We are where we are

Right now the UK parliament are not going to vote for the deal. If Corbyn pivots and votes for the deal then he is going to be roasted – that pressure is not going down. Both sides of his support want him to whip against the deal, and there is very little cost to him of doing so, he can oppose the Tory Brexit, let them get the blame, and he doesn’t care much about the damage.

The EU will probably offer an extension to 22nd of May and that will cause a row today, Theresa May will probably be tempted to fling it back in their faces as that supports her “blame everyone else” narrative. If she does get an extension to May or end of June it will be contingent on the commons passing the deal – which they are almost certainly not going to do.

This means a possible last minute re-think, where the EU offers a long extension, with MEP elections and subtle suggestion that other democratic events in the UK might help matters. I don’t know if Theresa May would take up that offer, or even if Corbyn would make a statement saying he likes the offer – either way the EU can’t do more than offer it.

After that we are out. The withdrawal agreement is dead, and the legal basis for offering it is gone. I suspect it will be hastily redrafted to be something that can be offered under article 218 which is about relations with third countries – it would probably need to go to all member state parliaments rather than just signed off by leaders – I suspect getting the agreement of some other parliaments might be a struggle at that point.

We could in theory rejoin through article 49 process. There is no speed limit on that and no queue, but I think it would be rather painful. I suspect that taking a reheated withdrawal agreement through article 218 would be more probable.

Debt in Paradise

The stream of statutory instruments trickles onwards, occasionally throwing up the odd nugget of interest. Back in January “The Overseas Association Decision (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019” was considered for sifting, these instruments come with an explanatory memo that should say in normal language what it was trying to do and it also lists what consultations the government did when writing it. This one is something to do with how the 52% in their ignorance screwed the overseas territories (who didn’t get to vote on being screwed over), but the consultation had something that caught my eye:

a screenshot of the consultation outcome section of the explanatory memo


So there is a document, and if a document exists then a freedom of information request can be used to get it perhaps . . .

a screenshot of the FOI request

After a few delays they finally refused:

a screenshot of the reply to the FOI

However this reveals two things, firstly, I touched a nerve! secondly it was the Cayman Islands that were concerned. What could they be worried about I wonder? Well it turns out that in 2009 the Cayman government issued a rather big bond that has to be repaid in full on 24th November 2019 – they call it a bullet bond. They can’t afford to pay it in full, so will need to refinance it. Roy McTaggart the finance minister explains the plan to refinance the loan but if there are problems with that plan it sounds like the UK taxpayer might need to step in.

a screenshot from the article highlighting the concern that caymen would be put back under UK oversight

Do I know that this refinancing is related to the concerns they have around the overseas decision? Nope, just speculation. Would they rather the UK doesn’t give itself and it’s tax havens a big kick square in the credit ratings just before going to the bond market to refinance this bullet bond? Yeah, I bet they would.

This is the end of the road for my little investigation – an FOI refusal and some cynical speculation is all I can muster. A real journalist might try to approach the other end of the conversation and find out if the Caymen Government would like to share the list of concerns they had, but that exceeds my level of determination.

Exporting food of animal origin to the EU after Brexit

I have been rather concerned for a while that UK exports of food to the EU could come to a crashing halt on the day of Brexit. The way trade works things are generally done on a tit for tat basis, so if one side rejects all shipments of a particular category the other side will do the same until the problem is solved. Given that the UK requires a lot of food imports to feed the population this would mean that the country is many millions of meals per day short of the requirement. I am not sure that things will go that wrong, but it really is the scale of what is being messed about with here.

Why would I think exports are screwed? Well, because the EU don’t keep their rules a secret. If you want to import food of animal origin to the EU your country has to have a competent authority, and that competent authority has to maintain a list of authorised establishments by notifying the EU of changes to the list. 100% of all food imports are given a document check to ensure they come from an authorised establishment and the goods must be presented at a border inspection post (BIP) on entry to the EU. You can read about what goes on at a BIP in the manual. The current UK manual is fine, all member states will have one more or less the same. Note that all of this applies if we have a deal or if we flounce out with no-deal.

