The Withdrawal Agreement is dead: long live the Withdrawal Agreement! There are in fact two agreements now before Parliament: the revised Withdrawal Agreement and a new Political Declaration, and both are greatly improved. They lead to the ultimate aim, which is a free trade agreement with the European Union; that which was promised in the Referendum campaign and which has been the aim of mainstream Brexiteers ever since.
Acceptance by Parliament today will be the endorsement the two agreements need, but they should go ahead in any case.
The stand-out provision in Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement was the Ulster Protocol, and specifically the backstop, which trapped Ulster into compliance with burdensome European Union law, and trapped the whole of the United Kingdom in the European Union’s customs union, possibly permanently. That is gone.
The other major objection was the ‘vassal state’ provision – that remains, but as time has moved on the vassalage period, the Transition Period, has shortened: it will now be for just 14 months. It was never a malicious imposition, but a careless backswipe. Had the arithmetic in the House of Commons allowed the government(s) more negotiating strength then improvements could have been agreed, and on this site we pointed to improvements which could have been made without too much hurt, but that has been fouled by the actions of certain Members, in the House or in quiet meetings with the representatives of foreign powers. The judgment of the ballot box on certain of them is awaited.
In the Political Declaration, the chief problem was that it assumed that it looked towards a customs union, in which Britain’s voice would be mute, and that would have prevented free trade arrangements with other countries. That is gone, and the political declaration is now looking towards free trade and the ability to make free trade deals across the globe. That is not to say that all is settled, but there is enough there that with goodwill and common sense (the latter being in short supply in some quartiers it is to be admitted) then it could be concluded before the end of the year-long transition period, and if it cannot then enough can be agreed for interim arrangements to avoid burdening the supply lines or cutting European manufacturers off from their source of finance in London.
The agreements now work. They are not comfortable in all places, and the temporary arrangements for imports through Ulster are distinctly uncomfortable, but they work and will lead to the ultimate goal (which in fact will render many or all of the problem areas redundant).
Now it is time for the House of Commons to approve what Boris has achieved, with both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration: then we can move to Stage 2, which is to settle a free trade agreement, which is looking like a “Canada +” deal, and the argument then is just what is in that “+”; but first we must get the deal ratified.
- Securing the exit endgame
- Westminster in the exit endgame
- Treason, stupidity, recklessness or hypocrisy?
- The Withdrawal Agreement – a commentary
- The Political Agreement – a commentary
- For the Record by David Cameron
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson: