Brexit: May at Her Marks to Run a Gauntlet. Update: Cabinet Approves Draft Agreement

For carrying-on an undertaking of great advantage but no-one to know what it is  – South Sea Company brochure

Theresa May has finally managed to cinch a draft Brexit agreement with the EU’s negotiation team. But no text of the agreement has bee released; presumably that will happen shortly after Question Time at noon and the 2:00 PM Cabinet meeting in which May hopes to secure the approval of her ministers.

Since we don’t know precisely what is in the magic box, and leaks about it are somewhat at odds, it seems unproductive to speculate when we’ll know more soon. It does appear, and this is no surprise, that Northern Ireland will be subject to EU laws and regulations. How subject isn’t quite clear, but it’s more than enough for that alone to put the DUP and the Ultras in uproar. There is also talk of the UK remaining not in a “customs union” but a “customs arrangement” until it gets a trade deal with the EU. Since that could wind up being never, that sounds as if it could run afoul of WTO rules.

We have no idea if this Financial Times summary will prove to be fully accurate once the package is unsealed, but here is its summary of key points:

Many EU member states were surprised at the inclusion of a full customs union in the withdrawal agreement and wanted guarantees in return that would prevent unfair competition from Brexit Britain. One official from a northern member state said: “The Brits won half a foot in the internal market, with duty and quota-free access. We need [conditions] to balance that off.”

With that in mind, Mr Barnier inserted into the draft text some of the most severe restrictions placed on any country outside the single market.

This includes the UK abiding by the EU’s competition and state-aid rules, even if they change in future, and paying due regard to European Court of Justice rulings in this area.

So-called non-regression clauses are also included in the agreement, which sets a floor on environmental rules, labour policy and taxation. This would bind London to existing policies that are deeply unpopular with some Conservative MPs, including the working-time directive and targets for renewable energy.

Um, this sounds like a half-pregnant Brexit, not a BINO, but enough of a dog’s breakfast as to be unsatisfying to everyone. May is relying even more than one would have anticipated on her handiwork as being deemed the lesser evil relative to a crash out.

And it is possible that enough of May’s Cabinet revolts to send her back to the negotiating table, which may be the reason for being secretive about the draft. No point in letting MPs see the text if the most in the way of further changes would be artful optics. UK political procedure is above my pay grade, so I hope UK readers will advise us Yanks as to how much Cabinet opposition May could withstand. And would it matter who defected? Would, say, a departure by her Brexit minister Dominic Raab do more damage than the exit of several less prominent players?

Even though Mr. Market liked the announcement of a deal, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who were up in arms about it. Jeremy Corbyn said the agreement was “unlikely to be a good deal” and Labour would oppose it if it failed the party’s six tests. Lib Dem chief Sir Vince Cable stated “a majority will be hard or impossible to secure for what she has come up with”. By contrast, the Irish government is playing mum for now, letting this round of UK infighting run its course.

Now it may be that the upset settles down to sullen resignation by enough MPs for May to get her agreement approved by Parliament. But a new obstacle is that the Blairite MPs, who May could have hoped to peel off to compensate for the opposition of the DUP and whoever of the 50 Stand4Brexit signatories who were willing to live up to the big talk, have been moving to more and more vocal opposition. Even though a Second Referendum seems unlikely to get done, they are putting their weight behind that. Of course, the real objective is to get a Labour government. The Tory loathing of Corbyn would seem to make that unlikely, but what happens if May’s plan is voted down in Parliament? How does her Government continue? Even though the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would say that it takes more than that, this would be a defeat of epic proportions.

Another factor is the response of the press barons. A reader pointed out that the Daily Mail, one of the influential papers, now has a pro-Remain editor and that might lead it to provide May with some support. So far, that isn’t happening:

The Torygraph is Not Happy:

The Sun, another important voice, is piling on:

But will the nay-sayers rebel? The Financial Times sounds a more cynical note:

Mrs May hopes that some nine Eurosceptic ministers, some of whom have made known their misgivings about the prime minister’s Brexit strategy, will finally accept the need to agree a deal in spite of its flaws.