So much for the rules. We just follow them and all good right? Well, to get a new competent authority you first have to be evaluated by the DG Health and Food Safety (also known as DG SANTE) they publish their work programme of inspections and the UK isn’t on it. Once the competent authority is approved it can submit lists of authorised establishments. These lists are circulated and if there are no objections within 20 days the list is published and comes into force 10 days later. This means that there is an absolute minimum of 30 days before the UK starts to get any products of animal origin into the EU.

Well maybe the UK has a plan they have been discussing with the EU? Well I asked DEFRA through a freedom of information request back in 2017 to disclose any correspondence relating to post-Brexit food export authorisation. They had none. I asked again at the end of last year and they directed me to the Food Standards Agency. So I asked the FSA, and they revealed that the UK will have three competent authorities (each needing separate evaluation by DG SANTE)

The FSA will be the competent authority for England and Wales, DEARA for Northern Ireland and FSS for Scotland.

They also don’t have a prepared list of establishments on the right form, and they have had no correspondence with DG SANTE on an expedited approval.

This doesn’t look good for the chances of exporting food in April at least. It could take many months longer if the competent authority evaluation is not done fast. If UK exports are stopped will free flowing imports still be permitted? What are our rules actually going to be? Will imports to the UK have to go to a UK BIP? All interesting questions that nobody appears to know the answer to.

Yes, I do know that all of the above relates to restrictions on our exports, which on the face of it doesn’t leave us millions of meals per day short of the requirement, but these things lead to retaliations. Would the government cut off our own food supply just to spite the EU? Possibly.

Update: I have been asked about how long it takes for the competent authority approval, well that is defined in regulation 854/2004 Article 11 and that indicates that it could be done instantly as a desk exercise on the optimistic basis that our current status as a member state means we meet the requirements the EU imposes on third countries. This is optimism at the full “Prosecco producers and BMW will intervene in the negotiations” level, but it appears to be technically plausible. I can’t see a shortcut to the 30 working days after approval before our list of establishments comes into force.

Going Emerald

I am now in the process of declaring myself legally resident in Ireland – that is registering for taxes, telling HMRC to wave goodbye to the modest income they got from me etc. etc. There is always more to it than you think there is, but the main problem has been a chicken and egg issue of not having good proof of address. Having the title deeds to our property isn’t on the list of acceptable documents – the bank only wants a utility bill, and the utilities want me to set up a direct debit to open an account which requires a bank account . . .

Eventually with a bit of shopping around these issues can be overcome, for anyone following in my footsteps you can open an account at Bank of Ireland using proof of your UK address (assuming that you have access to the post or it is e.g. forwarded to a friend) so you are a foreign account holder. You can then change your address online once the account is opened. For utilities, Airtricity allow you to set up an electricity account with a €300 deposit instead of a direct debit mandate – they never charge you the deposit, just put it on your account for the first bill, but you can remove it when you have the bank account conundrum sorted.

The Weyand Deal

While the personality politics plays out among the Westminster drama kings, I have been taking a bit of a gander at the draft withdrawal agreement.  People have been calling it Mrs May’s deal, but it isn’t really. Credit is not due to May, this has been thrashed out by Sabine Weyand and Olly Robbins plus a team of lawyers on each side. It strikes me that this is the Weyand deal more than anyone else’s.

There has been a lot of histrionics by people who haven’t read it about how much of a vassal state it leaves us in. Frankly they are kinda right. This isn’t a great deal when measured by the level of autonomous dickery that our government would be able to get up to during the duration of the standstill period. We can’t have a bonfire of regulations, we can’t deport EU nationals en-mass, we can’t go full socialist and do masses of state aid (though we can nationalise things, which we always could).

I don’t really want the UK to do any of that, I want things to muddle onwards with the state providing useful infrastructure and getting out of the way. If we measure the deal not by autonomy of government, but by impact on the people we get a somewhat different view.

  • This deal means people in the UK and EU27 have enough food.
  • This deal means people in the UK and EU27 have access to medication.
  • This deal means people working in cross border supply chains have jobs.
  • This deal means that cross border families don’t have their freedom of movement withdrawn.
  • This deal means that Northern Ireland has a solution that can work for a while.

Overall, on a pragmatic level this is a functional withdrawal agreement. We stop taking part in the institutions of the EU, but nobody gets hurt while we negotiate some kind of free trade agreement that allows more autonomy for the government to do whatever it wants in future for reasons that have never been adequately explained.

