Thursday , June 20 2024

The EU Withdrawal Agreement – Full Facts

Many people will have noticed that there has been very little discussion of the contents of the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU.  Here is a link to the snappily named: “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community . 14 November 2018” so that you can see for yourself.

The reason that there have been Cabinet Resignations and a furore over the Agreement is that it gives the EU permanent control over the Customs Agreement between the EU and the UK and allows the Transition Period to be extended indefinitely.  The Transition Period is the period in which the UK remains as a member of the EU, paying the membership fee, but without any representation in the EU Council or Parliament.

The EU control over the Customs Agreement is given in Art 1, paragraph 4, page 306:  ‘the provisions of this Protocol shall apply unless and until they are superseded, in whole or in part, by a subsequent agreement’ the agreement to be determined by the EU (see Article 20 below).

The power to extend the Transition Period indefinitely is given in Article 3, p 308 (and also Art 132 of the Agreement).  It means that we would have to trust the government then in power to finally terminate our membership of the EU rather than extend it indefinitely.

The power of the EU to control UK membership of the Customs Union is the result of what is known as the Northern Ireland “backstop”.  Lets be clear about the position of Northern Ireland.  Excise duties are collected away from the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border already and a raft of other enforcement issues, including conformity enforcement, occur away from the border.  Adding customs tariffs to this list so that the UK can have its own Customs policies is not a problem.  The Northern Ireland “border problem” is simply being used to ensure that the UK does not leave the EU.  The fact that those who support the Draft Agreement airily wave away all suggestions for dealing practically with the “border problem” shows that they are using it to provide a route back into the EU.

That the Northern Ireland “backstop” is being used as a cover for a Customs Union with the EU is clear when the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship is considered.  The Political Declaration makes it clear that the preferred future relationship with the EU is a full Customs Union and this will operate in perpetuity when taken in conjunction with Article 20 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.  The Political Declaration intends to bind the UK to the EU for all time and, taken with the Withdrawal Agreement, will bind all future UK Governments to this outcome.  Theresa May will bind the UK to the EU forever in the name of Brexit.

The EU is forcing the UK to either surrender and abandon Brexit or leave without a deal.  The No Deal option is, in truth, nowhere near as terrifying as Project Fear has portrayed it – see WTO, Single Market and UK-EU Trade.  Remember, Project Fear was simply lies in 2016 – see Remain Predictions for Brexit – and is still lies.

The Draft Withdrawal Agreement can only be acceptable to the British People if Article 20 of the Protocol is amended so that in the absence of joint agreement unilateral withdrawal from the Customs Union is possible after, say, 1 year and there is a clear limitation on the length of any extension to the transition period.


Objectives and relationship to subsequent agreement

p 306  4… The provisions of this Protocol shall apply unless and until they are superseded, in whole or in part, by a subsequent agreement

p 308 ARTICLE 3
Extension of the transition period The United Kingdom, having had regard to progress made towards conclusion of the agreement referred to in Articles 1(4) and 2(1) of this Protocol, may at any time before 1 July 2020 request the extension of the transition period referred to in Article 126 of the Withdrawal Agreement. If the United Kingdom makes such a request, the transition period may be extended in accordance with Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement.

[Neither Art 132 nor 126 place any time limit on the length of extension of the Transition Period].

ARTICLE 6 – a single customs territory between UK and Ireland shall be established

p 329 ARTICLE 20 Review
If at any time after the end of the transition period the Union or the United Kingdom considers that this Protocol is, in whole or in part, no longer necessary to achieve the objectives set out in Article 1(3) and should cease to apply, in whole or in part, it may notify the other party, setting out its reasons.

Within 6 months of such a notification, the Joint Committee shall meet at ministerial level to consider the notification, having regard to all of the objectives specified in Article 1. The Joint Committee may seek an opinion from institutions created by the 1998 Agreement. [ie: The Belfast Agreement/ Good Friday Agreement]

If, following the consideration referred to above, and acting in full respect of Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Union and the United Kingdom decide jointly within the Joint Committee that the Protocol, in whole or in part, is no longer necessary to achieve its objectives, the Protocol shall cease to apply, in whole or in part. In such a case the Joint Committee shall address recommendations to the Union and to the United Kingdom on the necessary measures, taking into account the obligations of the parties to the 1998 Agreement.

What the “Political Declaration” says on the future Customs Union 

“Zero tariffs, no fees, charges or quantitative  restrictions across all goods sectors, with ambitious customs arrangements that build on the single  customs   territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, respecting the Parties’ legal orders”

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About John Sydenham

Dr John Sydenham has worked in International Pharmaceuticals and for one of the "big four" International Consultancies. He ran a successful company for 15 years and after selling the company devotes his time to travel, science, black labradors and freedom.

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