Today Johnson presented a brief outline of his fantastic plan for a withdrawal agreement. It doesn’t appear to have gone down very well with anyone on the Opposition benches and our European friends don’t seem very enthusiastic either. I can’t say I’m impressed. I’ll be honest about my own position: I would like to be in the EEA / Single Market, outside the Customs Union. Norway. Second best, Remain though stop the silly Project Fear fibs and exaggerations. No point in a Turkey-style Customs Union as a Free Trade agreement is a lot more flexible. No Deal / WTO is not an idea I’d like to contemplate.
I’d make a couple of points though.
Firstly This “deal” isn’t actually a deal. Never has been. It is a divorce settlement designed to allow both parties to talk about a real deal whilst maintaining the status quo in a transition period. The transition period could go on for as long as it take to negotiate a free trade agreement. I never really saw anything really wrong with May’s Withdrawal Agreement. My only real objection was that May did not consult or collaborate, and that is wrong and undemocratic. If Johnson’s proposal is genuine (and that is a big “if”) then again I don’t really see much wrong with it. We can still then negotiate the softest of Brexits after a General Election results in his disposal.
Secondly, Norway is outside the Customs Union, Switzerland is outside the Customs Union. Both have free trade agreements but both must employ Customs formalities. It isn’t a problem in real life. You don’t see civil unrest breaking out on the Norway – Sweden border because there are some light touch border controls. You don’t see food rotting in trucks. Remain Project Fear is off and running again and undermining legitimate reasons to stay close to the EU. And the EU are playing that hand too. The Good Friday Agreement is a red herring – read it, look at Johnson’s proposal, find something specific in the documents that indicates they are incompatible. I haven’t found anything myself. People making the noises either haven’t read the GFA and are believing others. And the others have read the GFA and are making things up that aren’t there. With the Common Travel Area in force on the island of Ireland, so only commercial traffic is actually inconvenienced, there is no reason why the UK – EU borders can’t work like our friends in Norway and Switzerland make it work.
Johnson wants a No Deal for daft reasons I couldn’t even guess at. Call his bluff and accept this proposal. Have the General Election with no broken promises hanging over heads. Then negotiate a proven route to prosperity whilst trading (mostly) freely with the EU and doing trade deals of our own elsewhere, i.e. outside the Customs Union but inside the Single Market like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland.
What is the alternative? We all know Johnson has a cunning plan to use a loophole in the Benn Act. I’ve found one, there are probably others. We will be out on 31st October on his terms. Is that what Corbyn and our own leadership actually want? Teach Brexiteers a hard lesson maybe? I’m beginning to wonder.