Negotiating with the EU after we have left

The Times correspondent Simon Nixon’s quote from an EU official that “once the UK has left, we will be able to be much more flexible” (21 February)” is surely  right. It points the way to unblocking the present impasse.

Let the EU and the UK agree to postpone the leaving settlement until after the UK has left on March 29th together with an Agreement that both sides keep the existing tariff and customs regime for say 12 months, extendable by mutual agreement if a replacement regime has not been agreed.

Under GATT article 24 this would not require extending the EU’s common external tariff to third parties, as WTO would be informed that this “Tariff Standstill Agreement” was a precursor to a long-term Trade Agreement.

This way, everything becomes possible: Parliament would get a proper, considered say over the final  agreement, the European Research Group would be able to argue for low tariffs; Britain would be free at the end of the standstill period to conclude negotiations with other countries as well as the EU; new border arrangements could be properly trialled including those at the Irish border; Mrs May would fulfil her solemn declaration to take Britain out of the European Union according to the Withdrawal Act, on March 29th. and could retire with honour if she and her colleagues wished this. There would be no need to fiddle around with contentious Article 50 extensions.



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