EU Draft Withdrawal Agreement – the basis of a good plan

In my life, one gift horse I grab with both hands is the basis of a good plan. It may need a little work, but could then involve an extra trip to the pub. This skill is also useful when transferred to my working life.
And the EU Draft Withdrawal Agreement, which I link to, is undoubtedly the basis for a good plan.

I’ve been through the draft UK EU Withdrawal agreement – all 118 pages. I’ve not read every word, but I know enough to say that there’s the makings of a very good deal in there for brave and imaginative politicians. It should make very good reading for business people in both the UK and the EU27. And could resolve visa issues.
And remember, this is a draft, so there is time to work it up to a final working version, as is normal with most EU agreements.

Unfortunately, it was shot down by the UK Government on 28 February 2018 because of talk of a regulatory environment within the Irish draft Protocol which is within the draft agreement. The draft protocol recognises it is made in the light of the 8 December 2017 Belfast Agreement, which the UK agreed with and signed at the time.
The basis of the UK’s rejection appears to be that Northern Ireland will be separated from the rest of the UK. If you read the agreement related to the movement of goods and people, you’ll find that it contains the basis of an agreement which could well suit all parties. It was certainly not worthy of being rejected out of hand. And in my opinion it goes not one step further than was agreed in Belfast on 8 December 2017.

Dealing with people, the Republic of Ireland sits outside the Schengen area, as does the UK. As far as I understand things, they operate the same admission criteria as the UK – i.e. they too already have control of their borders. Indeed, they already rely on us to control people moving into the Republic and we already rely on them to control people moving into Northern Ireland. So, unless the UK says that it does not trust the Republic to continue to manage people at its borders honestly and effectively, the UK can rely on the Irish to manage that side of things (and vice versa).

Then with what the draft withdrawal agreement says, there is no reason to believe that the UK would have more unwanted migrants than it would in any event, whilst keeping a pretty free environment for the movement of labour. Indeed, on 28 February 2018, the UK and the EU moved a further step in that direction, albeit that agreement was overshadowed by the rejection of the draft withdrawal agreement and largely unreported.
But a neat solution for the Irish Land Boundary as regards people, and probably a neat solution for all UK borders with the EU given that the UK already operates border controls for people moving into the UK from the rest of the EU. These controls could probably be tightened up further if the UK adopts the EU free movement opt outs which it has failed to do so far. The opt outs address most of the alleged problems identified in the UK with EU migration in any event, but still allow employers to attract EU workers.

As for goods, the draft Northern Ireland protocol refers to the Belfast Agreement of 8 December 2017, which the UK agreed to and was unambiguous. There is nothing about an EU controlled regulatory environment.

There is reference to a regulatory environment which would be quite normal for any agreement between nations dealing with matters like Customs Duty and taxes. This is an agreed (or more properly, to be agreed) joint regulatory environment between the UK and the EU27.

Earlier in the draft there is detail provided on the essential day to day mechanisms needed to manage cross border movement of goods (including the Irish Land Border). Calling upon existing mechanisms (not new as yet undeveloped as well as untried and untested information technology, cameras, scanners etc). Providing a regulatory solution for Ireland and possibly the whole of the UK. And offering a path to a sensible Customs Agreement (please call is something other than “Customs Union” – even “Wendy” if that’s acceptable) solution to all parties.

If you read the draft carefully it creates room for the UK to do its own trade deals if it wants to (without being explicit, which is definitely the EU way), but provides a solution as regards taxes etc on third country goods brought into the UK for onwards shipment to the EU (and vice versa). This allows both sides to maintain their fiscal integrity of their respective borders and businesses to continue trading as they are now (basically following “origin” rules) with a minimum of intervention (or red tape if you must).

So, I think it is the basis of a good plan. I might discuss it at the pub on Friday evening. And my companions will of course talk about something completely different.