It is OK. I am not going to be jumping up and down and proclaiming that it is better than being a normal EU member state because it is not. It puts us in a very weak position for future negotiations, but that was always an inevitable feature of Brexit. Given that the leave vote is still pretty strong I don’t think we have a viable Remain option. This isn’t the best way to leave, but it is the way we are leaving. The alternative is a disorderly departure, which could get exceptionally hostile. Nobody wants that.

The real border in the Irish Sea

Yes, they are at it again, with a negative statutory instrument that revokes a heap of regulations that allow member states to do cabotage shipping in other member states. What on earth does this mean? I hear you ask.

Cabotage is going from place to place in a foreign country, it can apply to lorries, buses, aircraft and ships. In this instance we are talking ships. The government is using the Henry VIII powers to no longer expressly guarantee the right of companies established in a member state to go from one UK port to another UK port taking goods and people. They say that there is no current intention to restrict this practice, which I guess is nice, but it is no longer guaranteed – which is rather uncertain.

Does this matter much? Do any ships go from a UK port to another UK port? what would be the point of that? Who cares? Surely that stuff could just go by road or something?

Take a look at the ferries that sail from Belfast. See the Stena Line one going to Cairnryan and that other one going to Liverpool? Those are scheduled cabotage sailings that will no longer have guaranteed rights to operate. If the EU follows it’s own laws and restricts our cabotage rights to the EU then the Northern Ireland routes by an operator established in Sweden are at risk. This is going to present a considerably more inconvenient border within the United Kingdom than any backstop could ever do.

All this is going to happen, and it will happen with no parliamentary scrutiny as it is going through on the negative procedure.

What can you do about this? Well not much really. You can write to the sifting committee and ask them to flip it to the affirmative procedure, which just means that some bored MPs will vote it through without reading or thinking about it. This is fractionally better than letting it go through without a vote, but ultimately this is just a sequence of events unfolding that could only have been stopped by voting to remain in 2016.

UPDATE: Success!

The Lords committee have produced their report on a batch of these instruments and it looks like my feedback got through to them! You can read the full report, the relevant extract is below. 

Norway Not Enough

One of our less thoughtful MPs, Nick Boles is making a persistent fool of himself by advocating “Norway for Now”, in which he pitches to the UK that we will join EFTA, sliding over our EEA membership and make a bunch of changes, thowing our weight around and then after a while we will leave and do something else. Norway wasn’t really consulted, but responded by diplomatically telling us to shit or get off the pot. We can probably join EFTA, if we like EFTA and want to make that our new home. We can’t join in bad faith with the express intent of mucking about and then leaving. The EFTA council must be unanimous in approving new members of EFTA.

The bottom line is we will not succeed in joining EFTA if we have a stated intention to leave it.

Lets imagine for a moment that the UK government acted with good faith (imagine!) and joined EFTA. Would we be fine, able to trade frictionlessly with all the single market parts of the aquis but not the political stuff (I have no idea what political stuff we don’t want or why the single market isn’t considered political but lets run with this). Can our trusted traders do cross border trade with a minimum of friction? Well nope. The trusted trader scheme (as MPs like to call it) or Authorised Economic Operator scheme (as it is actually called) is an EU scheme. It is a benefit that accrues from our membership of the EU. Can we be in the EU AEO scheme when not in the EU? No. No we can’t. Can we be in it if we sign a withdrawal agreement? No. Can we be in it if we get a deal on a future relationship? No.

Norway is one of the countries that the EU has a mutual recognition arrangement with for AEO schemes. That is part of the frictionless process that allows pre-declaration and driving straight through the border.

“The EU has concluded and implemented Mutual Recognition of AEO programmes with Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Andorra, the US and China. Further negotiations are currently taking place or will be launched in the near future with the other most important trading partners. In addition, the EU is providing technical assistance to a number of countries to prepare them to set up AEO programmes.”

So, just being in EFTA/EEA like Norway is not sufficient by itself to get trusted trader access through EU customs.

So what is the latest on the way AEO is being treated by the UK government? Well, following the budget apparently we are going to speed up DIT administration halving the time it takes for HMRC to admit UK companies to the EU AEO scheme that we currently participate in

“HMRC will halve the time it takes companies to become Trusted Customs Traders from 120 to 60 days, delivering the UK’s ambition to be a world leader in global customs administration.”

