Theresa May will this week meet other European leaders having just received some sage advice, though it is doubtful whether our arch-ditherer will heed it. The wise words were contained in an open letter from Economists for Free Trade which was co-signed by other prominent Brexit supporters, a missive which exhorted the PM to ‘take an assertive approach . . . remind your fellow heads of government that your view remains that no deal with the EU is better than a bad deal’.
The letter emphasised that while the preference is of course for a mutually beneficial trading pact, ‘in light of the reluctance of the EU . . . we suggest you make clear your belief that the UK has now to prepare urgently for the possibility that no agreement is forthcoming . . . now is the time to issue instructions to accelerate their preparations for “no deal” and move to a World Trade Deal under WTO rules’. Which, as a negotiating strategy, ought to be blindingly obvious, especially because, as the letter also says, ‘to have any real leverage in the Brexit endgame, the UK must reserve the right to walk away without a trade deal and take with it the £39billion it has offered . . . that the EU desperately needs to fill the hole in its budget’.
For which commonsense opinions, the BBC’s political correspondent Ben Wright described the signatories to the open letter as ‘frustrated hardline Brexiteers’ – ‘hardline’ also being the pejorative adjective uttered on various BBC news bulletins during the morning of Sunday June 24. Such has been the drift which has occurred due to government indecision during the two years since the referendum that when committed Leavers define a meaningful withdrawal from the EU and advocate a resolutely business-like approach to the negotiation, they are caricatured as extremist cranks by the Beeb – an organisation within which the official Twitter account for Woman’s Hour was brazenly used to announce participation in last weekend’s march for a so-called People’s Vote (a tweet subsequently deleted).
— Melindi Scott (@melindiscott) June 23, 2018
Yet despite such shameless partiality, some psychotic Remainers nevertheless continue to accuse the BBC of somehow being pro-Brexit. A particularly surreal example of this was Alastair Campbell’s recent complaint of bias in the Daily Politics’ choice of phizogs for himself and Nigel Farage, whom Campbell described as ‘the nicotine-stained manfrog’, displaying the characteristic wit and charm that we have come to expect from this political thug.
— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) June 22, 2018
The show had brought together the pair on the second anniversary of the vote and ahead of the march for a second referendum – now speciously rebranded as a People’s Vote. This event prompted me to re-examine the ballot paper from June 2016: sure enough it was a straightforward binary choice, the winning option having been ‘Leave the European Union’ – to achieve which requires, by definition, withdrawal from all the EU’s institutions and jurisdictions, it being only from this default position that the UK governments, both now and in the future, should seek to negotiate and maintain a mutually beneficial trading arrangement.
Even use of a magnifying glass cannot locate on the ballot paper any caveat stating that Leave was contingent upon there being an exit deal acceptable to those who had voted Remain – unless such a proviso was in some obscure terms & conditions which, two years ago, 17.4million of us unknowingly accepted without actually reading. In the absence of any small print, those who now shrilly demand a further vote on whatever deal, if any, the EU will deign to concede are in fact imitating the European commissars whom they so much admire, seeking to impose repeat voting until the result is the one they desire.
Not that many proponents of the self-styled People’s Vote dare say this, though in a rare outing for LibDem leader Vince Cable – already on record as saying that leaving the EU is ‘driven by nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink’ – he at least made no pretence about his intent, telling the crowd: ‘Brexit is not a done deal. Brexit is not inevitable. Brexit can be stopped.’
None of those who share this opinion will ever take an objective view of whatever trading arrangement is eventually negotiated. Yet we now endure the charade of the speakers at the Remainers’ Rally such as Cable, Caroline Lucas, David Lammy, Gina Miller and Tony Robinson, plus all their cohorts, ostensibly seeking a public vote on something that does not yet exist and which, when it does, they will unhesitatingly oppose in the hope of thwarting our withdrawal.
If those who attended the Brexit-blockers’ beano were instead campaigning to re-run the referendum on EU membership, and openly arguing for the chance to overturn the 2016 vote, it would confirm their disrespect for democracy; this, though, would at least have the virtue of honesty.