I've just stumbled across the Hertford & Stortford CLP Labour Party newsletter.

I'm going to quote the section on Brexit in full because it's quite a reasonable summary of where we are in early March 2018. One sentence stood out though under "known unknowns" (sic!).

"(c) After the May Local Government elections the Labour Party will revise its position on Brexit"

Ah, politics and the pursuit of power. Donchajusloveem! The Labour Party is so busy trying to get itself elected, it's sidelining the big problems. It's somehow persuaded itself (cough, Momentum has persuaded it, cough) that an overtly anti-Brexit stance will hurt it in the polls. So it won't do that until the May 2018->Mar 2019 window when there's no elections scheduled.

here's the text
Brexit: Seven months to go?

Here are the milestones:
1. Phase one written agreement March 2018
2. Phase 2 agreement October 2018
3. Departure from EU institutions 29th March 2019 (D-day)
4. Transition phase/implementation of any deal , not later than December 2020

And here are the variables:
(a) The EU four freedoms, the body of social, technical and commercial regulations, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), security, EU trade agreements, single market and customs union, air traffic, passporting, and EU institutions (commission, parliament, council)
(b) The UK redlines are no single market, no customs union, no free movement, no ECJ oversight, freedom to set UK trade deals, soft Irish border

The UK does not appear to have a position apart from a fall back ‘no deal’ exit from all of the EU variables above, and a World Trade Organisation (WTO) basis for trading.

The phase 1 agreement was fudged in December 2017, i.e. the divorce settlement, end of free movement (EU and UK citizen status) and the Irish internal border. The EU requires the agreement in writing (no fudges) at the end of March (milestone 1). Only the divorce settlement at £39 billion may be definite, citizens rights are contentious and a soft Irish border is impossible without either the EU or the UK or both compromising on the variables. The EU has made it clear what it expects to include in the agreement (see http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-18-725_en.htm). It is not clear how the EU will react if agreement cannot be reached on the phase 1 issues.

The phase 2 agreement is about to start negotiation. Although D-day (departure day) is March 2019, any agreement has to be approved by the 27 national governments, the EU Commission, and the European Parliament. This approval is estimated to require the six months October 2018 (milestone 2) to March 2019 (milestone 3). The UK Westminster Parliament and the devolved Assemblies potentially have the
opportunity to approve the agreement although the Government has warned this may not be possible in time to influence the outcome of phase 2 (milestone 2). A key part of phase 2 negotiation is the transition (implementation) phase after milestone 3. This is currently highly contentious but may end up as exit from the EU institutions, but retention of the other EU variables with the ability to negotiate (but not sign)
trade treaties. Reese Mogg, as leading Brexiteer, refers to this as a ‘vassal state’ and might force the Government to drop the transition phase. The EU, in the absence of a UK position, has produced a position paper “Transitional Arrangements in the Withdrawal Agreement” It is not clear what will happen
if one or other or both of the agreements are unacceptable or require further negotiation so that the EU approvals are not received by D-day.

The EU has indicated that it would welcome the UK’s return to the Union although stopping Brexit might require the approval of all 27 EU nations. If this were to take place before milestone 3 then Brexit could simply be stopped. If it takes place before milestone 4 (if there is a milestone 4) then the UK could simply
rejoin the EU institutions and continue in a (diminished) membership. If it takes place after milestone 4, then the UK would join the list of countries seeking access to the Union and could be required to join the Euro as the price of re-admission.

Within the EU, there is a common negotiating position and strong resistance to ‘cherry-picking’ and ‘having cake and eating it’ approaches to modifying this position, although the UK lives in hope.

Within the UK, the known unknowns are:
(a) There is no customs union of any form
(b) Theresa May’s government might be replaced by a strongly pro hard Brexit administration
(c) After the May Local Government elections the Labour Party will revise its position on Brexit
(d) Passage of legislation embodied in the UK Withdrawal Bill and other bills may falter
(e) The Tories may call a General Election

The Government has already indicated that it will not remain in the customs union but might be a member of a customs union; however some Brexiteers are opposed even to this. No customs union (option (a)) is a significant barrier to trade (and to the Irish Border). The “customs arrangement” suggested by the UK is ill-defined and may be unacceptable to the EU. Option (b) is a possibility if the Tories can agree a replacement leader. The signs are that this could move the Government even further to the right and to a definite hard Brexit position. Option (c), if it happens, might result in the Government (even with its DUP backed majority) being unable to pass key legislation. Resistance to parts of the withdrawal legislation can be expected, for example the ‘Henry VIII’ powers that give the Government a virtually blank legislative cheque, or omissions of key aspects such as worker’s rights and environmental issues. However, failure to provide a legal framework post Brexit (option (d)) would have a nuclear impact on the UK so that Labour might press for amending rather than outright blocking of legislation.

The Tories would not want to risk losing a General Election (and maybe having a soft or no Brexit) and would seek to avoid option (e), although they might be tempted to risk it after D-day (milestone 3) on a “job done, don’t spoil it” platform but before the end of any transition period. Labour would then get the blame for the expected problems that would follow milestone 4.
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