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Friday 14 February 2020

EU Parliament passes pointless trade mandate

We want control of your laws, borders and waters, that was the predictable message from MEPs on Wednesday when they approved the European Parliament’s “resolution” on upcoming trade talks with Britain.

The document, which has no direct effect on how negotiations will pan out, set out the same priorities we’ve been hearing from a nervous Brussels since Boris’s thumping majority.

The tedious text also mirrors the useless, non-legally binding political declaration the prime minister inherited from Theresa May and rushed through Parliament last month to get us out of the failing bloc fast – see a useful explainer here. It paints a hopeless vision of Britain staying tied to the EU’s job-killing institutions.

Naturally, MEPs insist on continued vassalage under “regulatory alignment” part and parcel of the EU’s obsession with maintaining a “level playing field”:

“For a trade agreement to be comprehensive, it must include provisions to ensure continued regulatory alignment of the UK with the EU in the future.”

It goes onto say “robust” alignment be on “product standards should be essential and irreplaceable.”

There’s the usual stuff on fisheries, “fundamental principle of free and equal access for EU fishers to all Member States” and continued supremacy of the EU courts, “safeguarding of the EU legal order and the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union”.

Now its for the EU Member States to make up their mind. Politico reports France is holding up progress, it wants level playing field provisions to be more “ambitious”.

The final mandate is scheduled for adoption on 25 February. An important moment marked by a dull document, classic EU.

Gove dumps “frictionless trade”

De facto Brexit Secretary Michael Gove confirmed checks will be imposed on goods imports and exports once the UK finally leaves the European Single market in a year’s time.

“The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow,” the minister for the Cabinet Office told an audience of traders.

This has been one of the running themes of the week and also mentioned in the European Parliament mandate.

However, we’ve always known that if we leave the EU and regulate our own economy checks would be reintroduced.

It’s a small price to pay for sovereignty and in the digital age transporters of goods will face nothing like the masses of paperwork of yesteryear.

Finally, a pro-Brexit chancellor

Sajid Javid’s resignation as chancellor yesterday is slathered all over today’s front pages. Yes, it was messy and the budget’s less than a month away, but it’ll soon be forgotten.

Far more significantly, in Javid’s replacement we have Rishi Sunak, a man who voted for Brexit and like Boris, recognises the need to inject some cash into the system so that those new blue wall seats don’t feel betrayed only months after voting Conservative.

We’re not ones to splash cash at the taxpayer’s expense – we’re no fans of HS2 – but higher spending was in the manifesto. If Boris is going to rebuild trust in politics, he needs to deliver, simple as that.

Sunak is being promoted from within the Treausury too, he’s already got plenty of heat in the tyres, if the budget does get delayed, it won’t be by much. 

Sunak’s a fresh face, but together with fellow rising stars, Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden he penned a letter backing Boris during the leadership contest in June telling colleagues to back Bojo.

The intervention is said to have been pivotal in convincing moderate Tories to vote for Boris. One stonking election victory later we are out of the EU.

Sunak’s not exactly a grassroots kind of politician, but so far so good.