As has been previously demonstrated, the Withdrawal Agreement and accompanying Political Declaration provide a triple lock to keep the UK shackled to the EU in perpetuity.
The first lock is the transition or “pay with no say” period, which keeps all the obligations of membership of the EU, including hefty budget contributions and the implementation of new laws at least until 31 December 2020. This period can be extended with no reference to Parliament for a further two years.
The second lock is the backstop, which we will enter automatically if no agreement with the EU on the future relationship comes into force before the end of the transition period. The backstop must be inescapable in order to prepare Britain for the final destination set out in the political declaration, as a permanent satellite state of the EU. Not only does the backstop carve out Northern Ireland as an EU province and set an economic border in the Irish Sea, it creates a “customs union” that requires us to implement EU trade tariffs and policy with no decision-making powers. Under highly restrictive “non-regression clauses”, the UK also agrees to implement all EU environmental, competition, state aid and tax harmonisation laws, with an unelected Joint Committee and the ECJ once again able to punish us for any perceived backsliding.
The third lock is the Political Declaration. Unless we agree to ‘Brexit it name only’ or BRINO as a “future partnership”, set out in detail in the Political Declaration, the backstop will endure in perpetuity. The Political Declaration replicates all the onerous “non-regression” clauses of the backstop and requires even more surrender of sovereignty via participation in and funding of the EU’s aerospace and defence programmes, free access to UK waters for EU fishermen, a full customs union and common trade policy, EU control of UK agriculture via the state aid rules and total alignment in most policy areas. It also retains the unaccountable Joint Committee as the governing body for the alliance with the ECJ alone able to decide on matters of EU law.
The fourth lock has just been added by the EU and the Prime Minister. This is the 11 March 2019 Joint Statement Supplementing the Political Declaration. Its terms are clear – negotiate at lightning speed a future partnership that consigns the UK to at best second-class membership of the EU, or at worst, to permanent tutelage – or fall into the backstop from which there remains no legally sound escape other than by agreeing a “deal” exactly as prescribed in the very detailed Political Declaration. It is the Catch 22 par excellence. Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the 11 March statement explicitly link the Political Declaration to the need to avoid the backstop, reaffirm the parties’ “shared and solemn regard for the future relationship detailed in the Political Declaration” and thus ensure that a BRINO deal, under which the EU retains a permanent lock on British sovereignty and the British economy, remains the only negotiable option on the table if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed.
The Attorney General’s advice today on this new “tweaked” package, that nothing has changed in terms of the backstop, confirms that this Withdrawal Agreement is still a very bad deal for Britain and could see us trapped indefinitely in a quasi-colonial relationship with the EU.