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. 

UPDATE: Failure!

They passed it.

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… 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.
5 New Street Square, London, EC4A 3TW
30 September 2008
240 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8BF
8 October 2008
240 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8BF
8 October 2008
240 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8BF
8 October 2008
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009
The Sir John Peace Building Experian Way, Ng2 Business Park, Nottingham, NG80 1ZZ
3 November 2009
29 Greyhound Road, London, W6 8NH
23 August 2010
St Helen's, 1 Undershaft, London, EC3P 3DQ
4 October 2011
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012
Dept 1254 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HH
30 April 2012
78 York Street, London, W1H 1DP
1 May 2012
Wisteria House Clarendon Road, South Woodford, London, E18 2AW
10 September 2012
Flat 3 2 Cresswell Gardens, London, SW5 0BJ
13 May 2013
5th Floor One New Change, London, EC4M 9AF
7 February 2014
Wisteria House Clarendon Road, South Woodford, London, London, E18 2AW
1 April 2014
20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG
7 July 2014
Plantation Place, 30 Fenchurch Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3M 3AJ
28 July 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, England, N22 8HH
10 August 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, England, N22 8HH
10 August 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Wood Green, London, England, N22 8HH
10 August 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015
Dept 757 196 High Road, Woodgreen, London, United Kingdom, N22 8HH
24 August 2015
The Leadenhall Building 122 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3V 4AG
4 January 2016
33 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PW
5 April 2016
The Sherard Building, Edmund Halley Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4 4DQ
22 April 2016
Bury House Ground Floor, 31 Bury Street, London, London, EC3A 5AR
3 June 2016
5th Floor 6 St Andrew Street, London, EC4A 3AE
24 June 2016
20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG
2 September 2016
46 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AF
25 November 2016
Berkeley Square House Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BD
9 May 2017
Berkeley Square House Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BD
30 June 2017
Level 18 Portland House Bressenden Pl, Westminster, London, SW1E 5RS
15 August 2017
W.R. BERKLEY INSURANCE (EUROPE), SE, 2nd Floor 40 Lime Street, London, EC3M 7AW
18 October 2017
CAUDALIE INTERNATIONAL S.E., 1st Floor Eastcastle Street, London, Greater London, W1W 8DQ
4 April 2018
20 Fenchurch Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3M 3AW
18 July 2018
100 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3A 3BP
19 July 2018
100 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3A 3BP
19 July 2018
7th Floor 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, United Kingdom, EC3A 2BJ
20 July 2018
Suite 408 4th Floor Riverbank House 1 Putney Bridge Approach, London, United Kingdom, SW6 3JD
3 October 2018
50 Bank Street, London, United Kingdom, E14 5NT
8 October 2018
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

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:

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).

Notices to Stakeholders

The EU has been patiently spelling out the consequences of the choice made by the 52% for the UK to leave the EU. They have been doing this in a sector by sector way, with short readable documents pointing at the changes that must happen if we are no longer to be a member state. There are 68 such documents so far. I will maintain this list and add new ones to the top, it isn’t in any overall specific order.

They are all available on the EU website in the list of preparedness documentsand they crop up elsewhere on sector relevant pages, such as the one where it is pointed out that a bunch of things we export now will require an import license after Brexit.

As the EU website is a bit slow and opening many PDF files is a bit of a pain, I have done a super short summary for each, detailing who is screwed, and how badly I think they are screwed on a scale of 😃 😐 😟 or in some cases 💩. For some, like the one on trade marks we will be falling out of EU regulation but we don’t fall far because we land on various international protections. It is objectively worse, but we will get over it, it is fine 😃. For the one relating to medicines approval, people will die as a result, so that gets a 💩. Isn’t Brexit a laugh.

I have very probably misunderstood quite a few of these and made errors, let me know in the comments and I will correct them. I am just one regular guy, and a lot of these are well outside my comfort zone, but no professional journalists seem to have made an effort to examine them en mass so someone had to.

