The dictionary defines “agreed” as:
“discussed or negotiated and then accepted by all parties.”
If so, then we cannot really say that the draft withdrawal agreement presented to the cabinet this week is agreed.
- Apparently, a majority of the cabinet aligned with the Prime Minister that the deal negotiated is the best we will get, but there are a number (albeit a minority) of cabinet ministers who do not agree.
- The UK parliament may not agree, and
- Any of the remaining 27 EU member states may not agree.
And if any of these parties reject the proposals, we are back to square one and facing a no-deal Brexit.
Government must be aware that UK businesses are tired of waiting for politicians to sort themselves out. A no-deal Brexit, where the free movement of goods will cease 29 March 2019 is the worst possible outcome resulting in delays in cross-channel deliveries, additional import VAT and duties, loss of inward investment to the UK, loss of jobs exported to EU locations. In fact, UK businesses will be hard put to find any upside to a no-deal outcome.
Hard-line Brexiteers seem reluctant to back the proposed “agreed” withdrawal agreement as we would be largely tied into obeying EU rules and regulations but have no say in how those rules and regulations are created. The cry of “vassal state” is bandied about, and ironically, “we would be better off staying in the EU…”
The next few weeks will be critical. Will the government survive, will opposition parties back or oppose Prime Minister May’s plans?
And all the while important decisions on issues ranging from the funding of the NHS, poverty, transport, housing, investment in industry and welfare are being side-lined.
We are entering a critical phase. We seem to have slowed the approach to the edge of the Brexit cliff, but not stopped.