Prospect: British concessions to the EU last week are a matter of grave concern

13 December 2017

The ECJ should have no role post-Brexit, and “alignment” must not be used to keep us in the Single Market

The withdrawal agreement that Theresa May and the European Commission made during phase one of the Brexit negotiations allows the talks to move forward to the future relationship. But despite the recent row over whether the deal is “legally binding,” nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And as we assess the negotiations so far, there are obvious causes for concern.

As things stand, the Government has conceded that the European Court of Justice will have jurisdiction over the rights of EU citizens in the UK for eight years after Brexit. We cannot allow this.

It is standard practice across the world for the courts of countries in an international treaty to pay attention to the judgments of their partners, and to try, if possible, to apply a consistent interpretation. But the idea that EU citizens in the UK should be “protected” by the ECJ is bizarre, and would create a privileged class of three million people whose rights in this country would be enforced by a court beyond the influence of our government and parliament.

The question of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has dominated the headlines in recent days, so it was particularly good to see confirmed what many of us have been arguing for some time: there is no need for a “hard” border and avoiding one is entirely possible with new technology and goodwill which should exist on both sides.

Paragraph 45 of the agreement clearly states that the UK is leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union. Too many establishment figures—from senior civil servants to the EU-funded CBI—still cannot accept this. At best, they see our leaving as a problem to be solved rather than an opportunity to be grasped, and at worst it is something they reject outright. They narrow-mindedly focus on our trade with Europe, but ignore the massive gains that can be made from expanding our trade in a changing economic world.

In 1999, 61 per cent of UK goods exports were with the EU, now it is 47 per cent. By 2025, it has been projected that it will be under 35 per cent. The European Commission itself says that 90 per cent of global economic growth in the next 10-15 years is expected to be generated outside Europe, a third of it in China alone.

To read Owen Paterson’s piece for Prospect in full, click here.

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