The arch-Leaver’s arguments at the Brexit Committee today will sound oddly familiar to Remainersby Alex Dean / January 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
Brexit Secretary David Davis did not have a good morning. The man with one of the most difficult jobs in British politics appeared before the Brexit Select Committee, where he was subjected to a grilling from its chair, Hilary Benn, and its MPs.
As ever, the transcript of the exchange does not make for easy reading. Davis will have hated every minute of the interrogation. But it was also surprising in one specific way: Jacob Rees-Mogg set upon Davis, and in doing so, made quite a good point entirely by accident.
Chair of the powerful pro-Brexit European Research Group, Rees-Mogg pressed Davis on the likely transitional deal that Britain will enter into after formal exit in 2019. The assumption is that this will take place on the EU’s terms: Britain will accept new EU rules and regulations, but having left, it will have no say in what they are.
For Rees-Mogg, this sort of thing represents an unacceptable loss of sovereignty. He challenged Davis: “If on 30th March 2019, the UK is subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ, takes new rules related to the single market and is paying into the European budget, are we not a vassal state?”
Davis replied: “If that were going to be the case in perpetuity, my answer would probably be yes, but the answer for a short time, no.”
To this, Rees-Mogg shot back: “It’s hard to think of any precedent in the world where an independent nation has taken the judgments of a foreign court as its superior and immediate law without having any judge on that court.”
He asked Davis to “be honest about it. We are de facto staying in the EU for two more years,” so “why aren’t we just extending Article 50?”
What to make of all this? The short answer—and you won’t find me saying this often—is that Rees-Mogg is right, though he meant his Article 50 point rhetorically. Strip away the ironic tone and he’s not far off the mark.
Turn first to the “vassal state” remarks. A transition in which Britain is forced to accept new EU laws without any say in making them would indeed render it a “lackey” of the EU, even if for a short period. On this much, Remainers will be in firm agreement with Rees-Mogg.