Boris’s dirty Brexit ?

With the long-awaited election called, we can only admire how the Conservative party and its supporters in the mainstream media have closed ranks behind Boris Johnson and his deal. Not a single member of the ERG – the band of ‘hard’ Brexiteers who until only the other week were arguing we should leave on 31 October, deal or no deal, who castigated Mrs May’s withdrawal deal as an act of surrender, the worst deal in history – has spoken out against Boris’s reheated version of the same, i.e. the second worst deal in history.

Even Charles Moore, one of the last remaining voices of English conservatism in the Right-liberal media, and one of the wisest, has closed ranks. Writing only three weeks ago in the Telegraph (11 October), he noted that the almost exclusive concentration on the Irish border issue and the backstop in Boris’s discussions with the EU meant that ‘other objectionable aspects of the deal lie neglected by the British Government – the vast sum of money we have to pay up-front, our imprisonment (without voting rights) in the transition period, our subjection, seemingly in perpetuity, to the International Arbitration Panel and therefore to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice’. He concluded that ‘large numbers of MPs don’t care what is actually in any deal so long as we get one, a truly weird doctrine on which to base our future position in the world’.

Yet writing in the Telegraph one week later, on the eve of the vote to consider Boris’s deal, his tone had changed completely. Yes, there were serious defects. But the acceptance of Boris’s deal would ‘transform the political atmosphere’. The EU had accepted, at least ‘in principle’, at least according to the non-legally binding political declaration, that we should work toward a free trade agreement. With Boris’s deal, ‘We shall have success. After three years of deadlock, we shall have breakthrough. In the endless political contest between hope and fear, hope will have triumphed’.

Yet Martin Howe QC, chairman of ‘Lawyers for Britain’, whose forensic examination of May’s deal and its consequences played such a vital role in its extermination, and to whom many look for the definitive expert legal opinion on Boris’s treaty, tells a different story

On the positive side, writes Howe, Boris’s deal is a marked improvement on May’s atrocious deal. Most importantly, it gives the UK the right to walk away from the negotiations with ‘no deal’ at the end of the transition period – which gives the UK leverage it did not have under May’s surrender deal.

But on the negative side, it leaves ‘untouched’ the text of the withdrawal agreement negotiated ‘and serially capitulated’ by Mrs May, with the consequence (1) that the UK remains subject in the long term to rulings by the ECJ, (2) that we remain subject to EU law with no vote or veto during the transition period, (3) that our financial obligations to the EU are ‘unilaterally decided upon by the ECJ’ and ‘unconditionally payable, whether or not the EU offers the UK a satisfactory long term trade agreement’, and (4) that the revised Northern Ireland Protocol would impose ‘an EU-law based legal regime’ on Northern Ireland and create a trade barrier down the Irish Sea.

Howe concludes that Boris’s deal is still ‘a bad deal’. It lands us ‘unconditionally with huge financial obligations for nothing concrete in return, beyond the opportunity to negotiate a trade deal which we would be able to negotiate anyway’ along with long term ECJ jurisdiction. The no deal option, coupled with ‘short term bridging arrangements to keep trade flowing while talks take place’, is much preferable.  Yet Boris’s deal may be ‘tolerable’ given the political circumstances, the danger of Brexit being derailed altogether, provided that a Johnson majority government is prepared to walk away if the terms of a free trade deal are judged unacceptable.

This leaves the electorate with a difficult choice. A vote for Boris is the safest bet for keeping Corbyn out. But do we trust Boris with Brexit? Boris’s ‘do or die’ talk, the brilliantly orchestrated campaign (well done Dominic Cummings) to convince the EU that Britain was ruled by a gang of desperados who would stop at nothing to get us out on 31 October, doubtless scared the EU into making concessions and offering us a ‘tolerable’ deal.

Politically, it is a triumphant vindication for Boris. But it comes at a cost. Like Mrs May, Boris knowingly and repeatedly lied to the British people. He sees no need to apologise. For old Etonians, tribal Tories and bourgeois liberals, lies and deceit are justified in politics. The means justify the end, whether the end is the future of the Tory party, their investment earnings, lucrative directorships, or our remaining in the EU. But for ordinary people, like you and me, lies rankle. It was telling that Farage, while recognising Boris’s political achievement in securing a deal, and the difficult parliamentary arithmetic, was nevertheless bothered that Boris had lied to the British people – and that he had refused to apologise. It somehow offended his sense of decency.

Moreover, we suspect that for Boris and his ilk, Brexit or ‘Global Britain’ is little more than an excuse to buttress their privileges and the value of their financial assets. Boris sees no downside to mass immigration – indeed there probably isn’t for those who reside in Oxfordshire manor houses surrounded by quaint English villages, whose culture and way of life seems secure (if beyond the reach of the masses), and who reap all the benefits of cheap labour without incurring any of the costs. And he seems correspondingly relaxed about Britain’s transition to a multicultural society, and all which that entails.

Moore, writing last week in The Spectator, noted that most Brexiteers were ‘positively pleased’ with Boris’s deal, and that all that remained was to pay off that pesky little Farage with a peerage (his party’s support was now reduced to a small core of diehards) and the path would be cleared for Conservative victory.

