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Back from the Brexit cliff-edge

December 9, 2017

The best one can say about the stage one Brexit deal hammered out in Brussels in the small hours of Friday morning is that it has pulled us back from the cliff-edge of a hard, no deal Brexit – at least for the time-being.

It has also made it less likely that Brexit will not go ahead.

Of course, there is a vast torrent of turbulent water yet to flow under this particular bridge but, even those of us who opposed Brexit, must cautiously welcome this modest progress. The prospect of an acrimonious no-deal Brexit is not one anyone should desire as it will be hugely damaging to the UK and to our friends in Europe. Let’s be clear: no-one would benefit from that and it is irresponsible of people like John Redwood and Ian Duncan Smith to keep touting it as a possible option.

We need to leave on the best possible terms and Friday’s fudged deal makes that more likely.

May bolstered by deal

The “who blinked first” debate will rumble on for ages but it is remarkable how the once-divided Cabinet has swung behind Theresa May on this, backed by the European negotiators. Donald Tusk’s rather sentimental contribution on Friday morning displayed something of the new desire among the EU negotiating team to keep May in power. Whether this is because they view her as a soft touch – as some British and European newspapers are doing – or because they fear the possible chaos of a collapse of her vulnerable government is by no means clear. But they have done their best to bolster her position.

The deal is either cleverly drafted or badly fudged depending on your viewpoint, especially on the vexed question of the Irish border. This should never have been given such a prominence so early in the negotiations. The issues are too complex, too sensitive and too bound up in a bloody history that few Europeans understand. How it should be dealt with will become clearer once we know what the trade deal looks like. If the UK signs up for a Norway-style arrangement with the EU – which all the talk of “alignment” suggest could now be back on the agenda – then the border issue will largely drop away. Anything short of that will put it back on the agenda, albeit without any obvious solution.

Real progress on citizenship

The deal on citizenship is much better than most people expected and represents genuine progress. It should go along way to easing the concerns of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU. The most remarkable aspect of it is the extended period of jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. This bodes well for the trade negotiations as it is hard to see how it can be peremptorily cast aside from the complex world of European directives and how they will be applied after Brexit.

The Brexit settlement bill does look to have involved compromises on both sides although there seems to be rather a lot of detail missing from the agreement published yesterday. Divorce is never cheap so we should accept that and move on.

The acceptance of a two-year transition period is another welcome injection of common sense, although it is still too short. it is quite possible it might get extended further especially if the negotiations are going well on both both sides.

Leaving now more certain

Despite the noises from hard-line Remainers, this stumbling step forward does make it more likely that we will reach the sort of trade deal that will satisfy sufficient numbers of people to push the prospect of a complete volt-face in public opinion to the margins of probabilities. We are leaving the EU.


From → Politics

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