On Friday, the British Cabinet met in Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat, to agree among itself, a position to propose to the EU27 on its intended future relationship with the EU after Brexit. A mere two years after the referendum. Key points involved agreeing to maintain a “common rulebook” for all goods and agricultural products and the establishment of a “combined customs territory”, under which the UK would apply its own, possibly lower, tariffs and policies for goods for the domestic market, and EU tariffs and policies for goods entering the EU. These, the Cabinet considered, would go some way to enabling the UK to maintain a frictionless, or close to frictionless, border in Ireland and mainland Europe, while giving it an independent trade policy, particularly in relation to services. On jurisdiction, the UK would pay “due regard” to EU case law in respect of the common rulebook, but would not technically be bound by its decisions, nor would the ECJ resolve disputes between the UK and the EU. Free movement would end and be replaced with a “mobility framework”.
A Government White Paper is expected to be published on Thursday, with considerably more detail than the three-pager that was published at the start of the weekend. In its current form, the proposal may not fly in Brussels. It looks like the fabled “cherry picking” of the UK requesting the benefits of EU membership without fully signing up to the Four Freedoms, and the fear in Brussels is that it would give the UK a competitive advantage that other members states do not have. But it is at least the first document emerging from the UK government that explicitly accepts trade-offs will need to be made.