Gove ruled out an extension to the transition period, telling Nick Robinson “I don’t believe in an extension… in delay there lies no plenty… we need to crack on” and must “meet the deadline”. That’s a thanks but no thanks to Nick Boles’ suggestion from last week…
IDS: We want to take back control, and that includes taking back control of our fishing waters pic.twitter.com/4QRH9v7CjY
— Leave Means Leave (@LeaveMnsLeave) March 19, 2018
They’ve had time to mullet over and the verdict from Tory MPs on the fishing section of the transition deal is in: cod do better. The rebellion is already on a significant scale – Number 10 will be reeling from these quotes (via David Scullion):
Douglas Ross MP: “The UK Government has delivered far less than I hoped and expected… it would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than to try to sell this as a success.”
Ross Thomson MP: “Be clear that UK national ﬁsheries resources are not negotiable and that we will therefore be setting our own ﬁsheries policy from 29 March 2019. We cannot remain party to the OFF during the proposed implementation period.”
Ruth Davidson: “Having spoken to fishing leaders today, I know they’re deeply frustrated with this outcome. There is no ignoring the fact that this falls short of what they had hoped for in the short-term.”
Iain Duncan Smith: “There does seem to be a real concern… it appears that at least through the implementation period nothing will change, and I think that will be a concern and the government clearly has to deal with that because a lot of MPs are very uneasy about that right now.”
Richard Tice, Leave Means Leave: “Under the current plans, we will not be taking back control of our fisheries when we leave the EU – something which the Government had previously promised. Ruth Davidson is absolutely right on this – our fishermen must have absolute control of our waters and fish from the end of March 2019 and anything less is totally unacceptable.”
Fishing for Leave: “[David Davis] should stay in Brussels as his allegiance is obviously to the EU ring of stars not Her Majesty the Queen or the British people.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation: “It’s far short of an acceptable deal – we leave the OFF and hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later.”
Meanwhile Open Europe’s Henry Newman is reporting that Whitehall officials are advocating that the UK should give up fishing rights and that Hammond is not interested in defending the fishing industry. Hyped up rows over the transition have traditionally been a bit of a red herring. But this is not going swimmingly.
UPDATE: Scottish Tory MPs have been called in to see chief whip Julian Smith over the rebellion.
UPDATE II: Worth remembering that this row is largely over what will happen during one year of the transition. The annual catch is decided in December of each year, so in December 2018 the UK will be involved as we are now in determining catch and distribution for 2019 – year one of the transition. It’s year two of the transition, 2020, that is causing concern. The upside is that, even though the UK will only be “consulted“, Brussels has agreed the catch size will be exactly the same so at least we do not lose out, even if we are not taking back control that year. By 2021 the UK will be negotiating fishing rights as an independent coastal state and fully taking back control of our waters. The end state sounds acceptable, Number 10 will be hoping MPs can live with that one year of compromise in the meantime…
The good news:
The less good news for the government:
Most Tory Brexiteers will be on board, the fishing result could have been better but this is another step towards Brexit…
The Moggs and Bones of the Tory Brexiteer wing have never supported the idea of a transition period, and they are getting a lot of attention again today. Guido gets the impression that most Tory Brexiteers, and certainly those in the Cabinet, are still on board with a transition so long as it is time-limited to two years. Most have agreed to compromise and accepted that not much will change in those first two years after Brexit day. Their view is that there is no point spending political capital negotiating over the transition and that our cards would be better played making sure we get a good trade deal. That seems sensible, what matters is the end state is a proper Brexit allowing us to diverge from the EU in future.
There is however one aspect of the transition that does worry Leavers up and down the party. They have been concerned to learn of some of the new EU rules Britain could be forced to accept during the transition – there are as many as 20 new directives and diktats that Leavers want us to be able to reject. David Davis says it will take the EU at least two years to get their new laws through so we shouldn’t worry. That isn’t reassuring MPs, as the UK cannot be an obstacle to the swift passage of new legislation after March 2019. Having to take new rules during the transition would not look like we are transitioning out of the EU…
UPDATE: DD’s words of reassurance for Brexiters:
“we will have to agree a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say…
… and we will agree an appropriate process for this temporary period.
So that we have the means to remedy any issues, through dialogue, as soon as possible.”
In June George Bridges quit as Brexit minister amid reports he had fallen out with Downing Street over strategy. He has spoken for the first time about how he thinks the government should proceed (read in full on Reaction). Many of his suggestions are being welcomed by Tory Brexiteers:
Theresa May is to give a major speech on or around September 21. The aim is to “reset” the Brexit negotiations and end the impasse – those involved talk of achieving this by offering more clarity, compromise and a conciliatory tone towards Brussels. She will likely talk up how there is almost a deal on citizens’ rights and significant convergence on Ireland. The question is how far May will go in saying what she wants from a transition and if she will commit to contributing financially to the EU during this period. The ball would then be in the EU’s court to show why we should pay more than this. The Bridges proposals are interesting, as he says Number 10 should “make a bolder move and break the impasse”…
As Guido reported yesterday morning, most Leave Tory MPs are on board with David Davis’ customs union plan. The influential European Research Group of 80+ Tory Brexiteers last night gave their blessing to the “welcome” proposal. What Leave MPs do want is for the transition period to be as short as possible. Leave Tories have indicated they support a time-limited transition completed by the next election, though they would obviously prefer it lasted closer to 1-2 years than 3. They have several arguments for this. One, the transition phase must be short enough to keep the UK appealing to new trade partners – a very important point which is being argued by Leave MPs at the moment. Two, it must be strictly time-limited and short enough to allay concerns it could be used to keep the UK in the EU by the back door. Three, Tory MPs believe it is vital voters see as much progress as possible on the results of Brexit, on immigration and new trade deals, before the next election. As we said yesterday, that means the transition finishing with time to spare…
This is the latest “Cabinet row erupts” story in the papers. When you consider previous “splits” on the single market, customs union etc, a debate boiling down to a matter of a few months is relatively small fry. As Guido has said for some time, there is a broad Cabinet consensus on the trajectory of the Brexit process – Stephen Pollard is worth a read on this today. It is nonetheless important for Leave MPs to keep up the pressure on the length of the implementation phase. The shorter the transition the better it is for trade deals, and the less likely it is for Britain to stay in the EU by the back door…