So the Arch Remainer Philip Hammond resigns because he refuses to be part of a government that takes the UK out of the EU ‘without a deal’. He then tweets his ‘wholehearted support’ for the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, for his determination ‘to do a deal with Brussels’. Indeed, most of us want ‘to do a deal with Brussels’ since it will be less disruptive for the economy in the short term. Yet the Financial Times reports that 30 or more Tory MPs are threatening to block a ‘no-deal’ exit. We should be very clear about what they really mean.
Boris Johnson has confirmed that the UK will leave the EU by 31 October 2019.
This could involve leaving with what has been dubbed ‘no deal’. But this is a very devious misnomer invented by Remainers and constantly used by their friends in the media. There will inevitably be ‘a deal’. At the very minimum, we will trade with the EU on World Trade Organization terms. This is how we currently trade with most countries outside the EU and that trade has grown faster than trade with EU member states (at 2.88% p.a. v 1% p.a.). In addition, there are already many ‘mini deals’ agreed – covering visa-free travel, aircraft landing, rail and shipping agreements, road haulage licences, student exchanges, defence and security, etc – so citizens and businesses of both the UK and EU can continue visiting and trading with each other with minimal disruption, as WTO rules require. Further, a sufficient number of the international trade deals negotiated by the EU have been novated that we can also continue trading on the same terms with many of these countries as we do now. A key example is Switzerland which accounts for more than a quarter of our trade under these EU-negotiated deals. So this can hardly be described as ‘no deal’.
The EU has also said that it does not want ‘no deal’. But the ‘deal’ that the EU wants and that Remainers like Hammond have voted for three times is the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and Political Declaration (PD).
But as I have pointed out in a previous Briefings for Brexit piece, the WA/PD is NOT a real Brexit. It is a Boomerang Brexit. It is a trap. It is a one-way ticket back into the EU – before 2025 and on far worse terms than we currently have. This is what Olly Robbins meant when he was overheard in that Brussels bar saying the backstop was always intended to be a bridge to the ‘final trading arrangement’.
Jean-Claude Juncker, in his 2017 State of the Union Address, advocates various steps towards greater EU centralisation including a stronger Commission President. Euro-fanatics like Martin Schulz, former President of the EU Parliament and ex-leader of the German SPD, have made it very clear that they want political union by 2025. This means that the Commission will become the unelected Executive (so Europe’s ‘President’ will be the Commission President – currently Jean-Claude Juncker), the European Council becomes the unelected Senate, and the European Parliament remains as it is with very limited powers to block legislation coming from the Commission. The direction of movement is towards a single foreign policy, a single fiscal and tax policy, and a single military command, etc. This is all allowed by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty which introduced a European constitution by the backdoor – after it was rejected in national referenda in 2005. Brussels also wants all EU states not in the euro to join by 2025. Any new members must join the euro.
The WA, much of which was drafted in the German Chancellor’s private office (according to John Petley’s anonymous informant), was designed in such a way that the UK could re-join the EU in full at some time after the next general election (currently planned for 2022) – or so Theresa May is reported to have suggested to Angela Merkel. Rejoining the EU would likely mean joining the euro and Schengen Agreement on free movement – and losing the rebate. In such a future scenario, our interest rates would be set, not by the Bank of England, but by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Theresa May is also reported to have agreed to keep as many EU laws as she could on state aid, the environment, workers’ rights, etc. Much of this is included in the (supposedly non-binding) Political Declaration accompanying the WA which commits us to rejoin the EU’s Customs Union – and hence not have a free trade agreement with the EU along the lines of the deal with Canada that the government initially promised.
Now you can’t blame the EU for playing hard ball, especially when it observes how much of the British establishment wants to reverse Brexit. But it is time for Hammond and those 30 Tory MPs to acknowledge that by blocking a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the UK could be subsumed into a United States of Europe with the most important laws that we have to obey determined by unelected officials in Brussels. They also need to admit that they are quite content to ignore the result of this country’s biggest ever democratic mandate given in the Referendum in June 2016 and equally happy to sign up to the sham democracy of the future United States of Europe.
Hammond is now known as ‘Phil Guevara’ around Whitehall. Perhaps this nom de guerre is appropriate, since his hero Che helped to create one of the most undemocratic countries on the face of the planet.
Update 1 (14 August 2019)
Philip Hammond has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a no-deal exit would be ‘just as much a betrayal of the Referendum result as not leaving at all’.
Mr Hammond and all the other Remainers should remember precisely what Prime Minister David Cameron said at the time:
You the British people will decide…It will be the final decision…The Referendum will be a once in a generation choice: an in or out Referendum. When the British people speak, their voice will be respected, not ignored. If we vote to leave, then we will leave. There will not be another renegotiation and another Referendum.
His successor, Theresa May, in the Lancaster House speech, made it perfectly clear that leaving the EU means leaving the Customs Union, the Single Market and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. She also said that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.