  • Maritime and Aviation Safety
    If you are on a connecting flight in the EU — perhaps going via Charles de Gaul or Schipol then you and your bags are going to be unloaded and re-scanned to EU standards. This appears to be rather pointless as we do security to a high standard and they point out several times that this can be fixed by the stroke of a commission pen: “This would no longer apply should the United Kingdom at one point be listed in attachment 3-B of the Annex to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/1998.” This appears to be something that will be resolved quite simply if we settle our financial commitments.
    On the Maritime security, scheduled ferries to France, Ireland and the Netherlands will no longer be exempt from declaring security information on entering ports, they have to do the same as an unscheduled cruise ship would do. The security information can only be done by an EU27 national, so that might be annoying. This gets a 😐 because nobody gets hurt, it is just annoying and stupid.
  • Industrial Safety
    This one is a bit confusing. It mentions Euratom a lot, so it is probably about Nuclear power stations. Suffice to say, if you are a UK company securing EU27 nukes, you might want to reconsider your life choices. This involves nukes, but only gets a 😦 because I have no idea if this ever happens.
  • Rules of Origin
    Fairly obvious consequence of Brexit, UK content in products no longer counts as EU content. EU 27 operators intending to take advantage of preferences are advised to:
    “treat any United Kingdom inputs as ‘non-originating’ when determining the EU preferential origin of their goods;”
    So, this means that EU27 exporters with UK components in their products might want to think carefully about whether they still meet the criteria for efficient exports. If we make parts for products that are close to the limit then the manufacturer might switch to an EU27 supplier. Could be a big deal and involve loss of business so lets give it a 😐 There are possible gains from UK supply chains switching to UK suppliers to meet whatever levels are required for preferences when we start doing FTAs.
  • Customs enforcement of intellectual property rights
    You can ask customs to seize and destroy stuff coming into the union that violates your copyrights. So if some cheap knockoff of your product is coming in from the far east you can get customs to deal with the fakes. After Brexit we won’t be able to stop knockoffs of our products getting into the EU quite so easily (not impossible) There are some hugely complicated sentences on page 2 around existing requests to customs. This doesn’t just apply to branded clothing, it can be everything including industrial products and car components. It isn’t great for UK businesses, however I don’t think anyone is in serious trouble 😃
  • Marketing authorisation holders of centrally authorised medicinal products for human and veterinary use
    To sell drugs in the EU (legitimate drugs that is) you need to have a marketing authorisation holder. That person has to be in the EU, and right now, many pharmaceutical companies in the UK have their marketing authorisation in the UK. Some activities like pharmacovigilance and batch release have to happen in the union. In this document the EU is suggesting the industry transfers things into the EU in time for Brexit. I would imagine that the companies concerned will have EU27 subsidiaries and it would be possible to get relevant staff to relocate so this gets a 😦. If I am wrong about that it means that medicines will be taken off the market while this is sorted, which might be a bit of a 💩 depending on what the particular medicine is for.
  • Trade Marks
    Anyone holding a trademark or working at a brand that sells into Europe may find enforcing the trademark against violations is harder. 😃
  • Medicinal products for human and veterinary use.
    Lets start by giving this one a 💩 because any problems with medicinal product authorisation is gonna be bad for someone. If you are marketing these products in the EU27 you need a marketing authorisation holder in the Union. Pharmaceutical companies can probably sort this out — they tend to be big enough, but it might be the case that if marketing moves to the EU27 access to new medicines in the UK might be disrupted.
  • Guarantees of origin of electricity from renewable energy sources
    UK certifications of installers of fancy technology like geothermal pumps and photovoltaics are going to be invalid in the EU 😦. Some of this is going to be quite annoying for the all-island electricity market in Ireland so it gets a 💩 for that aspect.
  • Electronic commerce and net neutrality
    yeah, this one is worse than it sounds. If you are providing information or ecommerce stuff, then you are subject to 27 sets of rules, dealing with each member state individually. 😦 Whether this would be practically enforced in any meaningful way is a little uncertain given the global nature of the internet.
  • Electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions
    This is to do with digital signatures and attestations. We should probably throw in a blockchain reference at this point to be on the safe side. If you are a trust service provider then you might want to think about moving. I don’t think this is a massive problem in practice 😃
  • Geo-blocking
    Ecommerce websites can screw you around based on your geographical location. You are no longer protected from it, but I have no idea why they would do that, so this gets a 😃
  • Audiovisual media services
    For broadcasters and content owners this is important, it relates to the country of origin and jurisdiction of the broadcast, and whether member states have to give the freedom to transmit. Some broadcasters may relocate or concentrate only on the domestic UK market 😐
  • Civil justice and private international law
    Enforcing court orders made in the UK will be hard in the EU and vice versa, including family court orders. This is going to screw over any divorced “citizens of nowhere” with court orders around child custody and maintenance payment issues. This gets a 😦 because real families are going to suffer.
  • Copyright
    This covers a range of copyright issues, probably sucks to be blind and dependent on Braille or spoken works for accessibility as there are copyright provisions to enable that. Also covers collective rights management, broadcasting and sui generis database access 😐
