My plan for a bet­ter Brexit

‘There has been a col­lec­tive fail­ure of gov­ern­ment, and a col­lapse of will by the British es­tab­lish­ment, to de­liver on the man­date of the peo­ple….this is the mo­ment to change the course of the ne­go­ti­a­tions’

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - boris john­son By Gor­don Rayner Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

BORIS JOHN­SON to­day calls on The- resa May to rip up her Brexit “back­stop” agree­ment with the EU and ne­go­ti­ate a Canada-style free trade deal to “ful­fil the in­struc­tion of the peo­ple”.

The for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary de­scribes the Prime Min­is­ter’s Che­quers plan as a “moral and in­tel­lec­tual hu­mil­i­a­tion” that will “cheat the elec­torate” if it forms the ba­sis of a Brexit deal be­cause it would leave Bri­tain “half in, half out” of Europe.

“There has been a col­lec­tive fail­ure of gov­ern­ment, and a col­lapse of will by the British es­tab­lish­ment, to de­liver on the man­date of the peo­ple,” he says.

The Gov­ern­ment must now have the guts to scrap the “demo­cratic dis­as­ter” of Che­quers, he urges, and “truly take back con­trol of our laws and our lives”.

Writ­ing in The Daily Tele­graph, Mr John­son sets out in de­tail an al­ter­na­tive six-point plan for Brexit which, he says, will make Bri­tain “rich, strong and free”.

It would in­volve ne­go­ti­at­ing a “Su­percanada” deal dur­ing a 21-month tran­si­tion pe­riod to fol­low Brexit day on March 29 next year and ad­vo­cates

us­ing tech­nol­ogy to avoid a hard bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land.

He says: “This is an op­por­tu­nity for the UK to be­come more dy­namic and more suc­cess­ful, and we should not be shy of say­ing that – and we should recog­nise that it is ex­actly this po­ten­tial our EU part­ners seek to con­strain.”

Mr John­son’s in­ter­ven­tion, two days be­fore the start of the Con­ser­va­tive

Party con­fer­ence, is in­tended as a ral­ly­ing call to de­mand Mrs May changes tack be­fore it is too late. Yes­ter­day Jeremy Hunt, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, who is un­der­stood to sup­port mov­ing to­ward a Canada deal, hinted change may be on the way as he de­scribed Che­quers as merely the “ba­sis of an agree­ment”.

Mr John­son writes: “This is the mo­ment to change the course of the ne­go­ti­a­tions and do jus­tice to the am­bi­tions and po­ten­tial of Brexit. We have the chance to get it right, and I am afraid that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will not lightly for­give us if we fail.”

In the 4,500-word es­say A Bet­ter Plan For Brexit, Mr John­son does not di­rectly at­tack Mrs May or call for a change of leader to see Brexit through, but his bru­tal assess­ment of the Gov­ern­ment un­der her lead­er­ship will only add to spec­u­la­tion about a pos­si­ble chal­lenge be­fore Jan­uary.

He says there has been a “col­lapse of will” by min­is­ters and civil ser­vants to push for the free­dom that 17.4 mil­lion peo­ple voted for in 2016 and de­scribes the de­ci­sion to call a gen­eral elec­tion last year as a “se­ri­ous strate­gic mis­take”. There has been, he adds, an “ut-

ter lack of con­vic­tion” in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, with the “pretty in­ver­te­brate per­for­mance” of the British team, led by Olly Robbins, Mrs May’s Europe ad­viser. Their “supine pos­ture”, he says, has given the EU the up­per hand. The UK has “stum­bled and col­lapsed” into a North­ern Ire­land back­stop agree­ment that will place a bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea if no al­ter­na­tive is agreed, he adds.

Mr John­son speaks at a fringe event in Birm­ing­ham on Tues­day that is likely to over­shadow prepa­ra­tions for Mrs May’s speech the next day. Other fringe events will also call on the Prime Min­is­ter to “chuck Che­quers”. Her plan was re­jected by the lead­ers of the other 27 EU mem­bers in Salzburg last week, and both Labour and Eu­roscep­tic Tory MPS said they would vote against any deal based on Che­quers. Brex­i­teers in­clud­ing Mr John­son be­lieve a Canada-style deal, al­low­ing al­most tar­iff-free trade with the EU, and Bri­tain to ne­go­ti­ate its own deals, is the only model that could win back­ing.

