Open Britain Background Briefing Red Lines vs ‘Sufficient Progress’: Rhetoric Meets Reality

Introduction

Today, the UK Government finally reached an agreement with the EU to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations. 18 months after the referendum result, and with huge amounts of time wasted, the Government has agreed to:

  • A continued role for the European Court of Justice in the UK.
  • Continued regulatory alignment with the rules of the Single Market and the Customs Union (with the UK having no say over those rules).
  • Continued payments of tens of billions of pounds to the EU for a worse trading relationship with the EU than we have now.

These concessions totally erase the Prime Minister’s red lines as established in her Lancaster House speech in January, and her Florence speech in September. Open Britain have compiled examples of the red lines Theresa May established in her Lancaster House speech and her Florence speech, compared to what her Government has agreed to today. One thing is clear: Brexit rhetoric is already crashing head-first into reality.

The full text of the Lancaster House speech can be read here.

The full text of the Florence speech can be read here.

The full text of the agreement reached on ‘sufficient progress’ can be read here.

On the European Court of Justice

Overview: Theresa May set a red line of ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. That red line then shifted to ‘direct jurisdiction’, and now the Government has agreed to a continued role for the ECJ on citizens’ rights for at least the next 8 years.

What they said then: “So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. And those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country.” (Lancaster House)

What they’re saying now: “The use of Union law concepts in the citizens’ rights Part of the Withdrawal Agreement is to be interpreted in line with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) by the specified date.”

On the Single Market

Overview: Theresa May set a red line of leaving the Single Market in order to pursue regulatory divergence for the UK. They have now agreed to continued regulatory alignment in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, but with no say over those rules.

What they said then: “I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market. European leaders have said many times that membership means accepting the ‘4 freedoms’ of goods, capital, services and people. And being out of the EU but a member of the single market would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations that implement those freedoms, without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are.” (Lancaster House)

What they’re saying now: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

On the Customs Union

Overview: The Government set a red line of leaving the Customs Union in order to try and strike new free trade deals with other countries outside the EU. Now it has agreed to continued alignment with the rules of the Customs Union in order to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, but with no say over those rules.

What they said then: “That means I do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff. These are the elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries.” (Lancaster House)

What they’re saying now: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

On Money

Overview: Theresa May said we’d no longer be sending “huge sums” to the EU. Now she has agreed to pay tens of billions of pounds for a ‘divorce settlement’, with ongoing financial liabilities stretching far into the future. And £50bn is just the down-payment to get us into the trade talks - it will cost a huge amount more than that to secure anything like the trade advantages we currently enjoy.

What they said then: “And because we will no longer be members of the single market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget.” (Lancaster House)

What they’re saying now: “The UK will contribute to, and participate in, the implementation of the Union annual budgets for the years 2019 and 2020 as if it had remained in the Union…The UK will remain liable for its share of the Union’s contingent liabilities as established at the date of withdrawal.”

On Citizens

Overview: Theresa May said she wanted Brexit to ‘strengthen’ the bonds between the four nations of the UK. Today we learned that Northern Irish citizens will be able to keep their EU citizenship if they choose, which means we will have citizens in one part of the UK having more rights than other UK citizens. The effect of this will be to create a split a in the United Kingdom.

What they said then: “A stronger Britain demands that we do something else – strengthen the precious union between the 4 nations of the United Kingdom.” (Lancaster House)

What they’re saying now: “The people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland. Both Parties therefore agree that the Withdrawal Agreement should respect and be without prejudice to the rights, opportunities and identity that come with European Union citizenship for such people and, in the next phase of negotiations, will examine arrangements required to give effect to the ongoing exercise of, and access to, their EU rights, opportunities and benefits.”

On Transition vs Implementation

Overview: Theresa May has repeatedly refused to use the term ‘transition period’, instead using the phrase ‘implementation period’. This language has now been dropped and she has signed up to the phrase ‘transitional arrangements’.

What they said then: “As I said in my speech at Lancaster House a period of implementation would be in our mutual interest. That is why I am proposing that there should be such a period after the UK leaves the EU.” (Florence)

What they’re saying now: “It is also agreed by the UK on the condition of an overall agreement under Article 50 on the UK's withdrawal, taking into account the framework for the future relationship, including an agreement as early as possible in 2018 on transitional arrangements.”

On Regulatory Alignment

Overview: Theresa May has previously talked about her desire to see regulatory divergence in some areas between the UK and the EU. She has now signed up to “full regulatory alignment” with the rules of the Single Market and the Customs Union, without the UK having any say or influence over those rules.

What they said then: “There will be areas which do affect our economic relations where we and our European friends may have different goals; or where we share the same goals but want to achieve them through different means.” (Florence)

What they’re saying now: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”