The United Kingdom appears to be moving inexorably towards being a permanent European Union (EU) Vassal State. Recent speeches and other statements by Mrs May and Mr Davis point strongly to this being the most likely outcome from their handling of the Brexit (or Article 50) negotiations, and inability to understand exactly how the EU works. Yet it is only by analysing the totally and implications of what they did and did not say that the truth emerges.
Mr Davis, reiterating Mrs May’s decision to leave the Single Market, in his Teesport Speech: Implementation Period – A bridge to the future partnership between the UK & EU of the 26th January 2018 said:
“While the aim of the implementation period is to provide certainty and continuity, we must keep sight of the fact that this is a bridge to a new future partnership.Where, crucially, the United Kingdom is outside of the single market, and outside of the customs union.”
During subsequent comments he added:
“We want a good Brexit for business and a good Brexit for the British people and we will deliver that on a frictionless access to the Single Market and a freedom political and an economic freedom for the future.”
Clearly there is a contradiction here – it is not possible to have frictionless access whilst being outside the Single Market (or the European Economic Area, EEA) and being a ‘third country’ as noted by the EU’s chief negotiator, Mr Barnier, saying on several occasions for example :
“A trade relationship with a country that does not belong to the European Union obviously involves frictions.”
Frictionless trade between members of the Single Market (and European Economic Area, EEA) occurs because of a common set of rules, regulations, processes or procedures, enforcement and overall EU surveillance. Accessing the EEA from outside its external borders involves complying with regulations, inspections and testing, processes and procedures, external tariffs, customs checks/clearance, VAT etc. intended for dealing with ‘third countries’. These measures manage risks involved with ‘imports’ and sometimes are protectionist.
The transition period (aka implementation period) clearly places this country into the status of a powerless EU Vassal State as explained here for 21 months after 29th March 2019. However, if agreement on frictionless trade cannot be agreed during this period, which seems a certainty given Mr Barnier’s often repeated comments and how the EU normally treats ‘third countries’, it will need to be extended potentially indefinitely.
Mrs May’s Davos speech on 25th January 2018 to the World Economic Forum provided the perfect audience to sell the opportunities presented by Brexit. She could have outlined her and the government’s vision, objectives, timetable, planning and progress in order to encourage her audience to invest here. She could have answered the top business questions, for example, about market size and frictionless access to the EEA. She could have described (with specific detail) her vision for a ‘new, deep and special partnership’ with the EU which clarified and developed her Florence speech of 22nd September 2017. Instead of which she focussed on artificial intelligence and making the Internet safer; presumably her highest priorities. Any business or political leader present, listening and pondering the content could be forgiven for concluding that the UK government has nothing to offer, has already ceded control of Brexit negotiations to the EU and that any meaningful Brexit is not going to occur.
The transition proposals so far on offer from the EU (as explained here) is far worse than the alternative of remaining within the EEA through re-joining The European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It is likely that the eventual transition deal, if it actually happens given it is dependent upon Mrs May’s accepting the EU’s outstanding Phase 1 conditions, will be even more onerous upon this country than already proposed. The EU’s stance, manifested recently by the Annex to the Council Decision of 22nd May 2017 published 29th January 2018 including Transitional Arrangements, appears to be getting more uncompromising.
This is likely to mean Mrs May having to concede to continuing large payments into the EU’s budget, continuing freedom of movement, accepting additional financial liabilities, remaining subject to the EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ) and to the Common Fisheries Policy, transferring further responsibilities to the European Commission (typically defence and defence procurement, and regulation of financial services), following the complete EU Acquis or body of existing and future law, and giving extra rights to EU citizens living here, etc.. And the UK will be prevented from negotiating free trade agreements around the world whilst being excluded from existing ones negotiated by the EU.
It was Mrs May’s decision to reject the EFTA/EEA option even as a temporary measure first stated in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017. The EFTA/EEA option allows for control of immigration through unilaterally invoking Article 112 (the Safeguard Measures) of the EEA Agreement. The EFTA route to EEA membership gives members outside the EU a say in EU legislation affecting the EEA, is largely free (although ‘voluntarily’ Norway does contribute to regional development funds) and is outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EEA Acquis or body of law is about a quarter of the total EU Acquis since it only relates to successful functioning of the EEA. And EFTA members make their own trade agreements with other countries. Membership of the EEA solves the problem of maintaining a soft border in Ireland between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. The EFTA/EEA option is indicated to be the best choice for a Brexit economy in a recently leaked overly pessimistic draft government report EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing.
Unfortunately it appears that Mrs May and Mr Davis are well and truly out of their depth. The Department for (not) Exiting the European Union also seem to be lacking in essential competence, or at least they will get the blame for failings in getting a successful Brexit. At best everyone is following a political Brexit whilst ignoring practicalities. At some stage a critical number of Conservative MPs will realise that the situation this country is in is of their own government’s making. The electorate will punish them severely in the next General Election in 2022 for short- changing the British people over Brexit through continuing acquiescence in turning this country into a permanent EU Vassal State.
Attention all readers!
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Your UKIP Daily Team