The withdrawal deal will be binding but the statement on the future relationship will notby Matthew Bevington / September 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Red, white and blue. Jobs first. Hard. Soft. Brexit with a runny middle. There is seemingly no end of ways to describe the UK’s exit from the European Union. You might even have heard the latest—a “blind Brexit.” Michael Gove referenced it over the weekend in his interview on Andrew Marr. Alastair Campbell has said it’s “as bad as no deal.” And French President Emmanuel Macron is apparently opposed to it.
But what exactly is it? Is it likely to happen? And why does it matter?
What is a “blind Brexit”?
Put simply, it describes a situation where the UK leaves the EU without knowing what kind of relationship the two will have in future. This possibility arises from the fact that there are two parts to the Brexit deal: the Withdrawal Agreement, which will be a legally binding treaty setting out the terms ending the UK’s EU membership; and the statement on the future relationship, which will not have the same legal force.
But you could be forgiven for finding this confusing. Even Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab seems to have had trouble grasping the difference. In a recent statement to the House of Commons he said “The financial settlement [in the Withdrawal Agreement] … was agreed on the basis that it would sit alongside a deep and mutually beneficial future partnership.” In other words, we’ll give them the money and they’ll give us a trade deal.
This is not the case. Only after we have left the EU on 29th March 2019, will we begin to negotiate properly the future relationship. The transition period that has been agreed will keep things broadly as they are until the end of 2020, but there is currently no guarantee of what our relationship will be like thereafter.
Whether this sequencing of the negotiations was inevitable from the very beginning is arguable. The Commission would say that parallel discussions on the future and withdrawal were not possible within the treaties, whereas others suggest they would have been.
There is a debate currently ongoing, on both sides of the Brexit talks, about the level of detail that can be included in the statement on the future relationship. The statement will have political significance and offer the best indication of what the future relationship will be. But there is no guarantee that this will transpire, particularly if there is a change of political leadership…