The EU is humiliating the UK as Theresa May is left to beg for help in Brussels

I can’t prove it because all the big beasts who flocked to Brussels to do their country down have kept their dealings secret – but all the circumstantial evidence points to a cunning plot to frustrate Brexit, humiliate Britain and negate the wishes of the British people. Here’s how: First, discredit the referendum as the […]

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I can’t prove it because all the big beasts who flocked to Brussels to do their country down have kept their dealings secret – but all the circumstantial evidence points to a cunning plot to frustrate Brexit, humiliate Britain and negate the wishes of the British people.

Here’s how: First, discredit the referendum as the result of ignorance, racism and lies. Second, unleash a campaign of fear about the consequences of leaving. Third, undermine Theresa May’s negotiating position and lock her into a trap by precluding any customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. That will keep us in the Customs Union durante beneplacito.

Then collude with Brussels to ensure that the EU is intransigent and refuses all concessions so that Britain’s internal divisions so inhibit its negotiations that there’s no need to make any accommodations. Then the people will become so weary about a never-ending row that apathy, alienation and the Grim Reaper will ensure that they give up their naughtiness. The EU can’t allow democracy to stand in its way.

The plot worked brilliantly. Perhaps too well. Theresa hasn’t even been able to get her pathetic proposals through Parliament, so she’s now forced to return to Brussels and beg for help. Her pleas will be treated with the same contempt as David Cameron’s. Because of the collusion, Brussels has no need even to squeeze out a little more of its usual fudge, to help a failing government.

A strong government would play for time and delay as the only way politicians can deal with an impossible situation. If we did, the EU could extend the two-year notice. But why should it when it feels it’s winning anyway and knows that the British Government dare not leave without a deal?

An effective negotiator needs the power to walk away in reserve. Leaving on WTO terms would allow Britain to form new trade relationships, end the drain of French agricultural protection and the gaping deficit with Germany as well as the huge euro-geld payments to belong to the protective bloc doing the damage. It would hurt them and provide a new source of revenue in tariffs. A devaluation would allow us to overleap any counter-tariffs, and they’d hardly dare to try to damage or punish us.

Yet Theresa has never dared to threaten it, so the final stage of the plot is to create such a fear of no deal – rechristened “crashing out” to make it sound more horrible – that neither Government nor Parliament dares even to mention it.

So, with the enthusiastic support of the Bank of England and the Treasury, Remainers denounce it with every fibre of their vocal chords to ensure that the soft-hearted will flock to a second referendum as the only safe way out of the mess.

A second referendum could allow some of the people to negate the verdict of all the people, though sadly going back to a loving and caring EU won’t be all joy and hosannas. We’d be sat on its naughty step. The drain would continue and could even be increased.

After all, a nation which can’t negotiate its way out of a paper bag, whose parties are disintegrating and whose Parliament can’t decide anything, deserves humiliation. The EU is ever ready to provide it.

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Fundamentally nothing has changed – my take on yesterday’s contemptuous shenanigans

Well, well, well. What a 24 hours it has been. On the one hand there’s so much to say, while on the other I am struggling to summon the words to express a whole range of feelings and emotions about yesterday’s events at Westminster: bemusement, anger, disappointment, confusion and, dare I say it, contempt. Yesterday […]

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Well, well, well. What a 24 hours it has been. On the one hand there’s so much to say, while on the other I am struggling to summon the words to express a whole range of feelings and emotions about yesterday’s events at Westminster: bemusement, anger, disappointment, confusion and, dare I say it, contempt.

Yesterday morning, Michael Gove was on Radio 4’s Today programme vigorously insisting that the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal would go ahead amidst rumours that tonight’s Commons division – following a fourth and fifth day of debate yesterday and today – would be pulled. “The vote is going ahead,” the Environment Secretary said. Even late yesterday morning, Downing Street continued spinning the same line to the media. “The vote is going ahead as planned,” said a No. 10 spokeswoman who, when asked if the Prime Minister was confident of winning the vote, replied: “Yes”.

And yet within minutes reports began to emerge that the vote was indeed being pulled, despite the Commons having already spent 24 hours over three days last week on the debate in which more than 160 MPs had already participated.

And so it was that just after 3.30pm, Theresa May rose to her feet at the Despatch Box to declare that the vote would be postponed, with the following explanation:

“I have listened very carefully to what has been said, in this chamber and out of it, by members from all sides. From listening to those views it is clear that while there is broad support for many of the key aspects of the deal, on one issue – the Northern Ireland backstop – there remains widespread and deep concern. As a result, if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin.”

What struck me as particularly absurd about this statement was that it was clear to me and anyone else paying the slightest attention to current events that there was “widespread and deep concern” about the backstop as soon as the details of it emerged in November and certainly by the time of the debate beginning last Tuesday. Yet she stubbornly concluded:

“I am in absolutely no doubt that this deal is the right one. It honours the result of the referendum… But it also represents the very best deal that is actually negotiable with the EU. I believe in it – as do many Members of this House. And I still believe there is a majority to be won in this House in support of it, if I can secure additional reassurance on the question of the backstop. And that is what my focus will be in the days ahead.”

You can read her full statement here, but there you have it: the aim of the shuttle diplomacy on which she is now embarking and for which the debate and vote were abandoned is to “secure additional reassurance on the question of the backstop”.

As former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers writes for us on BrexitCentral this morning, “even more disappointing than the cancellation of the vote was the announcement on what the Government plans to do next” since “Mrs May is not going to ask for the major rewrite of the withdrawal deal which is needed”. She explains the numerous aspects of the draft Withdrawal Agreement about which she has concerns – and on which the Prime Minister evidently has no intention of reopening negotiations.

Senior Labour backbencher Yvette Cooper perfectly summed up the feelings of many of us following proceedings in her intervention following the statement yesterday:

“Nothing has changed in the level of parliamentary concern about the Prime Minister’s deal since last week, but she still sent her Ministers and her official spokesperson out at 11 this morning to say that this vote was 100% going ahead, and yet we still, even now, do not know when she wants to bring this vote back, or even what she wants the deal to be. Does she not realise how chaotic and ridiculous this makes our country look? Given the importance of trust and credibility in this entire process, how can she possibly talk about duty and honour, and faith in politicians, when we cannot even trust the most basic things her Ministers are saying?”

