Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A Vanishing Breed? Walker v Innospec Ltd - The UK Supreme Court Disapplies a Statutory Provision on the Grounds of Incompatibility with EU Equality Law



Colm O’Cinneide, Professor of Law, UCL

Last week’s decision of the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) in the same-sex pension rights case of Walker v Innospec Ltd [2017] UKSC 47 generated plenty of excited commentary in the UK media. This mainly focused on the UKSC’s finding that it constitutes direct discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – and thus a breach of EU law - for the rules of a employer’s contributory benefit scheme to deny payment of a ‘spouse’s pension’ to a surviving member of a same-sex married couple, in circumstances where such a pension would be paid to the surviving member of an opposite-sex married couple. This finding is obviously significant, both for its application at national level of the prohibition on direct discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation set out in Article 2 of the Framework Equality Directive 2000/78/EC, and also its concrete impact on the acquired pension rights of same-sex married couples in the UK. However, the media coverage glossed over two other important elements of the judgment, which are of especial interest from the perspective of EU law.

One of those elements relates to the complex issue of the temporal effects of a finding that national law is incompatible with EU legal requirements – namely the Court’s conclusion that, in Lord Kerr’s words at para. 56, ‘the point of unequal treatment occurs at the time that the pension falls to be paid’ and not when the benefit in question was accrued, and that no basis existed for limiting the retrospective effect of the judgment in line with the ECJ’s approach in Case C-262/88, Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group [1990] ECR I-1889.

The other neglected dimension to the case is of more general interest, especially in the run-up to Brexit – namely how the case resulted in the Supreme Court disapplying the provisions of Schedule 9 para. 18 of the UK Equality Act 2010, insofar as they permitted the type of discriminatory treatment at issue in the circumstances. In other words, in Walker, the obligation on national courts to give direct effect to the requirements of EU anti-discrimination legislation resulted in incompatible national legislation being set aside – perhaps one of the last times this happens before Brexit insulates UK parliamentary legislation from legal challenges based on EU law or other fundamental rights standards.

The case involved a legal challenge by a former employer of Innospec Ltd against their refusal to agree to pay a survivor’s pension to his same-sex spouse if he died first, even though such a benefit would have been paid out to Mr Walker’s spouse had she been a woman. Innospec Ltd justified this exclusion in part by reference to the provisions of Schedule 9 para. 18 of the 2010 Act, which permitted employers to restrict access to occupational benefits where the right to that benefit accrued before 5 December 2005 (the date same-sex couples became legally entitled to enter into civil partnerships).

At first instance, Mr Walker won his claim that he had been subject to direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, with the Employment Tribunal concluding that Schedule 9 para. 18 could be applied in a manner compatible with the relevant requirements of Directive 2000/78/EC. Subsequently, however, Innospec appealed successfully against that decision, with the Court of Appeal concluding that Mr Walker had been subject to direct discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation but that the principles of ‘non-retroactivity’ and ‘future effect’ as developed in the case-law of the CJEU meant that the prohibition on discrimination applied only to benefits accruing after the transposition of the Directive in December 2003. (Mr Walker had taken early retirement in March 2003.)

This conclusion was criticised by Robert Wintemute amongst others, in particular in a case-note in the Industrial Law Journal in 2016 (‘Unequal Same-Sex Survivor’s Pensions: The EWCA Refuses to Apply CJEU Precedents or Refer’ (2016) 45(1) Ind Law J 89-100), and his criticisms were subsequently explicitly cited by Lord Kerr in giving the judgment of the majority of the Supreme Court reversing the decision of the lower court.

In brief, the Supreme Court initially applied the established case-law of the CJEU in cases such as Case C-267/06, Maruko [2008] 2 CMLR 32 and Case C-147/08, Römer [2011] ECR I-3591, and confirmed that less favorable treatment by an employer of same-sex partners as compared to opposite-sex partners who have entered into the same or equivalent type of legally recognised relationship will constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Turning to the question of the remedy and by extension the legal effect of Schedule 9 para. 18, the UKSC went on to survey the relevant case-law of the CJEU dealing with issues of the retrospective effect of judgments. It concluded that the ECJ’s decision to restrict the temporal effect of its finding of sex discrimination in the occupational benefits case of Barber was a judicial technique that should only be applied ‘in the most exceptional circumstances and where the impact [of a judgment] would be truly “catastrophic”’ (para. 44).

The Supreme Court further concluded that the CJEU case-law established that the discriminatory treatment in question should be viewed as taking effect at the time when the pension was due to be paid, in part because it was only at that point of time that the spousal obligations at issue crystallised into tangible form. In so doing, they rejected suggestions by counsel based on views expressed by AG Van Gerven in Case C-109/91, Ten Oever [1993] ECR I-4879 that pension entitlements accrued as they were earned, and therefore that any discrimination occurring would have predated the date of transposition of the Directive. The UKSC therefore concluded that the provisions of Schedule 9 para. 18 of the 2010 Act could not be applied insofar as they precluded liability arising for the discriminatory behaviour in question, which was incompatible with the requirements of Directive 2000/78/EC and the general principle of equal treatment as confirmed to exist by the CJEU in case C-555/07, Kücükdeveci [2010] 2 CMLR 33.

The Walker judgment is thus particularly interesting for three reasons: (i) the faithful application by the UKSC of the case-law of the CJEU in relation to discrimination against same-sex partners; (ii) the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the relevant CJEU case-law relating to the temporal effect of findings of discrimination in the context of occupational benefits, which gives strong effect to the principle of non-discrimination; and (iii) the way in which it illustrates how parliamentary legislation can be disapplied if its conflicts with fundamental rights secured under EU law, in particular the right to non-discrimination.

After the process of Brexit is complete, this form of legal protection of equality is likely to fall away, along with the supremacy of EU law in general. Walker may thus mark one of the last instances where EU law takes effect as a trump card within the British legal system; as such, it is striking that its effect was to disapply a statutory provision designed to limit liability for discriminatory behaviour.


Photo credit: BBC.co.uk
Barnard & Peers: chapter 27, chapter 20, chapter 6

Friday, 7 July 2017

All of life is changed: The impact of Brexit on UK nationals living in other EU Member States




Sarah McCloskey and Tamara Hervey, Sheffield Law School

After a series of cataclysmic political events, most people can empathise with the stress and anxiety born out of the subsequent uncertainty. At this time, the people who are enduring the greatest burden are those who have enjoyed a right to free movement exercised in good faith without concern that it might be taken away. Such is Brexit: the source of frustration, a nuisance of the daily news to many, but for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in other Member States, it holds the potential to fundamentally change their very way of life. Without for a moment disregarding the (moral and economic) significance of the former group, we focus here on the latter.

