It’s really not going very well for the Brexit zealots. Despite much huffing and puffing, the European Research Group has spectacularly failed to cobble together any plan to counter the Chequers’ proposal. On the Irish issue they have still not understood that it is not just about tariffs and checks at the border (or in inland warehouses), but it is the integrated economy and regulatory systems between North and South that cannot be breached. That’s a requirement of the Good Friday Agreement and neither No deal nor a Canada-style agreement meet that test, as well as being dreadful for our economy generally.
We are seeing that bucaneering free trade deals post-Brexit are pie in the sky. Any deal, out of the EU, means new barriers to trade with the EU27 and the dozens of other countries with whom the Union has trade liberalisation agreements. China, India and other Commonwealth and emerging economies will want to extract considerable concessions from a relatively small and desperate UK. The newly-protectionist US will do us no favours,demanding access for goods which don’t meet our current high standards and opening up of our health service to US business. If you didn’t like TTIP, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Brexiters’ much-vaunted WTO rules means increased tariffs or damaging arrangements for our manufactures and agriculture plus very under-developed mechanisms for liberalising global trade in services where UK is strongest. And the WTO looks fragile, under assault from Trump as he smashes through the multilateral organisations that have kept the world relatively safe and prosperous over the last decades.
Rees-Mogg and co. are correct that Chequers is a bad plan. Messieurs Barnier and Juncker agree with them. There’ll be no agreement on that basis. But that doesn’t mean no deal. My best guess is that Theresa May and the EU27 will find language which gives the EU what it needs on the Irish backstop and pushes negotiation of the future trade relationship into the transition period. Dominic Raab has today been talking up the prospect of a deal being reached following a long call with Barnier. The question then is can the Government get it through Parliament.
On this the position of the Labour Party is crucial. Do they calculate it is in their interests to oppose and bring down the Government for a General Election and/or People’s Vote or do they march through the lobbies with the majority of Conservatives to get Brexit over the line? Pressure on Corbyn is mounting from within the trade unions, from his MPs and even his fervent, and young, supporters. The Labour Party Conference later this month could see a breakthrough.
In terms of process for a public consultation on the deal/no deal outcome of the negotiations, the Constitution Unit at University College London has helpfully identified the Parliamentary scenarios in which a Vote could be triggered. (Take a look here at that and other excellent analysis including the impact of Brexit on devolved powers and relations). The bottom line is that there has to be a parliamentary majority in favour. That will be strongly influenced by public opinion. It is up to all of us to keep up the pressure on our politicians by demonstrating, writing emails, wearing a PV sticker or putting up a poster in your window (we can supply a range of materials – just ask), corresponding with newspapers and on social media, and having conversations that encourage fellow citizens to speak out. Let’s make clear we don’t want Brexit.
Read the full September newsletter here.