Friday, November 17, 2017

The EHIC post Brexit: The devil is in the detail

The House of Lords Home Affairs Committee has a sub-committee on the EU. It is an extremely impressive group, chaired by a former head of the diplomatic service, and with a former chief executive of the NHS among its numbers. I was asked to give evidence on the prospects for retaining the European Health Insurance Card post Brexit. What other arrangements does the EU have with third countries? Are there arrangements from before we joined the EU that we could revive?
This involved a lot of homework - for example, dredging through the National Archives to find ancient treaties. That was a fascinating exercise. Several were with countries that no longer exist, such as Czechoslovakia (although in that case it seems that David Davis is unaware that it split in two in 1993), Yugoslavia, and the USSR. The wording revealed how far we have come. Many of the treaties talked of how, if a national of one country was residing in another, he would be entitled to something, as would his wife.  Clearly, the possibility of a woman ever working abroad was unimaginable to them.
I've written a blog about what I discovered on the BMJ website. But to cut a long story short, it is clear that, once again, UK ministers are living in cloud cuckoo land. Their remarks reveal a profound ignorance of even the most basic aspects of how the EU works. I cannot see any prospect of retaining the EHIC given the UK government's red lines.
No wonder our European neighbours are now planning for the worst. Until now, they persisted in the belief that the UK government could not be so stupid. But now they realise that it is. And it is both tragic and embarrassing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

A running commentary

The Brexit negotiations continue - I deliberately do not use the word progress. It is now abundantly clear that the UK is totally unprepared. The Cabinet is hopelessly divided. Weekly, politicians make statements revealing their deep ignorance of how the EU works. The general view is that if they wait long enough, someone else will find a solution.

The Prime Minister has said that she won't provide a running commentary. She seems strangely shy about sharing the news about what she seems to think will be an amazing success, refusing to publish her government's assessments of the impact of Brexit. This may not matter - even the ministers in the department that is meant to be negotiating Brexit haven't read them - and can't even confirm they actually exist. Still, if she isn't willing to, I thought I could help with some observations from time to time. So as well as the blogs mentioned in previous posts here, I've added a few more. I hope you find them interesting.

BMJ blogs:

UK in a changing Europe:

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The sound of ideology smashing into the wall of reality is echoing around Whitehall

The UK government has issued its latest Brexit White Paper. Well, some of it is white. Five of the 44 pages are completely blank. Another 5 only have blue rectangles. One wonders how much time was spent in deciding what shade of blue was used. It must have been light relief from the much more difficult task of thinking of words to include. Yet it does say something. It seems to recognise that Brexit will be much more difficult than the Leavers thought, and many will be very disappointed. But it also shows that the UK government still has very little clue if how to proceed.
My take on it can be seen in my latest BMJ blog, which you can read here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

So Theresa May has triggered Article 50. It didn't go down well. First, she called for talks on the UK's exit from the EU to proceed in parallel with those on a free trade deal. Clearly she hadn't been listening to what everyone else had been saying for months. It isn't going to happen, as Angela Merkel (and many others) quickly pointed out. Then she issued a veiled threat - be nice to us or we will stop co-operating on security. At a time when all European countries face a severe threat, this is not good timing. And her obvious disregard for the interests of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar greatly increases the likelihood that, in 10 years time, it will be England alone outside the EU.
Maybe we could be more reassured if we felt that the UK government had some plan for how to proceed. Sadly, as I noted in a recent blog for the BMJ, it is now all too apparent that it doesn't. Indeed, listening to the news today simply confirmed my suspicion. Those who support Brexit simply don't understand the EU and our relationship with it, something that has taken 40 years to develop and, by all accounts, will take 40 years to disentangle ourselves from.
Can the notification of Article 50 be revoked. Certainly our European partners think so. And for this we should be very grateful because, sometime in the next few years, the UK will hit the wall we call reality. And we may be very grateful for an escape from this insanity.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Brexit White Paper - or should it be Blank Paper

I've written a new blog on the Brexit White Paper on the BMJ website. You can read it here. As you will see, I was quite amazed that any government would have the audacity to produce such an appalling document and pass it off as a something as serious as a government White Paper. It adds almost nothing to Theresa May's Lancaster House speech, contains factual errors, and includes no serious analysis of the challenges ahead. It has all the realism of a 5 year old writing to Santa Claus.
Others have noted how, by reading the metadata on the HTML version, one can see that it was only finished at 4 am in the morning it was published. One feels that it may only have been started the evening before.
Those wanting to read more (and after reading the White Paper, anyone with even a passing interest in Brexit is likely to want much more) should also look at Steve Peer's excellent analysis here. There is also a great thread by on twitter by Schona Jolly, another perceptive observer of these things.