Another deadline comes and goes, and still no deal is done. Sunday’s deadline to call off the EU trade negotiations came and went. Both sides decided to have a last crack, go the extra mile, keep plugging away. So the next couple of weeks will be busy as we come up to the final deadline of the 31st December.
The cynic in me concludes that neither side was prepared to call it a day. The French keep sticking to their line about fishing quotas, but no deal means no fishing at all – a far worse outcome than they are hoping for. Meanwhile, our side keeps saying that it will hurt the EU more than it will hurt us.
There’s a lot of rhetoric. But the truth is, whilst we certainly buy more from the EU than we sell to them, our exports to the EU are 6% of our economy, whilst EU exports are just 2% of theirs. We will be three times worse off than our nearest neighbours under World Trade Organisation rules. Similarly, we talk of an Australian style trading relationship with the EU. That’s WTO terms, but Australian trade patterns are that they trade with their near neighbours the most. It is proximity and culture that drives trading relationships. As for fishing, whilst I completely understand the symbolism of our territorial waters, we are holding out for something worth less than one tenth of one percent of our economy, not least because our fishermen sold half their quotas to our EU neighbours.
Having said all that, I do agree that there are big asks by the EU with regard the so called ratchet clause. This asks us to sign up to agreeing to follow their rules (and vice-versa) with regard laws that affect the cost of doing business, such as standards, employees’ rights and environmental laws. Even as a Remainer, I completely understand why this is a big deal for those who voted to break free of exactly this type of governance by fax – something the Norwegians suffer under their deal.
Brexit will be done and we need to strike the right compromise between delivering the will of two thirds of local residents here in Wyre Forest, and making sure we deliver a healthy trading relationship with our nearest neighbours and largest trading partners. We’ll get there, but it’s certainly nail-biting stuff!