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Analysis

May’s latest likely u-turn means more miserable rule-taking

by Luke Lythgoe | 10.10.2018

The prime minister is so desperate to get a deal with the EU that she is about to make another huge u-turn, according to two unnamed sources in The Times. She will agree to follow the EU’s social and environmental standards and maybe its labour rules too after Brexit, in the hope of persuading the bloc to agree to free movement of goods. This figures, since the EU won’t want the UK to get access to its market but undercut it with less stringent green and social policies.

There’s little wrong with the EU’s social and environmental standards. The UK, after all, has helped craft them for 45 years. But following them after Brexit without a vote on them would not be taking back control. It would be losing control.

The rumoured new u-turn joins two other big concessions May is expected to make. She will try and solve the Irish border problem by keeping the whole UK in the customs union, until there is a “clear process” of steps to exit. That means following EU trade policies without a vote on them. The prime minister is also effectively going to give the European Court of Justice the final say in any dispute, according to Politico.

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Again there is little wrong with either the EU’s trade policies or the ECJ. The UK has played a central role in both for over 45 years. But post-Brexit, we would no longer have the ability to make sure potential new trade deals with China and America worked in our interests; and we wouldn’t have a judge on the EU’s top court. That’s not taking back control.

May is expected to reveal these concessions to her Cabinet next Tuesday. All eyes will be on whether Cabinet “swing voters” like Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab swallow them. A big question mark also hangs over international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, who yesterday declined to give May’s proposals her explicit backing.

Outside government, other Tory Brexiters couldn’t be more explicit. Former Brexit secretary David Davis has warned the prime minister that any “rule-taking” would be “obvious” to voters – with dire electoral consequences. Meanwhile his former minister at the Brexit department, Steve Baker, has restated that 40 backbenchers are ready to oppose May’s plans. However, this number was said to be around 80 until recently – perhaps Baker’s ERG is not the parliamentary power he claims?

Either way, May’s Brexit route now leads to either a miserable rule-taking deal or parliamentary deadlock and chaos. What a mess.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “May’s latest likely u-turn means more miserable rule-taking”

  • I don’t have a problem with taking rules from the EU. They are predominantly sensible, which is more than you can say for some of the UK’s laws. Also, there are 27 other nations who presumably will be loath to endorse bad laws. All this rubbish about rule-taking is just scare-mongering. There isn’t going to be another referendum, and even if there was, there is no guarantee that the public will vote to stay in the EU – I wish that were so but this is the real world. We are, apparently, leaving in six months, hopefully with as close a deal as is possible without actually being in the EU. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  • John,
    The real danger is that May comes back with a deal that looks like Brexit in Name Only and manages to wangle it through Parliament with the National interest line, only for the Hard Brexiteers who will replace her ripping it to shreds as soon as they can. I see no reason to trust the hard right of the Conservative Party, who have no pretence of acting on behalf of the National interest. While we can act and campaign for a ‘Peoples vote’ we should do so, and not give in to those who criticize us, or be discouraged. I am convinced that it is morally right to make people aware of the true cost of Brexit and give them an opportunity to reconsider.
    I am always heartened by the example of William Wilberforce, who was defeated 9 times in Parliament before he helped bring about the abolition of Slavery. He ultimately won because his cause was right.

  • Edgar the solution is very simple; UK remain as part of the EU. Take back control? Have you been through an airport or seaport from the UK in the past years? Not noticed how your passport is scanned etc? Rules? The EU is responsible for approximately 15% of our laws , that is those that the UK government agreed to and voted for in Westminster. Approximately 85% of the laws in the UK are created by those elected to Westminster i.e. demonstrating that we are still a sovereign state. As for rules, guess you have never been a member of a club to understand the meaning of the word rules.

  • If we just leave, and let the EU do what it will with the Irish border, things will inevitably sort themselves out In time. There is no way forward which is acceptable to any sort of majority and no way back either ( the EU won’t make that easy for us). Sadly, time to bite the bullet.