There is said to be cabinet “unease” around the latest May proposal for dealing with the backstop issue the UK seemingly unwittingly signed up to in December 2017. Namely, that until a super-whizz bang trade deal between the UK and the EU can be agreed and implemented, the UK essentially stays in the Customs Union. This is subject to the usual semantics that pervades and is in some ways the very essence of Brexit: it will be called a “temporary customs arrangement” or some such thing, but will de facto mean we remain inside the CU. Again, until there is a trade agreement that also solves the NI issue for both sides, also probably known as never. Or better still, until some government in the relatively near future decides the whole thing is unsustainable and we re-join the EU, almost certainly at that point on much worse terms.
Plenty of people are complaining about the situation without offering any genuine solutions. The DUP are at it again, saying that while they don’t want to bring down the government, they wouldn’t mind it too much if the Tories had a change of leadership. While the DUP openly saying all this is newsworthy, as ever with Brexit related matters it is worth looking at the detail. One, the DUP can’t technically “bring the government down” in any meaningful sense; they can vote against the budget and turn the government into a zombie, unable to pass any legislation, thus making a new general election politically difficult to avoid. The DUP could certainly torpedo May’s Brexit deal, if one emerges, if there aren’t MPs from the opposition benches willing to vote for it, or at least abstain. But they cannot bring down the government.
Nor do they have any actual say in who the leader of the Conservative party is at any given time – although credit to them for trying on this one. Much more significant to the prime minister than anything a DUP spokesperson wants to say on record is how certain key members of the Cabinet respond to the latest backstop idea. Leadsom and McVey she could lose without breaking a sweat – Gove would be much more tricky, and Hunt would be really bad for her. Having said all that, let’s just say for argument’s sake that Hunt stomps off over the backstop proposals. May isn’t going to step down over that, so what actually happens next? Almost certainly nothing. We get a new Foreign Secretary, a Brexiteer sans leadership ambitions who will be happy to shut their mouth for the sake of inhabiting one of the four major roles of government for a while. I still can’t see the party bringing her down, which is what really matters.
The idea of the backstop applying to all of the UK, keeping the country inside of the Customs Union for the foreseeable future, was always the inevitable end point of May’s negotiation with the Commission. It has been painfully obvious for a very long time, particularly since last December when May essentially agreed to do this in writing. The prime minister is now apparently due to give another one of her speeches on the state of Brexit, this one no doubt denying in the strongest terms possible that she is about to sign the UK up to the Customs Union forever, with some added guff about “getting tough” with the Commission. This is more of the same – talking tough and then rolling over. The only pertinent question is why the Brexiteers seem to keep the faith each and every time.
Or better still, until some government in the relatively near future decides the whole thing is unsustainable and we re-join the EU, almost certainly at that point on much worse terms.
Or until some government in the relatively near future decides that the whole thing is unsustainable and declares the temporary customs arrangement is coming to an end?
I presume that is why the Brexiteers are keeping the faith: their plan is to not rock the boat until after Independence Day next March, then bring down May and install one of their own who will then immediately rip up whatever deal May signed.
Paul W says
“then immediately rip up whatever deal May signed”. The same thought occurred to me. I think Nick underestimates on all sorts of levels the opposition to the backstop concept among Conservatives (and Unionists).
I wonder if the EU has thought of that possibility ?? I suspect they will write into the ‘contract’ a binding term of 10 years, by which time the next generation will realise what a godawful mistake we’ve made and reapply on the terms we would have got in 2021 anyway (no or lower rebate)
I don’t think they can? Any country can withdraw from any bilateral agreement at any time, as long as they are prepared to face the consequences (which would probably just be an instant shift to whatever would have happened in a no-deal scenario).
Paul W says
I stand to be corrected, but I believe that the minimum notice period for treaty termination is 12 months under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 (Article 56.2) – unless the treaty to be terminated specifies something different or all parties consent to the termination of the treaty (Article 54).
Yes, but the Vienna Convention is just that: a convention. A state willing to take the consequences, as I mentioned, can beak it.
However. I don’t actually think that immediately ripping up the deal will mean exiting it immediately, What I expect the new PM to do is say, ‘This transitional agreement is supposed to remain in place until we have a deal which satisfies conditions X, Y and Z. Having now looked we don’t think it’s possible to satisfy those conditions, therefore, it makes no sense to have a transitional agreement when there’s nothing for it to transition to. Therefore the transitional agreement will end in twelve (or maybe twenty-four) months, unless the EU can prove us wrong by coming up with a deal which satisfies X, Y and Z. We intend to spend that period negotiating a comprehensive free-trade deal, along the lines of the so-called “Canada plus” scheme, with the EU.’
Paul W says
Only today the EU’s Budget Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, confirmed to the press that in the “improbable but pleasant” case of the UK remaining in the EU, the UK budget rebate would be phased out – “The gradual exit from the rebate would still be kept.”
Think about it. That’s £4bn pounds a year of British taxpayers’ money completely wasted on the EU when it could be better spent on, say, schools, hospitals and social care. British taxpayers would also be expected to cough up as part of the Customs Union. The phrase “throwing good money after bad springs to mind.”
Paul W says
I can’t see how we could “re-join the EU, almost certainly at that point on much worse terms” without yet another referendum. Good luck with that campaign.
Unlike in 1972-73, we no longer live in an age of black-and-white television and political deference where, just because the British Prime Minister and those clever chaps at the Confederation of British Industry were in agreement that signing up for EEC membership was just the economic tonic we needed, the great British public would respond by doffing their caps and saying, ” ‘Course it is guv’nor; whatever you say guv’nor’.” Actually, rather the opposite would be response now, I think.
Bye bye G7 says
The eu know that they have the uk government by the balls
Backstop means no brexit
May has been surprisingly clever in playing the hard brexit idiots
All she has to do now is enter the eu customs union forever
Parliament will back this so don’t need dup
Call a general election on a deal with europe around a very soft brexit
Again this is where the electorate have moved and shoot labours fox
Result may wins election bye bye erg