Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Appease the EU bully and it will just come back for more


THE collapse of Switzerland’s EU trade deal this week should be a lesson to the Government. Bern has said ‘Nein’ to Brussels’s freedom of movement demands and pulled out of seven years of tortured trade negotiations.

If Bern can pull the plug, why can’t we? We should, and use WTO rules to defend against EU trade discrimination.

We all know that Brexit remains in the balance as the Remainer establishment of Whitehall and Westminster continue their so-far-successful campaign to keep the umbilical cord uncut from Brussels.

We also know that our PM finds it impossible to fend off advice from those around him as his prevarication over the country’s liberation from lockdown demonstrates. Sage has only to say ‘mutant’ and Johnson jumps, not realising how weak this makes him look. The very reverse of Churchill, who stood out against his advisers, Johnson blusters, dithers, delays and caves in – always.  

We see this in the continuing battle for Brexit as the Brino counter-operation in the Cabinet and Whitehall continues to gain ground.  

The Government has had (and missed) two chances legally to end the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) signed on October 19 2019 and which came into force on February 1, 2020, and the dreadful EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) signed on December 30, 2020. The first was during the extension period taken by the EU before ratifying the treaty when it was not binding and its bad effects were already being felt as the UK obeyed it. The second was when the EU brought down a hard border between Eire and NI to stop vaccines flowing to the UK. This episode revealed the obvious solution of the EU accepting a smart border, but which it denied as a possibility as defiantly as if though asked to refute the law of gravity. This truly was the Government’s golden opportunity to revoke the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) agreed in December 2020 and end the Province’s economic annexation by Brussels. A nimble Brexit-believing government would have seized the moment.  

Such dithering and delaying was on display before this when the Government, clearly aware of the damage to be done by the NIP, passed the Internal Market Act in December 2020, stupidly telling Parliament that it would be a breach of the treaty if implemented. Then Michael Gove cancelled critical clauses of this Act which were our ‘insurance policy’ against EU brutalism, saying the UK would implement a light-touch policy in goods from the UK mainland to NI.

Though the NIP does not state how these checks are to be carried out, Mr Gove seems to have agreed with the EU to accept its control over this. Lord Frost then waived the EU regulations for a temporary period, causing the EU to begin legal action. 

Now the EU is indeed going brutal and is insisting on sausages and pork pies being checked even when there is no chance of these going into Eire. NI Secretary Brandon Lewis, a champion of the NIP, bleats that the EU really must behave more nicely and stop provoking the Unionists. Good luck with that, Brandon. This is the very purpose of NIP: to create mayhem for the UK. Lewis calls the aims of the NIP ‘noble’, yet the NIP was deliberately designed to split NI from the UK, with the help of Eire.  

So still the UK is trying to appease a blackmailer by trying to ‘make the NIP work’, which is rather like trying to make a landmine work rather than defuse it. The EU wants to hurt the UK and is doing so. Johnson, Lewis and Gove, apparently scared witless by the EU, won’t take the robust counter-action needed.

This is not helped by the once-hard-Brexit Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s new identification as a latter-day Europhiliac. Typically, the Foreign Office caved in and accorded full ambassadorial status to the EU ambassador, apologised for its earlier refusal, making a very deep kowtow by saying that this refusal had been the cause of a chilled atmosphere with the EU – rather than the brutal campaign being waged over NI. 

If Raab imagined this gesture of appeasement would elicit any more reasonable approach by the EU, he was wrong: instead the EU doubled down on demanding the UK fully obeyed its regulations on food sent to NI. That, Mr Raab, is how a bully behaves when appeased, and he always comes back for more. 

Lord Frost is the one official to have dealt robustly with EU demands, as with his attempted waiver of EU sabotage of food and medical supplies to NI. He also has criticised the civil service for its deferential groupthink attitude to the EU. That states a very obvious truth. But when it came to explaining policy to a Commons Committee, Frost was far more emollient and far from robust, which does make you wonder if Frost’s combative rhetoric is for public consumption only. 

The trade agreement being negotiated with Australia is a crucial battle in this Brexit-versus-Brino war, as explained by Roger Bootle in the Telegraph

The protectionist farming lobby has successfully campaigned to stop a vital deal with Australia on the ground that Australian food, excellent in quality, cheap and humanely produced, would devastate UK farming. Defra has adopted the full EU CAP protectionist policy and is fighting the Australian deal, supported by our old Brino chum, Michael Gove, who helped thwart a big trade deal with Trump when he was bag-carrier for PM Theresa May, by repeating the canard (pardon accidental pun) that US chicken was less healthily produced than UK chicken. Gove once again is siding with the Europhile protectionists of Defra and the NFU to block a full trade deal which would be of massive benefit to the consumer.

Roger Bootle is right. Letting protectionists win would be a betrayal of Brexit. The Australians need a full deal. What’s more, a Defra/Gove sabotage will also scupper any chances of a proper deal with the USA – a vital victory for the Remainer/Rejoiner faction. ‘If that happens,’ Bootle says, ‘we could kiss goodbye to a large part of the possible economic benefits of Brexit.’ And yet again PM Johnson will be betraying ordinary people who trusted him with their votes.

We were told by the EU that Brexit must be made to hurt, so that the UK will need to apply to rejoin the EU, as Barnier himself said to Le Point in 2016: ‘I shall have succeeded in my task if the final deal is so hard on the British that in the end they’ll prefer staying in the EU.’ 

We can’t say we weren’t warned. We are in a battle, not a friendly conference of ‘friends and allies’. Johnson needs to wake up to this fact, stop appeasing and take a lesson from Switzerland. We don’t want still to be here in five years’ time.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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