OPINION: What would EU exit mean for UK-Israel relations?

OPINION: What would EU exit mean for UK-Israel relations?

jonathan DC turner
Jonathan Turner, Chairman UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI)

Jonathan Turner, Chairman UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) 

A BRITISH exit from the EU could have an effect on UK-Israel relations in trade and foreign policy because – in principle – it means we need not apply EU trade policies or coordinate our foreign policy with that of the EU and other EU states. This might mean that a UK government favourably disposed towards Israel could adopt policies more favourable to Israel in these areas; conversely a UK government less favourably disposed to Israel would have more freedom to adopt less favourable policies.

We may even see diverging foreign policies towards Israel from across the UK if a Brexit forced the UK’s break-up. The Scottish National Party says that, if Britain were to leave the EU, it could revisit the question of Scottish independence, which could mean centre-right, pro-Israel governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and a centre-left SNP government generally hostile to Israel in an independent Scotland (within the EU).

Removing Britain’s (generally pro-Israel) voice from the bloc might strengthen the balance against Israel within the EU, although it might also increase the influence of the (generally pro- Israel) German government.

In terms of trade, the UK and EU member states are all parties to the main association agreement between Israel and the EU, and I think this would remain in force between the UK and Israel despite a Brexit (as it would between the EU and Israel).

In the event of a Brexit, UK- Israel co-operation in science and technology could be hampered ­– for example, Israel is a party to Horizon 2020, a £70billion important EU research and development programme, and benefits from funding, but it is an agreement between Israel and the EU – not between Israel and its member states.

UK entities would cease to be entitled to participate in the programme, which could complicate ongoing projects. Likewise, there may be an effect on common trading standards in areas such as pharmaceuticals and medicine.

read more: