We had announcements last week that Fox and Gove were now accepting Hammond’s line on the need for a transition deal, and that free movement would continue beyond 2019. Now, Liam Fox has said that he has “not been party” to any such agreement with his colleagues and that continued free movement would defy the referendum result. Then, Boris had to deny that he was going to resign over disagreements within the cabinet. Then, yesterday morning, Downing Street attempted to clear things up by saying that there would be a transition, but that free movement would end in 2019. We are expecting some detail on new immigration systems at some point then, but the Prime Minister ‘spokesperson said that "It would be wrong to speculate on what these might look like or to suggest that free movement will continue as it is now”. Ian Dunt put it nicely:
I don’t see how any meaning can be drawn from any of this, except that we still clearly do not have an agreed position within the government. If this is the case, then what on earth is David Davis actually trying to negotiate? The prospect of everything that needs to be done by 29th March 2019 actually getting done by then is looking slimmer by the day, and any confidence I had last week has been swiftly eroded. It’s a shambles.
On the other side of the house, things do not look much better. There is absolutely no agreement within the Labour party on whether or not we should remain in the single market and the customs union, and a clear party line is becoming harder and harder to find outside of the manifesto. One thing that strikes me about this part of the conversation, is that the single market and the customs union are always approached like a package deal, where we should be in both or neither. This misses the point that “the” customs union (it isn’t the only one in the world, and they are all different) really isn’t as black and white as people think, and that there are a number of way for us to cooperate on customs whilst being free from the Common Commercial Policy (the best of these ways being through the EEA). For some Brexiteers, “the” CU is a red line because of the incorrect association with the Common Commercial Policy – which is a separate thing. Whilst for remainers, “the” CU is a red line because of the incorrect association with the removal of internal non-tariff barriers – which are more related to the SM and can be overcome in a number of other ways. Our ongoing customs relationship really isn’t a binary choice, and so it shouldn’t be discussed in such terms.
If this week is anything like the last one, I may not do a blog. Or I may just put my face on my keyboard and post that.
Last week's podcast was perhaps the best one yet. We spoke about the need for the EEA, trade, regulation, and chlorinated chicken. Listen here.