Kevin Hollinrake: High environmental standards boost economic growth

The Environment Bill gives us the chance to cement Britain’s position as a world leader in clean, sustainable progress.

Kevin Hollinrake is MP for Thirsk and Malton, and is co-Chair of the APPG for Fair Business Banking.

British voters overwhelming support high environmental standards – 80 per cent, for example, want the UK to maintain our world-leading food safety regulations after we leave the European Union.

This is unsurprising – high environmental standards in agriculture keep our livestock healthy and our food safe to eat, and in product design they cut our energy bills by improving the efficiency of our ovens and toasters.

A sensible, long term framework of environmental rules spurs investment and innovation from business.

Many businesses of course face examples of vexatious red tape – and Brexit does provide us with the opportunity to cut some of the bureaucracy that has impeded business and made our lives more difficult. From the baffling small print on radio adverts, to compelling pharmacists to scan every medicine in front of their customers, there are plenty of nonsensical EU regulations that add unnecessary costs to businesses and should be scrapped.

Yet the desire to trim unnecessary red tape can sit comfortably alongside support for a long term, sensible framework of high environmental standards that, if properly enforced by an independent watchdog, will restore our countryside, clean up our air, and boost British business.

BuroHappold Engineering recently explored the relationship between environmental regulations and competitiveness, in particular the impact of the implementation of the London Plan in the construction sector, the Landfill Tax in the waste sector, and the passenger car emission regulations in the car industry.

In all three cases their analysis found that the upfront costs of complying with regulations were outweighed by the economic benefits they triggered through increased business investment in innovation and skills, better-quality products and infrastructure, greater business competitiveness, and job creation.

For example, there was an overwhelming consensus that despite flaws in the testing methodology, passenger car CO2 emission regulations have been a success story for the UK and EU car industry. The regulations have provided certainty, scale, and a clear framework to meet targets, without any negative impacts on competitiveness. The relatively stable and consistent regulatory framework has allowed for a long-term and broader view of managing the costs of compliance.

This commitment to a stable and consistent framework underpins the UK’s Climate Change Act – which, through its long-term approach to tackling global warming, has delivered certainty to businesses and deep reductions in CO2 emissions. Since 1990, we have cut emissions by 42 per cent, while our economy has grown by two-thirds. This means that we have reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation, while leading the G7 in growth in national income over this period.

The same principle – that businesses benefit from a clear and consistent regulatory framework – underpins the Government’s Environment Bill. The Bill will set out clear goals and targets to reverse the damage done to the British countryside over previous decades and clean up our toxic air.

Businesses welcome the clarity provided by these targets. Anglian Water, for example, have argued that “when targets are too vague, it’s almost impossible to assess whether government is on track to hit them. In order for real progress to be made on the environment, goals within the Environment Bill must be carefully established with robust timetables.”

Businesses will then only invest if they have the confidence that these targets will be properly enforced: hence why the independence of the statutory body – the “watchdog” – is so crucial. Firms need to know that whoever is in government, their investments in things such as new technology to improve air quality will pay off.

The UK is a world leader in clean growth, with over 400,000 jobs in the low carbon economy: one in five electric vehicles sold in Europe in are made in Britain; our offshore wind sector is second to none; and the City of London is the home of green finance. This is in large part down to investment decisions that have been driven by our Climate Change Act – and the certainly provided to business by the existence of an independent Committee on Climate Change that will make sure standards are upheld.

We now have the opportunity to set the gold standard with a world-leading Environment Bill, and achieve similar results for British nature, while providing the certainty British businesses need about the direction of travel to a cleaner, more prosperous future.

German industry seeks to push harder EU line on China

Europe’s industrial heartland signals it wants tougher policies from the next Commission.

German industry today launched a major offensive to ensure the next European Commission will take a harder line on China.

Ahead of this year’s European election, Germany’s most influential industry federation is calling on Brussels to ramp up EU defenses against what it sees as unfair competition from Beijing.

Crucially, its 54-point plan, obtained by POLITICO, seeks a bigger role for the European Commission’s powerful competition unit as the EU tries to combat China’s subsidized exports, industrial overcapacity and corporate buy-outs.

The proposals from the Federation of German Industries (BDI) offer a sign that Berlin and the EU are likely to gravitate toward a tougher position against Beijing after the departure of the more China-friendly U.K. from the 28-member bloc.

“The People’s Republic is establishing its own political, economic and social model,” said BDI President Dieter Kempf. Politicians could no longer afford to “simply ignore the challenges China poses to the EU and Germany,” he added.

A tougher line on China from Germany would align Berlin more closely with Paris.

“A battle of economic models is emerging,” the BDI said in Thursday’s paper.

