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Brexit Watch: How we can and must get out of the spider’s web


THE Barnier/Frost negotiations, aka the repeated waterboarding of the UK by the EU to get political concessions in what are supposed to be trade talks, are suddenly looking somewhat irrelevant. Though Britain’s chief negotiator says that a final agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union is ‘very much possible’, he’s also warned it is yet ‘far from certain’, telling Brussels once again to abandon impossible demands. 

To quote the Labour MP Graham Stringer, ‘there is a real and present danger that the UK will cut its ties with the EU at the end of the year with much fanfare, only to discover that its negotiating strategy has been so feeble that it is legally entwined with EU rules and regulations for years to come. That will be our Hotel California moment, and it won’t be pretty’.

Stringer is not alone in his concerns. Leading Brexiteers are calling for Britain to ‘terminate’ the Withdrawal Agreement because it gives Brussels and its agencies power over the UK for years to come. A report for the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP) argues that to safeguard ‘national independence’ the present WA must be scrapped and replaced with a new treaty.

If the agreement remains in place the UK will face years of ‘legal wrangling’ and nothing less than ‘A Nightmare on Brexit Street’.

It is a timely warning. The Withdrawal Agreement (foolishly agreed and signed in such haste by Prime Minister Johnson last October) is at last getting the attention it’s needed. The report’s expert research, analysis and recommendations, which appear vastly superior to anything Whitehall has had to offer to date, lead it to this conclusion: Following eight rounds of Brexit negotiations, the EU continues to offer a future trade agreement that represents poor value for the UK, but very advantageous to the EU’s trading interests, and which subjects the UK to ‘colony status’.

This covers only goods, not services, and then only in ways that suit the EU which is demanding that the UK agree to terms not contained in any comparable trade agreements. These include: Wide-ranging controls over the UK’s future state aid; so-called ‘level playing field’ controls; de facto annexation by the EU of the Northern Ireland economy; a large share of the UK’s natural fisheries resources.

The report also points out that in the event of ‘no’ or a ‘limited’ deal at the end of this year, EU-imposed legal constraints will not simply fall away when the transition period ends. These flaws and inconsistencies in the EU’s position it says must be grasped, not acquiesced to, whether wittingly or unwittingly while the much disputed Internal Market Bill, though addressing some conflicts in the WA, still does not achieve a sovereignty-compliant exit from the Transition Period.

The 33-page report needs to be read by Johnson and his key ministers for, as they say, it is difficult to envisage how any rational international observer could regard the current situation as reasonable, let alone for a country of the stature of the UK.

A legally forensic analysis on how the UK can and must get out of the WA spider’s web also brings back to mind Ollie Robbins’s description of it as ‘a bridge’ back into EU membership, not a clean break. The brilliant QC Martin Howe explained last week, in his article Why UK law must prevail over the EU Withdrawal Agreement, what should be obvious to everyone in Parliament – the single unified internal market ‘is a key block in the constitutional foundations of the United Kingdom’. There is an important difference, he argues, between departing from the terms of a treaty and breaking international law.

‘Treaty powers should be exercised in good faith, and a blockage by the EU of the adoption of reasonable “goods at risk” rules to impose tariffs across the board on goods passing from GB to NI would likely be a bad faith exercise of treaty powers.’

Somehow Johnson has to be persuaded to nerve himself to rebut the WA as a document uniquely unfair to any non-defeated nation state, constructed by the EU as a deterrent to other states and not to get a fair outcome for each side; and how vital it is not to let it stand when the UK does exit at the end of December, or else it will gain validation.

It is very late in the day that the EU ‘rights’ under the WA to exercise controls within the UK itself on trade flows, and thereby its own regulation and its own political court being exposed, has stung the government into its Internal Market Bill. How odd it is that there are Brexit as well as Remainer Tory MPs using Parliamentary procedures to defeat it.

Yet the EU is a fast-changing entity which even last autumn was very different from now. Movement towards fiscal union, massive borrowing to dish out aid to Covid-hit member states, Germany becoming ever more powerful at its centre, using its vast trade surplus to support its own industries, are facts that should worry all Parliamentarians. So too should a dominant Germany thriving on a euro currency undervalued for its exports and an EU entity full of political animosity to the UK.

Late in the day too, is the penny finally dropping about our defence tie-up with the EU? The EU’s developing army and foreign policy, decided by qualified majority voting, will in time change the EU into a monolithic power, to which we will be tied by a defence agreement.

Frederick Forsyth asks in the Express why UK forces are operating under the EU flag, not Nato or the UN, in Bosnia. He deserves an answer.

The MoD and the government have been warned repeatedly of the dangers of the Political Declaration for our defence and existing covert moves for the handover of our forces to the EU, as detailed by Professor Prins and General Riley, among others. But Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings appear still to be asleep at the wheel.

Tobias Elwood MP, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, also has a blind spot. Aided and abetted by Whitehall, he has agitated for the scrapping of the UK’s own Galileo satellite system. Its abandonment is a massive victory for Remainers, if true, as scrapping it ties us in further to the EU military project. As Professor Prins and Richard Dearlove argued earlier this year, this technology is a bargain that will both give us independence and will earn us money. 

The need for military and naval autonomy is obvious – to police our newly regained fisheries and to stop the French navy escorting boatloads of migrants to England, as reported in Sue Reid’s Mail article.  

How does Mr Elwood envisage an EU-controlled British Navy, guided by an EU-controlled satellite system, acting against the French escort agency, I wonder?

So to the woke rich trying to stop cheap food for the plebs. Dominic Lawson’s devastating critique of the House of Lords’ patrician vote to stop the UK importing entirely safe chicken and beef is unfortunately behind a pay wall. Some delicious details, however, are the billionaire Lord Grantchester proposing the amendment to the Agriculture Bill to this effect; and Lady McIntosh saying the public can legally purchase cheap imported pork produced under bad EU-approved animal welfare practices, but this should not be compounded by the option for cheaper US beef and chicken. Oh no, the plebs cannot be allowed that choice! 

Finally Michael Gove has managed to cast a Project Fear chill over the south coast with his Kent passports scheme to scare hauliers and over the west coast soon to become a border with Northern Ireland. 

Meanwhile where are his preparations to facilitate a clean Brexit? Are no other ports than Dover being prepared for use, to take the strain off our bottleneck port? How about the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted free ports? Any sign of them?

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

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