Not Much Has Changed – The Deal Is Still Dire
We congratulate the PM and governments commendable efforts. However they DO NOT negate that the deal is still far from good enough. The new Provisions on Northern Ireland create a diluted Backstop.
Northern Ireland may officially stay part of the UK customs union, but operating under the auspices of the EU customs union creates the practical effect of divergence. This sets a precedent to undermine the Union.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will still be ultimate arbitrator for years to come – decades on specific issues. The changes do not ameliorate that the UK is paying an eye-watering £39bn just to maybe agree a Free Trade Agreement.
An FTA which the Political Declaration already construes towards being based on high EU alignment, restrictions on regulatory divergence (XIV – Paragraph 77) and which seeks to restrict UK tax, foreign and defence policy.
Jubilation that something has changed is not justification to accept something still has the flaws those now cheering the PM had lambasted 6 months ago.
It still has widespread dire implications – particularly for British fishing and coastal communities.
Nothing Has Changed On Fishing
The UK may officially “leave” but will still re-obey all EU law – including the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – for a Transition Period.
With no say, veto or recourse – membership minus. Bound under the terms of ‘good faith’ to enforce whatever laws Brussels decrees. In the PMs words we will be – a “vassal state”.
The Transition will run until the start of 2021. The provisions to extend it thereafter until 2023 remain.
During which the UK is still obliged under Article 184 to ratify the Future Relationship terms set out in the Political Declaration. These are unrevised and still drive the UK towards CFP associate membership.
Transition – Fatal For Fishing
The EU will be free to impose any detrimental legislation on any British Industry. What’s left of Britain’s fishing industry won’t survive the Transition period.
The EU has every incentive to do so. Under international law (UNCLOS Article 62.2) if a coastal state does not have the capacity to harvest all its resources then it shall give the ‘surplus’ to its neighbour. This is not conjecture, EU documents recognise this situation.
The EU would be free to;
- Abolish the CFP derogation for a 12 mile limit that protects inshore fishermen.
- Swap what should be UK resources, or access to UK waters, as negotiating capital in international deals.
- Fully enforce the ill-conceived discard ban. This poses a severe existential threat to continued viability
- Slash quotas which the UK fleet is primarily dependent on
The discard ban deals with the discard symptom not the discard cause – that in highly mixed fisheries such as those around the British Isles it is impossible to catch precisely what strict quota limits allow.
Under the ban when a vessel exhausts its lowest quota it must stop fishing. Government agency SeaFish models that 60% of UK resources will go uncaught and a similar proportion of the fleet bankrupt.
Article 130 says ‘Relative Stability’ shall be maintained. This is the current percentage based Quota Shares between member states.
However, the EU can slash quota tonnages for species the UK is dependent on. 100% of zero equals zero. The UK may still have 90% of North Sea Haddock but if the quota tonnage is reduced to zero it is an irrelevant safeguard.
The Commission also has the right to amend Relative Stability as it sees fit – they have committed to maintaining the principle of the system – not the percentages.
Political Declaration Still Means CFP Associate Membership
The Political Declaration sets out that the Future Relationship should be agreed on Fisheries by July 2020.
One to be based on;
- “non-discrimination” (para.72.) – i.e. the founding principle of ‘equal access to a common resource’.
- “level playing field” – (para.77.) – i.e. only achievable by minimising regulatory divergence and maintaining commonality of rules – no doubt EU ones.
- “Within the context of the overall economic partnership” (para.73.) – i.e. fishing can be bartered/levered as part of the wider deal.
- Based on “current access and quota shares” – gone from the text but not in intention. Declaration of the EU27 on 25th Nov.’18 sets this as the negotiation position and guidelines.
- With “investors treated in a non-discriminatory manner, including with regard to establishment” para.29.) – Culling any ability to restrict EU owned but UK registered ‘Flagships’ who now hold half of what quotas the UK does receive.
The Political Declaration may recognise the UK being an independent coastal state. However, we may officially be “independent” but are pushed towards effectively CFP associate membership.
The Political Declaration makes provision to formalise such “association agreements” with “institutional frameworks” with specific “governance frameworks” in Part 4 – Paragraphs 118 and 120.
Even if the UK could limit EU access the EU fleet would be free to re-register in the UK.
For a horrific price the UK is pushed towards an FTA beneficial to the EU which seeks to envelope us in being bound to, or in associate membership of, EU policy and stifled from being competitive or diverging – hardly leaving the EU or British Independence restored.
The Price Is Not Worth Paying To Maybe Reach The Promised Land
Many who previously opposed this deal are now falling behind it because they believe the final destination of a Free Trade Agreement makes this a price worth paying. They believe that this “gets Brexit done” rather than see further extension and delay imposed.
This is sadly not the case and misses the key point. The current dire deal and impasse is due to a Remain dominated parliament and establishment.
Accepting this poor deal will see the same parliament able to hobble the government towards agreeing FTA terms detrimental to the UKs interests and beneficial to the EU.
Given a recalcitrant parliament is the problem there is two courses
1) Agree this deal, which merely sees a further extension under the auspices of a Transition which could see the EU hammer UK business. In that time the government seeks to agree an FTA but a remain parliament intervenes to make it a bad deal for Britain.
2) Reject this deal, which sees an extension of the UKs full membership which is politically owned by Remain. The remain campaign prefers a Referendum to a General Election because constituency arithmetic would see a GE clear parliament out. If remain should win a referendum this gives mere temporary respite until a GE which sees a Brexit parliament elected by an angry electorate.
The simple fact is we have a Remain Parliament and a Brexit Electorate. That is why MPs have done everything to avoid an election whilst claiming to speak for the people as they seek to thwart Brexit.
Voting for this Withdrawal Agreement Mark4 doesn’t “get Brexit done”, doesn’t deliver a wonderful FTA, doesn’t reset politics to pre-2016 referendum, doesn’t save Remain MPs from a leave electorate – delivering this Brexit In Name Only Withdrawal Agreement merely enrages constituents as shown in the Euro Elections.
Therefore, the price is not worth paying. Despite the PM and governments best efforts Fishing for Leave – along with thus far the Bow Group, Bruge Group, Labour Leave, Facts4EU and the DUP – call on the deal to be rejected.
Otherwise the day of political reckoning at a General Election will come and a Brexit Parliament will deliver what this Remain Parliament has failed to do – genuine British Independence which is what people voted for.