The Government, says Mrs May's White Paper
, "is determined to build a new relationship that works for both the UK and the EU". This is a relationship, the paper says, "which sees the UK leave the Single Market and the Customs Union to seize new opportunities and forge a new role in the world, while protecting jobs, supporting growth and maintaining security cooperation".
It goes on to say that the Government "believes this new relationship needs to be broader in scope than any other that exists between the EU and a third country". It should, it says, "reflect the UK's and the EU's deep history, close ties, and unique starting point".
Before the White Paper had been completed and signed off, though, it might have been a good idea if Mrs May had reviewed the EU position a little more carefully. A good start might have been Michel Barnier's speech
to the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 22 March 2017, only a week before the UK was to deposit formally its Article 50 notification with the European Council.
This speech was of special significance as it was entitled: "The Conditions for Reaching an Agreement in the Negotiations with the United Kingdom". And, as described by the label on the tin, that is precisely what Barnier did.
The challenge, he said, was "to build a new partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom on a solid foundation, based on mutual confidence". That meant "putting things in the right order: finding an agreement first on the principles of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom, in order to discuss subsequently – in confidence – our future relationship".
As to the partnership, Barnier readily conceded that there would be a free-trade agreement at its centre. This, he said, we will negotiate with the United Kingdom in due course. But, he added: it "cannot be equivalent to what exists today. And we should all prepare ourselves for that situation".
Re-stating the obvious, to give emphasis to the position, he noted that the UK "chooses to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. It will be a third country in two years from now". And, by making this choice, the UK "will naturally find itself in a less favourable situation than that of a Member State". It will not be possible, Barnier said, "to cherry-pick and be a participant in parts of the Single Market".
If there was any doubt about the sincerity of this statement, and whether it represented EU policy with the full backing of the Member States, this was dispelled by the European Council's negotiating guidelines
, published on 29 April 2017 – a month after the Article 50 notification.
This was M. Barnier's negotiating mandate, which remains in force right up to today. And right up front, it is "core principles", it stated:
A non-member of the Union, that does not live up to the same obligations as a member, cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a member. In this context, the European Council welcomes the recognition by the British Government that the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible and that there can be no "cherry picking".
These principles were to be repeated and emphasised many times by many different speakers, and M. Barnier remained true to them, throughout. In Berlin, on 29 November 2017, Barnier was saying
: "A third country, however close it may be to the Union, may not lay claim to a status that is equivalent or superior to that of a Member of the Union". And, on 13 March of this year, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reminded us
that cherry-picking was not possible.
This was followed up by supplemental guidelines
published by the European Council on 23 March. Here, it is stated:
… the European Council has to take into account the repeatedly stated positions of the UK, which limit the depth of such a future partnership. Being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market will inevitably lead to frictions in trade. Divergence in external tariffs and internal rules as well as absence of common institutions and a shared legal system, necessitates checks and controls to uphold the integrity of the EU Single Market as well as of the UK market. This unfortunately will have negative economic consequences, in particular in the United Kingdom.
The thing is, these are not just words. It is a serious weakness on the part of generations of English politicians to dismiss statements of continental politicians as rhetoric, devoid of meaning. But even if one wants to ignore the speeches, there is no getting round the negotiating guidelines. These are immovable.
Thus, when Mrs May expresses via her White Paper that she believes the "new relationship" that the UK wants to negotiate "needs to be broader in scope than any other that exists between the EU and a third country", she is tilting at windmills. She will get a "bog standard" FTA, the so-called Canada-dry
deal – no more, no less.
Yet this has not percolated Mrs May's brain. She does not seem to be able to cope with the idea that Brexit means Brexit. It means we leave the EU and, when we do, we become a third country.
In this context, I have written
many times about the EU's system for type approval of vehicles. Any and all third countries that want to sell cars within the territories have to submit their products forEU approval to a certification authority. After Brexit. UK certification will no longer be valid.
Yet, we see the White Paper blithely prattle about this subject, offering an "example" of mutual recognition of Vehicle Type Approvals. With the proposed "common rulebook", it says, the UK and the EU would continue recognising the activities of one another's type approval authorities, including whole vehicle type approval certificates, assessments of conformity of production procedures and other associated activities.
Furthermore, it says, "Member State approval authorities would continue to be permitted to designate technical service providers in the UK for the purpose of EC approvals and vice versa", and "Both the UK and the EU would continue to permit vehicles to enter into service on the basis of a valid certificate of conformity".
This is pure, unmitigated fantasy. There is not a single country outside the Single Market that is permitted this facility. And, at the very least, if the EU permitted the UK to certify vehicles, it would be forced under WTO non-discrimination rules to permit every other nation the same rights – driving a massive hole in the Single Market.
There are no possible circumstances, therefore, where this is going to happen. Mrs May and her government are deluded in even suggesting this as a possibility.
But the delusion does not stop there. The UK is also proposing a "common rulebook on agri-food", which "encompasses those rules that must be checked at the border". Its adoption, it says, "would remove the need to undertake additional regulatory checks at the border – avoiding the need for any physical infrastructure, such as Border Inspection Posts (BIP), at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland".
Again, this is fantasy. Outside the Single Market, with the one very special exception of Switzerland - which adopts in its entirety the food-related Single Market acquis
and has all its imported goods run through BIPs – there is not a single country anywhere in the world that is permitted to by-pass the border inspection system.
There is an outside possibility that, if the UK adopted the entire acquis
, plus the surveillance and enforcement systems, and opened up his premises and government agencies to EU inspection, and also undertook only to import foods which conformed with EU law, inspecting them at the border through BIPs at it does now, then the EU might waive border inspection.
However, that would trash the idea of "taking back control" and also any idea of separate trade deals on agri-foods with the United States and other potential partners. Already in trouble with the "Ultras", Mrs May would be torn apart if she conceded such a scheme.
The trouble is, it doesn't stop there. Pharmaceuticals get the same delusional treatment. So do chemicals under the REACH regime, and aviation safety is treated as if Brexit will not exist. The UK government blithely assumes that it can continue to certify those functions it already does, while EASA will retain its current functions and third country provisions will not apply.
Here, the very special case of Switzerland is cited, which again requires the adoption of the whole acquis
and regulatory oversight implemented via a formal agreement
with the EU, which comes under the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
Even if the UK could accept this, and thereby breach its own red lines, it is unlikely that this agreement would be repeated for the UK, as there are new legislative provisions which set out the parameters for international cooperation.
In short, this White Paper is a litany of delusion – and we haven't even looked at the Irish issue, much less the other matters. We'll attend to this tomorrow, but already we see the porcine aviation out in force. There is not the slightest chance of this being accepted by the EU.