Brexit is a strategy – re-asserting sovereign power, and changing the legal, economic, trade, security, foreign and diplomatic direction of the UK. Negotiations are the tactics to give effect to the strategy.
The question in 2016 was: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? ‘ It should be to state the obvious, that to Leave means no longer being a member of EU institutions, subject to its internal rules, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That involves leaving the EU customs union and the Single Market. To do otherwise is to remain.
Continued adherence to the customs union rules out unilateral trade deals with non-EU states. Continued membership of the Single Market, whose rules derive from the Single European Act, an EU institutional pillar, also means staying in - at a disadvantage as an associate, with no voting power or influence over amendment or extension of its rules. ECJ Jurisdiction would apply, as it is the final arbiter on the application of the Single European Act.
There has been confusion over the words ‘Single Market.’ As I describe it above, it is an EU institution, but it can also mean no more than a ‘market’ that encompasses 500 million people in 27 states. That second definition is the one that applies when the EU states trade with the rest of the world. Neither China, USA, Japan or any other country outside the EFTA bloc, are subject to the Single Market Act or the jurisdiction of the ECJ. They trade with the ‘market’ under WTO rules, and do very well.
In coming out of the ‘Single Market’ the UK will seek continued access to the EU ‘market’ but on different terms to those that govern EU-China trade, for example. The free trade flow between the EU states and the UK has existed since 1973. The UK does not want to see impediments to that free flow, so the question is whether the EU wishes to do so, as a means of ‘punishing’ a member state who wishes to leave?
That are strong economic grounds for believing that for all the huffing and puffing, and the odd sound of fury from some EU quarters, the UK objective is possible. They are based on common sense.
The EU 27 exports £690 bn of goods and services to the UK each year, and the UK to them is £628bn. There is a lot of business, investment, and huge numbers of jobs on both sides, at stake. It would be remarkable, indeed remarkably stupid, if German, French, Italian and Dutch business and trade unions do not press for the freest possible bilateral trade. I would not like to be the German MP who, in order to ‘punish’ the UK for having the temerity to leave, was willing to tell his car worker constituents he was deliberately sacrificing their jobs to do so.