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Friday, 8 December 2017

Brexit Breakthrough

Theresa May appears to have managed a breakthrough in the Brexit talks this morning, although perhaps not in the way she intended.  Underlining who has real control of the situation, the EU Commission has declared "sufficient progress" has been made to go to a stage two.

Although everyone is politely pretending that everyone has got what they wanted, it seems to me that the breakthrough essentially consists of the UK saying yes to what the European Union asked for months ago.  Moreover, the absence of effective mechanisms to make the situation unclear in ways that will just have to be made clearer during the remaining period.

Thankfully it appears that there will be no hard border with the Republic or down the Irish Sea.  During the "transition" period, according to Donald Tusk, the UK will be governed by EU law including the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  The Irish government spokesman told everyone that "stated commitment to maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and customs union which, now or in the future, support north-south cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the Good Friday agreement.”

Those two statements sound to me that we will be in the Single Market for at least two years following "Brexit" in March 2019.  In the cases of the "areas covered by the Good Friday Agreement" _ whatever they may be _ we are apparently going to stay in the Single Market in perpetuity. 

I would imagine that will leave the stronger pro-EU parts of the UK plenty of scope to demand that we also permanently remain in the Single Market in economic sectors that matter to them.  For instance I would expect both Scotland and London to want to remain in the Single Market for Financial Services.

The agreement also apparently means that EU citizens in the UK will retain the same rights as they had before, which I am glad of since I know that this has been a real source of anxiety for many people.  According to the Guardian (at 8.23am today), the Taoiseach said that "Everyone born in Northern Ireland will retain their right to EU citizenship."  If so that seems to create  new category of UK citizen, one who remains a citizen of the European Union despite the UK leaving it.  That strikes me as very odd and I would think would worry the DUP in terms of Northern Ireland drifting to the Republic, an understandable concern to anyone who knows some Irish history.  Personally, I would have thought many people in the rest of the UK would envy that right and want a similar deal, if only because it will make travel around the EU easier.

It is beginning to sound as if Brexit will mean the UK obeying all the EU rules but having no representation at the EU decision making bodies, as well as making a payment of around £39 billion to the European Union.  Still footing the bills and becoming a rule taker rather than a rule maker.

I imagine that Jacob Rees-Mogg feels rather as if his gun dog brought something deeply unpleasant out of the swamp this morning to lay at his feet.

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