Thank you very much to the many hundreds of people who returned my autumn survey and let me know your thoughts and priorities following the referendum.
The majority of respondents said that security & defence and economic stability were key issues. Health was listed as an important domestic policy area and about a quarter mentioned the need to continue focusing on environmental issues. Many people raised additional priorities such as continuing to support science and research collaboration across the UK and Europe.
Addressing local issues
In the past few months I have been meeting local and national organisations, politicians across Europe as well as British ministers and officials working to ensure the best outcomes for Britain's new relationship with the EU. I would like to thank everyone who has shared their concerns and given their ideas and advice.
I have raised immediate concerns with the government and achieved reassurance on many issues including:
- A commitment to guarantee EU grant funding for Science and Research until 2020
- A clarification of the situation for EU students at our universities
- A pledge that local authorities and partners can continue to access EU structural funds for key local priorities during negotiations.
If you do have specific issues that need addressing please do email me.
Article 50 timing
It is vital that we respect the referendum outcome, but it is also important that we respect the independence of the judiciary. The Prime Ministers date of end March for triggering article 50 has the advantage that this means negotiations can conclude before the next European Election. It is worth remembering that MEPs, including UK MEPs will have a vote on the outcome of the negotiations. There is much work going on in the European Parliament and I am endeavouring to make sure that UK priorities are well understood.
Part of the negotiations with leaving the EU will be agreeing what our future relationship with the Single Market will be. Access to the Single Market means different things to different sectors. For much of financial services this means retaining their 'passport' and for manufacturers it means ensuring a product approved in the UK doesn’t have to face numerous additional different tests before it can be sold in other countries; this is important for many local businesses. I am working with the British Manufacturing Association, the EEF, on their Brexit strategy.
There are also many networks for practical cooperation which have been built up under the past forty years.
Examples of networks include dangerous toys notification and enabling product recalls, sharing of information on qualifications and dis-qualifications for doctors and nurses and common approaches for enabling cross border clinical trials for rare cancers. I have written more about these type of practical agreements here.
Free trade and free movement
How might the UK maximise free trade in goods and services with the rest of the EU, whilst also re-establishing its own authority over immigration policy?
Some of the measures that are already used by other governments within the single market, EEA or EFTA include:
- Migrants only being able to access housing, health and education if they prove their employment through a registration system.
- Jobs being advertised locally before being offered overseas
- Stricter limits on access to benefits and welfare
- An upper break – or cap – on migrant numbers.
You can read more about specific examples in an article I have written here.
Future trade agreements, WTO and UN
I led a recent delegation to Geneva to meet with representatives of the WTO and UN to study their work on consumer standards, especially on safer cars across the world. Often the biggest non-tariff barriers to trade are different product regulations in different countries which can cause costly extra compliance requirements.
I was struck by how little the negotiations at WTO or in free trade agreements address non-tariff barriers and can become rapidly dominated by traditional agricultural issues; whereas in my time working on UK/EU trade has been focused more on trade in services, high end industrial products, digital products and sharing of knowledge on R&D. These sectors are also crucial to the UK economy and need to be addressed in future trade relationships. You can find out more about my trip to the UN here.
Vicky Ford MEP
149-151 St Neots Road
01954 211 722