A former Chair of Vote Leave says both sides could manage the consequences sensiblyby John Mills / July 26, 2018 / Leave a comment
While most people are despondent about Brexit, there may be grounds for believing that all will not end in tears. The government’s Chequers deal is certainly the worst of all worlds for the UK, but there is still a possibility that there will be an eventual outcome which works much better than this for both the UK and the European Union.
There is no doubt that the Chequers plan is a very poor deal but, given developments over the last month, it seems probable that the House of Commons will vote it or some variation of it through in the autumn. The government will probably sell it to the public as a “temporary solution,” assuring us that a better deal will be struck in due course. We have reached this position because most members of the House of Commons and the Lords want us to stay in the customs union and single market—while maintaining the illusion this deal respects the referendum result.
But it is still possible that this deal will not go through. Votes over the last few weeks have been on a razor’s edge. It is not clear the prime minister has placated the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) and many Remain-leaning Conservatives are also unhappy. Add to this the fact that a member of the government-supporting DUP, Ian Paisley, has now been suspended from parliament, and the margins start to look very thin indeed. It is perfectly possible that the deal gets voted down, and we run out of time to get any alternative agreement in place before 29th March 2019.
What would happen then? We would have to fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) trading terms. Given adequate preparation time, this should have been a good option—indeed arguably the best available. We could have negotiated arrangements along the lines achieved by Canada and more recently Japan, and continued trading freely with Europe. The problem now is that we are running short on time, making WTO terms look increasingly tricky.
If we do have to fall back on “No Deal” WTO terms how likely is that to problematic? A huge amount depends on how sensible everyone is. If intransigence prevails, disruption could be severe. There could be heavy congestion at the ports. Supply…