The next government – whether Labour or Tory – won’t be able to negotiate wholesale revisions to the Brexit agreement with the EU even if they want to (and it appears, anyway, that neither Labour nor the Tories want to).
A review of the agreement is scheduled for 2026, but the EU has indicated big changes won’t be possible.
In a speech today [Monday], the EU’s Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič said:
“The [Brexit trade agreement] offers significant potential to further improve our partnership. However, it is not – and can never be – a replacement for EU membership.
“Trade can no longer be as frictionless and dynamic as it was before when the UK was part of the EU’s internal market. That inevitably means additional costs for businesses on both sides.
“Over time, increased divergence may bring even more cost and will further deepen the barriers to trade between the EU and the UK. This is regrettable, but must be accepted.
“And it is why we are committed to making the most of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, to our mutual benefit.”
Stefan Fuehring, head of the Commission’s unit on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, echoed this sentiment and added that changes to the deal would be a “very long shot”.
“It’s a review, not a revision, not a renewal or even amendment of any sort.”
So, the bottom line is that if you’re a Remainer who hates Brexit and would prefer a softer Brexit or even to rejoin the EU, it’s not something the next UK government can offer.
And if you’re a Brexiter who dislikes the Brexit we got and would prefer a different version, it’s not on the cards, at least for the immediate years ahead.
We’re stuck with Brexit for the foreseeable future.
But in my view, we could profitably use our time outside the EU to properly explain to the public what the EU is all about, so that when the time is ripe for our return – which it will be, one day, for both the UK and the EU – Britain and Britons will be better informed and never again likely to fall for Brexit baloney.
Before people get too disheartened by this evening’s post, just remember that everything is negotiable. Brexit is not an act of God; it is not set in stone, it is not irreversible. But there has to be the will on both sides to change things, and a very strong will at that.
The EU cannot possibly be the ones to make the first move, and they can see that both the Tories and Labour are lukewarm about getting closer to the EU.
That’s where we come in. As I have commented many times, we need a big campaign to properly explain and promote the huge benefits of EU membership. That in turn could (I think would) lead to strong public demand to rejoin, which in turn would impact on the two main parties to change their current pro Brexit policies.
When the EU can see a genuine and forceful demand across the UK to get back into the EU, the response of the EU will be equally strong and heartfelt. But whilst our political leaders/masters keep their distance, expect the EU to respond in kind.