A tougher line on China from Germany would align Berlin more closely with Paris. It would, however, also revive charges of hypocrisy from countries such as Portugal and Greece, which argue that Germany pushed them to sell off prized assets to the Chinese during the financial crisis. Germany’s critics say Berlin has only recently woken up to the risks posed by strategic Chinese buy-outs in sectors with core know-how such as robotics.

Battle of the systems

The BDI plan represents a major shift in the way German businesses think and talk about China, which American and French officials often criticized as naïve.

For many years, the Chinese economy was seen as largely complementary to Germany’s: China produced cheap consumer goods and components, while Germany produced larger machines and hi-tech products.

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 24, 2018 | Jason Lee – Pool photo/Getty Images

When the European solar cell industry was wiped out by subsidized Chinese competitors, the German economy ministry saw it as the price to be paid to maintain good relations with Beijing, which was more than offset by Germany’s sales of luxury cars to the Middle Kingdom.

But as China moves up the value chain, Chinese subsidies pose an increasing threat to the German model. Chinese producers have now entered into direct competition with many traditional German champions.

As one of its lines of defense, the BDI on Thursday came out staunchly in favor of mergers that allow companies to bulk up into European champions. This is a subject of hot debate as Franco-German plans to merge Alstom and Siemens into a rail champion are meeting fierce headwinds over fears the two will form an uncompetitive behemoth in the EU. The Germans argue that EU regulators should take a more global perspective when calculating the effects of merger concentrations, and not just look at the harm to consumers in Europe.

France leads the charge for reciprocity but Britain and Sweden argue such measures would be counter-productive.

To fight Chinese subsidies, the BDI wants hard-hitting options on the table. EU state-aid rules only apply to European companies receiving subsidies, but the BDI wants these extended to cover “subsidies outside the EU.” The bloc should also consider creating a new mechanism for “subsidy control” to assess whether takeovers are financed with subsidies, the BDI argued.

But the group also suggests fighting fire with fire. This could mean taking account of “reciprocity” in tenders for big public procurement contracts like roads and railways. To date, France has led the charge for reciprocity, which means closing EU tenders to bids from companies based in (particularly Asian) countries that restrict European access to tenders on their soil. Free trading countries such as Britain and Sweden have long argued that such measures would be counter-productive and would close European markets to the best-value bids.

Changing the focus on Chinese takeovers

The BDI also called on the EU to change its approach to the Chinese state’s influence in mergers and acquisitions.

The European Commission’s directorate-general for competition has long been under pressure to take a more holistic view of how it values the market power of Chinese enterprises owned or steered by the state. The EU often treats each state-owned company as a separate entity. This limits the perception by regulators that a company could be distorting competition by coordinating with other limbs of the Chinese state. The BDI is calling for updated rules that would allow the Commission to consider those companies as part of a bigger market player: China Inc. This would expand Brussels’ powers to crack down on buy-outs.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Wednesday that he was “open … to look at the competition policy due to the changing market.”

Many EU countries have pledged to push for “evolutions of the European rules applicable to competition and state aid.”

In a little-noticed statement just before Christmas, 18 EU countries also called on the next Commission to rethink its industrial policy, specifically calling for changes to competition rules.

France, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain said they would push for “possible evolutions of the European rules applicable to competition and state aid” particularly to “review the state aid framework to … promote the competitiveness of European industry at international level.”

The countries also called for updating antitrust rules to “better take into account international markets and competition in merger analysis.”

The BDI also stressed the value of so-called matching clauses, which have been overlooked as a potential weapon in EU state-aid policy. These clauses allow EU countries to offer state aid to investors to keep business in Europe, by matching the subsidies the companies are being offered by a rival such as China or Mexico.

German industry says it wants the scope of these matching clauses to be ramped up. The BDI sees such subsidies as an interim measure until the EU works out how to export its anti-subsidy standards internationally.

This article is from POLITICO Pro: POLITICO’s premium policy service. To discover why thousands of professionals rely on Pro every day, email for a complimentary trial.

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Two arrested over Gatwick drone disruption

Draft drone bill delayed as civil servants focus on Brexit, the Times reports.

British police Saturday said they have detained two suspects following drone interference at Gatwick airport that let to partial shutdowns of the U.K.’s second-largest airport.

Sussex police said the arrests, made just after 10 p.m. Friday, form part of an “ongoing investigations into the criminal use of drones which has severely disrupted flights in and out of Gatwick Airport.”

Authorities did not release further details on the two persons arrested.

Drone sightings Wednesday night saw severe disruption to the airport’s activities as flights were suspended for security reasons. Flights resumed Friday morning but were suspended again that afternoon, restarting around 7 p.m. Friday, police said.

