Free Trade Agreement has been written with the goal of minimising disruption to businesses and consumers across Europe and the UK, while building a solid foundation for future trade and prosperity.
LONDON: Just 47 days to go and exactly how UK Brexits from the European Union, is still unknown.
The cross-party Alternative Arrangements Working Group (AAWG) was established to examine the options within the Malthouse Compromise, which offers the UK Prime Minister with a Plan A and Plan B to take to Brussels.
Plan A stays with the existing Withdrawal Agreement (WA), but extends the implementation period up to December 2021, and it introduces a new Backstop arrangement that is capable of being an indefinite solution. This new backstop is based on the ideas presented by Shanker Singham, Robert MacLean and Hans Maessen in their document of 12 December 2018. Followed up on 6 February with Shanker Singham, CEO of Competere, publishing the “Proposed text for a comprehensive UK-EU Free Trade Agreement…This FTA has been written with the goal of minimising disruption to businesses and consumers across Europe and the UK as the UK leaves the European Union, while building a solid foundation for future trade and prosperity.”
Plan B extends a transitional, not implementation, period till December 2021, essentially giving both UK and EU time to prepare for WTO rules and consolidate their future relationship.
What happened to the AAWG is a mystery. Buzzfeed reported, “One (member of the ERG) said the agenda organised by the government was designed to expose Brexiteers including Steve Baker, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers to meetings in which various Northern Irish representatives would warn them against the dangers of a no-deal Brexit.”
Another source has said the AAWG dissolved when they realised No. 10 had marginalised them.
Donald Tusk, European Council President, gave a preview of what to expect from his encounter with Theresa May the following day: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.” As Tusk planned, this went down like a cup of sick in the UK.
The EU Commission and President Jean-Claude Juncker have repeated that the EU27 will not reopen the WA. Although Juncker expressed he was open to adding “wording” to the Political Declaration, he also said it would have to be passed by the EU27 (unlikely). Needless to say, additional “wording” in the Political Declaration will not pass in the House of Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn put forward a five-point plan to Theresa May, suggesting this would bring her Labour MPs’ support, but as he proposes to keep the customs union, this will not pass muster.
Theresa May has said she will battle for Britain in Brussels. The Shanker Singham “Better Deal” gives her the ammunition, if she is prepared to use it, both in Westminster and in Brussels.
Meanwhile, talk of a general election has not evaporated, backed up by Conservative Campaign Headquarters recently taking additional office space in The Sanctuary, Westminster.