The ‘Chequers plan’ – published on 12 July 2018 – was one of the most substantial and most complete plans for Britain’s exit from the EU at the time. It set out the relationship that the UK would seek with the EU following its departure from the union.
Although being approved by the British cabinet, the plan was rejected by the EU, with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, citing that the integrity of the EU single market is not negotiable and that the UK cannot ‘cherry pick’ the parts of the single market it likes. The single market is reliant on ‘four freedoms’: the free movement of goods, people, services and capital. The Chequers agreement only made concessions for the free movement of goods, which prompted Barnier’s comments.
The major sticking point was how the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would work in practice, particularly if the two sides were unable to agree a workable trade deal during the transition phase. This is because the EU is unable to accept a soft border with a country that has different customs arrangements.
In November 2018, the two sides agreed a deal which would see the UK as a whole remain in a joint ‘customs territory’ with the EU until an alternative trade deal could be reached. However, it remains to be seen if Theresa May can win a commons’ majority for this deal, with critics claiming that such an arrangement will hand control of the UK’s trade to a foreign power.