By our branch blogger, Cliff Edge. Blogs are the views of the authors only and are not necessarily representative of the views of branch members.
To add to the thousands of commentaries on Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal deal, here is another take on it. Firstly, it is clear that the government has had an appalling negotiation strategy and has made some incomprehensible decisions. In my view this is more by design than error. Send a Europhile civil servant to Brussels to negotiate on our behalf. Fail to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario, thus preventing us from being able to credibly threaten to walk away. Reject a free trade deal in March 2018. Come up with a flawed offer – the Chequers proposal – which the EU would inevitably and rightly reject. Draw out negotiations for so long such that there is no time for another deal to be negotiated. This doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s pretty clear that the UK hasn’t been represented in the negotiating room in Brussels. Instead, Olly Robbins seems to have done his best for vested interests - committed Europhiles, Euro-federalists, die-hard Remainers, Big Business, academia. The outcome has been predictable.
The Withdrawal deal of 585 pages is accompanied by a Political Declaration of 26 pages. The Withdrawal deal is a legal, binding document. But the Declaration – how both sides see the future trading and other relationship – isn’t. So we’re paying £39bn (probably much more, but we don’t know now) for nothing. That’s £1,400 per family in the UK. This is a poor deal in itself.
We were offered a free trade deal in March – why was this not accepted? By all accounts this would have meant no tariffs, participation in existing programs and institutions, security co-operation. What was not to like? The issue of the border in Northern Ireland was flagged by the government as the barrier to this. And yet both the heads of customs in the UK and Irish civil services said that they did not envisage any need for a hard border – checks could be done away from the border (as some are done now).
The Withdrawal deal could leave us trapped indefinitely inside the EU, as a vassal state. Beholden to its laws and without a say, whose members have to agree – all 27 of them – in order for us to leave. This is worse than being a fully paid-up member with a seat at the table.
The ‘single customs territory’ referred to in the document is the bastard son of the Customs Union. It essentially is the Customs Union. During the Transition period, we would be unable to strike trade deals with non-EU countries. We now know from the government’s legal interpretation of the deal document that unless a trade deal is negotiated with the EU during this period, the Transition period could be extended indefinitely. So potentially we could never be able to strike the new global trade deals that are one of the key advantages of Brexit and would help our country’s economy to grow more rapidly and ‘go global’. During all this time – potentially forever – we would be rule-takers and not rule-makers. And let’s be clear, agreeing to a single customs territory would be breaching the promise in the Tory manifesto to leave the EU’s Customs Union. Still trust politicians?
The outcome of entering into such a deal with the EU is entirely predictable – they will demand a high price in order to agree to release us from the Withdrawal deal. This could be a combination of many demands. For instance, it could involve us paying another huge ransom to get out with a deal. Spain will demand sovereignty concessions over Gibraltar (she has already made recent noises in this regard). Those countries who fish in our waters will demand access on very unfavourable terms to our fishing industry. Germany and France will try and steal financial business away from the City. And we could be forced to accept many rules that prevent us from being more competitive to the EU, which it cannot tolerate being a protection racket.
The Union of the United Kingdom would be threatened by this deal. Via the so-called ‘backstop’, Northern Ireland will be treated differently from the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland would become a ‘rule taker’ in further areas such as goods, agricultural products and VAT compared with the rest of the UK. Thus this deal creates internal borders within the UK and hives off Ulster a little bit closer to Eire. Just what Prime Minister Varadkar wants. This deal is proposed by the Conservative AND Unionist Party of the United Kingdom. It doesn’t seem very Unionist to me.
Despite denials by the government, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will, to all intents and purposes, remain in control of the agreement. It will be the final arbiter of the agreement. This deal is not restoring sovereignty to our Parliament and our people, this is not taking back control.
The strategy employed by May and her daleks at No. 10 is that this is the only deal on offer. We’ve already disproven that. But the government has deliberately taken us to the brink. Everyone seems to think that defeat is certain for May but I’ve said all along that I think she’ll get this through. Maybe not on the first attempt. But if after it’s defeated on Tuesday she returns to the EU Council of Ministers you can bet that she’ll come back with an improved offer, but it’ll be a fudge. So it’s really the second vote, not the first, that we must be wary of, where the Tory waverers might just be won back to the fold by some sophistry.
This is a deal of the Prime Minister’s own making. She said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. This is not just a bad deal, it is an awful deal.