What do the UK government’s proposals mean for UK nationals in the EU-27? What does it mean for their “right to remain, healthcare arrangements under the EU social security agreements, and pension entitlements and payments”? As Strumia highlights, the UK’s offer focuses on EU citizens in the UK. But in a negotiation, the offers made on one side have implications for those on the other. We seek to deduce from the UK’s negotiating position what it might mean for UK nationals in the EU-27.

UK’s Negotiating Position

Despite the hopes for "a magnanimous gesture on the part of the Prime Minister,” the UK government has maintained its stance that a unilateral offer to EU-27 nationals resident in the UK on ‘Brexit Day’ would compromise its negotiating position. Thus, its proposal is founded on the condition of reciprocity. Of course, we remain uncertain as to the outcome of the negotiations. Nevertheless, we can consider the extent to which the UK’s position is a “fair and serious” offer (as the UK government has portrayed) by comparison with the EU’s prior counterpart proposal.

According to the UK negotiating position, upon the UK's exit from the EU, EU citizens in the UK will be required to apply for a new residence status within a grace period of two years. Despite promises of a “streamlined” procedure with incurred fees set at a “reasonable level”, the proposal has faced criticism for subjecting even those who have already obtained a certificate of permanent residence to this new application process. Reciprocity on these terms would dictate that UK nationals in the EU-27 must therefore expect analogous treatment under their post-Brexit status of “third country nationals” (TCNs). They would need to apply for a new residence status under the immigration law of the EU Member State in which they reside. And again, if reciprocity applies, while those who arrive before the yet-to-be-specified date will be granted a temporary status that allows them the opportunity to accrue the vital 5 years of residence, those who arrive at any time thereafter will have no such protection or special treatment. Instead, they would be subject to ordinary immigration law.

Further, any disputes would have to be settled through national courts in the EU-27 country, without any recourse to a supranational authority (such as the CJEU) for a definitive settlement. It would be significantly more difficult to enforce residence and other rights than it is at present.

Under the UK negotiating position, those EU nationals who are successful will be granted what is referred to as "settled status" in UK law pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971. This is subject to certain criteria, including that the applicant must have been resident in the UK before an (as yet un-) specified date (that will fall between 29 March 2017, when the Article 50 letter was sent, and Brexit Day) and have completed a period of 5 years’ continuous residence. It is worth noting here that the UK government has not outlined its definition of “continuous residence” and, given the Prime Minister’s hostility towards the CJEU, it cannot be presumed that it mirrors that accepted in EU law.

Again, if applied reciprocally, UK nationals currently resident in the EU-27 (as EU-27 nationals currently resident in the UK) would be potentially precluded from relying on the benefits of free movement to visit family or for work-related events, for example, in case such visits interrupt their period of continuous residence for longer than permitted under the relevant law. Further, as Strumia notes, this means that the UK’s present protection of free movement is meaningless for EU citizens living in the UK, as any such exercise could be to the detriment of their post-Brexit application.  Like so many other issues, the devil is in the detail and thus, it remains to be seen just how “smooth and simple” acquiring these new rights will be.

Turning to the more specific issues of pensions, child benefits, education, and healthcare, the UK’s negotiating position offers a little more information. On pensions, the UK’s position is explicit that ‘the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension within the EU’. Given that 21% of UK nationals in EU-27 countries are over the age of 65, this is a significant commitment. Likewise, the current position on child benefit continues: individuals resident before Brexit Day will be able to export any child benefit to which they are entitled in their country of residence, which is of great importance for divorced and separated families. On education, the right of UK students to remain in the respective EU-27 country applies up until course completion (and not beyond) and those with residence rights have the same access to tuition fees and any maintenance grants as nationals of the host country.

Healthcare, however, poses more complexities. The UK government has proposed a new arrangement ‘akin to the EHIC scheme’ (i.e. the European Health Insurance Card, which currently entitles those covered by their home health care system like the NHS to medical treatment in another EU country).  There are non-EU states incorporated within the EHIC scheme, so in theory the UK could join post-Brexit. But in practice, free movement rights will have to be included. Otherwise, the technical and administrative logistics, outside of the current arrangements for coordination of social security, may prove insuperable. The EU coordination of social security is a rules-based system: it is not a matter of politically negotiated bespoke arrangements. A reciprocal deal (to be part of the rules-based system) may be feasible. Access to health care outside such a system (without free movement, without the possibility of CJEU oversight) is unlikely to be so. If that is so, in principle a reciprocal deal would leave UK nationals resident in the EU to fall back on national law to determine their health care entitlements.

The UK’s negotiating position does not explicitly address a host of other practicalities for UK nationals resident in the EU-27 (and vice versa): equal access to housing; equal tax benefits; entitlement to move to and reside in other EU Member States; and equal entitlements to union membership. This is far from offering the claimed reassurance in the face of uncertainty.

In the absence of such details, the only guiding light is: "After we leave the EU, the UK will no longer be subject to EU law. Free movement rights will come to an end and therefore cannot be carried forward, as an EU legal right, into the post-exit UK legal regime.”

If this is the default, and reciprocity is the basis for future entitlements, the effects for UK nationals in the EU-27 would be to face the same prospect of rights reduction as their EU citizen counterparts in the UK.

Applicable EU law

However, this analysis on the basis of reciprocity ignores the fact that the EU itself already has rules concerning the treatment of non-EU TCNs resident in its Member States. The UK’s rejection of an ‘acquired rights’ approach or, indeed, a bespoke proposal of any kind marks an intention to simply align the status of EU nationals with UK immigration law, with all the procedural and substantive implications that entails. But that approach is not available to the EU-25 (Ireland and Denmark have opted out of this law), who are bound by EU law on non-EU migrants, in particular by the EU’s Long-Term Residence (LTR) Directive. The LTR Directive brings the position of UK nationals resident in the EU-25 within EU law as it provides legal protection to some TCNs. This is a Directive that can be - and has been - enforced before national courts, and is subject to the jurisdiction of the CJEU. (There is also some EU legislation on the position of non-EU citizens who don’t yet qualify for LTR status).

Articles 7 and 8 of the LTR Directive govern the scheme by which long-term resident status is acquired and the residence permit granted. The LTR Directive holds the process to a certain standard, imposes common criteria, requires the grant of LTR status where conditions are satisfied (Article 7 (3), Iida para 39), and guarantees certain rights where applications are successful. Article 7(2), for example, requires applications to be processed within 6 months, and Article 10 states that reasons must be given for decisions.

