We can create a better future by rejecting this deal
When I launched Conservatives for Britain in The Telegraph on June 6 2015, I was filled with optimism. I wrote “free nation states should pursue together the ideal of international co-operation”. And “the post-war paradigm of state rules and controls is not merely less relevant but positively alien to a dynamic spontaneous order enabled by technology, liberty and the urge to co-operate with whomsoever may have common Interests”.
Nothing has changed. I remain optimistic, even as Europe’s governing class has, as one brave civil servant explained this week, sought to triple-lock us into the structures of the EU as we leave.
Demoralisation through tales of doom to provoke despondency may be a key pillar of the strategy to reverse the biggest democratic decision in our history, but it will not work. The British are not a small and cowardly people.
As the eurozone tips towards recession and more quantitative easing seems likely, we are not leaving Utopia, whatever its noble ideals. I doubt supportive friends in the parliament of Italy will object to me observing that a governing coalition of Left and Right anti-establishment parties is a revolutionary innovation. Germany’s Alternative for Germany is in its parliament.
Austria’s Freedom Party is in power. Hungary’s government came to office with an identity politics the UK would rightly reject. And in France, where President Emmanuel Macron was to be Europe’s great hope for leadership as Frau Merkel’s star fades, we have seen weeks of distressing protests.
On the story of rising populism and nationalism goes, even in liberal Sweden. Objective observers must admit Europe is in a profound crisis of political economy in which our institutions of 60 years are a major contributor, not a panacea. To double down on that failure is a disastrous strategy. So we come to the government’s disastrous deal. The unnecessary backstop is the first reason to vote down this appalling treaty. But I would vote it down for failing to link the money to progress on the future, for the comically dreadful procedures of the Joint Committee or the intention of the Government and the EU to build the future relationship on the servitude of the backstop. And this is to be brief.
What is to be done? A network of thinkers, policy experts and politicians inside Parliament and out is clear and we have published our papers. We should replace the backstop with a new protocol for the Irish border founded on a basic free trade agreement: we have published the legal text of the necessary changes.
We should have a future relationship of the character offered by the EU in the spring and autumn of 2018: an advanced free trade agreement covering all sectors and services, security co-operation, participation in institutions of research and innovation, culture and education and, of course, dealing with pathological absurdities that might otherwise arise. Only an exit of that
‘Tales of doom to provoke despondency may be a key pillar of the strategy … but it will not work’
character will bring power back to the people of the UK in a way which will continue to suppress populism and nationalism, as the referendum has done whether that is admitted or not.
The alternatives – another referendum, staying in the customs union or the “dynamic and homogeneous” rules of the European Economic Area – would not answer the profound crisis of political economy faced by all Europe.
Such vast and bare failures of democratic government would procure in the UK the very nationalism, populism and radicalism feared by the opponents of Brexit.
A better future for the UK is one of recognisable, proud and co-operative independence. To reach it, we must be ready to exit on WTO terms.
I am convinced we can make a success of it. I embrace it and I will vote against the Prime Minister’s appalling agreement.
For the sake of all Europe, I hope every wavering MP is with us when the moment of decision comes.