Hardline Brexiters pleaded with ministers to quit but Iain Duncan Smith, the pro-Brexit former Tory leader, acknowledged that a mutiny by Eurosceptic cabinet ministers might be limited, saying that their “spines do not yet meet their brains”.

One thing that has kept May in place despite the many times she’s been predicted to be a goner is that there has been no viable challenger. The split between the hard and soft Brexit factions has meant the party would not rally around the leading figures from either wing. And it isn’t clear that anyone want her job. The logical time to oust May would have been at the September Tory conference, and the Ultras were less stroopy than usual. So it isn’t clear that Cabinet resignations would do her in. She theoretically has time for one more go at negotiations before the December EU Council meeting.

We’ll know much more 24 hours from now, so stay tuned.

Update: Clive caught the BBC report:

Addressing the press, Theresa May says “the draft withdrawal agreement was the best that could have been negotiated.”

“The collective decision of the cabinet was that the government should support the draft withdrawal agreement.”

From the same live reports:

Again, the draft has not been released yet, so we and more important, MPs and EU27 leaders have to see what is in it.

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  1. vlade

    Regardless, it was a good call with the state change yesterday :)

    Re how many resignations she could survive – that’s really hard to say. It matters not only whether they would just resign, but what they would say about voting on the deal.

    Say, if Raab, Hunt and Javid resigned, and all said that they would vote against the deal in Commons, she’s likely dead. If they said they would abstain and proclaim loyalty in any no-confidence vote, she might survive.

    But say if Mordaunt, Bradley (NI secretary) and a couple of other junior ministers resigned, she may well survive.

    1. paul

      Do any of the cabinet have any standing or popularity outside their own claques within the party?
      The one with the highest public profile,Johnson, flounced off and nobody gave a toss really.

      1. vlade

        if you’d stop a member of public, show them cabinet members, and ask for names, I think most would be able to name maybe three or four (ex May of course). But it was always so. May was not much known to public before she became PM.

        1. DaveH

          I would actually bet a substantial amount against that. I remember reading a survey a few months back that suggested over 50% of Labour party members (not voters) didn’t know who John McDonnell was.

          I think recognition rates would be something like 90% for May, 50% for Gove and Hammond, 25% for Hunt and Javid and well down in single figures for anybody else.

          1. DaveH

            To add to this, according to Private Eye today, YouGov report that 61% of British people have never even heard of Dominic Raab, let along would recognise a picture of him.

      1. vlade

        TBH, I don’t think BoJo cares – he just wants to be a PM. Also, post-Brexit, his chances drop dramatically, as there are fewer domestic issues he could reliably use to get his mob out

      2. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

        It’s interesting that Goldman’s recent papers on the probable outcomes in many cases involve an imminent election.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    One thing that strikes me is the emphasis on the plan as being a ‘draft’ Plan. Surely this is an invitation for everyone involved (including EU member states), to get awkward and say they won’t agree until *insert hobbyhorse* is changed.

    I also find May’s public diffidence over the whole thing to be quite odd. Surely the political thing to do was to get a positive message spun as soon as it was announced – the usual spin doctor stuff, ‘May crushes EU in negotiations, wins over backstop’ etc., etc. At least try to get some sort of momentum behind it. It almost seems like she is just saying ‘whatevs, see if you can do better’.

  3. Ignacio

    I believe that this “semi-brexit”, if it arrives to a safe harbour, would be an incredible success for May. She could grow by a lot as a state-woman and gain a lot of credit. Labour would be doomed so they will never support it in Parliament. BoJo must be sweating a lot and this is always good.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I am such a dope! I though the Kier Starmer “MPs will take control, we will get a People’s vote, the MPs must vote to approve a no-deal Brexit” was so obviously silly that I had trouble believing he was that dense or badly informed. But now it makes sense! This is all about working up the appearance that Labour is making a principled stand against May’s deal, whatever it turned out to be, and it does not need to make that much sense if it sound plausible to voters who are already getting bad information from the press. If that is the case, it would imply Labour, both the Blairites and the Corbyn wing, which usually are at odds, could unite on this issue.