May gave no answer to questions about the length of the postponement of the vote and while it was initially thought there might be a week’s delay, there was widespread speculation last night that it might not come until January.

The chamber was also treated to this astute observation from veteran left-winger Dennis Skinner yesterday afternoon:

“Does the Prime Minister realise that she has handed over power not to people in this House, but to the people she is going to negotiate with over there in Europe? She looks very weak, and she is. They want to be able to demonstrate their power to every other country that might be thinking about getting out of the EU, and she has handed them that power by demonstrating what Britain is doing. The British Prime Minister does not know whether she is on this earth or Fuller’s because of the actions she has taken. Mrs Thatcher had a word for what she has done today. F-R-I-T — she’s frit.”

Frit is of course the Lincolnshire dialect word for frightened or scared that the Grantham-born former Prime Minister once let slip out in the Commons in reference to Neil Kinnock. Those interventions from Cooper and Skinner are both included in our video highlights of yesterday afternoon’s proceedings which I would recommend catching up with here.

What many found confusing over the turn of events is that May arguably missed the opportunity that losing a vote in the Commons would have provided in terms of strengthening her negotiating hand. As of today, there has been no formal rejection of the deal from parliamentarians that she could have used as a tangible bargaining chip in Brussels, where the EU is eager to secure a deal.

And it was a non-vote in advance of which we learnt yesterday that the Government had spent near enough £100,000 during the last week alone on Facebook adverts promoting May’s deal. That’s surely a grotesque abuse of hard-earned taxpayers’ money in anyone’s book.

There was also damning criticism of the procedural trick of pulling the debate three-fifths of the way through, with Tory backbencher Mark Francois offering the following scathing assessment:

“What the Government have done today is shameful. It is a complete abuse of this House. Having been found in contempt recently for the first time in living memory, they have now gone for a “buy one, get one free.” The whole House wanted to debate this. We wanted to vote on it. The people expected us to vote on it, and the Government have gone and run away and hidden in the toilets. People watching this on television will be confused and bemused, and very, very angry at the way their own Parliament has let them down. The Government Front Benchers should literally be ashamed of themselves.”

Also irate was the Speaker himself, John Bercow, who observed from the Speaker’s chair:

“Halting the debate, after no fewer than 164 colleagues have taken the trouble to contribute, will be thought by many Members of this House to be deeply discourteous… many colleagues from across the House have registered that view to me in the most forceful terms.”

A little later he agreed to the request for an emergency debate on the Government’s handling of the issue which came from Jeremy Corbyn and that three-hour debate will be the first main business after question time today at around 12.45pm – although there will not be a substantive motion on which MPs can vote.

In the meantime, Theresa May has headed off on her European travels, with a bilateral meeting taking place between her and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte over breakfast in The Hague this morning before she heads to Berlin for face-to-face talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then will come talks in Brussels with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk later this afternoon. The Cabinet meeting scheduled for this morning has been postponed until later in the week.

But what is she realistically going to achieve from a new round of talks? Tusk announced yesterday that he was calling a meeting of the EU27 leaders as part of the summit already taking place in Brussels this Thursday. But he was also clear that “we will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification”.

Meanwhile, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out reopening negotiations around the Irish backstop and insisted the draft Withdrawal Agreement is “the only agreement on the table”.

So the Prime Minister may have bought herself a little more time, but right now it’s hard to see the House of Commons coming to anything other than the same conclusion as it would have done tonight whenever MPs are finally afforded the opportunity to vote on her deal. As someone once said: nothing has changed. But she has lost a whole heap of a rapidly diminishing supply of goodwill and trust as a result of yesterday’s shenanigans.

The above is the text of Jonathan Isaby’s Editor’s Letter in today’s BrexitCentral daily email briefing. To have it land in your inbox every morning, please click here.

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How to get Brexit back on track when the Withdrawal Agreement is rejected by MPs

The current political turmoil and constitutional crisis has so many twists and turns that it makes House of Cards look pedestrian. Of course the real issue comes down to what happens when – rather than if – the proposed deal is voted down on tomorrow, 11th December (or even dropped). Here there is a clear […]

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The current political turmoil and constitutional crisis has so many twists and turns that it makes House of Cards look pedestrian.

Of course the real issue comes down to what happens when – rather than if – the proposed deal is voted down on tomorrow, 11th December (or even dropped).

Here there is a clear gap opening up between media reports and hard legal reality – what the actual effects are of the political manoeuvring of Dominic Grieve, Sir Keir Starmer and their merry conniving bands. There have been desperate media reports that ‘no deal’ is off the table, when it is actually remains the ‘default position’ as Andrea Leadsom told Radio 4 just last week.

Let’s assume Conservative MPs think there is enough turkey on Christmas menus not to be part of the required two-thirds majority needed to vote for a General Election, and that the EU have indeed ruled out any major renegotiation.

The bottom line is that the various options being desperately pushed by those who want ‘anything but a true Brexit’ are just not viable. There is:

  • ‘Norway Plus’ – even worse that the slavish EEA, which adds back membership of the customs union, thereby killing all future UK trade deals, and with no control of immigration, no say over EU laws, and large payments;
  • A ‘Second Referendum’ – with its totally confused offer: ‘tell us if this final 2,000-page deal is better than staying in the EU when we’ve already left. Oh, and by the way you will have to join the euro and lose the rebate’. Pointless too in that Leave is predicted to win again; or 
  • Extending Article 50 to allow more muddle time – which will either mess up the EU by landing the Brexit issue right in the middle of European Parliament elections in May or mess up all the groups, chairmanships and procedures of the European Parliament in the farcical situation of British MEPs being elected for a few months.

But all such amendments to the motion are not legally binding anyway – they can only be advisory. They might bring political pressure, but they do not have legal effect. As the Commons Chief Clerk, Sir David Natzler, confirmed: whatever MPs vote on by way of motion “has no statutory significance”, as they do not constitute “a vote on whether to accept or reject no deal.” That requires new legislation. The actual law – in the EU Withdrawal Act – states clearly that we will leave on 29th March 2019.

