Reminder: I am a non-expert who still believes in experts. The groups with acronyms that I am worried about, Mr Gove, are the ones that have come out of 55 Tufton Street and have their influence all over the hard-Brexit agenda. This is a seriously simple summary written for my own sanity. I am sharing it in case any one else could benefit.
This week Theresa May released the draft Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK.
It’s not that difficult to read actually but long. I have got as far as Articles 17 and 18 because after listening to my friend and fellow Cornwall for Europe campaigner speak this week, I felt motivated to find out what has been drafted for 5 million people who rarely get a mention in the press. I wrote about it yesterday.
No one likes the agreement. The Hard Brexiters don’t like it mainly because we will be in the Customs Union or effectively in the Customs Union and that means we will have little wriggle room to form our own bilateral trade agreements with the Rest of the World.
In the event that during transition, the UK and EU do not agree a free trade agreement where a border in the island of Ireland is not needed, then a bacskstop will be triggered. The UK will not be able to unilaterally end the backstop and this is not acceptable to the Brexiters.
The Remainers don’t like it because it is not as good as being in the EU primarily because even though some of the barriers to trade have come down, we lose all our say and influence (obviously, because we have decided to leave the club). No trade agreement can ever be as good as what we have now. Everyone loses their Freedom of Movement which Theresa May is heralding as a success and something to be celebrated.
The red lines that were drawn up by Theresa May’s government (leaving the Customs Union and Single Market and ending freedom of Movement) have hit against the reality of needing an open border within the island of Ireland. This agreement solves that problem. The Uber (my phrase for the people who want a hard Brexit) Brexiters (e.g. Liam Fox, Dominic Raab, the ERG members of the Conservative party, the Leave campaigners such as Farage) have never accepted that issue as a reality and have never been able to solve the problem. They are now blaming the EU for being intransigent and blaming Theresa May.
Theresa May spent Wednesday briefing her cabinet ministers individually and said they all agreed. The draft Withdrawal Agreement was then released to the public. The next day, Dominic Raab who presumably was a key person in negotiating the agreement, resigned because he did not agree with it. A few more ministers then resigned.
Dominc Raab has been replaced by Stephen Barclay. This is his voting record posted on Twitter yesterday.
As I write this 21 MPs have written letters of No Confidence. They need 48 to trigger a leadership contest. This rebellion is being orchestrated by the ERG. This is the part that worries me. However much I dislike the premiership of Theresa May, if one of the Ubers takes over, we will be in an even more dangerous situation. By ‘we’, I mean 66 million people who live in the UK minus the 1% who will benefit from the chaos unleashed by a No Deal Brexit.
Reminder: This Withdrawal Arrangement sets out the terms of the next two years so there is a smooth transition between being in the EU and being a 3rd country. While we are in the Transition stage, we can negotiate a trade agreement with the EU.
The simplest trade agreements take about 5 years to ratify and we will be in unchartered territory. No other country has ever extricated itself from a trade block of this scale. Our membership of the EU provides us with trade deals with about 70 other countries so all these will need to be re-negotiated as well. So when Brexiters say we are all fed up and want it over with, what they actually mean is that they want us over the line on March 29th over with. The reality of transition and beyond will be years of negotiations and uncertainty.
Another alarm bell sounded in me this week. David Davis posted on Twitter that he (along with Shanker Singham from the IEA) went to the USA to discuss trade with Trump Administration officials. There are lots of things wrong with this:
- David Davis is no longer a minister (and when he was he hardly bothered to turn up) so should not have unilaterally gone off and negotiated trade
- We are not to negotiate trade deals until after March 29th because we do not yet know our terms of leaving
- The IEA is one of the ‘Think Tanks’ that are privately funded and not part of the Government.
I am not the only one raising alarm bells over this.
The IEA and other think tanks that have their hands and influence all over Brexit. It is worrying because they would not worry about a No Deal Brexit i.e. they would not care if we left without the transition deal and cause huge hardship to 66 million people minus the 1%.
If David Davis with his IEA buddies are blatantly and openly breaking protocols, undermining the Prime Minister (and possibly breaking the law) then we are a pirate state and that is going to cause all sorts of problems with building secure trading relationships with states that want to operate within the rule of law and within protocols of respect.
If the ERG manage to cause a leadership contest, then that will be another way they can waste time to get us over the line of the 29th March and leave without a deal in place.
This is why we are in really dangerous times. The spin that is being put out there is that a No Deal is better than this one. A No Deal would be catastrophic to everyone apart from the mega rich. Yet ordinary people are now being persuaded that No Deal would be preferable to this deal or remaining in the EU.
There are always compromises within trade deals, more within comprehensive trade agreements and more again with seamless trade that we have within the EU. The EU has democratic safeguards. What democratic safeguards would be in place with a comprehensive free trade agreement (if we could ever get one) with Trump’s USA?
The manipulation has been prolonged and intense. The people taking back control are people who want to hand power to big business with no regulation free from the legal and democratic scrutiny of the EU. They have persuaded millions of people that the economic fall out of this will be worth it because of a notion about freedom. Meanwhile our freedom of movement has been taken away and that is a cause of celebration.
However, as the reality hits, people are waking up to the manipulation and are changing their minds. Hence the resistance to the People’s Vote by the Brexiters. If they thought they could win the People’s Vote they would support it. The fact there is so much opposition to it, is a good sign.
As Brexiters and Remainers within parliament can not back the W.A. then it is unlikely it will get through parliament so the only way out of the impasse is to hand it back to the people with a People’s Vote now we know what a withdrawal arrangement would look like.
Some brilliant commentators have written / campaigned this week. Please find links here:
The Observer View
Tom Moriarty on Twitter
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Britain For Europe