  • Industrial products
    For a heap of slightly special products (radio/cosmetics/pyrotechnics etc. etc.) you have to have an authorised representative, who must be based in the Union. Some products need to be certified by a notified body, which again must be in the EU27. This means quite a few companies are going to have a much harder time exporting and may need to relocate key staff into the EU27 😦
  • Information and consultation of workers at transnational level
    Something frightfully dull about trade unions. Corbyn would probably not like this, sounds like it is bad for workers rights. 😦
  • Electronic communications
    This relates to radio spectrum allocation and mobile roaming. Lots going on here, and it will cause some big media companies to leave. 😦 That roam like you are at home thing is probably gone — phone companies can charge what they like for roaming from third countries.
  • Security of network and information systems
    If you are a digital service provider offering services into the union then you need a designated representative. This probably affects big content and streaming companies more than random small websites. 😐
  • .eu domain names
    Sucks to be because that domain name and all other .eu domains can only be held by people with an EU27 presence. If you stop meeting that condition the domain can be taken away. Just like that. 😐 Chances are they won’t bother proactively taking away domains already held unless someone else challenges the claim to the domain. Hmm, I might need to work on a plan to take away the domain just for the giggles.
  • Euratom
    OK, straight to 💩 for this one, we are out of the common supply policy of fissile materials. Licensing of movements of hot radioactive waste gets a lot harder when it is a third country import or export. Not insurmountable problems if we remain a reputable country. “Failed state with nukes” isn’t a good look, so lets try and avoid that. 💩 As for the stuff in the newspapers about Euratom and cancer treatments, that is largely bullshit. The hot and fizzy stuff that we need to get fresh is tc-99m which is for diagnosis, not treatment.
  • EU Ship Recycling Regulation
    Ship recycling facilities in the UK are not going to be recycling any EU27 ships unless the commission list them as 3rd country facilities. I guess this is fairly big money 😐
  • customs and indirect taxation
    This one is super important, it points out that the Authorised Economic Operators of the UK will no longer be AEOs and customs will need to enforce the union customs code at the border with the UK. VAT will also have to change, so no more EC Sales List etc. we won’t be in the EU VAT territory so all companies are going to have to take this into account. This is huge so gets a 💩even though nobody dies directly from this.
  • Aviation safety rules
    This covers problems we will have with certifications of planes, pilots, cabin crew, maintenance and so on. If the certification isn’t right, the insurance isn’t right and the flight will not happen. This is a real possibility and gets a 💩 because it is going to be a right bugger to fix, especially if we are having a strop about paying the divorce bill.
  • EU Ecolabel
    UK manufacturers and international manufacturers currently getting EU Ecolabels on appliances from the UK competent body are going to have to transfer to an EU27 issuer. 😃
  • EU waste law
    There are quite tight regulations on import and export of waste from the union, this is to stop dumping it on countries with poor environmental standards and to stop importing too much waste because, well, it is waste. This is going to be a pain if you are in that industry. I would imagine there are no bin collections that cross the Ireland border, that kind of thing doesn’t cross county boundaries so I doubt it crosses the border in Ireland. Probably not a huge problem in the main 😃
  • Asset Management
    If you have a pension, it is probably in the hands of asset managers, who may find they can’t manage or market funds in the EU. This might be a bigger problem for EU27 people with assets under management but I am not sure. Big money, and it might delay people getting pension payments if it goes very wrong, so it gets a 😦.
  • Air transport
    Airlines are going to be a bit screwed. Passengers and don’t forget cargo. There is a very real chance that for a period of time there will be no legal basis for planes to be in the air, which means they will not be insured which means the wheels will be firmly planted on the tarmac. When they do start up again cabotage flights are off the menu. That is important for the Irish airlines Aer Lingus and Ryanair to be able to fly from Belfast to London and Manchester because that is an internal flight in a foreign country — even if some people don’t like to be reminded of that. Because air travel is how we fix things in a hurry and everything else will be broken at the same time, this gets a 💩.
  • Banking and payment services
    Banks and payment processors with subsidiaries in the EU27 are going to have some extra hoops to jump through as they will be branches of a third country establishment. 😐
  • Breeding of animals
    If you are into thoroughbred animals, including horses, then you might well be interested in this. There is big money in stud work and pedigree animals listed in breeding books. 😐
  • Credit rating agencies
    This is about using credit ratings for regulatory purposes, such as things sovereigns are allowed to invest in I think. This might mean that some ratings agency activities leave the UK (Standard and Poor’s has a London office) and/or it might mean that institutional investors move money about because of ratings changes. 😐
  • Data protection
    This references the GDPR but probably needs a post-GDPR update. There could well be an “adequacy decision” — especially if we don’t do anything unthinkably stupid like listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s advice and welch on the financial commitments. Failing that some activities that require data protection could continue on the basis of derrogations if the data controller has adequate safeguards. 😃
  • The exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters
