Why other op­tions would be dis­as­trous

Daily Mail - - News - ANAL­Y­SIS By Ross Clark

TRUE, the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal is not per­fect, but it’s by far the best on of­fer. The al­ter­na­tives range from a high-risk No Deal to the hu­mil­i­a­tion of Brexit be­ing de­layed or the prospect of a Cor­byn govern­ment. Here, ROSS CLARK ex­am­ines why – if MPs dump Mrs May’s deal as ex­pected – ev­ery other option is hor­ri­bly flawed...

STAY­ING IN EU’S CUS­TOMS UNION

THE PLAN: There’s no con­sen­sus in the Com­mons for any way for­ward, but this is be­ing talked up as the most likely out­come. The cus­toms union is a trade agree­ment be­tween EU states which means they agree not to im­pose tar­iffs on each other’s goods. Stay­ing in the union, or form­ing a new one, would mean the UK could con­tinue to trade tar­iff-free with other EU coun­tries. It is ad­vo­cated by Labour, with Jeremy Cor­byn say­ing yes­ter­day that Brus­sels is ‘known for be­ing flex­i­ble’ and could be open to ne­go­ti­at­ing the cre­ation of a new union.

THE PROB­LEM: The UK would be un­able to ne­go­ti­ate its own trade deals with ma­jor trad­ing part­ners such as the US, China and Ja­pan and would not re­gain our seat at the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion. Worse, the EU would dic­tate pre­cisely how we trade with other na­tions. In sum, the op­po­site of the buc­ca­neer­ing in­ter­na­tional free trade pol­icy promised.

BACK­ERS: Labour, Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond, Re­mainer MPs and Ul­ster’s Demo­cratic Union­ists, who see it as be­ing less likely to lead to a new bor­der be­ing drawn in the mid­dle of the Ir­ish Sea.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 2/10

NO DEAL

The plan: UK would leave the EU on March 29 with no agree­ment, no trade deal and no £39bil­lion exit bill. Yes, there have been grave warn­ings about the ‘dire’ con­se­quences – but in one sense this would be the most straight­for­ward option for Mrs May. It would mean we are free to ex­port and im­port with any na­tion we want on World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion terms. As things stand, this is the de­fault po­si­tion and would not re­quire the Govern­ment to pass any leg­is­la­tion.

THE PROB­LEM: Con­sid­er­ing the dis­rup­tive fall-out it is ex­pected to create, most in West­min­ster say it won’t hap­pen. Mrs May has also firmly ruled it out. And even if forced to change her mind, she would face a ma­jor­ity of MPs of all par­ties fight­ing to stop her. Ac­cord­ing to the PM’s former chief of staff Nick Ti­mothy, five Cab­i­net min­is­ters would re­sign if we had No Deal.

BACK­ERS: Hard Brex­i­teers such as Ja­cob Rees-Mogg and his Euro­pean Re­search Group of MPs, as well as fel­low Tories such as John Red­wood and Bernard Jenkin. Also, tra­di­tional Con­ser­va­tive party mem­bers – al­though an opin­ion poll pub­lished in Satur­day’s Mail showed that 55 per cent of Tory vot­ers don’t back No Deal but sup­port Mrs May’s deal.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 1/10.

RE­SCIND AR­TI­CLE 50

THE PLAN: This is the part of the Treaty of Lis­bon used by the Govern­ment that al­lows any EU mem­ber state to quit uni­lat­er­ally. Trig­gered on March 29, 2017, giv­ing us two years to ne­go­ti­ate an exit deal, it would mean Brexit be­ing put on ice. This might be pos­si­ble be­cause the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice ruled in De­cem­ber that we have the right, up to March 29, to re­scind Ar­ti­cle 50 and con­tinue as an EU mem­ber under ex­ist­ing terms.

THE PROB­LEM: The Govern­ment would have to pass leg­is­la­tion in Par­lia­ment to achieve this and it would mean Mrs May go­ing back on her prom­ise that the ref­er­en­dum re­sult must be re­spected.

BACK­ERS: Long-time Tory Europhile Ken­neth Clarke, former PM John Ma­jor and other Con­ser­va­tive Re­main­ers.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 2/10

A SEC­OND REF­ER­EN­DUM

THE PLAN: Disin­gen­u­ously called the ‘Peo­ple’s Vote’ and the aim of Re­main­ers who want to over­turn the re­sult of the first Ref­er­en­dum – which both Labour and Tory elec­tion man­i­festoes pledged to abide by.

