Eluned Morgan on the government’s many unanswered questions on the consequences of Brexit
The silence from the government on the consequences of withdrawing from the EU is deafening, and can be interpreted in two ways: they don’t know the answer or they haven’t understood the question.
Eurosceptics don’t seem to comprehend that the creation of their personal nirvana, whereby our borders are closed to EU citizens will mean the imposition of comparable restrictions on UK citizens wishing to travel the other way.
EU law is part of UK law and its adoption over more than forty years has given our citizens, companies and public authorities a vast array of rights and duties. Many thousands of EU provisions are now part of our system of law. Repealing or amending these would necessarily be a complex and demanding process. Many cover matters central to individual liberty.
As regards the practical consequences of withdrawal, we have already put questions to the government concerning the intention or otherwise to maintain EU employment and social legislation in a number of areas; including maternity, paternity and parental leave, annual leave, the rights of agency workers, part-time and fixed-term workers, collective redundancy, protection of employees upon the transfer of a business, anti-discrimination legislation, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We await a reply.
Similarly, people in Britain deserve to know what the implications would be for EU legislation in the area of consumer protection, for example on unsafe products, unfair practices and distance selling.
What about the raft of environmental legislation? Will the government retain EU standards for water quality and clean beaches? Presumably UK citizens would no longer receive automatic health insurance cover in EU countries? What will happen to the pet passport – will British dogs have to go back into quarantine?
If the UK is no longer part of the Common Agricultural Policy, will our government match the same level of subsidies that farmers and food products currently receive? If not, can we deduce that the price of food will go up and farmers’ and farm workers’ incomes will go down? How will we guarantee food security?
Will the UK make up for the loss of EU structural funds in those regions of the UK which currently benefit from these generous schemes? How would the government manage this process, in deciding which to retain, repeal or amend?
The list of questions is endless and the head in the sand approach of our government to the reality of the Pandora’s Box opened it has opened does the country a disservice.
But what about the plight of UK citizens living in EU Member States? Will they face the usual integration rules for non-EU would-be residents? Would the 400,000 living in Spain have to pass a language test of proficiency in Spanish to obtain long-term residency status? If they wanted to sell their property abroad, would they be liable to the usual sales tax for non-EU nationals that is applied in several EU countries?
What about the citizens of Gibraltar? Spain would love the opportunity to use the leverage of Brexit to push its case for sovereignty of the island. What is the government’s contingency plan if we leave the EU? If Spain closed the border, would we send a fleet? Would we mount a Berlin style airlift?
Few would deny that membership of the EU and its single market bring significant advantages to our economy and businesses. Many other aspects of our national life have also benefited, not least culturally. We will challenge Ministers today to provide a precise and comprehensive report on the possible consequences of withdrawal.
Failure to provide such information before a decision of this magnitude would be letting down the British people and shirking an essential responsibility of Government.
Baroness Eluned Morgan is Shadow FCO Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @eluned_morgan
Published 2nd November 2015