Following on from last week’s treasonous withdrawal agreement and seven-page draft of the political declaration, despondent Brexiteers were yesterday served up a fleshed-out version of the latter, piling on even more misery.
Britain’s future trading arrangement with the EU, to commence from 2022 (but don’t bet against another extension) – could go one of two ways: a conventional Canada-style trade agreement with a high-tech border in Ireland or a continuation of the status quo, it could “build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement” the document states. That’s right, after the transition period ends, Britain could find itself more intertwined with the EU, not less.
It gets worse. Under these terms, Britain would effectively remain in the Single Market, obliged to retain and continually update EU legislation, which already occupies most of our statute books. Under such circumstances, the ECJ would be the “sole arbiter” of the majority of our laws. Naturally, the text keeps free movement and continued participation in the ruinous Common Fisheries Policy on the table.
The declaration is non-binding. There’s hope. Indeed, as things stand the proposed withdrawal treaty doesn’t have much of a future either. Mrs May had hoped the political declaration would win some hearts and minds. Those hopes were unsurprisingly dashed. As always, she fights on.
At the beginning of the week, Brexiteers were poised for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. Five days later we appear to be no nearer to booting her out. However, the withdrawal agreement is unlikely to make it through the Commons in a couple of weeks time.
At the last count, almost 90 Tory MPs had publicly stated they would vote against it. Appalled by the special status awaiting Northern Ireland, the DUP will also be opposing it after voting in favour of opposition amendments to the Finance Bill two days in a row. The confidence and supply agreement is dead.
Meanwhile, both former Brexit secretaries, David Davis and Dominic Raabhave struck out against the government from the backbenches. “We would be giving up even more control,” complained Raab. “We will be sleepwalking to electoral defeat at the next general election,” warned Davis.
Cynically, the government is banking on the withdrawal agreement getting the thumbs up a second time around. It expects Corbyn’s election ambitions to come up short. Once that avenue is blocked, moderate Labour MPs will be inclined to side with the government at the next vote. May brazenly courted Labour support yesterday in the Commons, claiming her deal meets Labour’s six “tests”. The tests amount to Single Market membership and are designed to safeguard the Party from ever voting with the government on Brexit. The leadership will not be seduced, but many MPs will.
They will be joined by Tory Remainers like Anna Soubry. It is worth noting that Soubry’s ally, Ken Clarke, this week pledged to side with the government. But even that might not be enough to assure the deal gets through the second time. Some Brexiteers who have so far pledged to vote against it will surely blink when asked again, but how many?
Number 10 is also banking on financial markets getting frothy, leveraging more support. We wouldn’t be so sure about that one. The government’s PR team is also playing on the fears of Remainers and Leavers alike.
“If this deal is rejected, we’re in unknown territory. We don’t know what the outcome would be. It could be no deal. it could be no Brexit,” warned Philip Hammond on Wednesday, after Remain collaborator Amber Rudd issued a similar threat earlier in the day.
Rudd made the dubious claim, “the Commons will stop no deal. There isn’t a majority to allow that to take place.” Eurofanatics in Parliament believe they can stick an amendment for a second referendum or an extension to the negotiations onto a bill, any will do. That all seems rather fanciful, which is why for all the gloom spread by May’s dealings with Brussels, there is at least some room for optimism. If the government fails to break the deadlock, Britain will leave the EU without terms, we have our backstop and it’s the strongest.
Of course, there is also the possibility of a failed vote over the deal drawing concessions out of Brussels. This prospect discourages those Tory MPs who refuse to back the deal from sending in a letter of no confidence.
May today ruled out a renegotiation, telling BBC Radio 5 Live listeners, “I believe if we were to go back to the European Union and say ‘well people didn’t like that deal, can we have another one?’ …I don’t think they’re going to come to us and say we’ll give you a better deal.”
We shall wait and see how the EU reacts, the continent’s markets will certainly experience turbulence giving way to demands for a more reasonable settlement without the Irish backstop nonsense. Those Tory MPs might finally lose faith and send in their missives for her dismissal. The next prime minister may then prioritise no deal planning. If Today’s Telegraph is to be believed, a small band of Cabinet members backed by a growing cohort of MPs are prioritising preparations for a clean departure. Let us hope so.
Not everything is so uncertain. Spain’s threat of vetoing May and Michel Barnier’s negotiation over Gibraltar, which has drawn gasps from the EU elite, is idle – a ploy to replenish lost credit with the Spanish electorate. It has been done before and Madrid will do it again when (if) talks reconvene over the future “economic partnership”. Today’s Brexit Brunch has a run-through.
On Sunday, May will attend the latest special Brexit summit in Brussels to sign off the final version of both texts. Except for the Gibraltar niggle, everything has now been agreed meaning we’re all set for the latest surrender of many. Let us hope it is the last.
The Leave.EU Team