‘Brextra time’ would be lousy and it’s not even a solution

by Hugo Dixon | 18.10.2018

Theresa May told EU leaders last night that she was ready to “consider” another year of limbo after we quit the bloc – extending the so-called transition, when we stay in the single market and customs union, until the end of 2021. During that period, we would follow the EU’s rules and pay into its budget without a vote. Donald Tusk today said EU leaders were ready to consider the idea “positively”.

It’s not just the Brextremist wing of May’s party who don’t like this idea, although the likes of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg have made their opposition very clear. Patriotic pro-Europeans don’t like it either. The single market and customs union are valuable – and there’s little wrong with the rules that underpin them either. After all, we have sat round the top table for 45 years writing them. But following them blindly with no say is another matter. This is losing control, not taking it back.

Our payment into the EU budget is also reasonable, so long as we have a say on how it is spent. But paying money without a say is taxation without representation.

In 2016 we paid the EU £7.6 billion net because we enjoyed a £3.9 billion “rebate”, the discount that Margaret Thatcher famously negotiated on our fee. How much we would have to pay during an extended transition would depend on whether we keep our rebate. If not, our net payment would be around £12 billion.

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No solution to Irish border

Extending the transition was the only half-new idea to come out of the EU summit. The thinking is that with an extra year of talks, we might find a way of avoiding border controls in Ireland. But this is hopeless unless the prime minister abandons her red line of pulling out of the single market.

What this means is that the EU will still insist on a “backstop” to keep the Irish land border open in all circumstances – and our Cabinet will continue to go round and round in circles like a whirling dervish trying to figure out what to do. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, was clear on this yesterday, saying a longer transition period was not a substitute for a concrete agreement over the backstop.

No wonder the EU has now cancelled plans for a special summit in November – while leaving open the chance that it could be reinstated if May can come up with a workable idea.

The other thing to remember is that an extra year won’t be long enough to nail down a trade deal with the EU even if May can agree a divorce deal. So we’ll still face a cliff edge at the end of 2021 – unless the transition is extended yet again. And that, of course, would mean more years of paying into the EU’s budget and following its rules without a say. How lousy.

The only good solution is to have a People’s Vote at the end of the talks, cancel Brexit, avoid border controls in Ireland, stay at the top table and make the rules. If you agree, come to the People’s Vote March on Saturday.

If you wish to march with InFacts come to the corner of South Street and Park Lane outside the BMW garage at noon. If you can, make a placard, bring drums, whistles and anything that makes noise, and carry a UK flag.

The paragraphs about our contribution to the EU budget were simplified shortly after publication to focus on the net payment and the rebate, removing the discussion of the EU’s payments to the UK.

4 Responses to “‘Brextra time’ would be lousy and it’s not even a solution”

  • Totally agree. Dumb proposal, maybe thought to be smart by moving exit towards parliamentary election. Chaos.

    Anyway, the problem is not time but the warring factions in Mrs May’s hinterland, extending to the full parliament. Time would not solve that. Spine would.

    I am also getting tired of hearing that democracy demands (some kind of) BREXIT. Everybody seems to have his/her own BREXIT. Has nothing to do with Democracy. Schizophrenia more likely.

    Just leave.

  • If there is no deal, will there be no referendum on the ‘deal?’ No ‘transition period’ to extend?
    Better – have peoples vote ref asap, on whether to continue trying to leave, or else to remain, given what we now know. Would either give PM a mandate or stop the whole sorry mess before it gets even messier.
    Democracy demands people are consulted asap.
    its not too late. Ask for extension to Art 50 period – 6 months should do it? – to allow time for People Vote/referendum while we are still in EU. If the decision is to remain, that would be a lot easier than trying to get back in as a 3rd country after we’ve left and its all gone pear-shaped. An extension to any backstop is useless- only extends the chaos. And if we fall out without a deal, there would be no ‘transition period’ anyway. Is that why Raab et al are so keen on a no-deal outcome??

  • There is a complete impasse and May is cornered on all sides. A People’s Vote is the only way to sort out this shambles.
    And to think that Fox told the electorate that leaving the EU would be easy. See you all on Saturday.