No Deal

Theresa May has claimed that the Withdrawal Agreement achieves Brexit by the UK 'taking back control of its trade, borders and laws'. This is one of the most patently false spins in modern political history. We don't even regain control of our fish. 

Theresa May has claimed that the Withdrawal Agreement achieves Brexit by the UK 'taking back control of its trade, borders and laws'. This is one of the most patently false spins in modern political history. We don't even regain control of our fish. The agreement involves the UK staying in the EU customs union until December 2020, entitled to negotiate trade deals with other countries but completely unable to implement them, and with UK parliament and courts remaining subordinate to EU laws and the CJEU. So, until 2021, far from regaining control of our trade and laws we become a rule taker - and pay an eye-watering £39 billion for the privilege.

Never mind, Theresa May says, within the 19 months following Brexit (or more accurately BINO) we will have likely have negotiated a future permanent trade deal with the EU. Except that we have clearly made not an inch of progress towards this in the last 29 months. Under the agreement, in the event that the EU happens not to overturn everything it has previously said about cherries and cakes, there are only two possibilities. We may, with the EU's agreement, extend the temporary transition period for a period 'up to 20XX' (not 202X, it should be noted - implying that it is already anticipated that the extension may be more than a decade and possibly up to eight decades long). Still no control. Or if we do not extend the transition period, we automatically hit the 'backstop': in which scenario the UK stays in a 'single customs territory' (effectively the same as the customs union). Yup, still no control.  Worst of all, the UK will have no right either to avoid the backstop or, once it is activated, to ever bring it to an end. To the best of my knowledge no democratic country has ever voluntarily agreed to a treaty in which it agrees that a foreign power may, if it so wishes, overrule that country's laws forever. In a week following the centenary remembrance of the WWI armistice, the UK government has agreed a deal arguably worse for the UK than the Treaty of Verseilles was a hundered years ago for Germany.  

With the horror at its contents, and natural speculation as to what happens next, too little scrutiny has been paid to where this so called 'deal' came from. It certainly wasn't negotiated by Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, as one might have expected, during long, tense, high stakes negotiations in Brussels. Raab saw the document that he had supposedly negotiated at Wednesday's cabinet meeting, and with a plane reportedly fuelled and waiting to take him to Brussels that evening to sign it. Instead he promptly resigned, calling it unacceptable. On the Andrew Marr show on Sunday he said he had no idea where the document came from.

Surely, however, this cannot be quite true since by resigning he narrowed down the field of suspects from two to one.

So how did Theresa May come by it? She certainly didn't negotiate it. She left her last summit at Salzberg effectively saying that the negotiations with the EU had made no progress.  There are only two options. Either she panicked at the lack of a deal and fearing telling the public of her failure, telephoned Michel Barnier and asked him to cable through terms of surrender. Or she had had this document in her bottom drawer the whole time, ready to produce when the two years allowed for preparations to leave had been spent on trying to frighten people into changing their minds and remaining. Theresa May's uncharacteristically chipper appearance in recent days, in what one would expect to be the most trying of circumstances, suggests, the latter scenario. But both are equally treacherous.

As an ardent Brexiteer, I would rather the UK remain in the EU to carry on the fight for democracy from within than for it to become the EU's first colony. But the good news is that the deal seems so outrageous it is unlikely to pass through Parliament, and with the route to reversing the referendum is uncharted, the default position remains that we leave with no deal. 

It was always naive to hope that somebody who campaigned against democracy could be trusted to respect the referendum result. Thanks to Theresa May a strong hand has been deliberately misplayed, taxpayers' money wantonly thrown away,  divisions deepened and a precious two and three quarter years to prepare for the future squandered. No doubt the pain and trauma of no deal will be the greater as a result of her Brexit betrayal. 

There will be more drama ahead in what May has made into an all or nothing game of chicken. True democrats of any party however now have no choice. We must all prepare crash out of the EU gaol come what may. 

Paul Ellis, For Britain Legal Spokesman

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