Parliament has confirmed that Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement is a VERY bad deal for the UK by voting against it three times. Yet Hammond tweets that he wanted to deliver May’s Boomerang Brexit ‘and voted to do so three times’.
He also said on the Today programme that ‘pivoting to say the backstop has to go in its entirety – a huge chunk of the Withdrawal Agreement just scrapped – is effectively a wrecking tactic’. But removing the backstop is a critical first step to blocking a Boomerang Brexit – as well he knows. Even Yanis Varoufakis, the pro-EU former Greek finance minister, called the WA ‘a deal that a nation signs only after having been defeated at war’.
Remainers who say that no one voted in the 2016 Referendum to leave the EU without a deal are trying to rewrite history. They also refuse to respond to any of the concerns raised above about the EU’s direction of travel. They even call Leavers who oppose the EU’s sham democracy ‘unpatriotic’. In view of all this, it really is hard to disagree with Boris Johnson’s assessment that Remainers are in a ‘terrible collaboration’ with the EU to impose a European Super-State not only on us, but also on the other peoples of Europe. Nobody voted for this!
Update 2 (16 August 2019)
Ken Clarke MP has told the BBC that he would accept an offer from the House of Commons to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and lead a temporary government of ‘national unity’ if it is ‘the only way’ to stop a no-deal Brexit. He said the House had to ‘find a way’ forward.
This would put the EU’s chief supporter in the UK into Downing Street – what a coup!
It would also be a precise repetition of how the Commons behaved in 1972 when it passed the European Communities Act – which took the UK into what became the EU – by means of a secret agreement between the Tory Chief Whip, Francis Pym, and pro-European Labour MPs, such as Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams. This is how Tony Benn described what happened: ‘It was a coup d’état by a political class who didn’t believe in popular sovereignty. That’s what it was – a coup d’état. The power was seized by parliamentarians. They seized power that did not belong to them and used it to take away the rights of those they represented’.
Talk about history repeating itself, first as tragedy, now as farce – as Mr Clarke assures us that he ‘posed no threat to anybody’.
As I said in another Briefing for Brexit, entitled ‘The People versus Parliament’, the people did not vote to ‘take back control’ from the European Union only for Parliament to hand it back again.
Update 3 (21-22 August 2019)
On 21 August, Boris Johnson flew to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel to urge her both to ignore claims that a no-deal Brexit can be blocked by Parliament and to scrap the Irish backstop. Mrs Merkel gave Johnson 30 days until 20 September to propose a suitable alternative to the backstop. He said that with ‘energy and creativity we can find a way forward’. The following day he flew to Paris to see President Emmanuel Macron.
These journeys will turn out to be a waste of time. A clear German perspective was given by Norbert Röttgen, an MP in Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s World at One:
There is nothing to expect that there will be any common ground because there is no new proposal on the British side. [Keeping the backstop] is a European position…and it is a well justified position. It is only an insurance policy and we are convinced we cannot and must not compromise on the matter of the border,…unless there is a better solution. …We want a solution based on technology,…but as long as these solutions are only a vision and as long as we do not achieve these solutions, we need a mechanism to avoid a hard border.
Mark Mardell: Are you operating on the principle that Boris Johnson wants a deal?
I am absolutely convinced that Boris Johnson is being absolutely realistic and knows that neither Germany nor France nor the EU is able to compromise on this specific issue and he knows that he does not have any space for manoeuvre. So he is determined to try to crash out with a no deal scenario. However, he has yet to deliver this amid the fact that the majority of Parliament is against this way to proceed.
Mark Mardell: Boris Johnson believes that the Germans and the French and the whole of the EU are holding on to see what Parliament does before they blink. Are you waiting to see what Parliament does?
Of course, of course. We are convinced that in a democracy, Parliament will have its say…on such a major fateful decision …But we will not blink in the event that Parliament fails to prevent Britain from embracing the no deal way.
Macron was even more explicit: ‘The key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish backstop are not just technical constraints or legal quibbling. They are genuine, indispensable guarantees to preserve stability in Ireland and the integrity of the Single Market, which is the basis of the EU’.
In an earlier meeting with the Presidential Press Association, Macron suggested that Johnson did not take seriously enough the risk of reigniting the conflict in Northern Ireland: ‘There are still families whose children, brothers and sisters died in this conflict. To think of reviving that, because it suits us, would be irresponsible. I consider that Irish peace is European peace. We must not allow it to be threatened by a political and institutional crisis in Britain. [Irish reunification and integration of the entire island in the EU] would solve all the problems, but it is not up to France’. This sounds suspiciously like the EU already considers Northern Ireland to be one of its own colonies.
In turn, the Irish Government noted the ‘very strong solidarity from our European colleagues on the need for the backstop. It has been welcome to see the British Prime Minister reaffirm his desire to leave the EU with a deal, while also acknowledging that the onus is on the UK to come up with viable alternatives to the backstop. It’s worth noting that the withdrawal agreement already allows for alternatives to the backstop, if they exist’.