Subject to certain conditions (outlined below), the Directive confers equal treatment of TCNs to nationals in the host country in numerous areas. These include: access to employment; self-employment; recognition of qualifications; tax benefits; and pensions. The UK’s negotiating position, inasmuch as it fails to offer these matters on a reciprocal basis, appears to assume that this aspect of EU law does not exist.

The entitlements under the LTR Directive (and possibly parallel national laws on long-term residence) are extensive. Assuming that it would be the applicable law if the UK’s proposals were to succeed, or indeed if the UK were to leave the EU without successfully negotiating a withdrawal agreement, this raises a question. The position of UK nationals in the EU-27 would obviously be better if the EU proposal prevailed (particularly for those who do not have long-term residence yet). But how much worse off would UK nationals in the EU-25 be under the UK proposals as compared to the EU’s offer? (The position of UK nationals in Ireland will presumably be a special case because of the common travel area; UK nationals in Denmark would have to rely on Danish law.)

Comparison of EU Proposal and EU Law Position: Long-Term Residence Directive

The EU proposal seeks to maintain the current status of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU-27, but without the framework of EU citizenship which is conditional on membership of the EU. By comparison, the LTR Directive has been described as creating a “subsidiary form of EU citizenship”.

The LTR Directive offers TCNs a wide range of rights equal to that of nationals in their host country. It removes Member States’ direct control by outlining that where conditions are met and where there is no Article 6 exception (for public policy or public security), long-term resident status must be granted (Article 7(3)). Ordinary immigration law is not subject to those kinds of external oversights or constraints. However, LTR status remains far from parity with EU citizenship status and, in turn, the EU’s proposal. The material rights are less, the scope is more restrictive, and the acquisition process more arduous.

Equal treatment in respect of social assistance and social protection can be confined to core benefits (Article 11(4)), as defined in the ECJ ruling in Kamberaj. Retention of restrictions to access to employment or self-employed activities where these activities are lawfully reserved to nationals, EU or EEA citizens is also permitted (Article 11(3)(a)). Further, acquiring LTR status does not confer the free movement rights within the EU that its citizens are accustomed to; Article 14 outlines the conditions which must be met to acquire the right to reside in a second Member State for a period exceeding three months. The right to family reunification represents another stark contrast: for TCNs, the highly restrictive Directive 2003/86/EC applies, while the EU proposal guarantees that the Withdrawal Agreement would apply to family members, ‘regardless of their nationality, as covered by Directive 2004/38’. This covers both current and future family members.

Turning to scope, the EU proposal is unequivocal: it captures all 'UK nationals who reside or have resided in EU27 at the date of entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement', UK nationals who work or have done so in EU27 at that date whilst residing in the UK or another EU27, UK nationals covered by Regulation 883/2004, and (in all cases) their family members. Conversely, Article 3(2) of the LTR Directive outlines numerous exclusions, including TCNs resident due to pursuit of studies or vocational training, seasonal workers, and cross-border service providers.

Further, in exchange for this more limited status, there are a greater number of conditions to satisfy. Beyond its mutual basis with the EU proposal’s requisite 5 years continuous legal residence, the LTR Directive also sets out that TCNs need to: provide evidence that they possess sufficient stable and regular resource to maintain themselves and their family members without recourse to the host Member State's social assistance system; have adequate sickness insurance; and, in some cases, demonstrate compliance with integration conditions imposed by national law. Necessarily, implementation of the UK proposal would therefore subject UK nationals in the EU-27 to a much more demanding application process with likely lower success rates than the more black-and-white EU proposal.

Undoubtedly then, the EU proposal is far more favourable to that offered by the UK. This is not unexpected; while the EU recognises the valuable contribution made by TCNs to the Member States in which they reside, inevitably a proposition vested in the interests of the 3.15 million EU citizens in the UK will comprise a better deal than the residual LTR Directive position. And, for negotiating purposes, offering identical conditions for UK nationals in the EU-27 was necessary.

Nonetheless, were the UK proposal to prevail, its nationals are still afforded better protection than their EU citizen counterparts in the UK. The LTR Directive and Article 7(3) in particular represent a safety net to which the EU-25 are held to account. There is no such equivalent for EU citizens in the UK who, post-Brexit, would be entirely at the mercy of ordinary immigration law were the UK’s position adopted.

Non-reciprocity

There is an undeniable gap between the EU negotiating position and the LTR Directive. However, it is to some extent quantifiable. In contrast, the extent of the chasm between the current position of EU nationals in the UK and the UK’s proposal for their post-Brexit future is not yet known. Moreover, the UK’s silence on numerous existing rights does not bode well. While the comparable certainty of the LTR Directive is enough to be relatively reassuring to UK nationals, those who do not yet qualify for the status will be subject only to national immigration law and thus face the same level of uncertainty as EU citizens in the UK.

It might seem surprising that the UK’s response to the EU proposal is so weak. But perhaps this is somewhat accounted for by the difference in numbers: in comparison to the 3.15 million EU citizens in the UK, there are an estimated 900,000 UK nationals in the EU-27. Most of them do not vote in UK general elections. Perhaps they are the ‘sacrificial lambs’ of these negotiations. But this fails to account for the 60% of UK nationals who want to keep their EU citizenship. (Notably, this number increases by 20% for the up and coming political force that are the 18-24 year olds.) If these polls are to be believed, the UK government has a greater investment in a good deal than their proposals implied they thought to be the case. Lest it further alienate the electorate, the UK government should reconsider the EU’s position, taking into account applicable EU law, and provide an injection of reality into its negotiating stance.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 27

Photo credit: Irish Times

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Brexit talks: opening positions on the status of UK and EU citizens




Professor Steve Peers*

Introduction

One of the most high-profile issues relating to Brexit, which could potentially have the biggest direct impact on the lives of the greatest number of people, is the issue of what happens to UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in UK after Brexit. This is one of the first issues to be addressed in Brexit talks, and both sides have now adopted their positions: the EU in the form of a Council decision on the mandate for the Commission negotiators, back on May 22, and the UK in the form of a UK government proposal, released on June 26. As we can see from these dates, it’s entirely false to suggest (as the UK Foreign Secretary has done, for instance) that this UK government proposal came first, with no EU position yet: it’s quite the opposite. (Equally it’s false to suggest, as the Brexit Secretary does, that among the EU institutions, only the EU Commission is demanding that the ECJ have a role in the agreement).

