When the UK leaves the EU on 31 January it will surrender all its rights as a member of the EU but will remain subject to its laws and governed by its institutions. As Jacob Rees Mogg observed, the UK will be in the position of a vassal state including having to continue paying money to the EU for the privilege of being its vassal. Not quite ‘taking back control’. In fact, the UK will be surrendering control in all those areas of life where the EU is currently in charge. The question will then be how far the UK is able to ‘claw back’ some of its surrendered freedoms and sovereignty.
The ‘softer’ the Brexit, in other words the closer the UK remains to the EU, the less will be the ‘claw back’. Thus, for example, if the UK agrees to remain aligned with EU regulations on workers’ rights, it will be the EU, not the UK government, which will decide how the UK workplace will be regulated. It also follows that the softer the Brexit the less free the UK will be to do trade deals with the likes of the USA.
The pressures for a soft Brexit are now greater than ever before and include
- the likely loss of influence by the ‘Hard Brexiteers’ in the Tory party given the majority that the Prime Minister has achieved;
- the burgeoning nationalist pressure in Scotland and Northern Ireland for Remaining in or close to the EU;
- the Prime Minister’s aspiration to be re-elected and thus to avoid the economic and social risks of a No Deal and
- the EU using its whip hand in the negotiations to secure a soft Brexit as the best means of retaining its access to the UK markets and protecting itself from ‘unfair’ competition from an ‘independent’ UK.
There must now be a real possibility that the fantasy politics of Brexit will result in one of the greatest surrenders of sovereignty in modern history short of being defeated in a war and one that astonishingly was voted for by the people of the vassal state.