      1. jabbawocky

        Yes I think that’s right. There is in my reading no blairite wing that will ride to May’s aid, unless the deal gets close to the 6 tests of Kier Starmer. In principle May can withstand an onslaught of cabinent resignations. The most damaging would be Fox and Javid in my estimation. The brexiteers can send their 48 letters to the chair of the 1922 committee and demand a confidence vote in her leadership of the Tory party. Their problem is that they then have to win that vote of Tory MPs in order to trigger a leadership contest. Theresa May appears to have calculated that she would win the support of a majority of her MPs, and if she did that would leave her untouchable for a year. I think she is right, so she is going nowhere fast. I think maybe she even calculate she can split her brexiteers.

        If the FT is correct and she has signed up to state aid rules then Corbyn personally will be fiercely opposed. If it is a real ‘soft brexit’ in disguise then the DUP could walk regardless of the NI clauses. This would leave May’s government paralysed with no majority. They may walk any case, but Theresa May will threaten them with a general election (and a Corbyn government). If she loses a commons vote I don’t know what will happen to be honest.

        And the daily mail is for once just reporting what appears to be the case, not whipping up hysteria. So its not on the brexiteers side.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Indeed. The other dynamic in all this is who benefits from a deal. I think all sides in Labour recognise that a successful deal is not good for them. Soft Brexiters and Remainders in the Tory party may be willing to go along with it for the sake of unity. The hardliners will be very unhappy but its possible that they may decide to play a longer game.

      The other side – almost ignored so far – is within the EU. I suspect a lot of EU leaders will be very unhappy at some of the concessions offered.

      1. CharlesV

        I think all sides in Labour recognise that a successful deal is not good for them. Every bad thing that happens economically for the next 50 years can be blamed on this deal.

        People will forget the 6 tests and the ridiculous composite motion they managed to agree on at their conference but they won’t forget the deal the tories signed off.

        Better to let the tories have the rope to hang themselves.

  4. Clive

    Agree with all the “we’ll need to see the text” wisdom from others above. Plus then the inevitable “we’ll need to see if it genuinely gets through Parliament unscathed”. Followed by “we’ll need to see what gets retraded by the EU27 / the U.K. government / lawyers on all sides think is a correct interpretation / what gets subtly-but-importantly tweaked during EU and U.K. Parliament assents / whether my mother-in-law’s-cat throws up a hairball on it / anything else anyone can think of…”.

    But any sort of deal was only going to be possible if it was one that makes everyone a little bit miserable but not insurmountably so. This passes that test. The U.K. gets to pick a cherry of being in a customs union without ECJ formal jurisdiction (the UKSC should have “due regard to CJEU judgements” — me: (laughs hollowly that anyone can keep a straight face and come up with this guff) and put up with some finger-wagging by the Commission over state aid. NI has to put up with some regulatory alignment divergence from the rest of the U.K. and quality standard inspection theatre. Both the U.K. and the EU27 have to submit to being bound by some tripartite adjudication committee which isn’t either the CJEU, or the International Court of Justice or the UKSC or Judge Judy.

    Clive’s you-heard-it-here-first-futurology: this will get signed off by all concerned. The U.K. Conservative party Ultra crazies will put up some token resistance and a few Conservative MPs will vote against but enough will not want to risk Brexit getting unravelled such as through a new Parliament being much more europhile or second referendum-minded following a snap election. The U.K. Labour Party is already shifting from “will vote down” to “likely to vote down…” the deal. So that’s a slippery-slope to allowing Labour MPs a free vote. The U.K. SNP has said it “won’t vote for the deal” — which keeps abstention as an option. This deal allows Scottish independence, a No Deal Brexit all-but makes that impossible. Plus, and here’s the clincher, everyone (the U.K., the EU27) are jaundiced and weary and there’s no good outcome to be had that will please everyone and lots of bad possible other outcomes which will cause pain for everyone. So this is what’ll happen.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not sure this is a Corbyn retreat as much as Corbyn not wanting to look like DUP and Ultra nutters rejecting a deal sight unseen. We need to say what Labour says when the text is out. Assuming the Cabinet goes along, unless there are some nasties in it that people find quickly, it will take a bit of time to digest it (400 pages!) plus the legal guidance that May is being forced to release, which is apparently long and likely dense.

