I'm a bit confused by this Buzzfeed splash
The UK will have to stay under the jurisdiction of European courts and in the customs union for the duration of any interim arrangement if it wants to transitionally retain access to the European Union’s trade agreements, senior EU sources have told BuzzFeed News.
Sources suggest the British government is exploring the option of asking to remain a participant in dozens of EU free trade agreements (FTAs), such as the recently ratified deal with Canada (CETA), as part of a transitional plan it wants to have in place for when it formally leaves the EU in 2019 – whereupon it will attempt to negotiate its own trade agreements with many of the countries involved.
OK. So rather than allow all FTAs with third party nations to lapse when the UK leaves the EU, the proposal is that the UK remain parties as if they were still an EU member state until the treaties can be re-negotiated. That makes a good deal of sense by preventing the cliff-edge scenario much beloved by people who confidently anticipate disaster.
So what are the EU saying?
But senior European officials have told BuzzFeed News that continued access to the EU’s FTAs would require Britain to transitionally stay in the customs union – and this would restrict the UK’s ability to conclude its own FTAs. Britain would also need to remain under the jurisdiction of EU courts as part of such interim arrangements.
There's an element of Mandy Rice-Davies about this, and the unnamed officials rather give the game away by saying “The UK cannot walk away with ‘better than membership terms’ even on an interim basis.
” But take a step back, and I'm not sure the EU position makes much sense. As they stand, the FTAs are between the EU and a third party state (the actual list of active FTAs is pretty unimpressive
). Let's take South Korea
as a big example.
Post Brexit, the UK's membership of the EU/South Korea FTA would automatically lapse. So the UK says to South Korea, "while we negotiate a new bi-lateral treaty, please could you agree to treat the UK as if she were still an EU member, and thus party to the existing treaty?" Now, South Korea might not agree to this (that's a diplomatic issue), but the EU doesn't have a say. Even though it's shadowing an EU treaty, to all intents and purposes this would be a new transitional bi-lateral agreement. If the EU isn't a party to it, which it wouldn't be, then they wouldn't have the standing to insist that the UK remains inside the Customs Area.
I assume I'm missing something here, but it looks very much as if the EU is huffing and puffing without much behind it.