    If you are the next Del Boy, exporting Peckam Spring water you might want to focus on the domestic market because you are not going to be exporting. UK springwater brands like Malvern water are not going to be exporting. I figured it might affect Northern Ireland, but when looking for an impacted brand I found this delightfully familiar story about Mourne water. 😦
  • Import/export licences for certain goods
    Well this gets a 💩because we step outside union law that stops us sending barbiturates to the USA if they might be used for the death penalty. Chances are the UK still won’t send Trump any lethal injections. It covers a heap of more interesting products that will need import/export licensing to cross the channel when it becomes an external border of the Union.
  • Inland waterways
    We are not going to be working on the rivers or lakes of the EU. Not entirely clear why we would be doing a lot of that. Maybe an issue for the waterways that make up a lot of the border with Ireland. 😐
  • Insurance / reinsurance
    This is important for companies that provide insurance and people who have insurance. That might be for cars, planes, buildings, ships etc. If your insurance isn’t valid on a ship or plane that is a rather serious matter, so this gets a 💩 for the money and for the consequences of invalid insurance.
  • Maritime transport
    If you are in shipping this affects you. There is a bit on safety of fishing vessels, and how they are going to be a bit more controlled by member sates when fishing in their waters under a UK flag. Something to do with the Torremolinos Protocol whatever that is. 😐 This one also mentions cabotage, which is a word we need to use more.
  • Marketing of seeds and other plant reproductive propagating material
    If you export seeds to the EU27, now would be a good time to find a new job 😐.
  • Markets in financial instruments
    This covers what happens if we don’t get a MIFID II equivalence decision. It involves lots of money in financial services, and is rather important for London, it describes how the current passport system for marketing financial services is not going to apply to us. Bit of a 💩 really.
  • Post-trade financial services
    This is something to do with derivatives and clearing. It involves massiveamounts of money and gets a 💩 because London is going to struggle with this rather a lot as the EU27 financiers leave London and take the business with them.
  • Public procurement
    This is about the public sector putting things out to tender, many UK companies bid for public sector contracts across the EU27, but now we fall into the less advantageous rules as a third country tenderer. We could now be excluded from contracts where 50% of the deal isn’t from the EU27 or if it requires security clearance that won’t be recognised. On the flip side (kind of) we can make it harder for EU27 companies to bid on UK tenders but that means we may not be spending taxpayer money on the best value supplier.😐
  • Rail transport
    This most obviously affects Eurotunnel and Eurostar, for certification of rolling stock and drivers. 😐
  • Road transport
    Car drivers may require an international driving permit to assert that their UK licence is a valid 3rd country licence. This costs about £5.50 and probably will be required for most member states unless they change their own laws which will currently recognise licences of EEA member states without an IDP just like our laws do 😐.
    Commercial drivers are considerably more screwed, that is passenger vehicles and goods vehicles. To be a union operator you will need a transport manager in the EU27, otherwise you are a third country operator. That means you can’t do cabotage runs (not gonna explain that, look it up and use the word cabotage much much more) and if you do a lot of commercial transport in the EU27 you are going to have to seriously consider moving there. 😦
  • Statutory audit
    If you are a UK auditor then you are not going to be auditing in the EU27, this will affect the big accountancy firms I think. If they send an audit team to cover a multinational then they might well not send a UK based team in any more. Sucks to be them, but great news if you are an EU27 based auditor. 😦
  • Substances of human origin (blood, tissues and cells, and organs)
    I wrote to my MP about this one (article on that to follow), the trade in spare parts for humans is in quite a lot of bother. This is going to cause deaths so it gets a 💩 . The land border in Ireland is a very serious place where this will cause problems. Ambulances crossing the border with blood on board are going to be a problem and if you need a replacement second hand human component you might find it can’t be sourced from quite such a wide area.
  • The Community Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)
    This is about certifying things to environmental standards, probably similar to ISO14001. If you are an EMAS auditor then you are not going to be one after Brexit. This probably also means if you are a company with a certification then you won’t have it any more. If you are in a supply chain that requires you to have this certification to be an approved supplier then you are gonna have a bad 2019. 😦
  • The European Citizens’ Initiative
    Yeah, OK, this is the kind of thing the leavers hate about the EU the most. Direct democracy in the European context doesn’t play into the narrative of the “undemocratic EU” especially when it is the kind of democratic input where foreign people can join in too. Clearly we are out of all that, but it won’t do us much harm. 😃
  • type-approval of certain vehicles and engines
    As far as I can make out this is about non-road mobile machinery, so that could be things like cherry pickers, construction machinery, chainsaw engines that kind of thing. As with all the other type approval problems, if you make this stuff you need an authorised representative in the EU27 if you want to sell there. 😐
  • type-approval of motor vehicles
    UK approvals of motor vehicles (not just cars) are not going to be valid, they will need type approval in a member state and will need a marketing representative in the EU27. This is going to affect big companies and disproportionately hurt small ones like Morgan or JCB. This is on top of stepping outside the 10% CET levy on cars, so some might not bother to export any more and will just downsize. 😦
  • Union plant variety rights
    I think this means that breeders of plants who are quite possessive about the intellectual property of the species they create though careful cross-pollination are going to have some issues. 😃
