Everyone’s talking about the impossible feat of Brexit with benefits. On November 14, Britain and the European Union (EU) published a draft divorce agreement, all of 585 pages. But that neither brings Brexit closer nor, in fact, the EU.
Hours after Prime Minister Theresa May announced her cabinet had backed the Brexit plan, four ministers resigned, parliament loudly and rudely dissed the deal (but offered no alternative strategy, as Ms May has pointed out). Meanwhile, the EU said it wouldn’t renegotiate if the UK balked and walked.
Altogether, it’s a pretty pickle – an impossible quest for Britain to be in Europe – for trade and other things – yet keep it at arms length. But what’s so bad about the deal that’s being offered?
By some accounts, that’s as good as it gets.
The UK will remain in a transition period from the time it leaves the EU in until end 2020. It will lose all its EU voting rights during that time but all else will be the same. The transition can be extended too.
The UK and EU will aim to establish “a free trade area (with) deep regulatory and customs cooperation”.
The UK will be bound by EU rules.
UK and EU nationals will have matching rights in each other’s territory until the transition ends. They will have “lifetime” protection once they register after five years of continuous residence.
Disputes will be settled by a joint committee.
Britain would reclaim the right to limit migration from Europe but won’t be able to stay in the single market.
Ireland will be an issue but only for Brexite evangelists. In order to avoid a border demarcating one part of its territory from the rest of the EU, the UK can either stay in a EU customs union or extend the transition. And there may some policy areas that would form an invisible border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. They will be divided by EU rules on some policy.
Those who believe Brexit is bollocks will find the deal onerous and worse for the UK than its status as a full EU member. Those who believe in Brexit will see it as tying the UK unnecessarily closely to the EU.
There seems to be no magic middle.
But there is, and it lies in self-interest. Britain is not advantaged by giving up its voting rights and the single market, nor by leaving the EU without a deal. Common sense for the greater common good is the only deal Britain needs.