Boxing Day, 2020
The post-Brexit agreement on trade and other matters is, it seems, in final draft form – although it has not yet been officially published.
What seems to be a copy of the final draft is here.
Proper analysis of the agreement will necessarily take time – though an initial glance showed about ten pages devoted to creating dozens and dozens of joint European Union and United Kingdom talking shops – committees, assemblies, talking shops, and so on.
This indicates that Brexit will in fact be a negotiation without end.
So while we digest this Christmas feast, let us look at a couple of Christmas cards.
The first is a ‘scorecard’ made public on Christmas Eve.
This purports to show a sequence of heady United Kingdom ‘wins’.
It is too soon to tell whether this document accords with the actual draft agreement, but even on its own terms it is confused and unconvincing.
For example, if we look at public procurement, where the United Kingdom had no proposals, the outcome is dubbed a ‘mutual compromise’.
But on legal services, where the European Union in turn had no position, the outcome is dubbed a United Kingdom ‘win’.Some topics are artificially broken up, perhaps to claim more United Kingdom ‘wins’ (for example, Financial Services), and other ‘wins’ not substantiated by accompanying text (especially Law Enforcement).
Such inconsistencies and distortions mean that, even on the face of it, the ‘scorecard’ is not a reliable document to form a view on the draft agreement either for or against.
The table has been created by the United Kingdom government (or a supporter of government policy) as propaganda, not analysis.
The United Kingdom government, however, is not alone in presenting a table as a spinning exercise.
Again, it is too soon to tell whether this table is accurate in comparison with the actual agreement, though there are no obvious internal inconsistencies in the document.
And maybe significantly, this second table is not framed as ‘wins’ but is instead about losses – the scope and areas of coverage.
What is outside the agreement, as opposed to what was included.
Looking down the ticks and crosses indicate what the United Kingdom might be losing as opposed to ‘winning’.
Just as the number of talking shops to be created under the agreement show that Brexit will now become a negotiation without end, the existence of these two tables indicate that the merits of Brexit will also be an ongoing argument.
Brexit will be a contested subject for at least a generation.
This trade agreement may be bringing part of the Brexit story to a formal conclusion, but it certainly does not bring Brexit to an end.
The United Kingdom government has now published the final draft agreement and a 34 page summary – see here.
And the European Union has published its suite of documents here.
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