Mr John­son says Mrs May should tell Brus­sels that an Ir­ish back­stop “is no longer op­er­a­tive and no longer ac­cept­able to this coun­try”. In­stead, a With­drawal

Agree­ment should be drawn up, set­tling the bor­der ques­tion as part of a trade deal. He ar­gues ex­tra cus­toms checks can be car­ried out away from the bor­der with­out up­end­ing the Belfast Agree­ment.

A Su­percanada deal would in­volve “zero tar­iffs and zero quo­tas” on all trade be­tween the UK and the EU; mu­tual recog­ni­tion agree­ments for stan­dards;

equiv­a­lent rules rather than the “com­mon rule­book”, an in­de­pen­dent dis­pute mech­a­nism and co-op­er­a­tion on se­cu­rity, de­fence, counter-ter­ror­ism and other ar­eas of mu­tual in­ter­est.

The Tele­graph re­vealed this week that more than half the Cabi­net would sup­port a Canada-style Brexit if Mrs May failed to se­cure back­ing in Brus­sels and Par­lia­ment for the Che­quers plan.

Min­is­ters are ex­pected to keep their coun­sel dur­ing the party con­fer­ence, but with an EU lead­ers’ sum­mit on Oct 18, time is run­ning out to per­suade Mrs May of the need for a plan B.

EU lead­ers have said that if sub­stan­tial progress to­ward a deal is made at their Oc­to­ber meet­ing, an ex­tra meet­ing will be held in Novem­ber.

But the pos­si­bil­ity of a no-deal Brexit can­not be dis­counted. Mr John­son says min­is­ters acted “dis­grace­fully” in mak­ing “no proper prepa­ra­tions” for leav­ing the EU on World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion terms, say­ing: “If we con­tinue on the cur­rent path we will, I am afraid, be­tray cen­turies of progress.”

‘We must de­cide whether we have the guts to ful­fil the in­struc­tion of the peo­ple – to leave the EU and truly take back con­trol of our laws and our lives’

‘The Che­quers pro­pos­als are the worst of both worlds. They are a moral and in­tel­lec­tual hu­mil­i­a­tion for this coun­try’

As we come now to the fi­nal months of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, we are ar­riv­ing, at last, at the mo­ment of truth.

It is not just that we must de­cide what kind of re­la­tion­ship we want with the EU. We must de­cide who we are – whether we re­ally be­lieve in the im­por­tance of our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions.

We must de­cide whether we have the guts to ful­fil the in­struc­tion of the peo­ple – to leave the EU and truly take back con­trol of our laws and our lives.

The next few weeks are crit­i­cal. If we con­tinue on the cur­rent path we will, I am afraid, be­tray cen­turies of progress.

From the de­vel­op­ment of par­lia­men­tary democ­racy to the in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion, the British have been first movers. They have been most will­ing to chal­lenge re­ceived wis­dom, to ex­pose vested in­ter­ests and to put their lead­ers to the test. So, in June 2016, it was no sur­prise that they voted to leave the EU – be­cause they had a clear in­sight into the way that in­sti­tu­tion works and its man­i­fest flaws.

They saw a body that has evolved far be­yond the “Com­mon Mar­ket” they were in­vited to join, a su­per­state with no real demo­cratic con­trol. The British were told that it was po­lit­i­cally es­sen­tial for them to stay in the EU; and yet they saw an in­sti­tu­tion that re­sponds to ev­ery prob­lem with a call for more in­te­gra­tion – to the point where it now has five pres­i­dents and plans for at least one of them to be di­rectly elected by the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of the EU, hardly any of whom will prop­erly un­der­stand who that per­son is or what he or she is do­ing.

The British were warned it was eco­nom­i­cally es­sen­tial for them to stay in the EU; and yet they ob­served that the EU’S sig­na­ture eco­nomic pro­ject, the euro, had con­signed mil­lions of young peo­ple to the mis­ery of unem­ploy­ment across the Mediter­ranean, with 21 per cent of the Greek pop­u­la­tion still in a state of se­vere ma­te­rial de­pri­va­tion ac­cord­ing to Euro­stat.

They noted that the one-size-fits-all EU model of reg­u­la­tion – ac­cord­ing to the Trea­sury it­self – has prob­a­bly cost about 7per cent of GDP, that the EU is a zone of low growth and low in­no­va­tion, and that the EU in­sti­tu­tions them­selves are colos­sal and ex­trav­a­gant wasters of tax­pay­ers’ money.

In vot­ing to leave, the British showed good judg­ment about the EU – but also about them­selves. They in­stinc­tively un­der­stood the con­nec­tion be­tween British po­lit­i­cal lib­erty and eco­nomic progress, and they saw in a glob­alised econ­omy how the UK might have a glo­ri­ous fu­ture.

