“Report on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union” and staying in the single market

Today’s report seems to be spun as though it is a major achievement – indeed a major agreement.

Maybe it will be, though of course nothing is actually yet agreed, but while the citizenship and financial agreements look substantial, the details on the single market and customs union seem simply to suggest that the UK will be just a rule taker from the EU.

We must not forget that it is only a “report on progress – without prejudice to discussions on the framework of the future relationship.” though the phrasing ‘without prejudice’ is perhaps unfortunate since it is what you put at the top a letter when you think you might have to go to court. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Paragraph 45 of the 96 in the report states:“The United Kingdom respects Ireland’s ongoing membership of the European Union and all of the corresponding rights and obligations that entails, in particular Ireland’s place in the Internal Market and the Customs Union. The United Kingdom also recalls its commitment to preserving the integrity of its internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it, as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union’s Internal Market and Customs Union.”

That’s must be the DUP’s ‘comfort’ paragraph, because further on, we don’t seem to be leaving either the single market or the customs union.

Paragraph 49 says:”In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

As the EU is in effect one trading area of which Ireland is a part then that’s the UK entirely in the single market. The rules will have to apply equally whether that is on the Irish border with the United Kingdom – or any other. Under WTO rules no border in Northern Ireland means also no border at Dover, or Plymouth or Harwich or Portsmouth or from anywhere else we might wish to go to EU Europe. Other systems exist – but not without border controls.

Paragraph 50 goes on “The United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”. (More DUP comforting).

And paragraph 51 “Both Parties will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union.”

That’s the UK in the single market but just taking rules from the EU – for ever.

We are leaving the European Union’s Internal Market and Customs Union and we are going to be members of it.

Michael Gove said on radio 4 it was “a significant personal achievement for the Prime Minister.” It might be, because it certainly looks to be having cake and eating it.

If this is a real agreement, then the legal dispute will be with the WTO.

If it isn’t and there is still no hard border in Ireland, then there is no hard border with the EU. If there is no hard border with the EU there is no need at all for a future free trade agreement because we’ll be already in one. It will be called the EU.

And David Davis can come home for good.


  1. Sean Danaher -

    Information overload and constructive ambiguity here. Just watched Dominic Raab on C4 who claimed a victory for the Arch-Brexiteers. “Muddling through” perhaps?

  2. Peter May -

    I find the whole thing pretty odd and I can conclude only that possibly the EU is just humouring May – she’s happy because she gets a few more months of power and time to placate the Brexiteers, and the EU and Ireland are happy because they’ve laid on the line that the single market is for ever essential. Unless the UK can, with the DUP, magically create an invisible border – presumably with pixies and fairies in control. Not sure that’ll be too effective in Dover.
    Still the can has been dispatched down the road and the next discussions on free trade will be where the Brexiteers lose. Or Ireland does – but that’s unlikely as they’ve got 26 allies….

  3. Sean Danaher -

    Its interesting that Andrea Leadsom and IDS were on the Today programme doing remarkable spin on the deal. Brussels has cave in according to IDS, Leadsom talked about alignment of the electricity market between the N and S of Ireland.

    Chris Kendall a seasoned EU negotiator is in no doubt that the deal was very much biassed towards the EU and tweeted Fintan O’Toole’s Irish Times article Fintan O’Toole: Ireland has just saved the UK from the madness of a hard Brexit. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-ireland-has-just-saved-the-uk-from-the-madness-of-a-hard-brexit-1.3320096

    Another development is that recent opinion polls in NI towards a United Ireland are changing dramatically “Hard Brexit poll suggests Northern Ireland would rather join Republic and stay in EU than remain in UK and leave”
    This is probably worth a separate PP article on its own.

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