Mrs May’s latest agreement with the EU is surely a satisfactory outcome – at least for everyone except those who wish the UK to depart with “no deal” or oppose Brexit altogether. She has agreed very much what I suggested at the end of January when I said “She is getting near a clear mandate from Parliament which will help in the battle with EU bureaucrats and politicians who are adamant they won’t renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. But they will have to if they don’t want the UK to exit without one, which would threaten a lot of EU country exports. Come March 28th, it will be time for a face-saving compromise – no change to the Withdrawal Agreement – just the addition of a codicil providing alternatives to the Backstop.”
And it’s not even March 28th yet, but whether she will get this agreement through Parliament remains to be seen. Later today the vote will decide, but it may not be a final resolution.
Why does the latest “update” to the Withdrawal Agreement provide a satisfactory outcome in my view? Because many people wished to retain uninhibited trade with the EU – at least for a transition period. That did require adherence to some common standards. That is what the Withdrawal Agreement provides and which primarily covers a 2-year transition period. After that the relationship is subject to negotiation and mutual agreement. But there was an issue with the Irish “backstop” that might have prevented the UK from ever exiting the EU fully. That is what many people objected to and what caused MPs to previously vote it down.
The Withdrawal Agreement may not be perfect in all other regards but it is a reasonable compromise and should now be supported. At least that’s my view but I can see some folks disagreeing on this.
You can read the latest legal “codicil” to the Withdrawal Agreement here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/instrument.pdf
Postscript: It has been disclosed that Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox does not believe the aforementioned “codicil” as I called it ensures that Britain will not be trapped in the Irish Backstop. He has said so in a 3-page letter to Mrs May – see https://tinyurl.com/y58jzzev . In summary he suggests that the “clarifications and amplified obligations provide a substantive and binding reinforcement of the legal rights available to the United Kingdom in the event that the EU were to fail in its duties of good faith and best endeavours” but he ends by saying that legal risks remain, particularly if the EU shows bad faith.
This seems excessively negative if you read it carefully. If bad faith is shown by either party to an agreement, then it fails. One or other party simply walks away. But Mr Cox’s comments will certainly not help the Prime Minister.
Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )
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