By our Branch Chair.
Check out the picture above taken on Thursday 17th October at the EU Summit. The EU Council of Ministers look elated. So does Boris Johnson. Why? Well the 27 EU countries' leaders have just agreed a deal which is 95% the same as Theresa May's 'surrender deal'. They have had to concede little. And Johnson can now 'get Brexit done'. Or so he thought.
The backstop has gone but instead the EU have put a border down the middle of the Irish Sea. This protects the 'sanctity of the Single Market' but it also damages the UK by putting a wedge between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The EU's modus operandi
is to weaken its member states and this ticks the box. They don't want a strong UK, never have, and certainly don't want a strong UK outside of the EU. You can bet they'll do their level best to woo Scotland out of the UK too when the time comes for their second referendum. Another little supplicant state for them to bully and dominate.
The other key change from May's tawdry deal is that the political declaration is no longer a legal document, merely a statement of intent. But the problem remains with the revised Withdrawal Agreement which is an international treaty. A previous post
touched on some downsides of the deal, such as the fact that the transition period - where we 'pay but have no say' - is almost certainly going to be extended.
But since it was written, an interesting post by Martin Howe QC of 'Lawyers for Britain' came to my notice entitled This flawed deal is a tolerable price to pay for our freedom
. I recommend that every Brexiteer reads it. Howe is the lawyer that the ERG and other Breiteers such as the 'Telegraph set' look to for comment on legal matters concerning Brexit.
Howe, through gritted teeth, says that this deal is just about acceptable. The amount of content extolling its virtues is very small compared with his criticisms of it. Let me summarise them for you:
- Clause (Art.174) means that the nominally independent arbitration panel set up to decide disputes would have to refer any issues of EU law for decision by the ECJ, and moreover would be bound by the result. This clause was originally imposed by the EU on the desperate former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova! Dr Carl Baudenbacher, a Swiss lawyer who recently retired as president of the EFTA Court, has said ‘It is absolutely unbelievable that a country like the UK, which was the first country to accept independent courts, would subject itself to this.‘
- The Transition period is highly dangerous for some UK industries. In particular, financial services, which may be subjected to rule changes designed to force business such as Euro derivatives clearing from the City into Continental centres, and our fishing industry which will be vulnerable to further severe damage during the period before they can escape from the Common Fisheries Policy. We'll have no say in this period. Do you trust the EU to behave decently?
- The Withdrawal Deal imposes financial obligations on the UK which go well beyond the UK’s obligations under international law. In one of her maddest acts of capitulation of many, Theresa May agreed a clause under which the UK’s financial obligations are unilaterally decided upon by the ECJ instead of by a neutral arbitration mechanism. This money will be unconditionally payable, whether or not the EU offers the UK a satisfactory long term trade agreement. There is just no linkage. And don't just think it's £39bn. It's more. Also, Boris Johnson has given up on a windfall for the UK of almost £7bn, which would have covered more than a fifth of the “divorce bill” from the EU. In addition, the deal leaves the UK with liabilities relating to the eurozone. Robert Rowland, the Brexit Party MEP, said the UK could be forced to pay in more than €37bn in share capital, particularly in the event of a eurozone crisis.
- If you compare the 'Boris deal' with 'No deal', despite the marked improvements over the disastrous TM deal, the revised deal is still overall a bad deal. It lands us unconditionally with huge financial obligations for nothing concrete in return, beyond the opportunity to negotiate a trade deal which we would be able to negotiate anyway if we left with 'No deal'.
Martin Howe goes on to say that he predicts that 'we will have bitter cause to regret such concessions in future years as unpredictable and activist judgments come out from the ECJ, which the UK and our Parliament will have no choice but to obey.'
I argue that we are diminished geo-politically just by signing this deal and it presents a threat to our long-term sovereignty and will cost us b£llions and expose us potentially to even more payments if the eurozone goes belly up. We are in effect accepting EU sovereignty over us in key areas beyond the Transition period. We are a nation that once ruled over a quarter of the land mass of the globe. We fought and won two World Wars. Sovereignty and freedom were won and retained at huge expense in terms of lives and money. And now we're surrendering both.