This was the chance, they de­cided, to take back con­trol of their im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem – so that the UK could at­tract the right mix of tal­ent from abroad, and so that British busi­ness would no longer have an ex­cuse not to in­vest ei­ther in the skills of young peo­ple or in cap­i­tal equip­ment.

This was the mo­ment to take back con­trol of the enor­mous sums given ev­ery week to the EU, and to spend them on British pri­or­i­ties such as the NHS. It was the time to take back con­trol above all of their democ­racy – to en­sure that laws were not only made in the in­ter­ests of UK peo­ple and busi­ness, and to sup­port UK in­no­va­tion, but that the British peo­ple would be able once again to re­move their law­mak­ers from power in the nor­mal demo­cratic way.

The polls have shown that it was not im­mi­gra­tion, but a con­cern about na­tional self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, that was the sin­gle most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion that en­cour­aged peo­ple to vote leave.

In short, they saw a choice be­tween an out­dated and scle­rotic EU, and the chance to do things dif­fer­ently; be­tween re­main­ing in­side – al­ways protest­ing, and al­ways be­ing car­ried along by the fed­er­al­is­ing process – and seiz­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties of a chang­ing econ­omy and do­ing new free trade deals around the world.

They voted for free­dom. It must be ad­mit­ted, alas, that at this rate their hopes will not be ful­filled.

The fail­ure of ne­go­ti­a­tions so far

It is widely ac­cepted that the UK is now in a weak po­si­tion in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions. The Che­quers pro­pos­als are de­servedly un­pop­u­lar with the UK elec­torate and have at least for­mally been re­jected by our EU friends. If we are to make a suc­cess of the talks, we must first un­der­stand how we have ar­rived at this po­si­tion.

It was clear from the very be­gin­ning of Theresa May’s Gov­ern­ment that the UK was in the grip of a fa­tal un­cer­tainty about whether or not to leave the cus­toms union. Min­is­ters and of­fi­cials were still very much in­flu­enced by the logic of Pro­ject Fear – which in many cases they had them­selves pro­mul­gated in the course of the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign. They had claimed that there would be huge dis­rup­tion – and they found it dif­fi­cult once in of­fice to jet­ti­son those claims.

The re­sult was that from the very be­gin­ning the British Gov­ern­ment ex­uded a con­spic­u­ous in­fir­mity of pur­pose – a re­luc­tance to take any kind of ac­tion to de­liver the sin­gle most im­por­tant re­quire­ment of Brexit.

This ba­sic ner­vous­ness was soon de­tected by our part­ners, both in Brus­sels and most im­por­tantly in Dublin.

They re­alised that some of the most im­por­tant voices in the UK Gov­ern­ment – no­tably the Trea­sury – re­tained their pre-ref­er­en­dum an­tipa­thy to a real Brexit. In par­tic­u­lar, they saw that the UK did not have the po­lit­i­cal will to de­vise and push hard for the tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions to de­liver an un­ob­tru­sive soft cus­toms bor­der in North­ern Ire­land. In­stead the EU ne­go­tia­tors re­alised that they had a path to even­tual vic­tory in the ne­go­ti­a­tions. They of­fered a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion: that reg­u­la­tions in North­ern Ire­land should re­main the same as in Ire­land, so that there was no need for checks of any kind. This, of course, evoked the spec­tre of a bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea, and a threat there­fore to the Union be­tween Great Bri­tain and North­ern Ire­land. They knew that this would be un­ac­cept­able to any British Gov­ern­ment, and that Lon­don would then in­stead have to push for the whole UK to re­main in the cus­toms union and large parts of the EU’S reg­u­la­tory ap­pa­ra­tus. That is ex­actly what has hap­pened. Such is the in­tel­lec­tual route by which we have stum­bled and col­lapsed first into the Dec 8 North­ern Ir­ish back­stop, and now into the Che­quers pro­pos­als.

It was a fur­ther symp­tom of the ut­ter lack of con­vic­tion with which the UK em­barked on these talks that we so meekly ac­cepted the se­quenc­ing pro­posed by the EU. This means that we have ef­fec­tively agreed to pay £40bil­lion as an exit fee with­out any as­sur­ances as to the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

Then there was the elec­tion. It cer­tainly did not help that the Gov­ern­ment weak­ened it­self greatly, not just at home but in the eyes of our part­ners, by this se­ri­ous strate­gic mis­take that cost the Con­ser­va­tives a ma­jor­ity.

