Yesterday, the European Commission and the UK government reached a deal on a transitional deal. Theresa May didn’t even consult parliament on it – which is very much in the pattern of the Tories’ attitude towards democracy in the Brexit process. The overall pattern is that, even in a best case scenario, we are heading for a terrible deal – which MPs could still vote down in autumn.
Is there any good news?
Yes – but in a very limited way. European citizens arriving in the UK before the end of the transition period will have the same rights as those arriving before ‘Exit Day’. But this does not mean continuing free movement – and it is not clear which rights they will have.
What else has happened?
The UK is set to end its transitional period – to properly exit the current set up – at the end of 2020. During this transitional period, the UK (well, Liam Fox without parliamentary scrutiny) will have the power to negotiate new trade deals. New trade deals mean leaving the Customs Union, so it looks like the Tories are going for a full hard Brexit.
Meanwhile, the transitional deal has handed over sovereignty over fishing, giving the UK only the power to “consult” over quotas. Fishermen – and the Scottish Tory Party – are up in arms, even further threatening Theresa May’s majority when it comes to the final deal.
Continuing free movement doesn’t even seem to be on the Tories’ agenda. As Jane Golding, the chair of British in Europe, said: “As things stand, after Brexit, English cheddar will have more free movement rights than we will”.
And the situation on the Northern Irish border is unresolved – although the UK government has conceded that it will agree to “regulatory alignment” as a backstop option. To a great extent, the situation could be impossible to resolve if Britain leaves with a hard Brexit – which the Tories seem determined to do.
We are heading towards a terrible final deal, underpinned by an even worse political agenda. For the people in charge of it, Brexit is an ideological project, not just a policy. They want a deregulatory race to the bottom – burning our rights and protections, and handing over unprecedented power to the government, at the expense of parliament.
But every step towards the bad deal makes Theresa May and her parliamentary majority weaker. She is tied up in knots on the Irish border issue, allied to the DUP; she has alienated swathes of her own party by pursuing hard Brexit and now with the fisheries policy; and slowly but surely, the polls are shifting against the Tories’ Brexit agenda.
When the deal comes back to parliament in autumn, our message to MPs will be clear and simple: vote it down, and give the people a say on their future.
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20th March 2018