About Jimi Ogunnusi
Note on the Withdrawal Agreement
WHY BORIS’S WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT WOULD NOT MEAN BREXIT
- Tory prime minister Boris Johnson has vowed to deliver Brexit by 31st October. But what does he mean by Brexit? It seems Boris will try to recycle some version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement (WA). He has only insisted that the Irish backstop must go. The problems with May’s WA go far beyond the backstop.
- The WA does not mean the UK leaves the EU. Instead it marks the start of a process, overseen by the EU, during which, as Article 7 spells out, the UK will still be treated and taxed as an EU Member State, but without any representation.
- After the WA is passed, the UK would remain under EU rules for at least 21 months, and possibly a good deal longer. During this Transition period the UK will be subject to all existing EU laws, AND any new ones it imposes (Article 127), but with “no vote, no voice, no veto”. All sectors of the UK economy, from financial services to fishing, could be hit by EU rules. We would still be subject to European court rulings – and pay EU membership fees.
- During this Transition the UK would remain in the European Single Market and Customs Union – effectively ruling out new trade deals. Boris now says he would keep the UK in both EU institutions for two years – in other words, accepting the basis of May’s WA without the backstop. That is not the Brexit that 17.4 million Leavers voted for, or what the Tories promised in 2017.
- The Tories might argue that any final trade deal with the EU has yet to be agreed, and that the Political Declaration (PD) on future relations which accompanied the WA is not legally binding. But let’s be clear: the rules laid down during the Transition period are intended to form the basis of the long- term relationship.
- Article 184 of the WA imposes an obligation on the EU and the UK to do a deal conforming to the Political Declaration. And Article 23 of the PD says they must “build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement”. In other words, the WA points to a permanent customs union, leaving the UK subject to EU rules and court decisions and effectively unable to do independent trade deals. The danger of “temporary” Single Market and Customs Union membership becoming permanent led Dominic Raab to resign from May’s government. And now he is foreign secretary to a prime minister proposing the same “temporary” arrangements.
- Conforming to WA rules will set dangerous precedents for long-term relations. Our fishing industry will still be under the jurisdiction of the Common Fisheries Policy for at least the Transition period, with the UK only to be “consulted” about how much we can fish our own waters. Under EU rules on state aid, the UK government will still be unable to intervene to support our industries (Article 92-3). The WA also says the UK will be tied to EU foreign policy, but without a say, for at least the transition period (Article 129.1), and signs the UK up to the EU’s expanding military structures even when/if we leave.
- With or without the backstop, the Withdrawal Agreement means we pay the EU £39bn – and do not get a meaningful Brexit in return. UK sovereignty and independence will be emasculated by EU rules enforced by the ECJ. And once the WA becomes an international treaty, we will be unable to leave it without the UNANIMOUS consent of the 27 member states. The UK’s negotiating position would be decimated: before agreeing to let us go, Spain could hold out for concessions on Gibraltar; France could demand access to UK fishing waters. The EU block would have the UK over a barrel.