With all the smoke and mirrors that has been deployed in these Brexit negotiations, with David Davis and Michel Barnier creeping around like ninjas in the shadows and communicating in tongues, the last thing this whole tawdry process needs is leaked documents and a rumour mill desperate to crank into life.
But that’s what happened this week when an apparently ‘legit’ document leaked onto the web suggested that the EU wants to restrict any access the UK may have to the single market.
The document was apparently a draft of the terms of divorce, all of which is yet to be finalised. And the file called upon the EU to suspend ‘certain benefits’ that the UK would otherwise have as part of an aggressive stance towards a post-Brexit transition period.
There are a raft of footnotes included in this leaked paper, and none of them bode particularly well for post-transition relations between the UK and the single market.
The first key point is that if the dispute in the EU court takes too long, the withdrawal agreement – in the eyes of Bernier and his cronies – would provide a platform via which the European Union can suspend benefits that the UK currently derives from single market membership for a time period they see fit.
The directive also states that the UK would have to pledge not to act against the EU in matters of international disagreements, while the present fishing quotas in place would be revised – presumably to the detriment of British fishing stocks.
Davis Delivers Middle-Class Fury
There’s nothing quite like watching the middle-classes trying to vent their fury in an authoritative manner; think Basil Fawlty bashing his car with a branch as guidance.
David Davis was, probably, apoplectic at this leaked document: who leaked it? What did they stand to gain from it? It’s just that, well, politicians aren’t great at showing their real emotions (apart from John Prescott, he and his right jab were very good at it).
So that’s why Davis really stuck it to the EU when he said the leak was ‘discourteous’ and ‘not in good faith’. Yeah, you tell ‘em Dave.
”What we’re about, is building an implementation period which is to build a bridge to a future where we work well together,” were the chief negotiator’s actual words. “I do not think it was in good faith to publish a document with frankly discourteous language, and implying that they could arbitrarily terminate in effect the implementation period.
“That’s not what the aim of this exercise is. It’s not in good faith. We think it was unwise to publish that.”
To be fair, he’s got a point, even if he has made it like some kind of 19th century clergyman. The UK has said all along that we plan to continue acting as a standard EU state during the transition period, which means trade without barriers plus the freedom of movement of UK inhabitants to the EU and vice versa.
The document hints at a movement of the goalposts on that front, which would be damaging to both parties in the long run.
If you listen to the news even with just half an ear on the announcements you will have heard the phrase ‘transition period’ uttered over and over gain in relation to the Brexit negotiations, but what exactly does that refer to?
Basically, in March 2019 the idea is that Brexit will be signed, sealed and delivered in a way that both the UK and the EU are happy with. Then, to allow for a seamless transition (there’s that word again) in which we leave the single market, the UK will continue to be a member of the European Union in a stripped-back fashion until December 2020.
The concept behind that is to ensure that British businesses have plenty of time to adapt to the new landscape: source new suppliers, find new markets to trade in and essentially ensure that leaving the single market is not terminal to their hopes of success.
During the handover process, EU rules should still apply – that’s what they are angling for anyway, and the rulings of the European Court of Justice will still take precedence over any of the UK courts.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
Clearly, the clock is ticking to secure an adequate deal that suits all, and we are fast approaching a 12-month warning to get the paperwork ratified.
As it stands, we have three options:
- Stay in the single market – a sort of ‘No Brexit’ type deal
- Maintain a trade deal with the EU, but little else
- Leave the single market without any trade agreements in place
If you voted ‘Leave’, don’t worry: option one is a highly unlikely outcome. In March 2019 we will leave the European Union, and now Davis, Theresa May and co must work out the cost to British business of reneging on any trade deals with single market members.
Findings from The Guardian suggest that Greater London and the capital itself would be the worst off in a ‘no deal’ motion, and that’s due largely to increased costs and a cut-back in private sector investment.