After apparently agreeing to the Government’s Brexit plan at Chequers last week, David Davis has now resigned. He could not face the long walk down the Chequers drive and the impossibility of hailing a taxi home so he waited a couple of days.
Davis has been notable for his absence from the Brussels negotiations for some time. The Commission officials have been talking to UK officials. No surprise at that. Mrs May meanwhile has been touring the capitals of EU member states. No surprise at that either. The idea that a Minister should be locked in day to day negotiations with a bunch of Commission officials was always nonsense. No surprise, therefore, that Davis felt sidelined. His position was always impossible.
His resignation does not alter the fact that the UK Government has agreed on the outlines of a new trade agreement with the EU to take effect after Brexit. It is not a ‘soft Brexit’ but a new trade deal with the EU. All trade agreements come with strings attached – keep to the rules and product standards and ensure that there is a dispute mechanism. Mr Davis has not resigned on principle. He has not published any alternative plan.
The EU, for its part, is defending the integrity of its single market with its ‘four freedoms’ including the free movement of people. Funny that it has been able to negotiate trade deals with many third countries, most recently with Canada, where there is no requirement for the free movement of people. Why should the UK not be treated as other third countries are treated in EU trade deals? Because it must be punished for daring to leave the EU’s Utopian project.
Here the EU reveals its own confusions. The ‘free movement of labour’ enshrined in the EU Treaties morphed into the ‘free movement of people’ and on the back of that the EU is challenged from outside its borders by mass migration. The Schengen Agreement on internal borders is already in tatters. Time for the EU to reconsider just what is and what is not really required for its internal market to operate for the mutual benefit of all citizens of its member states.