This was first posted on Facebook on 26th December 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
The full text of the deal is now available.
(Boris Johnson claims it is only 500 pages long, but that doesn’t work even if he is counting 2 sides of A4 as a page.)
What is clear is that – as Keir Starmer has affirmed his Labour MPs will vote for it – the deal will be enacted by Parliament before 11pm 31st December 2020.
Despite promising earlier in the year that Erasmus wouldn’t be affected, Boris Johnson has removed most UK universities from Erasmus, claiming it’s too expensive and they’ll invent something better and cheaper called Turing. (Students at Northern Ireland universities still have access to Erasmus.)
To a certain extent, we can still travel visa-less and even do limited amounts of work in the EU, for 90 days out of 180. Travelling for market research is allowed, but not academic research: a UK company can organise an event in a EU country, but will have to use EU staff to work on the event. Musicians and performance isn’t even mentioned, so goodbye to British music in the EU.
The requirement for cars sold from the UK into the EU to have mostly-EU made parts is being phased in: Japanese car companies that used the UK as a safe foothold into the EU, have five years to work out where they want to go next.
EU businesses will be able to export goods into the UK without much red tape and no tariffs. UK businesses – which have been screaming at the government for guidance for years – will launch into a mound of red tape for exports to the EU, as though no tariffs apply, customs checks have to be performed. Fresh food can come in: what we export will struggle to get out, because the UK government simply didn’t bother to plan or build the necessary infrastructure.
This is my present understanding. It means we’ll continue to see lorry queues.
The UK is to be in regulatory alignment with the EU, though there are any number of statutory working groups and committees that will continue to negotiate just what that means. Hopes by Tories that once the deal is passed we can stop talking about Brexit are in vain: the deal itself requires us to go on talking about Brexit for years.
What this does mean, though, is that now we know we’re not crashing out in no-deal Brexit, we can consider the future further than the next few months.
In May next year, Scotland elects a new Scottish Parliament, and at the moment, this is the SNP’s election to lose. Consistent polling trends say the SNP may even win a controlling majority, and will certainly – with the support of the Scottish Greens, who also look to increase the number of MSPs – have a majority for independence. And if that happens – if both SNP and Greens have a second independence referendum in their manifesto – most Scots agree that this means there is a democratic mandate for that referendum.
Despite strong pressure from within her own party, Sturgeon is likely to wait til we are vaccinated (if not all of us, at least enough of us that the pandemic can be considered over) before launching the next indyref campaign, which will certainly include the talking point Better Together used in 2014:
The UK is now a third country outside the EU – Northern Ireland alone has kept EU privileges. Voting no to independence means remaining outside the EU.
Vote yes to iScotland, and iScotland can reapply for EU membership and – we have definite though necessarily unofficial word of this – will be accepted back into EU-28 again.
The advantage of the trade deal is that it is rather more than a trade deal: it is an effort to keep the UK aligned with the EU. So long as this works, Scotland has an easy step into the EU: we were part of the EU til 31st January 2020: we will still be strongly aligned with the EU for years after 31st December 2020: all we have to do is ensure that the few chapters of the acquis Scotland doesn’t already fulfil, are set up in accordance with EU requirements for membership.
Necessarily, I thought, no matter how fast the EU tracks iScotland into membership, there would be a gap: but one aspect of this deal, the provisional application before official ratification, suggests to me that iScotland could benefit from a similar arrangement – to go directly from being part of the UK to being a provisional member of the EU.
There are still huge steps to overcome, not least that both the Tory Party (whoever is leading it*) and Keir Starmer for Labour, will be campaigning in England for GE2024 on a platform opposed to Scottish independence. Whatever Keir Starmer says about Scottish independence, he isn’t trying to win back Scottish voters: he’s trying to win over English voters, especially those in the North of England who let the Tories win last time.