  • Animal feed
    People selling animal feed or additives are going to need a representative in the EU27 as an authorisation holder. This probably isn’t going to stop animals being fed, so it gets a 😃
  • animal health and welfare and public health related to the movement of live animals
    We step outside of a bunch of regulations on live animal transport. In fact, lets give up on it altogether. Not gonna happen. There is a pointer to a procedure for using the UK as a land bridge between Ireland and the rest of the EU27, but basically animal exports are over. 😐
  • Authorisations and certificates for live animal transport
    If you drive live animals around then you need an EU27 certificate. This applies to lorry loads of animals as well as the Ireland situation of a couple of pigs going to market in a horsebox being towed by a muddy Landcruiser. 😦
  • Biocidal Products
    If you are in the weedkiller business you probably need to be worried about this. Think we can be cautiously optimistic in general. 😃
  • Certificates of competence slaughterhouse operators
    UK citizens working in EU27 slaughterhouses are going to need to recertify. I am sure this will be fine, if in fact there are any. More interestingly a lot of UK abattoirs are staffed by EU27 vets. Dunno how that is going to play out. 😃
  • Company law
    All companies doing business in the EU are a bit screwed, the member states won’t recognise the limited liability protection of companies (that “ltd” bit after the company name is important) so shareholders may be held personally liable for company debts. This may mean that institutional shareholders get the hell out of UK companies 😟 branches of UK companies fall into different rules as the HQ would be in a third country, probably no big deal 😃. Some stuff around mergers changes, that might be important to big city financier types 😐.
  • Consumer protection and passenger rights
    We are going to have fewer legal avenues for enforcing rights as consumers, less automatic rights to compensation 😃
  • Fisheries and aquaculture
    Access to Union waters and ports needs specific authorisation, along with exports. We do currently do quite a bit of fishing outside our own waters and we export most of what we catch. Our fishing industry is going to be quite badly screwed over by the problems of a Brexit they enthusiastically created, so they get a frowny face and a very small violin. 😦 🎻
  • Food Law
    Exporters of food need to read this, they will be exports from a third country so the labeling requirements change among other things. This is perhaps a little academic as we won’t be exporting any food of animal origin without a competent authority and list of authorised establishments. As this contributes to the food shortages this gets a 💩.
  • Genetically Modified Food and Feed and the deliberate release of Genetically Modified Organisms into the environment
    Not a big deal at the moment, bit of a shame if you are into GMO research, but it isn’t entirely clear whether the UK will get more or less receptive to GMO experiments after Brexit. Lets give this an optimistic 😃
  • Plant Health
    This is about phytosanitary border controls which we will be stepping outside of. This could be a significant border issue. 😦
    At the moment any pallet will do for moving goods around, after Brexit everything will need to be on export grade pallets, with an ISPM15 stamp showing it has been heat treated for woodworm and other beasties. This is a little leaf/feather thing you will see on pallets if you keep your eyes open. This is going to be quite a big pain and the less we comply the more inspections will happen at the borders.
  • Plant Protection Products
    UK companies selling pesticides into the EU have to jump through a bunch of hoops around testing residue levels, and they can’t be done in a third country. We don’t know if the UK will recognise union certification of pesticides this is probably going to be sorted out by everyone filling more forms and spending more money, however if there is a politically caused pesticide shortage that could impact farming yields and lead to famine level food shortages. This one gets a 💩 just because there is potential for widescale deaths if the politicians are spectacularly incompetent.
  • The minimum level of training of seafarers and the mutual recognition of seafarers’ certificates
    Sailors and other seafarers with a UK qualification won’t be working on EU27 flagged vessels and vice versa — not a huge problem, just recertify with an oral exam in an EU member state and pay a few hundred Euro for the certificate 😐 (£378 for one of the UK certificates I found, but it varies from deckhand to master or engineer etc.)
  • Trade in protected species of wild fauna and flora
    Import and export of protected species is going to be harder as a third country. No great surprise there. Bad if you are into that kind of thing, but I can’t imagine it is hugely significant in the big picture. 😃
  • medicinal products for human and veterinary use within the framework of the Centralised Procedure
    Quite long! bit of a Q and A for the pharmaceutical industry. The industry will be much more dependent on contacts in the EU27 to market the products. Maybe some highly qualified people will have to leave the country to enable those companies to keep production in the UK 😦.
  • Illegal logging and associated trade
    This seems to impose border controls on timber imports and exports to ensure it was legally logged. That could get annoying if it includes manufactured goods like wooden furniture. 😐
  • Supplementary protection certificates for medicinal products and plant protection products
    Something to do with patents expiring or being renewed. Probably means more paperwork for someone, but patents can be evil so I will give it a 😃
  • Internal energy market
    This is to do with some important stuff that keeps the lights on 💩 it covers the regulatory framework that governs the electricity interconnects (which were not around in 1973) and the gas pipelines and also something about prospecting for oil and gas.
  • Occupational retirement provision
    Pension funds paying out to EU27 citizens may have to transfer to an EU27 fund, this could move a fairly substantial amount of capital out of the UK. Some people may have issues getting their pension payments for a bit. 💩

