Ross Clark Ross Clark

The Brexit political declaration confirms we are heading to a blind Brexit

With the leak of a 26-page political declaration this morning – an enhanced version of last week’s briefer document – we now know the shape of the future EU-UK relationship which May and the EU negotiators want to achieve in the long run – if, and this could turn out to be a big if – the UK ever manages to escape from the purgatory of the backstop.

It is not a bad document in itself. Neither does it bear much of a resemblance to Chequers. The big difference is that it envisages a future trade deal which encompasses services as well as goods – Chequers envisaged Britain pretty well staying in the single market for goods while diverging on services. The political declaration states:

“The economic partnership should ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors. The Parties should aim at substantial sectoral coverage, covering all modes of supply and providing for the absence of substantially all discrimination in the covered sectors, with exceptions and limitations as appropriate. The arrangements should therefore cover sectors including professional and business services, telecommunications services, courier and postal services, distribution services, environmental services, financial services, transport services and other services of mutual interest.”

That would appear to counter fears that the EU – steered on especially by France – would try to block UK access to the EU’s financial services sector. That would appear to be a big win for the City – though, of course, the devil is in the detail: we don’t know what “exceptions and limitations” would mean in practice.

As for the movement of goods across borders, the declaration doesn’t go as far as Chequers, promising only a customs relationship that is “as ambitious as possible”. That might be considered a loss for UK importers and exporters who will worry what it will mean in practice.

The declaration seems to confirms that the UK would be free to negotiate its own free trade deals:

“It must also ensure the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the protection of its internal market, while respecting the result of the 2016 referendum including with regard to the development of its independent trade policy and the ending of free movement of people between the Union and the United Kingdom.”

It seems to recognise, too, the right of the UK to adopt its own regulatory approach – that we won’t simply hoover up EU regulations in order to gain seamless access to EU markets.

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