Briefings for Brexit: The Withdrawal Agreement is a one-way ticket back into the EU
The twin disasters of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration are now very well known. Less well discussed is the ultimate consequence of these proposals being passed by the UK Parliament.
Passing the WA/PD effectively guarantees that the UK returns to the EU on far worse terms than we currently have – within the next 5 years. Here’s why.
- It is unambiguously in the EU27’s interests that the UK is an EU member – we pay a large contribution of £20bn (net £10bn), they have a goods trade surplus of £105bn with us, we pay a significant proportion of their defence and have the best global intelligence network, we provide the vast bulk of their financial services, etc.
- In the last few State of the Union addresses, Jean-Claude Juncker has made it clear that the Commission wants political union by 2025. By which he means a single presidency (i.e., removing the competing Council and Commission presidencies, with a clear preference that Europe’s “President” will be the Commission president), a single foreign policy, a single fiscal and tax policy, and a single military command, etc. This is all allowed by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty which introduced a European constitution by the backdoor – after it was rejected in national referenda in 2005.
- There are key hurdles to cross, of course. One of them is tax. The EC wants to take away the national vetoes on tax policy. The putative reason is to close off tax avoidance schemes by major multinationals, which has had the consequence that “EU growth and competitiveness as well as fiscal fairness have been blocked as a result”. But the real reason is more consolidation of power by Brussels over member states. The EC’s Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change argues that with “no effective Single Market in taxation, [removing the national veto will] give renewed momentum to the EU”. Brussels also wants all EU states not in the euro to join by 2025.
- The WA already commits us to following all the EU’s rules during the transition in so many ways – on state aid, the environment, workers’ rights, etc. The PD commits us to rejoin the EU’s Customs Union. This has been made clear by Sabine Weyand, Michel Barnier’s deputy: “We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship, this requires the Customs Union as the basis for the future relationship”. During the transition, this puts us over a barrel – we have to accept all these rules, but have no vote. The EU can agree a trade deal with country X, which requires us to accept imports from X tariff free, but X does not have to reduce its tariffs on our exports to them. We will find it impossible to negotiate our own trade deals during this period, once the other party realises we will end up in the Customs Union where only the EU can negotiate such deals. The EU will simply turn around to us and say “you said that this was the reason you wanted to leave the EU and you have shown you are no good at it”.
- How long will it be before we are begging to rejoin – simply because the democratic deficit will be so great? The answer Remainers and the civil service will give is “immediately” – and the demand for a people’s vote will just grow and grow. But when, not if, we rejoin, it will not be on the current terms, but on the new terms compatible with political union – and with the loss of rebate on top. Once we are in the euro, the game’s up, we can never leave – the Commission would use the threat of withdrawing Emergency Liquidity Assistance to keep us under control as they did with Greece in 2015.
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