Prime Minister Theresa May convinced her ministerial colleagues to back her Brexit vision, but now our Brexit negotiators David Davis and Steve Baker have resigned and there are grumblings from the “hard” Brexit wing of the Conservative Party. Like no doubt many Brexit supporters I am somewhat puzzled by this outcome mainly because it is not at all clear what the plan is in detail, nor what the ramifications are. But it’s worth reading the letter sent by Mrs May in response to David Davis’s resignation letter. It included these words:
“At Chequers on Friday, we as the Cabinet agreed a comprehensive and detailed proposal which provides a precise, responsible, and credible basis for progressing our negotiations towards a new relationship between the UK and the EU after we leave in March. We set out how we will deliver on the result of the referendum and the commitments we made in our manifesto for the 2017 general election:
- Leaving the EU on 29 March 2019.
- Ending free movement and taking back control of our borders.
- No more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU.
- A new business-friendly customs model with freedom to strike new trade deals around the world.
- A UK-EU free trade area with a common rulebook for industrial goods and agricultural products which will be good for jobs.
- A commitment to maintain high standards on consumer and employment rights and the environment.
- A Parliamentary lock on all new rules and regulations.
- Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.
- Restoring the supremacy of British courts by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK.
- No hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
- Continued, close co-operation on security to keep our people safe.
- An independent foreign and defence policy, working closely with the EU and other allies.
This is consistent with the mandate of the referendum and with the commitments we laid out in our general election manifesto: leaving the single market and the customs union but seeking a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement; ending the vast annual contributions to the EU; and pursuing fair, orderly negotiations, minimising disruption and giving as much certainty as possible so both sides benefit.
What exactly are the moaners complaining about if that deal can be achieved? Their concerns seem to be focused on points 5 and 6 above. Will adopting common product standards (or whatever EU standards they might determine subject to UK Parliamentary consent) really hobble the UK and make it difficult for us to negotiate trade deals with other countries? I do not see why – it just means that exporters to the UK will need to comply with UK/EU regulations just as UK exporters to the USA now have to comply with US products rules and regulations. What is so difficult or damaging about that?
Note that only industrial and agricultural products are covered by these proposals. Services are not so such matters as financial regulations where the EU has been particularly inept will presumably fall into abeyance unless we decide to conform. But such phrases as “A commitment to maintain high standards on consumer and employment rights and the environment” do need explaining more – does this mean we have to accept EU regulations or what in those areas?
With those reservations otherwise my view is that if Mrs May can achieve her objectives this would look to me to be a reasonable outcome as it will meet the main objectives desired by Brexiteers. Sovereignty and the ability to lay down our own laws and regulations in most areas and in a democratic way will be returned to us. Would anyone care to explain to me why it is otherwise?
But whether these proposals can be agreed with the EU is another matter of course. Perhaps David Davis has resigned because he sees the impossibility of getting their agreement to this “fudge”. The borderless objective in Ireland looks particularly problematic. We need a clearer explanation of how that might work in practice.
My conclusion therefore is that this might be a way forward, but the game of Brexit negotiations is a long way from being concluded.
Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )
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