Original 106 sat down with Dr Tom Bentley, a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, to answer Brexit questions sent in from people across the North-east. You can listen to the full interview at the link above. If you tuned in to our on-air discussion, you can skip ahead to 12:00.
We have included more information for each of the answers below, with sources included.
Q1 – What is the Backstop and why is it such a big issue? (Donna)
A – The Backstop is one of the most important parts of Brexit – essentially a guarantee that there won’t be a hard border (physical checks or barriers) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both the UK government and European Union have committed to avoiding a hard border.
It’s important because a hard border is symbolic of the Northern Irish peace process and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the conflict. The DUP, a Nothern Irish party who props up Theresa May’s government, have ruled out supporting any scenario the could result in a hard border.
Q2 – Will Brexit even ever happen? (Lauren)
A – Brexit has been delayed until the 31st of October, but the UK can leave if MPs pass Theresa May’s deal in Parliament. They’ve voted on it three times so far and have rejected it all three times. If they do agree on a deal, the UK will leave the EU as soon as possible.
If no agreement is reached, we’ll need to take part in European Parliament elections, or leave without a deal on the 1st of June.
If we take part in EU elections, the UK has until Halloween, when a range of things can happen – including a general election, cancelling Brexit, a second referendum, May’s deal, a different deal, or a no-deal – which have all still to be decided on.
The UK Government has repeatedly said we will leave the European Union, but is under pressure from opposition parties to hold a general election or a “People’s Vote”, a second referendum.
Q3 – Will there be another referendum? (Mark, Aberdeen)
A – Maybe. The Labour Party has gradually shifted from calling for another general election to supporting the movement for another referendum. (Source) The SNP and Liberal Democrats have called for a second referendum for a while.
In Scotland, the SNP argues more than 60% of Scottish voters wanted to remain and a campaign promise from Better Together in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum was that staying in the UK meant staying in the EU. (Source 1 Source 2)
Unionists argue by voting to stay in the UK in 2014, that means agreeing to go with decisions made by the whole of the UK, and holding a second referendum would go against a democratic vote. (Source 1 Source 2).
4 – Will Brexit affect the price of my house? (Amy, Dyce)
A – Probably, but there are more factors than just Brexit that affect house prices. In the North-east, house prices have been on the rise recently. (Source) Research group Which? says house prices could drop quite significantly. Either way, they’re unlikely to go up. (Source)
5 – What is a no-deal Brexit and what would happen in the event of one? (Karen, Aberdeen)
A – A no-deal Brexit is UK leaving the European Union without any agreements and guarantees in place. MPs have held non-binding votes ruling out no-deal. It could lead to the reintroduction of border checks, the future of immigrants in the EU and British nationals abroad would be unclear, transport the EU could be affected and trade could be severely disrupted. (Source)
The UK Government has always said a no-deal should be avoided, and several industries have called for assurances for ruling out a no-deal. The International Monetary Fund has warned no-deal could tip the EU and the UK into a recession. (Source). In Aberdeen, Sir Ian Wood told Original 106 in December “the real danger” of Brexit lay in the possibility of a no-deal (Source).
But some have argued Britain could benefit from a no-deal scenario. Sir John Redwoord, a Tory Brexiteer, argues the economy would have a “big boost” by not having to pay into the European Union (Source). The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s chief executive Bertie Armstrong says a no-deal wouldn’t be that damaging for the industry (Source).
6 – What is Theresa May’s deal? (Alan, Inverurie)
A – Theresa May’s deal (also called the Withdrawal Agreement) is incredibly complicated and covers a lot of ground. It’s main points are:
- The Irish Backstop (covered above)
- How much the UK will pay the EU to settle its obligations (commonly known as the divorce bill)
- Citizen’s rights – guaranteeing the right of EU citizens here and securing guarantees on the rights of UK ex-pats in the EU
- How trade will work post-Brexit
- A transition period for the UK to gradually leave the EU, which could be extended as needed to sort out any issues that arise
It’s drawn criticism from both sides of the Brexit debate. Remainers say it’s essentially a worse version of our current relationship with the EU. Brexiteers say it doesn’t go far enough and the vague wording of the transition period could mean Britain ends up never actually leaving.
7 – My epilepsy medication is only available through the EU. How likely is it that it won’t be available once we leave? (John)
A – Medication supplied through the EU is one of the biggest worries people have about Brexit. The Epilepsy Society has said things won’t change unless there’s a no-deal. It has also encouraged people not to stockpile, and to take their prescriptions as instructed. In the event of a no-deal, there are six weeks of emergency supplies ready. You can find more information on their website here.