There appears still to be no recognition that the AEO scheme is a benefit that accrues from our membership of the EU. We would have to set up our own red white and blue AEO scheme and ask the EU to mutually recognise our brand new untested trader scheme. If we welch on the financial settlement might cause our request to fail the laugh test. I know if I was sitting on the EU side of the table I would expect the full settlement of current obligations in cleared funds in the EU coffers before starting the meeting.

Some time ago I wrote to Jeremy Hunt pointing out that you can’t expect AEO to solve problems caused by leaving the EU when AEO is a benefit of being in the EU. He acknowledged that I was right, and then said it was a matter for the negotiations, which wasn’t unreasonable back in April 2017, but we kinda need some reality about this now.

UK Societas

There is a type of company like “Limited” or “PLC” called a “Societas Europaea” which is kind of a cross-state PLC. The government thinks there are 25 of them, but I found 49 active company registrations (some companies have more than one registration, but I don’t think that fully accounts for the difference)

There is a negative statutory instrument sat in the queue https://www.gov.uk/eu-withd… that will convert any of these into “UK Societas” which is a brand new type of legal entity being created by a negative statutory instrument! Does this sound like something that should be done without any scrutiny?

Well that is fine, we can do that, if we can give our Uranium to France we can create a new type of company. What really struck me is the statement in the explanatory memo that the consultation revealed that most of them are going to leave or convert to a PLC in advance of exit day. That is some chunky list of companies shuffling towards the door (or converting to a PLC).


I made a little script to poke around the companies house data and look for active SE companies and found the list below.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000007
PAYPAL SE
5 New Street Square, London, EC4A 3TW
30 September 2008

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000008
UNITED CONSUMER MEDIA SE
240 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8BF
8 October 2008

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000009
UBM INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS SE
240 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8BF
8 October 2008

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000010
MAI LUXEMBOURG SE
240 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8BF
8 October 2008

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000022
GUS INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS SE
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000023
GUS OVERSEAS HOLDINGS SE
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000024
GUS OVERSEAS INVESTMENTS SE
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000025
GUS US HOLDINGS SE
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000026
GUS IRELAND HOLDINGS SE
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000027
BIOFOODNUTRITION SE
29 Greyhound Road, London, W6 8NH
23 August 2010

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000031
AVIVA EUROPE SE
St Helen's, 1 Undershaft, London, EC3P 3DQ
4 October 2011

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000047
SIMIP SE
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000049
NTC CORPORATE FINANCE SE
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000055
FIDUCIA ASSET MANAGEMENT SE
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000056
ERTEA SE
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000059
CRYPTELO SE
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000064
MERIGLOBE CAPITAL HOUSE SE
78 York Street, London, W1H 1DP
1 May 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000073
AVARIS SE
Wisteria House Clarendon Road, South Woodford, London, E18 2AW
10 September 2012

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000075
GUILLEMOT BROTHERS SE
Flat 3 2 Cresswell Gardens, London, SW5 0BJ
13 May 2013

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000078
ZEAL NETWORK SE
5th Floor One New Change, London, EC4M 9AF
7 February 2014

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000079
INSTANT IPO SE
Wisteria House Clarendon Road, South Woodford, London, London, E18 2AW
1 April 2014

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000080
XL INSURANCE COMPANY SE
20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG
7 July 2014

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000083
GREAT LAKES REINSURANCE (UK) SE
Plantation Place, 30 Fenchurch Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3M 3AJ
28 July 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000084
MITECOMA SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, England, N22 8HH
10 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000087
PODONA SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, England, N22 8HH
10 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000088
PLEXON SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, England, N22 8HH
10 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000089
TEPHORA SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000090
CRISTALON SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000091
ASSTEBILON SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000094
METTEN SE
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000095
AMLIN INSURANCE SE
The Leadenhall Building 122 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3V 4AG
4 January 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000098
ELMARK HOLDING SE
33 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PW
5 April 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000099
CINTRA INFRASTRUCTURES SE
The Sherard Building, Edmund Halley Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4 4DQ
22 April 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000100
EFT INVESTMENTS SE
Bury House Ground Floor, 31 Bury Street, London, London, EC3A 5AR
3 June 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000102
NORD GOLD SE
5th Floor 6 St Andrew Street, London, EC4A 3AE
24 June 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000103
XL CATLIN SERVICES SE
20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG
2 September 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000106
VALTECH SE
46 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AF
25 November 2016

