What has the government finally agreed on Brexit?
By Joe Harker
At long last the government has agreed what Brexit means, rather than spouting meaningless slogans that leave everyone more confused than before. Theresa May gathered her Cabinet at Chequers, the countryside residence of the Prime Minister, and warned ministers that resignations would mean they lost their ministerial cars.
The result is the long awaited Brexit white paper, outlining what the UK actually wants from negotiations with the EU. The deal would stop the European Court of Justice from acting in UK affairs, end annual payments from the UK to the EU budget and give the UK an independent trade policy where it can set its own tariffs and make independent trade deals. The deal she has secured is closer to a Soft Brexit.
Free movement will be brought to an end, meaning the UK can control immigration how it would like and the borders between the UK and EU would be classed as a "combined customs territory". This might help the issue of the Irish border finally be solved as goods entering the UK from the EU would be subject to UK tariffs while goods going the other way would follow EU rules.
Tory MP Nicky Morgan has said this Brexit deal shows the Prime Minister is listening to the concerns of businesses. Many have warned the government about the economic dangers of Brexit in recent weeks but Morgan believes the deal addresses many of their concerns. She also believes that if the EU were to reject this deal they would be pushing the UK towards a no deal scenario.
In war it is said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy and in Brexit many of the government's proposals have not survived being presented to the EU. The cabinet must hope that things will be different this time as EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK needed to offer "realistic and workable" proposals. Too often the UK government has crowed that it has an idea for one of the unresolved issues of Brexit, only to be told their new grand idea is completely unworkable.
The Times reports that EU leaders were "lukewarm" on what they heard of the UK's position on Brexit, concerned that Theresa May is offering "a mash up of old tired fantasy proposals" and presenting it as the UK's best proposal.
The Observer criticised the Brexit deal, denouncing it as a "fragile" agreement that won't survive scrutiny from the EU. They argue that the Prime Minister has sacrificed a deal the EU will agree to for one her Tory ministers can just about accept. Cabinet ministers did not resign at Chequers as May had feared but in keeping them onside she might have locked herself into a deal the EU cannot agree to. That would make a no deal scenario more likely after so much wasted time.
Writing in The Spectator, Ross Clark suggests that the much vaunted summit at Chequers will ultimately achieve nothing. He argues that the deal agreed will merely be another proposal shot down by Barnier and laments that the meetings were not held months earlier where the cabinet could have decided what their strategy was.