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Brexit is not over: Gibraltar, labeling and other issues to be decided

“New Chapter”. This was echoed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in their announcement of a new deal for Northern Ireland this Monday at Windsor Castle. They were keen to emphasize that this is the start of a better relationship after the Boris Johnson years, but the deal is just another chapter in the unfinished Brexit story.

An agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol is being seen in Brussels and London as a milestone after years of tension and the possibility that it could be the first new deal. But there are still difficult issues that Sunak will have to negotiate in the coming months under difficult circumstances due to opposition from his own party.

Legal and trade adjustments to the Northern Ireland Protocol could take a year to come into force between EU approval and UK implementation of the changes. Meanwhile, negotiations are underway on fruit, vegetable, plant and animal controls, labelling, fishing quotas, the status of Gibraltar and the paperwork Europeans living in the UK must do to continue their employment or healthcare rights. These negotiations will have consequences for millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK, including around 200,000 registered Spaniards, almost 300,000 British registered in Spain and farmers, transporters and tourists across the EU.

The United Kingdom officially left the EU three years ago, but everything that entails has yet to take effect. This is due to a lack of agreement on some aspects, as transition periods have not been completed or application deadlines have been postponed, often due to a lack of resources of the authorities and companies to adapt to the changes.

In the case of Gibraltar, the European Commission in July 2021 approved a mandate for negotiations that remained outside the UK’s withdrawal agreement. The purpose of the special status for the area is to eliminate physical border controls on people and goods, as mobility is constant – about 15,000 people enter the rock daily to work – while ensuring the safety and security of the market. Area of ​​free movement of people in the European Union.

In June 2016, 96% of voters in Gibraltar spoke against Brexit. The population wants to remain in the EU, but at the same time they do not want to accept any Spanish authority, such as the police, who can control Spanish territory if the fence is removed to prevent a hard border. The UK wants it to be the EU’s border control police, Frontex, but the Spanish government refuses.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarez said in January that a deal was close, but there have been no visible developments since then. The minister was more optimistic this week about a rapprochement with London after an agreement was reached in Windsor, but there is no timetable for a deal, which could also be complicated if Spain changes power at the next election.

The list of fragments is still long. The think tank Great Britain in a Changing Europe, a network of academics and researchers coordinated by King’s College London and providing the most comprehensive monitoring of EU negotiations, includes in its report Where Next? The Future of UK-EU Relations, published in January, is a timeline of the issues ahead until 2027 and has a dozen bullet points.

“The Northern Ireland protocol was the last big issue that was unresolved, but many points in the chronology could become a problem,” explains Stephen Hunsaker, a researcher at the think tank specializing in trade, with and one of the authors of the report. “Also, there are things that are hard to know that will be a problem, like the small boat crisis, which was not anticipated but is a problem,” he says, referring to the increase in growth. Arriving in the UK by boat and other migrant vessels crossing the English Channel.

Sunak is now negotiating a new border control deal with French President Emmanuel Macron, who will host him in Paris on March 10 for the first Franco-British summit in five years.

At a press conference held on Monday, Sunak highlighted the migration pacts, which could be a hint for further steps. Von der Leyen pointed to another debate of great interest to UK scientists and academics: Horizon Europe, a program to fund pan-European research, in which London is not currently involved.

Meanwhile, the pending trade and cooperation agreement with the EU is numerous and has deadlines that have often been pushed back.

The agreement signed in 2020 suggests there are no tariffs, but as the UK is not part of the single market and did not want a faster deal like Norway or Switzerland, there is no free movement of goods and people and that means extra paperwork. This especially burdens merchants and carriers in time and money. And it could be more or less, depending on the negotiations, when new regulations and sanitary controls on products derived from plants and animals, among others, come into force. Fearing more paperwork, the British are pushing back the date so as not to further disrupt trade, although British producers and vets complain they will have to carry out these controls when they enter the EU.

In theory, the new system should be in place in 2024, but this is one of the delayed dates and could end up pending a full trade deal with the EU, which is scheduled for 2025 and will be. Coinciding with a new UK government – probably Labour, according to the polls – and a new European Commission after the European Parliament elections.

One of the main ones is that in December 2024, if the forecast comes true, the UK will no longer accept ‘CE’ marked products in its supermarkets, with the EU standard that they meet minimum quality and authorization requirements. This mark should be replaced by “UKCA”, which is awarded by the UK authorities to similar or equal standards, but after control. This has been delayed due to, among other things, a lack of resources for hard work. For example, the UK’s Changing Europe report says that because there is only one radiator control center in the UK, it would take 75 years to test all the ones on the market.

“The risks are that many goods will not be authorized with the ‘UKCA’ label in time and that many overseas manufacturers will not bother with the label at all.” This means many essential products will disappear from shelves and supply chains,” the report explains. If by 2024 there will be a substantial majority of goods that do not have this label, the British government will again have to postpone the date to meet this requirement or review the adoption of the mark and EU standards.

The UK has already experienced key product shortages on several occasions. In recent weeks there is a lack of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables, as in no other country in Europe, due to the lack of own production, a drop in exports from Spain due to particularly cold weeks and more dependence. Morocco after Brexit.

By the end of this year, under legislation still in the UK Parliament, thousands of national laws that derive from the application of EU law are to be automatically revised or repealed. Two-thirds of companies believe that if it is eventually implemented, there will be more uncertainty and the economy will not grow, according to a survey commissioned by the Alliance of Environmental and Public Safety Standards Organizations.

This “bonfire of European laws” (as the Brexiteers call it) will make it difficult for common standards to be accepted in the face of concrete and immediate decisions. This year, for example, bilateral access to financial services – which expires in December 2023 for European companies providing services in the UK and in 2025 for British companies on the continent – and the sale of electric cars they own are due to be renegotiated. From 2024, a higher percentage of parts must be made in the UK or the EU or they will pay tariffs.

A temporary agreement to protect personal data using EU law expires in 2025, and if the UK does not apply the same standards, it will mean more red tape and costs for companies and consumers of cross-border goods and services. . By 2026, energy cooperation must be renegotiated, which is primarily necessary to maintain shared infrastructure, and the temporary agreement on access to fishing waters expires, triggering annual negotiations that can be as painful or more than usual among EU member states.

The British-European border is stricter than anywhere else in Europe because of the model chosen by Boris Johnson’s defunct government, which does not allow, for example, ID-only travel. From May this year, the EU is introducing mandatory biometric passports for travelers from other countries and this could make travel even more difficult for tourists and carriers who already have long queues at the UK port of Dover. This can be avoided if the EU and the UK reach a new deal.

Train company Eurostar says it is currently not selling all seats on some trains between London and the mainland because check-in points mean queues at the station are so long that passengers don’t have time to board, particularly early in the morning. tomorrow.

At home, the UK government must now better define the documentation for EU citizens living and working in the UK who were already in the country before Brexit took effect, thus still retaining their rights to employment or healthcare as part of the deal. ᲕὦᲝᲞᲡ.

Under current requirements, the government requires you to complete the paperwork twice for this temporary pre-residence status, but a British court has declared the system illegal, which the European Commission has complained about. In principle, the Home Office planned to appeal, but the British government ultimately decided not to and will stick with the proposal to ease the requirements. You don’t have to submit the details yet.

Source: El Diario





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