Sputnik discussed Mrs. May's statements with Gavin Barrett — Jean Monnet Professor of European Constitutional and Economic Law at the University College Dublin.
Sputnik: Theresa May told Parliament that the draft approved on Wednesday was not the final deal. How much is there room and will for renegotiation of the document?
Gavin Barrett: The agreement itself is not far short of 600 pages long, so it's a very lengthy agreement indeed, so I think the negotiations have to end at some stage, so I think it's very largely what the withdrawal agreement is going to concern, it is true, however, that there is a political declaration attached to it and the political declaration is less about the terms on which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and more about the future relationship that it will have, so perhaps, Theresa May is referring to that, the future trading relationship, the future commercial relationship that the United Kingdom will have with the European Union remains to be elaborated and to that extent it's correct, but in terms of the deal upon which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union I think we can say it's pretty much in the deal that there is now.
Sputnik: We've had five senior and junior ministers resign already that in itself is making a statement, it's hard to believe then that Theresa May believes the extension of the implementation period will not be necessary given the complex situation negotiations the turmoil that this Brexit vote has actually brought upon the nation, not least a warring cabinet could that ever be the case? Do you agree that the implementation period would not be necessary, only looks as though it's going to be extended and extended?
Gavin Barrett: I think it was never really realistic to envisage that the transition or implementation period, as the British refer to it, which is envisaged by this agreement would only last for two years, because what they intend to do during that transition period is to negotiate future relationship in terms of trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Now generally trade deals like that take the best part of a decade at least, even the fastest of them, so I think it was never realistic to envisage that the transition period would only last for a very short period of two years.
So what this deal envisages is that there will be a review halfway through that transition period. The transition period as a whole is due to end at the end of 2021, and what they would do is July before that they would envisage returning to that issue and seeing if the transition period needed to be extended, so I think that's a concession to reality that really had to be made.
Sputnik: When you think about the Lancaster House statement that she gave a year or so ago, then the Chequers agreement and the final draft agreement that she has now produced is so much watered down than her initial statement to the country, it's hard to believe that this particular Brexit deal will be passed through the House of Commons, are you in agreement with that?
Gavin Barrett: Yes, it's very difficult to see how it will get through the House of Commons with the figures looking as they do at present. It certainly doesn't meet the promises of Brexiters but I think their promises were largely hard to see anyway. We have to remember that they promised that the UK could leave the world's largest trading block, introduce tariff walls between itself and its neighbors and then turn its back on a soft power giant and yet somehow end up wealthier and more powerful and I think that was never going to happen. I think Theresa May was guilty of stocking unrealistic expectations with this series of red lines that she came up with realistically, so I think anyone who took a cold, hard, objective look at what the possibilities were could always see that something like this deal was going to emerge, the United Kingdom was always the weaker power in these negotiations and the more powerful party tends to get its way in relations to them.
Now in terms of it actually getting through Parliament at the moment Theresa May is going to be facing a large rebellion on the part of the so-called European Research Group, a group of members of Parliament in her party, so she loses those votes and her government in any case is dependent on the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, their votes to support it and they've already indicated that they would vote against it.
So in order for this deal to get through the United Kingdom Parliament she would be dependent on large scale defections on the part of the opposition Labour Party, although some Labour MPs will undoubtedly support the deal, I think in reality the hope that the number of such defections would be anything near the number of votes that Theresa May will lose, if you like, the rejecting votes of the European Research Group in her own party, I think it's simply unrealistic, that's not going to happen, so at present it's very, very difficult, indeed, to see how she can possibly get this deal through Parliament and, indeed, the resignations of all of the ministers and junior ministers, that you've mentioned, it really just served to confirm that point I think.
Sputnik: The whole issue of the Northern Ireland border is one that could probably, and even Theresa May alluded to it, that they either have to accept this or potentially there'll be no Brexit whatsoever. Now what they're saying is the Northern Irish border could be the thing that brings the whole of Brexit down, would you agree with that?
Gavin Barrett: Yes, I think Theresa May was the quite accurate in what she said, that there are three possibilities that either this agreement is accepted and I think largely speaking it's going to be the last word. The European Union are not going to back down, as far as I can see, in relation to Northern Ireland and the only other two options are that you end up with a no deal Brexit, which would be economically catastrophic for the United Kingdom, it would see the erection of tariff walls, it would see all kinds of inspections mandated on goods coming in and out of the United Kingdom, the end of free movement of rights and a whole range of problems which would very badly affect the United Kingdom, so I don't I think anyone realistically wants to see that, although, there are some Brexiter MEPs that would rather see that than in fact this particular deal.
And the third option then is that the matter ends up going to a second referendum. In other words if it goes before Parliament and they reject this particular deal, I suppose, that makes it more politically realistic then I think to envisage sending the entire matter back to the British people for a second vote and having another referendum in relation to it with the possibility, in fact, that they would reject Brexit entirely having seen what its consequences are as opposed to the kind of vote that took place a number of years ago when completely unrealistic expectations existed in relation to how Brexit would turn out.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.