A Brexit Summer - What have you missed?

This summer has been a long, hot one for all. Theresa May has certainly felt the heat these past 3 months after tensions in the Tory Party have been rising over the notorious ‘Chequers Plan’. If you spent your summer relaxing by the pool without a newspaper in sight, here’s what you missed in the grand catastrophe affectionately known as Brexit. Chequers is the name of Theresa May’s very fancy home somewhere in the rustic English countryside, and also the location of the retreat which she and her cabinet members embarked upon during June in order to draw up a white paper Brexit deal. Being trapped in a stuffy room along with 29 other cabinet members arguing over tax revenues does not sound like my idea of a fun


So what is the Chequers deal?

This white paper is possibly Britain’s last chance of striking a deal with the EU countries on the terms of operation of our trade and border control upon leaving the EU. The Tory party has been divided from the start over opting for a hard or soft Brexit - whether to cut the UK off completely and forge our own way, or whether to try and still maintain some connection to EU laws with regards to trade and tariffs at the border. The argument is that a soft Brexit would provide the UK with an easier journey into the land of ‘Democratic Independence’, but may politicians maintain that the only way to break our slave chains with the EU is for a completely hard Brexit. The Chequers Deal suggests that the UK adhere to a ‘common rulebook’ for all trade, including agriculture, in the hope that this would facilitate the movement of goods at the border. It does state, however, that the UK would be able to chose which EU trade rules apply to the UK, and it also removes the jurisdiction of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) over the UK - a prominent issue in Brexit. Conflicts between the UK and the EU would be resolved directly between the two parties, rather than being referred up to the ECJ, meaning that UK would have a final say in matter, undoubtedly a positive. Furthermore, the deal states that the UK would control tariffs at the border for goods coming into the UK, but would still have to comply to EU standard for goods going into the EU - i.e the goods we export. This means that the government could tax as they wish on all imported goods, but that they would be unable to make additional revenue from exported goods. Regarding free movement and immigration, the Chequers deal assures an end to free movement and claims to give the UK the ability to control how many immigrants are entering. It is not clearly stated how this will work, outlined in a suitably vague way for such a controversial topic. 

Finally, a ‘Mobility Framework’ is suggested, allowing UK citizens to apply for work and study abroad with ease, and for tourists to travel between the UK and all EU countries in effectively the same way as before. It was always going to be a difficult task to find a Brexit plan that appeased all Tory party (and everyone else in the UK for that matter) members. However, I doubt that Mrs May ever really imagined the political storm that erupted only hours after the Chequers Deal became public knowledge in July. A total of 5 cabinet members and 2 Chief Party members resigned over the issue, including Boris Johnson the Foreign Secretary (which says it all really). There are some 80 rebellious Tory backbenchers threatening to revolt against the Prime Minister, arguing that Chequers is not the deal they were promised when they voted for Brexit. They are not wrong.

The truth is that Chequers is possibly the softest Brexit Theresa May could have dreamed up. Boris Johnson argued that to leave on the terms outlined by Chequers would possibly be worse than staying in the EU; the UK would still be subject to EU trade rules without being able to have a say in the making of them. Many EU member states argue that the UK should not be allowed to be part of the single market when we chose to leave. After all, Brexit is Brexit.

So what next? It is unsure as to whether the Chequers plan will make it through the UK parliament, let alone Brussels. If it fails, there is the potential for a back-up ‘Canada Plan’, whereby the UK would adopt a similar stance to Canada regarding trade, but this is still largely undiscussed as Theresa May is yet to give up hope on Chequers. A ‘no-deal Brexit’ would mean that the UK would be forced to revert to the rules set up by the World Trade Organisation when trading with any country for which no trade deal currently exists - as in all EU countries. Experts say this would cause a significant increase in tax on certain goods, with dairy produce being taxed at 35%. Good news for the vegans, but not so much for our industry. Furthermore, a ‘no-deal Brexit’, which is becoming ever more likely, would throw the UK into a indeterminable period of instability as the government seeks to rewrite international trade and border agreements from scratch.

And so the question remains, was Brexit really a good idea?