Morning Briefing: May's "blindfold" Brexit future - CBI don't like deal - Gibraltar
The “political declaration” on our future relationship with the EU is now in place for approval on Sunday. But this document is not legally binding and makes very few firm commitments. It sets the UK up for a “blindfold Brexit” that points towards a truly miserable deal for Britain. A bruising two-and-a-half hour debate in the Commons showed MPs of all stripes are not happy.
For all the crossing of her red lines, the prime minister didn’t even win a commitment towards “frictionless trade”.
The Irish backstop - which would leave us in a bare-bones customs union following many EU rules without a say - remains very much in play if no other solution can be found to keep the border open. A vague statement is made about “facilitative arrangements and technologies”, meant to convince Brexiters that their preferred option is still on the table. They don’t seem to be biting.
For the services which make up 80% of our economy, there’s another vague passage to the effect that both countries have existing equivalence frameworks, and we should look to use them. In other words, for the purposes of trading in the EU, the UK will get the much more restrictive access of countries like America. Not a good starting point.
If we have any disagreements with the EU, an arbitration panel will find a resolution. Except the arbitration panel, in turn, will refer many questions to the European Court of Justice “as the sole arbiter of Union law”. So much for escaping the ECJ’s jurisdiction - we’re simply introducing an intermediary step.
We also haven't got what the Brexiters promised on fisheries, the debate has just been kicked down the road.
Still, May is correct that the deal is starting to bring people back together. All sides are united in lining up to tell her it won't get their support.Boris Johnson believes this “is the deal of the century for the EU. We hand over almost £50 billion from the UK taxpayer along with everything else they’ve demanded. But we get two-thirds of diddly-squat in return”. Jeremy Corbyn thinks it’s a “blindfold Brexit”. And on the pro-European side, Justine Greening does not "believe this deal is good for Britain”. The DUP also made clear that the backstop must be scrapped if its 10 MPs are to support the deal.
The most convincing case May has for the deal is that “the British people want Brexit settled”. In other words, everyone is thoroughly bored by Brexit and wants us to stop talking about it. The problem with this line is that her deal does not “settle” Brexit. It simply kicks all the tough decisions beyond March 29, when we’ll have to negotiate our future deal with a weaker hand, and no way of keeping the good deal we have with the EU now.
If May’s plan to get this through Parliament is to convince MPs that - in the FT’s words - “the public are clamouring for a deal”, it doesn’t seem likely to work. Instead, she should give the public a People’s Vote on whether they want this tortuous blindfold Brexit to continue.
Video of the Day
CBI leaks: ‘it’s not a good deal’
The support of business was central to a government PR plan which surfaced a few weeks ago, to sell a Brexit deal which could be signed off in late November. The paper assumed the support of, among others, the CBI. While Downing Street was quick to distance itself from the leaked plan, the CBI is nevertheless publicly swinging into place to support May’s deal, saying “progress made is a credit to both sets of negotiators”.
But is this what business really thinks? Emails leaked to ITV News show that the CBI was less than enthusiastic about the deal in private, with senior figures commenting that there’s “no need to give credit to the negotiators I think, because it’s not a good deal”. Ouch.
Quote of the Day
“No need to give credit to negotiators I think, because it’s not a good deal”
Nicole Sykes, the CBI’s Head of EU Negotiations, lets us know what the organisation really thinks in a leaked email.
Audio of the Day
When the guy who negotiated this dodgy deal admits it isn’t as good as the one we’ve already got inside the EU, every MP must now do what is right for the country: vote against this withdrawal agreement and hand the final decision back to the UK public through a People's Vote.
Between a Rock and a trade deal
One possible hazard to getting the deal signed off on Sunday is the perpetual issue of Gibraltar, where the UK has been “accused of introducing a clause… that would ensure [it] was covered by a future trade deal negotiated with Brussels”. Spain’s secretary of state for the EU has insisted that this was introduced “almost treacherously and under the cover of darkness”, and that Madrid won’t stand for it.
The Rock was conspicuously absent in the political declaration leaked yesterday. If its status is left open-ended for the next round of talks, the UK will have a much weaker negotiating hand and Spain will have its own veto on any future trade deal. Any Gibraltar-friendly Tories thinking about backing May’s deal should bear that in mind before voting for it.
Video of the Day 2
More Brexit news…
Elsie Greenwood: Too young to vote in the Brexit referendum - now I want a People’s Vote (Gay Star News)
Ian Davidson: How can May justify second vote by MPs but not by people? (InFacts)
Anna Soubry: Theresa only has herself to blame for the dire situation she is now in (Times £)
Editorial: Theresa May’s Brexit deal: all options remain open (Guardian)
Today, Friday 23 November
|PM||Philip Hammond at DUP's pre-conference dinner|
Tomorrow, Saturday 24 November
|-||DUP annual conference|
|14:30||Boris Johnson speech at DUP annual conference|
|PM||Theresa May arrives in Brussels for talks ahead of EU summit|
Sunday 24 November
|-||EU summit on Brexit deal|