This EU position also covers the issues of the financial consequences of Brexit and its purely transitional aspects (ie court cases pending on Brexit Day), which no published UK proposal has addressed yet. However, I will focus solely on the citizens’ rights issues for now. For the sake of simplicity, the relevant parts of the EU position are repeated in the Annex to this blog post.

There is a basic choice to be made whether the position of UK and EU citizens after Brexit is based on the ‘acquired rights’ approach (ie retaining their status under EU law) or an approach based on equality with nationals. As we will see, the EU takes the former approach, while the UK takes the latter, even though during the referendum campaign the Leave side promised acquired rights to both EU citizens in the UK (‘no change’, ‘no less favourable’) and UK citizens in the EU.

The EU position

Basically, the EU position follows the ‘acquired rights’ approach, adopting a broad interpretation of that concept to include rights which will vest in future as well as those ‘in the process of being obtained’, specifically permanent residence status which can be obtained under EU free movement law after five years’ continuous legal residence. It explicitly covers both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, including those who previously resided on one side or the other. Protection will be based on equal treatment compared to nationals – reflecting the second option for approaching the issue – for the lifetime of each person, via ‘smooth and simple administrative procedures’.

The EU position goes on to define the personal scope of the deal: those covered by the EU citizens’ Directive (workers, self-employed and economically inactive people – implicitly subject to the limits in the Directive for ‘benefit tourists’, as discussed here), also including family members who arrive before or after Brexit Day. It will also repeat the scope of the EU social security Regulation, which addresses social security coordination in cross-border situations as distinct from immigration status, including frontier workers (ie those who work in the UK but live in France, or vice versa). 

The material scope of the deal (ie the rights to be protected) should include residence rights based on the Treaties or the citizens’ Directive, as well as the procedural rules on documenting those rights; the social security coordination rules, including export of benefits and cumulating social security contributions made in different countries; the supplementary rights in the Regulation on free movement of workers, including workers’ children’s access to education; access to self-employment; and recognition of qualifications which were obtained before Brexit Day or which are in the process of being recognised on that date.  

As for enforcement, the EU side wants this issue to be enforced by the ECJ, and the rules in the withdrawal agreement to be enforced in accordance with pre-Brexit case law of the Court. A separate position paper makes clear that this refers to all of the Court’s current jurisdiction, in particular references from national courts to the ECJ and Commission challenges to the UK.

The UK position

Firstly, the UK paper states that it will not alter the Common Travel Area arrangements between the UK and Ireland (and the Crown Dependencies), including ‘the rights of British and Irish citizens in each others’ countries rooted in the Ireland Act 1949’. To that end, ‘Irish citizens residing in the UK will not need to apply for settled status to protect their entitlements’. (It should be noted that some have questioned how much the Ireland Act in fact protects Irish citizens’ immigration status in the UK).

Next, the document suggests its legal form: the government ‘undertakes to treat EU citizens in the UK according to the principles below, in the expectation that the EU will offer reciprocal treatment for UK nationals resident in its member states’. It’s not clear if this is a unilateral offer conditioned on the assumption that the EU side will match it, or whether it is a proposal to be subject to negotiations with the view to being included in the withdrawal treaty. (At some other points, the document refers to ‘negotiations’ and to an ‘international law’, however).

In detail, the UK government states first that it will comply with EU free movement law until Brexit Day. Next, post-Brexit it ‘will create new rights in UK law for qualifying EU citizens resident here before our exit. Those rights will be enforceable in the UK legal system and will provide legal guarantees for these EU citizens’, alongside ‘commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement which will have the status of international law’. The paper rules out ‘jurisdiction in the UK’ for the ECJ. Furthermore, the government paper pledges to treat ‘all EU citizens equally’ compared to each other, although it is not clear how this fits with the special dispensation for Ireland referred to at the outset. 

While ‘qualifying EU citizens will have to apply for their residence status’, the ‘administrative procedures’ to this end ‘will be modernised and kept as smooth and simple as possible’. But this will be a national process: ‘a separate legal scheme, in UK law, rather than the current one for certifying the exercise of rights under EU law’. This means that the UK government ‘will tailor the eligibility criteria so that, for example, we will no longer require evidence that economically inactive EU citizens have previously held “comprehensive sickness insurance” in order to be considered continuously resident’. The words ‘for example’ there suggest that there might be other (unspecified) differences between the criteria for obtaining status in the UK for EU citizens.

As part of the process, ‘all qualifying EU citizens will be given adequate time to apply for their new residence status after’ Brexit. This will take the form of a ‘guarantee that qualifying individuals will be granted “settled status” in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971).’ This means ‘they will be free to reside in any capacity and undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and services and to apply for British citizenship’.

To get this status, ‘the EU citizen must have been resident in the UK before a specified date’, which is yet to be defined; but it will be in between March 29 2017 when the Article 50 letter was sent, and March 29 2019, Brexit Day (the government is expressly intending to negotiate this with the EU). They must also ‘have completed a period of five years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply for settled status, at which point they must still be resident’. Since the criteria are national, not based on EU law, the calculation of this period might differ. As for ‘those EU citizens who arrived and became resident before the specified date’ but who have not accrued five years’ continuous residence on Brexit Day, they ‘will be able to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK until they have accumulated five years, after which they will be eligible to apply for settled status’. 

On the other hand, those EU citizens who arrive after the [un]specified date ‘will be allowed to remain in the UK for at least a temporary period and may become eligible to settle permanently, depending on their circumstances – but this group should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status’. This category of people will therefore be treated quite differently than under the EU proposal.
As for family members, any ‘family dependants’ who join a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before Brexit ‘will be able to apply for settled status after five years’ (including where the five years falls after our exit), irrespective of the specified date’. Again, it is unclear what the definition of ‘family members’ will be. However, family members arriving after Brexit will be subject to the same immigration rules as the family of UK citizens, ‘or alternatively to the post-exit immigration arrangements for EU citizens who arrive after the specified date’. This suggests a willingness to negotiate special rules on this issue with the EU.

There will be an exclusion for ‘those who are serious or persistent criminals and those whom we consider a threat to the UK’; this might not match the rules permitting exclusion of criminals and security threats set out in the EU legislation and ECJ case law. As for ‘benefits, pensions, healthcare, economic and other rights, in the expectation that these rights will be reciprocated by EU member states, the Government intends that:’ settled EU citizens ‘will continue to have access to UK benefits on the same basis as a comparable UK national under domestic law’; those EU citizens who arrived before the specified date will ‘continue to be able to access the same benefits that they can access now – (broadly, equal access for workers/the self-employed and limited access for those not working)’, on their route to settled status. If they later get settled status, they will have access to benefits ‘on the same terms as comparable UK residents’. Also, export of benefits to the EU ‘will be protected for those who are exporting such UK benefits on the specified date, including child benefit, subject to on-going entitlement to the benefit’. (Note that the right to export benefits will implicitly not be offered to those who arrive after the specified date).

