Legal advice on the Brexit deal, published reluctantly after MPs found the government in contempt of parliament, warns the terms of the Irish backstop could trap the UK in “protracted and repeated rounds of negotiations” in the years ahead.
The legal status of the arrangements for preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – and in particular, the UK’s ability to extricate itself – are at the heart of the political row about whether MPs should accept the prime minister’s deal.
In a six-page document finally released on Wednesday, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, concedes, as he did in parliament on Monday, that the UK could be trapped indefinitely in the backstop.
I’m even suspecting May’s terrible handling might even be part of it, funnily enough there’s an article on ConservativeHome 6 months ago referencing EEA/EFTA membership.
It’s time to board the EEA lifeboat – and set sail towards a New Common Market
James Cartlidge is MP for South Suffolk.
It was barely a month ago, during the remaining stages of the Withdrawal Bill, that Brexiteer MPs lined up to oppose a pro-EEA amendment. But as I said in that debate: “I simply warn colleagues not to trash this option too much. It is not so much about burning bridges; we could be concreting over the only escape hatch credibly left to us if we get in to a crisis”.
Let us hope that the cement mixture has not yet set, because just this week an entire cohort of columnists, including some devout Brexiteers, have suggested that the EEA ‘Norway’ option might be the best Plan B. David Smith of the Sunday Times; plus Jeremy Warner, Philip Johnston and Tim Stanley of the Daily Telegraph, have all voiced support; whilst even Nick Timothy and ConservativeHome’s Paul Goodman have accepted the strength of the EEA option as a ‘port in a storm’.
Personally, I have always been clear that EEA is inferior compared to the kind of deep, bespoke bilateral deal that the Prime Minister is seeking; yet distinctly superior as a plan B when compared with WTO rules. Where the WTO option carries significant economic, logistical and political risk, the EEA route is potentially able to unify both sides of the debate – if used as a transitional ‘lifeboat’ out of the EU.
Kent 'facing gridlocked and rubbish-strewn streets under no-deal Brexit' Hard-hitting report from council also raises concerns about unburied bodies and effect on schools Lisa O'CarrollLast modified on Thu 6 Dec 2018 23.41 GMT
A no-deal Brexit could cause major disruption across Kent, with gridlock on the roads around Dover, rubbish not being collected, children unable to take exams and rubbish piling up on streets, a local council report has warned.
The registration service for weddings could also be affected and bodies could pile up in morgues because of traffic gridlock, Kent county council warned in an update on no-deal contingency planning. Problems would all flow from the congestion and new regulatory barriers that would be in place if Britain crashed out of the EU on 29 March.
In a 17-page report the council, which is expected to bear the brunt of a no-deal Brexit because of the critical Dover-Calais trade route, said it might have to deal with 10,000 lorries parked or stacked on its roads if the UK crashes out of the EU.
The no-deal scenario planning also warned that customer service response times would be reduced in Kent. Civil service weddings could be affected as would spring visits to country parks.
“There are a number of service peaks around the 29 March 2019 period that could be impacted. For the registration service, there is generally an increase in weddings in April to June, and registrar involvement in these is likely to be affected by severe traffic congestion,” it warned.
“KCC’s country parks, which are almost 80% self-funding from customer income, historically have brought in strong income during the spring period when the traffic disruption could be at its highest,” it noted.
The coroners’ service, it said, “could face difficulties with the transport of the deceased to postmortem or body storage facilities, [as could] the attendance of staff to hospital sites for identification purposes and travel by pathologists to mortuary to conduct postmortems. Whilst mitigation measures are being explored, there are limited options available to this service”.
On waste management, it said: “District and borough collection services may be delayed and disrupted if there is significant traffic congestion.”
But it warned that Kent is somewhat in the dark “awaiting details of the government national freight plan”, including plans for passenger freight priorities and the “national ports strategy”.
It reiterated warnings from Kent council leaders before the Tory party conference that congestion from Dover would not just mean a disruption to Britain’s manufacturing supply chains. Roads near the main arterial routes in Kent would become congested as truck drivers sought alternative routes, potentially affecting everyday business and social services.