A less stupid way to do Brexit — the Reverse 49

The people voted for Brexit. Slow handclap, you idiots. Now, because democracy, we have to do the stupid thing. You used a powerful tool without appropriate thought for the consequences to yourselves and other people. I do still have a tiny little bit of sympathy for those who expected our government to approach the problem competently. It didn’t need to be going quite this badly.

We are currently negotiating with the objective of being a full third country on 30th March 2019. There may be a cliff edge delay period after that (to the end of 2020) if we agree some stuff that really doesn’t matter because we are not going to agree it. This is stupid and people are going to die. Maybe quite a lot of people. We know we supported a population of 56 million on the trade arrangements of 1973, and I expect we could still support that level of population. There are now 65 million of us and we voted away our freedom to leave. There are ways of doing Brexit which do not have a high body count. One would be to relax some red lines and apply to join EFTA and stay in the EEA. This is the first stages of the Flexcit plan (yes, some leavers had a plan, but inevitably the more thoughtful People’s Front of Judea was shunned by the well funded criminals of the Judean People’s Front and the plan never got popular attention.) The latter stages of the Flexcit plan go a bit weird, but the first moves are pretty sound, go read it.

I would now like to have some attention and thought put to another way to do a low body count Brexit. The Reverse 49.

Accession to the European Union involves a candidate country aligning their legal system and reforming internal processes so they are compatible with the rules of the EU. The legal basis for joining the EU like this is Article 49 (yup, right next door to the Article 50 which you already know about). This is a process that is done over a number of years, and it is divided up into 35 chapters of the Aquis(the collection of EU laws). You can read about the 35 chapters here and the general accession process here. In principle it is a one way process, you start at the beginning and at the end you join the EU. Turkey is going through this process and got a bit stuck halfway. They are going to need to back out (or have a stern word with themselves, but for this conversation backing out is more interesting).

There is no massive or unchangeable reason why this accession process has to always run forwards. Time reverse it and you can unscramble the egg. The UK on March 30th 2019 could be considered to be an accession state to the EU with all 35 chapters closed and done. Fully aligned (except for the Euro and Shengen bits perhaps). We could then re-open the chapters one by one, and implement domestic legislation to serve our purposes in each of the 35 topic areas. This means we don’t have the utterly stupid “retained EU law” concept that won’t work at all and will mean we have a broken statute book for however long it lasts. We have proper domestic legislation passed through parliament covering the needs we would have as a distinct country. It means we break things one by one, and when something breaks (like cabotage flights or whatever) everything else keeps working so we can deal with the crisis and move on. We are simply not going to be able to cope with everything breaking on the same day, including the tools we would normally use to fix stuff.

Doing a Reverse 49 means:

  • We implement the democratic mandate of the idiots who asked for it. (We won’t be a member state of the EU on 30th March 2019)
  • We get rid of deadly deadlines and have a sound legal framework to keep on talking and to unpick things one by one (cherry unpicking perhaps).
  • We can start with some relatively harmless chapters, leaving the land borders unchanged until someone gives the 52% a slap and asks them to articulate what exactly they thought would happen when they voted to diverge from Ireland. By the way, if you have not read it yet, do read the Good Friday Agreement now and you can be happy in the knowledge that you are more clued up on how the UK works than our immigration minister is.
  • We are in a process in which we can decide to turn around and move forward and rejoin the EU if it turns out that on reflection leaving was an utterly stupid idea.
  • We are in a process in which we can continue to diverge smoothly to the sunlit buccaneering uplands if at any stage they should come into view.
  • We can stop arguing now about everything in the negotiations, we stay in the EU budget and back out slowly, decommitting the EU27 from UK expenditure as we go and reducing our budget contributions commensurately, just like an accession state coming in.
  • We could get a sequence of more granular choices, allowing democratic input from parliament at each stage and a public debate on how we want to manage matters differently. We can debate our new phytosanitary measures and the Brexiters can tell us exactly what diseased goods they were desperate to let in that the EU wouldn’t let us.
  • We could fix our own democracy as we go. I don’t recall many Brexiters campaigning to free Erskin May or get rid of the Spiritual Lords and disestablish the church (why do we have a theocracy?) but apparently Brexiters are super charged up about our domestic parliament having sovereign powers (which it had all along). Lets fix it so we can exercise those powers properly. At the moment there is no time to do any reforming because we are doing Brexit instead.
  • We could even decide whether to do the Harrogate Agenda bit of Flexcit (hell no, in my opinion, but this is a democracy, we can talk about it)
  • We end up with a working domestic statute book with no retained EU law. It is hard to find enough swearwords to describe just how inappropriate and non-functional EU regulations are going to be when enacted as domestic law alongside existing primary and secondary legislation. (if you don’t believe me read any EU regulation at random and think what would happen if that text was domestic law and we were not a member state)

If you think a Reverse 49 is impossible, let me know why in the comments. If you think it is a less dreadful idea than the Brexit path we are on, then maybe tell your MP or tweet about #Reverse49 or add your thoughts on how the plan could work. Maybe write about it as if it was your idea and pitch it with a different attitude, that is fine by me.

