DID hell just freeze over? (Mostly) Remain MPs have just voted to do what Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party and I want, which is not to approve BoJo’s awful deal.
On Friday I was at the Brexit Party rally in the QE2 centre in Westminster (view it here). I’ve been to several of these events. In Maidstone on September 2 the mood was close to euphoric. We had replaced the hapless, helpless and hopeless PMTM with BoJo, who was off to Brussels to secure a better deal than May’s Surrender (low baseline I know) and he was committed to delivering Brexit by Halloween, or dying in a ditch. (Note that delivering Brexit does NOT require a deal.) Subsequently he got the EU to reopen the negotiation, which they had previously said was impossible, and got substantial changes to the backstop. Unfortunately he didn’t get much change to the rest of the ‘worst deal in history’, which means that it is still a Brexit in name only.
In addition to the usual speakers we were addressed by Ian Paisley of the DUP. Ulster Unionists have long memories, and he quoted Lord Carson’s speech in the House of Lords in 1919: ‘I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power. And of all the men in my experience that I think are the most loathsome it is those who will sell their friends for the purpose of conciliating their enemies, and, perhaps, still worse, the men who climb up a ladder into power of which even I may have been part of a humble rung, and then, when they have got into power, kick the ladder away without any concern for the pain, or injury, or mischief, or damage that they do to those who have helped them to gain power.’
Today Boris, desperate to avoid dying in a ditch, is seeking to do something that just last year he said that no Prime Minister of the United Kingdom could even contemplate, creating an international border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. He has lost the support of the DUP. Given the long memories of all Irishmen, particularly the Loyalists, he is unlikely to win it back. Ian Paisley’s fury was palpable.
The last speaker at Friday’s rally was Nigel Farage. Instead of his usual note-free barnstorming performance, he started from a lectern and outlined the deficiencies of BoJo’s deal, citing detail and challenging the many journalists present to look it up. (The texts are here.) In brief:
Fishing Rights (the acid test of Brexit). Paragraph 73 of the Political Declaration says: ‘While preserving regulatory autonomy, the Parties should co-operate on the development of measures for the conservation, rational management and regulation of fisheries, in a nondiscriminatory manner. They will work closely with other coastal states and in international fora, including to manage shared stocks.’
Which means one thing – the Common Fisheries Policy lives on. France and Spain have already said that any new trade deal is contingent on their continued access to fishing in UK waters.
Foreign Policy (Article 129 of the Withdrawal Agreement) includes at paragraph 3: ‘The United Kingdom shall refrain, during the transition period, from any action or initiative which is likely to be prejudicial to the Union’s interests, in particular in the framework of any international organisation, agency, conference or forum of which the United Kingdom is a party in its own right.’
Which means that whatever we do as, for example, a member of the UN Security Council, must have no potential adverse impact on the EU. The agreement gives the EU a de facto seat at the UN. Worse, at paragraph 6 we have ‘the United Kingdom shall refrain from any action likely to conflict with or impede Union action’. Note the word ‘likely’ – who gets to define that? Guess? The European Court of Justice (Article 131).
Which also means that any free trade deal agreed with the EU will be arbitrated by the ECJ, rather than an independent arbiter. So we’re not leaving ECJ jurisdiction.
Oh, and we’re still to be tied by EU rules. Paragraph 77 of the political declaration requires us to maintain EU standards in the areas of ‘areas of state aid, competition, social and employment, standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters’.
So BoJo’s deal is not Brexit and it has already made a future free trade agreement with the EU tantamount to re-joining.
Those MPs who backed Hilary Benn’s Bill removing no deal made any sensible deal impossible. Whether a sensible deal was ever the intention of Boris’s negotiating team is of course another matter and remains unclear.
As it is we remain in the ludicrous position of having a Parliament determined not to deliver Brexit which, as the Telegraph quoted Theresa May saying in Saturday’s debate, ‘When we voted to trigger Article 50 did we really mean it? If this Parliament did not mean it then it is guilty of the most egregious con trick on the British people.’
It’s time for a general election. The Brexit Party is ready.