WE NOW know from the way the EU are turning the screw on the neuralgic Northern Irish situation that their aim is to cause the Unionists maximum harassment and humiliation which will lead eventually to a de facto annexation of the Province into an EU-sponsored economic area. The motivation for this proto-annexation, that losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would pay for Brexit, was clearly stated by the then top EU diplomat, Martin Selmayr.
The UK agreed to the Irish Protocol (IP), which put the Province into the customs area of the EU and the UK under orders from the EU to enforce all customs checks, specifically paper checks, not modern digitised methods. Michael Gove insisted at the time this would be only ‘light touch’. Yet today we see the EU enforcing a maximalist approach, with customs posts on the NI coast unspecified in the IP and taking the UK to court for not doing its bidding to the last paper clip. Lord Frost has called a six-month delay to this purgatory; whether, after six months, the UK will revoke the ‘deal’ with the EU, or even invoke Article 16 of the IP as is its right, is doubtful if past form is anything to go by.
The Treasury is already enforcing EU ‘state aid’ rules on NI more stringently than on the rest of the UK in an appeasement that is causing real harm to its own Province’s people. Johnson’s former fine words promise of avoiding ‘vassalage’ is looking more and more sick.
The very bad deal handed to the UK fishing fleets by Boris Johnson has unsurprisingly been likened to the disaster wreaked on the industry by former Prime Minister Ted Heath. With fishing sacrificed to secure a trade deal, appeasement and governmental torpor now rule the waves.
Defra, the deep-dyed Remainer ministry at the heart of post-Brexit policy, continues to undermine a successful Brexit, stopping cheaper food imports from non-EU countries by imposing EU rules and preventing free trade. Nor does it appear to be at all interested in ensuring UK energy independence, though this is necessary to fend off EU threats to cut energy supply unless they get all their fish quotas back again. We hear nothing of such promising and cheap possibilities as new small nuclear technologies from government to counter this. It is Yes to wasted billions on HS2, but No to investment in cutting-edge technology.
Is it far-fetched to believe the EU will deploy energy blackmail in 2026 to secure what it wants? Not if we are to believe the proceedings of the French Senate as revealed by Caroline Bell’s translation of them. Delight was clearly expressed at Barnier’s success in coupling fishing rights to energy supply in the ‘deal’ Boris Johnson signed (something that will have passed most unobservant British politicians by).
Further revelations emerged from these same Senate proceedings. The Minister for Europe, Clement Beaune, commented: ‘Don’t romanticise no-deal. It would have led to a breakdown and the disintegration of the European union, when we need a Europe which is solid for the long term.’ No doubt it would have. No wonder the UK’s Remainer/Rejoiner establishment was so loud in pressing for a ‘deal’ and threatening disaster for ‘no deal’ WTO terms.
This remains the one nuclear option our government holds in its hands: it can legally renounce this awful trade deal with due notice – and it the only thing that scares the EU. And why not? For as Jeremy Warner states in the Telegraph: ‘The so-called Trade and Co-operation Agreement to replace previous trading arrangements with the EU is an extremely poor deal for the UK . . . it is a sell-out for the fishermen, a sell-out for financial services – Britain’s most successful export – a sell-out for Northern Ireland and a sell-out for tens of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises that find it scarcely worth trading with the EU at all any more, such is the multitude of charges, form filling, non-tariff barriers and delays that now confront them.’
The truth is the government has never exerted itself to maximise Brexit, and now is barely fighting off the relentless EU pressures and demands. Lassitude is the order of the day. No Brexit-friendly officials have as yet been named for the 19 committees to be run, according to the ‘deal’, to keep the UK in line with EU demands.
At the time of writing Johnson may have not caved in to the well-publicised EU bullying on the vaccines, yet his government continues its business as usual in handing out massive procurement contracts to German manufacturers, like this recent massive defence contract made all the worse by using the under-valued euro for payment, which further undercuts UK manufacturing. ‘Gift contracts’ such as these are a form of ‘dumping’ and need some UK reparation, but the Treasury seems happy to be suckered at taxpayers’ expense. No counter-punching, only appeasing.
Ominously a Treasury agreement with the EU to set up a committee to ensure the UK does not diverge too far from EU regulation in financial services – the same old trap – is not a deal but a process to stop genuine freedom and innovation. The Prime Minister, though, has hailed it as a ‘breakthrough’.
Yet the fact of the matter is that the EU risks violating international law if it continues to deny the UK routine ‘equivalence’ in financial services already granted to a string of other countries. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pointed out in February that, ‘selective treatment of one state for political reasons breaches the non-discrimination principle of the World Trade Organisation. It is strictly forbidden’. Andrew Bailey, chairman of the Bank of England, also says the UK must avoid EU regulation and strangulation.
But for all that it looks as if the Treasury is once again ignoring the strong hand the UK could play and has agreed to a new strangulating committee arrangement with the trading pariah of the world stage.
The dominant impression is one of Brexit energies being dragged back and hobbled, indeed sabotaged, by the very officials who should be defending Britain’s best interests. Yet, for all this, good news stories for Brexit keep coming. Big flows of foreign investment from the EU are reported and the dire warnings from former Trade Secretary Greg Clark in the May Cabinet are proving groundless. The UK car industry is chipper and thousands of jobs are to be saved at Honda, despite Brexit.The UK can afford to, should and must, play a much tougher game.