      IMHO it’s irresponsible for anyone but the DUP, which has only one issue and their issue looks pretty clearly to have been been breached, to take a hard stand before May has had her official say and opened the box.

      But if this is just a customs union, the UK is going to face big time informal trade barriers. This gets back to Richard North’s point: the UK is actually going to be pretty screwed. Customs union only = hard borders! Multinationals will find it unattractive and will move a lot of non-UK-final sale production out. Too hard to do just-in-time manufacturing otherwise.

      But the Parliament and the press have been so stupid about this that they may fall for a deal that is actually pretty rotten for them despite all the fudgy appearances. All the vassal state stuff has diverted attention from the real issue: the UK would see its non-finance exports take a real hit in not a very long period of time. The EU would do the plundering slowly rather than UK oligarch wannabes quickly. Think of bleeding out from an artery rather than being crushed in a car crash.

      And if the People’s Vote rallies become a weekly event and the numbers are over 300,000 all the time, that’s not something the UK has seen before either.

      And the EU side could have some wild cards. Due to the hour (I must turn in) and the state of Google, I can’t find clear guidance on the EU process. But this admittedly dated piece from the Express (yes, the Express) which is based on a German source, that anything other than a trivial transition period details would require Parliamentary approval by all EU27 members. Now the flip side is I recall that during the Greek negotiations, all Eurozone parliaments were supposed to approve the deal, but in the end, it was only Germany. But that was not an EU treaty matter. Parliamentary approvals are not a show-stopper but they shorten the already short runway left.

      As I read Article 50, the transition period = need for unanimous EU27 approval. Normally that would seem to be a given. But I can see Italy withholding its approval unless it gets a concession, either on having its budget approved, or getting fiscal waivers to be able to rescue some banks. If I can see this leverage point from my desk in New York, I am sure the Italians have thought of it too. And if they were to do that, they’d have the most power if they kept mum about their plans and sprang it on the EU27 at the latest possible moment to force them to give in. But would they? The fiscal rules are close to an existential issue for Germany. If it came down to that, it would be a Sophie’s Choice for them.

      1. Inert_Bert

        Thank you Yves and Clive,

        re: approval-process of the withdrawal agreement.

        This politico article from last year is probably based on the same source as the Express article: it refers to an analysis by the research division of the Bundestag from 27th of march 2017 (that I havent been able to find in the Bundestag archives):

        [the analysis] also states that if the deal “is being ‘loaded up’ with competencies of the member states, this would turn it into a mixed agreement [affecting both EU and national legislation], which would require unanimity in the European Council and the ratification of all member states for it to be sealed, according to our current evaluation.”

        From the information that is coming out about the new draft of the withdrawal agreement, the scenario that the Bundestag researchers described might have come to pass.

        If the EU and UK have indeed inserted specific trade-related matters into the WA, the ratification-procedure will probably have to meet the same requirements as comparable trade deals would.

        The requirements for ratification of a trade-agreement depend on its contents: if it only includes matters on which the EU has exclusive competence, QMV is enough, just like article 50 proscribes for the WA. If the agreement pertains to matters that member-states retain some degree of competence over, then it is a mixed agreement and unanimity will be required (which can mean a role for national parliaments).

        The politico article explicitly refers to the possibility of the WA becoming a “mixed agreement”. However the ECJ is quite generous in determining whether or not a treaty-provision falls into the EU’s exclusive competence. In last year’s opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA, the court only singled out ISDS from a long list of provisions, as a matter that made that treaty a mixed agreement. So a lot might depend on the nature of the enforcement mechanisms included in this new draft WA.

    2. CharlesV

      Clive’s you-heard-it-here-first-futurology: this will get signed off by all concerned. I agree.

      I think the importance of the issue will mean that party loyalty will matter less than it typically does. Couple this with the fact that both leaders are disliked/distrusted by large parts of their parliamentary parties.

      Brexiteers won’t want to risk the prospect of a GE/Labour led government either delaying brexit/attempting to negotiate a deal with close ties to the EU/succumbing to the pressure for another vote.

