This article was originally published on BrexitCentral
Prime Minister Theresa May’s monstrous Chequers proposal has rightly become the subject of intense criticism, and led to a simmering sense of betrayal across the country. However, a minority of Tory Brexiteers have sought to find solace in the belief this plan will be rejected by EU negotiators, and consider it unnecessary to expend too much energy rallying against it. This is a woeful misreading of the situation, and risks us sleepwalking into a deal even worse than the EEA (Norway) option.
For what our Prime Minister is now seeking is not a bespoke trading arrangement, but an off-the-shelf model. This is akin to the Association Agreement (AA) which already exists between the EU and Morocco, signed under an EU foreign policy implement – the European Neighbourhood Policy. This is the “Morocco Model” as described by Professor Gwythian Prins and David Banks of Veterans for Britain.
The Prime Minister’s letter sent to Tory MPs by Number 10 last week hinted at this fact: “We are proposing that the framework for our relationship with the European Union should be an Association Agreement”. Whilst deliberately vague in detail, Mrs May is now unfortunately beginning to sing from the same hymn sheet as Europhiles – such as the European Parliament’s Brexit Co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt – who has long banged the drum for such an outcome to negotiations.
Analysing the Government’s Chequers proposal, the similarities with the EU-Morocco Agreement begin to leap out. Firstly, the emphasis on creating a Free Trade Area (FTA) exclusively for goods (including agri-foods) between the two parties, is also the primary focus of the EU-Morocco Agreement. Whilst Tory Brexiteers may seek to placate their concerns about May’s proposal by viewing it as ‘cherry-picking’, and therefore likely to be rejected by EU negotiators, the fact that there is a precedent for these proposals, negates such an assertion.
Reference to a “Common Rulebook” is a duplicitous way of saying Britain would continue following EU rules, and therefore the ECJ would continue to be supreme. This is something Morocco has been forced to experience during the lifetime of its AA with the EU. Having committed to an FTA in goods, Morocco finds itself become increasingly absorbed into the Single Market with every piece of legislation and every ECJ ruling which is passed!
Furthermore, the Government’s acknowledgment that refusal to follow EU rules “would have consequences” for the terms of trade, this is another feature of the EU-Morocco AA.
Moroccan attempts to deviate from the EU’s acquis (body of law), are dissuaded by a convergence mechanism which will install harsher trading restrictions on the country if it seeks to move away from the EU in a certain field. Professor Gwythian Prins argues this would also be the case for Britain under Theresa May’s plans: “If the UK attempts to deviate, then individual parts of the FTA would be threatened with change in order to force UK compliance.”
Elsewhere, Theresa May’s insistence we will be Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy is tapered by her refusal to commit to taking back full control of this policy area in its entirety. Indeed, using the EU-Morocco AA as a template, it is very easy to see how a bilateral Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) could be negotiated – under our noses – which continues to see the ECJ play a role of ultimate arbitration, and would fail to take back control of our coastline.
Given Mrs May has so far failed to commit to a full repatriation of British waters, the notion of a Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) is very much a lurking danger.
These AAs are not merely benign trading arrangements, but are in fact geopolitical devices, utilised by Eurocrats to drag third countries into the EU’s gravitational pull. In many cases they act as a precursor to even greater co-operation and integration. For instance, the 6 Western Balkans countries who are on the conveyor belt towards EU Membership, have used AAs as the cornerstone of their accession process. They entail the signatory acceptance of EU rules, acknowledging the ECJ reigns supreme, and signing up to mechanisms which prevent regulatory divergence by means of coercion. In essence, these deals seek to gear a third country’s entire legal system, trading horizons, standards and norms towards the EU’s.
This is the very antithesis of what the Great British Public voted for in the EU Referendum.
The Brexit decision was a vote of confidence in this country by the people. A belief that we should not shackle ourselves to the EU, be dragged into its legislative quagmire, or restrict our international outlook to just across the English Channel. But rather, we should pull ourselves out of EU’s sphere of influence and make our own decisions.
The Chequers proposal faces a very real chance of being accepted by European negotiators – after all, it’s their idea. If this happens, Theresa May would have lumbered us with an Association Agreement which does not deliver any of the prizes of Brexit, and this does not respect the Great British public’s decision to get Britain out of the EU.
Robert Bates is Senior Research Executive at grassroots, cross-party campaign Get Britain Out.