The price of freedom
Divorce bill of up to £39bn 3m EU citizens to be allowed to stay in Britain and bring their families European Court of Justice to have role in rights of EU citizens until 2029 No hard border between N Ireland and Republic UK to mirror single mar
By Gordon Rayner, Christopher Hope and Peter Foster THE British public will be given their say on the EU deal at the next election and a future government will be able to move away from Theresa May’s Brexit agreement, Michael Gove says today.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the Environment Secretary, who was a leading figure in the Leave campaign, welcomes the Prime Minister’s preliminary deal with the EU.
He says that after the two-year transition period proposed by both sides, Britain will have the “full freedom to diverge from EU law on the single market and customs union”.
However, as talks begin on longterm European relations, Mr Gove says that if the May administration proves too cautious, the electorate will potentially be able to demand a more radical split. “The British people will be in control,” he writes. “If the British people dislike the agreement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge.”
Mrs May faces a Cabinet battle over Britain’s future relationship with the EU after yesterday’s deal led to claims that a “very soft” Brexit had become inevitable.
Mrs May achieved a breakthrough when Brussels agreed that Britain had made “sufficient progress” on divorce talks to move on to the next phase, covering the transition period and trade. She agreed to pay a “divorce bill” of up to £39billion and give residency rights to about three million EU citizens. Meanwhile, the EU said that it expected Britain to remain in the single market and customs union for at least two years after Brexit.
The Prime Minister has called a Cabinet meeting for next week, to be followed by another session on Dec 19, for ministers to discuss Britain’s final relationship with the EU.
The issue has been fudged so far, with high-profile Brexiteers including Mr Gove and Boris Johnson advocating regulatory freedom, while others, including the Chancellor, are said to favour a strategy that keeps Britain aligned more closely to the EU. One senior source said that the “real battle begins now” and that the “heart and soul of Brexit is now at stake”.
Praising Mrs May in the article, approved by Downing Street, Mr Gove said the breakthrough had been made “thanks to the Prime Minister’s tenacity and skill”. However, he added that it was “important to remember that the offer we are making is dependent on securing what we want in the next stage of negotiations”.
He expressed confidence that “from the day we leave, we will be able to spend more on our own domestic priorities such as housing, education and the NHS”. He added that, outside the EU: “We will have the freedom to negotiate and sign trade agreements with other countries around the world, and to regulate our own international trade policy without being fettered by EU law or the jurisdiction of the ECJ.”
However Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said he believed the EU was “funnelling” Brexit talks into a situation where the whole of the UK would “remain in alignment” with the bloc on lots of regulations.
Last night senior EU figures warned Mrs May that she must unite her Cabinet behind a shared vision by Christmas if trade talks are to begin, as intended, in February. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said “more clarity” was needed “on how the UK sees our future relations”. One EU source said “what the UK has been saying so far still entails a number of internal contradictions”.
One source among Cabinet Remainers
‘From the day we leave, we will be able to spend more on our own domestic priorities such as housing, education and the NHS’
said: “The Prime Minister has done very well so far. But deciding on the end state is going to be more tricky. It’s more likely that the Brexiteers will walk out if they don’t get their way than Remainers doing that, so she is going to have to find some ground that keeps Boris and Gove from doing a Heseltine.”
A source in the Leave camp said: “Everything has been moving towards the point where we finally have to make a decision on what we want, and that will be the crunch moment.”
There are concerns among Eurosceptics over a clause in the document that pledges “full alignment” between Britain and the EU if no alternative deal is reached. Iain Duncan Smith, the Leave-supporting former Tory leader, said there would be “heavy punches thrown” during the next phase of talks.
SIR – At the last minute a deal has been reached to let the second stage of Brexit talks take place. Quelle surprise!
Following the usual pattern, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, will make a triumphant statement to the House on Monday proclaiming her success and slowly, over next few days and weeks, the true level of her capitulation will be revealed.
Thirty years on, the release of government papers will show just how much the citizens of the UK have been deliberately misled by the politicians and their administrators, just as disclosed in the Heath papers. Philip Honey
SIR – After days of negative press reports, Mrs May should now be given the credit where credit is due. Anthony Haslam
SIR – The only winners from Mrs May’s surrender to the EU (lightly disguised as negotiations) are the EU itself, Mrs May (politically, at least for the short term) and her Remainer colleagues.
How can agreeing to tie the United Kingdom to EU standards (regulatory equivalence) mean Brexit? Mrs May’s deal simply means we will continue to pose no competitive threat to the EU and remain fettered to its sclerotic regulatory dysfunction.
The whole point of Brexit is to be free from EU fetters so we can forge an independent identity and prosperity with open trade across the world. Nicholas Dobson
Bessacarr, South Yorkshire
SIR – Mrs May says there has been give and take on both sides. We’ve seen that, using our money, she is the side that gives; the EU is the side that takes. Martin Burgess
SIR – At last Mrs May, the elected leader of the UK’S elected Government, has been given permission by the unelected president of the unelected European Commission to move on, as Nigel Farage observes, to the next stage of her (and the UK’S) humiliation. John GU Clark
SIR – What does Brexit mean? I know what it didn’t mean when I voted for it.
It didn’t mean “continuing regulatory alignment”. It didn’t mean handing over £761 for every man, woman and child in the UK for the privilege of leaving. It didn’t mean subjugating ourselves to the European Court of Justice.
The current situation appears to be an attempt by the political classes to thwart the express will of the people. In so doing, they are playing with fire. Tony Morris
Newcastle upon Tyne
SIR – It seems the UK will continue to have no control over immigration from the EU and that Parliament will rubber stamp laws issued by the EU.
The main reasons why we voted to leave the EU were to regain control of our borders and make our own laws. This agreement must be rejected and if necessary the PM should go. Robert Stather
SIR – “UK reaches historic EU deal,” say the headlines. Yes, the most shameful in our history. Brian Gilbert
SIR – Once the (entire) UK has left the EU and gone past a transition period, what is to stop a future UK government from passing a law removing the ECJ from any input here and empowering our Supreme Court to have the final say? John Tilsiter
SIR – I fear that the picture of white smoke tweeted by Martin Selmayr, an aide to Jean-claude Juncker, indicated progress only because Mrs May had surrendered. Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
Theresa May and Jean-claude Juncker shake hands after finalising the Brexit agreement in Brussels yesterday