The price of the Brexit deal is simply too high
In the early Thirties – at a time of great historic change – Winston Churchill demanded in the House of Commons: “Tell the truth to the British people. They are a tough people, a robust people.”
Now, as then, it is time for straight talking.
In the swirling kaleidoscope of Brexit, with its stream of Fake News, Project Fear and BBC bias, what is the bottom line?
First, there is no going back. The opening words of the Withdrawal Act passed in June state in black and white that the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day, March 29 2019. Every EU law and treaty, including the customs union and the single market, then ceases to apply to the UK. The Withdrawal Act is the anchor of the referendum – those who imagine that this Act will be repealed are living in cloud-cuckoo land.
The frothing Reversers know this, as do the Second Referendumites promoting a “People’s Vote”. How often do they have to be told that we had one in June 2016? It was enacted by six-to-one in the Commons by most of those now trying to unravel it and every Conservative stood by it in our manifesto.
Tragically, the Government with its draft Withdrawal Agreement is attempting to undermine the referendum result, too. The backstop is not of itself the only reason for rejecting this unsigned piece of paper. Remember the Prime Minister’s own words at Lancaster House: “We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws”.
The so-called Withdrawal Agreement, however, is a pig in a poke under which we will most emphatically not enjoy control. It contains the menacing Article 132 which even makes provision for extending the transition period potentially to the end of this century. The words in the agreement are “31 December 20XX”.
It has other sins. It directly undermines the constitutional status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, which is a “manifest violation” of our domestic law under Article 46 of the Vienna Convention. But above all, for the first time in our history we will be governed, perhaps indefinitely, by laws imposed upon us by the other 27 member states. Worse still, we will not even be in the Council of Ministers meetings when these laws are changed, with no record of what was said and no reasons given.
The alleged justification for this monstrous denial of democratic accountability is that business has demanded it. But does business realise the uncertainty it will create for them? Particularly given the fact that changes to the Common Rule Book will be deliberately made by their competitors without the UK at the table. No doubt they comfort themselves in the belief that their support for the UK’s political castration will be compensated by their multinational lobbying of the unelected European Commission.
If under the agreement we do not control our own laws, the question which naturally arises is: who will? The other 27 member states for sure, but it will be mainly Germany, as Sir Paul Lever, the former British Ambassador to Germany demonstrated. In his magisterial book Berlin Rules, he explains: “The EU is geared principally to the defence of German national interests”. Germany calls the shots.
Furthermore, Italy, Greece and many other EU countries with youth unemployment between 20 and 50 per cent are seething with resentment at the austerity imposed by the German-led Fiscal Compact. Hungary and Poland are also in revolt and even Sweden has moved to the Right. So what is it that gives the Reversers such a sense of confidence in this imploding European project whose economic foundations are being shaken as the euro stagnates? What on earth do the Reversers want to re-join and why?
While Europe is on the cusp, our unemployment rate is at a mere 4 per cent. We have come through not only Project Fear in 2016 unscathed, but weathered the storms over the past 40 years of the massive unemployment generated by John Major’s ERM and the economic crash of 2008.
As Churchill said, we are a tough and robust people. And if there is no deal because of EU intransigence, let us also remember the huge advantages of our language, democratic values, our commitment to the rule of law, and the opportunities of global trade on our own terms which we can enjoy if we leave without a deal.
For all these reasons, the transitional deal is a price too high. The Reversers haven’t got a leg to stand on and the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement would simply leave us at the mercy of our competitors.
Sir Bill Cash is Conservative MP for Stone