Friday, 14 October 2016

Brexit Negotiations

I will try to explain as much as I know about the current state of the U.K's membership of the European Union and where I believe the future for it lies. I start with many definitions (some of which seem quite complex) with an attached diagram which will hopefully give clarity:

  1. The Schengen Area includes countries with free movement of Labour (open borders).
  2. The Common Travel Area (CTA) allows the free movement of people between Ireland and the U.K.
  3. Eurozone countries use the Euro as its currency (€).
  4. The European Union (EU) is a political union with members sharing common laws.
  5. The European Single Market is the EU's trading area consisting of EFTA and the EU. It aims to promote the free movement of goods, capital, services and people.
  6. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) participates in the European Single Market without being members of the EU. They adopt most EU legislation concerning the single market with notable exclusions including laws regarding agriculture and fisheries.
  7. Members of both the EU or EFTA can be a part of the European Economic Area (EEA) which has no tariffs on each other's goods.
  8. The EEA differs from the Single Market in that EEA countries abide by the laws of the country the product is being sold in, whereas Single Market countries abide by common EU laws.
  9. European Union Customs Union (EUCU) countries apply a common external tariff on each other's goods.
  10. Many countries negotiate their trade deals with the EU in groups such as the Nordic Council, GUAM, BSEC and CEFTA.

As the EU referendum suggests, the U.K. is to leave the European Union. Leave Voters seem adamant over several key issues, mainly that of control over laws and borders. This rules out being a part of the Schengen Area (which we were not a part of anyway) but it would be sensible to retain our Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland. as the Single Market dictates the free movement of people, the U.K. would not be able to retain its membership of it. Given the lack of incentive to raise prices of goods and services from either the U.K. or its mainland counterparts in the form of a tariff, it will be undesirable for the U.K. to join the EU customs union for all those concerned. Therefore, the only remaining desirable outcome for all concerned will be to become a member of the EEA.

As a member of the EEA, we would be trading inside the Single Market with virtually none or little tariffs. We would have to abide by the laws of the country a product is being sold in i.e. British exports to the EU will abide by EU laws and goods imported to the U.K. will be regulated by our own laws. The deal could be similar to EFTA in that we may also control laws over the agriculture and fishing sectors of the U.K. economy.

Given that Scotland has a clear mandate from the Scottish people to remain within the EU, a second independence referendum is inevitable. It is currently unclear as to whether Northern Ireland will follow suit, given they have a similar mandate to remain a part of the EU. It is entirely feasible that they might leave the U.K. to also remain a part of the EU, potentially as a united Ireland without a border between the North and the Republic. In any case, a British EEA trade agreement would therefore only be completed after the second Scottish referendum and the the first Northern Irish referendum has been concluded; either by means of a vote to stay a part of the U.K. or the process of leaving the U.K. has been completed. Given that Article 50 will be triggered by March 2017 and we will have two years to complete a trade agreement, the question of independence for both Scotland and Northern Ireland will have to be concluded as soon as possible, no later than March 2019. Once both countries declare their position on their membership of the U.K., the formal process of negotiating a British EEA trade agreement can begin. There is no reason for the negotiations not to run smoothly as both sides have a lot of common interests.

I predict the negotiations will last no longer than March 2019, long before the next General Election.

David Robert Worley, Wokingham Greens


(edit) It will be completely unrealistic (practically) to vote on the terms of Brexit before or after the negotiations have begun / concluded as one side of the negotiation may disagree, resulting in an infinite number of votes on the terms of Brexit until we get it right.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hare Hatch Sheeplands Garden Centre

As I am a candidate for next week's Wokingham Borough Election, I woke up yesterday to a 2 page letter from Gill at Hare Hatch, explaining a petition from 10,000 customers asking for planning permission on their site to expand their business on the Green Belt; asking for opinions and support on the matter.

Within an hour I was on 'the Floral Mile', a stretch of yellow Rapeseed fields against a blue sky, teeming with horticultural business. I parked up and rudely interrupted Andy from his lunch. He runs the site and briefly explained the history of it to me since it was bought in the 90s. According to him, there has been £1000s spent on an ongoing feud with the council, ranging from Green Belt issues to EU regulations, with the garden centre being open to compromise.

As Andy showed me around, we came up to Santa's Grotto area with a real life nativity stable, with all proceeds going to charity. Eventually, we got distracted by plants I can't remember the name of and I ended up buying some Potato and Broccoli cuttings. At the till, we bumped in to Brian, who writes for a local paper, to which I gave him a quote and a quick photo.

As Brian went to meet up with a photographer, Andy continued to show me some of the offending areas of the site, now left derelict. We went up to the owner's house on site, and saw how eco friendly they were, almost acting as Caretakers for the 8 acre property. As we walked through a Cactus greenhouse, Andy stopped and pointed out how one greenhouse could be used but the one next to it couldn't. There seemed no logical reason why it couldn't be used. Isn't planting more plants on the green belt a good thing?

As we walked back up to meet the photographer, I was left to chat to Gill, who sent the original letter. It became immediately obvious that having spoken to them each individually, they all shared the same view on the planning permission problem - one of frustration. They seemed to not even know themselves what Wokingham Borough Council are objecting to, given that other garden centres do exactly the same as they do on the other side of the road but with planning permission.

On a table just outside the café is the petition. 10,000 unique signatures and counting, a majority of which have been collected in store by customers. Before I duly signed and returned to the café for more tea, a woman representing a housing group came to support the petition and was happy to give Brian a few words. We were then joined by Brian and Andy again as we sat down to discuss other things the company does. Andy spoke about how they have brought several other businesses on site to save them from close, such as a fish stall, a pet shop and a gift shop. They have welcomed over 100 teens for work experience with open arms. They used to get schools in to educate children on site, teaching them how bees only drink from running water and how to grow their own plants. This now cannot be done as that part of the site is left derelict. Mums and their kids walked through about 3pm to go out to the play area. I'm told pensioners gather in the café regularly for 'knit and natter' sessions as a way of getting out the house and meeting people. They raise £10,000 a year for charity and turn over £1m with 100 staff. I asked if anyone from the council has ever visited the site and in the 2 decades they've been there; they were able to name about 5 that had.

4 teas down Andy had to leave suddenly. We found out on exit that he had been handed an injunction there and then, the details of which I do not know of.

It seemed as I forgot the way home that these people knew what they were talking about, experts in their field, giving advice, people you could trust with the Green Belt. They were friendly, informative, community minded, charitable people that Wokingham Borough Council ought to be promoting. The smaller business taking on the national competitor across the street. The companies that employ locally, source their produce from down the road and properly pay their taxes.

To have brought about this problem in the first place, Wokingham Borough council should apologise for their relentless efforts to stunt the growth of a respectable, local green business they claim to represent. Secondly, they should meet one final time with Andy and the owners to settle this dispute with a resolution both sides can agree on once and for all.

Otherwise, the customers of Hare Hatch Sheeplands know where to vote.

David Robert Worley @ Green Party