As the Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union go into the next phase, the EU has suggested a transition period in which Britain essentially remains in the union for two more years. The government in London seems keen on the idea. The precedent, however, is incredible.
A Really Bad Deal
Prior to the phase 1 deal, the UK and the EU needed to reach an agreement on the following issues:
- Will there be a “hard border” (meaning: border checks and structural enforcement of customs rules) between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (which is a member of the EU)?
- Will EU citizens who reside in Britain keep the rights they had in the union? Essentially, it inquires if the ruling of the European Union Court of Justice will still apply on British soil.
- How much will the UK pay in outstanding payments to Brussels?
On all three aspects, the government in Westminster has agreed to the requirements of the EU negotiating team. Theresa May’s government has agreed to payments up to £50 billion ($67.5 billion), diverting from the initial idea of only providing £20 billion (£27 billion). This has exposed May to considerable criticisms from both outside and inside of her own party, and rightfully so. With the UK having contributed to EU infrastructure for years, the EU’s demands can only be described as a rotten deal.
Even more importantly, the EU has negotiated a transition period, which will apply from the moment when the Brits leave the European Union in March of 2019, for a duration of two years. During this period, the UK will be required to apply all old and new EU rules and regulations and pay membership contributions but without having any representation in committees, the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Commission, Citizens Dialogue, or Council of Ministers. Imagine this for a second.
Imagine the United States was required to accept rules made in Ottawa, was obliged to pay for infrastructure and implementation costs of these rules, all while its people get no say in the drafting of these legislations. The British Conservative Member of Parliament Jacob Reese-Mogg referred to this situation as the transformation of his country into a vessel state of the EU, or even a “colony“. The irony of the former British Empire to become administrated by Brussels is truly fascinating.
Why Is the British Government So Weak?
Even after multiple questions, the British government refuses to answer whether or not it is prepared to accept the suggested transition period. However, its consent to the suggestion seems almost implied, as current discussions revolve around how long the period will be, not the specificity of the rules that will continue to apply.
If the judgments of the European Union’s Court of Justice (ECJ) would apply in the UK, this would ask legitimate questions about the rule of law, as you’d effectively create different classes of citizens. If the US Supreme Court would enforce the second amendment in Britain, giving US citizens on British soil the right to bear arms, it’d be imaginable that London, which imposes very strict gun control, would have considerable objections. Why then is it odd to claim that ECJ rulings should not apply in the UK?
Most importantly though: why is the British government so easy to convince of the ludicrous demands coming from Brussels? Prime Minister Theresa May has been leading a weak government which hasn’t negotiated the EU’s demands thoroughly but almost entirely accepted them as they came in. From the union’s point of view, this is an absolute success according to their goals: as rising Euroscepticism hits countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Italy, Brussels wants to make it absolutely clear that exiting the EU is a rotten deal.
And yes, it happens to be true that if economies the likes of Poland would leave the EU, trade relations would be absolutely vital for their economy. For the UK however, which imports large quantities of German cars or French wine, there would indeed be the possibility of negotiating differently on Brexit.
“No deal is better than a bad deal” should be the mantra of Theresa May. Not only is Britain in an economic situation in which it does not have to solely rely on the European continent, but it would defy the bullying tactics of Brussels.
Voting for Brexit was not enough. Now Britain needs to double down.
This article was first published by the Foundation for Economic Education.
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