A note to my son about our Brexit betrayal and what it means

A note to my son about our Brexit betrayal and what it means

by William Ross
article from Monday 16, July, 2018

LAST WEDNESDAY night, just before the big game in Moscow with Croatia kicked off, my son (also a William) called me from Sao Luis, Brazil. This is on the verge of the great rainforest. The nineteen-year-old told me he had heard reports in the Brazilian backwoods of a Brexit betrayal by Theresa May and he wanted to get my reaction. In a snatched conversation, I had great difficulty in coming up with the words, to sum up my utter disbelief and desolation. The Chequers statement of 6 July is abject and mad. It is an affront to the very concept of democracy. I did not explain myself well to my William. I, therefore, wanted to record my thoughts for him at a critical point in our history. 

There is no historical precedent for the British constitutional collapse of 6 July 2018. Suez was the death knell of the British Empire and a foreign policy catastrophe. But it did nothing to affect the British constitution. Munich, awful as it was, was at least effectuated by a patriotic British Prime Minister who (we now know) wanted time to confront Hitler even if his actions sold out tragic Czechoslovakia. Our Singapore surrender of 1942 plumbs the same depths, but it was military and happened thousands of miles away from the UK. 

This is a Tory party which was elected to government in 2015 on a manifesto commitment to offer the people an in-out referendum on whether we want to leave the EU. How inconvenient for David Cameron that he won! The EU referendum was duly organised, and the government assured us that they would respect our decision. 

To my great surprise and delight, LEAVE won. Leave meant taking back control over our own money, borders and laws. Did any reader experience a different campaign? Can anyone remember the use of the words "soft" and "hard" Brexit during the campaign? 

Disastrously, Theresa May became Prime Minister. She pledged herself to deliver Brexit, not to leave us half in and half out. No deal was to be better than a bad deal. We would exit the Single Market and the Customs Union. Article 50 was triggered by Parliament on precisely these terms. In the catastrophic election of 2017, every Tory MP (and every Labour and DUP MPs) was elected on the basis of exiting the Single Market and Customs Union. That meant 85 per cent of the electorate. Was that enough democracy in action, or not? Vote early and vote often, but all to no purpose? 

After that, Brexit went pear-shaped. Though I was slow to believe this, I am now forced to conclude that the Remain establishment has all the while conspired to defeat the clear wishes of the British people. I am an oil and gas man, and I negotiate petroleum deals. The rule of negotiation 1.01 is that you will never be able to negotiate a good deal unless you can show the other side that you do not need a deal. 

The same principle applies to defence. In order to preserve peace, you must be ready for war. What we should have been doing from the beginning was to analyse the no deal scenario, educate the public about it, prepare for it and, crucially, talk it up. Did anyone seriously think that our state secession (for that is what it is) from the EU would be easy? 

Instead, we agreed to pay the £40 billion Danegeld to Brussels for nothing in return, accepted that withdrawal had to be agreed before trade negotiations, made the dreadful mistake of failing to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK and agreed to the nonsensical surrender over the Irish border last December. 

The British government did nothing to rebut the wild claims from Ireland and the EU that Brexit would create a hard border in the Island of Ireland and endanger the Good Friday Agreement when the whole point of the Good Friday Agreement was to legitimise a highly functioning border between two states! We do not need a hard border unless the EU insists on one. 

Two years after the Brexit referendum, we have now made our opening trade pitch to Brussels. Amazingly, FOR OUR OPENING PITCH, we are offering to accept perpetual evolving EU law over our manufacturing economy. We propose a free trade area with the EU and to collect EU tariffs on goods coming into the UK, offering importers a rebate only when they can show that the good in question is destined to the UK market (with its hypothetically different tariff structure). You only need to read Martin Howe's masterly analysisto see that this morass will make an independent trade policy impossible. As Mr Howe highlights, there is no answer to the rules of origin problem, so "frictionless trade" will not be achieved in any event. The jurisdiction of the ECJ will continue, albeit in a less direct manner. We learn that we have climbed down in all but name over free movement. Nothing has changed???

