Brexit is one of the most difficult and technical undertakings ever seen in politics, and various acronyms, bodies and terms are bandied around by politicians and the media alike; I wanted to provide my constituents and others with definitions for the most frequently used. I hope you find it useful, and please do not hesitate to contact me should you require elaboration on the below or want to know the meaning of anything else you may have heard in the ongoing Brexit debate.
The single market is more than a trade agreement between EU Member States. It is an agreement to remove the internal borders and regulatory barriers both to ensure smooth trading conditions and to prevent a race to the bottom, by including worker, environmental and consumer protections. To leave the single market without all the benefits that go with it would be hugely damaging to our economy, our environment and could reduce worker and consumer rights. Crucially for the UK the single market covers services as well as goods.
EU Member States - plus Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino - trade goods without customs duties, taxes or tariffs and charge the same tariffs on goods imported from outside the EU. Parts in our manufacturing sectors frequently come from different EU countries to be assembled in one place. Leaving the Customs Union would cause enormous problems for our manufacturing sector and could easily lead to queues of lorries at ports as paperwork is checked.
EEA / EFTA
The European Economic Area is made up of the EU’s Single Market, plus three European Free Trade Association members - Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. They trade freely with the single market in exchange for accepting its rules.
Switzerland is in EFTA but not the EEA. Switzerland has multiple bilateral accords with the EU negotiated over many years (and that can be withdrawn at very short notice), which give it special access to the Single Market. The four EFTA countries are not in the Customs Union, and can negotiate trade deals with third countries.
A tax on a good imported into a country. The EU tariff on cars, for example, is 10%. The tariffs on the import of beef into the EU is around 50%.
Free Trade Agreement - FTA
Typically long and complex to negotiate, an FTA is an agreement between at least two countries to cooperate on reducing trade barriers such as import quotas and tariffs so as to increase the trade of goods. The UK is part of 52 Trade Agreements between the EU and other countries, which the UK will need to renegotiate when we leave the EU. The Government suggests an FTA between the UK and the EU will define our future relationship with the EU but this could take many years and, in general, FTAs do not operate as effectively with service sector trade and can have a detrimental impact on farming produce.
Without a deal trade between the UK and the EU would happen under World Trade Organisation rules. UK exports to the EU would be subject to the EU’s Schedule, which for many product categories would prove punitive. Trading on WTO terms would also raise big practical and logistical problems around things such as product approval and customs checks and we would be subject to tariffs. Enforcement of WTO rules is lengthy, costly and frequently ineffective.
Euratom is a separate EU treaty, which focuses on developing expertise around nuclear power including efficiency and safety. Euratom aims to develop nuclear research, manage nuclear waste and improve nuclear technology. The UK is part of the EU’s research into nuclear fusion, a potentially unlimited safe, clean, low carbon energy source. A key part of this work is conducted in Oxfordshire at Culham. Euratom staff currently audit UK nuclear power and research facilities. Labour policy is to remain a member of the Euratom programme and ensure that the UK continues to benefit from the cooperation and expertise.
Common Agricultural Policy
The CAP is designed to ensure that farming and agriculture remains sustainable and competitive. The CAP is spent on farming income support, supporting agricultural markets and rural development programmes. British farmers accessed a total of £6.4bn in 2015, with 54% of UK farmers’ income at the end of 2014 coming from subsidies.
Common Fisheries Policy
The CFP manages European fishing and conserves fish stocks. The Common Fisheries Policy gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU water and fishing grounds. CFP ensures a sustainable future for fish populations in European waters. Though leaving the CFP theoretically gives sole rights to UK boats, this will be difficult to enforce, and cannot guarantee sustainable fish stocks.
European Aviation Safety Agency
The agency ensure planes can legally leave UK airspace under the European ‘single sky’ agreement and UK based carriers can operate in European countries. Alongside this it ensures that planes leaving the UK are able to fly to nations outside the EU through agreement between them and the EU, for example the EU - US open skies agreement. The European Aviation Safety Agency also certifies our aerospace manufacturing industry, a multi-billion pound part of the UK economy including over 80,000 high wage, high skill manufacturing and engineering jobs.
European Defence Agency
The EDA oordinates defence spending and supply in order to decrease costs and increase efficiency alongside developing cyber defence strategy and cooperation. In the face of national security threats the EU is looking to deepen this cooperation and it is very important to our security that we continue to be part of this close working.
European Chemicals Agency
The British Chemicals industry is a key area and employs over 500,000 people as our biggest manufacturing exporter. Testing and authorising chemicals as safe for use is carried out through the ECA, in order to save money and save duplication. As with the EASA replacing the ECA would mean the UK would have to develop its own regulatory body from scratch and, almost certainly, would have then to enforce identical rules to the EU to ensure continued trade.
European Medicines Agency
In 2015, the UK pharmaceutical industry was worth £12.7 billion and a quarter of the world’s top prescription medicines were discovered and developed in the UK. The pharmaceuticals industry is key to Britain and a close association with the EMA is hugely beneficial. Around 900 highly skilled staff located at the EMA in London will be forced to move due to Brexit. Replicating this agency will be highly complex and could mean the UK would lose access to some of the latest treatments, but also pay more - putting extra strain upon the NHS.
European Court of Justice ECJ
The Luxembourg-based ECJ rules on disputes over EU treaties and legislation. Cases can be brought by governments, EU institutions, companies or citizens.