But the sin­gle great­est fail­ing has been the Gov­ern­ment’s ap­palling and in­ex­pli­ca­ble de­lay in set­ting out a vi­sion for what Brexit is. As Bri­tain has run out of time, the ini­tia­tive has been trans­ferred to our coun­ter­parts on the other side of the ta­ble, and – dis­grace­fully – no proper prepa­ra­tions have been made for leav­ing on WTO terms.

The net re­sult of two years’ ne­go­ti­a­tion has been to guar­an­tee EU cit­i­zens’ rights – which could and should have been done on day one uni­lat­er­ally; to pay over £40bil­lion for noth­ing in re­turn; and to ne­go­ti­ate a tran­si­tion pe­riod by which the UK would ef­fec­tively re­main in the EU for an­other two years and un­der the most hu­mil­i­at­ing terms, with no say on laws or taxes this coun­try would have to obey. And if for some rea­son the ne­go­ti­a­tions on the fu­ture trade agree­ment break down al­to­gether, we have ad­di­tion­ally agreed to re­main in the cus­toms union in­def­i­nitely, for the sake of the Ir­ish bor­der – so mak­ing Brexit mean­ing­less.

That is a pretty in­ver­te­brate per­for­mance. There has been a col­lec­tive fail­ure of gov­ern­ment, and a col­lapse of will by the British es­tab­lish­ment, to de­liver on the man­date of the peo­ple.

It is true that the EU has con­ducted the ne­go­ti­a­tions as though deal­ing with an ad­ver­sary rather than a friendly coun­try that sim­ply wants to gov­ern it­self. But it is the UK’S supine pos­ture that has en­abled the EU to get away with it.

It is this fail­ure ei­ther to see or to de­fend our own na­tional in­ter­est that has led to the Che­quers pro­pos­als and the cur­rent cri­sis.

Why the Che­quers pro­pos­als are dis­as­trous

As I set out in my res­ig­na­tion speech on July 18, these pro­pos­als would oblige the UK to con­tinue to ac­cept EU rules, reg­u­la­tions and taxes across a wide spec­trum of gov­ern­ment ac­tiv­ity, but with ab­so­lutely no say on those laws.

Such en­forced vas­salage should be un­ac­cept­able to any demo­cratic coun­try, let alone a £2tril­lion econ­omy with a ven­er­a­ble par­lia­men­tary his­tory. If we go ahead with Che­quers, we will be ex­pos­ing the en­tire UK econ­omy to reg­u­la­tions that may be ex­pressly de­signed – and at the be­hest of con­ti­nen­tal com­peti­tors – to make life dif­fi­cult for UK en­trepreneurs and in­no­va­tors.

What are British politi­cians sup­posed to tell em­ploy­ees who lose their jobs in such firms, when it is this Gov­ern­ment that has de­lib­er­ately aban­doned the right to de­fend them?

Un­der the Che­quers pro­pos­als, free trade deals are made dou­bly dif­fi­cult: first be­cause we aban­don con­trol of our reg­u­la­tory frame­work for goods and agri-foods – es­pe­cially im­por­tant in trade ne­go­ti­a­tions – and next be­cause we fail mis­er­ably to take back con­trol of our trade pol­icy.

If we go ahead with Che­quers and its Heath Robin­son “fa­cil­i­tated cus­toms ar­range­ment”, we will be agree­ing to en­force EU tar­iffs and du­ties at our bor­ders.

That means in a very prac­ti­cal sense that we will fail to take back con­trol of our bor­ders – and thus cheat the elec­torate of a ma­jor prom­ise at the ref­er­en­dum. It is also un­think­able that the EU should al­low such an ar­range­ment to take place with­out EU su­per­vi­sion and ECJ ju­ris­dic­tion. Why should they, af­ter all? We also face the man­i­fest ab­sur­dity of re­quir­ing

douaniers in Mar­seille to col­lect the UK’S tar­iffs on goods that are des­tined – at least the­o­ret­i­cally – for the UK.

It is al­ready a ridicu­lous fea­ture of the Che­quers pro­pos­als that we would re­quire all UK busi­nesses im­port­ing goods that at­tract the Uk-only tar­iffs to prove that such goods have been con­sumed in the UK. It is al­most in­sane to imag­ine that the UK will be able to per­suade the 27 to im­pose an ex­tra and hith­erto un­dreamed-of new bu­reau­cratic bur­den on ev­ery cus­toms of­fi­cer in the EU.

