It’s welcome to see some progress is being made towards ‘Brexit’, but at what price ? So far, the negotiations seem to be a one-way street, with the EU making demands which the UK concedes. Mrs May has already agreed to pay the EU between £40bn – £50bn as a ‘divorce bill’ and accepted an open-ended ‘transition period’ beyond March 2019, when we will cease to be a member of the EU but still remain subject to its laws and regulations. This could leave the UK in the worst of all possible worlds ……..
There are aspects of Mrs May’s latest agreement with Brussels (19th March) that are cause for concern.
Border Control: UK borders will remain open to unlimited migration from the EU, until at least 31st December 2020. While we have conceded ground to the EU by agreeing to extend the timeframe deep into the ‘transition period’, there seems to be no recognition from the EU that we will regain full control of our borders after this date.
Fishing Grounds: Our fishing waters will remain in the CFP, until at least 31st December 2020. Again, we appear to have conceded ground to the EU without any clear agreement from the EU that we will definitely regain control of our fishing waters after this date. Will our fishing industry be sacrificed to the EU just to ‘do a deal’, the same as it was in 1973 ?
Trade: We seem to have won a concession from the EU that allows us to make independent trade deals in the ‘transition period’ after March 2019. However this may be worth less than it seems. If the UK continues to obey EU ‘single market’ rules (so-called ‘regulatory alignment’), our ability to strike deals with other countries will be hampered severely by preventing us from agreeing to the mutual recognition of goods and services from trading partners outside the EU who depart from these rules.
Ireland: There is considerable unease over Mrs May’s position on this issue. By agreeing to ‘regulatory alignment’ between the North and South (and also between the North and the rest of the UK), it appears that the government is preparing the ground to keep Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK too) in the EU ‘Single Market’, with all the damaging consequences that would entail.
The 1923 Common Travel Area Agreement between the Irish Republic and the UK still stands and it enables the free trade of goods and services across the Irish border. The Republic benefits considerably from it, as the UK is its main export market.
The continuation of Free Trade between Northern Ireland/UK and the Republic/EU does not need identical rules and regulations (‘regulatory alignment’) to govern each country, only for those goods and services that are exported to comply with the regulations of the country of destination.
Modern technology has developed some simple systems for the electronic pre-clearance of exported goods. There are a number of examples of ’frictionless’ and ’virtual’ borders’ between countries with different regulatory regimes (eg. Norway/Sweden; Canada/USA), trading freely with one another under Free Trade Agreements. These examples are particularly relevant to the Irish Border question.
Law & Justice: In her Munich speech (17th Feb) Mrs May pledged the UK’s full co-operation with the EU on Security, Justice, and Home Affairs, and gave her support to the proposed new EU Treaty on Police and Criminal Justice. This will build the European Police State and it is clear that Mrs May wants the UK to be part of it. The UK will continue to be a member of Europol and UK citizens continue to be subject to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and the European Investigation Order (EIO). Unlike an extradition treaty, these instruments by-pass the need to provide any evidence to a UK court and enable British citizens to be ‘rendered’ without trial to a foreign country, where judicial integrity, procedures and prison conditions are often much poorer than in the UK.
Is this what 17.4 million ‘Leave’ voters voted for ? There is a growing suspicion that the latest moves are aimed at ensuring that when we leave the EU in March 2019, we do so in name only. The main issues of ‘Brexit’ can then be kicked even further down the road to beyond the next General Election.