Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled the ‘Brexit’ deal her Cabinet has agreed to put to the European Union, which appears to be even softer than the ‘Norway Option’.
The bizarre proposals would see Britain effectively remain inside the EU’s Single Market for industrial goods and — unlike European Economic Area (EEA) countries like Norway — agricultural products, by signing up to a free trade area regulated by a so-called “common rulebook” dictated by the European Court of Justice.
However, Britain would be outside the Single Market for services, such as it is — a somewhat counterintuitive proposal, considering the country runs a substantial trade surplus with the rest of the EU for services, but a large deficit for goods.
Britain would also agree to remain subject to EU state aid rules and keep its employment, environment, consumer protection, and social regulations at least as stringent as the EU’s, as well as binding itself to legal agreements guaranteeing “strong reciprocal commitments related to open and fair trade” in order to maintain a “fair trading environment”.
(This is likely in response to EU demands that the United Kingdom does not cut taxes significantly below its EU competitors’.)
Britain would also agree to collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf for goods destined for the EU, in a resurrected version of the ‘customs partnership’ which Brexiteers were previously assured was off the table — a bid to keep the Northern Irish border wide open.
Taken together, these commitments would likely render Britain’s regained powers to negotiate its own trade agreements purely theoretical.
Claims that the deal would end Free Movement also seem dubious, given vague language concerning “a mobility framework so that UK and EU citizens can continue to travel to each other’s countries, and apply for study and work” — which has been interpreted as the maintenance of Free Movement of Labour, with a requirement for EU migrants to have a job offer before they turn up the only caveat.
🚨Here are the conclusions of the Chequers summit shown to each of the cabinet before dinner. Not everyone likes it but no one walked out. May claims “collective” victory after Brexiteers left isolated. PM gets her soft Brexit vision: pic.twitter.com/lfW6tV99rP
— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) July 6, 2018
The proposals were slammed by Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage right out of the gate, who declared: “Brexit did not mean keeping the 90% of our economy that does not export to the EU trapped by their laws.”
He added: “This Brexit strategy is a sell-out to the global corporates, as it was during Maastricht. The Tory Eurosceptics are a waste of space. No resignations means that the so-called Brexiteers in cabinet don’t have a principle between them, career politicians all.”
He also warned that the agreement is “just the government position, once they meet [EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier] even more concessions will be made,” and predicted that “Delaying March 29th 2019 will be the next target for the EU and the establishment.”
This Brexit strategy is a sell-out to the global corporates, as it was during Maastricht. The Tory Eurosceptics are a waste of space.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) July 6, 2018
Barnier tweeted that the proposals were welcome, but that they would have to be assessed “to see if they are workable & realistic in view of [European Council] guidelines.”
The EU has previously insisted it would not allow any “cherry-picking”, but may make an exception for May’s offer, which makes a large number of concession to the EU without requesting much in the way of increased freedoms in exchange, and while limiting British access to the EU services market to boot.
It is still possible the bloc will reject the deal, however, suspecting the Remainer-dominated political class will find a way to stop Britain from realising any sort of Brexit if the ‘No Deal’ option is the only one they leave on the table.
Latest info on Cabinet Brexiteers:
May white paper unacceptable — and it’s the maximum she can hope for in any deal.
Barnier will knock it back on so many fronts; what’s left even more unacceptable.
If May tries to push that through cabinet, that’s when resignations will matter
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) July 6, 2018