      Does the labour front bench really want an election? If they won it then they’d have to try and renegotiate a deal with a very reluctant EU who would have every incentive to say no and push them into a calling a second referendum – they’d also have to have a credible policy, which they don’t. If they lost it then they are in a worse position than they are now. From their perspective, better to wait a few years until the country is completely sick of the tories, the economy might have turned sour etc…

      So think the above will hold their noses and either abstain or vote through. They can then enjoy the “I told you so” for ever and a day without taking any responsibility for the mess which they have helped create.

      Ultra remainers will have more incentive to vote against as that’s their best chance of getting their people’s vote. But even many of them will vote through: not all of them are deluded enough to think that winning a people’s vote is very likely.

      Also, aren’t most people just bored of this? Do you really want to be seen to be a politician who draws this out for longer than is necessary?

    3. vlade

      I believe it has 50-50 chance, but don’t, at the moment, believe it will pass the parliament on the first go.

      There’s 10+ Tory remainers who said they would vote against it already, DUP will vote against it, and at least some ultras will (can you see ultras voting for this where Tory remainers didn’t?).

      I don’t think SNP will abstain.

      So it would take 30+ Labour to cross the aisle. Don’t think so, not at the first go.

      Nevertheless, all this is a pure speculation, we’ll see in a few weeks I guess.

    4. Ignacio

      Almost any agreement is better than no deal, so I hope you are rigth and this draft is the begining of something.

  5. vidimi

    the problem with the border in the irish sea is that it’s an all-UK border which means the UK will be, presumably, enforced by the UK. Unless the EU can force a special EU border control on this all-UK border, I see a strong possibility of UK mobsters using the irish borders as a means of smuggling whatever they want to the EU. It is still unclear how this will work.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I assume that means some sort of inspections between the Republic and the EU. The sea border goes all the way around. Eire won’t like it, but it’s better than the land border.

      It could be presented as law enforcement, rather than customs.

  6. Terence callachan

    Theresa May has always been a brexiteer, she has tricked many people by saying she was a remainer and by taking the job as a remainer prime minister doing her best to get as good a Brexit deal as possible.
    She will lose the vote on the deal presented to Westminster and then there will be a general election where Labour will win with the backing of the remainers then Labour will try to end Brexit and by doing so will appease Ireland and get many Scottish people back on board the Labour bus avoiding another Scottish independence referendum.
    Here’s hoping the Scottish people are not stupid enough to put themselves and their country under the wheels of that bus again.

    1. vlade

      Currently, a lot of Remainers doesn’t trust Labour at all. A not insignificant part of Labour vote in 2017 was remainers who hoped for Labour to oppose Tories on Brexit. This didn’t happen, and Labour did a lot to alienate those (latest “we can’t stop Brexit” didn’t help).

      As a result, I believe Labour is unlikely to get those votes in GE – unless it comes up very very clear of the fence they were sitting on for the last two years. I doubt it.

  7. Matthew G. Saroff

    May opposed Brexit before the referendum.

    Someone in the Grauniad letters section suggested that this was all a cunning plan* to so completely screw up the negotiations as to make a 2nd referendum inevitable.

    I know what, “Theresa May,” means, and I know what, “Cunning Plan,” means, but to me, when you put them together in the same sentence, you get complete gibberish.

    * Credit where credit is due, this phrase comes from Blackadder, “I’ve got a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.”

  8. David

    Agree with much of the above. If you recall that, essentially nobody wanted to be in tis position, and that a fully satisfactory solution for all parties is simply impossible, then a successful agreement would have to have the following features:
    – It would have to contain something that everyone could point to as a key objective achieved, even if, as is often the case, history had to be rewritten to justify the argument. An ambiguity in wording is critical here.
    – It would have to contain nothing that could mobilise large numbers of different groups against it at the same time. It doesn’t matter whether lots of groups oppose different parts of the text, so long as these groups don’t get together. What often happens is that opposition groups cancel each other out.
    If those two criteria are met, then whatever is in the text is likely to fly.

  9. vlade

    At least two ministers to resign: Mordaunt (the penny dropped… ) and McVey.

    Mordaunt is popular amongst Tories, but not an important ministry. McVey has a important ministry, but policies that were causing Tories headaches.

