What will your role be in the process?
I have been an MEP for more than a decade and knowing how Brussels operates will be crucial to our success in these discussions. As the leader of the ECR Group (the third largest of eight in the European Parliament) and the most senior elected British politician in Brussels, I will be working with both MEPs in the European Parliament and with the UK government during the Brexit negotiations to get the best possible deal for both. I have been described by the influential Politico newspaper as “the institution’s main bridge to the British government.”
What is Article 50 and when will it be invoked?
Theresa May has been clear that she will notify the EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw by the end of March 2017. The moment this happens a two-year negotiating process begins which will end with the UK no longer being a member of the EU. There will also need to be negotiations to agree a new EU$$-UK trade deal. If an agreement is not reached within the 2 years, then the period can be extended providing the UK and all 27 remaining EU member states agree to do so. If this is not agreed, the UK will leave the EU and World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules will govern our trading relationship. Negotiations will also cover non-trade issues such as cooperation in the area of security, intelligence and possibly defence.
Will the economy collapse?
Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK to forge a new future on the world stage. We will no longer be held back by what many British businesses – whether or not they trade with businesses in EU countries – see as “EU red tape”. While companies trading with companies in EU countries will still need to meet EU rules, the UK government will be able to develop our own regulatory framework, if we choose to do so, allowing us to develop rules which suit the British people and British business. We will no longer be able to blame the EU for any rules which prevent entrepreneurs from doing business.
There will be some transition time. The Prime Minister has said that there may be some “bumps in the road”, but we will minimise the impact of this by at first, copying EU law into British law so that nothing will change suddenly. The UK, the Treasury, and the banks have already shown themselves to be robust, and ready to rise to the challenge of Brexit. The UK pound is a respected international currency. We now need to spend the next two years preparing businesses across the UK to take advantage of new opportunities across the globe or maintaining existing relationships when we leave. If we embrace the opportunities of Brexit, there will be more jobs and a stronger economy to look forward to in the future for us and our children.
Will prices go up?
We have to remember that trade takes places between businesses and consumers not between governments. Consumers are only prepared to pay so much and so it is in everyone’s interests to keep trade going, products moving, consumers buying and businesses selling. In a world of floating exchange rates, some businesses are very keen to put prices up when they have to pay more for imports but are reluctant to cut prices when the costs drop. Sadly, some businesses have used Brexit as an excuse to raise prices of products even though they are made in the UK.
Will infrastructure projects all be scrapped if we leave the EU?
There will be no immediate changes to funding from the EU because we are still a member and still contribute to the EU budget. We should also remember that the UK contributes far more to the EU than we received for projects which the EU advertises as having funded.In future, the UK government and the British people will decide where our taxpayers’ money is best spent on the most important projects in the interests of the British people.
Will we be an isolated island nation who no one wants to trade with?
Britain already trades globally, not just with the EU, and we will continue to do so. Unfortunately, membership of the EU means that the UK has been unable to sign its own trade deals and finds EU trade deals often held up by the more protectionist EU countries. By withdrawing from the EU we will gain new opportunities to strike trade deals of our own with both the EU and countries around the world, deals which are in the best interests of British business and British consumers.
Will we still be important on the world stage diplomatically?
Yes. Britain will retain one of the most effective armed forces in the world and has a diplomatic service which has tremendous experience developed over many many centuries. We have always been an important member of NATO. Britain will continue to be a key player on the world stage and, as an independent sovereign nation, we will be free to decide what position we take on world affairs in the best interests of the British people.
Is the EU about to collapse now we have left?
There is genuine concern about the future direction of the EU across Europe. Understandably different member states have different demands from their electorates and in future it will be down to the EU and individual member states to decide how best to deal with those. The ECR group, of which I am Chairman, is committed to bringing reform to the EU institutions in order to make them more democratic and accountable and to make the EU a place which does less and does it better. All the members of my group are concerned about the direction the EU is heading. This discontent will only grow if nothing is done and while the UK will leave the EU, the members of the ECR group will continue to fight for reform for many years to come and will have my full support in that endeavour. It’s in the interests of not just the UK but of citizens in other EU countries to see a reformed and more effective EU.
Will I still be allowed to go on holiday to the EU? Will there be extra taxes on my flights and travel?
Attracting tourists is key to a number of Member States in the EU and their economies, and therefore, it is unlikely that they will want to impose unnecessary restrictions which impose unnecessary disruption or costs. UK citizens will still be able to take holidays in EU countries just as they are able to take holidays in many non-EU countries.
Who is going to negotiate this deal for me? When are they going to start?
The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is David Davis MP and he leads the Department for Exiting the European Union, but the entire government is involved in the process. The Prime Minister has stated that Article 50 will be invoked before the end of March of 2017 but there have clearly been some informal discussions. Until article 50 is triggered, the Prime Minister and the Government, along with the EU institutions, will be spending the time preparing themselves for negotiations, and doing the detailed work necessary to engage in such a complex negotiation.
It seems like nothing is happening, what is going on?
