There is no conceivable way this draft Brexit deal could improve upon the status quoby Jonathan Lis / November 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
On 18th April 2017, Theresa May stood outside Downing Street to announce the snap general election. “We will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders,” she said. Today, having negotiated the political declaration for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, she returned to the microphone to repeat the exact same phrase.
It is no longer a promise. 19 months on, we can prove that it is a falsehood.
First, money. Not only has the government committed to a divorce bill of £39bn, but we will be pouring cash into EU coffers for decades to come. The declaration identifies some of the numerous EU instruments in which we might wish to participate, with the ominous proviso of “a fair and appropriate financial contribution.” That is what we pay now, while gaining a handsome rebate. After Brexit we will give up that rebate, still send money, and lose any substantive control over it.
Second, laws. The declaration is an object lesson in masking the voluntary handover of sovereignty. It pledges to “build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement which obviates the need for checks on rules of origin.” The single customs territory is the wording used to describe the “backstop”: it is a customs union in all but name. Even if we did somehow leave it, the agreement commits the UK and EU to forming “single entities” for sanitary and phytosanitary rules, which would block the UK from breaking existing agricultural rules in its trade agreements. The fabled chlorinated chicken and hormone beef will not materialise, and neither will a trade deal with our largest partner outside the EU, the United States.
As for the icon of EU law—the European Court of Justice—the declaration dashes Brexiters’ hopes once again. The document affirms that the future UK/EU arbitration panel should refer questions to the court “as the sole arbiter of Union law, for a binding ruling.” To add insult to their injury, it also commits us to remaining in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)—the source of so much right-wing outrage frequently misdirected at the (entirely separate) EU. May once resolved that the UK would leave the ECHR. It will not.
Brexit’s disappointments do not end there. The declaration makes clear that there should be a fisheries agreement…