The barristers’ representative body said today that the door is open to several options besides the binary ‘deal or no deal’ options that had been previously proposed, including ‘softer’ Brexits similar to arrangements the EU has with Norway and Canada.
Hugh Mercer, chair of the Bar Council’s Brexit working group, said it was ‘never going to be straightforward’ as a ‘prime minister’s deal or no deal’ choice.
‘The Supreme Court judgment in R (on the application of Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, means that completing the process of leaving the EU will require primary legislation passed by a majority of the House of Commons,’ Mercer said.
According to Mercer, under section 13 of the European Withdrawal Act, MPs can indicate their preference for an alternative deal or, eventually, give instructions to the government as to how it should proceed.
Mercer said: ‘Those options include substituting the political declaration for a Canada plus style arrangement, a Norway plus deal with the UK becoming an EFTA member or, conceivably, in light of the CJEU Wightman & Others v Secretary of State for Leaving the EU ruling, unilateral revocation of the Article 50 notice itself.
Each option would lead to greater scrutiny of the underlying merits of those options by reference to the government’s own negotiating red lines, the wider economy and other considerations in the national interest, Mercer said.
He added: ’The government’s withdrawal agreement itself has already blurred the red lines in a number of areas, most strikingly on the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over EU citizens in the UK and aligning the UK with the rules of the internal market. It remains to be seen whether parliament will come down in favour of wider trade in goods and services through closer regulatory coordination, or indicate a preference for greater independence.’