The European Union Brexit negotiating team said many times in recent months that there’s nothing to negotiate in regards to Brexit and consider the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May to be the ultimate Brexit agreement — although it didn’t pass in the UK Parliament and therefore isn’t a valid agreement.
In fact, saying Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement didn’t pass in the UK Parliament is a bit of an understatement as it failed badly each time she presented the bill in the House of Commons.
Here’s what The Guardian wrote about the former PM’s first attempt to get the bill through Parliament: “Theresa May has sustained the heaviest parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister in the democratic era after MPs rejected her Brexit deal by a resounding majority of 230.” — Heather Stewart, writing in The Guardian
In the 2nd attempt to get the bill passed in the House of Commons, the BBC posted this summary on its website: “Theresa May’s EU withdrawal deal has been rejected by MPs by an overwhelming majority for a second time, with just 17 days to go to Brexit. MPs voted down the prime minister’s deal by a margin of 149.” — BBC
And in the 3rd try, which was also defeated, the (by-then) hated withdrawal deal went down in flames with the EU’s vox.com writing, “The British Parliament has rejected the Brexit deal for a third time, intensifying the UK’s political chaos just two weeks before the country breaks up with the European Union. Members of Parliament (MPs) defeated the deal, 286 to 344 — a much closer margin than the previous two votes in March and January, but still short of a majority. It has dealt another deep blow to the already flailing authority of Prime Minister Theresa May.” — Jen Kirby at vox.com
And that 58-vote loss was obtained only after Theresa May offered to resign if the bill passed Parliament.
So, the Withdrawal Bill is dead, dead, dead, and won’t be returning no matter how much the EU miss it. And it’s no wonder they miss it, for it was practically written by them, for them.
In short; A completely one-sided deal that never had a chance to pass.
UK House of Commons MP’s voted enthusiastically to follow the instructions of UK voters way back in February of 2017 though, voting 498 to 114 to pass the European Union Bill by a healthy margin of 384 votes to get Brexit negotiations underway.
But Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement just didn’t cut it.
Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter in the UK about gaining a new deal, one that might actually work for the UK instead of the European Union alone.
But as EU leaders have said many times, there’s nothing to negotiate. The now-defunct Withdrawal Agreement is the only deal they would’ve considered and they continue to maintain that position.
One wonders if they’re 100% serious about that position as the EU (and especially German car manufacturers) might see falling sales should trade between the UK and the EU revert to WTO terms, and I think that’s what Prime Minister Boris Johnson is banking-on to get them back to the negotiating table to obtain a workable and fair Brexit agreement — one that works for both sides.
Yet, if you know continental Europeans like I know continental Europeans you’d know they always bluff to the last second.
And the EU does have a track record of last-minute deals that were preceded by years of excruciating trade negotiations.
In the case of the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA) it took the two countries 8-years of on-again, off-again negotiations to reach a deal — which the Canadian Parliament ratified within weeks, while not one EU27 country has ratified it. Indeed, the EU has chosen to ignore the parts of the CETA deal they don’t like which makes them guilty of ‘cherry-picking’ the (signed and ratified by Canada-only) CETA deal.
Is that the kind of compliance we can expect if the EU were to sign a political agreement with the UK? And is that the kind of compliance the UK can expect if the EU sign a free trade agreement with the UK?
If so, why waste a minute on it?
Who will win that round?
Easy; The EU.
But UK Parliamentarians can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that the EU… doesn’t want a deal.
And of course they’re right because the EU does want a deal — it wants the one-sided Withdrawal Agreement that was ‘negotiated’ during Theresa May’s time in office — and if that doesn’t work it wants the UK to give-up and stay in the EU. Which from their point of view is an even better deal.
If the EU can’t have either of those two choices, it doesn’t want any deal.
But within weeks of a No Deal Brexit, EU27 car manufacturers will have unsold cars piling-up outside their factories and will begin to pressure their governments for a trade deal (by that time a Brexit agreement won’t be needed as Brexit will have already occurred) and such a trade agreement could be in place by January 1, 2020 (about 115-days from now) and a cavalcade of sector-by-sector (or even segment-by-segment) trade deals would be signed and ratified by both countries in short order.
And, in the face of the thrice-failed Withdrawal Agreement, that might be the option the EU27 prefer. I know I prefer it!
The EU said many times that they’re not interested in negotiating any more. They wanted the original Withdrawal Agreement and they didn’t get it, so now they want to bluff until the very last minute in a game of brinkmanship hoping against hope that the UK Parliament or the British people will lose the plot and just give up on Brexit.
There is therefore, nothing to negotiate.
So why are some British MP’s trying to get an extension of the Brexit date?
If they think #1 is correct, I have to say they’re incredibly naive.
If they think #2 is correct, I have to say they’re wrong. More and more Britons (even former Remainers) just want Brexit done, allowing the economic uncertainty to go away.
If they think #3 is correct, I would have to agree. And that means the UK needs a strong and dynamic Prime Minister to help them stay on-course and facilitate a resurgence of confidence in Britain’s future to get them past the present moment.
And guess what? That’s exactly the kind of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is. Thankfully.
I prefer a No Deal Brexit — but only because I’ve seen close-up how the EU doesn’t keep its end of the bargain in Canada (at least in the CETA context) and I see that only two of the EU27 countries have ever met their NATO spending commitments.
That’s why ‘deals’ with the EU don’t excite me too much as they seem to consider trade ‘deals’ as mere ‘guidance’ more than they consider them ‘regulations’ or ‘laws’ that must be ‘followed’ to the letter.
Calling the EU’s bluff by Brexiting on October 31, 2019 as Britons were promised by this government, followed by a flurry of international trade deals signed between Britain and her other trading partners should put the EU in its place and make it realize that it isn’t the centre of the universe (not even in the UK’s myopic worldview universe) and help to repair the mindset of those Britons for whom the EU seems to have an outsized importance — far beyond what is healthy and good for the United Kingdom.
Not that I wish one bad thing for the EU. I wish every single member country of the EU27 well. In fact, I wish them very well.
Eventually, the UK will get around to signing a free trade deal with the EU. After America. After China. After the CPTPP countries. After The Commonwealth of Nations. You know, all the nations that don’t ‘cherry-pick’ their deals.
It’s just that this part of our relationship is over EU, and now, I just want to be ‘friends’.
Hey! We’ll do lunch!
Written by John Brian Shannon
John Brian Shannon serves on the Editorial Board at kleef&co. John has contributed to the United Nations Development Program and to corporate blogs. Presently writing about Brexit at: LetterToBritain.com