EM Ireland: “Singapore-upon-Thames” – A buccaneering Britain after Brexit?
While the economic conditions that Britain will pursue outside the EU remain uncertain and can only be guessed by peering behind the political curtain, it is the EU’s wish to have as close as possible a relationship with the UK.
However, one issue that has flown under the radar since the conclusion of the revised Withdrawal Agreement, has been the complete removal of the ‘level playing field’ provisions from the agreement.
The ‘level playing field’ (or LPF) was sought by the EU to limit the UK’s ability to gain what it saw as an unfair competitive advantage, if the UK decided to lower standards on environmental protection, consumer policy, labour safeguards, state aid or taxation.
Instead, the LPF provisions have been replaced by less specific and non-binding commitments in the Political Declaration.
A scenario of a highly deregulated UK has been dubbed as a ‘Singapore-upon-Thames’. Dr Charles Woolfson, of Linköping University, has described this as “an ultra-business-friendly environment with low or zero corporation tax, low wages, weak trade unions, [and] vestigial welfare provisions”.
Conservative MP Owen Paterson, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was a leading voice in the Leave.EU campaign in 2016, believes that a ‘Singapore-upon-Thames’ would be a “low-tax, low-spend, low regulation” Britain.
With the UK’s close geographical proximity to the EU, such a scenario does raise concerns, in particular for Ireland, due to our shared border with the UK.
However, through three different routes, let us unpack what a ‘Singapore-upon-Thames’ actually is. Is it fact or fiction?
- How does ‘Singapore-upon-Thames’ actually relate to Singapore?
- Why did Singapore want a free trade deal with the EU?
- Does the Brexiter idea of ‘Singapore-upon-Thames’ add up?
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