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The Withdrawal Agreement is a one-way ticket back into the EU

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Written by David Blake

The Withdrawal Agreement is a one-way ticket back into the EU – before 2025 and on far worse terms than we currently have

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The twin disasters of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration are now very well known. Less well discussed is the ultimate consequence of these proposals being passed by the UK Parliament.

Passing the WA/PD effectively guarantees that the UK returns to the EU on far worse terms than we currently have – within the next 5 years. Here’s why.

  1. It is unambiguously in the EU27’s interests that the UK is an EU member – we pay a large contribution of £20bn (net £10bn), they have a goods trade surplus of £105bn with us, we pay a significant proportion of their defence and have the best global intelligence network, we provide the vast bulk of their financial services, etc. 
  2. In the last few State of the Union addresses, Jean-Claude Juncker has made it clear that the Commission wants political union by 2025. By which he means a single presidency (i.e., removing the competing Council and Commission presidencies, with a clear preference that Europe’s “President” will be the Commission president), a single foreign policy, a single fiscal and tax policy, and a single military command, etc.  This is all allowed by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty which introduced a European constitution by the backdoor – after it was rejected in national referenda in 2005.
  3. There are key hurdles to cross, of course.  One of them is tax. The EC wants to take away the national vetoes on tax policy. The putative reason is to close off tax avoidance schemes by major multinationals, which has had the consequence that “EU growth and competitiveness as well as fiscal fairness have been blocked as a result”.  But the real reason is more consolidation of power by Brussels over member states.  The EC’s Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change argues that  with “no effective Single Market in taxation, [removing the national veto will] give renewed momentum to the EU”.  Brussels also wants all EU states not in the euro to join by 2025. Any new members must join the euro.
  4. The WA already commits us to following all the EU’s rules during the transition in so many  ways – on state aid, the environment, workers’ rights, etc.  The PD commits us to rejoin the EU’s Customs Union. This has been made clear by Sabine Weyand, Michel Barniers deputy: We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship, this requires the Customs Union as the basis for the future relationship.  During the transition, this puts us over a barrel – we have to accept all these rules, but have no vote.  The EU can agree a trade deal with country X, which requires us to accept imports from X tariff free, but X does not have to reduce its tariffs on our exports to them.  We will find it impossible to negotiate our own trade deals during this period, once the other party realises we will end up in the Customs Union where only the EU can negotiate such deals. The EU will simply turn around to us and say “you said that this was the reason you wanted to leave the EU and you have shown you are no good at it”. The BBC4 fly-on-the-wall documentary Brexit: Behind Closed Doors broadcast in May 2019 shows a member of the office of Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, saying that ‘We’ve got our first colony!’ when the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement are announced. What could be clearer?
  5. How long will it be before we are begging to rejoin – simply because the democratic deficit will be so great? The answer Remainers and the civil service will give is “immediately” – and the demand for a people’s vote will just grow and grow. But when, not if, we rejoin, it will not be on the current terms, but on the new terms compatible with political union – and with the loss of rebate on top.  Once we are in the euro, the game’s up, we can never leave – the Commission would use the threat of withdrawing Emergency Liquidity Assistance to keep us under control as they did with Greece in 2015.
  6. Confirmation of all this comes from John Petley’s informant who makes it clear what the intended endgame of the WA is – which is to deliver what’s in the EU27’s interests outlined above.  The informant suggests that in May 2018 Theresa May and Angela Merkel reached an Agreement over Brexit. The Agreement, drafted in the German Chancellor’s private office, was couched in a way to “appease” Brexit voters and would enable May to get rid of those people in her party who were against “progress and unity in the EU”. Both leaders agreed that the likely course of events would be that the UK would re-join the EU in full at some time after the next general election in 2022. May agreed to keep as many EU laws and institutions as she could, despite the current “anti-EU hysteria” (her words) in Britain. Merkel and May also agreed that the only realistic future for the UK was in the EU. 
  7. You would need a new and very strong leader to resist the dynamics here. I can’t see this happening in this Remain Parliament. You can see that all the pressure in Parliament would be to fall in line with the Merkel-May plan, long after they have both left the political scene.

In short, the WA is a one-way ticket back into the EU – before 2025 and on far worse terms than we currently have. This is what Olly Robbins meant when he was overheard in that Brussels bar saying the backstop was always intended to be a bridge to the final arrangement. This is NOT a real Brexit. It is a Boomerang Brexit. It is a trap.

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About the author

David Blake

Professor David Blake is at Cass Business School