If British parliamentarians vote for this Brexit deal, we are bowing our neck to the yoke.
We are preparing to take colonial rule by foreign powers and courts. We are handing over colossal sums of money for nothing. We are giving up the hope of new free-trade deals. We are giving up the right to vary our laws. We are betraying Leavers and Remainers alike: we are poised to abandon any UK influence in Brussels, and yet we are signally failing to take back control.
In fact, we are surrendering control to the EU — and this 585-page (Brexit deal) figleaf does nothing to cover the embarrassment of our total defeat.
In the protocol on Northern Ireland, there is a note almost of malice, as though the EU is punishing us by the surgical severing of part of the UK. From one convoluted paragraph to the next, you can follow the plot to amputate Northern Ireland and keep it in the EU — run by the EU, but with no influence in Brussels except via Dublin. It is as though a new country has been born, referred to constantly as “the UK in respect of Northern Ireland or UK [NI]”.
Of course, it is not just the people of Northern Ireland who are turned into captives by this appalling sell-out of a Withdrawal Agreement. Those who drew it up knew that, if they could hold Northern Ireland hostage, then the rest of the UK would remain locked in as well. They knew that no British prime minister could accept the legal division of the UK — and thus the whole country has been trapped in economic and political servitude.
Of all the lies that are currently being peddled, the worst is that this agreement can somehow be remedied in the next stage of the talks. As Dominic Raab,former secretary of state for exiting the European Union, rightly pointed out, we are about to give the EU the right to veto our departure from the customs union.
Why should they let us go? They have us where they want us — importing £95 billion (Dh447.4 billion) worth of goods made in the EU. Do you think they really want to let us do those free-trade deals — cutting tariffs on goods made elsewhere, and undercutting all those EU producers? Of course they don’t. We have given up the only real leverage we had — the £39 billion. Above all, there is absolutely no evidence that the UK government itself even wants to leave the customs union or single market.
The way out
So how do we get out of this hole?
1. We should recognise that not everything in the Withdrawal Agreement is disastrous. We can bank the deal on citizens, for instance — though there is no need for the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over the treaty itself; an extraordinary concession by the UK.
2. We should scrap the Northern Ireland backstop. Instead, both sides should simply commit to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, and to remit the solution — creating new unobtrusive checks away from the frontier, as Michel Barnier himself has suggested — to the discussions of the future economic partnership. That is where the Irish discussion rightly belongs, and we should never have accepted the EU’s sequencing for the talks.
3. We should massively accelerate our preparations to exit on World Trade Organisation terms, with a new secretary of state responsible for all the cross-government work. There would, of course, be some disruption in that outcome, but by no means as much as sometimes predicted. And it is our failure to make proper preparations that has so gravely weakened our negotiations. This needs to be treated as a challenge to be overcome, not as an inevitable disaster; because after the short-term logistical difficulties, the prospects for jobs and growth — and free-trade deals — would be very good indeed.
4. We should jointly declare as part of the Withdrawal Agreement that both the EU and UK are embarked on a giant free-trade deal on SuperCanada lines.
5. We should withhold at least half of the £39 billion until that deal has been agreed; and use the so-called implementation period — a long time, still — to get it right, and avoid any disruption at all.
6. We should insist that our government finally gets behind Brexit and shows some basic confidence and enthusiasm and belief in this great project — all of which have been woefully lacking.
We can turn this round. But we are not one-nil down. We are five-nil down, and if we go on like this the second half will be worse.
—The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018