If you just want to stop Brexit and are angry that I am a defeatist quitter, then smashing, go and march on 23rd June. Totally support that, I will probably be there. Unless the government proposes separate legislation to support a referendum on a meaningful question, you have to face the reality that the vote isn’t going to happen (we have already run out of time for the supporting legislation, we don’t even have to speculate on what the result might be). The ERG Tories will block any efforts to ask the people again and they will just let the clock run out because they are sociopathic monsters. They can do that, and they will. The Reverse 49 approach does not rely on lots of our MPs suddenly growing a conscience and wanting to protect us from the consequences of a bad choice, it just gets them out of the hole they have dug for themselves. I believe this approach offers benefits for our MPs, nation state sovereignty fetishists, people who like to have enough food to eat, the other EU member states, people who like having a job, and those who just want to get on with life with less political junk on the news.

If you are now crying tears of rage that a remoaning traitor saboteur is trying to steal your Brexit from you that you won for your very self, then you might reflect on the fact that your Brexit will not stick if you allow it to happen in the most stupid way possible. You will get to suffer the consequences of your actions briefly, and then we will do an article 49 accession, and we will join the Euro, and we will push for ever closer union, and we will have freedom of movement, and we will do everything that we can to ensure that everything you hate the most happens. A gradual Brexit is the only type that can stick. Finally, before I forget: You are a dick.

I commend this proposal to the Internet.

We really are leaving the EEA

To leave the EEA (roughly the same thing as the single or internal market, encompassing EFTA and the EU) one normally has to give notice, a process that is defined in article 127 of the EEA agreement. The UK has not done this. I was curious whether this would mean we stay in the EEA, but I was struggling to get a straight answer to the question, so I tried a less straight question, addressed to the Europe Direct service.

The UK has notified the EU of an intention to leave the EU and EEA by following article 50 TEU.
 The UK asserts that this is valid notice to leave the EEA treaty, so that letter should be taken as valid notice under article 127 EEA. Article 127 EEA places the following obligation on EEA contracting parties
 “Immediately after the notification of the intended withdrawal, the other Contracting Parties shall convene a diplomatic conference in order to envisage the necessary modifications to bring to the Agreement.”
 Such a conference has not been convened and there are now less than 12 months remaining to the notice given. Either the contracting parties are in breach of article 127 EEA or valid notice under article 127 EEA has not been given.
 Please could you clarify whether this conference is going to be called bringing the contracting parties into line with their obligation, or whether the UK will remain in the EEA after 29th March 2019.

So, instead of directly asking what is going to happen, I claimed that the other member states were not meeting their obligation to convene a conference, in the hope that phrasing it this way would force an answer to be given. I was in essence agreeing with the UK government position. Today I got this answer:

Dear Mr Bell,
 Please accept our apologies for the delayed response. Your enquiry has been dealt in consultation with Article 50 Task Force (TF50).
 We acknowledge receipt of your enquiry addressed to the European Commission regarding Article 127 EEA. You wish to know in particular whether the conference to which Article 127 EEA refers is going to be convened.
 Article 127 EEA provides that each “Contracting Party” may withdraw from the EEA Agreement provided it gives at least twelve months’ notice in writing to the other Contracting Parties.
 The term “Contracting Parties” is defined in Article 2(c) EEA as follows: “concerning the Community and the EC Member States, the Community and the EC Member States, or the Community, or the EC Member States.” The wording of this provision shows that EU Member States become members of the EEA solely by reason of their EU membership. A further confirmation of the interdependency between EU membership and EEA membership is provided by Article 128 EEA, by virtue of which any new EU Member State is obliged to become a party of the EEA Agreement. EU Membership and EEA membership go hand in hand.
 Article 126 EEA provides that the EEA Agreement “shall apply to the territories to which the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community is applied and under the conditions laid down in that Treaty”. Consequently, when a Member State withdraws from the Union, the EEA Agreement ceases automatically to apply to that Member State whose territory is no longer part of the “territories to which the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community is applied.” 
 Following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, the UK territory will no longer be part of the “territories to which the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community is applied”, and the EEA Agreement will consequently cease automatically to apply to the United Kingdom. Therefore serving a withdrawal notice or convening a diplomatic conference under Article 127 EEA do not appear to be necessary.
 We hope you find this information useful. Please contact us again if you have other questions about the European Union, its activities or institutions.

