There is an immense amount of Brexit work yet to be doneby Peter Kellner / July 11, 2018 / Leave a comment
Let us, just for the moment—I promise not to strain your credulity for too long—assume that the remaining members of the cabinet are serious about the Chequers plan for Brexit. If they are, then they, and Theresa May in particular, face challenges in the next few weeks that are far tougher than finding replacements for David Davis and Boris Johnson.
The reason is that there remains a huge gulf—indeed, a range of huge gulfs—between the government’s new position and the European Union’s. Negotiations on a range of politically fraught and technically complex issues lie ahead. Here are some.
– If the UK is to have preferential access to EU markets, the EU will demand annual payments. Norway and Switzerland pay billions of euros a year; the UK cannot expect access for free.
– The Chequers agreement leaves vague the role of the European Court of Justice. Any deal will have to clarify this. Clarification is likely to lead to greater ECJ jurisdiction over UK trade and regulations than the government has so far acknowledged.
– Freedom of Movement. The EU is unlikely to accept a fundamental change in the principle that the UK must continue to allow anyone from the EU to come to the UK to work or study or join their family. There might be a deal to be done regarding the (currently very small) number of people who come for access to welfare benefits or health care, or who come for work but don’t get a job within, say, three months. Other EU countries, in practice, have such restrictions. But Freedom of Movement of Labouris a principle that the EU won’t change—while accepting that this is not quite the same as Freedom of Movement of People.
– The fiction of regained sovereignty is reflected in the proposal that parliament will retain the right to opt out of new EU rules and regulations. The danger for the EU is obvious: MPs might reject a minor future amendment in single market regulations, in the hope that the EU will not want to disrupt all cross-Channel trade by pulling the plug on preferential UK access to EU markets. If the UK gets away with opting out of a minor change, it might be emboldened to opt out of a bigger change later. To prevent this thin-end-of-the-wedge prospect, the EU might want…