Furthermore, ‘the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension within the EU’; this mainly concerns UK citizens retiring abroad, but some EU citizens will have acquired such rights from their UK employment too.  Other forms of social security coordination will continue, including aggregation of national insurance contributions for UK benefits and state pensions, even if granted after Brexit, and healthcare arrangements set out in UK and EU law; in particular, the UK will ‘seek to protect the ability of individuals who are eligible for a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the specified date to continue to benefit from free, or reduced cost, needs-arising healthcare while on a temporary stay in the EU’. Negotiations on ‘an ongoing arrangement akin to the EHIC scheme’ are planned, but there is no reference to negotiations on the other social security issues, even though it may prove technically and administratively difficult to aggregate contributions and pay benefits without a formal basis for cooperation. It is not clear if the UK plans to continue applying any of the relevant EU legislation as such; if it does not, negotiations and implementation of the rules will be more complicated.

Next, as regards education, the UK government ‘will ensure qualifying EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the specified date will continue to be eligible for Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) student loans and ‘home fee’ status in line with persons with settled status in the UK’, as well as maintenance support (where it exists) ‘on the same basis they do now’. Equal treatment in tuition fees will still apply to those EU students who are enrolled during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years ‘for the duration of their course’, along with ‘a parallel right to remain in the UK’ for those students ‘to complete their course’. (There’s no reference to a right to stay for other purposes after Brexit). The UK government ‘will seek to ensure that citizens with professional qualifications obtained in the EU27 prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will continue to have those qualifications recognised in the UK (and vice versa)’. This matches the EU position, albeit with more equivocal language.

As for documentation, EU citizens will need to obtain evidence of ‘settled status’ eventually, but they do not need to apply now, although an application process will be set up prior to Brexit ‘to enable those who wish to do so to get their new status at their earliest convenience’. Those who have already got documentation of permanent residence will have to apply again, but ‘we will seek to make sure that the application process for settled status is as streamlined as possible’. Fees will be set ‘at a reasonable level’. There will be a grace period of perhaps two years while all EU citizens resident under the old system have an opportunity to transition to the new one. If they fail to apply to be covered by the new system, they lose their permission to stay.

Finally, the UK will ‘discuss similar arrangements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland’ which are also subject to free movement rules ‘on a reciprocal basis’.

As for UK citizens in the EU, the government says they ‘must be able to attain a right equivalent to settled status in the country in which they reside’ and ‘continue to access benefits and services across the member states akin to the way in which they do now.’ The UK will also seek to ensure their continued right to establishment and cross-border provision of services within the EU.

Comments

Since the EU position refers to the continuation of existing law, there are few ambiguities in its meaning (besides those inherent in that existing law anyway – for instance, the exact status of same-sex marriages is pending before the ECJ, as discussed here). There are still some vague points, however. Firstly, is the reference to those who have previously resided in the EU or UK meant to be free-standing, or does it simply refer to the more detailed rules set out in the EU legislation referred to? (For instance, a UK pensioner living in Spain might be receiving a UK pension on the basis of contributions made some years ago). 

Secondly, it seems that the reference to rights based on the Treaties covers non-EU parents of UK children in the UK, ie the so-called Ruiz Zambrano cases (see further discussion here). Thirdly, would UK citizens resident in the EU on Brexit Day still retain the right of free movement between Member States – ie would a UK citizen in France on that day retain full free movement rights to move on to Germany in future? Finally, how would each side distinguish between those UK and EU citizens with acquired rights on Brexit Day, and those (principally those who move afterward) who do not have such rights?

In comparison, the UK position is necessarily vaguer, since it does not refer to EU law as such. As noted above, therefore, some of its key features are unclear, notably the definition of the grounds for ‘settled’ status, the scope of persons who might be excluded from that status, and family members. Much of the UK position uses ‘weasel words’ like ‘seek to ensure’ or ‘akin’.

To the extent that its content can be discerned, the UK position is indisputably offering worse terms both for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. First of all, the cut-off date in the EU position is Brexit Day, whereas it might be earlier in the UK position. The UK suggests that EU citizens in the UK might not be treated equally even if they have permanent residence status by the cut-off date, since they will have to transfer to settled status; the application process to that end would not be necessary in the EU position. While the UK will exempt people from the requirement to have Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, it has been argued that the current UK law on this point breaches EU law anyway.

For those EU citizens who do not have settled status by the cut-off date, or who arrive after the cut-off date but before Brexit Day, they will be worse off than under the EU proposal, since they will not be covered by EU free movement law as regards the acquisition of EU permanent residence status. All categories of EU citizen will have a diminished right to family reunion after Brexit Day.

For UK citizens in the EU, the UK position that they should get settled status in the relevant EU country would not necessarily ensure a right equivalent to EU free movement law permanent residence status. Moreover, those who have not obtained such status as of Brexit Day will not necessarily be able to obtain it as easily as EU citizens do, since free movement law would no longer apply. The word ‘akin’ as regards equal treatment is also vague. While the UK would aim to keep their right of establishment and freedom to provide services, there is no reference to the broader free movement rights arguably inferred by the EU position.

The two sides obviously also differ on the role of the ECJ: it would keep its full current role under the EU proposal, while lose its jurisdiction in the UK under the UK proposal. The latter would leave it with jurisdiction over UK citizens in the EU, and arguably a possible limited role in dispute settlement. Note that the UK implicitly is willing to consider an alternative method of dispute settlement: this could be a new court, a form or arbitration, or use of the existing EFTA Court, which applies EU internal market and related law in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, subject to a requirement to apply ECJ case law adopted before the date of the agreement and to take later case law into account. (This latter requirement matches the EU position, and nearly matches the UK plans for the Great Repeal Bill).

Taken as a whole then, the UK position is much vaguer and offers significantly less to both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU than the EU position does, although the gap is much wider for those who do not yet have EU permanent residence status. There is also an enforcement gap as regards the role of the ECJ, although there are precedents (notably the EFTA Court, agreements with Switzerland and Turkey) for the EU not insisting that its citizens living outside the EU have their rights enforced by the ECJ. Any compromise would most likely be based on: a) the EU side accepting an alternative means of enforcement of rights other than the ECJ; b) a cut off date of Brexit Day; and c) the two sides agreeing to base protection on the acquired rights approach with certain exceptions (family members admitted after Brexit, more stringent rules for those with criminal convictions).

