Even as Members of Parliament (MPs) voted against a no deal Brexit, the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) announced preparations for leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement in place.
Parliament voted by 312 votes to 308 to amend the Government’s motion from rejecting a no deal Brexit on 29 March, to rejecting no deal in perpetuity. Following the vote on the amendment, the main motion, as amended (that is that no deal has been rejected by Parliament in perpetuity) was passed by 321 votes to 278, though this vote is not legally binding.
Brexit is subject to Article 50, and therefore in law that the UK will leave on 29 March, it will require action from Government to either change the law, repeal Article 50 (thereby remaining in the EU) or to come up with a deal that will pass through Parliament.
For any of these scenarios to take place, Parliament will need more time to decide which direction it would prefer, and this is why there will be a further vote on 14 March that will likely see MPs vote to extend Article 50.
Philippe Lamberts, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and a member of the Brexit Steering Group said, “What we need from the British Parliament is actually a positive vote as to what kind of outcomes they want to see.”
Tomorrow’s vote on the extension of Article 50 is a positive vote to buy time, but “to buy time for what?” he asked.
Lamberts believes It is likely the EU would extend Article 50 by a month so Parliament can decide what it wants, perhaps a customs union or a second referendum or something else, and once there is a decision on what the UK wants, further discussions can take place with the EU.
“There is a growing consensus in Europe for a short extension, but there is no wish to offer an extension that will end in the middle of the European elections, in two months’ time,” said Lamberts.
However, the British Government is still preparing for the event of a no deal Brexit with the announcement of a new tariff regime in the event the nation leaves the EU without a deal.
At this time, as a member of the EU all members’ trade is tariff-free, with some taxes on goods from outside the EU. Some 80 percent of the goods, by value, that come into the UK from non-EU countries are tariff-free; after a no deal Brexit that will rise to 87 percent. The change will favor goods that arrive from outside the EU.
The British Government proposes tariffs of 10 percent on imported cars, but car parts will incur no tariff, while there will be a 12 percent tariff on crockery and many items of clothing. Tariffs will also be imposed on butter, cheese, chicken, beef and lamb.
Nick Von Westenholz of the National Farmers Union said that UK has set zero tariffs for imports such as cereal products, fruit and vegetables, and eggs. “At the same time, our farmers here producing the same products will face high tariffs on any goods they want to sell to the EU, so that’s just going to add real problems to those farmers, and many will struggle to continue to operate.”
Moreover, the UK Government will not introduce any new controls or checks on the Irish border. One observer said that would open the market for EU goods to enter the UK via Southern Ireland.
In addition, Allie Renison of the Institute of Directors said, “From Northern Ireland’s perspective, while scrapping tariffs for at least EU imports might keep prices where they are, not massively up or down, the problem is they’re at a competitive disadvantage. Northern Ireland becomes a potential dumping ground for people trying to get their products into the UK without having to go through the rest of Europe.”
British industry representatives have also criticized the new tariff policy. Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, said, “The biggest change this country has faced, in terms of trade, since the mid-nineteenth century is being imposed on this country with no consultation with business and no time to prepare. This is no way to run a country.”