The Express reports today that the EU might be preparing to let the UK stay in the single market without accepting free movement – breaking the EU’s four freedoms. These are the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons, which are required for access to their internal market, as per the Single European Act.
It’s an interesting new move but all might not be as it seems.
It’s suggested that member states of the EU might be willing to cross this "red line", but only if Theresa May is willing to make a few concessions. A deal is allegedly on the table that will be discussed during a special meeting of all 28 EU leaders in Austria next month – something I wouldn’t have expected to happen given that Michel Barnier had previously said any such proposal would undermine the single market.
So what will May have to give up? Well, it seems like her Facilitated Customs Arrangement would have to be scrapped. It hasn’t been popular with the people in Britain, and the EU wasn’t keen on it, either.
The Mail reports that the EU might also demand that the UK sticks to their social and environmental rules following Brexit, which would mark not just a retreat from Brexit but a total betrayal of the result of the referendum. It would seriously hamper our ability to strike trade deals with the rest of the world, if we’re stuck with EU regulation.
However, according to other reports, Mrs May might be stalling negotiations and plotting to push negotiations as far back as possible so that they become more lenient as time runs out. The idea is this: European leaders want a "united front" against Trump at the G20 summit in November, and ideally want the Brexit negotiations out of the way by then.
Negotiations start up again after the summer break next week, and British officials will be heading out to Brussels to try and nail down some final parts of the withdrawal deal. One EU Commission official, however, told The Express that they believe it would be "highly unlikely" anything could be finalized next week.
This doesn’t really strike me as a strong negotiating tactic. Delaying? Really? If the EU have to battle Trump and the UK at the same time then I reckon they’ll do it – and delaying until the last minute might just mean the UK has to make even more concessions. If it turns out to be true that the EU might let us stay in the Single Market without free movement, as long as the UK makes concessions, then what’s to stop the British government making even more concessions?
Imagine you’re negotiating a deal over a used car and you’ve only got 60 seconds to do it. One side wants to charge as much as possible but knows there are other buyers if it all goes wrong. The other side is desperate for a car because he promised his wife a new car. Get down to those last ten seconds and you’re probably going to be willing to pay a lot more than you originally planned. You’ve got to keep the missus happy.
Let’s face it – the EU doesn’t care if May betrays her people or not. So why would they be willing to help her out?
And, by the way, don’t go thinking we won’t end up with free movement. I think all bets are off right now. As I’ve explained in a previous entry, Theresa May won’t be stopping free movement to the UK. She’s just renamed it and jiggled the process around a bit. The Chequers deal outlines a method of ensuring people can come in and out of Britain from the European Union almost as easily as they can do now.