The Times Saturday reported that U.K. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling this year ditched plans for a draft bill to regulate drone use and develop technology to prevent them from being used near airports.

The outlet reported the legislation “had been due for publication in the spring, [but] was dropped amid pressures on the department, with civil servants diverted to work on Brexit.”

The British Airline Pilots’ Association said Friday it “remains extremely concerned at the risk of a drone collision,” and had issued advice to pilots on how to respond to a drone sighting.

Gatwick airport said Saturday: “Our runway is open. Passengers are advised to check with their airline before travelling to the airport.”

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Gatwick reopens after airport implements anti-drone measures

Britain’s Gatwick airport reopened this morning after rogue drones prompted it to ground all flights since Wednesday night, disrupting the travel plans of 120,000 passengers. Just under 700 flights are expected to take off today and over 100 have been canceled, Gatwick Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe told the BBC’s Today program. Woodroofe said 120,000 passengers who were due […]

Britain’s Gatwick airport reopened this morning after rogue drones prompted it to ground all flights since Wednesday night, disrupting the travel plans of 120,000 passengers.

Just under 700 flights are expected to take off today and over 100 have been canceled, Gatwick Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe told the BBC’s Today program. Woodroofe said 120,000 passengers who were due to fly in or out of Gatwick had their flights delayed or canceled.

Woodroofe said the airport had put in place unspecified “additional mitigating measures,” provided by military and government agencies, which enabled it to reopen. He wouldn’t specify what the measures entailed or say whether the airport would be forced to shut down again if more drones were sighted.

The Gatwick chief said the airport had been working for a year to resolve the challenges posed by drones, but that more needed to be done to deal with such an “unprecedented event.”

“What the last 36 hours have demonstrated is that an awful lot more work has to be done both in the U.K. and internationally to address the risk of drones to airports,” Woodroofe said. “We need to work with both technology providers and government to address this risk.”

Woodroofe said police have not yet found those responsible for the rogue drones.

The Gatwick chief advised passengers to check with airlines to confirm whether their flights have been canceled before coming to the airport today.

Shailesh Vara: This Better Deal would solve the backstop problem

Our plan is supported by remainers like me, by leavers such as David Davis and Dominic Raab and, crucially, by the DUP.

Shailesh Vara is a former Northern Ireland Minister, and is MP for North West Cambridgeshire.

I voted to remain in the EUU referendum, but I believe the largest ever public mandate should be respected. Parliament should deliver what the people wanted and that is to leave the European Union. In so doing, it is important that we get the very best deal possible.

The current Withdrawal Agreement is clearly unsatisfactory, and that is why I resigned from my ministerial post in the Northern Ireland Office. The bedrock of dissent has been about the backstop.

It strikes at our nation’s soul and imperils our Union by treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK. If we signed up to it, we would be trapped under the thumb of the EU as its satellite, obeying its laws without a say, unless the EU and its members gave permission for us to leave.

The backstop would place the UK in a “single customs territory”, causing two fundamental problems for our post-Brexit trading relationships. 

First, it would stop us from being able to strike trade deals with non-EU countries, as it would bar us from controlling our tariffs and regulations. Without control in these areas, we would be useless to any prospective trading partner.

Second, with regard to the UK-EU trading relationship, the backstop would create a climate which lends itself to continued EU belligerence. The EU would have no incentive to make concessions in future trade negotiations. 

Once member states have the ability to wield the threat of plunging us into the backstop – and keeping us there indefinitely – we will have no alternative but to make concessions we don’t want to. The Spanish could use Gibraltar as a bargaining chip and the French could demand continued access by EU boats to UK fishing waters.  We can’t possibly let the backstop hold our future trade talks hostage in this way.

So we need a new approach – A Better Deal – and that what’s been published by a team of legal and customs experts. It is supported by remainers like me, by leavers such as David Davis and Dominic Raab and crucially, the DUP. It doesn’t throw out the Prime Minister’s plan. Indeed, it retains the vast majority of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, whilst identifying and removing the poison pills that have prevented it from finding cross-party support.

A Better Deal provides the Government with an alternative vision to present to Brussels.  It is likely to command support in Parliament, closely resembles the offer made by the EU itself last March and honours the referendum result.

Our proposal would restore – rather than destroy – the UK’s leverage for future trade talks with the EU. It safeguards the integrity of the United Kingdom, since it doesn’t treat Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK, and it would allow us to be a credible trade partner for third countries after 29th March 2019.

A Better Deal bins the divisive and ill-thought-through Northern Ireland Protocol and replaces it with an extendable backstop. The new backstop would allow us to control our own tariff schedules and regulations – so it’s not an inherently negative situation for the UK to be in. 

