I recently got quite a long and detailed reply from my local MP, Rachael Maskell, who recently resigned as Shadow Environment Secretary due to her opposition to Brexit. The reply was to an email I wrote a few weeks ago, originally about the Alisa Shevchenko election hacking story, but which related some aspects of the case to the likelihood of ending up reliant on Russia and the United States post-Brexit, and how the UK's stance on Ms Shevchenko might end up relating to that.
I was very political in my youth, but of late have been less so, and it seems that my younger self perhaps did not fully appreciate a lot of the depth and complexity of real politics. I don't want to rely on the methodology of understanding I had then: comparing the views of different commentators and working out which 'side' seemed to make most sense from there. Largely because this seems now to be quite a superficial method of arriving at conclusions. In this regard, I found that I was not able to understand all parts of the letter quite as fully as I might otherwise have.
One of the things I found most interesting was this passage (as the email was not marked with the usual admonitions not to disclose I feel I'm ok to reproduce? I hope it's ok anyway... it doesn't seem too personal or anything):
While the Referendum asked people if they wanted to leave the European Union last June, it did not ask if people wanted to leave the Single Market and Customs Union. Some people wanted to, some people didn’t know exactly what the Single Market or Customs Union were, while others were very clear that while they wanted to leave the European Union, they wanted to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. When I was the Shadow Environment Secretary, there were many in the farming sector, for example, who wanted out of the Common Agricultural Policy, but most definitely wanted to stay in the Single Market, because 72% of the sector’s exports go to the European Union.
Now, while in theory I know what the Single Market and Customs Union are I am finding that in practice I'm not entirely certain. What would be useful to me would be situational, perhaps even anecdotal accounts of things that might or might not happen as a result.
For example, as a freelance web developer am I likely to see any changes when trading with other people over the internet? If there were a contractual dispute, for example, would I be in any different sort of situation? How about as regards taxes? Is it likely to change, say, the amount of paperwork I'm supposed to fill out and the difficulties and complexities of it, which I often find end up distracting me from the nitty gritty of finding clients and actually completing the contracts themselves.
How about if I started to trade on Ebay and was looking to import, say, dresses from a European country and sell them in England? Might I have to pay more customs duty on the items? Or less? Are there likely to be restrictions on what I can and cannot sell? Would not being part of a Single Market or Customs Union make any difference to any of these sorts of things?
Obviously it's not a good idea to consider things only from your own point of view, but these are possibilities that come to mind because they are my most direct experiences. Other plausible scenarios would be interesting to hear as well, though of course it always takes a little more brain-work to understand outside of your own immediate frames of reference.
In any case, the basic question is this: what are the practical implications of a Brexit that results in us leaving the Customs Union and/or Single Market? Can people explain these to me simply, in ways I am able to visualise, and which will aid me in understanding what the most likely implications would be for the people of the United Kingdom?