THE penultimate instalment of our review of the Brexit year brings us to last month. Boris’s calling of a General Election on December 12 intensified talk of a ‘leave’ pact between the Conservatives and The Brexit Party. Politics seemed to take a nasty and depressing turn in which, despite the spectre of Corbyn’s Marxism, Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party were turned into the enemy of Boris and Brexit.
Melanie Phillips described it as a blue-on-blue onslaught.
THE last few days have seen the eruption of a ferocious, no-holds-barred, blue-on-blue onslaught on Nigel Farage by Conservative party Brexiteers and others including members of his own Brexit party. See, for example, here, here, here, here, here and here.
The essence of the Tory Brexiteers’ case against Farage is that his strategy is likely to stop Brexit by depriving Boris Johnson of a workable majority, and that the split it may cause in the Conservative vote could let Jeremy Corbyn achieve power.
The latter scenario is a real possibility and a fearsome one.
But what if the dilemma, as I suggested here, is even more ghastly that these Farage critics are suggesting? What if the Tory Brexiteers’ assertions that the admittedly imperfect Johnson deal at least delivers a serviceable Brexit are untrue?
What if Farage is right, and Johnson’s deal will deliver not Brexit and an end to this agony but three more years of debilitating and destructive argument with the EU, in which they hold the whip hand over the UK and tie it up in such economically damaging knots that the country would then beg to stay in the EU as the least worst option?
Now that the dreaded backstop and threat of a customs union have been removed from the deal, the Tory Brexiteers are betting the farm on their belief that, once the UK has left the EU, it can bale out of negotiations for the long-term trade deal on WTO terms by the end of next year if the EU’s terms prove unacceptable.
But if, as has been reported, the Tories remove any prospect of no-deal from their election manifesto and Johnson is elected instead on the sole pledge that he will take the UK out of the EU on the terms of the deal he has negotiated, what reason will voters have to believe that he would ever thus bale out on WTO terms? What leverage will the UK have over the EU if no-deal is removed as a threat? None.
More pertinently, what if this barrister’s claim (in the video below) is true?
This is that the negotiations will almost certainly not have concluded by the middle of next year, when the option of extending the transition period arrives; and since the deal’s Political Declaration requires the UK to show it is using its ‘best endeavours’ to meet the PD’s requirements for the UK, including its agreement to a ‘level playing field’ and ‘non-discrimination’ measures on fishing and ‘mobility’, this will mean the negotiations will need to be extended probably to the three years that the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has estimated they will take. During which time the powerless UK, still held to EU laws by the European Court of Justice but with absolutely no say any more within the EU, will be well and truly screwed.
The Brexit party website lists what it describes as the deal’s disastrous effects here. Is this untrue? In which case, will the Conservative Party say exactly what the BP says that is false?
The key question is what the truth of all this actually is. The potentially invidious choice between allowing Corbyn to slip into Number Ten and voting for a Boris Brexit betrayal is a dilemma only if what Farage is saying is true.
If it is not true, there’s no dilemma. If it is true, the public needs to face this honestly and squarely and then decide how to vote tactically, constituency by constituency. For if it is true, no amount of scaremongering (however justified) about Corbyn will prevent the UK from becoming trapped in a continuing Brexit nightmare.
And so when will the mainstream media, which have been relentlessly pummelling Farage and disgracefully and absurdly claiming he is saying these things only because he is consumed by personal ambition and is happy therefore to wreck Brexit out of personal spite (as if!) start asking these questions of the Conservative Party?
Postscript:The political clock began ticking faster until Nigel Farage, despite his deep reservations about Johnson’s deal, putting country before party to stave off a hung Parliament and the real possibility of a second referendum, took the decision to stand down half his candidates, and secured a Conservative victory.