So, the EU agrees with the UK government, that separate notice to leave the EEA is not required, and that as we are not leaving through the door, but chucking ourselves out through the window, a diplomatic conference does not appear to be necessary. This means that as of our departure from the EU, we will not be in the single market and able to trade on those advantageous terms. This probably doesn’t come as news to anyone, but it does lock down some assumptions that people thought they knew were true.

The Softest USA-Canada Border Crossing

There has been some talk of the USA Canada border crossing being a useful model for the future arrangements for the land border on the island of Ireland. It isn’t really. You can go and look on Google maps and streetview at the various crossings, all but one have border posts on both sides with a fence and gate, most look like a toll plaza, but even the ones in the middle of nowhere have a control point on the border. All but one.

An open border?

There is a little chunk of America that you can only get to by boat, or from Canada. That is the Northwest Angle. There is some border infrastructure, notably a sign saying


You are entering the Northwest Angle, Minnesota

You must report to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol via the videophone at Jim’s Corner (7 miles ahead)

You must report to Canada Border Services via the videophone before returning to Canada

RABC Permit holders with no goods to declare are exempt from this requirement

Onwards we must go to Jim’s corner, where we find a shed, with a videophone with two buttons on it, one for Canada, one for the United States, presumably they put you through to a very bored person eating Hickory Sticks/Donuts at one of the staffed crossings in the middle of nowhere.

You are at Jim’s Corner!

I have to admit that there isn’t a particularly deep and meaningful message in this article, I just thought it was a curious little story to tell, and I guess it shows that the most insignificant USA/Canada crossing still has a level of border control that is considerably more intrusive than that found at any of our current land borders with the EU

Another Brexit dividend, the return of the Apple Snail?

I have recently become aware of a new reason for doing Brexit. If you are a keen aquarist in the UK you might in the past have kept a few Apple Snails, to keep the glass clean. They munch up all the algae and reduce the maintenance work. They are no longer sold in the UK and this is because of the EU. Yes, those meddling eurocrats in Brussels have banned snails! After Brexit we can have our clean aquaria back again if we want, as Merlin777 put it:

“I’m looking for something that will help keep the algae down and add some interest — either colourful, stripey, active etc. I used to have golden apple snails which were ideal because they were colourful and entertaining with their antics but I understand they are being phased out thanks to those silly EU people. (Maybe we’ll get them unbanned after brexit?).”

It turns out that this really is a thing, it is true, and we could indeed decide to have cleaner tanks after Brexit, but lets dig into this issue a little deeper and find out how silly those EU people really are.

The EU have issued a decision banning imports of apple snails. This will on the face of it become retained EU law after Brexit, and we can then repeal it if we want to. The reason apple snails are banned is because they can be a particularly devastating invasive species if released into the wild. They eat macrophytes which has knock on effects that are not good. We can however relax, they would just die in our cold British water, their lifecycle requires a fairly narrow band of temperatures for the eggs and adults to thrive. The EU commissioned a study (probably with some Horizon 2020 funding) based on 25km grid squares across Europe to see where the areas with a microclimate that might support these snails are located.

See, we are fine! The map shows exactly where these slimy little bastards can survive, and it is nowhere near the UK. The UK has no reason whatsoever to fear the shell suited migrant molluscs with an EU ASBO. This is a clear example of an EU law that we have to comply with in the UK, just for the benefit of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey.

The free circulation of goods in the internal market is why we can’t have nice things, like clean newt tanks. There is no way that the EU could ban snail egg contaminated products from just the specific risk areas. In Brexit UK we totally could make our own apple snail rule, allowing for sparkly clean tanks, and we could relax inspections on imported products from places with Apple snails, but if we did that we can’t also have an open border with the EU — they can’t let our slack snail attitude risk introduction of an invasive species around the Mediterranean. There would have to be phytosanitary inspections on all plant imports to the EU from the UK to check risky plants for eggs of the dastardly snails.

So, it is rational to decide that there is potential of a clear Brexit dividend to the aquaria of the UK, but this has to be weighed up against the costs associated with the same change. If our environment secretary Michael Gove decides that the future is cold blooded and slithery he could well decide that a bespoke policy for the UK doesn’t need to follow this EU rule. That wouldn’t be the EU erecting a barrier between us and them — it just means we step to the other side of the barrier that is already there.

You might also note that this issue has got nothing to do with tariffs, or being in a customs union or the customs union. It is an issue of regulatory alignment, as our laws diverge we take a step outside of the barriers to trade that we helped to construct. If Northern Ireland is to have no hard border with Ireland we need to have alignment — and a mechanism for maintaining alignment as changes occur. Any future plans you might hear over the next few weeks in the series of speeches that doesn’t sound like it preserves the snail ban is a non-starter.

Apple Snails are freshwater, so Gary probably isn’t one.