Brexit will not bring about more than an ‘incremental’ change to UK regulations governing agri-food trade, according to a leading agricultural lawyer.
Adam Corbin, a barrister and senior associate at law firm Michelmores, said the UK will probably be able to do little more than decide how to implement EU regulations if trade is to remain as frictionless as possible after Brexit.
He suggested the UK would have to follow the model of European Economic Area (EEA) countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which are outside the EU, to secure free trade in food.
Speaking at a Michelmores roadshow in Shewsbury last week (March 27), Mr Corbin said: “The EEA [countries] have had to accept all of the four freedoms [free movement of goods, capital, services and labour] of the EU in order to get unlimited access to EU markets, and they have domestic committees which look at new EU regulations and decide how they will appear in domestic law.
“It is probably naive to think in exchange for free access we are not going to need a similar mechanism where we have to interpret the latest in ‘eggs and chips regulations’, for instance, and put them into domestic law in order to allow for this frictionless trade everyone seems to be agreed they want.”
The Prime Minister has previously ruled out a ‘Norway-style’ Brexit deal because it would mean accepting freedom of movement with few controls, and some politicians have suggested it would not give the UK enough say over new EU rules.
But others point out EEA countries have multiple opportunities to influence EU legislation in its earlier stages and can provide expert input during the policy-making process.
It is possible the UK could end up adopting a model similar to this despite Government opposition, as a cross-party group of MPs is seeking support for it as part of the indicative votes process in the House of Commons.
The alliance, led by Conservative MP Nick Boles, is pushing for a ‘Norway+’ arrangement which proposes a customs union be bolted on to EEA membership.