It has been a long time since I last got my hands on a leaked letter or memo from Dame Lucy. After her long service on Brexit issues she appears to be deployed today on outstanding matters from the Withdrawal and Future Trade Agreements in the Cabinet Office. I thought I should share the letter with you.
Dear Mark (I’m not sure who this is but also clearly a senior official)
It is most important at this difficult time when Ministers are understandably preoccupied by the pandemic response that we provide the necessary continuity in other areas. We do have a duty to minimise the change that the upheaval of Brexit could create. We should be pleased that so much of the accumulated law and practice of the EU has been successfully transferred to the UK legal canons. We can be content that Northern Ireland remains partly under EU control as a reminder of the need for compromise with the EU over various matters. It of course entails regular Ministerial contact and negotiation over a range of issues through the Joint Committee. We must also ensure that Ministers are given every opportunity to adopt parallel laws and regulations to the changes going ahead in the EU, to avoid too much drift apart. We should remind Ministers of the desirability of equivalence, and the hard tests the EU is likely to apply to ensure equivalence, which will be much like identical measures. We should be keen to work with the EU on important matters like digital regulation and the green agenda. We as the custodians of continuity in government must preside over and enforce all existing rules and procedures unless and until Cabinet and empowered Ministers insist on change.
I am worried in case the divergence over vaccines leads Ministers to think divergence elsewhere is always likely to be right and better. Ministers may have had a success, but at the price of further deterioration in already difficult relations with the EU. The EU is upset about priority of deliveries to the UK, and has had various worries about the Astra vaccine in particular. We do not wish to see such disputes cross over into sensitive areas like fish, agriculture and energy. We need to remind Ministers of the complex supply chains, the inter dependence and the sensible nature of many EU rules and requirements. I think it is good news that the Treasury is continuing with the Maastricht debt and deficit criteria, and welcome that there is a further five years transition before the UK controls its own fisheries fully. I look to you to assist in portraying the realities of the new relationship to Ministers.