A Letter to America: When is a Treaty Not a Treaty? – Explaining the UK-EU Brexit Stand Off

When is a Treaty Not a Treaty? – Explaining the UK- EU Brexit Stand Off

The EU said from the very outset in its negotiations with the UK, everything is agreed when it is all agreed, the EU has not agreed the post Brexit Trade Deal with the UK and it is in that context this article is written, the EU has been disingenuous in its treatment of the UK.

The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) signed off by Boris Johnson was part 1 of a two part Treaty, the first part known as the WA detailed the UK terms of leaving the EU, funds/bills to be paid, citizen’s rights, excise duties and various obligations and agreement (in principle) for the trading structure of Northern Ireland as it will “di facto” remain in the EU single market and how that trade relationship would work (post Brexit) to preserve the peace and trade on the island of Ireland.

This WA was not the Trade Deal which was obligated by both parties following the conclusion of the WA.  However, what has happened is that the EU only wants a Trade Deal on EU terms, the terms which completely undermine the rights and expectations of a sovereign country and the EU’s failure to remove or water down their demands has greatly frustrated the prospect of a post Brexit Trade Deal with the UK.  So what are the sticking points?

Firstly, the EU wishes to continue to have the same fishing quota from British waters as they have ever had when the UK was a member of the EU and for that position never to change, despite the fact the UK is a Coastal State with rights to its own fishing grounds. The EU refuses to discuss anything further on trade before it has agreed the maintenance of full fishing rights and refuses to make progress in other areas – This requirement is unacceptable and makes no sense and is wasting time.

Secondly, the EU does not want the UK to change it rules on State Aid to any company and to continue to align the State Aid rules that pertain in the EU to those of the UK forever.  Additionally, the EU wants the UK to continue to keep EU environmental standards; employment laws and taxation positions of the UK in what the EU calls “dynamic alignment”.  So that whenever the EU changes the rules the UK has to implement what the EU requires – without the UK having any say in the matter as if the UK was still a member of the EU ….which it isn’t.  This is again unacceptable and is contrary to the rights of a sovereign nation.

Thirdly, the EU does not want to entertain the UK being able to market its services into the EU, in discussions the  EU Trade Deal only covers Manufactured and Agricultural Products which favours the EU and undermines UK trade which is largely in services –  needless to say that kind of trade deal is unacceptable, the EU runs a huge trade surplus with the UK as it is.

The UK was happy to have a bare bones trade deal, as offered to Canada by the EU , this was originally promised to the UK  (and then withdrawn) by the EU.  Canada does not have to have any of the onerous Trading obligations to access the EU single market in respect of taxation; environmental or social laws, state aid or dynamic alignment or to be subject to the ruling of the European Court, yet the UK has to submit itself to all this external regulations if it wants a reasonable deal – this is nonsense and Boris Johnson has said so on many occasions.  The UK as a Sovereign nation expected to get exactly the same treatment as Canada or even Australia, however, what has happened is that the EU has unilaterally stated that because of the UK’s close proximity to Europe, (compared to that of Canada in particular) that the UK must submit itself to a lengthy list of onerous additional obligations ( contrary to our sovereign freedoms,) otherwise a trade deal will not be possible.  Additionally, threats about blockading the UK’s food imports or undermining and damaging the City of London have been regularly used against the UK. This whole antagonistic EU approach has soured the atmosphere and sown mistrust and concern about the EU’s whole strategy and motivation which the UK regards as being deeply suspect.

It is really under this sort of outrageous behaviour the UK is now coming to terms with the fact a “No Deal” would be in our national interest.  It is very important to also understand that the linkage to Ireland is not and has never been at risk, but we cannot be in a situation where the EU rules effectively cut up a part of our country to suit the needs of the EU  – rather than the needs of the UK.  It is very much like suggesting Alaska has to comply with all the import rules of Canada despite the fact it belongs to the USA, but that Canada refuses to offer the USA a trade deal and expects the USA to continue to comply with onerous border checks and red tape.  This situation would be unacceptable to the USA and treating Northern Ireland like this is unacceptable to the UK.  The UK had no choice but to protect its interests in clarifying how trade within the UK would operate following a no deal, which is what the Bill before Parliament was about and with which the EU had become so angry.  The EU cannot accept that the UK is no longer a member of the EU and it continues to try and behave as if it still calls all the shots….which is doesn’t.   Every other sovereign state would have done exactly the same in these circumstances and the UK is no different.  If there is to be no deal then the UK must explain to importers and exporters how the system will work in “no deal” and show the people how our new internal market will operate.

Amending rules in pursuit of an acceptable and mutually beneficial Trade Deal with the EU may have meant the UK would have sacrificed some aspects of our sovereign rights to keep trade moving, but in the absence of an EU Trade Deal it is by necessity that some of the elements detailed in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) are no longer applicable as no Trade Deal was forthcoming.   As the Trade Deal would have clarified practical processes not covered in the WA therefore, UK exporters (and importers) would need to have domestic legislation passed and available to them in time for trading without an EU Trade Deal for the 1st January 2021.

The hyperbole about the UK breaking International Law is absolute rubbish.  Besides, every country can change their laws if they are sovereign when circumstances require it, International Law is not fixed for all time and Treaties can be broken if they need to be.  The UK has tried all along to negotiate in good faith, but the EU has stood fast to prevent and frustrate progress – we have been trying since 2016 to get out of the EU and the EU has demonstrated time after time that it’s tentacles of control will not be removed and emphasises to many democratic countries what a dangerous and unaccountable autocracy it has become.

This whole situation is extremely dangerous, because the EU’s intransigence in not treating the UK fairly plays into the hands of the enemies of the free world.  Russia is busily staking its claims to the Artic and China is asserting its claims over Taiwan and continuing to benefit from the Covid 19 pandemic while the free world is at each others throats.

The UK will not give up lightly.  Currently the UK has signed off a better trade deal with Japan which includes financial services which even as a member of the EU the UK was rarely able to export to Europe.  In the end the EU wanted our money and has not allowed us our freedom to trade on a level playing field even as an EU member even less so now we are outside of their control.  The EU hates competition or to see the UK thrive outside of it.

The UK will be looking to the Anglosphere in the years to come to start building an Anglo bulwark against other power blocks in the world, seeking to combine greater co-operation with the 5 eyes alliance (USA; Canada; Australia; New Zealand) and CANZUCK and perhaps as the USA recognises who their friends are in the world the US will seek to form a more solid organisation between our five countries, which when combined, we would “jointly”  become a formidable force against the EU’s dominance and a strong bulwark against China and Russia.

If there is anything to be gained from the EU Brexit saga, it is for the Anglosphere to recognise that our histories, our laws, morals and standards are all very similar and are some of the best civilisation has so far produced and that collectively the Anglosphere can become a powerful influence in the world and a power for good, promoting ethical and professional international relations and remain a defender of democracy – something the Anglosphere has always championed in the face of emerging autocratic and untrustworthy regimes.

The UK hopes the USA will support the UK in her wish to democratise the planet and challenge those who would prefer to circumvent democratic principles using autocracy.   Sadly the EU has demonstrated on many occasions its casual attitude to voting, free speech and fairness and yet again the UK finds itself having to stand and defend the values we as a nation hold dear.


Christine Constable is a political journalist and associate member of the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy


The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Susquehanna Valley Center.

Nothing contained here should be considered as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation before the General Assembly.