The problems with the Brexit transition deal in London

FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

A flotilla of fishing trawlers, orgainzed by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, sails up the river Thames 'Fishing for Leave Flotilla' next to the Houses of Parliament in London Britain, 15 June 2016. Farage continues to campaign around the UK in the lead up to the EU referendum on 23 June. Britons will vote on whether to remain in or leave the EU in a referendum on 23 June 2016.

The problems with the Brexit transition deal in London


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The transition deal between Theresa May’s government and the European Commission remains on shaky ground.

Conservative Members of Parliament and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could torpedo the deal before it has a chance to commit London. The agreement for a transition period until 2020 is “in principle.” In effect, the agreement is anything but secured and the pound could well be bracing for a rollercoaster.

In principle, the Labour opposition is the least of Theresa May’s problems. Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer hailed the agreement as a “step in the right direction.” For David Davies and Theresa May the opposition comes from within.

Single Market & ECJ issues

The BBC reports that the agreement comes with the understanding that the UK will be able to negotiate its own trade deals during the transition period. Of course, the European Commission has never objected to negotiations but rather the implementation of similar agreements. Meanwhile, other countries are unlikely to negotiate with the UK before they know the kind of access the UK has in the European market.

But, the red line of hardline Leave campaigners for the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice has been violated. The ECJ will continue to have jurisdiction over the Single Market, including the UK, over the transition period. That is not a problem for the Labour Party, but it is definitely an issue for Conservative hardliners.

  1. Ireland

The principles shared by David Davies and the European Commission may not be shared by the Democratic Unionist Party, on whose support Theresa May’s government depends to maintain a parliamentary majority.

The notion of a “backstop” clause that will keep N. Ireland in the Single Market shifting the UK border to the Irish Sea is unacceptable to unionists and hardline Conservatives alike.

Richard Tice, Co-Chair of the Leave Means Leave campaign said that while the progress in negotiations with Brussels was “commendable,” the Prime Minister was seen to “once again” cave in on Northern Ireland.

“This is a dreadful way of negotiating. Just weeks ago, the Prime Minister said ‘no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to this’. Once again, we appear to have caved in.” 

Fisheries

In addition, the Scottish Conservative Party is anything but happy with the agreement on fisheries. The transition deal seeks to maintain the status quo in fisheries, including fishing quotas and access to UK waters until 2021. For the Scottish fishermen represented by Conservative Members of Parliament, this is no less than a betrayal, as they had expected to increase their fishing quotas as soon as the UK leaves the EU.

The only thing David Davies secured in Brussels was a place for the British fishermen on the table when quotas are being negotiated, maintaining the status quo. But, that is less than what fishermen – keen Brexit voters – expected.

The chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen Federation, Bertie Amstrong, told the BBC that the agreement was “short of an acceptable deal,” while they already planning a meeting with the leading Brexiteer and Minister of the Environment, Michael Gove.

The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, did not miss the opportunity to speak of a “massive sellout” by the Conservative government of the Scottish fishermen. The inroads of the Conservative party in Scotland during the last election were secured in part due to the hopes fishermen hinged on Brexit. The same can be said of the EU referendum.

The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Ruth Davidson, did not waste her time defending the deal. She said that the deal was bad for letting the EU retain power over British fishing grounds.

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