    On the face of it, I’d say if these two are all the resignations we’re going to get, May will survive today. Of course, last time, with Chequers, Davis and Johnson didn’t resign on the spot.

    We should also pay attention to the EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels running right now, as that may torpedo it too.

    I suspect if any larger, or a number of smaller countries will be seen as asking for larger changes in the deal, we may see more minister resignations, along the lines “this was what I was willing to put up with, but that’s too much” – unless of course May says it first.

  10. vlade

    Also, as was pointed on NC (hat tip to PK), fishing rights are coming up. Scottish Tories say they will vote against any deal that requires the UK giving the EU fishing rights .

  11. boz

    Plus ca change… shades of 1990?

    John Major hits his cabinet over the head…

    Theresa May hits her cabinet over the head with both barrels…

    1) Think of the national interest (lol)
    2) it’s this or Jeremy Corbyn

  12. Mattski

    It’s possible to squint and see an assenting vote coming from a parliament that’s just relieved to have some deal, any deal. And this almost has to be what Last Gasp Theresa is banking on.

    But when you take even a cursory look at the details, the parties involved (the DUP) a collapse and even May’s ouster look quite possible.

    I wish I thought that Labour was poised to take advantage. Having the no votes lined up hardly seems like a plan to save the nation, let alone direct it on the glorious road to socialism etc.

    1. Tony Wright

      Having endured the fraught and acrimonious process of a personal divorce and consequent financial settlement some 20 years ago, I can well relate to this line of thinking. You really do get to the point of emotional/willpower exhaustion, where the overwhelming feeling is along the lines of “F… It, I just want to get this over with so that I can get on with life.”
      Interestingly, my personal divorce timeframe for coming to this conclusion was also just under two years. A certain level of ‘buyer’s remorse’ concerning the terms to which I agreed lingers for a variety of reasons, even now.
      I suspect the ‘what ifs’ of Brexit will be debated for years to come, whichever of the possible final outcomes eventuate.
      Are there any professional psychologists on NC who could comment as to whether this timeframe and emotionally driven thought process is a common human pattern, and why?

  13. Kurt Sperry

    Laura Kuenssberg is reporting that a senior Tory is expecting a no confidence vote tomorrow. May’s likely in the best position she’ll ever be in to win one now and I think having won she would be by rule unchallengeable for a period.

  14. David

    According to the Torygraph the cabinet has agreed the PM’s “statement”. Note that this is not the same as agreeing the content of the proposed agreement.

      1. JW

        What a feeling to watch history unfold in real time.

        (Edit: too bad “this content is not supported in your location.” Thanks a lot, BBC.)

    1. Clive

      Thank-you Kurt. That is a good find and very much of interest and very appreciated.

      I’m reading the bloody thing. Nothing much of note in the first 146 pages, but a biggie then follows — a sunset clause of four years for CJEU jurisdiction:

      ARTICLE 87

      New cases before the Court of Justice

      1. If the European Commission considers that the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties or under Part Four of this Agreement before the end of the transition period, the European Commission may, within 4 years after the end of the transition period, bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union in accordance with the requirements laid down in Article 258 TFEU or the second subparagraph of Article 108(2) TFEU, as the case may be. The Court of Justice of the European Union shall have jurisdiction over such cases.

      (emphasis mine).

      So that answers the Jacob Rees-Mogg question about who oversees the transition period. But it is a key clause that expires specifically after four years.

      I’ll keep reading…

      1. David

        Yes, that struck me too – I’ve been reading (well, skimming) the bloody thing as well. It is indeed a biggie. But it reinforces the idea I have increasingly been getting from the text that this is essentially an EU draft, with a few largely cosmetic concessions to the UK. May has got what she always wanted – essentially, anything that could be called an agreement, irrespective of the content.
        Title II Article 13 and following effectively guarantees residence rights for EU citizens and their families.

    2. Clive

      And another apparent sunset clause (again, for four years) for State Aid (pg. 156):

      ARTICLE 93

      New State aid and European Anti-Fraud Office procedures

      1. In respect of aid granted before the end of the transition period, for a period of 4 years after the end of the transition period, the European Commission shall be competent to initiate new administrative procedures on State aid governed by Regulation (EU) 2015/1589 concerning the United Kingdom.

