The SSExEU, David Davis, appearing in Parliament today to answer an urgent question on the Brexit negotiations, seemed to suggest that the solution to the current impasse is for the whole of the UK to maintain 'regulatory alignment' with the EU, saying that phrase means 'mutual recognition and alignment of standards that does not mean the same standards but one that gives similar results'.

That approach, if that is now Government policy, raises a number of issues. First, given the UK is a smaller economy than the EU27, it seems inevitable that the UK will follow the EU’s regulatory lead, rather than the other way round, and likely that the EU will require the UK to follow its lead closely (if the UK wants market access). That does not sound like 'taking back control'. Indeed, it sounds remarkably similar to the 'fax democracy' of the EEA, which the government has rejected.

Second, the EU has already made it plain that, even with regulatory alignment, the UK cannot be in position 'as good as' that of Member States – so there will be a price to pay, and not just a lack of involvement in setting standards and in regulatory bodies.

Third, there is the vexed question of who decides whether the UK’s standards 'give similar results' – the UK won’t accept the CJEU’s jurisdiction; the EU may require it as the price of market access.

Time will tell whether 'UK-wide regulatory alignment' truly represents Government policy…

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