Are you talking age or IQ?


If you ever get the chance to walk around the corridors of Parliament in Canberra, there are a few obvious things to see. The staffers are all very young, and the ladies are very fashionably dressed. The noise of the stilettos on the wooden floors is mesmerising.

Many seem straight out of University with fresh faces and wide-eyes. Very unlike 45 years ago when I worked there and “young ones” are we were called were very rare, on both sides.


Public servants are never the sole source of advice to governments and that’s how it should be . But when their advice - including the legal consequences of government actions -are totally ignored, they are left to help the government get out of the mess. I’d say that is exactly what the UK civil servants are doing now.


Not sure if you were around in 1972 to 1975, but the Public Service, or rather the Mandarins in Canberra didn’t take kindly to their advice being ignored by Ministers.

I worked for the Minister for Environment at the time, and I would argue that the Public Service had more to do in bringing down a Government than Fraser, Kerr, CIA, Khemlani, Morosi and just about everything else.

Those Humphrey-types can be very vindictive.


There was a dual problem. After a long period of the same government, public servants need to be de-programmed to respond to a a new government with an entirely different policy agenda. Treasury was the main offender in that regard and the mistrust carried over to some extent in the early days of the Hawke Government. Treasury has always been out there in regard to responsiveness to government agendas.
But the Hawke Government was better placed, as it included some Ministers from the Whitlam era. There was no-one in the Whitlam Government Ministry with direct experience of working with the public service.
But we are getting off topic.


So, the UK speaker of the house has said May can’t bring her deal back to be tabled, as the rules don’t allow the same legislation to be tabled more than once in the same Parliamentary sitting! She could bring it back last time as it changed post the discussions with the EU. So effectively, May’s deal appears to be off the board in the short-term. Which leaves really a delay, a general election, a referendum or rescinding article 50. With the delay, the EU sounds like it will insist on two years, which puts it dangerously close to the next UK general election scheduled (about a year before). Which means if Brexit was a disaster, the Torries would be massacred.

What is really funny is some of the conservative politicians are complaining they didn’t realise the consequences of their vote on May’s deal last week, so they should be allowed to have it again. If that logic works, why doesn’t it apply to the British public? I bet there are a few people who protest voted or didn’t bother voting in the previous referendum who’d like their time again!

My understanding is that the issue is as much about quality and standards as tariff levels, and that if the UK didn’t put any on Ireland/the EU, those wouldn’t be required of anyone else either.

And the EU will effectively require a hard border with Ireland to stop the UK shipping low quality products into the EU via a Northern Irish back door.


CWithin the EU there is a tolerance of different health and safety standards between Member States, provided they are justifiable - largely along the lines of WTO rules on health and safety standards, possibly a bit stricter in regard to standards as non- tariff barriers, with the burden of proof on the Member State adopting the higher standard - EU Single Market Rules. Non EU members are indirect beneficiaries of this, as they can trade across all EU markets where a common EU standard exists.
The WTO rules provide a measure of protection against the discriminatory application of standards, although the burden of proof is on the complainant to establish arbitrary and discriminatory trade treatment in regard to Members where the same or similar conditions apply.
Standards are often not enforced at the border but closer to the point of sale ( as in Australia) where products not meeting the standard would be prohibited from wholesale or retail sale, or would be withdrawn from sale.
I thought the EU concern was that the UK would adopt higher standards, as it would have more flexibility under WTO burden of proof conditions.
I’m not suggesting that the Irish border issue is unproblematic ( including for free movement of people ) but I do have my suspicions that it may have been exaggerated . It could be resolved at a technical level, but it may suit some to put it at centre stage when there are other major consequences for the UK leaving the EU, which the Brexiters choose to downplay.


To add that, under the UK devolution arrangements with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has the capacity to establish its own standards in certain areas.
I would not be surprised at a degree of harmonisation in standards between the two in Ireland


For those like me who live here and voted to stay in, but were told to leave, this is on point.


