Since the referendum, the Government have made at least seven major promises about the transition period. Today’s draft agreement with the EU shows these promises have all now been broken, and that all transition does is move us from being a rule maker to a rule taker.
The seven promises that were made were:
- A transition period will be about ‘implementing’ the future relationship, not negotiating it
- The UK will not pay money to the EU after March 2019
- The UK will not have to abide by EU rules during transition
- The UK will ‘take back control’ of fisheries policy
- Free movement will end in March 2019
- The UK will have new trade deals ready to come into force on 29 March 2019
- The implementation period would last for two years and should not be time limited
Seven Promises vs Reality
1. ‘Implementing’ the deal, not standing still
Promise: A transition period will be about ‘implementing’ the future relationship, not negotiating it
“The point of the implementation period is to put in place the practical changes necessary to move to the future partnership and, in order to have that, you need to know what that future partnership is going to be.”
Theresa May, House of Commons, 23 October 2017
"I believe that we can get a free trade and customs agreement negotiation concluded in the period."
David Davis, Evidence to Lords EU Committee, 18 January 2017
Reality: Today’s agreement shows the bulk of the future relationship will be negotiated after we have left the EU. David Davis said at today’s press conference that the transition will be “the platform upon which we build the new relationship.” Since the Government clearly needs more time to negotiate the future relationship, it should extend Article 50.
2. Payments to the EU
Promise: The UK will not pay money to the EU after March 2019
"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.”
Theresa May, Lancaster House speech, 17 January 2017
“We’re not going to be paying in after we come out.”
Boris Johnson, 18 March 2018
“We will not be paying for market access.”
No 10 spokesman, 11 January 2018
Reality: The Government has conceded the UK will have to pay a divorce bill of around £40bn, with payments continuing until 2064. And the Prime Minister now says the UK should make “an appropriate financial contribution” for participation in a range of EU agencies.
"For the years 2019 and 2020, in accordance with Part Four, the United Kingdom shall contribute to and participate in the implementation of the Union budgets."
Article 128, page 75
3. The role of the ECJ
Promise: The UK will not have to abide by EU rules during transition.
"I mean firstly in 2019 we will leave. We’ll come out from under the – the jurisdiction and the law-making of the European Union."
David Davis, BBC Andrew Marr Show, 24 September 2017
The authority of EU law in Britain will end... [W]e are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice."
Theresa May, Conservative Party conference speech, 2 October 2016
Reality: The UK will have to abide by all EU rules and regulations including those agreed by members states during transition.
"During the transition period, where draft Union acts identify or refer directly to specific Member State authorities, procedures, or documents, the United Kingdom shall be consulted by the Union on such drafts with a view to ensuring the proper implementation and application of that act by and in the United Kingdom."
Article 123, page 72
4. Full control of fisheries
Promise: The UK will ‘take back control’ of fisheries policy
“Leaving the EU means we will take back control of our territorial waters, and for the first time in 50 years we will be able to grant fishing access for other countries on our terms."
DEFRA statement, 3 August 2017
"[W]e will be an independent member of the body that negotiates and discusses access to waters, and it will be this Government who determine our fisheries policy.
Theresa May, 5 March 2018
Reality: The UK has backed down after the EU made access to UK waters on existing terms throughout the transition period a red line.
“As regards the fixing of fishing opportunities within the meaning of Article 43(3) TFEU for any period falling within the transition period, the United Kingdom shall be consulted in respect of the fishing opportunities related to the United Kingdom… the Union shall offer the opportunity to the United Kingdom to provide comments on the Commission Annual Communication on fishing opportunities…”
Draft withdrawal agreement, 19 March 2018, Article 125, Specific arrangements relating to fishing opportunities, p.78
5. An end to free movement
Promise: Free movement will end in March 2019
"Free movement will end in March 2019."
No 10 spokesman, 31 July 2017
“It’s a simple matter of fact that the four key principles of the European Union include free movement – we won’t be a member of the European Union when we leave.”
Brandon Lewis, 27 July 2017
"[F]or those who come after March 2019 that will be different because they will be coming to a UK that they know will be outside the EU. I'm clear there is a difference between those people who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is no longer a member."
Theresa May, 1 February 2018
Reality: Ministers now accept that free movement will continue during transition, with the only difference being the implementation of a new registration scheme which could have been done as an EU member state. The Prime Minister also quickly backed down over her demand that new arrivals from the EU should not have the same rights as those here already.
“Unless otherwise provided in this Agreement, Union law shall be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period.”
Draft withdrawal agreement, 19 March 2018, Article 122, Scope of Transition period, p.74
6. New trade deals
Promise: The UK will have new trade deals ready to come into force on 29 March 2019
“Now the new trade agreements will come into force at the point of exit from the EU, but they will be fully negotiated and therefore understood in detail well before then.”
David Davis, 14 July 2016
"Within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU.”
David Davis, 14 July 2016
“If the “Leave” side wins, it will indeed be necessary to negotiate a large number of trade deals at great speed. But why should that be impossible? … We will have at least two years in which the existing treaties will be in force.”
Boris Johnson, The Telegraph, 16 March 2016
Reality: The UK will not have any new trade deals ready to sign because they cannot even start negotiating them until the UK has left the EU. Even during transition, the UK will not be able to implement any new trade deals. New trade deals will take many years to negotiate, and we could lose some of the deals we currently enjoy with 65 countries around the world.
“Notwithstanding paragraph 3, during the transition period, the United Kingdom may negotiate, sign and ratify international agreements entered into in its own capacity in the areas of exclusive competence of the Union, provided those agreements do not enter into force or apply during the transition period, unless so authorised by the Union.”
Draft withdrawal agreement, 19 March 2018, Article 124, Specific arrangements relating to the Union's external action, p.77
7. No time limit to transition
Promise: The transition period would last for two years and should not be time limited
“As of today, these considerations point to an implementation period of around two years.”
Theresa May, Florence speech, 22 September 2017
“the period’s duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future partnership”
Government position paper on transition, 21 February 2018
Reality: The Government has agreed to a fixed transition period of just 21 months. All this does is extend the Brexit cliff-edge until 1 January 2021 – which is no way near enough time to negotiate the future relationship.
“There shall be a transition or implementation period, which shall start on the date of entry into force of this Agreement and end on 31 December 2020.”
Draft withdrawal agreement, 19 March 2018, Article 121 Transition period, p.74