May might kick can, Canada +++ style

by Hugo Dixon | 16.12.2017

To avoid splits in her cabinet over what Brexit means, the prime minister seems likely to back a fantasy plan – what David Davis calls “Canada, plus, plus, plus”. The snag is that the EU won’t agree.

Theresa May is finally on Tuesday holding her first cabinet meeting to discuss what trading arrangement we want with the EU post-Brexit. Just reflect on that for a moment. It has taken 18 months since the referendum to start discussing the issue. What on earth have they been up to?

It’s actually pretty obvious. The prime minister is so desperate to hold her fractious party together that she has been avoiding the central topic of where we want to end up. Instead, she has been making one u-turn after another on the divorce deal in order to persuade the EU to give her a two-year transition so the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff in 2019 – which of course merely delays the cliff to 2021.

Talking turkey? You must be joking.

So now, in the run-up to Christmas, the cabinet is finally going to talk turkey, right? Not so fast. Yes, they will talk – and perhaps May will even achieve a consensus. But this will be a meaningless and unrealistic one.

The bulk of the cabinet backs Davis’ desire for “Canada plus, plus, plus”, some ministers have told the Guardian. But what exactly does “Canada plus, plus, plus” mean?

It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Boris Johnson and his merry band of Brexiters will see it as a new way of having their cake and eating it.

A so-called “Canada Dry” deal would severely damage our economy. It does very little for our financial services industry, which would otherwise get thwacked. So let’s add that to the deal – the first “plus”. Nor does Canada’s deal do much for aviation and electricity. So that’s another plus. And it does precious little for other services such as culture and audiovisual services. So there’s your third plus. All bloody important given that our world-beating services industries account for 80% of our economy.

But how will the EU view “Canada, plus, plus, plus”? It won’t want us “cherry picking” the bits of the single market May likes and avoiding the bits she doesn’t.

So its first plus will be that we follow all the EU rules without a say in making them. Our prime minister has already virtually agreed that with her promise of “full alignment” with a large chunk of the EU rulebook if she can’t find a magical way of avoiding a land border in Ireland. The EU’s second plus will be free movement of people. And its third will be that we keep paying into its budget forever.

Now how does that version of “Canada, plus, plus, plus” sound to Brexiters? They’ll have a conniption. Turning our proud country into Ruletaker Britannia won’t please many pro-Europeans either.

May’s plan: keep it vague.

So May’s path of least resistance will be to keep everything vague for as long as possible. She won’t want to confront the issue at Tuesday’s cabinet. She won’t want to tackle it in the New Year – or even in the spring or summer. If she can get away with it, she may even try to kick the can Canada +++ style until after we quit the EU – agreeing as part of our divorce a fairly meaningless political declaration on to which all parties can project their fantasies.

The other EU countries may even be up for that. They know they will have us over a barrel and, come Brexit day, we’ll be pleading for a deal on their terms.

But this would not be in the national interest. Sensible Tories, opposition parties, business and the unions must force the government to spell out a realistic detailed post-Brexit vision as early as possible – and certainly before we quit. The public can then look at it – and, if they don’t like it, cancel Brexit.

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    The headline was updated on Dec 18 to change Canada to Canada +++.  A similar change was made to the third last paragraph.

    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    7 Responses to “May might kick can, Canada +++ style”

    • That analysis is very interesting but it won’t convince our leading Brexiteers. They are slogan-based rather than detail based, as recent evidence from Davis and Johnson shows.
      To shoot down their slogans we need to be equipped with the key technical questions which expose the holes in their arguments…like how does the Norway agreement compare with Canada and specifically how are finance and aircraft industries dealt with, and so on. They will, of course, waffle around this, but their street-cred is already at a very low level and if we can reduce it even further then even the most fervent Brexiteers will start to have strong doubts. They urgently need to get an exit date finalized and fixed so as to stop the “will of the people” being able to change once they are exposed for the bunch of carpetbaggers which they are.

    • The last sentence is a blatant example of what the mission statement and policy of this website is not supposed to be. The public cannot cancel Brexit if thy don’t like the Brexit deal the Uk gets with the EU.
      It shows blatant contempt for impartial, fair, unbiased reporting which Infacts claims to be.

    • An excellent analysis. However at the risk of appearing pedantic I can’t resist pointing out the increasing infiltration of Americanisms into journalism, as well as everywhere else, which has been accelerated by Brexit. I refer to the slang term conniption, which I had to look up. We must beware. First our language, then our NHS and everything else.

      KEEP LEFT – you’re in ENGLAND!

      Look, dekko, squint, butcher’s Peek

      Pretty well Pretty much

      Standard Regular

      Ordinary Regular

      Dent, small mark Ding

      Clever Smart

      Smart Sharp

      I’ve already eaten I already ate

      Have you got any …? Do you have any…?

      You get it free (=for nothing) You get it for free

      Far too expensive Way too expensive

      How are you? I’m fine How are you? I’m good

      Ready to take away Good to go

      Well done! Good job!

      Isn’t that nice? How nice is that?

      Gosh* Wow

      Oh I say Oh my God

      The English language has recently The English language just got
      deteriorated, I’m afraid. smarter, dude.

    • Agree with you, King John, about the bizarre choice of the word “conniption”. I have an English degree and had never heard of the word before. A preferable choice would have been “hissy fit” which everybody understands and sums up the childish attitude of the Brextremists much better.

    • In the middle of an existential crisis for our country how refreshing that we can take the time to unite against the use of the word conniption, even perhaps to have a hissy fit over it?

      How very British.

    • The EU will not be turkeys voting for Christmas! What matters is the longevity and unity of the EU so do you think we will even get any cake to have and eat? Whatever deal is eventually struck it will not be allowed to temp any stragglers of the 27 to head for an exit of their own. The deal will conform to the phrase “pour encourager les autres”!