Given that reality, and bearing in mind how rash it is to try to indicate a way forward in this maelstrom, this is what I propose now as the best next steps:

1) Assuming the vote fails on 11th December, or is put off, I believe the Government should make a statement immediately saying that preparations for a ‘no deal’ option – better called a ‘Clean Global Brexit’ or ‘World Trade Deal’ – will go into SuperDrive. Sorry, but defer Christmas!

Where there’s a will, there’s a way: in the Falklands War, the Ministry of Defence managed to put together a task force of 100 ships in just 48 hours. We can manage this process, and thousands of civil servants have been on the case for years. Like the Millennium Bug, claims of Armageddon and planes falling out the sky gave way to nothing happening on 1st January 2000.

2) The UK should then go back to Brussels, not to renegotiate this current draft Withdrawal Agreement, but to agree a pared-down, bare bones emergency series of bilateral agreements covering only the essential ‘must haves’: aviation, customs, citizens’ rights, medical products, European Investment Bank assets etc. The beauty of this is that if one agreement falls, then the others are not lost. The DUP’s Arlene Foster has proposed bilaterals. These bilaterals could be agreed by Westminster and the EU by March, and would any sane MP or MEP dare to seek to derail any such vital preparation in these circumstances? They should hold all further Westminster business, such as the Immigration and Trade bills, that may be hijacked.

3) The UK should also formally advise the EU that it wishes to accept the offer made not once but three times by the EU: that of a SuperCanada/CETA+++ Free Trade Agreement with 100% tariff- and quota-free access to the EU Single Market plus comprehensive services (first offered by Donald Tusk on 7th March), and which we could start negotiating from the day we become a ‘third country’ – 30th March next year.

We can build on the three pages on trade in the more appealing draft Political Declaration, but drop all notion of a ‘Single Customs Territory’ – the UK must firmly leave the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market. We are in a unique position to negotiate an FTA fast – as all our laws are convergent at present and we don’t have to spend years wrangling over which tariffs to keep or get rid of, as others do.

4) Having initiated moves to agree a SuperCanada FTA, the UK and EU can now jointly notify the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that in the light of working to agree a comprehensive FTA and future Political Declaration, we are invoking Article 24 of GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

This is important because Article 24 allows us to maintain the same tariff-free access to both our markets without breaching WTO discriminatory Most Favoured Nation (MFN) laws. Article 24 allows “an interim agreement leading to a formation of a free trade area” and allows “a reasonable length of time” – up to 10 years – to negotiate it.

So, we whilst we will need customs declarations under WTO, we will be able to maintain the same zero tariffs as now with the EU – the free trade area will remain. EU exporters to the UK would save £13 billion in tariffs (and our consumers too) and UK exporters £5 billion. We will also be free to lower tariffs for other trading partners as we wish – something specifically excluded in the Backstop. Nor should there be any Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) either under WTO agreements.

We can also enact the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement which recently came into force that obliges the EU27 to adopt measures like authorised economic operators (trusted traders), which are part of the solution for the Northern Ireland border issue along with electronic declarations and remote checks away from the border.

5) As a sign of Britain’s free trade intent, we can now immediately initiate full and unfettered negotiations with international trade partners such as the USA, China and India, without these deals being torpedoed by being tied into the EU Customs Union, Chequers or the Backstop. The picture would be clear at last, and not be delayed by unending years of transition. Similarly, we will seek to build on current work to ‘roll over’ the benefits and obligations of existing EU trade deals such as that with South Korea.

6) So, on 30th March the UK can be cleanly out of the European Union and back into the world, with an acceptable and managed World Trade Deal option in place, free of years more wrangling over transitional arrangements, cost demands, alternative models and heightened business uncertainty – and with negotiations underway for a closer SuperCanada trade deal. We can reallocate much of the £39 billion payment lost by the EU to compensate UK-based companies legally in terms of R&D, regional aid and transport infrastructure – helping to stimulate our economy.

Like an operation we know needs doing, let us get on with the surgery quickly and speed up the recovery process.

This is indeed a Clean Global Brexit. Brexit could be over in a few months, rather than drag on for years on end.

And, for all our sakes – both Remainer and Brexiteer – let’s just get it done.

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‘No deal’ merely means trading with the EU on WTO terms – and trade on WTO terms is the norm

The alternative to Theresa May’s deal is not no Brexit, but no deal. Britain could leave the EU on 29th March 2019 without a deal and trade with EU member countries on World Trade Organisation terms. These are the terms on which we trade with non-EU countries already, without falling off any cliff. No deal […]

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The alternative to Theresa May’s deal is not no Brexit, but no deal. Britain could leave the EU on 29th March 2019 without a deal and trade with EU member countries on World Trade Organisation terms. These are the terms on which we trade with non-EU countries already, without falling off any cliff. No deal is Brexit. Her deal is no Brexit.

‘No deal’ merely means trading on WTO terms. Trade on WTO terms is the norm. 90 per cent of world trade is done on WTO terms. 60 per cent and rising of our trade with other countries is done on WTO terms. Our exports to the countries we trade with on WTO terms have grown three times as fast as our exports to the EU’s Single Market. Our businesses trading with the USA trade on WTO terms and we run a trade surplus with the USA. Our businesses trading with the EU trade on its Single Market terms and we run a trade deficit with the EU. WTO rules give us full access to the EU’s Single Market. Access does not require membership. It would be illegal for the EU to restrict our access to the Single Market.

No deal is far better than the alternatives, like Canada Plus, the Norway option etc. With no deal, there is no punishing transition period and no £39 billion given away and Brexit would come two years earlier. The average tariff British exporters would pay is 4 per cent. But applying EU tariffs to our imports from EU countries would yield possibly £13 billion, which we could use to compensate any firm losing out.

The French authorities in Calais have no intention of imposing a go-slow on British vehicles, rightly calling it ‘economic suicide’. Deliberate delays would breach three treaties – the WTO treaty, the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the Lisbon Treaty, which requires the EU to behave in a neighbourly way towards adjacent states. Do pro-EU enthusiasts really think the EU would use illegal bullying to punish us? If so, how can they urge us to re-join this body?

The Government, pro-EU MPs and peers, the stock markets, most business leaders and much of the media have been waging an incessant and hugely costly campaign informing us that leaving with no deal will be a disaster. Typically, Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan casually referred to the “financial Armageddon of no deal” just last week (27th November).

We all remember the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq that the Blair Government and much of the media warned us about. The same people now warn us about the mass economic destruction that awaits us on 29th March 2019.