      The European Commission shall continue to be competent after the end of the 4-year period for procedures initiated before the end of that period.

    3. Clive

      The U.K. can try to stitch together trade deals during the transition period… but… they can’t come into force until it is ended (pg. 204):

      In accordance with the principle of sincere cooperation, the United Kingdom shall refrain, during the transition period, from any action or initiative which is likely to be prejudicial to the Union’s interests, in particular in the framework of any international organisation, agency, conference or forum of which the United Kingdom is a party in its own right.

      4. Notwithstanding paragraph 3, during the transition period, the United Kingdom may negotiate, sign and ratify international agreements entered into in its own capacity in the areas of exclusive competence of the Union, provided those agreements do not enter into force or apply during the transition period, unless so authorised by the Union.

    4. Clive

      Dispute Resolution where not explicitly declared to be the CJEU is via the Permanent Court of Arbitration (far too much detail to list here and it’s too important a section to skimpily surmise, y’all will just have to read it for yourselves in pg. 280 to 284j.

    5. Clive

      And now the bit everyone has been waiting for (well, I was waiting for it, anyway). Northern Ireland.

      I wish I could say it was all nice and clear and self-explanatory. But unfortunately it really isn’t. I’ve rarely seen such a muddled and confusing EU-issued document. I think the mushyness is probably down to the U.K. input. I’d go so far as to call it “a fudge”.

      NI must maintain EU Single Market compliance for a wide variety of goods (listed exhaustively in various appendixes which take up a chunk of the Agreement). Live animal and agri-business imports get ring fenced for specific checks. These are mooted at the ports, which will need to be, forgive the pun, beefed up.

      But manufactured goods… ah, that’s all very vague and aspirational. This BBC coverage is a good summary

      I’ll need to read it all again tomorrow with a fresh pair of eyes and a better functioning brain. But it almost — almost — sounds like the original U.K. wish for a tech-intelligence-trustedtrader-magic-sparkle-pony-unicorn-crossbreed approach. “Light touch”, “away from the border”, “consistent with risk based assessment”, “least intrusive” and so on. This is a Treaty text — it’s what would have to stand up in court (or arbitration) if there was a dispute. And there’s so much wriggle room, an elephant could get lost in it.

      The DUP won’t have any of it, of course. But will they be in any position to throw a spanner in the works? And do they really — really — want to do that? When the downsides of what else could be shoved onto NI (as far as they are concerned) are so great? Time will tell…

      1. ChrisPacific

        If I was May I would be tempted to tell DUP that they have a chance to go down in history as the party that finally achieved reunification of NI with Ireland. All they have to do is vote down the deal, hold out for a crash-out Brexit, and everything else will naturally follow.

  15. JW

    From Nicola Sturgeon:

    Our bottom line – short of continued EU membership – is continued, permanent membership of the single market and customs union.

    So, this means she’s insisting on BINO or no Brexit at all? Or is she just paving the way for another independence referendum since of course this isn’t consistent with Brexit?

    1. Jeff N

      I have no idea why she didn’t start declaring independence for Scotland the moment the Brexit referendum came in

  16. David

    And here’s an interesting paragraph hidden away in an Annex, on page 360, allegedly about environmental and customs issues. The UK promises “ensure that the level of protection provided for by law, regulations and practices is not reduced below the level provided by the common standards applicable within the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the area of labour and social protection and as regards fundamental rights at work, occupational health and safety, fair working conditions and employment standards, information and consultation rights at company level, and restructuring.”
    So no disaster capitalism in the transitional period, at least.