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000108
TISO BLACKSTAR HOLDINGS SE
Berkeley Square House Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BD
9 May 2017

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000110
TISO BLACKSTAR GROUP SE
Berkeley Square House Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BD
30 June 2017

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000111
MERIDIAN MINING SE
Level 18 Portland House Bressenden Pl, Westminster, London, SW1E 5RS
15 August 2017

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000112
W. R. BERKLEY INSURANCE (EUROPE), SE
W.R. BERKLEY INSURANCE (EUROPE), SE, 2nd Floor 40 Lime Street, London, EC3M 7AW
18 October 2017

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000113
CAUDALIE INTERNATIONAL SE
CAUDALIE INTERNATIONAL S.E., 1st Floor Eastcastle Street, London, Greater London, W1W 8DQ
4 April 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000115
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE EUROPE SE
20 Fenchurch Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3M 3AW
18 July 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000116
CHUBB EUROPEAN GROUP SE
100 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3A 3BP
19 July 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000117
ACE EUROPE LIFE SE
100 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3A 3BP
19 July 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000118
TOYOTA INSURANCE MANAGEMENT SE
7th Floor 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3A 2BJ
20 July 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000120
NATIONALE-NEDERLANDEN INTERNATIONALE SCHADEVERZEKERING SE
Suite 408 4th Floor Riverbank House 1 Putney Bridge Approach, London, United Kingdom, SW6 3JD
3 October 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000121
NORTHERN TRUST GLOBAL SERVICES SE
50 Bank Street, London, United Kingdom, E14 5NT
8 October 2018

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SE000122
CATALIS SE
Suffolk House George Street, East Croydon, London, CR0 1PE
15 October 2018

Whose Plutonium is it anyway?

Update: This is now article 83 in the latest version of the Withdrawal Agreement. The issue remains.

There are a bunch of nuclear power stations in the UK, all using lots of nice science to boil a big kettle and make a steam engine work (most of our nukes now heat carbon dioxide instead of water but the principle is the same). The bit that makes the kettle boil is “special fissile material”. If you handle it carefully it can make a lot of steam, which can drive a turbine, which drives a generator, making electricity that keeps the lights on. If you don’t handle the special fissile material carefully then things can get a little too hot and explode. It is kinda important that this stuff is managed properly.

One of the measures introduced by the Euratom community is that ownership of special fissile materials is vested in the community. It is all jointly owned by the Euratom community. Individual operators can buy the title to hold, and consume the material but they can’t own it. The Euratom community also concludes all the contracts relating to special fissile materials.

On Brexit day we will not be a member of the Euratom community, but there will be a fair bit of material in the UK. The proposal from the EU in the draft withdrawal agreement is that ownership will be transferred to whoever is holding it at the time.

This is problematic. All of our currently operating reactors and the one in construction are operated by EDF Energy – a subsidiary of Électricité de France which is majority owned by the French state. As you can see from article 79 of the withdrawal agreement part 3 kicks in. We are not taking back control of something very important here. Why are the brexiters not furious about this?

So, this is not very brexity, but we have to update our legislation to reflect this. It is being done by a statutory instrument using the Henry 8th powers The Special Fissile Materials (Right of Use and Consumption) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 this was proposed for the negative procedure. This means that the government was planning to stick it on that big desk in the middle of the commons for a couple of months, in case anyone wants to look at it, and then it becomes law with no discussion unless someone notices it and motions to reject it. There is an alternative way of doing statutory instruments called the affirmative procedure, which means MPs give it fractionally more scrutiny and have to actually vote on it in both houses. Because of this idiotic retained law concept there is now a committee that checks the stream of statutory instruments and “sifts” them, flipping the interesting ones over to the affirmative procedure.

They were considering the important plutonium and enriched uranium statutory instrument a few weeks ago, along with three other SIs. I wrote to the committee expressing my concerns and advice that the nukes one should get extra scrutiny:

This SI should be read alongside article 79 of the withdrawal agreement. That article is not yet in green and agreed (to my knowledge) so that in itself should be a red flag against waving through this SI.

