On 24 Jan 2018 the Rt Hon David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. You can follow the proceedings on the parliamentlive.tv player. At about 10:40 Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg asked the Secretary of State whether he would agree that between 23:00 on the 29 March 2019 and the 31 Dec 2020 the United Kingdom would be a vassal state of the European Union.
Of course, Mr Davis did not agree but I did not find his reasoning particularly convincing and neither (so it would appear) did Mr Rees-Mogg. Indeed, I have seen at least one newspaper report that even Sir Nick Clegg agreed with Mr Rees-Mogg on that point. As I remarked in Sur Le Pont David Non ...... Mr Davis's "Bridge 26 Jan 2018, I don't agree with Mr Rees-Mogg on much but it is hard to disagree with his description of a status by which we shall be subject to laws of which we shall have no part in making.
That was only the first of several questions that Mr Rees-Mogg asked Mr Davis about the negotiations and Mr Davis's answers to the other questions were less than convincing. Mr Davis looked very uncomfortable throughout Mr Rees-Mogg's questioning. Now Mr Davis is not an unintelligent man. He must have anticipated that line of questioning. Why, then, did he put himself through that ordeal?
I think at least part of the answer lies in an undated letter to business leaders that Mr Davis signed together with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which appeared on the Department for Exiting the EU's website on 26 Jan 2018. In that letter the ministers acknowledged that many businesses need time to adjust to the terms of the UK's new relationship with the EU and to put in place new arrangements. This is why the UK’s and EU’s access to each other’s markets should continue on current terms, so that there will only be one set of changes at the end of the implementation period. It is hard to deny that the UK will be a vassal state during the implementation period but if that is what it takes to maintain business confidence, then so be it.
The representatives of the governments of the 27 remaining member states have now agreed Supplementary directives for the negotiation of an agreement with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal from the European Union and they are substantially on the lines mentioned in Sur Le Pont David Non ...... Mr Davis's "Bridge". The Commission has warned the British negotiators that there can be no backsliding from the Christmas agreement. Also, Monsieur Barnier has noted in his press statement on the adoption of negotiating directives on transitional arrangements that the withdrawal negotiations are not yet settled and that "sufficient progress" does not mean "full progress". In order to hold us to our promise, the Commission requires us to put them into writing. For that reason the Commission has announced that it will publish in due course a draft legal text of the withdrawal agreement, of which the transitional arrangements shall form part.
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