Robert Azevedo, the WTO’s Director General, said after our vote that Britain’s leaving the EU will be ‘relatively straightforward’ and ‘smooth’:

“The UK is a member of the WTO today, it will continue to be a member tomorrow. There will be no discontinuity in membership… Trade will not stop, it will continue, and members negotiate the legal basis under which that trade is going to happen. But it doesn’t mean that we’ll have a vacuum or a ‘disruption’ in terms of trade flows or anything of the kind.”

We demand the Brexit we voted for: Leave on 29th March, keep the country united, keep our £39 billion the EU wants and trade with its members on WTO terms, as we and others trade with the rest of the world.

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Brexit is just another tumultuous fight for democracy that will soon seem straightforward

Imagine a supranational project that is set up by a group of member states to serve its members by acting as an international trade facilitator. Imagine also that, as time goes by, this trade facilitator adds a massive political overcoat through the accumulated effect of many small steps. Despite no clear democratic mandate. Now imagine […]

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Imagine a supranational project that is set up by a group of member states to serve its members by acting as an international trade facilitator. Imagine also that, as time goes by, this trade facilitator adds a massive political overcoat through the accumulated effect of many small steps. Despite no clear democratic mandate.

Now imagine that one of the member states is met with derision when asking for clear limits to further expansion. Imagine, moreover, that the majority of the people in this member state, subsequently, vote to leave. And then ask for a free trade agreement. Meaning that this country, in practice, asks to be treated similarly to most other non-member countries. Imagine next that the supranationalists respond as follows:

“Leaving is close to impossible while it will lead to aeroplane chaos, lorry chaos, medicine chaos, economic chaos and, yes, possibly war at your north-western border. By the way, we cannot start discussing a trade agreement until that border issue has been sorted. As well as the money issue. Fees way beyond the membership fee need to be discussed, meaning extra negotiation time is necessary. During the transition period you will have no say over rules since you have, sort of, left. But you will still need to continue to pay up because you have, sort of, not left. And if no agreement can be concluded during the transition period, well, then you need to stay in our customs union indefinitely. Meaning you will continue to be prohibited from signing independent trade deals. Now, since leaving is so hard, costly, time-consuming and restraining – is it not time to conclude, once and for all, that only ‘ill-informed hardliners’ would even try? And that it is better to stay?”

Imagine, moreover, that this response is produced by supranationalists consistently apt at moving forward quickly and creatively when ever closer union is negotiated; just not when going the other way.

As an objective observer, which side would you conclude was really representing ”hardline excess”? Which side would you say was representing “excess backtracking”?

A key problem during every important transition period relates to perceptions. Every political camp, when having dominated the political scene for a long time, will unknowingly enter excess terrain. Why? Because the tremendous nomination and budgets powers (that comes with the territory) will ensure – often unconsciously – that people with the same mindset will eventually dominate in just about every position of authority, meaning that expert consultation rounds will usually end in the same way: “Anyone ‘serious’ against our proposal to [yet again] advance a bit further in the same direction as before? No? Since most of us would prefer moving forward through great leaps, this is the moderate way to go, right?”

A century ago it was ”the socialist radicals”, while then more firmly attached to the ground than the Conservatives, who brought common sense and realism into a Parliament dominated by dated but lingering perceptions. The institutionalised right-wing “experts” responded with never-ending prophecies of instability and doom. Yet, the Labour Party – while offering counterweight and balance – paved the way towards greater both stability and prosperity.

With roles reversed, history is now repeating itself since – surprise, surprise – the scenario imagined above is based on a true story titled “The Brexit hotchpotch” which, had it been submitted as a work of political fiction only a few years ago, probably would have been rejected by most publishers because the plot would have been considered too unlikely.

If stepping back and looking at the big picture it is arguably, today, only the “rebel faction” of the Conservative Party which offers a path towards regained political stability; since excess backtracking is always the best remedy if truly seeking political stability. Whereas it is the Conservative Party “establishment faction” that can be seen as the sole faction in UK politics which is likely to end up on the wrong side of history during both democratic junctures mentioned.

The Brexit story involves numerous ironies but the perhaps greatest of them all is that despite the animosity most people on both sides really want the same thing: international trade, an intact democracy and certainly not excess of any sort. Today, just as a hundred years ago, a small minority of movers and shakers, institutionalised on top of the political power pyramid, is holding the overwhelming majority to ransom through its moralist defence of excess dressed up as moderation.

However, even when exercising tremendous powers of interpretation the moralists can only halt real progress, not stop it. After all, if genuinely comfortable about the truth neither moralism nor scare-stories are needed to make a case. In the 1920s, as time passed, the tactic of the status quo apologists backfired. Meaning that the moralism-and-scare-story-phase proved to be their last hurrah. We are presently going through a similar cycle. Which is why today’s status quo apologists are bound to come across as just as obsolete as their equivalents a hundred years ago. Not without reason.

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The myth of frictionless trade: there is little difference between handling EU-bound freight and that heading elsewhere

The company I founded exports to over 120 countries – including every country in the European Union. You may therefore have expected me to be agitating to scupper Brexit. However, when one runs a family business, one’s vision tends to be long-term rather than short-term. I strongly back Brexit because it is in the best […]

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The company I founded exports to over 120 countries – including every country in the European Union. You may therefore have expected me to be agitating to scupper Brexit. However, when one runs a family business, one’s vision tends to be long-term rather than short-term.

I strongly back Brexit because it is in the best long-term interests of my country, my company, my employees and myself that we disengage from the structures of the EU. As I said throughout the referendum campaign, there will be bumps in the road – but the fundamental fact is that the EU continues to travel in a direction that is contrary to our best interests and that has only been magnified over the last two and a half years.

Having now studied the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, I am extremely disappointed by its complete lack of ambition and the naivety of the approach taken by the her and UK negotiators. It gives far too many hostages to fortune and while ministers interpret it and give assurances this way and that, the passage of time and pressures on future ministers will mean that those assurances stand for naught. The Political Declaration too, lacking any legal force, is not worth the paper it is written on.

The lack of ambition has meant that what could have been a mutually successful agreement building on some of what has been developed over the last 40-odd years has been lost. There have also been a number of fundamental misunderstandings, perhaps deliberate, by the Prime Minister and others at the top of the Government.