*This blog post was supported by an ESRC Priority Brexit Grant on 'Brexit and UK and EU Immigration Policy'

Barnard & Peers: chapter 27
Photo credit: Business Mirror

Annex

EU negotiation position

20 The Agreement should safeguard the status and rights derived from Union law at the withdrawal date, including those the enjoyment of which will intervene at a later date (e.g. rights related to old age pensions) as well as rights which are in the process of being obtained, including the possibility to acquire them under current conditions after the withdrawal date (e.g. the right of permanent residence after a continuous period of five years of legal residence which started before the withdrawal date). This should cover both EU27 citizens residing (or having resided) and/or working (or having worked) in the United Kingdom and United Kingdom citizens residing (or having resided) and/or working (or having worked) in one of the Member States of the EU27. Guarantees to that effect in the Agreement should be reciprocal and should be based on the principle of equal treatment amongst EU27 citizens and equal treatment of EU27 citizens as compared to United Kingdom citizens, as set out in the relevant Union acquis. Those rights should be protected as directly enforceable vested rights for the life time of those concerned. Citizens should be able to exercise their rights through smooth and simple administrative procedures.

21. The Agreement should cover at least the following elements:
a) Definition of the persons to be covered: the personal scope should be the same as that of Directive 2004/38 (both economically active, i.e. workers and self-employed, as well as students and other economically inactive persons, who have resided in the UK or EU27 before the withdrawal date, and their family members who accompany or join them at any point in time before or after the withdrawal date). In addition, the personal scope should include persons covered by Regulation 883/2004, including frontier workers and family members irrespective of their place of residence.
b) Definition of the rights to be protected: this definition should include at least the following rights:
i) the residence rights and rights of free movement derived from Articles 18, 21, 45 and 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and set out in Directive 2004/38 (covering inter alia the right of permanent residence after a continuous period of five years of legal residence and the right as regards access to health care) and the rules relating to those rights; any document to be issued in relation to the residence rights (for example, registration certificates, residence cards or certifying documents) should have a declaratory nature and be issued under a simple and swift procedure either free of charge or for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents;
ii) the rights and obligations set out in Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems and in Regulation 987/2009 implementing Regulation 883/2004 (including future amendments of both Regulations) covering inter alia, rights to aggregation, export of benefits, and principle of single applicable law for all the matters to which the Regulations apply;
iii) the rights set out in Regulation 492/2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union (e.g. access to the labour market, to pursue an activity, social and tax advantages, training, housing, collective rights as well as rights of workers' family members to be admitted to general educational, apprenticeship and vocational training courses under the same conditions as the nationals of the host State);
iv) the right to take up and pursue self-employment derived from Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

22. For reasons of legal certainty, the Agreement should ensure, in the United Kingdom and in the EU27, the protection, in accordance with Union law applicable before the withdrawal date, of recognised professional qualifications (diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualification) obtained in any of the Union Member States before that date. The Agreement should also ensure that professional qualifications (diplomas, certificates or other evidence of formal qualification) obtained in a third country and recognised in any of the Union Member States before the withdrawal date in accordance with Union law rules applicable before that date continue to be recognised also after the withdrawal date. It should also provide for arrangements relating to procedures for recognition which are ongoing on the withdrawal date.

41. The Agreement should include provisions ensuring the settlement of disputes and the enforcement of the Agreement. In particular, these should cover disputes in relation to the following matters:
– continued application of Union law;
– citizens' rights;
– application and interpretation of the other provisions of the Agreement, such as the financial settlement or measures adopted by the institutional structure to deal with unforeseen situations.

42. In these matters, the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (and the supervisory role of the Commission) should be maintained. For the application and interpretation of provisions of the Agreement other than those relating to Union law, an alternative dispute settlement should only be envisaged if it offers equivalent guarantees of independence and impartiality to the Court of Justice of the European Union.


43. The Agreement should foresee that any reference to concepts or provisions of Union law made in the Agreement must be understood as including the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union interpreting such concepts or provisions before the withdrawal date. Moreover, to the extent an alternative dispute settlement is established for certain provisions of the Agreement, a provision according to which future case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union intervening after the withdrawal date must be taken into account in interpreting such concepts and provisions should be included.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Gamble that Failed: The Brexit Election and what happens next



Professor Steve Peers

Last week’s early UK election ended with the surprising result of a ‘hung Parliament’, in which no one party had a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. What does this mean for the Brexit process going forward?

First of all, there’s a simple message for Theresa May’s Conservative party: they failed. Epically. The Prime Minister called this election three years early specifically to ask voters to increase her slender majority of seats in the Commons, in order to give her a mandate to carry out her Brexit plan. Voters refused – giving her fewer seats and a minority government instead. Of course, some voters must have voted on other issues, but the ‘Brexit negotiation mandate’ was the express reason for calling the election, and was repeatedly invoked by the Prime Minister throughout the election campaign. And while it’s true that the Conservatives are the largest party, that’s hardly comparable to the political legitimacy of a majority government – and again, that ignores the specific rationale for calling the election in the first place.

Having said that, the largest party is entitled to attempt to form a government, and the Conservatives are currently trying just that, in negotiations with a Northern Ireland party, the Democratic Unionists (DUP). That party has many of the same Brexit objectives as the Conservatives (see their manifesto here), including maintaining simplified border crossing with the Republic of Ireland (other UK parties, as well as the EU side in the Brexit talks, have this objective too). Together, the Conservatives and DUP will have a small majority of seats in the House of Commons.

What are the implications of this? Such a slim majority of Commons seats is vulnerable to defections, and in any event it’s not yet known whether the DUP will commit to support any proposed legislation. Furthermore, the government is now more vulnerable to rejection or major amendment of legislation by the House of Lords. While there is a constitutional convention, known as the ‘Salisbury Convention’, which commits the House of Lords not to block proposals for legislation tabled by a government which were mentioned in the winning party’s manifesto, it’s arguable whether this Convention applies where there is a minority government.

This applies even more so to the Brexit policy of this government, since the Prime Minister explicitly requested voters for a bigger Commons majority to combat the hypothetical prospect of the Lords voting against her Brexit agenda. In effect, she asked voters: “Give me a big majority so the Lords don’t meddle with my Brexit plans”. And the voters answered: “No”. In the circumstances, if the Lords block any government Brexit bills, they would not be frustrating the popular vote – but rather giving effect to it.