The EU is unlikely to reject our unworkable mess out of hand but will play with it, like a cat playing with a terrified mouse. Selmayr and Barnier, who have no accountability to any responsible body, must be enjoying this so much. The EU will kill the mouse at the end, threatening no deal unless we stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. This may actually be the best possible solution for them. They will have utterly humiliated the UK, exalted themselves, and will have the World's sixth largest economy, and (dare we forget it) one of their major military defenders, as a helpless perpetual captive. What a prize!

If anything like the madness of Chequers were to be the final "Brexit" deal it would be a formula for chronic long-term instability in the UK and the division of our society into mutually hating rival camps. Forget the Scottish referendum; that would be kid's play. The two major parties would be utterly discredited and the stock of the Lib-Dems would rise. After all, it could be argued, surely it is better to be a member of a club that we cannot leave than being chained in an outside toilet of the Club without a membership card? I cannot conceive that any rational person would have voted for the Chequers formula in a referendum. I certainly would not and did not. I would have voted "Remain" if Chequers represented Brexit. 

Chequers also viciously strikes at the concept of Brexit and its people. First of all, comes the powerful, much-trumpeted but utterly false idea that "Brexit proved to be impossible in practice" and "we tried that and failed" etcetera. The truth was that a Remain government, acting with Leave cover, sabotaged Brexit and has now come up with a soft Remain option. We could call it "Lemain". No genuine Brexit negotiating strategy was ever pursued by the UK Government.  Secondly, the government still has numerous leading Brexiteers in the cabinet. Every day that they delay resigning shreds their political credibility. It is heartbreaking to see careerism on this scale. 

And what of the consequences for Scotland? On the surface, the Chequers debacle is good news for Nicola Sturgeon. What idiots like Anthony Barnett ("The Lure of Greatness")do not get is that a fake Brexit is a much greater threat to the Union than the genuine clean Brexit that we voted for. Why is this? Well firstly, and most importantly, Chequers totally humiliates the UK and makes it look ridiculous. At least the poor Greeks fought! Why would anyone really believe in a pathetic Britain? Better Together with what and for what? 

The Conservative and Labour parties will also be humiliated and the Conservative Party will probably break up. So where will the defenders of the Union come from? Indeed, where are they now? Secondly, if the entire Island of Britain remains in the Single Market and Customs Union then Scottish independence in the EU is much easier to achieve. There will be no border issue at Berwick. Thirdly, the EU, after its near-death experience with Brexit, will never do anything to favour the UK again. Scottish separatists (but not the Catalan variety) may well be favoured by Brussels.

But if you look beyond all that, the news is bad for the SNP. In the greatest democratic experiment in British history, the votes of 17.4 million people will be disregarded. An ultra-centralising and Unionist EU will emerge the winner. If the EU is to survive it must become an ever-closer union. Is independence in this kind of hegemonic oligarchic superstate worth all the bother? What will happen when Indyref 2 is won by 52 to 48 per cent?  Will we not immediately hear about "hard" and "soft" independence, and the need for a "Peoples' Vote" to ratify whatever deal may be struck? 

Will the equivalent of Airbus be able to demand that Indy, like Brexit, be set aside? Why should anyone believe anything again? We are open to a second EU referendum, says Ian Blackford, our gallant leader in Westminster. The inflexible, die-in-the-ditch redline of the SNP should be to respect constitutional referenda. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

And as a final reflection for my boy, who has not seen this beautiful Scottish Summer: Son, I sense now the ghosts of another lovely British Summer, this time of 78 years ago and I hear the voice of Leo Amery, spoken in the House of Commons on 7 May 1940, and addressed against Neville Chamberlain: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God go!" (quoting the earlier words of Oliver Cromwell) 

Indeed! Depart Prime Minister!

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