Smoke & Mirrors Mask the Brexit Deal


General reaction to the last minute Brexit deal has been along the lines of “Bless my soul. They all said Boris would fail but, lo and behold, he has pulled it off”. No more ECJ rulings, no more customs union and free trade here we come. Unfurl the Union Jack, we have taken back control.

Not so fast.

By now, courtesy of Covid, we should all know that Boris does not mean what he says. He is a smoke and mirrors man and politician to his very core. The Brexit deal, struck on the eve of Christmas, runs to a War and Peace-like 1,246 pages. Common sense tells you that anything of that length should be viewed with a mixture of care and respect, and a letter in the 29th December edition from a SJR Dommett cuts right on through:

“SIR- We do not have to wade very far into the 1246-page Brexit deal to find out how the EU is going to enforce its “level playing field” upon the UK. From page 10 onwards we read that “ “A Partnership Council is hereby established. It shall be co-chaired by an EC member and a UK government Minister. It shall comprise representatives of the (EU) and UK. It shall meet at least once a year….The Partnership Council shall have the power to: (among other things)…adopt, by decision, amendments to this Agreement…A number of Committees (of the Partnership Council) are hereby established”. There will be Committees on goods, services, intellectual property, public procurement, level playing field, sustainable development and many more issues. These committees will no doubt tie up hundreds of civil servants, all at our expense, to enforce a level playing field with the EU by the back door. We read on page 15 “The decisions adopted by the Partnership Council or, as the case may be, by a Committee, shall be binding on the Parties (the EU and the UK)”. Hence this Partnership Council will be superior to our own Cabinet and Parliament. As Boris Johnson himself admitted the devil is in the detail.”

I have been wondering why there has been little by the way of grumbling from any of the EU 27 about Boris’ deal and now we know why. This is not taking back control. This is not re-establishing UK sovereignty. This Partnership Council is a classic Brussels construct of smoke and mirrors and Barnier, Macron, Merkel and all the other EU fanatics must be delighted. They will be saying to themselves “who cares we have given way on the ECJ when we can tie the pesky Brits up in these Committees for ever and a day”.

Surely the reality is that Boris has attempted to divert those looking for sovereignty holes in this Brexit deal to a relatively inconsequential discussion on fish and away from the yawning chasm that is the Partnership Council and all its works.

If Boris has any sense, which he has, he will step down before the smoke and mirrors of his deal are unmasked. I would think the optimum time for him to do so will be February/March by which time he can take credit for the Covid vaccination rollout and vamoose  before the results of his Brexit conjugation are there for all to see.

But for us Brexiteers who are reading this, let me close with something positive. Do you remember this letter in 2018 to the PM signed by many of the great and the good, which said Brexit will be a disaster for the UK tech industry? ONS data, released this week shows the number of people employed in UK digital technology is now 2.98 million, a rise of 11% in the last 2 years.

The City Grump has spent some 40 years in the City of London. He started as a stockbroker’s analyst but after some years he decided he was too grumpy to continue with the sell side of things so he moved to the buy side and became a fund manager for the next 20 years, selling his own business in the 1990s. Post the millennium, he found himself in turn chairing a stockbroker, a financial PR company, and an Exchange. He still keeps his hand in, chairing a brace of VCTs and investing personally in startups. The City Grump’s publications are available here.

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