Flashback to the early hours of Friday 24 June 2016.
Imagine that BBC anchorman David Dimbleby looks to the camera and says: “Brexit will look like this. These will be its 10 defining features. These will be the 10 capitulations.”
First, Brexit will necessitate the UK remaining in the customs union (or something very much like it), unless the EU gives us permission to leave or agrees a free trade agreement with us. Either way, the UK will not have control of when or whether it leaves.
Second, the draft withdrawal agreement will prevent us from signing free trade deals with third-party countries – again, unless the EU agrees its own free trade deal with us, which releases us from any backstop obligations. Forget deals with the US, China, and India.
Third, in addition to remaining in the customs union, the UK will be legally bound to “ensuring a level playing field” and an “alignment of rules”, putting an end to any thoughts of using Brexit to enhance the regulatory competitiveness of the UK economy to attract foreign direct investment.
Fourth, we will regain control of our borders, but not of our labour market, with employment law still subject to Single Market legislation set by the EU during the transition period and level playing field rules under the backstop, which we will be powerless to shape or influence.
Fifth, we will regain control of our money, but at a high price. The £39bn cheque made payable to the EU will be equivalent to around four years of net contributions at present.
Sixth, we will be told that we can take back control of our laws, but the withdrawal agreement means that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will supercede British jurisdiction in some areas during the transition, and potentially permanently if the backstop comes into force.
Seventh, the withdrawal agreement will do as little as possible to separate Britain from the EU but as much as possible to separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. EU Single Market rules will apply even more forcefully in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain.
Eighth, negotiations may lead to an extension of the transition period until the end of 2022, and so more than six years after voting to leave the EU, we won’t really have done so.
Ninth, the UK will be signing up to an agreement where any dispute resolution will ultimately fall under the auspices of the ECJ. Does the Prime Minister not realise that independent sovereign states do not allow their treaty obligations to be interpreted by a foreign court?
Imagine a future scenario whereby the UK dramatically cuts taxes and regulation, but the EU accuses us of not properly following EU rules, with the arbitration panel passing on the decision to the ECJ, which then rules against us.
Finally, there will be no incentive for the EU to work towards a free trade agreement with the UK. A free trade agreement would provide Britain with a huge competitive advantage, outside both the customs union and Single Market rules, that Brussels is unlikely to countenance.
And even if a deal were in the best interest of some or even most member states, any agreement would require all 27 signatories – which is unlikely, given issues with particular countries, such as Spain’s concerns over Gibraltar.
Alas, these 10 capitulations are not far-fetched figments of the imagination. This is precisely the situation we are now in. This Brexit in name only – Brino – is what the government wants us to sign up to.
And that is how, from the heady potential of 24 June 2016, we have somehow gone from Brexit to Brino.
To read the piece in full, click here.