It is clear from this that the EU views the backstop as a political weapon to control the UK after it ‘leaves’ the EU. It will therefore never accept that any technological solution will work. Johnson will soon find himself wading through the same treacle of compromise and capitulation that have been the hallmark of our negotiations over the last two years – irrespective of whether Parliament finds a way to block Brexit.
Update 4 (2 September 2019)
Dominic Lawson, in his Sunday Times column on 1 September, recalls what Philip Hammond, then Foreign Secretary, said when he introduced the second reading of the Referendum Bill in June 2015. He began by acknowledging that the EU had ‘changed almost beyond recognition’ from the time of the previous referendum in 1975 and that another popular mandate was required. He ended:
Whether you favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision over our membership should be taken by the British people. Not by Whitehall bureaucrats; certainly not by Brussels bureaucrats; nor even by government ministers or parliamentarians in this chamber. The decision must be for the common sense of the British people. … For too long, powers have been handed to Brussels over their heads. For too long, their voice on Europe has not been heard. This bill puts that right. It delivers the simple in/out referendum that we promised and I commend it to the House.
Lawson then reminds us that the House of Commons voted in favour of the Bill by 544 votes to 53, with not a single vote against from Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs: ‘In the most spectacular and emphatic fashion, Parliament had ceded its authority to the public, directly. And after that public voted for Brexit, Parliament, by another overwhelming majority, agreed to invoke Article 50 of the EU Treaty, which takes the UK out. Then, in the 2017 election, almost 85% of elected MPs fought on manifestos that pledged to honour the outcome of the Referendum’.
Hammond now claims that that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament is a denial of ‘democracy’. But as the title of Lawson’s column makes clear: ‘Johnson the proroguer is serving democracy: In honouring the Brexit vote, the PM will save Parliament from itself’.
On Radio 4’s The World this Weekend on 1 September, Professor Diane Purkiss, from Oxford University, offered an interesting comparison between today’s divisions with those in 17th Century England at the time of the Civil War. Today, diehard Remainers are happy for England to be part of a much wider Europe, she argued, while committed Leavers tend not to be comfortable with closer connections to Europe. She said the latter group is comparable with the 17th Century parliamentarian Protestant position that England was a separate beleaguered island surrounded by evil Catholic super powers that wanted to sweep it off the map. This group became the Roundheads, of course, while parliamentary Remainers are comparable with the Cavaliers who supported Charles I and his French wife Henrietta Maria whose loyalties, it was suspected, were to Catholic Europe. And we all know who ultimately won.
The path is now set, as the constitutional historian, Professor Veron Bogdanor, makes clear: ‘The Commons rejected the Withdrawal Agreement three times. The EU responded that the agreement cannot be renegotiated. In logic, therefore, the only way to implement Brexit is without a deal’.
I couldn’t agree more. As I discussed in a previous Briefing for Brexit, the only strategy that is guaranteed to get us out of the EU by 31st October is a non-cooperative one that avoids falling into the trap that Merkel has set for Johnson. This means that no deal planning in the UK must now go into overdrive.
Update 5 (19 September 2019)
Right from the beginning of his premiership, David Cameron was aware of how the EU was treating Britain – as is made clear in The Cameron Years, broadcast on BBC1 on 19 September 2019.
He said that immediately on becoming Prime Minister in 2010, he was asked to contribute to Eurozone bailouts, despite the UK not being a member. Then on 8 December 2011, EU leaders pushed for a new treaty to save the Eurozone from collapse. Cameron argued that if the EU wanted treaty changes to sort out their issues, then it should be possible to have treaty changes to sort out the UK’s issues with the EU. Sarkozy and Merkel told Cameron that he could have verbal reassurances, but he could not have the treaty changes he wanted – confirming that the UK would never have to join the Eurozone or take any further part in ‘ever closer union’.
Cameron said that he had no alternative but to veto the treaty. In principle, treaty changes require the unanimous consent of all EU member states, yet the EU ignored Cameron’s veto and went ahead with the new treaty. This was the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union signed on 2 March 2012, establishing the European Stability Mechanism and the European Fiscal Compact.
Sarkozy is interviewed on the programme and says that ‘David thought he could block the process. That was a mistake. There are two things in Europe you shouldn’t do: isolate yourself and try to force things through. But I think on the other hand, the Europeans made a mistake by not giving more to Britain’.
What is crystal clear from these comments is that the UK will always be treated as an outsider on the periphery of the EU – but whose resources, like a convenient colony, can be occasionally tapped to bail out the centre. We joined the club after the rules were set and our concerns will always be a distraction to the central objective of the ‘European Project’ which is the full political, economic and monetary union of the EU’s member states.
Cameron was fully aware of this as far back as 2012, yet he and the other Remainers still believe the UK will be better off ‘inside’ the EU. But it should be clear that this inevitably means getting sucked further and further into the whirlpool of the ‘European Project’.
Once again, Remainers should be frank about their real intentions.