So, with the Prime Minister frantically trying to get her plans agreed it’s time we tried to decode the Deal that is currently on the table. With 585 pages is it possible to simplify the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Outline Political Declaration in under a page? Well, to use a football analogy, this really is a game of two halves.
The PM will have us believe that we are ahead at half time and will remain so when the final whistle blows. She is telling us that the three points are in the bag. Opponents of the deal will say: we are a player down, out of substitutions, the officials are against us, our goal posts have been made wider and higher than our opponents, their penalty spot has been moved closer to our goal, and we are facing certain defeat.
The truth lies somewhere between the two. We simply just don’t know yet.
The PM says the plan takes back control of our borders, ends free movement, takes back control of our money; so we can spend it on the NHS and takes back control of our laws ending the jurisdiction of the CJEU.
At first glance we appear to be coming out of the Common Agricultural Policy and out of the Common Fisheries Policy. The PM seeks to assure us that the deal would safeguard jobs, security and ensure that Citizens’ Rights are protected. All well and good but on that last point we already have some disparity with EU migrants in the UK who are neither required to demonstrate that they have sufficient finances to support themselves nor hold medical insurance; whilst UK Citizens in other EU states are already being required to demonstrate that they meet these same criteria.
There are a few inadequacies slipping through the net unchallenged and that’s before we consider that this ‘Deal’ is dependent on a future trade deal being reached. Surely any Deal should be on an equal footing for both EU and UK Citizens wishing to make a life in a country other than that of their birth. We are looking closely at this as it develops but concerns are already apparent.
Currently we are looking at an implementation period ending on 31 December 2020 but we now know that during that period we will be in a UK-wide temporary customs backstop that could extend way beyond that point with the UK still paying into the EU coffers; without influence, voting rights or even a seat at the table for discussions that have a direct effect on UK citizens. Little wonder then that many people view the agreements on Gibraltar and Cyprus with such skepticism, when Northern Ireland remains such a bone of contention.
A lot rests on the Government’s ‘Outline Political Declaration’ and whether we can actually negotiate a ‘Real Exit’ or ‘Rexit’, as we are naming it, from the EU during the implementation period; however long that turns out to be.
The PM states that we will, amongst many other claims: end free movement whilst introducing visa-free travel for tourists and short-term business visits. That the UK will become a free trade area for goods with zero tariffs after leaving the Common Agricultural and the Common Fisheries Policy (this is not clear cut in the current ‘Deal’) and that we will find solutions to transport, finance and services within this implementation period.
This may (excuse the pun) turn out to be a great Deal but it could also leave the UK as a poor relation.
Let’s hope we have a good second half…. if parliament doesn’t take the ball home.