This chaos is the entirely predictable consequence of Brexiteer delusionby Jonathan Lis / November 15, 2018 / Leave a comment
The sound on the airwaves today is Brexit’s car finally meeting reality’s wall. For the first time since the referendum, Leavers join Remainers in seeing it. MPs are united in despising the substance of this deal and what it represents for Britain’s economy and autonomy. The sole, enduring amazement is that it has taken the Brexiters two years to understand the fully predictable—and predicted—consequences of their folly and delusion.
It seems incredible that Theresa May delivered her party conference speech just six weeks ago. In that speech she correctly identified that the EU was demanding either a soft Brexit, inside Brussels’ economic instruments without any hand on their levers, or an economic wall in the Irish Sea which splits Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She vowed to sign up to neither. In the end she has signed up to both.
The Brexit deal is alternately packed with detail and littered with blank spaces, but certain facts remain inescapable. The United Kingdom will stay inside the EU’s tariff regime—that is to say, the EU customs union—until such time as the EU sees fit to release it. The government has had two years to uncover the unicorns which will enable Northern Ireland and Ireland to operate different tariff and regulatory regimes while preserving a fully open border. It failed. The unicorns will not emerge now and Dublin and Brussels will not join a pursuit for them. The UK will never leave the customs union.
The prime minister therefore told an all-but-outright lie in the Commons today. She said that the UK would be free to sign up to trade deals with third countries. But we are staying aligned with EU tariffs and also multiple standards. Major trade deals include limited service provisions but still predominantly depend on abolishing tariff barriers on goods. No country would negotiate a deal with a partner unable to do so. The trade deals cannot and will not take place.
May’s other key red line also lies in tatters. The UK will have a border in the Irish Sea. Animal products will face increased checks at Irish ports and other goods checks will take place before they reach them. According to the withdrawal text, Northern Ireland will even have its own designation of “UK (NI).” That is quite a climbdown for the prime minister who declared her faith in the “precious union” and resolved never to accept a form of economic separation between its constituent parts.
The rest of the deal spells both disaster and humiliation. The government will have to align on key EU standards with no say on how they are devised or implemented. Our departure from the single market will also require new checks at the Channel, as French and Belgian officials conduct inspections on agricultural goods. That spells year-round disruption at Dover as previously uninspected lorries now face barriers, with potentially grave consequences for just-in-time manufacturing and supplies to supermarkets and hospitals. The only thing May has in her armoury is that the deal ends the free movement of people: a reduction of Polish plumbers at the expense of any substantive control over our economy or trade. Only the prime minister’s groundless hostility to immigration has proved strong enough to survive the negotiations.
The deal was dead from the start. Labour and the Remain-supporting parties will vote against it because it fails to deliver the promised “exact same benefits” of membership. The DUP will vote against it because it compromises the union. The hard Brexiters will vote against it because it keeps us in the customs union. And numerous Tory Remainers will vote against it because it robs us of all our current influence while at the same time managing to hammer the service sector and economy at large. If that wasn’t enough, the paltry political declaration amounts to a “blindfold Brexit” which signals no firm destination for the trade deal and no time limit to negotiate it. The uncertainty to business will prove toxic, and many firms will withdraw their investment before succumbing to it.
Jacob Rees-Mogg rose in the Commons today to decry the deal and itemise May’s broken promises. Dominic Raab resigned, complaining that the UK would now be economically divided and we would have no unilateral means to exit the backstop. Esther McVey accompanied him, bemoaning the fact that any deal was now considered better than no deal. Each was correct, and each is to blame. Anyone who read the joint report in December 2017 should have understood what it meant for Northern Ireland, and consequently what it meant for Brexit. A customs union and regulatory alignment have been guaranteed for almost a year. Combining ignorance with incompetence, the Brexiters refused to accept the truth and denounced those who did.
No matter. The truth has glared for two years but at last the Leave leaders see it in plain sight. The only available Brexit delivers integration with powerlessness. It takes back control for the EU alone. It reduces the UK to a mere lobbyist for its own economy and gives other countries a veto over its trade policy. It has no advantage over the status quo by any conceivable metric. The reward for Britain’s xenophobia is that it will become a near-vassal state. As even staunch Brexiters declare that it would be better to remain in the EU than accept this historic defeat, let us listen to them. There is, never will be and never could be a deal superior to the one we have now. Let us resolve to keep it. We must stay in the EU.