May aims for Goldilocks Brexit while rejecting Mummy Bear’s bed
Theresa May has given the most important Brexit speech setting out the details of her plans and objectives for the negotiations to leave the EU. The vote on June 23rd 2016 left three options on the table, one is the EEA option which keeps the UK in the Single Market but also means we have to accept free movement. This option has been known as ‘soft’ Brexit. There is then the ‘hard’ Brexit option otherwise known as the WTO option where there is no deal, the UK has full sovereign control and trade with the EU moves to WTO rules with the potential for tariffs. Then there is the middle route, a bi -lateral deal to be negotiated which could include virtually anything between the those two poles, depending on what is negotiated.
So whose been sleeping in my bed? Hard Brexit is too hard and soft Brexit is too soft for May in an ideal scenario. She wants a bi-lateral deal that is just right, the Goldilocks Brexit. Today she set out what that in her ideal scenario meant. Most crucial it means rejecting free movement on an unrestricted basis of people which means by definition no membership of the single market but instead a free trade deal which negotiates as much access both ways as possible. It means leaving the aspects of the customs union that prevent the UK signing trade deals around the world, while willing to negotiate other parts of it. It is likely this in practice means leaving the customs union altogether as it is difficult to see how partial involvement can be negotiated, but time will tell, perhaps a separate customs agreement in the free trade deal may be possible.
It also means UK law not being subject to the European Court of Justice (Not to be confused with the European Court of Human Rights which is not an EU body.) She made clear Britain does still want to co-operate on science and innovation and in relation to crime and terrorism. There are bodies within the EU which do include non EU members on these issues, which fits in to her saying that while the UK will not make big contributions to the EU, to remain in projects such as these may mean making some contribution This in my view is not something to fear, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway all make good use and benefit from such projects they are interested in being involved in.
It was a long speech which included a fair amount of irrelevant waffle. But on the bulk of the substance the speech is welcome. She also confirmed Parliament would ratify the final deal, shooting the fox of those complaining Parliament is being sidelined. This was also a Labour demand for supporting Article 50 should Parliament have to vote on that, this should remove this barrier assuming, and this may be naive, Labour sticks to it’s line.. Once Article 50 is triggered there is almost no means of reversing it, the Parliamentary vote on the deal will mean the deal, or the WTO Option, which Government sources have confirmed this afternoon, as time under the Article 50 process will run out. An option I am not scared of, but many are, this means any deal will almost certainly be voted through.
May also re-iterated that if forced to choose between soft or hard Brexit she will go for the Hard option. “No deal is better than a bad deal.” she added. Again while she insisted it was unlikely to get to that and she was confident of a deal, she made clear the Government are happy to walk away with no deal even making reference to the UK changing it’s economic model if required. From a libertarian point of view very tempting not to get a deal at all. Even so, if forced to choose she has rejected mummy bear’s too soft bed and is prepared to lie in daddy bear’s too hard bed and willing to challenge Parliament to do so too. It’s an ambitious approach and she will not get everything she wants, but the fact she is willing to go down the route of the WTO Option if necessary is reassuring and gives her greater control of events. It means the weakest deal option has been rejected and makes a good deal more likely, with some porridge left over for Goldilocks to boot.