Brexit weekly briefing: EU has no taste for pick and mix deal

UK was offered tariff-free goods trade, as long as it continued the EU’s existing access to its waters

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Calais’s boss is entirely correct that compulsory tariff checks (as a result of leaving the customs union) and phytosanitary checks (as a result of leaving the single market) will be unavoidable legal realities if the government insists on putting us outside key economic instruments. But the prime minister has settled in her bunker, refuses to heed warnings, and continues to offer solutions she knows the EU cannot accept … Brussels insists that a seamless border requires both a customs union and a single market. No other kind of frictionless border exists anywhere on Earth. The entire UK must stay in both. Last week at Mansion House May promised five tests for Brexit. One was to protect jobs and security; another was to keep Britain outward-looking. A broken border and rotting food at Calais do not qualify. Nor do they remotely meet any democratic mandate. If this is the best the government can think of, it must think again. So, ultimately, might we.

The FTA will be bespoke to the degree that no two FTAs the EU has agreed with a third-country are identical, but this will not be anywhere close to the level of access the UK would like. In her speech, May argued that the UK could remain closely aligned to the EU in areas that are expedient to the UK, whilst diverging in others. European Council President Donald Tusk quickly shot this suggestion down. Clearly, it’s not in the EU’s long-term strategic or economic interests to offer the UK a better deal outside than the (bespoke) deal that it enjoyed when it was a member. The sooner we grasp this, the better. If good politics is about managing expectations, then British politicians should level will the public, and admit that we are still many, many years away from taking back control.

EU27 wants UK as close friend & partner and will enter talks on future with open, positive mind. But given UK red lines only an FTA is possible. It will be the first FTA in history to loosen, not strengthen economic ties. Drifting apart is essence of #Brexit.

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