In fact, some may even argue that under our proposal the backstop becomes a “front stop” – and for that reason, no EU country could use it to cajole us into having to agree to a set of appalling terms from Brussels which would let British consumers and businesses down.

The new backstop would provide for tariff-free trade in goods; it would bring about regulatory cooperation between us and the EU as well as regulatory recognition based on “deemed equivalence” – making use of the unique fact that our regulations will be identical on day one of Brexit.

This new and reformed backstop include an agreement to deploy advanced customs and trade facilitation measures, including any specific measures necessary for the Northern Ireland/Ireland border, in addition to normal, free trade agreement-style level playing field provisions on labour, the environment, competition and state aid – unlike the hugely one-sided commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement.  And importantly, it will include a commitment by all parties not to place infrastructure on the border – nobody wants to see that.

Brussels wants to do a deal with us. They offered us a free trade deal back in March, and I suspect that the EU negotiators have been surprised at our inability to grab what is on offer. 

We have a chance to put our future prosperity in our hands as we become a great, self-governing, free trading nation once again. The proposals in A Better Deal will, I believe, meet with the approval of many of my colleagues in Parliament as well as the public. It stays loyal to the Belfast Agreement, avoids a hard border and allows us to leave the arrangement, should we wish to do so. The UK is crying out for a better deal.  Let’s make sure we deliver it.

Rachel Maclean: We must address the role of life-long learning in the future of work

The oft-maligned ‘gig economy’ is delivering flexibility, innovation, choice, and value to millions. But for it to keep doing so, we must adapt.

Rachel Maclean is the Conservative MP for Redditch.

Fancy a pizza? Need to get home late after the work Christmas party? Most of us think nothing about turning to our phone, and opening one of those sharing economy apps that Liz Truss has referred to on Twitter as the ‘staples of my life’.

This week’s Deliveroo High Court decision, however – in which a previous ruling was upheld that its riders are self employed rather than workers or employees – reminds us of some of the big questions around the future of work.

Within self-employment, the ‘gig economy’ is a small but growing part of daily life. Peer-to-peer companies like Uber, Deliveroo, and TaskRabbit have become everyday solutions, offering cheap and reliable goods and services, quickly.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy estimated earlier this year that 4.4 per cent of the population of Great Britain, or 2.8 million people, participated in this form of work over the past twelve months. Working this way offers many people more freedom, a better work-life balance, and greater flexibility. Businesses – and small businesses, in particular – can benefit from a more mobile and flexible pool of readily accessible labour. These benefits are also passed on to consumers, who enjoy increased choice, better experiences, and decreased expense.

New entrants to the market drive up standards and drive down costs, as innovation meets demand and drives growth. Meanwhile, more traditional business models are forced to update, becoming disrupted and newly open to competition, as they lose monopolistic control. There is much to be celebrated, here.

However, the gig economy is often painted by its critics as a framework that systematically exploits vulnerable low-skilled workers, and it is important to acknowledge that this can sometimes happen. But reforms and protections, including the banning of exclusive zero-hour contracts, have, thankfully, decreased instances of genuinely exploitative practices. These practices would be supported by few people with a true interest in the maximisation of freedom: I certainly don’t support them, and neither does the party I represent.

Moreover, common fears about economic insecurity and financial hardship related to participating in the gig economy often lack evidence. In a recent paper by Public First, for instance, it was reported that Deliveroo riders ‘can typically earn more than they would in the alternative work available to them’. And, while the CIPD’s 2017 report To gig or not to gig?’ emphasises that ‘49 per cent of gig economy participants report they are living comfortably or doing alright, in contrast to 56 per cent of other workers’, the percentage of gig economy participants who self-report as fitting in the most comfortable bracket (‘living comfortably’) is very slightly higher (17 per cent) than the percentage of other workers who do so (16 per cent).

Rather, the key sticking points in this debate focus on questions around employment status – as pointed up by the High Court case this week – and the place for further regulation.

My new FREER paper, out today, examines these questions in detail, and proposes sensible freedom-enhancing ways to address them. Moreover, it also emphasises the way in which it is not only the self employed who value and can greatly benefit from increased flexibility in their work. According to a recent YouGov survey, only six per cent of people now work a ‘normal 9-5 week’, and Timewise reported earlier this year that 87 per cent of employees want to work flexibly.

In this dynamic age, however, individuals must keep up to date with the new skills necessary to contribute and achieve fulfilment across a longer working life span. The future of work is unbreakably tied to learning and skills. Yet the frameworks of our education system have remained largely unchanged since the industrial revolution. It is time for a fundamental debate on the prevailing notion that, for most people, education finishes in their late teens or early adulthood.

