Theresa May remains – amidst fears that the UK will too. Last week’s attempts to issue a vote of no confidence seem to have spluttered to a halt, and the threats of Cabinet resignations have also petered out. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the proposals a ‘Turkey trap’.
This week has seen more talks between May and the EU’s Juncker. These aimed to clear the way for EU leaders to sign off a deal that will, as Caroline Bell explains for BfB, “bind the UK indefinitely to the EU in a subordinate position”. May has spent the week trying to sell the Withdrawal Agreement to anyone who will buy. So far, this seems to amount to one Lib Dem.
In response, the European Research Group have published ‘Your Right to Know’ a firm rebuttal of the Withdrawal Agreement, setting out, in seven concise pages of plain English, five key concerns with the PM’s latest concoction.
The week has ended with mounting opposition to May in Parliament as the DUP refused to vote the government’s finance bill through. As many as 87 Tory backbenchers are thought to be prepared to reject the Withdrawal Agreement, which will surely fail to pass unless there is a huge change of tack from Labour. No.10 is said to be planning to bring the Agreement back to parliament for a second try, presumably after cosmetic changes and a huge amount of arm-twisting.
Across the water, cracks have appeared in the EU’s façade with Spain threatening to veto the deal over their Gibraltar concerns, and the French unhappy over fishing rights – despite the official EU line that there were to be no more negotiations. Even the Irish let slip that they wouldn’t really erect a hard border. As we go to press it appears that UK protections for Gibraltar have been removed from the future protections document.
To finish, two articles published this week that we’d particularly recommend to our subscribers. Firstly, Larry Elliott’s ‘We overdo our respect for the EU. Britain can flourish outside it’ in the Guardian, which discusses the EU’s recent lacklustre economic performance, and sets out the opportunities available to Britain once it leaves the bloc. Secondly, David Wootton’s ‘What’s Wrong with Liberalism?’, written for History Today, which discusses the inadequacy of any response that writes of pro-Brexit opinion as simply irrational.
Along with former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, BfB editor Dr Graham Gudgin has co-written an article entitled ‘Fear of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is like Millennium Bug hysterics’ for the Belfast News Letter, in which he explains that the current Withdrawal Agreement proposals are a far worse outcome than no deal, and followed it up yesterday with ‘Let’s make it simple: backstop would mean NI under EU rules, probably for good’, a clear explanation of how NI will have to follow EU rules – quite probably forever. These will have been widely read by DUP politicians and their supporters.
Graham’s report with Alexander Downer can also be found on the on the Policy Exchange website.
Professor Robert Tombs, meanwhile, has been interviewed by Spiked. He explains that ‘If Brexit is finished, then so is democracy’. He has also written an article, ‘Anger? Yes. But in another country, leaving the EU would mean bloodshed’, for the Spectator, arguing that the divisions that currently mar British politics stem from different attitudes to the nation, and the insidious Declinism of those who hate it.
Robert’s comment that ‘It is practically unheard of in modern international relations for an independent state to place itself under foreign jurisdiction and foreign legislation’ is picked up in by Leo McKinstry in the Express as part of his article ‘The complexity of Brexit is another reason why we have to leave’.
Graham, Robert took part in a debate at Clare College Cambridge last night chaired by BfB contributor Ian Winter, and were shocked at the unprincipled and erroneous criticisms of Graham’s published economic work on Brexit by Will Hutton, who is Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. The often poor quality of debate by Cambridge student supporters of remain is an ongoing disappointment.
On the website this week
Our reaction to this week’s revelations that the Irish Republic has no plans to construct a hard border with Northern Ireland, even in the event of no-deal, and instead believe that an open border can be achievable without a Free Trade Agreement. This news is of great significance, as the EU have until now rejected any suggestions there can be a technological solution to the issue. As long suspected by BfB, EU intransigence turns out to be pure political posturing.
“the Irish Government accept that a hard border between Northern and Southern Ireland can be avoided in the case of a no-deal Brexit. …this indicates, as BfB has repeatedly argued, that the border issue is a pretext”
The Seven Deadly Sins in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement, by Caroline Bell
Historian Caroline Bell catalogues the ways in which Theresa May has misrepresented the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) to the UK, and the ways in which it subverts UK democracy and sovereignty. Various consequences of the agreement have been obfuscated by the PM, particularly the obligations it places on Northern Ireland, which risks becoming an EU province. Furthermore, the UK will be left unable to strike its own trade deals, and EU law will reign supreme thanks to the backstop. The WA also entails the UK signing a blank cheque for contributions to the EU budget, and ensures that the European Court of Justice judgements will continue to bind the UK.
“Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement conceals within its prescriptive EU prose provisions that would suspend parliamentary democracy over a vital range of laws and policies indefinitely”
A shorter summary of this has been published within Briefings: No democracy please, we’re British
Former diplomat Sir Peter Marshall sets out in a series of points how the Withdrawal Agreement has failed to comply with Article 50. These include the EU’s refusal to negotiate sincerely with the UK and the rejection of the suggestion that the withdrawal (including the ‘divorce bill’) should be discussed alongside the future diplomatic relations. The spirit of the law should have seen the unique questions surrounding the Irish border dealt with pragmatically, rather than pharisaically. This is not even to mention the absurdity of the backstop – which Sir Peter suggests may be beyond the satirical powers of Voltaire or Swift – nor the debt of gratitude the UK might expect from an EU that has benefitted from 45 years of loyalty.
“The EU… has flagrantly ignored the letter and the spirit of its own treaties in its recent dealings with the UK, which are nothing short of a disgrace.”
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome.
We are also on Twitter at https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Caroline Bell’s Seven Deadly Sins of the Withdrawal Agreement has sparked debate on Facebook and Roger Wilson echoes the opinion of many, bemoaning “A thoroughly depressing situation, how can anyone seriously propose this solution and say it is in the UK’s best interest. No wonder Davis and Raab resigned. This proposal has to be rejected.”
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An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge