A change in tone

28 Apr 2018

Over the last few days, the broad tone from many politicans and the wider media seem to suggest that the Customs Union is maybe more of an inevitability than previously considered, with the government’s reluctance to hold a vote in the commons, and the speeches made in parliament particularly suggesting that. Particularly of note is a five-minute speech by Dominic Grieve(Hansardparliamentlive.tv), in which he highlights the basic neccessity of well-organised Customs arrangements and regulartory alignment, due to the necessity of trading with our neighbours. Furthermore, other members have indicated both in and outside the realms of Hansard that variously the Customs Union and Single Market are appropriate measures to be in, beyond the EU, as they help substantially protect the economy.

This may cause some consternation for some of the EU neogtiators, who have previously insisted that arrangements relating to Northern Ireland should be negotiated separately to the discussion of the future trading and customs arrangements, despite the inevitable overlap. Regardless, they’ve so far managed to get their way due to the governments willingness to let the EU take the lead on everything, regardless of the detriment it stands to cause. The EU were mainly expecting to discuss previously the idea of a border at either the Irish Sea or the Irish land(ROI/NI) border. The only seamless(hence status quo) option would be entail a minimum of remaining in the Customs Union, which could throw previous timetables into mild disarray, but the simplicity of the solution should resolve the likely potential logistical options.

The Single Market or SM-like arrangements would also seem to be likely if CU or similar arrangements are adopted, making this Brexit a “status quo” measure in some elements, though there would likely still be exiting of many EU programs, such as Erasumus student exchange, Galileo global navigation program, and potentially the European Health Insurance Card(EHIC) scheme among others, which could have substantial effects. The UK could end up losing business from this, but the negotiators don’t seem to be particularly caring about this matter.

The negotiations at large are rather quiet, but none of the news released formally or indeed through leaks gives much confidence regarding the achievement of the UK side. The EU have provided the vast majority of proposals, and the points of contention seems to be picked randomly, with many of the potential repercussions being noticed weeks and months after drafts are put forward. The act of writing down what the EU says could make the Brexit department look thoroughly incompetent, and make the thought of the UK doing its own trade negotiations a scary thought, with other leaks suggesting the EU shares that thought.

This all comes as the era of two-party politics seems to come to an end in favour of parliamentarians doing their own thing, working across party lines. Extensive co-ordianation across party lines regarding past and upcoming Customs Union votes suggests that the PM is going to see her government trundle along following the orders parliament prescribes it, as government whips are awfully weak, and the Labour whips don’t have agreed policies to whip on. This seems likely to continue to the next Tory leadership vote, which could yet serve as a true breaking point.