Prolonging the legal status quo is not necessarily the best outcome for the UKby George Yarrow / May 12, 2020 / Leave a comment
The development of the post-Brexit future relationship between the UK and the EU was always likely to be a long-term project. The issues are many, some of them are complex and others are politically difficult (eg fishing arrangements). We do not live in static environments: technologies move on, markets evolve, political priorities change. Changes in treaties and agreements are part of this flux and the development of the future relationship will likely be an ongoing process spread over an indefinitely long period.
It is, therefore, sensible to think of a policy strategy as a series of sequenced steps, not as something directed at achieving an agreement that will put an end to the process. From this perspective the immediate, strategic questions are to do with where the two sides want to land by 1st January 2021, the day following the termination of the transition period according to current government policy.
The most pressing matter is the call for an extension decision by the end of June, ie whether to seek to extend the transitional arrangements of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). The first, basic point to make is that this is not the same as a decision on whether or not to end all negotiations by 31st December 2020. There are other ways to provide for their continuance.
The UK position appears to be to seek an early tariff-free, quota-free agreement by year end (a position recently adjusted to encompass the possibility of less comprehensive trading arrangements) with a view to negotiating deepened arrangements thereafter. Such a simple tariff agreement would not address significant non-tariff barriers to trade: it would be a first step only, possibly made on a time-limited basis (to protect the EU’s base position prohibiting cherry picking). The main feature of the policy is simply that the UK does not wish the later negotiations to be conducted during an extended transition provided for by the WA framework.
Leavers’ objections to the WA are well known and, to put it in a nutshell, extension of the transition amounts to accepting EU rules and jurisdiction, but without representation or participation in rule-making processes, and with entailments for EU budget contributions, but without the Thatcher-negotiated rebate. It also delays the development of an independent,…