There is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes to prepare the UK for leaving the EU. The Prime Minister Theresa May, has made it clear that she will not be giving a running commentary on the negotiations, so a lack of information certainly doesn’t mean a lack of activity. The Prime Minister will be putting in the necessary preparation in order to fully represent the UK’s interests and get the best possible deal for Britain and the British people.
The EU is going to punish us for leaving isn’t it?
There is always a lot posturing before any negotiation whether it is in politics or business. The reality is that, whatever the words, all sides in this process need a good deal which works for everyone. But it is in the best interests of all Members States to have a deal which works for their economy and their citizens. Having a deal which allows the EU and UK to work together as friendly neighbours and international partners should be the end goal.
Will I still be able to sell my goods in the EU?
Yes, you will still be able to sell your products in the EU but the rules which apply to trade may change, depending on the final EU-UK deal. Trade and commerce are essential to everyone both in EU countries and in the UK and so a good deal for all sides will be essential.
Will my Polish friend be told to go home OR if I employ EU nationals, will I have to sack them all?
Britain has benefited from immigration where people have come to this country to work hard, pay their taxes and contribute. When I speak to immigrants in other EU countries, they tell me that they wish other EU countries were as tolerant as the UK towards immigrants. We have welcomed people from across the globe for centuries and nothing is about to change.
The British Prime Minister has been quite clear that the UK will guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK at the same time as all EU countries guarantee the rights of UK citizens in their countries. Unfortunately, one or two EU countries are refusing to discuss this issue before the negotiation and are using UK citizens as bargaining chips. Sadly, some British politicians seem more interested in securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK but are less interested in the rights of British citizens in EU countries.
It’s not in anyone’s interests to make any sudden decisions on this issue as we seek to find a new immigration system which is fair, benefits the UK and attracts the best from across the world, no longer discriminating against non-EU citizens.
Will EU nationals be allowed to come and stay in future? Is there a deadline for when they would need to get in by?
Again, there are a lot of issues to discuss, and the right to come and live and work here will be one of the key debating areas. At this stage it’s impossible to tell what the final outcome will be. Whatever proposals we have will also need to be agreed by the EU. After the UK leaves the EU, people will still come here from EU countries but will be treated equally with people from the rest of the world.
Are we just going to get a deal which means we leave the EU but we end up paying so much to do so, we might as well have stayed in after all?
People say the economy is going to collapse. Last time that happened lots of people lost their jobs, will that happen again?
Despite the claims of some people that the economy would collapse the day after a vote for Brexit, this has not remotely happened. The UK Government, the Bank of England, and the banks themselves, are spending their time preparing for our future relationship with the EU and the rest of the world, and seeing what regulations we would need to put in place, and what actions we need to take, in order to prevent such an occurrence. As with after the referendum vote, the UK’s economy proved that it is strong and stable. We now have two years of planning to ensure that this remains the case.
Will the price of European goods go up in UK shops?
Companies within the EU are lobbying hard to ensure that they can continue to trade with the UK. It is in no one’s interests to introduce high tariffs. EU firms will be as keen to trade with the British markets as much as UK firms with Europe.
Will the rest of the world really take us seriously when they could trade with the EU?
The UK is one of the most important economies on the planet. We provide millions of consumers ready to buy products from around the world. I have spoken to many government ministers and ambassadors who are keen to sign trade deals with the UK once we leave the EU. For them, trade deals with the UK will, on a simple practical level, be easier and quicker to sign than having to negotiate with the 27 separate countries remaining in the EU after we leave.
Will all the banks leave and take their jobs with them?
Despite some claims to this effect, there has been no evidence banks shutting up shop and moving all their jobs out of London. Some banks may move jobs related to trading with the EU to an EU country until the details of the EU-UK trade relationship is clear. We need to remember that the UK is not just an EU hub but a global hub for banking. Our infrastructure is world class, our business friendly approach means firms want to base themselves here and provide jobs to UK workers, and our English language gives us a big head start over other locations. I am sure we will see some restructuring but for most banks, the UK is a global base and that means Britain’s banking sector will remain strong long after Brexit.
Can we really agree all this within 2 years?
To re-write all the legislation we have taken on board as a result of being a member of the EU would be impossible within 2 years. This is why the Prime Minister made it clear that through the Great Repeal Act, we will effectively copy current EU law into British law when we leave. This means that we will have the same regulatory framework and equivalent standards allowing us to continue to agree on standards and procedures. After 2020, future British governments will be able to then amend, replace, add or revoke legislation as and when it is necessary for the best interest of the British people and British business. Furthermore, this is why the Prime Minister and the Government are carefully planning and preparing for the negotiations ahead, so that the months before triggering article 50 are not wasted, but making sure that the negotiations get off to a productive start.
Will we still have to do what Brussels says after Brexit?
Once the UK has left the EU, the UK will no longer be subject to the European Court of Justice or European Union regulations. However, if the UK reaches a trade deal with the EU, or international agreements in other policy areas, both the EU and the UK will be obliged to comply with the terms of such agreements. This is no different to any trade deal with any other country and if it is in the interests of the British people then it will make sense to do so.