For other medications, the government has warned people against stockpiling. (Source)
If you have any concerns, speak to your GP or pharmacist.
8 – Can my kids still go on their working holidays this summer? (Gary, Ballater)
A – Yes. Now that Theresa May has been given an extension, it is unlikely we will have left by summer. If we do leave by then, it is likely to still fall within a transition period – which guarantees rights for a period of time. Post-Brexit, it’s unclear how things will change. Dr Bentley says it might become more administratively difficult, but overall unlikely to become an impossibility.
9 – Will my job in oil and gas be affected? (David, Stonehaven)
A – Trade body Oil and Gas UK says its main priorities post-Brexit are preventing operational changes, maintaining a strong voice in Europe, and minimal trade disruption between the UK and EU. (Source) It depends on the area of the industry you work in, but overall it’s unlikely to affect the day-to-day job in oil and gas.
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse described no-deal as “hugely damaging” for the industry, but was speaking from a trade viewpoint. (Source).
10 – I’m an EU National, will I have to apply to keep living here? (Catherine, Aberdeen)
A – Yes. If you are an EU citizen you will need to apply for Settled Status, unless you are Irish. Information on who needs to apply and how to apply is available here. It is free to apply and, if you have previously paid, you’ll get a refund. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves without a deal. (Source)
11 – Will I have to pay data roaming charges when I go on holiday in summer? (Megan, Aberdeen)
A – No. Now we have an extension, things will carry on as normal for this summer, at least.We don’t pay roaming charges because of an EU law. Once we leave, that will no longer apply to Britain and will instead be up to your provider. EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 have all said they have no plans to change their roaming service.
12 – What does “staying in the Customs Union” mean? (Keith, Westhill)
A – The customs union is an agreement between the EU member states (and some others) to allow the free movement of goods without any costs. A BMW factory in the UK might ship in parts from Germany, for instance. The customs union is different from the single market, which allows people, goods, services and money to move freely. The UK must leave the single market to have the stricter immigration policies which are a key part of Brexit.
Staying in the customs union would mean letting the EU negotiate trade deals on behalf of Britain, and the UK wouldn’t be able to arrange its own. In order to prevent a hard border in Nothern Ireland, it means staying in the customs union to allow the free movement of goods.
The alternative is to leave the customs union, but that would mean putting up a hard border, which the DUP (who prop up Theresa May’s government in parliament) and the EU have both said it will not allow.
13 – Will there be longer queues at airports in Europe? (Craig, Peterhead)
A – Consumer group Which? calculated UK holidaymakers could face queues of “up to five hours” if there is a no-deal Brexit. It anticipates the busiest airports will be Faroe, Alicante, Tenerife South, Lanzarote and Ibiza.
British nationals currently use lanes for EU citizens, which the European Commission says will not be allowed to continue post-Brexit, and will have to go through border checks – which means checking passport validity, expiry date, purpose and length of stay and whether visitors can support themselves financially. Which? says it’s estimated 90 seconds to check those details – added to the 25 seconds it currently takes – to end in around 5 hours for a single-lane, 189 person flight.
14 – Will it be harder to get an E1-11 (health insurance) card, and will travel health insurance get more expensive? (Diane)
A – The E1-11, or EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) entitles holders to free state-provided health care if you take ill or have an accident in the EU. The cards cover pre-existing conditions, so people who require things like daily dialysis can travel knowing that healthcare will be provided as needed.
In the event of a no-deal, the EHIC will no longer be valid for UK holders. The government warns – if there is a no-deal – for people planning to travel to buy health insurance as if you are travelling to any non-EU country.
If there is a deal, the future of healthcare provision would be negotiated during the transition period, but the government has said it wants British citizens to be able to use the EHIC should they need it. (Source).
15 – My dad says a no-deal crash out will be fine for food because “we were self sufficient before so we can be again”. But even if we get to the stage where we’ve cut back imports to next to nothing and grow our own food, what will happen in the short term?
A – The UK is estimated to grow around 61% of food it eats. Historically, the highest rate of production in the country was in the 18th century. In the early 1980s, the figure was around 82%.
The National Farmer’s Union says no, Britain cannot be self-sufficient, with population rising and demand for crops and spices that cannot be grown in the UK, we are too used to having things available all year round. (Source)
Professor Tim Lang, from London City University’s Centre for Food Policy, says yes, depending on a change in diet. He says it would mean cutting meat down to once a week. (Source).