We now know that the Prime Minister is off to meet Ursula von der Leyen, the EU commission President on Wednesday. We all wish him well and have the greatest faith that he and Lord Frost will hold the line on their manifesto pledges.
After all, despite the fear mongering political class, the PM knows the UK has many strong cards in its hand. Our need for the EU’s markets diminishes as UK goods exports to the EU have been flat for some time. Apart from representing a falling value, they also represent a falling proportion of our overall trade. At around 40 per cent of our overall trade, they are dwarfed by our rising trade with the rest of the world which now represents around two thirds of our exports.
Furthermore, with the EU expected to at best be approximately 5 per cent of world growth until 2050, the future for the an independent UK lies in maximising our growth markets around the world. After all, two thirds of our exports are services and they are in surplus with the rest of the world, whereas our goods and Agri-products are now in deficit to the EU to the miserable tune of £100bn a year.
Of course the UK can get a deal, that’s not the question, it’s what we are being asked to give that is the problem – a deal at what price?
Our ask is simple, we wanted to be treated like a sovereign Canada but the EU refused. We want a trade deal, the EU want control. Nothing exemplifies this more than their level playing field demand. Demanding the UK agrees to ‘non regression’ from existing standards in a number of areas – in effect, being bound by existing EU regulations going forward. The point is, the EU would decide if the UK has diverged without independent arbitration. Worse, the second part of their demands is that the ECJ is free to re-interpret such rules, as they do at present. This would amount to a licence to change the effect of such rules in the years to come, with the UK being tugged along by the EU’s ratchet. Why would the UK even think of agreeing to any of this. No other sovereign nation would, or they wouldn’t be sovereign.
Finally, we are reminded that fishing is a tiny part of our economy but that misses the point. It’s small because previous governments gave it away. After all, our territorial waters hold around 60 per cent of the total value of the EU’s fish stocks, it’s vital we take back control and build up our fleet again. There is nothing unreasonable in the UK doing separate deals annually to agree the proportion of access countries have, the point is, that is what being an independent coastal state is all about.
Now we hear the Joint Committee, (JC) on the Northern Ireland protocol has met and agreed to take out the clauses in the internal markets bill and the finance bill, which protect the UK’s constitution. Given no clarification in the joint committee can change the meaning of the state aids provision, in EU law, they will have jurisdiction over state aid rules in the UK from 1 Jan 2021 - what is the legal mechanism by which that jurisdiction of the ECJ is extinguished?
The stark truth that this exposes is that the phrase ‘trade deal’ is a misnomer, the reality is that this is all about sovereignty. From the beginning, it has been clear, whilst the UK wants a trade deal, EU wants to control us. Either the UK is sovereign or it is not. The British people voted to be sovereign, not semi-detached from the EU obeying their rules and their court.
At the end of these negotiations the government knows these manifesto pledges to the British people must have a positive answer. Will the UK exit as one United Kingdom, setting its own tariffs and trade deals? Have the UK broken free of the European Court and Taken back control of its laws? Will the UK have Cooperation but not political alignment with the EU? Is the UK out of the Single market and Customs union, able to take back control of our money, our trade and our fishing?
So as the PM has one more go, with our goodwill behind him, he will surely remember the words of Kenny Rogers….that means, you've got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em and most of all, Know when to walk away.