The first of those is that we voted Leave just to control immigration, as they seek to tell us. We did not: we voted Leave to take back control of our country and from that control of immigration, fishing, trade etc.

The second is the fixation with frictionless trade – an unattainable fiction. Trade within the EU is not frictionless at the moment, though the points of friction are more regulatory than tariff. The perception amongst politicians is that all trade with countries outside the EU is full of points of friction and that anything other than being in the EU Single Market will lead to long queues of trucks and delays with airfreight etc.

As someone who has spent the last thirty years trading goods with the world, I can say that for an exporter there is little difference in the way we handle freight going to the EU compared to the rest of the world. The United States is our biggest market and we compete directly against US companies in their own market, in part, because we deliver next day to anywhere in the United States by 1pm their time, customs cleared. That, to me, is frictionless trade and it is at a cost that is not dissimilar to the same service to customers in the EU. It is frictionless because the industry has made it so and the same can be done for future trade with the EU, requiring no complex customs unions or being in the Single Market.

Great attention is rightly given to the value of trade to the UK economy but it is vital to remember than only 8 per cent of UK businesses actually trade with the EU – accounting for only 13% of UK GDP. That means that 92% of businesses are having to obey all the Single Market regulations and yet aren’t gaining any benefit from it. The very fact that regulation can be tailored to UK requirements when we Leave the Single Market ought to give a massive boost to the productivity of the 92%. The 8% will still have to meet the regulations pursuant to doing business in the EU in the same way as we have to meet US, Russian or other countries’ regulations when doing business overseas.

Whilst an amicable Withdrawal Agreement would have been my preference, we are where we are. The Prime Minister said many times that no deal – again a misnomer as it would be a WTO deal – would be better than a bad deal. Her deal is a very bad deal and the prospect of a clean Brexit on 29th March 2019 with no hostages to fortune, bringing an end to all the hand wringing and rerunning of the referendum has become a very tantalising prospect.

What is the big deal about No Deal? It gives certainty to business, ends division and brings real purpose to the country. There will be some disruption, but I am sure that within a few weeks – if not days – we would wonder, like with the brouhaha over the Millennium Bug, what all the fuss had been about. Within months the Chancellor’s dour predictions would, like after the referendum, prove to have been pure scaremongering.

Come on, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and go for it.

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Those scare-mongering about trading with the EU on WTO terms misunderstand how modern factories operate

There is no cliff edge when we leave the EU. There will be no economic cataclysm as Remain forecast. How many more absurd scare stories are they going to run? They have suggested Airbus will be selling planes without wings as they will not be able use the ones we supply; that planes will be […]

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There is no cliff edge when we leave the EU. There will be no economic cataclysm as Remain forecast. How many more absurd scare stories are they going to run? They have suggested Airbus will be selling planes without wings as they will not be able use the ones we supply; that planes will be grounded on the continent without permits to fly to the UK; and that all factories requiring imported components from the continent will suffer from some unspecified blockade which will stop the parts getting through.

All of these are based on some foolish misunderstandings of how trade functions and how modern factories operate. UK suppliers of Airbus wings are locked in by contract to carry on supplying, and every plane Airbus delivers after March 2019 will need those same UK wings, already certified as good to fly. It was particularly odd to read that they might switch to Chinese ones, as China still has not become a member of the EU – even though they say we have to be in order to sell such products. Continental airlines are busy selling tickets to fly to the UK after March in the knowledge that arrangements will be made to allow them to continue to use UK airspace and to land at UK airports. Their wish to do this ensures the continental countries will make reciprocal arrangements for UK airlines going to France or Germany.

Just-in-time supply chains currently use both EU and non-EU components without special problems if they come from outside the EU. I do not expect the UK authorities to create extra delays at our ports for such imports, but if they did the factory ordering the parts would just require the supplier to send the parts by an earlier truck or train to combat the longer transit time.

It is time the Treasury and the wider government swept aside its stupid gloom about Brexit, and set out just how it will use the new freedoms and the extra money it will have to spend as soon as we leave the EU. If we leave next March without signing the penal Withdrawal Agreement we could give a welcome boost to UK factories. Why not announce zero tariffs on all imported components for assembly, cutting the cost of non-EU items currently taxed? Why not take control of our fish, and more fish in UK ports and build a bigger fish processing industry at home? Why not promote more home-grown food, imposing some tariffs on the continental competition where they pay no such tax at the moment? We could at the same time cut tariffs on non-EU food to limit price rises.

Stopping large contributions to the EU budget will immediately improve our balance of payments account, as all that money has to be sent abroad as if we were paying for imports, though we get nothing for it. It would also release large sums to spend at home. Let’s have tax cuts to boost home ownership, help the car industry, and encourage work and enterprise. Let’s also boost the economy by hiring more teachers, doctors and nurses, and improving our transport systems with new investment.

The overall impact would be to boost national income and output by 1% next year and 1% the year after if we spent the £39 billion over the time period.

Could they blockade our exports? Under WTO rules, as they are and we will be, they are not allowed to charge tariffs on us which they do not impose on others, or impose new non-tariff barriers to trade. I don’t believe the stories that Calais will go slow to damage our exports, as our trade through Calais is crucial to that port’s jobs and success. Were they to do so, Rotterdam, Antwerp and other Dutch and Belgian ports would love to take the business off them.

It is time the Government moved on from seeing Brexit as some problem to be managed, to seeing it as full of opportunity for more jobs, more growth and more prosperity. That is why many of us voted Leave. The Treasury should back us and go for growth based on new freedoms we will win on departure.

John Redwood’s How to Take Back Control: Trading Globally Through the WTO is published today by Politeia

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Brexit will put an end to the Delors phase in European history

Everyone remembers Eliot’s famous ending to The Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends/ Not with… etc.” We should also recall the beginning: “We are the hollow men/ We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together/ Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!” The poem was written some ninety years before the Brexit negotiations. But you’d […]

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Everyone remembers Eliot’s famous ending to The Hollow Men:

“This is the way the world ends/ Not with… etc.”

We should also recall the beginning:

“We are the hollow men/ We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together/ Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!”

The poem was written some ninety years before the Brexit negotiations. But you’d think he was an observer scribbling in the margins.

