The Guardian claimed this week that a ‘blind Brexit’ postponing key decisions would be worse than no deal, Steve Bullock explains the current situation.
Hard to see either that there is any panic, or why there should be. The British government is pushing for a very detailed declaration, whilst the European Commission and the European Parliament have said about 30 pages would suffice, some member states aren’t fussed if it is even fewer.
Ideally, of course, it should be fairly detailed so that it is very clear what the UK Parliament and the European Parliament, and potentially the people in a referendum, would be voting on.
The British government needs it to be fairly detailed if it is to meet their claim that the Irish border will all be sorted out by the future relationship, making the backstop either unnecessary or something that will never be used.
The government also needs some detail in it if it is going to meet their (ill-advised) claim that the divorce bill is in return for a future trade deal. It is not, of course — it is a set of liabilities Britain has agreed it has — but if it was to ‘buy’ anything, it was the transition period.
But each of these claims is potentially bollocks anyway, so faced with no deal, a short, platitudinous declaration may be an answer. Personally, I think the EU27 have had enough of vague fudge, but it is possible.
If it is just that (6 pages of nice non-committal words about future cooperation and shared goals), then I think there is potentially an even better case for Parliament to reject it in favour of extension/suspension of the Article 50 process, or call for a People’s Vote.
Firstly, the government promised a detailed view of the future relationship for a meaningful vote, and would have failed to deliver that.
Secondly, the Withdrawal Agreement represents the last time there can be a truly meaningful vote — i.e. where there is another option available other than another looming cliff edge at the end of a transition.
To wave through a load of fudge would then be putting Parliament and the people in the position of having to accept absolutely whatever came out of the negotiation during the transition period.
It would, therefore, be giving a government that has proven itself to be entirely inept at conducting the negotiations a mandate to agree almost anything, and present it with no real alternative available.
In terms of the actual negotiations after this, we know that the threat of a no deal has and will remain an ineffective one, but it becomes entirely meaningless once the Withdrawal Agreement is in force.
The government would be in a desperate corner with only platitudes as a basis, facing a cliff-edge and time pressure, and without the safe exit route that revoking Article 50 provides, but with all of the obligations of the Withdrawal Agreement.
This is as good a definition of a bad deal as you can get, and while it is still a ton-load better than novel, a responsible Parliament should take steps to avoid it, or give the choice back to the people as to whether they are willing to take that irreversible blind leap.
On the evidence provided by the government’s embarrassingly cack-handed handling of the negotiations so far, and faced with the further evidence of failure that a fudgey nothing of a declaration would represent, why would they?🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)