Yesterday Donald Tusk sparked a renewed Brexit debate by reaffirming the EU offer of a deal with the UK called 'Canada plus plus plus'. But what is it?
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Boris Johnson welcomed it, as did Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage told Mrs May to bite Tusk's hand off to get this Canada plus cubed deal. They're saying 'Chuck Chequers, Clutch Canada'.
So, if the Brexiteers want it and the EU is offering it, but the PM is against it, what's going on? Why isn't Chequers chucked and Canada clutched?
First let's take a look at what Donald Tusk Tweeted to the world on the issue:
"From the very beginning, the EU offer has been a Canada+++ deal. Much further-reaching on trade, internal security and foreign policy cooperation. This is a true measure of respect. And this offer remains in place."
The first bit about trade sounds fine, but then it goes straight into internal security and foreign policy.
What does that mean? That the UK has to be bound by Eurojust and the European Arrest Warrant? Do we have to ensure UK foreign policy is driven by the needs of the EU just as it is now? And of course 'internal security' to the EU means EU security so one assumes this is also all about our armed forces and our continued integration into the Permanent Structured Co-operation of an EU army Navy and Air Force etc.
Would it mean we regain our full seat on the World Trade Organisation? And further, as we would be remaining joined at the hip with the EU in defence, in time would our UN Security Council seat be up for grabs by Eurocrats?
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, better known as CETA, between the EU and Canada that is being ratified at the moment, would get rid of the vast majority of tariffs and allow Canada to sell into the EU single market without having to abide by all the EU rules and laws within its own borders and without having to pay a subscription fee.
But ours supposedly would be a +++ so include such things as access to the financial services market.
Marvellous! Let's have one of those then, would be the cry.
But it has been suggested that this might come at a price.
Remember that Canada is not leaving the EU. Canada is not the world's fifth largest economy that sits right at the edge of the EU. Canada does not have the equivalent of an Irish border issue that can be shamelessly exploited.
And finally and possibly most importantly, Canada does not have the likes of our establishment and press riven through with UK doubting EU lovers intent on the dismantling of the state they are supposed to be working for.
So the quid pro quo could be along the lines of freedom of movement +++, foreign policy involvement +++, military involvement +++, any other concessions they can squeeze out of us +++ as well as a built in so-called temporary Irish backstop plan that would in effect turn Canada +++ into a customs union —. In fact making it a Brexit —!
Now, I'm hoping that the enthusiasm shown by the likes of Farage, Johnson and Rees-Mogg for Donald Tusk's offer, is either down to their belief that Canada +++ can actually be negotiated into a real Canada +++, or that they see it as a good vehicle to derail May's Chequers proposals and end up in yet more fruitless negotiations while the clock runs down to 11 pm on the 29th March 2019 and a full WTO exit.
Finally, two points to note.
The first is that Olly Robbins has been conspicuous by his absence from the limelight regarding Brexit since effectively being put in charge of it by the PM, and you have to wonder where and at what he's been beavering away in the background all this time.
Number two, remember what the leader of the Labour party said in his speech at the Labour Party conference:
"But let me also reach out to the Prime Minister, you see I reach out to everybody, who is currently, apparently doing the negotiating.
"Brexit is about the future of our country and our vital interests. It's not about leadership squabbles or parliamentary posturing. I say this to her in all sincerity and helpfulness.
"If you deliver a deal that includes a customs union and no hard border in Ireland, if you protect jobs, people's rights at work and environmental and consumer standards – then we will support that sensible deal."
Given Theresa May's reference to 'frictionless' trade three times in her speech, her insistence that she's offering a free trade deal with the EU and never mentioning Chequers by name at all, together with all the rumours and reports doing the rounds that the PM is planning to place the UK inside a customs union, you do have to wonder who's been talking and negotiating about what with who and what's been decided already and how long ago.
So, please let us all know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Thank you for watching.
From the very beginning, the EU offer has been a Canada+++ deal. Much further-reaching on trade, internal security and foreign policy cooperation. This is a true measure of respect. And this offer remains in place. #brexit
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 4, 2018