A victory for the Brexit government?

A big victory for the Brexit government on Friday? As Jean Claude Juncker announces sufficient progress in talks to move onto discussing a trade deal, let's rate our government's the main achievements on the three initial areas of negotiation:

1. People - Britons in the EU and Europeans in Britain get to stay, as will their children. This is very welcome, although it was publicly desired by all parties from before the start of talks, so is not exactly a huge achievement. That said, it is a much bigger boon for the EU than for Britain, as there are nearly 3 times as many European in Britain than vice versa.

Difficulty: Easy
Result: Pass

2. "Divorce bill" - This will apparently be somewhere in the region £33-50bn. The formula has been agreed although the amount is yet to be exactly determined. Moreover we will potentially pay further pension contributions even after the up-front payment (there's a lot of detail that this pensions actuary could go into here, but perhaps another time...) This is a one off amount, but in real terms if we consider the government's cost of capital it equates to £600-900m every year (forever) which definitely won't be going to the NHS.

This a serious reversal for those Brexiteers who claimed the bill should and would be zero. For example, Boris Johnson (somehow still Foreign Secretary) politely told the EU to "go whistle" over the Brexit bill; although he now claims that was only about it being £80bn, he was apparently totally fine with £50bn. 

To be fair to our negotiating team, a payment of roughly this order may have been inevitable and reasonable given previously made obligations (or so some people say, I haven't wasted even more of my life discovering the exact truth). To be fair to the Brexiteers, they either woefully overestimated our hand or repeatedly lied.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Result: Fail

3. Ireland - The initial agreement states that Northern Ireland will leave the Customs Union and that any regulatory alignment in NI that is not matched by Britain must be agreed by Stormont. There will also be no hard border between the Republic and the North; and no border between the UK and NI. These were the government's red lines going into the process. They looked incompatible then, and they still look incompatible now. No substantive progress has been made in reconciling them at all, let alone getting the EU and Ireland to agree.

To give the EU the necessary confidence to move forward with negotiations the government has had to commit the whole UK to Remaining within the Single Market and Customs Union until a further agreement can be reached. However, given this it's difficult to see what incentive the Republic or a DUP-led Stormont will have to compromise later in the process. On the plus side, this makes staying the Single Market permanently look marginally more likely. On the plus side, this makes staying the Single Market permanently look marginally more likely. Cross your fingers

Difficulty: Hard
Result: [Did not turn up]

Summary - Short of Gibraltan sovereignty, the UK appears to have given the EU everything it wanted, and received no significant concessions in return. This will doubtless be written up as a great victory for our courageous government. God Save the Queen! 


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