Article 79 of the withdrawal agreement states that the ownership of the special fissile materials will change on exit day from being the property of the Euratom Community to being the property of the persons or undertakings that had unlimited right of use and consumption of those materials. This will gift ownership of the uranium and plutonium to the operators of our power stations including those operated by EDF Energy. This brings us to 79(3) which preserves the rights of the Euratom community for undertakings established in a member state (e.g. France). This means we gift ownership of the materials to EDF and hand control of them to Euratom.
It would seem that a better approach would be to transfer ownership from the Euratom Community to the Crown. The Crown as a concept is our universal placeholder for things that shouldn’t be subject to normal rules of ownership – we should treat special fissile materials like very hot swans.
Ownership of special fissile materials is of public concern, it shouldn’t be waved through without scrutiny, and if the plan is to gift the stuff to the French state operator that really doesn’t sound like something that should be done without parliamentary approval.

Within an hour I had a reply:

Thank you very much for your comments on this SI. We will draw these to the Committee’s attention.

Guess what happened next? Go on, guess!

This week we have recommended The Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market)(EU Exit) Regulations 2018 for further debate in the House. Full report will be published this Friday

so there we have it. I have also written to the corresponding Lords committee, and my MP, but I doubt it will make any difference. Nobody cares that we are not taking back control of our nuclear materials.

As concerned citizens we really should be watching the statutory instruments flying out and writing to the sifting committee and our MPs to make sure they do their jobs properly, there are a lot of important subjects being rewritten and many decisions are being taken in the effort to just rectify laws so they work. The depressing thing is that my experience so far is that it is utterly futile. The report from the committee explains some technicality about why the cat and dog thing is of political and legal importance, but I have no clue why giving away ownership and control of our special fissile materials is not important.

Spare parts for humans after Brexit

If you get broken in some way, your friendly local NHS human engineer will sometimes require some spare parts in order to bring you back to factory condition. The procedure might involve topping up your blood levels or perhaps swapping out an organ for a second hand one that is in better condition. I am, as you may have guessed by now, not an expert on the finer details of this topic. Spare parts for humans don’t keep well, very limited shelf life, so they have to be delivered fresh from the source. As the supply of second hand parts in good condition is fairly limited, it is best to have a wide area from which suitable parts can be sourced.

We have rules for the transport and use of spare human bits, this is an activity regulated by the Human Tissue Authority. It isn’t obvious that our current EEA catchment area for spare parts is going to work well for us after Brexit. Not least as it applies to ambulances crossing the land border with Ireland if they have blood on board.

I wrote to my MP about this, who was at the time the health secretary, so it happened to be his thing:

Monday 12 March 2018
Dear Jeremy Hunt,

You will note that the Human Tissue Authority currently has rules on the import and export of human organs and other tissue

https://www.hta.gov.uk/faqs/distribution-and-import-export-faqs

When do you plan to start the consultation on what our post-Brexit policy should be on import and export of human tissue, and when do you plan to bring forward legislative proposals to implement the new policy. I am sure you understand that our current policy is not one that a non member of the EEA can operate.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Bell

The first thing that happened after I sent that was that they took down the FAQ! Luckily the internet has a way of remembering things so you can still read it: https://web.archive.org/web/20170714163823/https://www.hta.gov.uk/faqs/distribution-and-import-export-faqs

There are a lot of rules that reference the EEA. Other members of the EEA will have the exact same set of rules as us, and you could go to 27 equivalents of our HTA and read their rules in a variety of languages. They will all be roughly the same. When Brexit happens, we will not be in the EEA. When Brexit happens the other EEA member states will not treat us as if we are in the EEA because we will not be. We will be a third country, and to us they will be a third country. This means that our policy would be very odd if it gave preference to EEA spare parts over spare parts from other regions, and the policy of the member states will not change. We are changing and that has consequences. Some time later I got a reply from the Department of Health:

Thank you for your email, which was sent to my Private Office at the Department of Health. I received the attached response from Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities.



So a bit of a non-answer and not addressing any of the specific issues that we will face when we are not an EEA member and our policy is intrinsically linked to our membership of the EEA.

Now that they are talking about stockpiling blood and tissue this is becoming an issue, as noticed by Faisal Islam (who urgently needs charging).