Whatever the fruit or the fate of those negotiations, it will not be the end of the world. Nor will it be, to use the notorious, triumphant phrase on the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of history. It might, though, be the end of a phase in European history. If we use this moment strategically, we could make it the end of Brussels’ EU. If we do not, it will certainly be the end of a historic opportunity, the sort that only lands in a nation’s lap about every fifty years.

“Historic” is an over-used word, especially by lacklustre politicians who wish to divert attention from their lack of lustre. At this point it has meaning. All history goes by phases; or in Europe’s case (to use the favoured currency of Brussels) “chapters”. This one has been rather long: first Monnet, then Delors, now Barnier. All French; all socialist, centralising and protectionist both by instinct and governance. You can see it from their point of view. The institution (EEC, EC, EU), graven in their image, must be preserved. And they have won the negotiation. Britain, craven in its image, has ceded. So far.

You can also see it from the point of view of the UK civil servants. Distraught at the prospect of no more (Treaty of) Roman governance, they are like the bath attendants at Aquae Sulis seeing the disappearance of their friends and masters in 400AD. All is lost. Who now can mend the hypocaust?

Until this point, Britain has consigned itself to being on the back foot in the negotiations because of the hypnosis of compromise. No team, however brilliant, can hope to win if it throws all its resources into defence and forgets its strike capacity. There is one more “game” to be played out: the charade of a deal, that no-one favours, being put to the House of Commons. If it is approved, we remain tied to the EU; if it fails, we have policy vacuum.

Our “Brussels correspondent” continues:

Had they deceived us,
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.

There is an alternative staring us in the face. The “new and shocking Valuation” comes from the unlikeliest quarter. For centuries, Ireland has been “a problem”. Now, at last, it provides the solution. We should forget backstop and think, instead, front foot.

The sequence is as follows. The integrity of the EU requires preservation of the Single Market. That requires those outside to be subject to a tariff regime. Without a common external border, such a regime cannot be enforced. No one has the wish, let alone the capability, to re-impose a physical border across Ireland. No border then, no enforceable tariffs. No protected Single Market, no protectionism. Free trade. When M. Barnier, or some other official, is presented with this they will ask: “What exactly are you proposing?” The answer is that we are no longer proposing, as in negotiation. We are presenting, as in reality.

The only missing ingredient in the above sequence is the look on the Commission’s face when they realise that Brexit does, after all, mean Brexit.

It does not stop there. Even more important than what this does for the UK is what it does for Europe. Unable any longer to charge the more competitive and therefore more prosperous Member States for the privilege of “free” trade, unable to impose rules, without either budget or raison d’être, the Commission’s back is broken. The Delors phase in European history is over.

This does not mean that we become any less European. We and others will continue to make use of and benefit from the networks and patterns of collaboration that have been embedded and developed across the continent since the end of the 1940s: the commercial, academic, security, scientific, standards, values and human links that will still bind us together. The difference is that the terms will no longer be set by officials at once unelected and unauditable.

It is not a case of Britain removing itself from Europe; rather, removing Brussels from us – and those we will galvanise to join us in setting about, and leading, a new chapter of European history.

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We must decouple the Irish border issue from UK/EU trading relationship

In my last BrexitCentral article, I posed the rather obvious question to the EU: “Would you rather have a no-deal-style Irish border with or without £39 billion?” That choice, which Brussels seems not to have understood, has now come into sharp focus and it seems now that the answer is likely to be presented to them […]

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In my last BrexitCentral article, I posed the rather obvious question to the EU: “Would you rather have a no-deal-style Irish border with or without £39 billion?” That choice, which Brussels seems not to have understood, has now come into sharp focus and it seems now that the answer is likely to be presented to them as a fait accompli.

Aside from the niceties, the fundamental objection to Theresa May’s proposed deal is the potentially perpetual lock-in to a customs union. The “joint committee” means of course that it will be for the EU to decide when or whether we can leave. It is unheard of, and utterly unacceptable, for anyone (and certainly any country) to be potentially bound in perpetuity by an arrangement that they have no ability to terminate.

In the political declaration – i.e. informally – the EU says that the Irish backstop, separating Northern Ireland from the UK by remaining in the customs union and adhering to the EU rule book, might be avoidable by either a technological solution or an appropriate trade deal. But it’s quite clear that the only trade deal that will satisfy them with respect to keeping the Irish border open is one that keeps the whole of the UK in the customs union. As a result, the UK would not be able to enter into global Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). That is precisely their desired outcome, so they are unlikely to show any enthusiasm for a MaxFac solution. At the same time, with £39 billion committed unconditionally, the UK will have absolutely no leverage.

We have no need to wait for proof of that. At the recent EU summit, Emmanuel Macron warned that if, in future talks, the UK is unwilling to make compromises over fishing, the negotiations for a wider trade deal could be slowed down, which could lead to the last-resort backstop plan coming into force.

So it follows, as night follows day, that we could be – if not forever then at least for many long years – in either a temporary or permanent customs union with the European Union. To avoid the Damocles sword of the backstop from destroying our negotiating position, we must decouple the Irish border issue from the trade negotiations. How to achieve that is by using no deal as the bridge to the arm’s length negotiation of the new relationship.

Parliament now seems very likely to reject the proposed deal. So in the absence of new legislation, therefore, we will leave on 29th March 2019 with no deal (as explained by Stewart Jackson on BrexitCentral here)So what are the implications of that?

EU short-term trade: We would have to trade with the EU on WTO terms until a free trade deal can be agreed with them. This is undesirable but not catastrophic. 39.3% of UK imports and 33.1% of exports are conducted under WTO rules with non-EU countries. Most countries in the world (111 out of 195) trade with the EU under WTO rules, including China, India, Russia, the United States and Singapore. Despite tariff and non-tariff barriers, Britain’s trade with non-EU countries is in surplus and growing, while our trade with the EU is in deficit and shrinking.

If the EU imposes a 10% tariff on our exports and we tax their imports into the UK at 10%, prices go up to the extent that not offset by significantly lower world prices than EU prices for food and commodities. 10% tariff provides a revenue boost to HMRC, to be spent to our benefit. Exports are harder but offset by a fall in sterling that boosts exports while making imports more costly – no bad thing to help rectify our appalling adverse EU balance of trade.

