The UK’s draft Withdrawal Agreement is a fine agreement except that it lacks in one key area; The so-called ‘backstop’ portion of the agreement which has no end-date. It’s a major flaw in the draft and it must be removed.
The backstop means that if the UK and the EU don’t reach a free trade deal in 2019 the UK will be stuck in the EU Customs Union forever, and will never be able to negotiate its own trade deals. And the opportunity to take back control of the UK’s trading relationships was one of four main reasons that Britons voted to Leave the European Union.
Remember the four metrics of Brexit success?
- Take back control of the UK’s borders and immigration
- Take back control of the UK legal system
- Take back control of the UK economy
- Take back control of UK trade
In the so-called ‘Political Declaration’ between the two parties there is reference to the backstop which states that it’s expected a free trade agreement will eventually be worked out between the two sides — neatly solving the problem of the backstop clause.
But as they’ve had 2 1/2 years to work these issues out and still haven’t (not even close) it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence and voters on both sides of the English Channel are entitled to better service from their politicians than that. CEO’s must be wondering, too. Much of the EU’s trade is with the UK and 2 1/2 years later, no free trade agreement is in sight even though the UK is leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019. Very disappointing.
And Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk’s replacements can choose to be bound by, or not be bound by the non binding Political Declaration as both of those EU leaders step down after May 26, 2019 to make room for newly appointed EC and EU Presidents. We don’t know who those new leaders will be, nor do we know how they view the draft Withdrawal Agreement, nor do we know if they’ll give two hoots about what the non legally binding Political Declaration says. (If I were them, I wouldn’t either!)
How to Fix It
If the draft Withdrawal Agreement fails to pass in the House of Commons (as expected) Britons can breathe a sigh of relief because almost certainly the backstop clause will be removed in time to get an amended Withdrawal Agreement passed in the House of Commons before Brexit day on March 29, 2019.
And one reason we can count on that is the EU operates a stunning £95 billion trade surplus with the UK (£67 billion net) and without a free trade agreement, businesses on both sides will suffer greatly. When there’s £95 billion on the line you can bet CEO’s will pressure their respective governments and a trade deal will happen quickly! Or heads will roll.
For goodness sake, it’s a trade agreement between two nations that have traded with each other for centuries! It’s not like it’s the the Klingons and the Romulans opening trade relations! How hard can it be?
The way to fix this situation is for British MP’s to vote down the draft Withdrawal Agreement and encourage CEO’s on both sides of the Channel to put significant pressure on Theresa May, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk until they get their jobs done properly which is what they should’ve been doing all along.
Doing their jobs properly — even if it’s already a 2-years late and counting — means removing the backstop completely, or inserting a firm end date for Customs Union membership and getting a free trade deal done by July 1, 2019.
Any level of success lower than that should be considered unacceptable by citizens, by European industry, and by any country that trades with the UK or the EU.
Written by John Brian Shannon