If there is any mag­i­cal think­ing any­where in this ne­go­ti­a­tion, it is surely here.

In­deed it is ob­vi­ous to any­one with any un­der­stand­ing of trad­ing ar­range­ments that the cus­toms as­pects of Che­quers could only work if Bri­tain dropped all pre­tence of an in­de­pen­dent trade pol­icy – and col­lapsed back into the cus­toms union.

Our le­gal servi­tude is ex­ac­er­bated, un­der Che­quers, by the com­mit­ment to non-re­gres­sion clauses for the en­tire cor­pus of EU so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and other re­lated law, and to en­force the EU’S rule book on state aids. No one would wish to see any re­duc­tion of stan­dards or pro­tec­tions, or to waste pub­lic money in sup­port­ing un­vi­able busi­nesses, but it is deeply trou­bling that we would be sign­ing away for­ever the right of Par­lia­ment to leg­is­late in these ar­eas in any way that the EU – not our own Par­lia­ment – deems to be re­gres­sive or un­sat­is­fac­tory.

Over­all, the Che­quers pro­pos­als rep­re­sent the in­tel­lec­tual er­ror of be­liev­ing that we can be half-in, half-out: that it is some­how safer and eas­ier for large parts of our na­tional life to re­main gov­erned by the EU even though we are no longer in the EU.

They are in that sense a demo­cratic dis­as­ter. There is noth­ing safe or “prag­matic” in be­ing bound by rules over which we have no say, in­ter­preted by a fed­er­al­ist court.

The Che­quers pro­pos­als are the worst of both worlds. They are a moral and in­tel­lec­tual hu­mil­i­a­tion for this coun­try. It is al­most in­cred­i­ble that af­ter two years this should be the open­ing bid of the British Gov­ern­ment.

The right so­lu­tion: A Su­percanada free trade deal

It is all the more in­cred­i­ble when you con­sider that there has been an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion, wait­ing to be de­vel­oped, and which the Prime Min­is­ter in­deed ad­um­brated in her ear­lier speeches, most no­tably at Lan­caster House on Jan 17 2017.

Bri­tain should seek the same free­doms and op­por­tu­ni­ties in its re­la­tions with the EU as any other in­de­pen­dent and demo­cratic coun­try. That means the right to make our own laws, in the in­ter­ests of our own econ­omy; the right to con­trol our own trade pol­icy; and the right to rep­re­sent our­selves again in those in­ter­na­tional fo­rums

‘The heart of the new re­la­tion­ship should not be Che­quers, but a free­trade agree­ment at least as deep as the one the EU has re­cently con­cluded with Canada’

‘This is an op­por­tu­nity for the UK to be­come more dy­namic and suc­cess­ful... and we should recog­nise that it is this po­ten­tial our EU part­ners seek to con­strain’

where we have in­creas­ingly been va­cat­ing our place for the EU. There is noth­ing ex­treme about such an am­bi­tion. It is the in­ter­na­tional norm.

Of course, we should not for­get the re­al­ity that we have been EU mem­bers for 45 years, and that we are a spir­i­tu­ally and his­tor­i­cally Euro­pean coun­try. The PM is right to say that Bri­tain’s re­la­tion­ship with the EU does not have to be dis­tant, and that it will be sui generis. But it must be one of le­gal equals.

That is why the heart of the new re­la­tion­ship should not be Che­quers, but a free-trade agree­ment at least as deep as the one the EU has re­cently con­cluded with Canada.

The out­lines of such a deal are clear, and it has the huge ad­van­tage – over Che­quers – that it is a deal our part­ners would un­der­stand and re­spect:

It would be only log­i­cal and to be ex­pected that this would in­volve – as now – zero tar­iffs and zero quo­tas on all im­ports and ex­ports be­tween the UK and the 27.

In a spirit of trust and com­mon sense we should agree that both UK and EU reg­u­la­tory bod­ies are recog­nised as ca­pa­ble of en­sur­ing con­for­mity of goods with each other’s stan­dards. And it should be easy to draw up mu­tual recog­ni­tion agree­ments cov­er­ing UK and EU reg­u­la­tions now and in the fu­ture – since we all want high stan­dards, and we will all in­sist on proper pro­tec­tions for con­sumers.

As we leave the cus­toms union we should go with the grain of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, bring­ing for­ward fa­cil­i­ta­tions that will ob­vi­ate pa­per­work and de­lay in the cir­cu­la­tion of goods, above all al­low­ing just-in-time sup­ply chains to con­tinue to op­er­ate with ever grow­ing smooth­ness and ef­fi­ciency. There is plenty of ev­i­dence from around the world that com­plex sup­ply chains can op­er­ate with high ef­fi­ciency in spite of cus­toms con­trols.