Meantime, domestically, the UK can think about diverging from some EU regulations. Clearly, businesses exporting to the EU will have to comply with EU product standards and trading terms but the burden of those standards need not necessarily be imposed in the 94% of businesses, representing 88% of GDP, that trade only domestically or with non-EU countries. (CETA clearly does not require Canada to impose all 100,000 pages of EU rules and regulations upon every Canadian business.)

EU long-term trade: Michel Barnier himself said, in his speech announcing the deal, that agreeing a free trade deal with the UK should be much quicker and easier than FTAs with other countries as we start from a position of complete alignment. And we have in CETA, the EU/Canada FTA, a ready-made template for the trade agreement between the EU and the UK. That is not to say that the negotiations will be easy if, for example, the EU’s demands include full access to UK fisheries, which is why it is so vital that we can back up a tough stance with a £39 billion carrot.

Friction: Queues at Dover would be bad news but friction can be minimised, for example, by trusted-trader status for regular just-in-time supply-chain consignments and number-plate recognition that opens barriers automatically on designated trusted trader lanes etc. There are four months to take steps to increase capacity (a job that should have been started two years ago), for example by establishing an inland port and protected route to the seaport.

The recent paper published by Global Britain and the European Research Group, Fact – NOT Friction: Exploding the myths of leaving the Customs Unionshows that “fears are driven by a series of myths about how customs procedures work”.

Global trade with EU partners: Much capital is made of the fact that we currently benefit from EU FTAs that allow us to trade freely with more than 40 non-EU countries. This is true but they include places like Guernsey, Guadeloupe, San Marino, Büsingen am Hochrhein, the Falklands and South Georgia. The EU has trade agreements with only three of the UK’s principal trading partners – Switzerland, South Korea and Canada. People love to proclaim the fact that “a single trade deal can take years or decades to agree” with the clear implication that that is bad news. It is not. On the contrary, for countries with whom the EU has existing FTAs, it is fantastically good news. It stands to reason that, save to the extent that the parties wish to change anything, all that is needed is to copy the current FTA between the EU and that country, change the name of the contracting party and sign it.

New global FTAs: We would be able to negotiate and enter into global FTAs at the earliest opportunity. Very many countries have expressed a desire to do so – Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China… and I’m only up to the Cs.

Global trade before new FTAs: Meanwhile we will no longer have to impose the EU Common External Tariff on imports from the rest of the world: 15.7% on animal products, 35.4% on dairy products, 10.5% on fruit, vegetables and plants, 12.8% on cereals and preparations, 23.6% on sugars and confectionery. 19.6% on beverages and tobacco.

Non-trade issues: Many non-trade issues are addressed, directly or indirectly, by the 585-page draft Withdrawal Agreement: citizens’ rights, EU access to the City, defence and international affairs, aviation, Horizon 2020 etc etc. If the EU became obstructive over many of these, it could present severe problems. As the issues have, presumably, been agreed because they are to mutual advantage, it is hard to see why the EU would consider it to be to its benefit to behave aggressively (other than to prevent the UK from leaving).

The Irish border: As Andrew Lilico pointed out on BrexitCentral, the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic has some 275 crossing points. The border separates regulatory, tax and legal regimes that are very different and is controlled via a combination of administrative cooperation, whistle-blowing, auditing, site raids by customs, tax and regulatory enforcement officials. There are – currently – occasional random spot-checks on roads leading up to and at the border, as well as cameras and other physical infrastructure at the border.

Lilico also noted some UK press discussion suggesting that the EU would impose stop-and-check controls at the border, like those between the EU and Turkey. Such an attempt is certainly possible, but seems highly unlikely because of the scale of the task (275 crossing points, more than all other land crossing points into the rest of the EU from other countries); and because the Irish Government claims that the EU has given undertakings that no such controls would be introduced; and because Ireland seems unlikely to allow them to be imposed, even if the EU so desired.

There has been much talk of technological solutions that will take years to develop but the European Research Group’s paper, The Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit demonstrates how each of the issues can be addressed without the need for technology not yet invented. The Irish Government and others dismissed the paper immediately as “pure fantasy”, apparently because of concerns about ability, without either a hard border or ‘new technology’ (what kind of new technology?) to prevent smuggling or the import of non-compliant goods into the EU. At present, the Republic of Ireland physically inspects only 1% of imports, so 99% of contraband and non-compliant goods are already getting through!

Some 33% of Northern Ireland’s goods exports (all sales outside the UK) went to the Republic of Ireland in 2016 and were worth around £2.7 billion (€3.1 billion). The EU’s imports from the rest of the world amount to around €172 billion and the EU’s GDP was about $17,300 billion (€15,200 billion) in 2017. In the unlikely event that 25% of all goods transported across the Irish border was undetectable contraband or non-compliant goods (pretty unlikely that), this would represent 0.5% of all imports into the EU and 0.005% of EU GDP. But it wouldn’t be 25%, would it? Who is being fantastical here?

As the ERG paper says, “no border is 100% secure against smuggling. Smuggling takes place across EU borders in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Moreover, it occurs at present across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Drugs, fuel, tobacco, cigarettes and other illegal goods have been smuggled across the Irish border since the 1920s but cross-border co-operation is already used to combat criminals. The PSNI, the Garda Síochána, customs authorities and law-enforcement agencies co-operate to counter this trade. Law-enforcement agencies on both sides of the border co-operate to suppress smuggling without anyone suggesting that border posts and checks would make their efforts more effective.” And there are better ways to identify non-compliant goods than by random 1% or 3% checks at the border.

The latest ERG paper, Your Right To Know – the case against the Government’s Brexit dealextols the virtues of ‘A better alternative – a “Super Canada” Free Trade Deal’, but misses the point. Yes, Canada-plus would be a million times better than the Chequers plan and the currently proposed Withdrawal Agreement but it does not address the Irish border issue. Although Canada-plus has been offered several times by the EU, they offered it only in combination with the backstop of Northern Ireland being separated from the rest of the UK.

I would therefore say that the two things – the Irish border issue and UK/EU trade relationship – need to be decoupled. We should leave with no deal and confront the EU with the Irish border problem in March 2019.

