My response to Theresa May’s last-minute Brexit deal

Theresa May has finally been able to convince (most of) her cabinet that Brexit requires reaching a deal with the European Union on the Withdrawal Agreement, but this is a bad deal for Britain for many reasons.

First, the deal offers no clarity on the future relationship on which a five page document offers only a to-do list with woolly language hedged with caveats: a “blindfold Brexit” that would leave the negotiation on the key issues until after we’ve left, when the UK will have a weaker negotiating position. This means there is no guarantee that we will be able to use tools such as Europol, the European Air Safety Agency, the European Medicines Agency, the European Arrest Warrant, or participate in research programmes or student exchanges.

Second, the Government wants the UK to leave the Customs Union as soon as possible. It envisages staying in the Customs Union if there is no agreed trade deal with the EU by 2020, but  only for a temporary period. Leaving the Customs Union would be a disaster for agriculture, manufacturing, services and fisheries exports and for  all those whose supply chains depend upon imports.

Furthermore, the UK would then drop out of the EU’s existing trade agreements and arrangements, which it has with dozens of countries worldwide. Both UK goods, and EU products made with UK parts, might then no longer meet strict rules of origin standards set out in such trade deals, meaning that many UK goods and some EU goods would no longer qualify for preferential low tariffs elsewhere.

Third, the deal doesn’t entirely protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. For example, the right of onward movement for UK citizens living in EU countries hasn’t been resolved. Currently, a British citizen who lives in France is allowed to move to Spain thanks to EU citizenship. This would cease to apply if we leave the EU.

In conclusion, this Brexit deal heads in the wrong direction on the economy and leaves many other issues unresolved. It bears no resemblance to what was promised during the referendum campaign in 2016.

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