Morning Briefing: The Turkey trap - no "major problems" - backstop won't be ready
Theresa May’s Brexit deal is looking like a real turkey, in more ways than one. Jeremy Hunt warned the prime minister her proposal was a “Turkey trap” in last week’s marathon cabinet meeting. Like Turkey, we could be locked in an endless negotiating phase with the EU. Ankara has now been trying to accede to the bloc for 31 years with a bad “temporary” deal in place all that time.
The consequences of that are pretty awful, as Nick Kent has written for InFacts. For starters, a Turkey-style arrangement - where we’re in a customs union with the EU - means we follow EU trade policy but lose all our influence over it. It means that the 88 countries the EU has trade deals with (including Japan and Canada) would automatically have privileged access to our market without us having the same access to theirs.
The same would apply to any countries who may sign trade deals with the EU in future - Australia, New Zealand, the US, China. Our government says we will do bilateral deals. But inside a customs union we will not be able to. Why would these countries bother when they know a deal with the much larger EU gets them access to the UK via the backdoor?
This makes some sense for a country like Turkey which has ambitions to join the bloc (though no chance of doing so in the foreseeable future). But it would be galling for the UK, which already has a good deal as a major player inside the EU today.
Even more worrying is that May’s deal says that the customs union “backstop” will form the basis of the agreement on the future trade deal we want with the EU. This miserable state of affairs could prove permanent.
There are other damning verdicts on May’s deal from the leaked cabinet meeting minutes, seen by the Telegraph. Hunt warned the controversial “backstop” might become a “frontstop”, turning the UK into a satellite of the EU. Michael Gove worried that Northern Ireland might be left in the "deep end" and tied more closely to the customs union and single market. Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, said it was an "ugly sister of a deal", comparing it to "two oil drums lashed together in a plastic sail".
The condemnation of May’s draft text is already loud. But worse is yet to come. Thanks to May’s “blindfold” Brexit, we won’t know the full details of our future relationship with the EU until after we’ve left. What we do know already looks dreadful. That’s why MPs must back a People’s Vote and give the public a chance to say no to this pitiful plan before it’s too late.
Video of the Day
WATCH: The will of the people has changed, says Caroline Lucas. The public are looking at the government's Brexit “plan” and are now demanding a People’s Vote on this dodgy deal. It’s time the rest of Parliament took note.
Future relationship looking even worse
How do we know the as-yet-unwritten “future relationship” part of May’s deal will be worse? We’re getting some big hints from the other 27 EU countries. Talks between the prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker ended inconclusively yesterday, with Number 10 denying “major problems” while announcing an unscheduled follow-up trip for Saturday. It was hoped the deal would be signed off at an EU summit on Sunday.
The sticking points come in the form of demands from individual member states about the deal’s “political declaration” on the next stage of negotiations. France wants the UK to follow “level playing field” rules even more closely to stop British firms undercutting EU rivals. Several North Sea coastal countries are pushing for access to UK fishing waters. Spain wants more influence over Gibraltar’s future. And they might well get all this in the trade deal we’ll be aiming for in the next phase, because then all 27 EU countries will have a veto and the few cards the UK has now will have been played. May's blindfold Brexit is walking us straight into this.
Video of the Day 2
WATCH: Presenting, the BLACK FRIDAY BREXIT BARGAIN. Huge reductions on NHS staff, and you have no choice but to order! If you're Not buying it? Write to your MP and demand a People’s Vote on the brexit deal HERE.
‘Backstop’ won’t even be ready
And there are more unforeseen consequences. The prime minister’s Irish border “backstop” plan - keeping us in a customs union with the EU and following certain rules - may not be ready in time, reports The Times. That means the government could have to extend the Brexit transition period until mid-2021, the head of HM Revenue and Customs told MPs yesterday. If so, forget the prime minister’s £39 billion divorce bill estimate. The EU has said it wants around £10 billion extra for every year the transition is extended. The price of May’s Brexit is ballooning.
Quote of the Day
For anyone who thinks new technology will quickly and permanently solve the Irish border conundrum, just look at HMRC chief Jon Thompson’s explanation of how difficult it is just to get the temporary “backstop” in place...
“We need further clarity on how you would operationalise the backstop… we would require some further clarity on what exactly is required, in order for us to work out what IT systems we would need to build.
“Part of that would be what IT systems would we have access to in the EU. So we require clarity on both those points: what needs to be operationalised and what IT systems do we have access to?
“Once we have that, then we are in a position to be able to specify what operations we require and what IT systems we require. We then have to build those or amend them as appropriate from where we currently are, and then we would need businesses transacting in Northern Ireland or towards Northern Ireland to adapt or amend their own systems. In broad terms if we were to make a number of assumptions we think it could be up to 30 months to do that work.”
Labour must get real
Labour is all but certain not to support the prime minister’s deal if she concludes one on Sunday, John McDonnell told BBC’s Newsnight. But his party has failed to put forward a viable alternative plan. What we do know is that Labour wants to keep the UK in a customs union, leave the single market but maintain a “strong single market relationship”, end free movement and change state aid rules. This is a non-starter for the EU. There’s only one workable Brexit alternative in town, and that’s a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the Day
Ethnic Minorities for a People’s Vote
Today sees the launch of Ethnic Minorities for a People's Vote. The UK's eight million people from an ethnic minority background have a great deal at stake from Brexit. Hate crimes have risen and are expected to rise further and economic forecasts show minorities will be hit hardest if we leave the EU. Yet ethnic minorities have so far been largely ignored in the Brexit debate.
A Survation poll conducted last month showed the majority of ethnic minorities back a People's Vote. With people from ethnic minority backgrounds set to lose out disproportionately from any form of Brexit, it is essential that their voices are heard in this debate.
More Brexit news…
Gordon Brown: How this nation divided by Brexit can still be healed (Mirror)
Luke Lythgoe: EU hasn’t bullied us, this mess is the fault of Brexiters (InFacts)
Bronwen Maddox: Theresa May’s Brexit approach has left civil servants exposed (FT)
Today, Thursday 22nd November
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