So now we know. The Prime Minister has declared her hand in the White Paper on Britain’s future relationship with the EU published after the Chequers cabinet meeting. She wants from the EU an agreement based on the kind of agreement the EU has with…Morocco. Her letter to Tory MPs last week spelt it out: “We are proposing that the framework for our relationship with the European Union should be an Association Agreement.”
This kind of agreement is exactly what the European Parliament’s Brexit Co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has been pressing for all along. It is also identical to the 2000 EU-Morocco Agreement. Both agreements have a Free Trade Area exclusively for goods (including agri-foods) between the two parties. And ever since Morocco committed to this, with every EU law and every European Court ruling it has become more and more absorbed into the EU’s single market – without, of course, having a say in how it develops.
The government’s acknowledgment that refusal to follow EU rules “would have consequences” for trade likewise echoes the EU-Morocco Association Agreement. Any Moroccan efforts to deviate from any EU law are thwarted by threats of attacks on trade.
Similarly, if Britain tried to deviate from EU rules, the EU would threaten to tear up the whole FTA in order to enforce our obedience. Under the AA’s “Common Rulebook” Britain would have to obey EU rules, and the European Court of Justice would continue to be supreme, just as Morocco has been forced to experience.
May has also refused to commit to taking back full control of our fishing grounds. Similarly, the 2006 EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement allows vessels from 11 EU member states to fish in Moroccan waters. So Britain would not assert control of its own coastal waters.
The EU has used Association Agreements as the basis of the six Western Balkan countries’ moves towards joining the EU. All these agreements entail accepting EU rules, acknowledging the European Court of Justice’s supremacy, and agreeing to coercive mechanisms designed to enforce regulatory uniformity. In essence, these deals gear third countries’ entire legal systems, trading horizons, standards and norms to the EU’s.
The EU may well accept the government’s proposal – after all, it is the EU’s idea. If so, the government will have trapped us into an agreement which does not deliver any of the prizes of Brexit, breaches all the government’s supposed red lines, and trashes our decision to leave the EU.