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Analysis

Gove is wrong, we can stay in EU on same terms as today

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 03.12.2018

Michael Gove popped up in the Daily Mail  over the weekend to urge Britain to get behind Theresa May’s Brexit deal. “Leaving the EU is the right thing to do”, he assured the Mail’s readership.

Gove’s case, however, was built on the incorrect argument that we’d have to accept worse terms than our current membership if we decided to stay in the EU after all. “Keeping the rebate? Forget about it. Stopping a tide of new EU laws? No way. Halting progress towards a European army? Nope. Guaranteeing we wouldn’t have to pay billions to bail out euro members in the future? I’m afraid not.”

He is wrong. And better still, Theresa May’s deal would see half of them come to pass anyway. If the UK retracts its Article 50 notification then it simply continues with its current status.

This means that we would retain our veto over any changes to the rebate. We would retain our veto on an EU army. We would have full voting rights over EU laws, and be in a position to shape them in our interests – something we have done with great success in the past. And as for bailouts, as things stand, if countries don’t use the euro then they don’t pay for them. Unsurprisingly, there is no indication that the UK or other non-eurozone states like Sweden, Denmark and Poland are particularly keen to revisit this.

Gove might argue that the EU might attempt to force concessions from the UK if it turns out we need its approval to revoke Article 50. But why would the EU risk a rapprochement by making last-minute demands which could not be enforced?

Moreover, many of Gove’s scare stories apply to May’s deal too. “Level playing field” requirements will keep us bound to the EU rulebook for tax, state aid, competition law, employment rules, environmental standards – the list goes on. It goes further than that; it’s setting us up for legally binding alignments to EU law in any future trade deal. If Gove really objects to a “tide of new EU laws” without a say, then he shouldn’t be backing this deal.

This is all a far cry from the claims of the Vote Leave campaign, which Gove fronted, promising we could pass our own rules on the environment and state aid to save the Port Talbot steelworks. Now, however, Gove cares more about the “services which make up a far larger proportion of our economy”. Except even there, the deal is miserable: we will either lack access to EU markets, or accept the “extensive regulatory alignment” in the Ukraine-style arrangement May appears to desire. And, of course, we can hardly stop an EU army from outside the EU.

But it gets better. It’s not just that half of Gove’s scare stories apply to May’s deal; there are a few more horrors we can think of. It ends UK sovereignty in Northern Ireland through a backstop we have no way of leaving. It leaves Gibraltar vulnerable to Spanish demands. And it even leaves the European Court of Justice with a major voice setting law in the UK.

May’s deal would make the UK an impotent state, trailing after the will of its neighbours. And it would do so without delivering almost anything the Leave campaign promised us. We deserve a way out of this madness. We deserve a People’s Vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “Gove is wrong, we can stay in EU on same terms as today”

  • Indeed Michael Gove was talking through his hat. It would be still correct to say that the eventuality of revoking Article 50 has not been clarified by the European Court of Justice, and with it reversion to the exact status quo. However it is certainly false ‘project fear’ stuff on his part to say the rebate etc. would not be available any more.

  • Peter,
    I think you mean you don’t plus your friends. Since those terms are vastly superior to May’s deal which leads us devoid of any rights to influence the EU rules we will have to live by it would be the sensible option. I am sure there is no majority in the House of Commons or the country for the No deal Brexit option. But we could be certain with another Referendum!