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What the papers say: The verdict on the Brexit transition deal

20 March 2018

8:14 AM

20 March 2018

8:14 AM

It wouldn’t be Brexit if everyone was happy, so it is no surprise that not everyone is pleased with the latest developments in negotiations. Britain’s Brexit transition deal has been called a betrayal, while Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government had given away too much in a ‘very unsatisfactory’ agreement.

But the Sun says it won’t join in those criticising the deal. After all, the paper points out, ‘no one gets everything they want from a negotiation’. Of course, it is right to ‘sympathise’ with Scottish fisherman who will be disappointed that the EU will, for now, continue to set fishing quotas. Yet it is clear that ‘the agreement could not be struck without giving way’ on this issue. What’s more, when Britain does finally leave the EU for good, fisherman must get what they want; ‘We doubt the Government will survive bartering away our fishing rights for a trade deal,’ the Sun says. But it wasn’t only fisherman who were unhappy with elements of the deal: the ‘U-turn on granting permanent residency to EU migrants arriving during the transition’ was also ‘disappointing’. The Sun says it is ‘worried’, too, about Britain’s ‘pledge to remain aligned to EU rules’ until a deal on Northern Ireland can be struck. But there are some big pluses: ‘more certainty for business’, for example, and ‘the ability to sign independent trade deals’. This marks a ‘major concession from the EU’, the paper concludes.

But the Daily Telegraph worries that the Brexit transition deal could lead Britain down yet ‘another cul-de-sac’. ‘Many thorny issues’ have been left ‘unresolved’ by the agreement, according to the paper. And while David Davis has said it is a ‘decisive step’ towards Brexit, the Telegraph is not convinced. It is, of course, good news that there is much agreement between the UK and the EU in the deal; yet ‘this has been achieved by way of significant concessions from Britain’. It is also the case that ‘the most intractable issue remains Ireland’. The draft document sets out that if no answer can be found ‘the province will remain in regulatory alignment with the EU’. This puts Britain in a bind, given that Theresa May has pledged that Northern Ireland ‘will not be treated differently from the rest of the UK’. A ‘full-blown’ free trade deal would be one solution, given that this would mean the removal of ‘all barriers to goods and services’. Yet the Telegraph is unconvinced that ‘this is…going to be achieved by October when the final agreement’ must be thrashed out. Yes, it is good news that the ‘cliff-edge threat to business and the City’ has been removed for the time being. But are we merely replacing this ‘uncertainty’ for more further down the line?

The Times sounds a more positive note though, suggesting that the transition deal ‘offers hope of an orderly withdrawal’. Not too long ago, Brexit talks had an acrimonious air; now, the mood is one of ‘cautious optimism’, says the paper. Both the UK and the EU have ‘shown a readiness to grapple with the details of Britain’s EU withdrawal’. More importantly, they have also shown a willingness to ‘compromise’. For Britain, this has led to a u-turn on the rights of EU citizens; while Brussels has backed down on not allowing Britain to negotiate trade deals before Brexit actually happens. ‘Procedural’ concessions on both sides have also been important for the Times, which says that while there is no clear answer on the Irish border issue, the EU has nonetheless ‘agreed to press ahead with talks about the future’. Yet we should not be under any illusions about the task ahead: ‘there is a daunting amount of work’ still to do. says the Times. Getting the type of trade deal that David Davis is aiming for ‘remains a tall order’. Yet his ‘optimism is not groundless’. Through its concessions on allowing Britain to talk trade with other countries while still a member of the EU, Brussels has ‘shown itself to be less wedded to its own small print than many critics feared’. And on the British side, May has shown ’a greater willingness to compromise’. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic, concludes the Times, even if the ‘two big cans (that) have been kicked down the road’ – on the issue of the role of the European court of justice after Brexit, and the Irish border – remain ‘full of fudge’.


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