The Su­percanada deal should cover pro­cure­ment (over and above the pro­vi­sions of the WTO’S gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment agree­ment which the UK is cur­rently seek­ing to join in its own right) – and al­low the UK to op­er­ate a more flex­i­ble ar­range­ment than that cur­rently re­quired by the EU’S own pro­cure­ment rules. It should also in­clude pro­vi­sions for close col­lab­o­ra­tion on com­pe­ti­tion and state aid rules, though these should not go as far as the Che­quers pro­posal that we should en­force the EU rule book on state aids.

The deal should in­clude ex­ten­sive pro­vi­sions on ser­vices, based on the Canada-style neg­a­tive list ap­proach – in which the as­sump­tion is that all ser­vice sec­tors are opened up ex­cept those specif­i­cally listed. There should be the max­i­mum pos­si­ble mu­tual recog­ni­tion of qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

A Su­percanada deal will need to in­clude spe­cific pro­vi­sions on data, where the UK will need recog­ni­tion as “equiv­a­lent” by the EU (as, of course, we are now), and on avi­a­tion, where it should be rel­a­tively straight­for­ward – given the vast UK mar­ket – to ne­go­ti­ate mem­ber­ship of the EU’S avi­a­tion area and to ac­cept ap­pro­pri­ate obli­ga­tions.

As with any free trade deal be­tween sov­er­eign pow­ers there should be a process for recog­nis­ing each other’s rules as equiv­a­lent, where they are, and a dis­pute set­tle­ment mech­a­nism for man­ag­ing any reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence over time. That process of reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence – one of the key at­trac­tions of Brexit – should take place as be­tween le­gal equals, so that nei­ther side’s in­sti­tu­tions have power over the other’s.

It goes with­out say­ing that a Su­percanada deal would also com­prise ex­ten­sive and in­ti­mate in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the UK and our EU friends on many other mat­ters of mu­tual in­ter­est: se­cu­rity, coun­tert­er­ror­ism, for­eign pol­icy and de­fence co­op­er­a­tion. These are ar­eas where the UK brings much to the ta­ble, and with care they need not in­volve the le­gal sub­ju­ga­tion, no­tably to the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, that is so dam­ag­ing in the eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship pro­posed by Che­quers.

The Ir­ish bor­der ques­tion

If a Canada or Su­percanada-style deal has so much to com­mend it, then it may be asked why the UK and the EU have not sim­ply agreed it. The an­swer – so we are con­stantly told – is that such a deal is im­prac­ti­cal be­cause it would im­pose a new cus­toms bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land or some­how be con­trary to the Belfast Agree­ment. It should be noted first of all that there al­ready is a bor­der. Many rules are dif­fer­ent on ei­ther side of that bor­der, whether we are talk­ing of cur­ren­cies, ex­cise du­ties, VAT, per­sonal tax­a­tion, con­sumer pro­tec­tion, and many oth­ers.

In so far as these dif­fer­ences set up op­por­tu­ni­ties for ar­bi­trage or crim­i­nal­ity, those prob­lems are al­ready man­aged by both ju­ris­dic­tions – but away from the bor­der.

There is sim­ply no need for a hard bor­der, and that is not just my view, or the view of Shanker Sing­ham, who showed in his ex­cel­lent Plan A+ pa­per on Mon­day how the small amount of trade across this bor­der can be man­aged in prac­tice. Jon Thomp­son, the head of HMRC, has been ab­so­lutely em­phatic that there is no need for any new phys­i­cal con­trols of any kind or un­der any cir­cum­stances at the bor­der; a point that has been echoed by the head of the Ir­ish Rev­enue.

The UK, of course, ac­cepts that the EU will in­sist on en­sur­ing the in­tegrity of the sin­gle mar­ket, and that some ex­tra pro­ce­dures will, of course, be needed – but to the ex­tent that these are un­avoid­able, they can be car­ried out away from the bor­der; as they are, very largely, to­day. These pro­cesses can be strength­ened by us­ing the ex­ist­ing trusted trader schemes and by a sen­si­ble and prag­matic at­ti­tude to very lo­cal trade. They would be fully com­pat­i­ble with the Belfast Agree­ment.

