain's chances of investing in green innovation and protection of native food, and the same will happen in any proposed trade deal with the USA. Bilateral investments only work out well for multinational corporations anyway-not any of the nations entering them.

2. Keep environmental protections Britain has gained from EU membership, whilst at the same time extricating themselves from environmentally harmful drawbacks of EU membership. The European Union is not that green in reality-even though Britain's membership of it has improved somewhat its otherwise appalling environmental record (compared to other European nations), the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy have had harmful environmental impacts, especially on Britain. It will be important to make sure these do not stay in British law-but ensure other environmental protections do, so that they can be improved. Norway and Switzerland have already shown the wonders of environmentalist innovation outside the EU.

3. Guarantee the rights of EU citizens via the negotiations regardless. Although the 'Article 50 Bill' does not enshrine this, this can be enshrined by other legislation during the negotiation process, and given the contributions European citizens have made to Britain in so many ways, and the fact that their human rights are just universal as everyone else's, it should, especially when they were not given a vote in the EU membership referendum.

4. Ensure everyone's voice is heard at the negotiating table-not merely those of Cabinet ministers or European Commission representatives. The negotiations' final result will impact everyone in Britain, irrespective of characteristics or wealth, to one extent or another, and therefore must be inclusive of everyone in Britain. All negotiations must be subject to fair public scrutiny and give the public a chance to input so that any Brexit deal that emerges is as fair as possible.

5. Find a way to maintain freedom of movement for the British people. Freedom of movement is more than about being able to work within Europe, but also about ease of travelling abroad to Europe for leisure purposes or to visit family and friends on the continent. Thus, it needs to be preserved as much as possible even if Brexit happens.

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