David Hannay on the inadequacies of May's deal, what Europe would think of extending Article 50—and why many of the arguments against a second referendum are "spurious"by David Hannay / November 26, 2018 / Leave a comment
The fog of Brexit battle has lifted—briefly.
For months now, the Brexit negotiations have been shrouded in a fog of rumour, obfuscation and double-speak—much of it generated by the Prime Minister and her closest advisers. This confusion was designed to conceal what was really going on at the negotiating table in Brussels, not from the EU 27 but from May’s own Eurosceptic cabinet colleagues and her supporters in the Commons.
Now the fog has momentarily rolled back and revealed the content of the deal on offer: 585 pages of impenetrable legal prose on the withdrawal provisions and the 21-month transitional period, and 26 pages of warm words and pretty worthless waffle about the future UK-EU relationship from December 2020 onwards. None of this political declaration is legally binding on either side and much of it merely consists of a list of aspirations—or of alternative, and mutually incompatible, solutions.
In less than three weeks’ time, this deal will be debated in Parliament and submitted to an up or down vote in the Commons. As of now, the parliamentary arithmetic points to its rejection, with outright opposition expected from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, together with the Democratic Unionist Party and a considerable number of ultra-Brexiter and pro-Remain Conservatives.
Does it deserve a better fate? Not really. It is an uncomfortable set of compromises which, when compared with our present situation as a member, falls short on every aspect of policy it covers. At the same time, it does not in fact “take back control” over our laws, our borders and our money, as the Prime Minister continues to claim with metronomic regularity.
The European Court of Justice, shorn of any British representation, will be the ultimate arbiter in dispute settlement procedures; freedom of movement will continue for the next 21 months—and perhaps longer if the transitional arrangements are prolonged; and the divorce bill and substantial contributions to EU programmes which the government, reasonably enough, wants us to remain part of—such as scientific research and internal security—will require funding for the foreseeable future.
No wonder Dominic Raab, who recently resigned from his post as Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, said before the weekend that remaining…