The government has finally released its much anticipated Brexit whitepaper outlining what the government hopes to achieve from the Brexit negotiations after article 50 has been triggered. The second stage of voting in parliament for withdrawal from the EU has already ended with 498 votes to 114 for and against respectively.
“The Alice in Wonderland Project”
Reading through the whitepaper, there’s scant detail in the way of contingency other than for very coarse grained trading scenarios. It gives this very black and white impression of the leaving negotiations. As Ken Clarke suggested, it does indeed seem to be somewhat fantastical, leaving a taste of dry propaganda rather than being genuinely informative.
Whilst I am certainly in favour of the UK remaining one of the best places to do science and research, you must be cautious when reading any of the Conservatives’ pledges for funding – for instance they claim a funding increase worth £2 by 2020/2021 but it is not made clear how this may change with the recent signs of rising inflation.
The paper makes some promises with regards to workers’ rights, which should be seen as a win for the ordinary person – however given the recent attacks on workers’ rights such as the trade unions act and further proposals to restrict the right to strike under the guise of a “right to work” and fees on employment tribunals some degree of scepticism is required when reading this document; or rather with regards to working rights, it would not appear to be worth the PDF it’s rendered in.
It is not a great leap to imagine when Brexit comes into full swing, the government announces that we “must make the labour market more competitive” – fancy language that means we’ll need people to work for less.
Somewhat worrying is the lack of guarantees with regards to human rights, rights which have been sitting, ready on the chopping block since the referendum.
No solution so far has been proposed for the Northern Ireland border problem, suggesting that this is going to cause some degree of friction when the negotiations are carried out. There is a real risk that the region could destabilise as a result of this damaging the carefully balanced power sharing agreement for Northern Ireland while hardline Brexiters, which our government appear to be siding with, are unlikely to be compromising when it comes to an open border between ROI and NI.
There do not appear to be any guarantees for existing residents from the EU.
Also concerning is the lack of any kind of risk analysis – something the SNP attempted to hedge against with their ‘reset clause’ proposal.
The claims that immigration controls will be linked to skills, income and all the rest of it sound pragmatic in isolation, however the lack of concrete terms around these is somewhat concerning, implying that the government will try and play it by ear. A lot of the points made come across as rhetorical rather than rational – for instance that they want to allow ‘genuine students.’ While the implication is clearly in reference to true ‘bogus colleges’, the vague wording of the statement leaves it open to the interpretation of students that the government doesn’t see as good enough. Far from a hysterical unlikelihood, in 2012 2,500 students at London Metropolitan University had their visas revoked.