There is another option for a Commons majority to get its way, if the Lords blocks the adoption of legislation: the Parliament Acts, which allow the Commons to override the Lords.  However, there is a problem of timing here. If the Parliament Acts are invoked, the legislation in question comes into force after a one-year delay. But there are only 21 months left before Brexit Day (29 March 2019). Factor in the months necessary for Brexit-related Bills to pass through Parliament, and overriding the Lords is not a very plausible threat. Mrs Thatcher used to say that the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money. Maybe; but the problem with Mayism is that you eventually run out of your own time to negotiate Brexit.

Underpinning all this is the changed dynamics of UK politics as a result of the election. When the ‘Article 50 Act’ was passed earlier this year, there were enough votes in the House of Lords to support guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights in the UK, as well as parliamentary scrutiny of the Brexit deal. But eventually Labour Lords abstained on these amendments, and so the Bill was adopted without them. Labour’s abstention may have been because the party did not want to be accused of blocking the Article 50 process, and/or because the party was worried (in light of opinion polls) about facing a snap ‘Brexit election’ if it did.

Now the position is transformed: a) the Article 50 Act has been passed, so Labour cannot be accused of blocking the process; and b) the ‘Brexit election’ has already been held, resulting in an unexpected increase in Labour votes, seats, momentum and opinion poll ratings. Although Labour still lost the election, it is now far more likely to welcome a further election than to fear one in these circumstances.

Substantive issues

Let’s now examine how this changed political dynamic could affect the details of the Brexit process. The government plans to propose a Great Repeal Bill that would convert the bulk of EU law into UK law as from Brexit Day, as well as other Brexit-related legislation (on immigration and customs, for example). Under the new political environment, the opposition parties, possibly with Conservative defectors, have a bigger opportunity to pass amendments or to block such bills.

For instance, amendments could include: guarantees for the rights of EU citizens in the UK; limiting the government’s power to reduce social and environmental standards without a further Act of Parliament; effective parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations; the role of the devolved legislatures; and parliamentary approval of the final deal. It seems unlikely that there are enough votes to demand a further referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal, but there might be enough to require the government to seek some form of interim participation in the EU single market, pending negotiation of a subsequent post-Brexit trade deal. (While the Labour manifesto, as discussed here, ruled out continuing free movement of persons, arguably a brief continuation, with use of a safeguard clause like that in the European Economic Area, would not contradict this).

This brings us to a key Conservative party position that the new composition of the Commons could in effect rule out: the ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ argument. One of the least edifying moments of the campaign was the Prime Minister’s endless repetition of this mantra in one of the debates, accompanied each time by bellows of support from her ardent admirers. This was always an implausible threat due to the damage to the UK economy it would likely cause if it were carried out. But now it is politically implausible to, for the government could well struggle to find a parliamentary majority in both Houses to carry such a threat out. (Labour, and other opposition parties, explicitly oppose the use of this threat).  

In particular, Parliament might be unwilling to repeal the European Communities Act to give effect ‘no deal’, or at least unwilling to repeal it in advance if the government wants to repeal it in advance of Brexit Day (ie, unilaterally breaching its EU law obligations set out in Article 50). On this point, it’s essential to recall the Supreme Court ruling in Miller, to the effect that EU law is part of the domestic legal system largely because of the European Communities Act, rather than executive powers. The ‘no-deal’ threat was always unconvincing in light of political economy; it is now even more unconvincing as a matter of parliamentary arithmetic.

One final observation on the ‘no-deal’ scenario: it is particularly incompatible with the position of the Conservatives’ planned partner, the DUP, because (as noted above) the latter is keen on maintaining the absence of controls on the border with the Irish Republic. Since customs issues are an exclusive EU competence, this cannot work out without some form of treaty with the EU. And the EU’s negotiating guidelines rule out a separate deal on this issue: other issues (including difficult questions about financial payments) must be settled as part of an overall package.

It’s technically possible that the EU might change this position and negotiate a separate deal on this issue, even if there’s no deal overall. But how likely is it? Some Leavers argue that the EU’s negotiation position will swiftly fall apart, and the UK can get whatever it wants from the talks. Yet they said things like this throughout the referendum campaign, arguing that immediately after the referendum vote the EU would beg the UK to do a trade deal on the UK’s terms. To borrow from some Brexiteers’ favourite genre (WWII films), German car makers would call Angela Merkel to tell her “For you, ze var is over”; and Merkel would in turn call other EU leaders to say “Ve haf vays of making you talk”.

None of this happened, of course. Nor did the parallel fantasy that Brexit would soon be followed by Nexit, Frexit and the rest as other EU countries held key elections. Instead, domino after domino stood firm, and populist party after populist party ditched unpopular anti-EU policies after a series of electoral defeats. Some Brexiteers said there’d be an orgy of countries leaving the EU; but the UK is the only one who showed up to it. When it comes to analysis of EU politics, maybe it’s time to swipe left on those Brexiteers.

Conclusions

The British public was asked to give its verdict on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. Since the referendum, we’ve heard her sneering at Remain voters and alleging that the EU wanted to undermine the election, while her angry tabloid allies ranted about “enemies of the people”, “crushing the saboteurs” and “Blue murder”. After a year of this rhetoric, British voters have politely asked the loud woman to turn down the volume – refusing her explicit request to back her Brexit strategy and implicitly asking for a rethink. Sadly, having campaigned in Hard Rock, it seems that Mrs. May is incapable of governing in Easy Listening. But as always, it ain’t over until the Mother of Parliaments sings.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 27

Photo credit: Daily25

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The UK General Election and Brexit: Comparing Party Manifestos




Professor Steve Peers

Tomorrow sees another general election in the UK, just two years after the last one. Since this is (according to the Prime Minister) an election on Brexit, it seems appropriate to review the parties’ views on this issue, including future UK/EU relations. I will examine the parties’ views in turn – focussing on larger UK-wide parties plus (due to its political importance) the Scottish National Party. The final section is an overview and comparison.

Conservatives

The Tory manifesto position on Brexit is largely a summary of the position set out in the Brexit White Paper (discussed here), and the planned Great Repeal Bill (discussed here), which would keep EU law as part of ‘UK law’ for the time being. Essentially, the Tories believe that the future UK/EU relationship should be based on a free trade deal without ‘vast’ payments into the EU budget or free movement of persons. Participation in the customs union and internal market would end, and there are some details about the transition to full separate UK participation in the World Trade Organisation. There’s an objective of continuing security cooperation with the EU, but the details are not spelled out.

