Theresa May has achieved something truly remarkable: she has negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement which is worse than remaining in the European Union. Since the announcement of her universally loathed Chequers plan, it has been clear that a betrayal of the referendum result and the democratic decision of the British people was under way. Yet few could have imagined just how bad the final result would be.
The deal will be a legally binding treaty under which the United Kingdom enters a transition period until the end of 2020 – four and half years after the referendum – and at the end of that period either extends the transition period, enters a free trade agreement, or defaults to a ‘backstop’ arrangement.
The United Kingdom has been humiliated.
We will leave the European Union, but will remain subject to the judgments and rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) both during the transition period and afterwards.
The whole country will remain in the single market until the end of the transition period, and then the integrity of the country will be broken as Great Britain leaves the single market, but Northern Ireland remains in it, subject to EU regulations on goods, agriculture, VAT, excise duty and state aid.
We will leave the customs union, but remain in a ‘Single Customs Territory’, which is identical in effect to the customs union.
Despite provision in the treaty for negotiating a free trade agreement, there is now no reason for the European Union ever to agree to one. Mrs May has given away £39,000,000,000 of British taxpayers’ money for absolutely nothing in return. There is thus no incentive for the EU to agree a free trade deal, as the transition period may be extended by mutual agreement, on payment of extra financial contributions from the UK for the ‘privilege’.
As a concession for a ‘backstop to the backstop’ where the whole UK remains in the customs union, rather than just Northern Ireland, she has given away control of our 200-mile exclusive economic zone, so that EU fishing fleets will continue to have access to our fishing waters in perpetuity and UK fisherman will have to obey jointly agreed quotas.
We will remain shackled to the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy but will have no say in decision-making. Thus our foreign policy and armed forces have been ceded to Brussels, and we will remain entangled in the EU’s defence architecture including the European Defence Agency, European Defence Funding, Permanent Structured Cooperation, EU Procurement and EU Battle Groups.
The UK is required to implement all the measures of the Paris Climate Agreement including carbon pricing, and to participate in the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme. There will be no escape from the scam of climate change alarmism and in the process we will have to continue to implement measures which are actively destructive of primary forests, such as burning wood pellets from North and South America in place of coal in power stations and raising the percentage of biofuel such as palm oil in petrol and diesel. Insane EU rules say that burning biomass is ‘carbon neutral’, even if whole forests are cut down as fodder for power stations.
Remarkably, a few members of the Tory Cabinet have acted honorably and put country before party. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey resigned before breakfast, as did three junior ministers. There are likely to be a couple more resignations.
The others have rolled over and put party before country. It was always likely that the majority of Cabinet were likely to betray the people, as the majority of the them campaigned to remain in the EU and want to keep us shackled to the superstate. The fact that a number of so-called Brexiteers have also capitulated is ominous. They have sold out the country. One wonders whether they would sell out their own grandmothers.
Tory Cabinet members have made great play over the last few months of the fact that their full name is the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’. Today, not even they will dare to mention it. Theresa May’s government is not conservative and it is not unionist. It is not conserving the union. It is breaking it up.
Hope rests for now with the Tory backbench Brexiteers in the European Research Group. If there is any moment when they need to act to save Brexit, it is now. Jacob Rees-Mogg has handed in his letter to Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, as one of the 48 needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The others need to follow. They have huffed and puffed for months, but it is still uncertain whether they have the will to blow Mrs May’s house down. The coming hours and days will tell if they have a backbone or whether, in Boris Johnson’s words, they are ‘great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies’.