My paper, therefore, also engages with the ‘lifelong learning’ discussion. The recent serious fall in the number of part-time and mature students should be of concern to us all. We must accept that the learner of the future will not be an 18-21-year-old on a full-time three-year university course, and recognise the benefits and challenges that this change will bring. This will be key, not least, for the country to meet the skills challenges ahead. Of equal importance, our current approach underplays the vast intrinsic value of good education to everyone, of any age.

We urgently need to reassess the critical yet complex roles that both work and education play in our society. My paper, which is the first of a FREER stream focused on the future of work, aims to kickstart an essential conversation.

Growing pains: Europe’s push for medical cannabis

Big companies are making inroads into a potentially lucrative market, but legislators aren’t moving at the same speed.

Europe is coming around to medical cannabis — but many patients fear financial benefit will trump pain relief.

In November alone, the U.K. allowed doctors to write prescriptions for medicines containing cannabis; Greece granted its first two licenses to cultivate and process cannabis; and Luxembourg legalized cannabis for recreational purposes. Most EU countries currently allow some form of medical cannabis.

As patients push for access to these treatments, pharmaceutical companies and cannabis producers are hoping to claim a piece of a market that could be worth €55 billion by 2028, according to an industry report. The concern for many patients, however, is that legislators can’t (or won’t) keep up with demand, leaving medical cannabis to inch its way onto the market, product by product, country by country.

The European market is fragmented. Each country sets its own standards and regulations for cannabis products, meaning Germans can get a prescription for medical cannabis from a doctor, while the French have no legal medical cannabis options at all.

“Right now it’s like a jungle to navigate the European market,” said Thomas Skovlund Schnegelsberg, co-founder and CEO of Danish medical cannabis company StenoCare.

“They’re produced for people who want to get high on a Friday night” — Thomas Skovlund Schnegelsberg, co-founder and CEO of StenoCare

The European Union isn’t helping clear up the confusion. “We have a competence only to support the member states [on medical cannabis rules],” Peter Mihok from the European Commission’s migration and home affairs department told a European Parliament committee in June. “They are the ones that have to act first.”

But many countries aren’t acting, at least in part because legalizing medical cannabis is often confused with legalizing recreational marijuana. So when countries do allow medical cannabis, they often bring in strict rules. After the U.K. legalized medical cannabis last month, for example, it can only be given by prescription, from a specialist doctor and after other treatments have failed.

Such tight rules might work for those who want pills from a pharmacy, or cannabinoid (CBD) oil sold in shops, but it doesn’t help patients who want to grow cannabis at home, either for cost reasons or to give them more treatment options.

Patients’ push

Cannabis has become an increasingly popular treatment for patients with all kinds of diseases and conditions, including multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anorexia, insomnia and cancer.

The cannabis sativa plant has more than 100 unique compounds known as cannabinoids, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The most well-known of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes a euphoric high, although many people who use cannabis for medical purposes select cannabinoids with different effects, such as the invigorating sativa and relaxing indica.

Aerial view taken on September 19, 2018 shows farmers with their specially developed harvesting machines cropping a cannabis field in Naundorf, eastern Germany | Jan Woitas/AFP via Getty Images

Carola Pérez was taking 19 pills a day before she discovered medical cannabis. Pérez has suffered from chronic pain since she broke her tailbone at the age of 11. The childhood accident led to 13 surgeries and an addiction to the opiates she took for relief.

Pérez first tried THC-infused milk 10 years ago, before CBD oils were available. She felt relief almost instantly, and over time was able to reduce the 19 daily opiates she was taking to just two. “Cannabis saved my life,” she said.

The problem was how to get it.

Pérez is from Spain, where cannabis is permitted for personal use but there is no national regulation for how much one person can grow. The hazy law led to the creation of so-called cannabis social clubs — registered groups that grow cannabis largely for recreational use.

At first, Pérez asked a friend to get her the drugs she needed, then she used a street dealer. She tried the cannabis social clubs, but they didn’t have enough. That’s when she took things into her own hands.

Pérez now grows 16 strains of cannabis in her home. Depending on the day, she can create a cannabis cocktail with whatever levels of CBD, THC, sativa and indica she needs.

That gives her a freedom that isn’t available in the pharmacy. Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray costing over €400 a bottle and made by GW Pharmaceuticals, was approved for Spanish patients in 2010. But it can only be used by people with multiple sclerosis.

“No pharmaceutical company is going to be able to offer us that,” said Jacqueline Poitras, a medical cannabis activist in Greece whose 18-year-old daughter takes CBD oil for often-daily epileptic attacks. “Only nature can offer us that.”

Here comes big business 

Big companies — both pharma giants and cannabis producers — are lobbying lawmakers across Europe to put their products on the market now.

