After a gruelling 12 hour-long meeting yesterday, Theresa May was able to release a statement saying she had agreed the following terms with her cabinet on the UK’s future relationship with the EU:
- The UK would accept continuing “harmonisation” with EU rules on the trade in goods, covering only those necessary to ensure frictionless trade
- Parliament would have the final say over how these rules are incorporated into UK law, retaining the right to refuse to do so
- There will be different arrangements for trade in services, including financial products, with greater “regulatory flexibility” and “strong reciprocal arrangements”
- Freedom of movement as it stands will come to an end but a “mobility framework” will ensure UK and EU citizens can continue to travel to each other’s territories and apply for study and work
- A new customs arrangement will be phased in, with the goal of “a combined customs territory”
- The UK will be able to control its own tariffs and develop an independent trade policy
- The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end but the UK will pay regard to its decisions in areas where common rules were in force.
Such an agreement however, plays right into the hands of the European Union’s bullying tactics and defeats the purpose of the British people having decided to leave the bloc in the first place.
Mrs May has essentially signed Britain up to a re-named Customs Union and an ever so slightly diluted Single Market membership. It’s been dubbed by British journalist Robert Peston as ‘largely the Customs Partnership rebranded’.
The European Union however, will be delighted with such an alternative as they now have a new tax collector on their doorstep. However, Mrs May believes this is the only way of avoiding border checks on the island of Ireland. It is disappointing to see the EU’s hardline stance on the Irish border is controlling the future of a country merely seeking to shape to take back control.
Britain too would also effectively be tethered to the Single Market in terms of goods by having to conform to ‘regulatory alignment’. This means European standards and laws would continue to dominate the UK market without the UK having any say over the content of those rules.
This obviously has implications for the Customs Union as well. While technically Britain would be able to sign free trade agreements with the rest of the world, in practice this ability would effectively be neutered, as Britain would hardly be able to offer better terms to prospective trading partners while still being burdened with weighty, anti-competitive EU red tape.
The EU has managed to get the UK right where it wants it and the UK has cowered before the powers that be. Mrs May could have used this opportunity to seize new opportunities for her country, instead she will now be tied to an antiquated political system that she will not be able to control.