BY NICK PEARCE
Mrs May’s deal is not Brexit. Even if she manages to get a concession on the backstop then the deal is still a stinker. MPs should not be scared of “no deal”. It provides a genuine exit door for the UK from the EU. All the other options on the table, including May’s deal, are BRINO (Brexit in Name Only) or worse. And don’t blame me for being a Brexit purist as I voted remain!
Why’s the deal so bad?
So, let’s say that May gets the backstop codicil added to her withdrawal agreement in time for the March 12th meaningful vote. That is legally impotent and a million miles from full replacement of the backstop with alternative arrangements as mandated by the Commons’ vote on Sir Graham Brady’s amendment. Let’s be clear here, the backstop is a horror show, runs against the principle of consent in the Good Friday Agreement and it commits the UK to placing Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU under the jurisdiction of the ECJ. If the UK ended up in the backstop there is no exit unless the EU wished to let us leave, as the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox made clear.
Second, the deal will cost £39bn. For what? For two years’ negotiating time during which it is hoped by the British that a free trade agreement can be established. The Political Declaration sets out the broad parameters of a future trade agreement but is legally worthless. How do we know that the EU will work in good faith towards a free trade deal? They haven’t so far. Merkel publicly admitted she wants Britain “punished”.
Third – even worse – the EU gets to decide how the £39bn is calculated. How the hell can that be acceptable? The ECJ put in charge of rules applied to the UK, penalties and even the calculation of the £39bn is the inevitable outcome of May’s deal being agreed in the Commons.
Fourth, May’s deal will not just potentially split up the UK. It will split the Conservative Party, as Brexiteers in the know are well aware that No 10 wants to use the backstop as a staging post to a customs union with the EU, which will continue to force the UK under EU legislation. This goes against promises of removal from the Customs Union in the Conservative Manifesto and is political suicide for the Tories. Farage will be licking his lips at this prospect. Imagine being in a situation where the UK is prevented from having a trade policy, where the UK is rule taker for years to come. The country will be furious. They will feel let down. They will react, badly.
May’s deal is awful. Let me try and spell this out in simple terms:
If you go to buy a car and it’s missing wheels, missing doors and has a dead battery, you walk away, no? If you have your wife shouting in your ears that you just have to buy the car or she will die from pneumonia (exaggerated nonsense) walking to where she simply has to walk. That if you don’t buy the car she will make life really uncomfortable for you. The dealer says they will give you a new battery. Do you buy? Or do you keep your cash in your pocket, divorce your wife (as you’d been planning to since June 2016), realising there’s a big, wide world out there and plenty of fish in the sea. You can head somewhere better.
No deal will be bumpy. Not as bad as having Britain face a Conservative Party so split and decimated at the ballot box that the country faces years of mayhem; possibly with Corbyn in charge. No deal is the only Brexit on the table. If May grasps it then she’ll go down in history as a mighty lady. If she flogs us the lemon she has brought back from Brussels then we are in for more than just a few years of turmoil. Everything then gets dragged into the poker game that British politics has become.