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EU Commission says more Britons will die of Cancer if UK proceeds with Brexit

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A document drawn up by EU Commission officials has stated that Brexit will increase cancer risks for British workers.

These claims have already been criticized by UK ministers. British Brexit Secretary David Davis told business leaders earlier this week in Vienna that Britain won’t have a “Mad-Max” Brexit and will continue cooperation with Brussels as it does not want “to undermine Europe or act against the interests of our nearest neighbors.”

Sputnik discussed this with Simon Usherwood, Reader in Politics at the University of Surrey, as well as Deputy Director of the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe program.

Simon Usherwood: I think it needs to be seen in the broader context. I think, that one of the things that has been clear and the British debate is often not a good awareness of the role the EU plays in public policy, to characterize it as people are going to die from cancer is overstating it, but clearly it’s evident that things like medical supplies are going to be affected by the changing relationship between the UK and the EU, so it’s a matter of trying to draw out those kinds of elements, and think about ways to find constructive solutions.

Sputnik: Do you think it’s a form of scaremongering when they make statements like this, that is going to disturb people in the United Kingdom, isn’t it?

Simon Usherwood: It’s probably not, actually, because the people here who are likely to be affected have already been quite well aware of this and you’ve seen pressure groups from lots of different sections of society saying that they want to stay in the EU or they want to keep a very close relationship for precisely those kind of reasons. And those people who want to leave will say, it’s scaremongering and of course, that’s not going to happen and we’ll find a solution as we move along. So actually, it doesn’t really change the pattern of opinion and that has been one of the most striking things in the UK, that public opinion is still pretty much where is was two years ago, at the time of the referendum, which is to say 50/50 and you haven’t seen a big movement one way or the other.

Sputnik: Some experts have said that this move masks the EU’s fear that the UK could do quite well outside the bloc, what’s your particular take on that statement?

Simon Usherwood: Well, the EU has always been clear that if the UK wants to leave it can leave, but the consequences of that are not that the UK should be given whatever deal it wants, and the confusion about what the UK, actually, wants from the relationship is an ongoing one, and particularly around the issue of not wanting to be subject to the rules, but also being able to have all the access and the same rights of moving things around that member states have. The EU has always said that’s not possible, so it’s about trying to unwind that kind of tension in the rhetoric, and you know, the kind of developments we’ve seen with the speeches that we’ve had in the past week from various government ministers and Theresa May, really kind of continue that ambiguity about what the UK wants. So the EU is not particularly worried about the UK doing well on the outside, it has a material, practical interest in the UK doing well, it’s more about trying to make sure that it doesn’t compromise the rules for existing members and for future members who want to join.

Sputnik: The document comes as Brexit Secretary David Davis is touring EU capitals, to try and persuade EU leaders to strike new deals on trade and security with the UK , what impact can this have on a potential agreement between the EU and the UK?

Simon Usherwood: I think, it’s still quite difficult, and one of the things that has been happening is trying to have discussions about the provisional arrangements once the UK leaves in March (2019) until we get a new relationship in place. The UK seems to be saying we want to try and keep as much in place as possible, so that we don’t have to have a big change come the point that the UK leaves, but not really been clear about what the step after that is, and I think that these speeches, including David Davis’ yesterday, haven’t shed much light on it. They say we want to have a close relationship, we want to have a good relationship, but not really being clear about how one goes about doing that in detail and really we have to remember that there’s not much time left in the negotiations, by October of this year the UK and the EU have to reach an agreement if they want to have that in place by March of next year, when the UK will leave. Without that there will be some real difficulties and the UK has been very slow to unwind the ambiguities and the contradictions in what different parts of the government have said.

Sputnik: Davis’ Vienna address is the latest in a serious of speeches designed to help quell fears that the EU departure is being mismanaged by the Conservatives, however, some experts have said that the speeches have fallen flat. What’s your particular opinion with regard to his speeches and the current position?

Simon Usherwood: For me, the interesting thing is even though David Davis is speaking in Vienna, to Viennese politicians and businessmen, it was actually a speech for the UK. It was about the domestic audience rather than the EU audience and I think that’s been true for all the speeches, is that really the British government is trying to sort out its internal communication within the UK rather than its communications with the EU. There’s a series of ongoing discussions and negotiations between the government and the commission, who run the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal and those proceed in a technical kind of way, but the main thrust of what the British government is doing, is trying to manage internal factions within the Conservative party and also different parts of British public opinion.


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