They argue that untested cannabis may contain harmful pesticides and that products sold on the black market are often created for recreational use and merely re-labeled as being for medical purposes. Patients using such products report psychosis and other unpleasant side-effects because “they are not made to be used for sick people,” said Schnegelsberg of StenoCare. “They’re produced for people who want to get high on a Friday night.”

Plants growing in a cannabis field in Naundorf, eastern Germany, on September 19, 2018 | Jan Woitas/AFP via Getty Images

But smaller cannabis producers are wary of the pharmaceutical companies’ push. The European Industrial Hemp Association said it “strongly opposed” attempts by big pharma to make CBD a prescription drug.

“This only serves the interests of a few companies while damaging the young CBD industry,” the association wrote in October.

Stephen Murphy, managing director of the international cannabis consulting company Prohibition Partners, said he saw a similar situation in the U.K. Once GW Pharmaceuticals was “in the driving seat” there was almost no national debate on the issue, he said.

“It took quite a big PR campaign this year to legalize cannabis for patients in the U.K. despite the fact that cannabis has been grown in the U.K.,” Murphy said. “There was never any pressure to challenge that.”

Patients also have concerns about how the big companies are attempting to enter the market. “These companies only call us … to say, ‘Oh poor patients,’ but then they don’t take care of us, don’t help us with our projects,” said Pérez. “They just call us to [be able to use us] to tell our stories and then continue with their business.”

The debate has reached the EU. In the summer, the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee called on the European Commission to create an EU-wide policy for medical cannabis. Not long after, big companies came calling to make their voices heard.

One was Canadian company Canopy Growth, one of the largest cannabis firms in the world and which recently invested €100 million to create more production facilities in Europe. Another was GW Pharmaceuticals.

Canopy Growth did not respond to a request for comment. GW Pharmaceuticals said it would not comment on individual meetings with MEPs, but it “has ongoing engagement with relevant stakeholders focused on education.” It said it has no stance on legalizing medical cannabis, but that with cannabis-derived medicines, “clinicians and patients can be sure of their quality, safety and efficacy — the same as for any other medicine.”

Debate in the parliamentary committee focused on whether the resolution should contain the term “medical cannabis” or “cannabis-based medicines.” That matters because the former would advocate for citizens to grow their own cannabis while the latter would be limited to over-the-counter medicines.

Some want the EU to create a set of guidelines for member countries to consult when they begin the process of legalizing medical cannabis | Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The committee’s resolution passed last month with amendments, using the more narrow “cannabis-based medicines” language, much to the frustration of some Parliament officials.

“Of course, it’s understandable that companies that have undergone decades of research want some preference for their products, but a lot of research shows that herbal cannabis is important,” one parliamentary official said. “That experience should not be taken away from patients.”

The next step is a debate of all MEPs in Strasbourg.

Michael Barnes, a U.K.-based professor of neurology who worked with the U.K. government on changing its medical cannabis laws, said he’d “love to see some kind of standardization” across Europe.

So would many patients. Some want the EU to create a set of guidelines for member countries to consult when they begin the process of legalizing medical cannabis. Others want cannabis covered by the directive on medicinal herbal products. But mainly, they just want the EU to do something.

I think they could, but I don’t think they will,” said Sébastien Béguerie, a cannabis activist and founder of AlphaCAT labs, which tests the quality of cannabis. “It would open the gates too much … and legislators are afraid.”

For now, patients are fighting on the national level. Poitras is working with Greek officials to create a law that stops big, foreign cannabis companies buying up land to grow cannabis and export it.

“We’re pushing,” Poitras said, adding that in the meantime she’s encouraging patients who need medical cannabis to grow their own.

The myth of frictionless trade: there is little difference between handling EU-bound freight and that heading elsewhere

The company I founded exports to over 120 countries – including every country in the European Union. You may therefore have expected me to be agitating to scupper Brexit. However, when one runs a family business, one’s vision tends to be long-term rather than short-term. I strongly back Brexit because it is in the best […]

The post The myth of frictionless trade: there is little difference between handling EU-bound freight and that heading elsewhere appeared first on BrexitCentral.

The company I founded exports to over 120 countries – including every country in the European Union. You may therefore have expected me to be agitating to scupper Brexit. However, when one runs a family business, one’s vision tends to be long-term rather than short-term.

I strongly back Brexit because it is in the best long-term interests of my country, my company, my employees and myself that we disengage from the structures of the EU. As I said throughout the referendum campaign, there will be bumps in the road – but the fundamental fact is that the EU continues to travel in a direction that is contrary to our best interests and that has only been magnified over the last two and a half years.

