Much is said about a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, but what is a ‘With a Deal’ Brexit? Lets look shall we

Graham Charles Lear
5 min readJun 15, 2019

What should leaving ‘With a Deal’ mean?

Well, the simple fact is that there is no agreement between the EU and the UK which allows the UK to leave the EU with a true ‘deal’. Even under Mrs. May’s disastrous surrender treaty known as the Withdrawal Agreement, this does not exist.

Any ordinary member of the public would expect an exit ‘deal’ with the EU to include almost everything — especially a new trade agreement on how the UK and the EU countries would do business following Brexit.

What happened in reality?

The EU restricted the negotiations to three arbitrary subjects and refused to discuss anything else until these were agreed.

Even before Mrs. May had delivered the Article 50 notice of leaving the EU, Monsieur Barnier ruled out any talk of a true and comprehensive deal.

On 22 March 2017 — one week before Mrs. May triggered Article 50 — Mr. Barnier made clear that the EU would not negotiate a full Brexit deal. Instead, it would start with its own arbitrary demands which had to be concluded first.

In a speech to the EU’s Committee of the Regions

He stated

“This implies putting things in order: first, finding an agreement on the principles of orderly withdrawal from the United Kingdom, and then discussing, with confidence, our future relationship. The sooner we agree on the principles of an orderly withdrawal, the sooner we can prepare for this future relationship…. This new partnership, it is not too early to sketch the outlines today, even if it is too early to negotiate. At the center of this partnership is the free trade agreement that we will negotiate with the UK at the appropriate time.”

In this speech, he also set out the only three areas which the EU would discuss:

  1. Citizens’ rights.
  2. The ‘divorce bill.
  3. The Irish border.

A full exit deal was off the table and a trade deal would not be negotiated until some matters had been agreed first. In effect, ‘no deal’ was then the default position.

This was over two years ago, on 22 March 2017.

What did Mrs May ask for?

In her Article 50 letter of 29 March 2017 Theresa May spelled out what was expected from a deal.

“The United Kingdom wants to agree with the European Union a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security cooperation. To achieve this, we believe it is necessary to agree with the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.

“If, however, we leave the European Union without an agreement the default position is that we would have to trade on World Trade Organisation terms.

Four times in this letter the Government stressed that trade should be discussed alongside all other matters. Readers will note that two years and three months ago, in the official letter triggering Article 50,

it was plain as day that the UK would leave the EU on WTO terms if no deal was agreed.

I don’t recall MPs rising up in protest back then.

What did Mrs. May get?

Nothing. The EU insisted on sequencing the talks, taking the trade off the table. Quite extraordinarily, the UK Government acquiesced instead of walking away.

The EU then spent a further three months on its internal procedures before it was ready to start negotiations on 19 June 2017.

How does the legal Withdrawal Agreement describe the new trade agreement?

It doesn’t. It merely covers the UK with a plethora of regulations which keep the UK under the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union, but with no say.

A new trade agreement between the EU and the UK is not part of the Withdrawal Agreement. Where trade is mentioned it is merely part of a continuation of Single Market and Customs Union rules — only worse.

So where is the option of “leaving with a deal”?

From the perspective of the ordinary voter, there is no true ‘deal’ on offer from the EU. The Withdrawal Agreement — the only (draft) legally-binding document which exists — does not include a new trade deal.

Most people would consider a new trade deal to be an integral part of any overall deal. It’s not there. This a fundamental point that is understood by most politicians and by the commentariat, but I do not believe it is has been properly explained to the majority of people in the UK, who do not have time for the ins and outs.

The vast majority of the Withdrawal Agreement consists of rules and regulations on the UK which are even more onerous than our current membership. In effect, the Government and Civil Service managed to come out of these negotiations with a worse position for the UK than before they started. And they singularly failed to come out with a ‘deal’, in anything like a comprehensive sense.

One of the characteristics which have been surprising over the past three years since we voted to leave the EU has been the appearance of arbitrary decisions by the EU which have then become apparently-universal truths. With a pro-Remain Parliament and media, once these are stated they have become mantras.

One of these is the oft-quoted talk of a ‘deal’ with the EU to effect Brexit. The reality is that this was ruled out unilaterally by the EU — and acquiesced to by the May Government — back in March 2017.

In all our years of experience of listening to MPs and reading what they say, the majority of them have precious little knowledge of the EU, nor of the key Brexit issues. They simply repeat what they’ve heard, with no ability to quote the important facts involved.

The mantra about taking ‘no deal’ off the table is a case in point. Mrs. May and her civil servants have already left us without a true deal. The Withdrawal Agreement is most definitely not an exit deal in any comprehensive sense whatsoever, as it has no new trade deal as part of it. And the EU refuses to negotiate a new trade deal unless we agree to their demands first.

The scariest thing for the EU is the prospect of an independent, successful United Kingdom post-Brexit. This is why they prevented a trade deal unless the UK agreed to hive off part of its territory (Northern Ireland).

The EU refuses to include a trade deal. This means that in order to deliver the Referendum result we must leave without a comprehensive deal.

Since no deal is all that is on offer from the EU, then the mantra of “we must take no deal off the table” is nothing more than a cloak for saying “we must take Brexit off the table”.

[Sources: EU Commission | UK Government Cabinet Office | EU Parliament ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.