The Prime Minister’s carefully crafted speech in Florence rightly oozed warmth and partnership as one would expect. Ministers and Tory MPs were supportive for obvious party reasons. Business lobby groups were supportive, as were initial noises from the EU.
It is however when one digs into the weeds of its meaning that deep anxieties should arise.
The reality is that the speech conceded everything and asked for nothing in return. We will become new “Brexit members” of the EU for at least two years. Indeed it could be much much longer, if the establishment civil servants from the Treasury and the vested interests of big business led by the CBI continue to have their way, as they have with this speech. This is their revenge to the Leave voters.
Under the proposals, for at least five years after the referendum, we will still be paying our dues, unable to change our own laws, unable to implement new trade deals with the rest of the world and unable to control our borders. The implementation period may last even longer if both sides are not ready. We can easily imagine how in 2020, civil servants and big business vested interests will say the new customs arrangements are not ready, the UK labour market is still too dependent on cheap overseas labour, and the EU has not agreed a new FTA; thus we must extend the transition into the distant future.
Even if we get past the transition, the real danger of the suggested dispute resolution panel is that it will in fact turn out to be a regulatory authority, such that we cannot properly start to deregulate away from daft EU laws, even when they don’t affect export trade; the Prime Minister even admitted she didn’t want competitive advantage. The whole point of getting rid of unnecessary regulations is to gain competitive advantage. It will be all too easy for our overzealous civil servants to continue to say “sorry, we cannot do that because it would not pass the EU regulatory panel”.
The British Chambers of Commerce has already asked for a longer transition period and President Macron has asked for more and more detail before trade talks can begin, thus pushing it ever further into the long grass.
Other countries will tire of waiting to discuss new trade deals, since they don’t know when we can start.
The EU wants our money for as long as possible and to curtail us from succeeding in the wider world. There is now no incentive for them to accelerate or agree to anything; the Prime Minister has said we will pay as a Brexit EU member for as long as it takes, even though we will have zero say in anything.
At what point does she really conclude that no deal is better than a bad deal? The only way to do that is to set a deadline. She didn’t set one. There won’t be one. The double lock means nothing if it never gets agreed.
Meanwhile the rich will get richer as the poor remain poor, with zero real wage growth due to unlimited low skilled immigration for many, many years to come. Pressure on public services will grow and grow and housing will become ever more unobtainable.
Welcome to the brave new world of being a fully paid-up Brexit member of the EU: no say, no control, no freedom, no sovereignty. A classic British compromise: Leavers won the battle, but it meant for nothing as the Remainers keep the spoils.