Andrew Duff: Association agreement best Brexit option for UK

Written by Martin Banks on 10 November 2016 in News
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Former MEP Andrew Duff has predicted that the best the UK can expect from a post-Brexit deal is an association agreement similar to that agreed between the EU and Ukraine and Moldova.

Former MEP Andrew Duff has predicted that the best the UK can expect from a post-Brexit deal is an association agreement similar to that agreed between the EU and Ukraine and Moldova.

Duff, a former leading Liberal MEP, also launched a withering attack on ex-UK premier David Cameron, accusing him of “shameful” conduct over Brexit.

His comments came on Tuesday when he presented an assessment on Brexit to the European parliament’s constitutional affairs committee.


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His intervention comes amid a simmering row between the EU and UK about the next EU summit in December.

Each of the 27 member states will meet without the UK on the second day of the European Council summit in December despite British Prime Minister Theresa May, having reportedly “remonstrated” with European council president Donald Tusk over the practice at the October Council meeting.

A diplomat quoted by one Brussels news source claims that May said, “I accept that [the EU] 27 needs to meet, but I want the UK to play an active part. Thus, we should meet as 28, otherwise it will be hard for me to accept things you agreed among yourselves. I expect to be fully involved in all discussions related to the EU 28.”

Meanwhile, in his address to the parliamentary committee earlier this week, Duff outlined the likely scenarios facing the UK if, as planned, it triggers Article 50 next March.

He said, “There has been much talk in the UK of what is not possible as a basis for its future relationship with the EU. The Norway model is dismissed because it is too much like full membership without political and institutional rights. The Swiss example is discounted as too messy. Staying like Turkey within the customs union but not within the single market is a lowly objective.

“Canada’s free trade agreement is even less appealing.”

He concluded, “What is left is the model the EU recently adopted for the Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova: an association agreement with institutions and intergovernmental political cooperation and, at its heart, a deep and comprehensive free trade area.

“But I strongly recommend that the Ukrainian template is used as a framework for reflection.”

He added, “An association agreement would allow for the best of the legacy of full EU membership to be conserved, including continuing British participation in, for example, EU agencies such as Europol. It allows for tariff-free access for goods and for the preservation of the regulatory equivalence that the UK has achieved with the EU by virtue of its long-standing membership. It does not prevent the UK from adopting an autonomous trade policy.”

Duff told the committee, “Nor does it presage the UK’s future re-accession to the EU: association can be a settled status. The transition from full membership to association agreement, via a transitional period laid down in the Article 50 agreement, is complex but feasible. Although a new UK-EU association agreement, being a ‘mixed agreement’ would require ratification in all member states, it could be introduced on a provisional basis.”

Duff also used his visit to the parliament to launch a blistering attack on former Prime Minister David Cameron over his role in the EU referendum which will see the UK exit the UK within two years of Article 50 being triggered.

He told MEPs, “The British referendum was only the most dramatic – and fatal – blow to the European project as we know it. We are condemned to succeed no longer. In fact, we are quite likely to fail altogether, falling further apart, if the right lessons are not drawn from the Brexit disaster.

“No prime minister has ever spoken with such contempt about the European Parliament as David Cameron. No other member of the European Council has risked his (or her) country’s membership of the Union on populist grounds to appease nationalist opinion back home. And nobody else has sought to exact from his partners such concessions as were contained in the package shamefully agreed by the European Council in February 2016.”

Duff went on, “Cameron’s ‘new settlement’ for the UK was the ultimate opt-out. Its effect would have been deleterious not just on the UK but on the rest of Europe too, including on those countries in the Western Balkans which, despite the odds, still aspire one day to join the EU.”

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Theresa May has played down a chilling warning that the UK economy faces a £25bn black hole because of Brexit. May insisted that the “fundamentals of the British economy are very strong” after the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated the UK Treasury will take in £31bn less in tax receipts by 2019/20 than forecast in the last Budget.

And she insisted the UK faced a "world of opportunities" after Brexit in which could increase international trade while curbing immigration.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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