Friday, May 14, 2021
HomeBrexit WatchExit Gove, enter Lord Frost – in the nick of time

Exit Gove, enter Lord Frost – in the nick of time

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THE shape of the UK relationship with the EU remains that of barely veiled hostility of the latter to the former, evident since the referendum result. The ‘deal’ hastily signed by the PM on December 31 is proving to be an institutionalisation of economic aggression – the bureaucratic friction confected by the EU against UK exports as well as the dangerous Irish Protocol fuelling civil war in Europe.

But at least now the UK knows where it stands, and in fact the illegal behaviour of the EU since December 31 has done us a good turn. We no longer need the Internal Market Act, passed to prevent EU skulduggery with intra-UK trade flows foolishly described by a Tory MP as a breach of international law. Since then the EU has breached international law in regard to the Eire-Northern Ireland border, a trade ban on Scottish shellfish, blocking vaccine delivery to the UK and a refusal to acknowledge financial services equivalences.

The EU is showing bad faith. The mask has slipped over its repeated claim that a hard border cannot conceivably happen between Eire and Northern Ireland, which was always a false pretext to lever advantage from the UK in the Brexit ‘negotiations’. As Briefings for Britain says:

‘ . . . the mask having slipped, it cannot now be replaced. Such a demonstration of egregious bad faith is not only hostile, as Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said, it also provides encouragement for those in the UK who wish to repudiate the Protocol and to rely on Anglo-Irish diplomacy to discuss our mutual interests. The EU turned the Irish border into a weapon, creating a legal straitjacket for the UK in the Protocol. Any standing it might have claimed in Anglo-Irish affairs is now irretrievably forfeit’. 

To put it crudely, the EU itself, by its Wild West lawlessness on the international stage, which includes breaching the GFA, has given the UK incontrovertible grounds for taking it to court, for revoking the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, or invoking Article 16 of the latter since the Irish Protocol is tearing open the scab on tribal animosities and pushing NI away from the rest of the UK. The UK is now in a strong legal position against the belligerent EU, as Ewen Stewart argued on TCW on Saturday. 

What UK exporters are facing are not teething problems: they will get worse, according the German newspaper Handelsblatt: ‘The EU and Great Britain agreed on an agreement that will regulate trade after Brexit. In fact, the treaty is causing frustration on both sides of the English Channel. And that shouldn’t just result from start-up problems. The situation is likely to worsen in the coming months.’  

As I pointed out in my last post, Michael Gove has been helping the EU by simply ignoring its recklessly aggressive behaviour towards the UK. In fact his record on betraying UK interests since the referendum is constant: Brexit watchers will remember that he even backed Theresa May’s Chequers surrender. He is not the man to take on the task of defending the UK against a permanent state of economic attack, and that Lord (David) Frost has been appointed to take up this role is surely excellent news. Not before time. His opponent Maros Sefcovic, a dyed-in-the-wool Slovakian communist educated in Russia, is demanding UK submission to EU access to IT customs and tax communications regarding trade from England to NI. 

At a time when the EU is cosying up to Russia and China, how can a sovereign state possibly open its sensitive channels and telecoms to such a hostile regime, open to hacking and intellectual property theft? Mr Gove, I fear, would have turned a blind eye. With Lord Frost we can hope for robust defence. Sefcovic has said the EU breach of the GFA and WA PD in imposing a hard border was ‘a mistake’. How nice of him. It was an irretrievable wrong revealing cynical bad faith. Yet he said, as reported by City AM, with an astonishing inversion of the truth, that he was ‘absolutely convinced that the protocol is the solution and not the problem’. This is the kind of brutalist approach Lord Frost is up against, that he must not flinch from. As Ewen Stewart argued on these pages, he must not hesitate to take the EU to court, early and often, if the EU continues to weaponise and inflame the Northern Ireland predicament. The UK must insist, as it should always have done, on a ‘smart’ border between Eire and NI – that was seen as the solution in 2017. All the IT systems are available for a non-physical customs ‘border’. The EU and Eire must be made to see that such modern systems can and should be used to bring sanity and normality back to the EU, NI and the UK. 

Unfortunately ‘remainerdom’ remains strong in the government and even more so in Whitehall. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has happily betrayed the fishermen and is doing little to help UK exporters while flagging in EU imports unhindered. Victoria Prentis MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food since 2020, has said that our fishermen ‘dreamed big’. Who encouraged them to do so but Defra itself and the government all last year?

And what is Defra doing to ensure that France cannot blackmail the UK over energy supply to retain their grotesque share of UK fish? Anything? The department is a disgrace which needs to atone for its crimes against our fishing fleets. And, for once, it needs to look to the interests of consumers, not just producers, by allowing, post Brexit, cheaper food into the UK. At present it acts as a virtual protectionist lobby group against cheaper food for the masses. It’s high time it lost its energy remit to focus on food.

Now the post-Brexit dust has settled, we know the shape of the task. Briefings for Britain again: ‘The EU27 are unique in having a specific strategic goal in making life worse for the UK.  It is simply not a viable basis for friendship, partnership or alliance with the EU nor any of its member states. It is time we wised up.’  At least now, with Lord Frost at the helm, we can put up a fight. 

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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