David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

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Theresa May's rhetoric is aimed at one audience only, the backbenchers who secretly wanted this scenario all along.

This vacuous Tory campaign feels like a particularly laboured episode of Catchphrase. We all know the "strong and stable government" line, as the Prime Minister parrots it at every opportunity. Her personal motto gains an extra layer of irony with each feeble U-turn and wobbly TV performance.

 But in my view, the most ludicrous of all is “no deal is better than a bad deal”. I think even Noel Edmonds would be embarrassed at the way his signature show has been hijacked by the Brexiteers’ pompous logic.

 In any negotiation, it is of course important to make a strong opening play. Let your partner know that you mean business and that you won’t give up concessions lightly. I get that. Two decades working in EU trade policy means I have seen overly-ambitious early boasts before. Never before, however, have I seen a country come to the negotiating table with a gun pointing to its own head, salivating with apparent delight at what it is about to do to itself.

 The truth is that leaving the EU without a deal would be an unmitigated disaster for the UK economy and for jobs. It means falling back on World Trade Organisation tariffs, which although soft overall have some pretty painful spikes, such as 10 per cent on cars and 3 per cent on car components, and average tariffs of 14 per cent on agricultural products at a time when our farmers need it least.

 Aside from tariffs, perhaps the most worrying factor of the no-deal scenario is the reintroduction of customs paperwork. As part of the EU customs union, this is something that British exporters never had to think about. No deal on customs means reams of extra red tape and costs on trade with our closest and largest partner by far.

Let me focus on one example. Our aerospace sector is a British high-end manufacturing success story, providing a quarter of a million skilled jobs in both large and small companies. Whether it is wings produced in Broughton, software in Bristol, engines in Derby, wheels and brakes in Dorset, or nuts and bolts in Lanark, these 3,000 odd companies fit into large and complex international supply chains that rely on speed and precision. Components cross EU borders numerous times before the plane is ready to transport its first passengers.

 On the bright side, there is already a WTO agreement that guarantees zero tariffs on aerospace components. Yet, as I was told recently by a representative of the industry at an event on Brexit, they are instead worried about this paperwork clogging up the well-oiled multinational production line. This means extra certification, product standard requirements as well as what are called "rules of origin" obligations, which means proving that enough of the products’ parts and materials are British for the whole thing to be considered British, in trade terms. If it sounds complicated, it is. Technical work like this would require training a whole new generation of customs officials and massively expanding facilities at our main ports. Nightmare visions of lorries queuing for miles up Britain’s coastal roads will become a reality.

 The industry rep said that even one minute’s delay getting through Rotterdam into Europe would make the hierarchy of the biggest firms, such as Airbus, completely reconsider their production facilities in the UK. For smaller firms, the risk is that they just won’t be able to cope with all the new administrative demands, cutting them off from the biggest players in the European market.

 As an aside, if no deal is reached on the movement of citizens between the UK and the EU, this would also damage UK businesses, because big multinational companies need to move teams of engineers at a moment’s notice. Any time-consuming visa requirements will make Britain a much less attractive place to do business.

 The Brexiteers have got at least one thing right. This will be a bad deal with the EU. In the sense that any agreement we get with our partners will be worse than membership of the single market which we presently enjoy. But a bad deal is still miles better than leaving Brussels empty-handed.

 Theresa May and other formerly Remain-backing Tories know this. This is why it never sounds quite genuine coming from her mouth. The rallying “no deal” call is aimed at one audience only, the frothing backbenchers who secretly wanted this scenario all along. Absolute British sovereignty over all affairs, and damn the consequences. However, this is not what was promised in the campaign, and certainly not what has been promised since by David Davis, the Brexit secretary, who talked of an agreement with “the exact same benefits”. It is also not in the best interests of workers in the aerospace sector and their families and communities, along with the many other sectors that will be drastically affected.

These are the words of politicians who have lost touch with economic reality and will not have to bear the consequences of their actions. They must be stopped tomorrow.


by David Martin MEP, published in the New Statesman, 7 June 2017


This election is our last chance to stop "no deal" frothing Brexiteers

Theresa May's rhetoric is aimed at one audience only, the backbenchers who secretly wanted this scenario all along.

