(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
David Davis has gone. By all accounts, he is a nice man, who did everything he could to extract Britain from the European Union. But he never understood how the game was played and made next to no headway with his opposite number, Michel Barnier. In the end, he simply gave up trying. I sincerely hope he enjoys his retirement.
So now we have Dominic Raab, the son of an immigrant, married to a Brazilian, in the hot-seat. Let’s hear what he has to say about taking back control.
In his in-tray is a proposal, backed by the Cabinet (less those who oppose it), for a deal aimed at taking us out of the EU, but which – in the classic British tradition – would still leave us with one wobbly foot inside the door. The 27 may very well reject it. Their stand on the indivisibility of the so-called Four Pillars, which includes, of course, freedom of movement, is well known.
But let us assume that, after a couple of tweaks, agreement is reached and we leave the EU next March on something like the May terms. What then?
Here’s how it would pan out for Britain:
We would no longer have a seat on, or send officials to, the European Commission; we would have no voice in the European Council; we would no longer elect members to the European Parliament; and we would no longer appoint a judge to the European Court of Justice.
We would continue to follow EU trade rules, including those on agricultural produce, without benefit of the generous EU subsidies our farmers now enjoy.We would be obliged to collect tariffs on behalf of Brussels on goods and produce imported from outside the EU and would follow precisely all regulations relating to standards and rules of origin, including those not yet enacted.
We would have to apply for (and pay for) continued membership of Interpol, the European Arrest Warrant scheme, Erasmus, Galileo, Euratom and any other EU programmes and institutions that we deem to be to our advantage.
In resolving disputes over trade and regulatory compliance, we would continue to follow the rulings of the Luxembourg court.
We would be prevented by our effective adherence to the Customs Union from striking truly independent trade agreements with countries outside the EU. The prospect of “brilliant” deals with China, New Delhi, Tokyo and Washington held out to us by Boris Johnson and Liam Fox would disappear in the regulatory haze.
Finally, the City of London would lose its EU passport, and with it its automatic access to the Eurozone. In order to maintain control of our borders, including who has the legal right to enter the country, the services sector generally, accounting for 80 per cent of our foreign earnings, would be locked out of the Single Market.
Because of Brexit, all of the above would occur without our having much, if any, say in the matter beyond March 29.
Oh, and lest we forget, we would have to pay Brussels £39bn on the way out and, from 2021 on, agree to pay several billion pounds each year into the EU budget for the maintenance of the Single Market and Customs Union.
Surely, though, there must be something we can look forward to? Well, on the positive side, we would no longer be bound by the free movement of labour – which was what Leave was all about, at least for millions of ordinary voters.
But, under the May plan, we would agree to give EU workers preference over all other non-Britons when it comes to divvying out future jobs. In addition, while our fisheries would be brought back under UK control, there would be a proviso that the 90 per cent of our catch that is currently landed in EU ports would continue to be subject to Common Fisheries inspection.
At least the Irish question – the thing the Tory compromise is based around – will, more or less, have been resolved. Probably. The deal would leave us with a frictionless, near-invisible border in Ireland – exactly as we have now. The DUP, which opposes same-sex marriage, LGBT rights and abortion, and which for the last 19 months has been unable to strike any sort of deal with Sinn Féin that would enable a restoration of the Stormont Executive, will continue to support Mrs May. At least for now. Those who believe the tail ought sometimes to be able to wag the dog will take comfort from the fact that the interests of just-on half of the Northern Ireland population, making up less than 0.1 per cent of the total, has in effect determined the course of events.
Have I missed anything out? Oh yes. An independent Britain, spending 3 per cent of our GDP on defence, will now stand tall among the nations of the world, ready to protect both itself and Europe from the Russians who own half of London and poison our citizens at will. Mrs May’s upcoming meeting with Donald Trump will bolster the American President in his resolve to bring Vladimir Putin to heel and, in return, guarantee us the position of America’s Best Friend for ever.
Do you believe that? Neither do I. But then, do you really suppose that May Plan is the only horse left in this race or do you think that Second Referendum and No Deal are neck and neck in the final furlong? Can the Prime Minister even stay in the saddle? Whatever happens, Dominic Raab is not in for an easy ride.