That isn’t my understanding at all. My understanding is that there are really two major sets of standards - EU and American (this could be primarily agriculture focused). The EU has significantly higher standards (e.g. requiring vets to be involved in signing off at many key points, stricter rules on use of hormones, etc.). For people to export into the EU you have to meet those standards.

American standards are far more lax, and hence why it is easier to be on their level for free trade agreements. So the EU is very worried that the UK will try and be a back door entry into the EU of lower standard goods. There is also the issue for the UK that a lot of the vets that are involved in agriculture are from the EU. British vets take the sexy jobs, which is mostly pet and other roles. To fill all the checking, non-sexy work they mostly have vets who are originally from the EU. In the case of a no-deal brexit, that raises the risk that those vets have to leave, which means the UK won’t be able to meet EU standards.

Finally, I thought a big problem was the checking. It is not illegal in the EU to sell sub-standard food to the UK, if the UK isn’t part of the EU. So the UK will need to start checking everything coming in, both from the EU and other countries. It is setup for other countries, but for the EU, which is the largest source of food. So those checks will create huge delays.


Don’t they already sell horse meat to the UK (and not tell them)? :slight_smile:


There are some common EU standards, such as hormone free beef and animal welfare/environment type, safety standards which are confirmed on product labelling . These sit beside national standards under the EU Single Market system. The EU gave up trying to have a common set of standards a long time ago when it introduced the Single Market system
You cannot take it as a given that the UK will repeal all EU common standards and not duplicate them under its own legislation. I understand that the UK has more or less completed that process.
Every Member State would have a system in place to prevent the sale of imported defective products in the domestic market. The UK will just have to step up that system to cover defective products of EU origin. But if the product is EU certified as safe, it is going to be a lot simpler, unless the UK proceeds to adopt higher than EU standards.
The problem may be more one of technical transition involving short term supply shortfalls.
To note also that a lot of compliance with standards is done by the country of origin under mutual recognition of certification authorisation etc. That’s the way Australia sells most of its agricultural products including advance forwarding of certification.
The problem for the UK in negotiating standards as part of a trade deal with the US is that it will not have the negotiating coin of the EU 27. But t will also not have the EU headache of having to balance out the interests of 27 of its members.


I am completely with @Ants on this. EU Standards are the most comprehensive and toughest in the world and all EU Countries have to strictly comply, and anything I sell into the EU has to be certified as meeting all the standards.

Generally EU has much higher levels of accreditation than USA, except for FDA approval which is now seen as higher than the EU GMP compliance.

In the past Australian Standards were more rigid and mostly based on the British Standards and some on ASTM, but EU took the lead 20 years ago. What are you basing your views on ?


Until this century, Australian standards were mostly set at State level - Customs and Excise are exclusive to the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth has very limited Constitutional powers to set Australia wide standards ( including quarantine and health standards on imports)
There was huge proectionism in standards practised by the States including against each other -conditioned only by S92 of the Constitution.
That situation hampered Australia at the international level , was detrimental to exporters as the Commonwealth could not commit the States in trade and other treaties, except piecemeal through COAG.
The States eventually came round to realise that it was in their interests to to change, which meant we had more coin in the negotiation and implementation of the WTO Agreements o Standards and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The bulk of standards setting is now done through Standards Australia, with ANZ having a single standards setting regime in some areas.
None of these developments were driven by Canberra bureaucrats in a vacuum, but responded to industry. Standards are a significant issue in bilateral and other trade agreements. I’ve worked on them for some years and have some knowledge of their workings at the domestic bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral level.


This is true, but the issue is that if the UK wants free access to the EU market (which they do), they’ll have to keep those standards. Which will then be a barrier/restriction on any other trade deals they do, and means that they’ll be “taking” EU standards into the future. Ones which they’ll have no say over, unlike now. It goes against a lot of what Brexit is meant to achieve.

On the other hand, if they do deals with people with lower standards, and set their standards lower to suit (e.g. the USA), then the EU won’t allow any open trade as otherwise a US exporter could send lower standard goods to the UK, and then ship them anywhere within the EU. That is why the backstop exists, and why it means that if all else falls apart, Northern Ireland would stay using EU standards and the customs checks would be in the sea between the two islands.