But who do we trust to ‘deliver’ Brexit? More importantly perhaps, who do we trust to save England? The modern Conservative party – or Farage and his one-man band? That is the question.  

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11 Comments on Boris’s dirty Brexit ?

  1. Alas, the British people are just plain fed-up with this business, and any deal will now do as the alternative is to continue the arguments pro and con interminably. Anyway the referendum was only advisory, and therefore pointless. Perhaps the Lib Dems are right to go for cancellation, but their aim is thus to remain, whereas a cancellation to reset makes some sense – but how to,pose a question that does not mire us once again in a choice that is just to complicated to fathom? Maastricht set us on this voyage, but we just did not see the rocks.

    • Well spotted – but the content of the article seems to tell a different story. Also, Howe is arguing that the deal is ’bad but tolerable’ under circumstances that no deal (which Howe prefers) is ruled out on grounds of parliamentary arithmetic and there is a danger of the whole process being derailed. Now the election has been called and given the difficulty of predicting its outcome, we shall have to make our own probability calculations.

  2. The British people voted to leave the European Union, and all its knavish trickery on June the 23rd 2016. The constituency was the whole of the United Kingdom, the turn out was 72%, and well over a million more Britons voted to leave, than to remain. Anything other than complete autonomy from all the institutions of the EU, is an anti-democratic betrayal of the British people. Whilst the EU is not identical to the USSR, it shares the latter’s distrust of democracy, rewarding of insiders, and suppression of opposing views, there is a reason why the courageous Soviet dissident, the late Vladimir Bukovsky joined UKIP, he saw with the eyes of one who knew, where the EU was, and is heading.

  3. Unfortunately, Farage is right.
    East Germany left the USSR overnight without years of fuss or harm. The EUSSR has proved more tenacious. Maybe that’s where the Stasi are holed up.

    • Without “fuss or harm”, apart from all the East Germans who were murdered over three decades trying to leave, you mean? The USSR was finished in 1989 to all intents and purposes anyway.

      This is one of the most ridiculous analogies I have ever seen. The Soviet Union sent tanks to Budapest and Prague when they wanted to leave. Thousands died. The UK, conversely, could literally have left the EU voluntarily and without consequence on March 29th, were it not for the fact that we were desperate to have a ‘deal’. It was our decision and ours alone to remain beyond that date, and we had to ask permission to do so.

      • Not such a stupid comparison, Andrew, but then again, you automatically declare any opinion you disagree with to be “stupid”, “ranting”, etc.

        For one thing, the same sort of people who were the USSR’s greatest supporters are now the EU’s greatest supporters, i.e., the western progressives who saw both as a bulwark against evil, stupid nationalism (or “imperialism” as the USSR’s cheereleaders called it).

        These include, incidentally, most of the turncoat parliament, who mostly feel far more sympathy for their companions in the EU than to their own people, whom they generally despise – much like the pre-WWII Oxford and Cambridge students who supported communism or nazism, out of contempt for their own democracy. Hence the UK hadn’t left yet.

        Second, that the EU’s leaders care for nothing but increasing their own power by any means necessary is rather clear. In this they are no different than the leaders of the USSR. Only the means change. Brussels’ annoying bureaucrats are no less concentrated on their goal – the “European project” where a post-national elite makes all important decision, the inconvenient will of the people being ignored at will – than Stalin’s henchmen ever were.

        As for sending tanks, the EU (after denying it for years as a stupid conspiracy theory) now wants an EU army. One may well imagine tanks would be sent into, say, Paris if France voted the wrong way in one too many referendums or elections.

        • Yes of course you can imagine that – your grasp on reality is tenuous at best and it’s just another of your ultra-right dystopic fantasies – but of course that’s pretty ludicrous too. France would obviously be part of that imaginary army anyway, so the tanks wouldn’t need to be sent. That scenario isn’t going to happen.

          Are you similarly opposed to NATO or UN combined forces?

          I barely need to add that your postings normally come across as lacking any credibility, and this is no different.

          • Of course my grasp on reality is “tenuous at best”, Andrew – like that of anybody who disagrees with you about anything, I have noticed. But then again, progressives declaring disagreement with them mental illness is rather old hat. Stalin used to do it, for example.

            I’ve also noticed that while progressives like to declare themselves “rational” and “inclusive”, unlike the “emotional” and “hateful” conservatives, it is usually them who hysterically accuse opponents of being insane / stupid / evil / racist / haters – in a words, heretics – at the first sign of disagreement.

          • And something else, Andrew. For the first time since WWII, about half of the Jews of a European nation, Britain, will say they would be forced to leave the country if an antisemitic party, Labor, comes to power.

            And who can blame them? Once Labor’s policies destroy the country, it’s not hard to imagine who that antisemitic commissar, Corbyn, will blame for the catastrophe.

            This, too, was unimaginable a few years back. But thanks to the socialist values of Labor, which now include the (national) socialist slogan that the Jews are our misfortune, it came to pass. So, me being Jewish, please forgive my paranoia. My 2,000 years of experience in that sort of thing taught me it has a nasty tendency to be correct.

          • East Germany and all the countries were socialist paradises. Only criminals, traitors to the people and undesirables ever wanted to run away fearing the people’s wrath. So throwing a tantrum again is not going to change things. Throw it a bit harder and someone will hear it and come along to make it better