The Tory Brexiters find themselves united with Tory Remainers and the EU in losing patienceby Jonathan Lis / February 2, 2018 / Leave a comment
We might call this moment in British politics a “transition period”—a time when fudge and delusion transform, painfully, into concrete and reality. It could, if you prefer, even be termed an “implementation period,” in which the demands of real-life politics, hidden for so long beneath bombastic rhetoric, finally reach fruition. Brexit’s phase two reckoning has begun.
The current row over the transition is not, of course, simply a contest of language. It has even transcended a wider tussle between the European Union’s idea of an unfinished Brexit that needs to be negotiated in a “transition period,” and the government’s fanciful notion that the final deal will be wrapped up in just eight months and then ratified and delivered during an “implementation period.” It is really a series of radical gulfs between two sides, and two sets of expectations. The government and the EU; Tory pragmatists and fundamentalists; and most unbridgeable of all, fantasy and reality.
At the centre of the domestic storm over transition is, inevitably, Brexit Secretary David Davis. Following on from his Commons select committee appearance, where he laughed off his previous delusion about the UK’s potential for signing trade deals before Brexit, he delivered a speech last Friday reiterating the government’s commitment to a standstill period after we have officially left the EU in March 2019. That such a speech had to be made at all, after the Prime Minister’s Florence speech last September, demonstrates the level of obfuscation that has permeated both government and the general debate. In the event, it spelled out Theresa May’s earlier concessions and cemented her delusions.
The concessions, to be clear, are that we will continue to abide by the full body of EU law for the duration of the transition, but without a formal role in influencing and deciding EU policy. All four freedoms will remain, and so will the effects of the customs union (more on that later). Much else that he said was nonsense.
“If Brexit means Brexit, EU law means EU law”
First, Davis re-asserted that we would need the transition period to “ratify” the final deal, rather than the self-evident truth that we will instead be negotiating it. Second, Davis talked about finalising global trade agreements during the transition period. But these will not happen in the…