I keep seeing the word “bespoke” in articles written about Brexit. It’s the unspoken strategy of the UK Government for a tailored outcome to negotiations that is unique in its advantages and unlike any existing agreements the EU has with third Counties. On the one point, there’s no doubt the UK’s position is unique. To have been a big player in the EU for 40 years and then to leave it without a compass or a map is a special situation.
The impression given by the EU side in the negotiations is that the softest possible Brexit is sought but with no special advantages given that would incentivise other Countries taking a similar leap into the unknown. Often the catch words; win-win are used to suggest that there’s an outcome that would mean the minimum pain around but that comes with a price.
These high-level aspirations are fine and good except that the detail is always in the fine print. That said, in the world of regulation there’s an awful lot of fine print. It’s the case that hardly any industry or service is solely domestic, in that all its rules are purely national. Regionally and globally rules, regulations and standards are in place to ensure that markets work, and failure get fixed. There’s no council of perfection, some are better than others in achieving their objectives and often changing agreements is a gruelling task.
Back to that word “bespoke”. In regulatory rulemaking terms, it’s implied that three categories are likely to arise. One: UK wholly adopts and applies a complete EU rule. Two: UK creates and applies a regulatory equivalence to an EU rule. Three: UK creates and applies a disharmonised rule. For the first two categories, if the minimum of disruption is sought, changes and modifications would need to be synchronised between the UK and EU.
The last case, number three in my list, doesn’t have that much mileage given that many EU rules are designed to comply with higher level international rules. I’m sure the UK would have the same overriding objective to remain compatible at an international level.
It’s certainly the result that a “bespoke” settlement will not be simpler than the existing situation as a Member State of the EU. Not only that but the administration of all the above for all the industries and services would be a responsibility of the UK. Repatriation of these responsibilities is going to need many administrators and technical staff and a sound structure for them to do their work. Once in place, this is not static, and a continuous process of updating would be needed.
So, if I was to offer career advice for a young graduate in the post-Brexit UK you might guess what it would be. Yes, there are going to be the need to train up many new people to take on this activity.