Some fair settlement of UK accounts would be made upon departure from the EU, but the Tory policy is ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ – without spelling that position out further. Fortunately, the UKIP manifesto (discussed below) addresses this point. Unlike UKIP, the Tories do not attempt to ‘sell’ the no-deal scenario – which is just as well considering the concerns about its potential economic damage. Rather there is much discussion of what the positive outcomes of a deal would be.

Future immigration policy would retain an objective of net immigration below 100,000 – which would entail reducing non-EU migration (an issue largely outside the scope of EU law for the UK) as well. This would include further restricting the number of foreign students and family members, despite promises from the Leave side made during the referendum campaign to make it easier to admit UK citizens’ non-EU family members.  

Labour

Labour accepts the result of the referendum but sets out in more detail than the Conservatives what the future UK/EU relationship would look like.  It supports continued relations with Euratom and the single energy market, plus wants to maintain the ‘benefits’ of the single market and customs union without explaining how. Other remarks from the party suggest that it opposes continued participation as such in the single market and customs union, and opposes free movement of persons continuing.

Labour reject the ‘no-deal’ option, support a transitional deal, and list a number of areas where they still wish to cooperate with the EU: research programmes, Erasmus, Europol, Eurojust, the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), climate and anti-terrorism cooperation.  They have a different policy from the Tories on future family migration, as they would waive the strict income requirements for family members rather than tighten them. (There would still be a requirement not to use public funds). They would ‘guarantee existing rights’ of EU citizens in the UK. They set out in detail their future trade policy, insisting on links between trade and other concerns like the environment and human and labour rights.

Liberal Democrats

The LibDems aim for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, and support continued membership of the EU single market (including free movement of people) and customs union. They make specific reference to staying in Erasmus, preserving social and environmental rights, and participating in Europol, the EAW, EU databases, EU research funds, the European health card, abolition of roaming fees, and pat passports. Like Labour, they suggest links in between human rights and the environment in future trade deals. LibDems also give some detail on the position of EU citizens in the UK:

Greens

Similar to the LibDems, Greens propose a referendum on the final Brexit deal, and seek to continue with free movement and the single market. They also wish to guarantee EU citizens’ rights, retain social and environmental safeguards, and link trade deals to other standards.

Scottish National Party

The SNP manifesto views on Brexit reiterate its two key positions: Scotland, or the UK as a whole, to stay in the single market (previously discussed here), and a Scottish independence referendum when the terms of Brexit are known (previously discussed here). They also repeat their support for guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights.

UKIP

Finally, that brings us to the UKIP manifesto. This manifesto gives us an indication of how the ‘no-deal’ scenario hinted at in the Conservative manifesto might play out. UKIP opposes the use of the Article 50 procedure to negotiate with the EU, focussing instead on the purely domestic law change of repealing the European Communities Act. They still aspire to a free trade deal with the EU, however, although they are indifferent to whether they get one – since they also promise to spend the £11 billion “windfall” from tariffs on EU goods. There’s no acknowledgement of the effects on the UK economy of this scenario: indeed, they argue that talk of a “cliff edge” from leaving the EU without a trade deal is “hyperbole”, since trade will still continue. This ignores the obvious prospect that the level of trade will decrease if tariffs and non-tariff barriers are imposed. While they reject the single market and customs union, they want EU/UK trade to continue “on the same basis as present”.

In any event, UKIP not only refuse to make any payment upon departure, they expect the UK to receive a sum from the EU as it leaves. Moreover, they pledge to oppose the existence of customs unions like the EU in the World Trade Organisations – even though the WTO expressly provides for the existence of customs unions, and (as UKIP even acknowledge) the EU is a WTO member in its own right.

Overall then, UKIP expects to receive all the current trade benefits of EU membership, with none of the perceived drawbacks, plus a payment on the way out. All of this while refusing to use the official departure route and campaigning to end the EU’s existence as a customs union and WTO member. If you seek a visual metaphor for how UKIP sees the world, imagine their leader Paul Nuttall – a star football player in his own mind - repeatedly scoring penalties over the heads of 27 massed goalkeepers.

UKIP’s rage against the dying of their light deserves one final paragraph. Their immigration policy includes not just an unreal zero migration target, but also a demand that new immigrants observe UK “values” to be admitted. This from a party who have continually disregarded the basic British values of tolerance, equality and fair play: members have referred to gays causing floods, and repeatedly insulted minorities. Indeed, after the last European Parliament election, to receive EU money UKIP did a deal with a party whose leader denies the Holocaust, and claims that women are inferior and obtain their political beliefs via biological transmission from the men they have sexual intercourse with. Clearly, politics’ loss is gynaecology’s gain.

Overview

There are two broad categories of opinion on the EU in this election, but also important differences within each group. The Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP want to continue participation in the single market as well as a number of other EU policies. Moreover, all three parties want to offer the option of continued EU membership – the LibDems and Greens by means of a UK-wide referendum on the final deal, and the SNP by means of a referendum on Scottish independence.

The Conservatives, Labour and UKIP all favour departure from the UK without the single market, the customs union and free movement of persons, and aim instead for a free trade deal with the EU. However, these similarities soon end.  Like the first group of parties, Labour would guarantee EU citizens’ rights (in fact, it supports guaranteeing their existing rights, an important nuance), and would seek participation in a number of specific EU measures. The Tories are considerably cooler and less detailed on these issues, and are willing to contemplate a ‘no-deal’ scenario, although they cannot bring themselves to ‘sell’ it. Labour would welcome foreign families and students; the Tories see them as numbers to be reduced.

UKIP offers voters not just one fantasy, but a choice of two fantasies: either a problem-free ‘no-deal’ scenario, or a deal with all of the benefits and none of the supposed drawbacks of EU membership, with a gold watch for UK service to the EU thrown in for good measure. Of course, some would argue that UKIP’s fantasies are simply more explicit than Labour’s or the Conservatives’ – since the EU has made clear in its negotiating position that it is not possible to retain all benefits of the single market for a former Member State which leaves it.

Voters may not wish to make Brexit the main reason for their vote, or may in any event choose to cast a tactical vote against a party they dislike, rather than vote for a party which they most agree with but which has no chance of winning their seat. But it can hardly be said that all parties take the same view on Brexit issues, and the summary above makes clear that for those whose concern is Brexit first and foremost, there is a lot at stake in this election.



Barnard & Peers: chapter 27
Photo credit: BBC