From undermining the Good Friday Agreement to giving a veto to the hard-right DUP, these proposals are trash.
In case you somehow managed to miss it, on Wednesday Boris Johnson submitted new Brexit proposals to the European Commission.
So what are they?
The government’s proposal would see the Irish backstop scrapped and replaced instead with a series of alternative proposals.
The entire UK would leave the EU in order to have its own tariff policy, separate to that of the EU. As the People’s Vote campaign have noted, this would necessitate customs checks both between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and between the UK and continental Europe.
Northern Ireland would remain aligned with EU rules until 2025 but at the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) would remain inside the UK’s customs territory. This would create two borders: One between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and one between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, for any trade taking place between the two between 2021 and 2025.
In 2025, the Northern Ireland Assembly (a body which has not functioned since early 2017) would have the option to either decide to align with EU rules or with UK rules.
The UK would not follow EU VAT rules – this also means further checks of some nature being required.
Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal seems to break every promise he made to the people of the UK in the referendum campaign and the promises we made as a country to the people of Ireland, North and South.
The Vote Leave campaign he led in 2016 promised a deal that would keep frictionless trade and that would see us keep all the European protections for workers, for health and safety and for the environment.
Now he plans customs barriers in Ireland and at the Channel ports, and an end to a level playing field on regulation. “Instead, we are to become the bargain basement of Europe,” the People’s Vote campaign say.
In Ireland, the promises made in the Good Friday Agreement would be broken at the hands of a prime minister who demonstrably knows little of the complexities of the peace process and appears to care even less.
By leaving the customs union, businesses would be left trapped inside two economic borders. And the future of every citizen is to be subject to the DUP’s veto every four years…despite that party polling less than a quarter of the votes there.
Problems with the proposals
Cost of leaving the customs union and single market: The government’s own analysis of the impact of a Canada-style FTA on trade found that it would make the UK up to £33 billion (-6.4%) worse off in the long term.
According to a study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, going into a transition period until 2020 and then entering into a free trade agreement with the EU would leave the UK £100bn a year worse off.
Former government Brexit adviser Raoul Ruparel has estimated that trade frictions from leaving the customs union would cost the UK £25 billion a year.
Risk of No Deal in December 2020: Boris Johnson has been clear that, even if this deal were acceptable to the EU27, the government would not seek an extension to the transition period, currently scheduled to end on 31 December 2020. Irrespective of whatever agreement is in place for Northern Ireland, it seems inconceivable that a deal on the future UK-EU relationship could be negotiated in a 14 month period.
For reference, the EU-Canada CETA agreement took around 7 years to agree on. This means a No Deal Brexit on 31 December 2020 would be highly likely.
Threat to stability and to the peace process: The paper accepts there would be a “small number of physical checks” at traders’ premises and “other points of the supply chain”.
Any kind of checks which have to take place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom. And any kind of checks on the island of Ireland (whether regulatory or for customs purposes) at the border or even away from the border pose serious risks to the peace process.
Veto for the DUP: The proposal states that Stormont “must be able to give their consent on an ongoing basis”. That means that at any point, the Northern Ireland Assembly could decide not to be in regulatory convergence with Ireland and this would lead to a hard border. Because of the Petition of Concern mechanism in the Assembly, this means the DUP would effectively have a veto on continued alignment.
An erosion of rights and standards: Johnson’s decision to move away from the “level playing field” arrangements will not only lead to a diminishing of standards in this country but will likely be flatly rejected by the EU side where the European Parliament recently passed a resolution underlining that it would not consent to any UK-EU agreement, unless this principle were upheld.
But if the PM is so confident about it…why not put it to the voters?
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