This doesn’t “Get Brexit done”?!! It’s just perpetual Brexit torment

Posted on: 18th October 2019

The new Johnson deal doesn’t “Get Brexit done”. It would merely create new problems and leave the UK in a form of perpetual torment …If you’re suffering Brexit fatigue, this route will leave the UK in a Brexit netherworld for generations.

Prof Michael Dougan kindly came to Penzance for a successful and well attended public meeting at my invitation earlier this year to offer his expert commentary on the then Brexit “Deal”. He has offered the following commentary on yesterday’s apparent “new deal”. The backstop becomes a front stop. The customs arrangements become nightmarish. Cliff edge may be delayed by a year or so. After which it still paves the way for a hard right agenda of economic and social deregulation:

Professor Michael Dougan and Sarah Adkins in Pz this Feb

“My first thoughts on Boris Johnson’s “new deal”:

1) vast majority of Withdrawal Agreement remains identical to that finalised by Theresa May – the one that was repeatedly denounced by so many Brexiters (vassal state, money down drain etc) & justifiably criticised by sane commentators (esp flawed citizens’ rights regime);

2) only substantive change is to the Irish Protocol. EU succeeds in protecting basic integrity of Single Market whilst avoiding hard border across Ireland: customs and regulatory checks (new as well as expanded) will take place between GB and NI;

3) How? NI will remain subject to large swathes of EU legislation on customs, VAT, goods, energy, state aid etc; on dynamic basis / in accordance with ECJ caselaw. Many of the rules will be enforced by UK bodies, but EU will also exercise various powers / roles in respect of NI;

4) Yet formally, NI will be part of UK customs territory. HMG promises that NI will share in “UK trade benefits”. But whatever they might be (?!?), they are unlikely to compensate for the enormous cost to NI economy in terms of added customs complexity and bureaucracy;

5) After all: requires nightmarish system for determining / administering which goods pay EU / UK / no customs duties. Effectively based on presumption that EU duties should apply unless & until proved otherwise – followed by burdensome system of refunds by UK authorities;

Brexit: What next?

6) Subject to NI consent (below): revised backstop will apply unless & until replaced by new EU-UK trade deal. That is never likely to happen. Johnson’s vision of future EU-UK relations does not allow for alternative customs / regulatory system. In reality, this is permanent…;

7) … unless NI institutions later decide that “backstop” regime should be terminated. But DUP can’t veto extension of Protocol into the future: boohoo. Instead, on rolling basis: cross-community support = 8 year prolongation; though simple majority = still 4 year continuation;

8) HMG maintains promise that customs / regulatory barriers would run only from GB into NI; but NI will enjoy (almost) unfettered access to GB market. So problems of equity for Scotland / Wales / English regions remain: new “UK internal market” = asymmetrical from it;

9) Last/not least: revised Political Declaration remains much same but with few tweaks intended to increase future distance between EU/UK. Of course, they don’t matter very much: document isn’t binding; might never be agreement; might take many years; might look very different;

10) But underlying reality remains: this deal might help with immediate challenges of “orderly Brexit”; but in many respects, is just postponing dreaded “cliff edge” by another year or so – after which, still paves way for hard right agenda of economic and social deregulation; and

11) Conclusion? EU has strong interest in promoting this agreement as way to avoid chaotic withdrawal. Fair enough: within its prerogative / in its interests. But for UK: this “new deal” also lays ground for Johnson & Co to plough ahead with their damaging and dangerous Brexit.”