Thereafter there will still be issues over the nature of the trade deal – whether it will be close to Canada-plus or will have to be more limiting because of the EU’s unwillingness to contemplate anything that might allow the UK to become competitive. We would need to weigh up the benefit of a UK/EU FTA based on a customs union and common rule book against the known drawbacks – EU regulations imposed on the 94% of UK businesses, representing 88% of GDP, that trade only domestically or with non-EU countries; no say in determining future regulations or trading standards; no ability to innovate; no ability to negotiate trading standards as part of FTAs; and maybe, if remaining in the customs union, no ability to enter into global FTAs at all.

By decoupling Irish border issue from UK/EU trade relationship, the Irish border will no longer be the overriding, determining factor. It will be for the UK to decide what is in its best interests, like the other 40 countries, large and small, that have entered into widely varying trade arrangements with the European Union

And £39 billion retained will, without doubt, focus the minds of those on the other side of the negotiating table – but the £20 billion or so of net contributions that they would have received during the two-year transition period will have been irrevocably lost.

We now learn that the Treasury predicts that the country will suffer £150bn in lost output over 15 years under no deal, with Theresa May’s plan costing in the region of £40bn.

This latest manifestation of Project Fear has to be the ultimate insult to the nation’s intelligence.

With or without Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement, we will have the ability, within 2 years or more, to conclude a free trade deal with the EU – without a shadow of doubt a far more favourable one if we are able to negotiate while holding out a £39 billion carrot and without the Damocles sword of the Northern Ireland backstop suspected over our heads. And, dependent on how closely we decide to tie ourselves to EU standards, the ability to conclude FTAs with other countries.

The only counteracting drawback of no-deal is the short-term damage (and, conceivably, any irrecoverable long-term damage) to UK/EU trade as a result of the short-term disruption arising from the loss of the transition period. But we’d start with a saving of £20 billion or more from net contributions to the EU over two or more years. And benefit from earlier freedom to deal with our fisheries and agriculture (and, and… need I go on?)

No doubt the Treasury will, as usual, refuse to disclose its ridiculously biased assumptions.

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Deal or no deal, the bottom line is that the UK must leave the EU on 29th March 2019

Not a day goes by without Theresa May getting attacked by MPs on her own side, ridiculed by the Opposition, derided by the media and mocked by sketch writers; she faces a constant and continuing threat to her leadership. The only thing going for her is her stated determination to ensure the UK leaves the […]

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Not a day goes by without Theresa May getting attacked by MPs on her own side, ridiculed by the Opposition, derided by the media and mocked by sketch writers; she faces a constant and continuing threat to her leadership. The only thing going for her is her stated determination to ensure the UK leaves the EU on the date Parliament decreed, 29th March 2019, and on that issue, she has the backing of the British people. This is the reason why she has been able to survive.

MPs may have the numbers to delay or block Brexit, but the people have the final say; in 2016 they said Leave; today they say get on with it.

Every other option other than the proposed Withdrawal Agreement or leaving the EU without a deal, does, of necessity, involve an extension of Article 50 and if Article 50 is extended once, it could be extended again and again until we relent and forget about Leaving the EU altogether. Renegotiating the current deal in any meaningful way would require months if not years; a general election or a second referendum likewise would require an extension of Article 50. At the end of the day, for MPs to honour the referendum result, they must vote for the current deal (or a cosmetic variation of it) or fall back on the default position of no deal.

It’s right for Brexit-supporting MPs and others to call the recent Treasury assessments of the impact of different Brexit scenarios and the warnings from the Bank of England as the continuation of Project Fear, but they must not themselves indulge in a Project Fear of their own. Statements such as the Withdrawal Agreement is ‘worse than remaining inside the EU’ and ‘once it is signed there is no way out’ are alarmist and unnecessarily defeatist.

Regardless of its faults – including keeping the UK too close to the EU than is comfortable for an independent country and ceding control in certain areas – the Withdrawal Agreement ensures we leave the EU on 29th March 2019 and once we leave, we become sovereign which could never be the case if we remain in the EU; sovereignty brings with it powers that had been surrendered to the EU.

As for ‘once signed there is no way out’, treaties are not written on tablets of stone, otherwise we would still be living under treaties that were signed in the nineteenth century. Treaties are amendable and in the final analysis disposable; they carry weight only if both parties are willing to abide by them; they are more honoured in breach than observance; the USA alone breached over 500 treaties and countries are accused of breaching this or that treaty on almost a daily basis.

Once sovereign, we can give notice of the changes we wish to make and if the EU refuses to negotiate, we can give notice of our intention to terminate all or parts of the treaty and that includes the backstop. To say that the fifth largest economy and the fourth biggest military power in the world, a permanent member of the Security Council, will be neutered in perpetuity if it signs a treaty with a union with serious signs of disintegration is fanciful to say the least.
The driving force behind Brexit has always been the British people and that must continue to be the case after we leave next year. This is the true guarantee for the future and not tightening this or that wording on a piece of paper.

Prior to us actually leaving the EU, a Withdrawal Agreement – regardless of who negotiates it – is bound to have compromises and leave a number loose ends. The purpose of a deal at this stage is not to tie the Government’s hands in future negotiations as some people seem to think, but to provide the best possible start after we leave the EU. After 45 years of being entrapped by the EU, its rules and bureaucracy, it will not be possible to escape in one single giant leap; at the present time, a deal is a first step, not the end result.

Once that first step is taken and we leave the EU, we can start the process of consolidating our economy, re-building our industry and ensuring our security, then we can assert our full sovereignty from a position of strength and demand the changes to the treaty that we want and need.

The 2016 referendum gave Parliament one simple task: get the UK out of the EU. So far, it has done its job: Article 50 has been triggered, the EU Withdrawal Act has been passed and a date set for leaving. For a Parliament with a majority on the Remain side, this is truly impressive. Now it has to complete the job and ease us out of the EU in March.

If Parliament rejects the deal, then Theresa May will have to go back to Brussels, not to beg for any meaningful changes, for that would be futile and humiliating; but rather to inform them that the UK will trade with the EU under WTO rules after we leave the EU – and preparations must be made to that end. Trading under WTO rules won’t be the disaster it is made out to be by some and the public will accept it.

If MPs fail to complete the task with which they are entrusted by ensuring we leave on 29th March next year – and Labour has a central role to play in this – the whole Westminster set-up will be brought into disrepute. People’s revenge will be subtle, but it may not be pretty.

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