Op­po­nents of Brexit fre­quently try to paint such ar­range­ments as com­pli­cated or highly un­usual by in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. They are not. In­deed, it is well known that for a year or so af­ter the ref­er­en­dum the UK and Ir­ish gov­ern­ments were be­gin­ning to ne­go­ti­ate a fa­cil­i­tated bor­der on these lines, un­til the EU and Ire­land changed their ap­proach dur­ing 2017. What is true is that this bor­der will look dif­fer­ent to other bor­ders around the world. That is in­evitable, given the his­tory and the sen­si­tiv­i­ties in­volved.

But ar­range­ments that make it work are per­fectly pos­si­ble and prac­ti­cal, and the ex­pe­ri­ence for busi­nesses us­ing the bor­der can be smooth and has­sle-free.

Is the EU re­ally so dog­matic about the need for checks to take place at the Ir­ish bor­der – when those checks are sim­ply not nec­es­sary – that they would throw away the chance of a gi­ant free trade deal with Bri­tain, in a lost op­por­tu­nity that would dam­age Ire­land more than any other EU coun­try?

How do we get there now?

Af­ter two years of dither and de­lay the UK finds it­self com­ing up hard against the dead­line of March 29 next year, by which time we must leave the EU. If we had started off with con­vic­tion and con­fi­dence we could cer­tainly have ne­go­ti­ated a Su­per canada deal in the time avail­able, but the abortive elec­tion and the end­less dis­pu­ta­tions about the Ir­ish back­stop mean that we have blown that chance.

It will there­fore be nec­es­sary to buy some time – at no cost to our am­bi­tions for Brexit, and with no ef­fec­tive de­lay to in­de­pen­dence – by mak­ing bet­ter use of the oth­er­wise re­dun­dant and hu­mil­i­at­ing “im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod” to the end of 2020. That means that we will need the with­drawal agree­ment, which con­tains it – but it can­not be the draft agree­ment as we cur­rently have it.

Here is what we should do:

First, chuck Che­quers, and stop wast­ing time on a so­lu­tion that can never be in the long-term in­ter­ests of this coun­try.

Then, go back to our EU friends and tell them that the Dec 8 Ir­ish “back­stop” ar­range­ment – which ef­fec­tively gives Brus­sels the per­pet­ual right to the eco­nomic an­nex­a­tion of North­ern Ire­land if it deems there is ever any reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence be­tween NI and the rest of the EU

– is no longer op­er­a­tive and no longer ac­cept­able to this coun­try. That means we will need a dif­fer­ent with­drawal agree­ment, stat­ing that the Ir­ish bor­der ques­tion will be set­tled as part of the deal on the fu­ture eco­nomic ar­range­ments, and that both sides are com­mit­ted to avoid­ing a hard bor­der. I recog­nise that this would be a dif­fi­cult step, given the diplo­matic en­ergy squan­dered on the back­stop, but it can­not be ac­cept­able that the con­sti­tu­tion of the UK should be held to ran­som in this way, or the Belfast Agree­ment sub­verted in the man­ner pro­posed by the EU.

We should agree a po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion by early 2019, in par­al­lel with the with­drawal agree­ment, which sets out the in­ten­tion of both sides to use the im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod to ne­go­ti­ate and bring into force a Su­percanada-type free trade agree­ment. This is a vi­tal part of the pack­age. It makes no sense what­ever to em­bark on a so-called “blind Brexit”, whereby we sign a with­drawal agree­ment, but with­out spec­i­fy­ing (yet again) what kind of fu­ture eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship we want. There is no way MPS could or should vote to hand over £40bil­lion to the EU with­out any agree­ment about the fu­ture of the re­la­tion­ship. We would be aban­don­ing our prin­ci­pal lever­age in the talks.

We should fol­low the logic of our own ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion and launch what we should have be­gun two years ago – prac­ti­cal prepa­ra­tions to op­er­ate our own trade and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy and to leave the cus­toms union. That will mean in­vest­ing in the req­ui­site tech­nol­ogy, peo­ple and in­fra­struc­ture, and we should get on with it and stop pussy-foot­ing around. Of course, such prepa­ra­tions should also be tak­ing place among the rest of the EU, but we can­not ex­pect them to have any sense of ur­gency when they see no ac­tiv­ity on this side of the Chan­nel.

