The European Union and Britain
Dominic Raab the former Brexit Secretary, and the PM’s second Brexit secretary (David Davies being the first to resign over the Chequers deal), resigned, last Thursday because he said he could not in all conscience go to Brussels next week and sign on the dotted line the deal negotiated between the EU and the PM on behalf of the UK Government.
In his letter of resignation last Thursday, Mr Raab said that the PM has allowed Britain to be bullied and blackmailed by Brussels, and should toughen up her stance on Brexit or face disaster. His view on the Andrew Marr show this morning was that he will continue to support the PM and will not tender letter of no confidence to the 1922 Committee to trigger a vote of no confidence in her. He was of the view that the draft deal could be improved, for as it stands he would vote against it in parliament.
I am surprised that the former Brexit secretary advised the PM to walk away from the talks rather than to endorse the current draft agreement, which he said was a bad deal. He was of the view that a no deal is better than a bad deal, echoing the PM’s view in the early days of negotiations with Brussels. However, he was the one negotiating with the PM in Brussels and it’s a bit rich for him now to have resigned after the deal was completed.
It is suggested that the 585-page draft agreement leaves the UK half in and half out of the EU and that is not what the people voted for on 23rd June 2016. Extending the transitional period by say a further year during which all the EU rules would still apply until the UK is well and truly out of the EU lock stock and barrel, would cost apparently a further 10 billion pounds in addition to the £39 Billion already agreed for the divorce deal.
Before dealing with the aspects of the draft agreement in dispute, I should say that it was the UK’s decision to leave not that of the EU that it should do so, and therefore, the UK were never going to have a good deal in terms of having all the benefits of the EU as they wanted whilst at the same time divorcing from it after over 40 years of partnership. Britain was always going to be on the back foot. It thought, because of its strong economy, the 6th strongest in the world and because the EU and Britain were the biggest marker for each other’s goods, so negotiating a good deal for Britain was not an issue as it would be for the benefit of the EU to do so.
However what Britain did not realise is that the EU was not going to make life easy for Britain to leave. If it did so then other countries may try to follow suit leading to the breakup of the EU. France and German were and are staunch supporters of maintaining the membership of the 27 in the EU family, to the extent that they propose an EU army. Yes, the 27 other countries would suffer economically by Britain pulling out, but at the end of the day they have each other and so the effect on them by the British withdrawal would not be as great as the effect on Britain. The points most controversial in the draft agreement are as follows:
Will Britain leave the EU on 29th Match 2019?
Technically yes, but there is going to be a transitional period until 31st December 2020 to enable the agreement to gradually take effect. During this period Britain will be subjected to the full body of EU law including the ECJ. If it is necessary to extend the transitional period then this will only be possible if both the EU and the UK agree by 1st July 2020. The transitional period can be extended indefinitely.
So, in effect Britain will not take back control of its borders on 29th March 2019 when we officially leave the EU. Many of those who voted in the referendum of 2016 did not vote for such a delay in taking back control. Polls show that only about 10% of the population think the current deal is good for Britain. We may be tied in to the EU for years to come unless a solution with respect to Northern Ireland is found which at present appears to be impossible. Meanwhile we have heard that an extension of the transitional period for a further 12 months will involve a further payment of £10 billion.
#The Northern Ireland Border
In so far as the issue of the Irish border is concerned, during the transitional period the problem with the border will not arise, so matters will continue as now in terms of the free and friction less carriage of goods from Northern to Southern Ireland and vice versa. At the end of the transitional period if a solution has not been found then there will be a customs union for the whole of the UK which will therefore include Northern Ireland thus keeping Northern Ireland within the EU in terms of trade which would drag in the rest of the UK with it. So, in effect we shall remain half in and half out of the EU. What ever rules and regulations are made by Brussels as regards the customs union the UK will have no say in them as we would be legally out of but we would have to pay for the privilege of remaining in the customs union something that the British people did not vote for.
Also, whilst in the customs union, the UK would find it very difficult to do trade deals with third countries outside the EU. The government has also promised to apply EU law on industrial, agricultural and environmental goods in Northern Ireland as well as the EU’s Customs code and regulation on the movement of goods. This is at the instigation of the EU. The government says that only rules that are strictly necessary to avoid a hard border are covered in the deal but the Democratic Unionist party is not happy because this is not a true Brexit, as Northern Ireland will still be locked in the EU customs union rules and regulations.
If there is a vote of no confidence, the likelihood is that the Prime Minister would win. This means that there can be no further vote for another 12 months and the Prime Minister will remain in place. As this article is written, it is still uncertain whether there are the 48 letters of no confidence addressed to the 1922 Committee in place to kick start a leadership contest.
A change of leader may take place, but before such a course of action is considered, those plotting against the Prime Minister will have to think whether it will make any difference to the draft deal that has been agreed. Is it realistic that the EU would move from what has been agreed to something else? Mr Michelle Barnier has already said that there is no further room for negotiation. Is that a bluff? I do not believe that a new leader would be able to make any headway on the current deal struck with the EU.
If the Prime Minister signs the draft agreement in Brussels next week, it will no doubt receive the approval of the 27 other member states and then will become binding. It is difficult to see how any further amendments can be made to it between now and then as the PM is pressed now to try to achieve by at least 5 of her cabinet ministers who although are not resigning are trying to place as much pressure on her as possible. Furthermore, it is very difficult to fathom whether the EU will allow any further tweaking of the agreement, let alone substantial amendments to it.
A second referendum has been ruled out. We have had one and 52% voted to leave. We cannot keep on having referendums if we don’t like the result of the first. What if a second referendum produced a similar result but with 52% voting to remain and 49 % voting to leave. Will there be a third referendum? What if a general election is called and there is a narrow win for one of the parties, will there be another general election? We have to stick with the result we have.
The government will not call a general election. At present it is not doing well in polls, and risks being ousted by Labour. Many Tory members risk to lose their seats and their jobs accordingly. So, the status quo will remain, perhaps under the current Prime Minister, or someone else. Whatever said and done, Britain may find itself partly in and partly out of the European Union for some years to come, but insofar as the benefit for Britain is concerned, it is still my view that this deal which has advantages, as well as several disadvantages as can be seen here in, and may not be what the British public voted in 2016, under different circumstances and knowledge then, is still better than no deal.
The situation as regards #immigration does not appear to be a problem. #EU citizens in the UK, or UK citizens in the #EU at the end of the transitional period will be able to stay, and have the right to bring in close family members in the future.
No deal would really be a disaster, and there is no indication that Britain would get preferential treatment in terms of trade with other third countries in the event of a no deal. Furthermore, the standard of health and hygiene of packed food in some other third countries such as the USA are far below EU standards, and these are all matters that must be taken in the round when coming to a decision whether the current deal is the lesser of two evils, abut without a solution to the Irish border question, it is difficult to envisage how there could ever be a true Brexit, without engaging the wrath of the IRA and the renewed hostilities in Ireland in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. Were these pitfalls not thought of at the time in 2016 when the British people were given the vote? Evidently not !