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Coffee House Steerpike

What’s in the small print of Theresa May’s “political declaration”?

23 November 2018

8:31 AM

23 November 2018

8:31 AM

Granted, it’s not another 40 horrors list but Mr Steerpike was struck by Paragraph 79 of the EU/UK Political Declaration:

‘The future relationship must ensure open and fair competition. Provisions to ensure this should cover state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, and relevant tax matters, building on the level playing field arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement and commensurate with the overall economic relationship.’

That would suggest that the starting point for the supposedly final UK-EU trade deal relationship is… wait for it…. the backstop. The one that we’re never supposed to use. That is why Article 132 of Withdrawal Agreement both takes extension of Transition out of our hands (it has to be a joint decision) and makes it time limited to 1st July 2020 with the option of a two year extension. They want us in this trap.


The magic of the backstop is simple. The EU know that that no UK government could allow a border in the Irish Sea, so mainland UK will not diverge from NI. So by having us agree that Norther Ireland will follow EU laws, they make us do the same.

On Thursday, Theresa May said that the EU don’t want us in backstop because we won’t be paying. Really? So how do we explain the legal small print: Article 140 sets out the complex mechanism for us paying beyond 2022 . Articles 143, 144 and 147 all allow for ongoing payments for specific commitments. Art. 148 admits these payments will happen. And yes, ultimately, the EU also win because Art 132(3) means we have to pay them to extend transition. Given that the backstop is constitutionally unthinkable, the UK could end up paying whatever they ask. So that £39 billion will just be the start.

All told, the Political Declaration confirms that UK will be locked into the tractor beam of the EU Death Star. It has us locked in to regulatory alignment for the forseeable. The UK can only extend transition if it suits the EU – if not, into the backstop we go. And we are only allowed to escape on whatever terms the EU wanted – most likely ongoing Customs Union and Single Market, plus regular payments.

And then: the end-state. The EU retains almost all of its control of the UK. All that money. No pesky UK influence in hindering the ever-greater union. And most importantly, an example to everyone else of what happens if any other Member State even thinks of making a bid for independence. That’s what you call taking back control.


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