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Brexit and Europe Brexit and Europe

Seek a deep and special partnership with the EU

Last updated: 02:49pm 14 October 2019

As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.36

Our verdict

This is a promise about the kind of relationship the UK government would like to maintain with the EU after we leave.

Before we getting into the detail, let’s be clear what we’re measuring here. Firstly, this promise covers more than the trade or customs agreements (see ‘Related policies’ section for those). This policy covers a broader relationship, so will include every aspect of cooperation – from security and defence to the economic and environment. Secondly, the governments has promised to “seek” a deep and special partnership. We’re interpreting this as an intention to deliver a deep and special partnership – not just a commitment to try to deliver it. We will therefore be basing our verdict on the outcome of the relationship, not just the effort that goes in to negotiating it.

Now to progress. So far, we know the deal that was agreed in November 2018 has been rejected (three times) by Parliament. So in order to get a new deal agreed, it may  have to change. What is unlikely to change, is the original agreement’s description of “an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation.” Encouraging words, but worth remembering that nothing in the deal is legally binding. The key part of the deal is an agreement to a ‘transition period’. It’s during this transition period that the actual detail of the relationship can be agreed.

The draft agreement is still enough to demonstrate work has been done to meet this promise, so we’re marking this as ‘in progress’. If the government doesn’t secure a new deal, and the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it would be hard to conclude that there was a “deep and special” relationship between the EU and UK. In this case, this policy will be ‘broken’. We won’t know more until the conditions of our exit are known. We’ll publish any changes as soon as they happen, so follow this policy for updates.

Seek the detail…

Related policies

There's always room for debate

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