As discussions restarted on Wednesday, before British MP’s vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union next week, Kenya was referenced during a debate about trading under World Trade Organisation rules.
Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson, sharing evidence from the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs which had taken place earlier that day, told the House of Commons that “Ryan Scatterty of Thistle Seafoods in the north-east of Scotland, representing seafood processors, said that the growing market for his industry is in places like Australia. The industry currently trades on WTO rules, as he confirmed to the Committee. If the industry can do that with Australia, surely it can do it with the EU.”
Backing up her Conservative colleague’s comments, Morley and Otwood MP Andrea Jenkyns added: “I was in Kenya with some of our colleagues back in July. Kenya sells us lots of flowers, which have a short shelf-life, and it currently trades with us on WTO rules. We have no problems there, so I agree with my hon. Friend.”
However, Ms Jenkyns is incorrect about her assertion that Kenya trades with the UK under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
While many countries do trade with each other in this way, they can also strike agreements allowing them to treat each other better than under standard WTO terms.
Kenya currently trades with the EU under such an agreement, the EU’s Market Access Regulation, which reduces tariffs and quotas on Kenyan imports compared to if Kenya traded with the EU under WTO terms.
After declining to give way to SNP Whip David Linden, Ms Jenkyns continued:
“It is time that we put the ball firmly in our court and take the upper hand in these negotiations. The EU fears our leaving on WTO terms, as it would give Britain a competitive advantage, so let us fully embrace a clean Brexit. Leaving on WTO terms is not something we should fear.
“There has been some concern about engineering firms being disproportionately affected by a clean WTO Brexit. However, the heads of firms such as Dyson, JCB and Northern Ireland’s Wrightbus support Brexit. Car companies can withstand a 10% tariff on sales into the EU and a 4.5% tariff on components from the EU because they have benefited from a 15% depreciation in sterling. Border checks on components from the EU will be unnecessary, counterproductive for EU exporters and illegal under WTO rules, which prohibit unnecessary checks.
“A better deal was available and is still available. The Brexit deal was never only a choice between the Prime Minister’s deal and reverting to WTO rules, but if that is the choice, let us go on WTO rules.
“This place is often divided by its very nature, but one thing that unites us is our belief that the British people are remarkable and can succeed, no matter the obstacle. Our great history shows that we can overcome any hurdle and that we always triumph. This deal is a submission, and the British people should never accept a bad deal. This deal is remain masquerading as leave, and it is time that entrenched leave Members started believing in Britain and respected the result of the referendum.
“Instead of fear, we need to see forward planning and a vision for the future—a future away from the EU—that the whole country can get behind. I am hugely optimistic about our country’s future. There may be difficult times ahead, so we need a leader who can take this great country out into the world and start trading freely around the globe, and this deal simply does not allow us to do that.
“In her Lancaster House speech, the Prime Minister said:
“’A Global Britain must be free to strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union too…
the great prize for this country—the opportunity ahead—is to use this moment to build a truly Global Britain. A country that reaches out to old friends and new allies alike. A great, global, trading nation. And one of the firmest advocates for free trade anywhere in the world.’
“That was a vision for Brexit that many of us had, but the Prime Minister’s deal will not allow it to happen. I therefore urge colleagues on both sides of the House to reject her deal. Let us stand up for democracy, let us restore faith among our electorate and let us now deliver on our promises to our great British public.”
Fellow MP, Suella Braverman, who is herself of Kenyan descent, earlier asked her own question of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stephen Barclay:
“I applaud the Secretary of State and his excellent ministerial team in the Department for Exiting the European Union for all their efforts at this challenging time for the Government. In December, the Attorney General published his legal advice, which contains a statement on the backstop. He wrote that ‘despite statements in the Protocol that it is not intended to be permanent…in international law the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place, in whole or in part’.
“Is it the Secretary of State’s position that that legal position is unchanged, notwithstanding the reassurances that have been garnered to date, and does he agree that that means that in international law, we still risk being trapped indefinitely in the backstop?”
To which Mr Barclay replied:
“With characteristic aplomb, my hon. Friend alludes to one of the key issues in this debate: how one assesses the balance of risk. The Attorney General said in his statement to the House on 3 December, when these issues were explored in great detail, that how one assesses that balance ultimately is a political decision. In a way, the same point can be made about the concerns Members have expressed about the Union. There is a balance of risk in terms of concerns about the backstop, including the issue of that small section in the backstop where EU competence will continue. What is the risk of that? I have alluded to the safeguards. How does that risk elide with other risks, such as the risk of inaction?
“The same is true of the assessment of my predecessor, my right hon. Friend Dominic Raab, whom I hold in the highest regard. The difference there is an issue not of understanding—he understands these issues in great depth—but of how one assesses the balance of risk. The Attorney General dealt with that in some detail in his comments to the House.”