THE OUTCOME OF THE UK GENERAL ELECTION
The return of a Conservative Party-led government with a clear parliamentary majority now means the revised Withdrawal Agreement should receive Parliamentary ratification, with the agreed transition period entering into effect until at least 1st January 2021, while negotiations for a new comprehensive UK/EU free trade area agreement are completed.
While any immediate prospect of a ‘No-Deal Brexit’ has therefore been averted until at least 1st January 2021, it remains a possibility given the commitments made during the General Election campaign to ensuring the agreed transition period is not extended beyond 31st December 2020.
This is problematical since concluding a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU within 12 months would be unprecedented. There is as a consequence widespread scepticism over the prospect of concluding a comprehensive free trade agreement by the end of 2020.
In this context any refusal of the Conservative government to request an extension of the transition period until 1st January 2023 would give rise to a ’No-Deal Brexit’ in which the UK would leave the EU without an agreed alternative trade framework being in place, with UK/EU trade relations, therefore, reverting to most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment.
This would prove highly disruptive of trade flows across the EU27/UK border including for ACP horticultural exports serving the UK market via ports of landing in EU27 member states and ACP horticultural exports landed in mainland Europe and using the UK ‘land bridge’ to serve markets in the Republic of Ireland.
This would also put considerable strains on UK border clearance services, with potential adverse consequences for the flow of ACP horticultural exports through certain non EU27/UK points of entry to the UK market.
The return of a majority Conservative Party government, however, means the UK will now leave the EU customs union and single market at some point (1st January 2021 or 1st January 2023 or whenever an EU/UK free trade area agreement has been successfully negotiated).
This means ACP horticultural exporters will need to take the necessary steps to prepare for a ‘Hard Brexit’, to minimise the adverse effects on ACP horticultural exports arising from the logistical, administrative and market changes which the UK’s departure from the EU customs union and single market will give rise to.