Having now studied the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, I am extremely disappointed by its complete lack of ambition and the naivety of the approach taken by the her and UK negotiators. It gives far too many hostages to fortune and while ministers interpret it and give assurances this way and that, the passage of time and pressures on future ministers will mean that those assurances stand for naught. The Political Declaration too, lacking any legal force, is not worth the paper it is written on.

The lack of ambition has meant that what could have been a mutually successful agreement building on some of what has been developed over the last 40-odd years has been lost. There have also been a number of fundamental misunderstandings, perhaps deliberate, by the Prime Minister and others at the top of the Government.

The first of those is that we voted Leave just to control immigration, as they seek to tell us. We did not: we voted Leave to take back control of our country and from that control of immigration, fishing, trade etc.

The second is the fixation with frictionless trade – an unattainable fiction. Trade within the EU is not frictionless at the moment, though the points of friction are more regulatory than tariff. The perception amongst politicians is that all trade with countries outside the EU is full of points of friction and that anything other than being in the EU Single Market will lead to long queues of trucks and delays with airfreight etc.

As someone who has spent the last thirty years trading goods with the world, I can say that for an exporter there is little difference in the way we handle freight going to the EU compared to the rest of the world. The United States is our biggest market and we compete directly against US companies in their own market, in part, because we deliver next day to anywhere in the United States by 1pm their time, customs cleared. That, to me, is frictionless trade and it is at a cost that is not dissimilar to the same service to customers in the EU. It is frictionless because the industry has made it so and the same can be done for future trade with the EU, requiring no complex customs unions or being in the Single Market.

Great attention is rightly given to the value of trade to the UK economy but it is vital to remember than only 8 per cent of UK businesses actually trade with the EU – accounting for only 13% of UK GDP. That means that 92% of businesses are having to obey all the Single Market regulations and yet aren’t gaining any benefit from it. The very fact that regulation can be tailored to UK requirements when we Leave the Single Market ought to give a massive boost to the productivity of the 92%. The 8% will still have to meet the regulations pursuant to doing business in the EU in the same way as we have to meet US, Russian or other countries’ regulations when doing business overseas.

Whilst an amicable Withdrawal Agreement would have been my preference, we are where we are. The Prime Minister said many times that no deal – again a misnomer as it would be a WTO deal – would be better than a bad deal. Her deal is a very bad deal and the prospect of a clean Brexit on 29th March 2019 with no hostages to fortune, bringing an end to all the hand wringing and rerunning of the referendum has become a very tantalising prospect.

What is the big deal about No Deal? It gives certainty to business, ends division and brings real purpose to the country. There will be some disruption, but I am sure that within a few weeks – if not days – we would wonder, like with the brouhaha over the Millennium Bug, what all the fuss had been about. Within months the Chancellor’s dour predictions would, like after the referendum, prove to have been pure scaremongering.

Come on, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and go for it.

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Mark Carney


If Brexit doesn’t capsize the British economy, it’ll be in no small part thanks to Mark Carney. The governor of the Bank of England has been one of the loudest voices warning about the dangers of the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union without an agreement. Although he so far has shied away from any solid forecasts about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, he warned it is “quite an extreme” and “highly undesirable” scenario that would result in a hike in inflation worse than that caused by the post-referendum dive in sterling, thanks to the added impact of higher trading barriers and possible supply disruptions. All that would translate into a squeeze on real household incomes. “Parties should do all things to avoid it,” Carney said last summer.

Warnings like these have put the 53-year-old Canadian economist on the political front line — his assessments dismissed by his critics as scaremongering. The Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has called Carney “the enemy of Brexit” and “the high priest of Project Fear.” The Bank of England was lambasted after the Brexit vote for gloomy forecasts predicting a recession that never happened. But Carney’s defenders point out that it is likely the Bank of England’s forceful intervention into the economy that prevented the bank’s predictions from materializing.

Once the U.K. leaves, it will be again up to the Bank of England to smooth the journey to any sunny uplands of Brexit. Even if the U.K. benefits from the freedom to make new trade deals, there will inevitably be a period of adjustment as the economy reorients itself, which Carney has highlighted as a big job ahead. At the request of the government, he has extended his term to January 2020, having previously announced he’d step down in June.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney during a press conference in the City of London | Victoria Jones/AFP via Getty Images

And if the U.K. does leave the EU without a deal, it will be up to Carney to guide the economy through the choppy waters. In preparation for such a scenario, Carney has worked with European officials to make sure financial firms don’t face a cliff edge and that contracts can continue to be serviced. He also required British banks to run stress tests to ensure they’re prepared for “severe, but plausible” financial turbulence. “The financial system will be ready for that undesirable and still unlikely possibility,” Carney said last summer.

