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Analysis

Chequers 2.0 would be even more miserable than Chequers 1.0

by Hugo Dixon | 04.10.2018

Now that she has seen off any imminent threat to unseat her at the Conservative conference, it’s increasingly clear Theresa May is preparing for a big compromise in the Brexit talks: staying in the customs union for as far as the eye can see and agreeing to the possibility of regulatory checks in the Irish Sea. There are stories in the FT (here and here) and The Sun, following Tuesday’s original Times story.

The prime minister will today hit the phones as part of a frantic 10-day push to lock down a deal, according to The Sun. Brexit will be discussed by EU leaders at dinner on October 17. But the basic outline of a deal, being dubbed by some as Chequers 2.0, needs to be clear by the start of that week.

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In addition to staying in the customs union indefinitely and accepting the possibility of regulatory checks in the Irish Sea, May could also agree that the whole UK would follow even more EU rules than she proposed under Chequers 1.0. Charles Grant, the Centre for European Reform’s director, writes: “The UK should extend [the rule-taking] to cover more goods and more of the inputs that affect manufacturing costs. It should offer more automatic updating into UK law of relevant EU rules and a larger role for the European Court of Justice in enforcement.”

It is doubtful May can persuade the EU to agree such a plan, even with such extra concessions – although Ireland is backing her. If she does, she will also struggle to get it through Parliament. The DUP, which is propping up her government, has threatened to pull the plug if there are regulatory checks in the Irish Sea. And Boris Johnson and the hard Brexiters in her party will be even more furious about Chequers 2.0 than they were about Chequers 1.0, saying it will turn us into an EU colony.

That said, if the prime minister does manage to pull off such a deal and buy off the DUP and Tory rebels – or even secure the support of Jeremy Corbyn who has suggested he may back the government if it stays in the customs union – it’s important to realise what a miserable deal this would be. We’d follow the EU’s tariffs and trade policy without a say on them. We’d follow huge numbers of EU rules without a vote on them. And we wouldn’t even fully protect our services industries, which are responsible for 80% of our economy.

What’s the point of that? Such a deal would be so wildly different from what was promised two years ago that it would be essential first to consult the people over whether they want it.

2 Responses to “Chequers 2.0 would be even more miserable than Chequers 1.0”

  • What’s the point in continuing on a brexit effort at all? It is only to give the entitled and privileged more power with fewer controls on their actions. privatising the NHS will pick up speed, ongoing exploitation of the working poor will accelerate and on and on. This will be a brexit by the wealthy for the wealthy and sod the rest of us.