The UK will fail to get even an “Australia-style” deal with the EU unless it scraps the agreements in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) it signed with the EU nearly a year ago, a major new study of the Brexit talks has warned.
It concludes that the legal guarantees the Government has already given to Brussels mean that Boris Johnson’s fall-back option cannot be secured without a radical overhaul of past commitments.
The warning from the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP), the leading pro-Brexit think-tank, highlights the scale of the task facing the Government as it enters the final phase of the talks with the EU intended to resolve disputes and emerge with a Future Relationship Agreement (FRA) that safeguards UK independence while ensuring that free trade with the Continent continues.
The CBP also points out that unless there is a big change of tack, the Government risks breaking promises it made in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto to “take back control” of the nation’s laws, borders and money.
So-called “walking away” from the EU talks solves nothing because the UK has already compromised its independence.
The alarm is sounded in a new CBP report, The ‘Australia deal’: Another Impossible Dream, underlining the damaging impact of the WA and associated Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) signed into law a year ago. This part agreement, which is legally binding in international law and would give Brussels lawyers a field day, binds the UK so close to the EU that it will not be able to match even the bare-bones trading agreement that Australia has with the EU.
So-called “walking away” from the EU talks solves nothing because the UK has already compromised its independence via the WA/NIP initial treaty.
CBP Director General John Longworth declared: “The Government is caught between a rock and a hard place. A Canada-style deal remains elusive. Even the far less attractive Aussie-style agreement with the EU, which amounts to little more than trading under WTO rules, looks like a pipe-dream while the WA exists.
“The only way out of this mess is to accept that the legacy deal done a year ago, which at least broke the Brexit logjam that paralysed the previous Parliament and sparked Boris’s stunning election victory, is deeply flawed and needs to be consigned to the scrapheap of history.
“Only by scrapping the WA/NIP and driving a new hard bargain with Europe can Boris deliver on his twin key promises: taking back control and getting a real Brexit done.”
The CBP has already warned in its previous report earlier this month that the Prime Minister’s stated objective of a “Canada-style” deal with the EU is impossible while the WA/NIP remains in place. That report listed 12 reasons why Mr Johnson would be denied his Canada ambitions. This new report says that the situation is even worse because the WA/NIP blocks even his last hope of a basic deal along Australian lines.
This new report says that the only way the UK can restore its sovereignty while negotiating a FRA on a par with Canberra is to recognise the pernicious effects of the WA/NIP, tear up that agreement and enter into last minute negotiations with Brussels guaranteed to restore the fundamental rights of an independent, sovereign state.
The CBP report says: “the Prime Minister warned Britain to prepare to leave the Brexit Transition Period (TP) without a trade deal unless there was a “fundamental change of approach” from Brussels. Speaking after the recent European Council meeting, he said “I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s, based on simple principles of global free trade.”
While the on-off negotiations with the EU have now resumed with new urgency, the Prime Minister has made clear his willingness to leave the TP on 31 December ‘without a deal’…
“Unfortunately, too many labour under the misunderstanding that, under such an exit, the UK would then be free from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and other EU controls on our laws and sovereignty. However, this decidedly is not the case because we would not be ‘leaving without a deal’, but rather with the baggage of the already ratified WA and its associated NIP.
“Unless specific steps are taken to disapply the WA/NIP, they will continue to apply to the UK for the long term with debilitating effects on our laws, freedom of action, and sovereignty. This means – if there is no agreement with the EU – reverting to an ‘Australian Deal’ will not be a satisfactory option.
“The purpose of this paper is to explain why we have reached this conclusion – ie, why the ongoing harmful effects of the WA/NIP prevent the UK from ‘breaking free’ if the UK exits the TP without an agreement with the EU. We also draw out the implications of this for the current negotiations.
“An instructive way of gauging the harmful effects of the WA/NIP is to show the destructive impact they would have on Government achieving its Brexit objectives, as set out in the Conservative 2019 Election Manifesto; for example, “We will keep the UK out of the single market, out of any form of customs union, and end the role of the European Court of Justice.”
The new report concludes:
- “The impact of the WA/NIP on the UK’s laws, freedom of action, and sovereignty is ongoing, fundamental, and dominant.”
- “In the event no agreement is reached with the EU, a successful ‘Australian Deal’ will not be achievable and the Government’s only viable option will be to replace or reject the WA/NIP, if it wishes to deliver its manifesto Brexit commitments. Attempting to reject the WA/NIP after 31 December will be highly problematical if the Government has already agreed some form of limited deal with the EU.”
- “Our conclusion wiith regard to the ‘Australian Deal’ mirrors that of our previous paper in which we concluded that an ongoing WA/NIP would prevent achieving a successful ‘Canadian-style deal’. Thus, as long as the WA/NIP remains in place, the Government has no attractive options.”
Notes to Editors
Click here to read the new report.