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Analysis

May crosses more Brexiter red lines

by Hugo Dixon | 10.10.2017

Theresa May may have got the headlines she wanted this morning. They were all about how she was hanging tough with the EU by preparing to walk out of talks with no deal.

But the most important message of her House of Commons’ appearance yesterday was that our flip-flop queen is making more concessions to Brussels. She has crossed Jacob Rees-Mogg’s main red line, while two of Boris Johnson’s are in doubt.

Rees-Mogg asked the prime minister to confirm that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would end when we quit the EU in 17 months’ time. The Tory Brexiter describes this as “perhaps (the) most important red line in ensuring the leave vote is honoured”.

May refused to give him what he was looking for. She said we may “start off with the ECJ still governing the rules we are part of” during the two-year implementation period she wants after we leave the EU to make sure the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff.

Rees-Mogg also asked May to confirm that any new EU laws agreed after March 2019 would no longer apply to the UK unless we agree to them. This is one of the four red lines Johnson set out in his Sun interview just before the Tory conference.

The prime minister didn’t give a clear answer, merely saying: “Any new rules put on the table during the implementation period, given the way these things operate, are highly unlikely to be implemented during the implementation period.” It’s true that it normally takes more than two years for new directives to emerge from the EU’s sausage machine, but it is still possible we might have to implement emergency laws. There are also a mass of regulatory decisions, such as fixing agricultural prices and fish quotas, that apply immediately.

Laurence Robertson, a Tory MP, asked about another of Johnson’s red lines – to confirm that we mustn’t pay for single market access after we quit the EU. Again May didn’t give a clear answer.

It’s good that the prime minister is becoming more realistic. Her latest concessions – combined with the eight she made in Florence – should be enough to secure a transitional deal when the EU finally agrees to start talking about one.

But May still needs to make more concessions in order to move the talks forward. The EU Commission says the ball is in her court, despite her attempt to say otherwise.

What’s more, the prime minister is clinging to the wildly unrealistic view that we will complete our new deal with the EU by March 2019. She repeated this numerous times yesterday. When reality finally bites, it will be clear that two years is not nearly long enough for the transition because we’ll still have to nail down the final deal during that period not just implement things. She’ll then have to cross another of Johnson’s red lines.

Yesterday the foreign secretary was emollient, perhaps mindful of reports that May is about to demote him. But how many more u-turns can the prime minister make before the hardliners snap? And how long before the public realises they are not getting the Brexit they were promised and it’s time to call off this mad escapade?

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Shortly after publication, a sentence was added in the sixth paragraph to the effect that many of the EU’s regulatory decisions have immediate effect.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

2 Responses to “May crosses more Brexiter red lines”

  • Perhaps May could not answer because she sees the books, looks at the facts and figures daily and thinks ”OMFG!”

    Nearly as bad is her effective No. 2, Damien Green who on BBC Newsnight was asked the same question as May. He still thinks it would have been better if Britain had remained in the EU, but “the public took their view” is the weak answer we got from him.

    Reality is beginning to catch up with May, Green and others who happily use the clapped out ”will of the people” mantra to deflect criticism of their failing Brexit strategy.

  • It is high time Jacob Rees Mogg & Boris Johnson were forthcoming with some concrete reasons why we will do so much better off outside the EU. In the many pro-Brexit letters and articles I have read, I have not seen anything like an attempt at a serious analysis as to how trade with the USA, India, China and Japan will compensate for being outside the Single Market if we do not achieve an amicable deal. All of these gentlemen are sufficiently immunized by their wealth to not suffer the economic consequences that will fall upon the people that they claim to represent in the event of the Brexit they would like us to believe the country voted for. If the Prime ministers speeches prior to the Referendum are anything to go by she doesn’t believe we can really do better than the deal we already have.