Check out the full POLITICO 28 Class of 2019, and read the Letter from the Editors for an explanation of the thinking behind the ranking.

I export to 140 countries and say we should reject Theresa May’s deal and embrace a WTO Brexit

So the EU and the 27 have rubber stamped the deal and as our Prime Minister embarks on her nationwide tour to try and convince the public to lobby their MPs to back it, what does it means for us as a medium-sized business? With 130 employees, exports to more than 140 countries to date […]

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So the EU and the 27 have rubber stamped the deal and as our Prime Minister embarks on her nationwide tour to try and convince the public to lobby their MPs to back it, what does it means for us as a medium-sized business?

With 130 employees, exports to more than 140 countries to date in nearly a century of trading and multi-million pound investment plans, our future – and that of our people and their families – hinges on this deal and the outcome in Parliament on Tuesday 11th December.

And we think it is a con. The deceit behind the establishment’s efforts is plain to see. Our nation will not have taken back control and, as many have already said, this deal will leave us in a worse situation than had we actually remained in the EU.

Neither of these options – agreeing to Mrs May’s deal or officially remaining in the EU – is viable.

Mrs May wants us to lobby our MPs, and we should. We should tell them to vote against this terrible deal and to push for a totally clean break – the time has come for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And here is why – staying in or agreeing to Mrs May’s deal would:

  • Leave a business like ours under the control of EU regulation. Our business would be exactly as we were pre-referendum. We voted to Leave to be out of this trap. This deal damages our business, our staff and their families and many other UK companies.
  • Leave us unable to sign trade deals with the rest of the growing world where the UK makes a surplus in our trade on goods. Not only will this be damaging to our business, it will damage all of us.
  • Prevent us from being able to negotiate a future trading arrangement with the EU that is favourable to us. Already the French and Spanish are using the agreement to the Irish backstop to their advantage. This backstop is a threat to our United Kingdom and it allows others with different political agendas to use it as leverage against our country.

For the above we have the privilege of paying a £39 billion price.

Let us remember just what our membership of the EU has meant for us. Firstly, the payment of circa £10 billion (nett) a year in membership fees and the surrender of our sovereignty by allowing the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to reign supreme.

Membership has resulted in the demise of our manufacturing heartlands as multi-national companies exploit the system in their favour. Many jobs have been exported to other member states where labour is cheaper and regulations differ. Some businesses have even received EU backing to export British jobs overseas.

The never-ending burden of bad EU Directives and Regulations has held back business, and stifled competition and innovation. Meanwhile the free movement of people has helped to hold back productivity due to some employers taking advantage, making it less affordable and attractive for business to invest and boost output.

The uneven playing field that exists means that we are not able to trade fairly in the EU because of individual hurdles that are erected to keep us out and of course, the unfair competition that we face due to not everyone playing by the same rules.

Crucially, membership has led to the loss of our world-renowned British Standards (BS) and their replacement by Euro norms, despite them being probably the best in the world. REIDsteel has 150 structures in the Caribbean, all designed to British Standards. Every single one stood up to the category 5 hurricane that saw Chinese and American buildings blown away last year. The forced use of Euro norms increases costs by an average of 20%, making us less competitive in the real world.

So, unforgivably, Prime Minister May’s deal betrays what the people of this country voted for and locks us back into almost everything that the EU stands for; it is a capitulation.

Furthermore, if our politicians allow themselves to be bribed, coerced and pushed into agreeing the deal as it stands (even with the backstop removed) the insignificant gains of the arrangement will undoubtedly ebb away and we will be left like a sitting duck.

As Mrs May once said, no deal is better than a bad deal. The elite and the ultra-Remain camp promote catastrophe at the very thought of no deal, but this is absolute nonsense.

There will undoubtedly be some short-term disruption but it is worth remembering that Operation Stack at Dover has been in force more than 211 times without any reported catastrophes to the just-in-time delivery chain.

In any case, ‘no deal’ actually means a deal on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms which is infinitely better than what the Prime Minister and her Government are trying to sell us.

Those who prophesy the end of days in a no-deal scenario either don’t know what they are talking about or are deliberately spreading fear and lies to frustrate Brexit or bring it about in name only.

Most of the rest of the world can and does trade on WTO terms and countries like China, Australia and America seem to manage just fine; it is complete nonsense to suggest we can’t do the same.

We can and we should have a clean Brexit. So let’s get on with it. Write to our MPs and tell them to start believing in our country by supporting the rejection of this terrible deal and backing a clean and proper break.

Only then can we ever have a good meaningful relationship with our partners in Europe and across the world.

A no-deal outcome will be just fine: we will go on to prosper outside the EU’s protectionist bloc that has never protected our country and its people.

Without this we will never take back control.

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