We should face the pos­si­bil­ity – re­mote though I be­lieve it to be – that we will not be able to con­clude a with­drawal agree­ment and po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion on this ba­sis in the next few months, or to agree the new Su­percanada FTA by 2020. We need, there­fore, to ac­cel­er­ate the work now be­lat­edly be­ing done across Gov­ern­ment to pre­pare for a break­down in the talks. Rather than ped­dling end­less pro­pa­ganda about the chaos of “no deal”, the Gov­ern­ment should learn from the fail­ure of Pro­ject Fear. Peo­ple do not on the whole like to be pan­icked by their gov­ern­ments. What they want are prac­ti­cal ways of sort­ing out what are – af­ter all – ba­si­cally ba­nal ques­tions of bu­reau­cratic pro­ce­dure about which most peo­ple have been in ig­no­rance un­til they were turned into seem­ingly in­su­per­a­ble and ex­is­ten­tial chal­lenges to the safety of the na­tion. Bri­tain seems to trade very smoothly and ef­fec­tively with coun­tries not in the EU; we used to trade smoothly with France and Ger­many be­fore we joined the EU. We can eas­ily do so now.

We should demon­strate that we are not just psy­cho­log­i­cally rec­on­ciled but, in­deed, en­er­gised by the prospect of leav­ing. There could be no more vivid sym­bol of the am­bi­tion of Global Bri­tain than to be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions on free trade agree­ments as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter March next year. It is crit­i­cal that those ne­go­ti­a­tions are ready to start with a bang in April, and that the UK’S rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the WTO moves im­me­di­ately to as­sert an in­de­pen­dent pol­icy for Bri­tain.

It will be ob­jected that this am­bi­tious and self-con­fi­dent ver­sion of Brexit would not carry Par­lia­men­tary sup­port. I do not agree. On that ar­gu­ment, there is cur­rently no model of Brexit that could pass the Com­mons.

It is clear that Labour will be whipped to vote against any agree­ment that the Gov­ern­ment pro­duces – whether it is Nor­way, Canada, Che­quers or any­thing else.

But it is also clear that there is, rightly, far greater Con­ser­va­tive hos­til­ity to Che­quers than there is to this model – and above all it is this model that com­mends it­self to the vot­ers of this coun­try.

This is not only what they voted for at the ref­er­en­dum. Never for­get that BOTH main par­ties have com­mit­ted at var­i­ous times to leave both the cus­toms union and the sin­gle mar­ket. Che­quers makes a mock­ery of those prom­ises. That is the con­sid­er­a­tion that should mo­ti­vate MPS on ei­ther side of the House.

This is what peo­ple voted for. It is only by pur­su­ing this plan – or some­thing very like it – that we can re­ally say we are de­liv­er­ing on the man­date of the peo­ple.

This Brexit takes back con­trol of our democ­racy; Che­quers – ab­surdly – aban­dons con­trol.

It is idle to pre­tend, fi­nally, that we can go for Che­quers now – or in­deed any other so-called in­terim model – and hope to fix it later. It is hard to see why the EU should wish to em­bark so soon on a fresh ne­go­ti­a­tion.

And af­ter so long in which the UK pub­lic and busi­nesses have been sub­jected to such a ghastly cock­tail of un­cer­tainty, fear and, let’s face it, grind­ing te­dium – it is hard to see any British PM who would re­ally want to de­vote yet more gov­ern­ment time to this is­sue.

This is the time to get it right. This is the ap­proach that al­lows this coun­try re­ally to ex­ploit the op­por­tu­ni­ties of Brexit, to di­verge and leg­is­late ef­fec­tively for the new tech­nolo­gies and busi­nesses in which the UK has such a lead.

Yes, this is an op­por­tu­nity for the UK to be­come more dy­namic and more suc­cess­ful, and we should not be shy of say­ing that – and we should recog­nise that it is ex­actly this po­ten­tial our EU part­ners seek to con­strain.

It is only by fol­low­ing this ap­proach that we will be able once again to be in­de­pen­dent eco­nomic ac­tors, able to cam­paign for global free trade that has lifted so many bil­lions out of poverty, and to do free trade deals our­selves. The world is watch­ing the UK, and it would be fair to say that our au­di­ence has been mys­ti­fied and dis­mayed.

Our part­ners around the world want us to take ad­van­tage of Brexit. They want a UK that is rich and strong and free.

They can­not un­der­stand why we would want – af­ter Brexit – to stay locked in the or­bit of the EU.

This is the mo­ment to change the course of the ne­go­ti­a­tions and do jus­tice to the am­bi­tions and po­ten­tial of Brexit.

We have the chance to get it right, and I am afraid that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will not lightly for­give us if we fail.

Above right: Boris John­son meets vot­ers on Cromer pier in Nor­folk, in the run-up to the ref­er­en­dum. Right: Leave sup­port­ers cel­e­brate the re­sult on June 23 2016

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