Following this morning's announcement from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), that the EU’s free trade deal with Singapore must be ratified by a total of 43 national and regional parliaments, David Martin, Scottish MEP, S&D spokesperson for trade with South East Asia and Rapporteur for the EU-Singapore FTA, said:


"The good news is that today’s ruling by the ECJ finally unblocks the EU Singapore trade deal, which hopefully can be referred to the European Parliament soon for ratification. However, the implications of the ECJ’s decision are manifold and require careful consideration.

"EU trade policy must find the right balance between democratic accountability and effectiveness. The EU’s credibility as an international dealmaker and the very future of our trade policy are at stake and our partners are closely watching our every move."

He added:

"Today’s ruling will have a significant impact on its current and future trade agreements, including the post-Brexit deal.

Any agreement containing investor to state arbitration will have to be ratified by over forty different parliaments across the EU before entering into force. This process could take up to a decade, and that's on top of the time needed for negotiations in the first place.

As we saw with CETA, the EU-Canada trade deal, this extended ratification process also creates opportunities for smaller regions like Wallonia to block the whole agreement, thereby increasing the risk of failure and a catastrophic 'no deal' scenario."

David Martin MEP: EU-Singapore ruling will have “significant impact” on trade agreements, including UK post-Brexit deal

Following this morning's announcement from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), that the EU’s free trade deal with Singapore must be ratified by a total of 43 national and regional...

When news broke last year that the wreck of British explorer Sir John Franklin’s second ship, HMS Terror, had been found off the coast of Canada, over 150 years after the ill-fated crew set sail, the article stubbornly remained perched at the top of many newspapers’ most-read article lists.

It is clear that the public appetite for North Pole adventures has not abated with time.

As the formerly treacherous ice becomes more accessible due to environmental change, the Arctic presents us policymakers with pressing challenges. It is estimated that vast reserves of fossil fuels lie underneath the ice.

Clearly, there is a strong economic incentive for countries to exploit this, although the environmental impact could be disastrous if these resources are not managed sustainably.

Likewise, new shipping routes and cross-border business partnerships provide opportunities as well as risks.

A forward-looking and sustainable trade policy in the Arctic can both serve Europe’s economic and strategic interests, while protecting and promoting our high environmental standards.

CETA lays down binding commitments on fisheries and forestry products while promoting e­ffective cooperation on environmental issues and encouraging the development and use of business corporate and social responsibility standards.

Although TTIP is on ice for the moment, we have made it clear that the substantive provisions within CETA’s ambitious sustainable development chapter are only a baseline for future negotiations.

In addition, all future EU trade deals with non-EU Arctic partners will have to take the peculiarities of the Arctic into account. With other partners, the situation is more complicated. The EU’s political problems with Russia are well known and without a trade deal, or any prospect of one, our leverage is limited.

Nevertheless, a dialogue on Arctic environmental issues must be kept open, based on the 1997 EU-Russia partnership and cooperation agreement.

Although China doesn’t itself have territory in the Arctic, like some other Asian countries it is interested in the possible new economic opportunities on o­ffer. We must monitor the e­ffects of the 2013 trade deal between Iceland and China closely because of the access it could give Chinese goods to the single market.

More generally, through our trade policy we must focus on bringing economic opportunities to local and indigenous peoples in Arctic areas.

Nevertheless, the unique Arctic ecosystem and the wildlife that depends on it must be protected. On the issue of wildlife preservation, the WTO upheld the EU import ban on seal products, challenged by our Arctic partners - Canada and Norway.

This is a welcome decision and reinforces the tough line that the European Parliament has taken on this issue, as well as providing an important precedent for future wildlife protection legislation.

A new race to explore the Arctic has begun, but in this case, failure won’t just lead to the death of an adventurous crew. Failure in the Arctic now will have global consequences. As the world looks to tap the economic potential of this continually changing region, the EU must continue to provide environmental leadership through trade. Our world depends on it.

David Martin (S&D, UK) is the European Parliament’s international trade committee opinion rapporteur on an integrated EU policy for the Arctic.

David Martin: The EU must provide environmental leadership in the Arctic through trade

When news broke last year that the wreck of British explorer Sir John Franklin’s second ship, HMS Terror, had been found off the coast of Canada, over 150 years after...

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