Sure the UK has a system. At its international ports facing the rest of the world, and for a small overall % of its goods and services. And sure, the check may not take long on an individual basis. The problem is for the vast bulk of their imports there is currently no checking system at all. I can’t quite recall the figures, so I’m guessing a bit, but there was a study saying if (say) checking added 1-2 minutes per shipment from the EU, there would be delays and blockages on the roads going back kilometres. Because they don’t have the infrastructure or systems to do any checks on EU goods.

Don’t know about this, not my area of expertise and haven’t read anything on it. But it seems some pretty knowledgeable people haven’t considered this a solution for the UK.

See my comments above. The issue is that you can probably have a trade deal with the UK or the US, not both (unless they aligns standards). At least, if you want free/quick transfer of goods.


Technical issues are capable of technical resolution - countries trade all the time with different countries having different standards and invariably meet those standards if the trade is relatively significant. They don’t require physical checks at the border. In this case, physical checks might be needed on a temporary basis only pending the full implementation of other systems ( which are globally common)
There are - admittedly relatively weak - international rules on the notification of the export of domestically prohibited goods. It’s more advanced in the environmental area under UN treaties such as the Basel Convention.
It is to the advantage of exporters to have a certificate of compliance with ISO standards or, in many cases EU standards in most countries , as it makes access easier ( BTW Bacchus, where did I say that EU standards were not high?)
My concern is that, while standards are an issue, they can be resolved at a technical level, they have been blown out of all proportion and used as a “what if” reason by remainers and leavers - with a disregard of the advice of those experienced in customs administration and trade rules ( they do exist in the UK)
To my mind the central issue is the failure of governing structures in the UK - and in particular the cowardice in refusing to take responsibility for decisions.
Government has ceased to function. First, we have a non- binding referendum which the Government decides to lock itself into. Then, the Government dispenses with Cabinet solidatary - executive branch of government ceases to exist. Next, we have a series of non-binding votes put to the Commons - it is not acting as a legislature.
That’s not the way a Westminster style of Government can function.


No-one actually checks standards anywhere as far as I can see.

Unless China wants to stop foods imports or there is a death somewhere and it becomes pRt of a court action.

And ISO9000 has nothing to do with good safe products, only about traceability.


ISO role in standards goes way beyond the one you have cited. Although it does not cover the waterfront ISO has a role in standards setting and methodology in standards setting.
The ISO is given formal acknowledgement in the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade ( Standards Agreement). While ISO standards are not mandatory, a WTO member applying such standard or methodology is given a large measure of cover against challenges under WTO rules ( provided it is applied on a non-discriminatory basis). And exporting against an ISO standard facilitates access to markets.
In many markets, it is possible to do electronic filing of authorised documentation , in a format agreed between exporting and importing countries, in advance of importation . The UK probably has such a system in place, including for goods coming from other EU countries ( of EU origin or otherwise).
Waiting for the next straw dog.


Lol. EU has agreed to entend Brexit to May22nd (the UK wanted June 30) on one proviso - that the UK parliament passes Theresa’s ‘deal’ next week. If that doesn’t happen, the UK has until April 12 to show “another way forward” (whatever the hell that means on a practical level) or its out the door.

Which is problematic not just because most of the UK parliament is opposed to May’s deal, but also because the speaker has ruled that she cannot present the deal to the house for a third time in one sitting term!

The circus continues.


Perhaps the most logical thing I’ve heard recently came from an old geezer in the House of Lords, of all places.

He made the point that as the representative of the people’s will , the House of Commons had investigated the way to make the referendum outcome happen, and that it was perfectly acceptable if the people’s reps decided that it couldn’t be carried out in an acceptable form. He thinks the pathway should be shifted to negotiating reform of the EU - and the things the UK are unhappy with - rather than futile efforts to ‘negotiate’ an exit.