After weeks in which the Government has released a flurry of position papers outlining its Brexit policy, the top line is clear – that Ministers believe membership of the EU has benefited Britain, the Open Britain campaign says today.
All the Government position papers have highlighted many positive benefits of EU membership, from trade and the Northern Ireland peace process to data sharing and mutual legal recognition.
Open Britain have compiled the top 10 times the Government’s position papers praised the existing arrangements within the EU.
Commenting, Jo Swinson MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:
“Despite containing enough waffle to open a Belgian restaurant, the Government’s position papers do make one thing clear: our current status in the EU provides huge benefits to the people of Britain.
“The Government’s own position papers reveal the hypocrisy at the heart of their hard Brexit strategy. They acknowledge the huge benefits delivered by a close relationship with our European partners, while embarking on a hard Brexit course that is putting so many of those benefits at risk.
“Rather than spending vast amounts of time, effort and money in a doomed attempt to recreate a convoluted, inferior version of what we already have, the Government should take the best option available to them: keeping the UK in the Single Market and the Customs Union.”
Notes to editors:
Top 10 times the Government’s position papers admitted the EU has benefited Britain:
- On the value of highly integrated UK-EU trade: “Both the UK and the rest of the EU benefit from the close and longstanding trading relationship for goods. The EU is the UK’s largest market for goods, and in 2016 other EU Member States, taken as a whole, exported more goods to the UK than any third country. Citizens across the EU also benefit from this close relationship and the integrated regulatory systems, which enable the supply of safe products across the EU and the UK, as well as reduced costs, increased variety, flexibility for supply chains, benefits for patients, and higher quality and innovative products.”
- On the EU’s contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process: “The EU’s unwavering support for the peace process has been valuable in furthering political progress and reconciliation. In particular, the EU has provided support through EU regional policy, including financial contributions to the International Fund for Ireland and, most recently, the PEACE programmes. As the Report of the European Commission’s Task Force 2007-2014 of October 2014 states: “Northern Ireland can count on the European Commission in its efforts to ensure lasting peace and prosperity”. The Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 23 October 2008 (SC/029) sets out that: “The EU peace-building method in Northern Ireland has been a unique, long-term commitment of substantial resources, strategically planned and executed, based on the principles of social partnership and subsidiarity and guided every step of the way by inclusive local consultation. The EU should retain its long-term support for peace-building in Northern Ireland”.”
- On the value of Euratom: “The UK is a leader in nuclear safety and has a proven track record as a responsible Nuclear Weapons State, dedicated to ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear materials. As part of this, it has been a strong and active member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1957. It enjoys a wide-ranging and successful partnership with the EU in the civil nuclear sector, which is rooted in a strong and mutually beneficial trade relationship. Its world-class expertise in nuclear research and development has put it at the heart of wider EU collaboration to develop the clean energy of the future.”
- On the value of UK-EU trade to the economies of both: “As we leave the EU, and establish an independent trade policy, the Government will prioritise ensuring that UK and EU businesses and consumers can continue to trade freely with one another, as part of a new deep and special partnership. As a bloc the EU accounts for the largest proportion of UK trade. In 2016, UK imports from and exports to the EU totalled £553bn, with over 200,000 UK businesses trading with the EU. Furthermore, UK-EU trade is an important contributor to the economy in all parts of the United Kingdom. We want to ensure that our future arrangements with the EU maximise our future trade with Europe, including through integrated supply chains.”
- On the benefits of integrated UK-EU civil judicial cooperation: “The best way to ensure legal certainty for both UK and EU citizens and businesses as we leave the EU is to facilitate a smooth transition to a new relationship in civil judicial cooperation. Existing international conventions can provide for rules in some areas, but they would not generally provide the more sophisticated and effective interaction, based on mutual trust between legal systems, that currently benefits both EU and UK business, families and individual litigants. The optimum outcome for both sides will be an agreement reflecting our close existing relationship, where litigating a cross-border case involving UK and EU parties under civil law, wherever it might take place, will be easier, cheaper and more efficient for all involved.”
- On the importance of UK-EU data flows: “Increasingly, data flows envelop all trade in goods and services as well as other business and personal relations. The UK is a significant player in global data flows. Estimates suggest that around 43 per cent of all large EU digital companies are started in the UK, and that 75 per cent of the UK’s cross-border data flows are with EU countries. Analysis indicates that the UK has the largest internet economy as a percentage of GDP of all the G20 countries, and has an economy dominated by service sectors in which data and data flows are increasingly vital. The UK accounted for 11.5 per cent of global cross-border data flows in 2015, compared with 3.9 per cent of global GDP and 0.9 per cent of global population, but the value of data flows to the whole economy and the whole of society are greater still.”
- On the importance of an invisible border on the island of Ireland for trade: “Citizens rely on being able to cross the border freely with goods for their own personal use. Current rules mean they do not have to make declarations or pay duties on these goods at the border…The deeply integrated nature of trade, both domestically between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and across the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, highlights why the UK is prioritising finding a solution that protects businesses’ ability to access these important markets.”
- On the benefits of mutual legal recognition within the EU: “The UK currently participates in the EU’s civil judicial cooperation system provided by a range of EU instruments. This framework provides predictability and certainty for citizens and businesses from the EU and the UK about the laws that apply to their cross-border relationships, the courts that would be responsible, and their ability to rely on decisions from one country’s courts in another State. It plays an important role in enabling businesses to trade with confidence across borders, providing legal certainty in cross-border transactions and avoiding delays and excessive costs where individual and family rights need to be protected in cross-border situations.” 
- On the invisible border’s contribution to the Northern Irish peace process: “The invisible and open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is, as the Irish Government has said, arguably “the most tangible symbol of the peace process”. Customs controls were first introduced at the land border in 1923, shortly after the establishment of the Irish Free State. These controls, and the associated system of ‘approved roads’, were maintained to varying degrees until the the European Single Market was formally established in December 1992. In 1972 there was a chain of 17 HM Customs and Excise boundary posts at the major road crossing points along the Northern Ireland land border, with the other (over 200) crossings not approved for vehicular traffic. During the ‘Troubles’, customs posts were frequently the subject of bombing attacks. Border crossings and checkpoints were manned by a very substantial military and security presence, including a series of ‘watchtowers’ in border areas, and a number of border roads were blocked by the security forces adding to the disruption created by the approved road network. The Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement included a specific commitment to “the removal of security installations”. All military security installations and other infrastructure were removed following the Agreement and the border today is invisible and seamless across its 310 mile/500 km length. As the Irish Government has said, “the disappearance of physical border crossings and checkpoints is both a symbol of, and a dividend from, the success of the peace process”.
- On the UK’s influence within the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU): “The UK as a Member State has a particular relationship with the CJEU. This means, for example, that the UK nominates a judge to both the Court of Justice and the General Court, and that there is also a UK Advocate General at the CJEU. It also means that lawyers registered in the UK are afforded the right to appear before the CJEU.”