  17. Savita

    Like to see how data protection and management (GDPR) is handled. Brexit is a mighty spanner for it, as Yves wrote here recently. I wonder how much horse whispering the US is doing on a UK internal level, all too aware of how much they have to gain – and what else is at stake RE: the Special Relationship.
    This chunk of history, lets say 10 years, will be as memorable and as referenced as, say the 10 years after WWII. Which is terrible!
    I really just am writing this comment to acknowledge how much I value and and cherish Yves regular Brexit commentary and the outstanding regular posters on this subject including Clive, PK, Vlade, David (of France) Colonel Smithers, and others I can’t name.Such insight, clarity and scope doesn’t exist anywhere else on the web. Richard Norths blog is great but I can’t get through the first couple of comments on a piece before I throw it in. I keep reading comments here and thinking ‘just tell May that! There’s the solution right there!’
    What I want to know is – what about Gibraltar? She has been entirely swept under the rug it appears. There’ll be a few other issues also coming back to bite – someone – not having received adequate care and attention

  18. briny

    I’d like to add my thanks as well, Yves. I spend far more time with my mind, and network connections, in Asia, the EU and especially the UK. I bless whomever it was that brought you to my attention via links on another forum.

  19. Mirdif

    All those who apparently opposed the agreement in cabinet didn’t really oppose it. As is usual, they decided to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate their anti-EU credentials with an eye to future leadership battles.

    The ERG are about to show that they are paper tigers. Corbyn will not oppose this either. May’s threat of no deal of no Brexit is a weapon which is able to attack both of the opposition’s to this deal simultaneously.

    There’ll likely be future developments which start to move the country back closer to the EU but not for a few years at least. May has judged (correctly) that more people care about the immigration and FoM issue than the free trade aspect and thus her agreement is in line with this thinking. In general, most people don’t care about the EU all that much so will accept this as having left the EU. Nonetheless, you can very much expect mendacious lunatics like North to continue his whinging but this time nobody is going to pay much attention as Brexit will soon be yesterday’s news.

    1. ambrit

      England’s outright descent into Third World status will be much more than “yesterday’s news.”
      We’re staring at ‘Airstrip One’ conditions on the horizon.
      On another note, with the flight of the The City to the Continent, we are about to see phase two of the Financialization Experiment. How a ‘financialized’ economy copes with the loss of the majority of it’s financial sector.
      “Mr. Melmotte, the white courtesy phone. Please.”

      1. Mirdif

        The country is screwed, no doubt. However, it is going to be a slow motion crash so few people will connect this to Brexit. It’s why I’m certainly not stopping with my plans to get out of Dodge.

        1. ambrit

          True. I am probably underestimating the power of “muddle through” technology.
          Could this be the magic talisman that the Scots need to achieve their vaunted ‘Separation?’ (The North Sea oil fields have to have some few years of life left to them.) Scotland might arrange a switch over from the London ‘Sugar Daddy’ to a Berlin ‘Sugar Daddy.’

  20. vlade

    Raab, the Brexit minister, resigns. This is now getting interesting (in the ‘May you live in interesting time’ as-a-curse) way.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      With Raab’s resignation there’s a real chance May won’t survive the next 24 hours as PM. “Overly dynamic” springs to mind.

    2. vlade

      McVey gone. I expect Mordaunt to be gone anytime soon too. I can’t see anything on Raab/McVey letters that would indicate they would not support May’s leadership – but neither do they promise to be loayal.

      Then it gets interesting – if any of Hunt, Fox or Javid go, and if any of them at least semi-openly calls May out on leadership, then I’d say May’s as good as gone, unless Labour would pledge to support her WA. And pigs would fly.

      Maybe we could get an open-thread?

      1. vlade

        And another junior Brexiter minister gone – although I suspect all the junior ministers could resign and it would not bother May at all.

        TBH, there’s only one sure resignation that would very clearly signal her end – Gove. He was arguing to the deal yesterday, and him quitting would be seen as a rat leaving the boat (to re-start his own leadership campaign). It would not surprise me if, assuming May survives, Gove was made minister for Brexit.

      2. ambrit

        Speaking of threads; what May needs now is a modern version of Ariadne’s Thread to lead her out of the Maze.

  21. Ignacio

    Having not read a word of the draft but a few comments here and there (thanks Clive and David) it looks like this draft migth lead to an in limbo situation that migth not satisfy anybody. The process of making a definitive text migth be harder than anticipated and difficulties will be found in both sides. Yes, overly dynamic is an apt description of the situation. I wouldn’t like to be a sherpa these days (never). The custom union thingy will prove problematic.

    I think the Gibraltar thingy won’t be an added difficulty to the process.

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