To paraphrase former US President Gerald Ford, our long national nightmare is over. Sort of. After three rollercoaster years, the Brexit wars are finally at an end. Britain is now firmly outside the club. If you thought it was safe, however, to assume politics will return to the humdrum potholes not people’s votes, cones’ hotlines not customs unions then think again. Tempting as it may be to draw a line under the post-referendum tumult, fundamental unanswered questions remain about the UK’s future now that we’ve taken back all this control.
This applies to the petroleum sector as much as it does other aspects of UK plc.
What access to the European market are we willing to sacrifice in order to make our own trade deals? Is the UK prepared to see tariffs imposed on our exports, and what tariffs would the UK set in return? Is the UK willing to pursue its own approach to chemicals registration or carbon pricing? And is it ready to accept the additional costs and loss of economies of scale as a result?
Since the referendum, representing our members and the consumers they ultimately serve, UKPIA has worked tirelessly to convince Ministers of the necessity of market access and competitiveness with the EU in the years ahead. This will not change now that Brexit has happened.
So how will this shape our attitude in 2020? It means supporting a zero-tariff, zero-quota EU free-trade agreement and maximising post-Brexit opportunities, including innovative ways for our sector to play a major role in meeting ’Net Zero’, as identified in UKPIA’s Future Vision. It also means advocating for alignment when it serves the national interest, not least to prevent tariff barriers that could undermine UK refineries, with long-term consequences for jobs, carbon leakage and energy security as well as ultimately for UK consumers.
Paraphrasing President Ford again, history will judge us not by the promises we make, but the ones we keep. When it comes to petroleum, UKPIA is determined to ensure that the promises made in the political declaration, that the UK will enjoy a comprehensive and balanced Free Trade Agreement without tariffs or quotas, are kept.