THE PROB­LEM: Min­is­ters would have to get leg­is­la­tion for such a vote – which would be dif­fi­cult con­sid­er­ing Mr Cor­byn cur­rently says he’s op­posed to the idea de­spite be­ing under huge pres­sure from his party’s grass­roots.

It would also be deeply di­vi­sive and trau­matic, as well as tak­ing an es­ti­mated eight months to com­plete, keeping the coun­try in limbo for even longer. It is most un­likely, in any case, to be achiev­able in the ten weeks left be­fore March 29.

BACK­ERS: A mot­ley bunch across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in­clud­ing Tony Blair, Tory grandee Lord Pat­ten, Alastair Camp­bell, and former Tory min­is­ters Sam Gy­imah, Jus­tine Green­ing and Jo John­son as well as Tory back­bencher Anna Soubry.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 1/10

THE ‘NORWAY OPTION’

THE PLAN: As a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Free Trade As­so­ci­a­tion (EFTA) but not in the EU, Norway has ac­cess to the Sin­gle Mar­ket. But not be­ing a mem­ber of the cus­toms union, it’s free to strike it own sep­a­rate trade deals. Many would like Bri­tain to be in the same po­si­tion.

THE PROB­LEM: Norway pays a big financial price for its ac­cess to the Sin­gle Mar­ket by pay­ing into the EU So­cial Co­he­sion Fund. Cru­cially, this option would mean the UK having to ac­cept free move­ment of peo­ple – which was a key fac­tor in the ref­er­en­dum and is a red line for Mrs May. It would also re­quire the ap­proval of other EFTA mem­bers, in­clud­ing Norway, which has sug­gested it would not give.

BACK­ERS: Cab­i­net min­is­ter Am­ber Rudd has raised the pos­si­bil­ity. Tory MP Nick Boles has been a vo­cif­er­ous sup­porter along with Labour’s Stephen Kin­nock. Last year, Michael Gove was re­ported to be in favour of a ‘ Norway for Now’ ap­proach, whereby Bri­tain would join EFTA for a short term be­fore ne­go­ti­at­ing a sep­a­rate trade deal with the EU in the longer.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 2/10

THE ‘CANADA OPTION’

THE PLAN: A loose free trade agree­ment with Brus­sels sim­i­lar to the one the EU has with Canada, which re­moves the vast ma­jor­ity of cus­toms du­ties on EU ex­ports to Canada and vice versa. Sup­port­ers of this option claim Canada has al­most com­pletely tar­iff­free trade in goods with the EU. Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk of­fered the UK this option last March.

THE PROB­LEM: Mrs May has tried to rule it out, say­ing: ‘We can do so much bet­ter.’ It would only af­fect main­land Bri­tain, with North­ern Ire­land re­main­ing in the cus­toms union, and thus would not solve the prob­lem with the Ir­ish bor­der. The Ul­ster Union­ists prop­ping up the Govern­ment will not sup­port any ar­range­ment creating a bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the main­land. Canada took seven years to ne­go­ti­ate and rat­ify its deal.

BACK­ERS: Boris John­son has called for a Su­per Canada deal, which he says would in­volve “zero tar­iffs and zero quo­tas” on all im­ports and ex­ports.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 1/10

MRS MAY CALLS A GEN­ERAL ELEC­TION

THE PLAN: The PM could call ev­ery­one’s bluff and do as she did in 2017 by de­cid­ing to in­vite a na­tional vote on her govern­ment’s record and cred­i­bil­ity. Under the Fixed Term Par­lia­ments Act, she’d need the Com­mons to agree. Mr Cor­byn and his MPs would be morally bound to ap­prove it since they’ve been clam­our­ing for a gen­eral elec­tion for weeks.

THE PROB­LEM: Mrs May has promised she won’t lead the Tories into an­other gen­eral elec­tion. In any case, no Tory would want to risk a Labour govern­ment, formed of peo­ple who’re also deeply di­vided over Brexit.

BACK­ERS: Labour, Lib Dems and the Scot­tish Na­tion­al­ists.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 1/10

A LABOUR VOTE OF NO-CON­FI­DENCE

THE PLAN: Asked yes­ter­day, Mr Cor­byn said this ‘would hap­pen soon, don’t worry about that’. But he didn’t com­mit to a time, un­like many of his MPs who say it should be called im­me­di­ately if Mrs May loses to­mor­row’s vote.

THE PROB­LEM: Tories, even die-hard Re­main­ers, are sure to unite to de­feat the cyn­i­cal bid to top­ple the Govern­ment.

BACK­ERS: Most Labour back­benchers and noisy front­benchers such as Emily Thorn­berry and Barry Gar­diner.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 6/10

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