The consequence of stated government policy would be a delayed crash-out departure at the end of the transitionby David Henig / November 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
Briefly, there was just a hint that the Brexit dialogue might start reflecting international negotiating norms. That in the event of a Conservative majority the UK would leave the EU at the end of January 2020, then recognising that a free trade deal with the EU could not be achieved during the 10-month transition, accept an extension and give ourselves until the end of 2022 to deliver the future relationship. Three years to conclude an FTA with the EU would be ambitious in light of its previous timescales, but perhaps given the unique circumstances just about achievable.
Sadly, the UK experience since 2016 has shown that any suggestion of adopting international norms or best practice, such as sensible schedules or ensuring your policies have domestic support, does not last long in the hands of ministers. Their determination to prove that Brexit means Brexit, and that whatever Brexit means it should be done badly, prevails. So it was to prove, as first Boris Johnson said he saw no reason why we’d need an extension to the transition, then Michael Gove confirmed no extension beyond the end of 2020. Never mind that the EU has never moved at such speed before, that the UK does not yet know the detail of what we want or what the EU may ask—it has to be end 2020.
Just to check I wasn’t missing something obvious I consulted with fellow trade experts, with experience of negotiating FTAs for other countries. To be fair, they suggested I wasn’t completely correct about EU timescales. If you’re prepared to sign up for whatever the EU prepares, they said, you might be able to get a deal in time. Even given the flexibility of what Brexit may mean, however, I wasn’t sure it could possibly mean signing up to everything the EU wants.
The prime minister has said though that we can make a deal more quickly because we start from complete alignment with the EU. That might be the case if we were prepared to stay like that, but again, Brexit surely doesn’t mean continuing to align ourselves with every EU rule forever. Wherein lies the essential point: a trade deal is for life, or…