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Analysis

Vague Brexit future plan means worse deal on all fronts

by Luke Lythgoe | 22.11.2018

The leaked “political declaration” on our future relationship with the EU is bad on all fronts, and much worse than our current deal with the EU. What’s more, the 26-page document is so vague that we don’t really know how bad the deal will be yet. And that’s on top of the miserable deal Theresa May has agreed just to take us out of the EU. Here are eight of the worst things about the plan.

It’s incredibly vague

Everything is couched in terms of “considering” and “using best endeavours”. No matter what your priorities are from Brexit, there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you want. The strongest hand has been dealt to other EU countries, each of which get a veto on the final trade deal and will be pushing their priorities knowing the UK wants one quickly.

It’s based on the miserable, rule-taking ‘backstop’

The document aims to “build and improve on the single customs territory” from the “backstop” agreement spelled out in the 585-page withdrawal deal published last week. That’s particularly bad news for the UK’s independent trade policy, as Nick Kent explains for InFacts here. The plan is to also build on the “level playing field arrangements” in the earlier deal. Put simply, that means permanently following the EU’s rules – including new ones we didn’t help write – without a say.

But a harder Brexit isn’t off the table

As a sop to the Brexit hardcore in May’s party, the declaration includes promises to make use of “all available facilitative arrangements and technologies” and “trusted traders’ programmes” as an alternative to the hated backstop for keeping the Irish border open. This is based on the Brexiters’ failed “Max Fac” proposal. It’s a long shot – killed off many times by the EU, Ireland and Number 10 – relying on technological wizardry which hasn’t even been invented yet.

But the Brextremists aren’t buying it. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG slammed May’s plan for being “not legally binding, vague, aspirational and little more than a smokescreen” for locking us into a customs union. But merely including “Max Fac” elements in the deal means confusion and uncertainty for businesses worried that they’ll lose further access to EU markets in the future.

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We’re not getting frictionless trade

All the document promises on trade is to be “as ambitious as possible” while “respecting the integrity of their respective markets and legal orders”. It’s confirmation to businesses that there will be more checks and red tape at the borders after Brexit.

Fish set to become a bargaining chip

The sensitive issue of fishing has been kicked into the transition period. The UK and EU will try to negotiate a “fisheries agreement” with “access to waters and quota shares”. Fishing communities will be worried they’re going to be sold out to get a better deal. Or that they still won’t be out of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy by 2020 as promised. That means more pressure for May in Scotland, where fishing is an especially hot topic.

Financial services getting worse deal

Our world-beating financial services sector will lose “passporting rights” to access the EU’s single market. Instead the new relationship will be based on the inferior model of “equivalence”. What’s more, both sides will keep “respective equivalence frameworks under review”, meaning access could be restricted further if we try to diverge from EU rules.

Travel up in the air

Both sides are yet to “consider” the terms of travelling for “research, study, training and youth exchanges” as well as “social security coordination” – for example, whether expat retirees will be able to withdraw their pensions.

Looser cooperation on crime, medicines and safety

The declaration is clear we’ll be a “third country”. That means we can’t be members of EU bodies like Europol or the medicines or aviation safety regulators, or the nuclear community Euratom. While we would still share things like criminal data and safety standards, our cooperation won’t be as easy or close in the future.

Overall, the Brexit vision the prime minister is offering means a worse deal on pretty much every front. And because the declaration is so vague, we don’t even know how much of a worse deal until it’s too late. MPs must vote down this miserable “blindfold” Brexit, and give the public their say in a People’s Vote.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Vague Brexit future plan means worse deal on all fronts”

  • This has all been made clear to the 52%, only to be shrugged off as project fear. In all honesty, having come back from the continent yesterday and having discussed what is happening here with a lot of people there who, unlike the great majority of Brits, read foreign languages and therefore are less vulnerable to believing untruths about real or perceived “enemies”. They are well aware of what is being said and done here and tend to mention the Nazi party propaganda campaigns in the 1930’s. Most are no longer interested in Britain as part of the European make-up; if Brits want to be stupid then let them be stupid, but do not come back for handouts when the big dream gets stranded on reality. Dealing with Italy and Eastern Europe has far more attention. The EU will survive the split with the UK. The UK surviving the split with the EU is far more a matter of concern.

  • Interesting and worrying remarks, Peter. I spend three months of the year in Spain and the Spanish think the British are ‘loco’. Disturbingly, however, I know of some ex-pats who voted to leave, quoting arguments such as ‘they are not having the Germans telling them what to do!’ There is so much misinformation and prejudice. I also know Brits who have businesses in Spain and believe Brexit will not affect them, while at the same time, saying they are fed up with the number of EU immigrants in their home town back in the UK. They have little understanding or interest, but we are not allowed to say it. However, those Brits who realise the true dangers of Brexit flew to London in quite large numbers to take part in the March. Good on them.
    The Spanish do not have much regard for their own politicians but they tell me they think the British politicians believe they can rule the roost over Gibraltar- not such a straight forward matter as my Brexiter MP tried to claim. It will end in tears. Hugo and his colleagues are doing a great job , though, and give me some hope.

  • There seems to be polling data showing that the voters no longer want Brexit and would vote Remain. I don’t know if this is true but we seem to be being told that we must continue on the path to Brexit because the Leavers who previously had a slim majority would be upset and even be dangerous, if we were to vote again. What sort of nonsense is that, exactly?

    Will the last sensible person in Britain please leave the lights on and make sure to pay the bill. Those remaining here are going to need all the assistance they can get!