Any reconciliation over Brexit must not be allowed to obscure the principle behind it. ‘Never!’ I hear the Remoaners bark. ‘We shall never give in!’
But with the passing of time, the division and wounds will heal as the country moves on; it will simply have to; capitalism will demand it.
As a committed Leaver, I shall not be hovering on the touchline, applauding every time a benefit of our newly won freedom materialises. Instead, I would like to bring the country together, try to move the debate forward… but on one condition: that we at least try to understand why this wretched episode came about. Silencing discussion is never the answer; it was precisely that mistake that led this country into such a polemical mess. I believe, as fragile as the current ceasefire is, in the long run carrying out a post-mortem will be time well spent — in management lingo, we need to conduct a ‘Lessons Learned.’
So, what was all the fuss about? What caused this political earthquake? Well, perhaps geology can provide the analogy we need. Ever since January 1973, when Edward Heath first signed the UK up to the EEC, the political tectonic plates of Europe have been grumbling and shifting along fault lines between each nation’s borders. For thirty-eight years, Brussels’ bureaucracy has been bubbling under the surface (the magmatism?), spewing ever tighter integration (lava?) into member states’ regulatory frameworks, but crucially… without the public’s consent. This bureaucratic build-up of political pressure, conducted by consecutive ex-Prime Ministers and passed into member states’ domestic law (the earth’s mantle) by stealth and deceit, and thereby eroding each nation’s sovereignty, that once discovered, was only going to end in one way: an almighty political eruption.
Margaret Thatcher warned of this scenario back in 1988 in her Bruges Speech to The College of Europe: ‘I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice. I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world. But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy. Indeed, it is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction. We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.’
How ‘spot on’ and ‘before her time’ she was, predicting the exact scenario that would come about twenty-eight years later, and once the British people realised, would reject it. The only question is: ‘what took us so long?’
She continued: ‘Certainly, we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose. But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers, and sense of national pride in one’s own country; for these have been the source of Europe’s vitality through the centuries.’
The answer to this cumulative national deceit, lies with each of our ex- Prime Ministers: John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown (without even a national mandate), and, if she had had her own way with her appalling Withdrawal Agreement defeated four times by a whopping margin of 230 votes on first pass… Theresa May. Her so-called ‘deal’ would have been Brexit in Name Only, so-called ‘BRINO.’ Our ex-PMs knew what was happening inside the EU and tried to cover it up. They also knew a referendum would unleash demons from within society that could never be reversed, and once released, could never put them back; our nation’s own Pandora’s box. Yes, our noble UK leaders kept up the charade for decades with The Treaty of Maastricht in Feb 1992 to establish the EU with its original twelve member states, followed by Treaty of Lisbon in December 2007 to cement the constitution of the EU and improve on the Treaty of Rome in 1957, until eventually when David Cameron was faced with a national groundswell of opinion so large he was left with no choice other than to call an EU referendum. Before that, in the General Election on 7th May 2015, all political parties had committed to the same in their manifestos. The cross-party support (Gisela Stuart (Lab), Nigel Lawson (Con)) for the debate reflected opinion from all sides of the House, but how those ‘Reasonable Remainers’ conveniently overlook this fundamental point. How they have relentlessly enjoyed letting David Cameron take the blame for this when the entire country and all political parties stood for election with the same promise.
Remainers soon changed allegiances, embracing every EU anti-democratic absurdity. This was political madness. All principle, logic and reason evaporated. Such breath-taking hypocrisy! Sadly, this was only the beginning.
The debate soon plunged into hysterical analysis, with Chancellor Osborne predicting a stock-market crash the following day if Britain voted to Leave, Mark Carney warning of a major economic impact and recession, and worst of all Dominic Grieve (Con) suggesting that planes would no longer be able to fly the day after the verdict. These enlightened establishment figures now pledged that everything about the EU was amazing and right, just, liberal, outward looking and open-minded; they went even further, telling us that everything about the Brexit position was racist, narrow-minded ‘Little Englanders’ and all lies. They have left an indelible stain on public debate as a direct result. Any opinion on the left is on the left, whereas any opinion on the right is all ‘far right.’ Sadiq Khan is singularly the worst offender in continually resorting to this type of cheap identity politics. It has damaged genuine and necessary public discourse and further undermined democracy. So, we must ask ourselves why this happened? Did those establishment figures know they were weakening public debate? Of course they did. They were seeking to delay and overturn a decision that they did not, (and still do not!) understand at any cost. And the reason for this? It is because their middle-class lives have not been affected by Brexit. Yes, the Metropolitan left-of-centre elite still go on TV even today, saying they do not understand Brexit. Well, shame on them! You would at least think after all this time and upheaval, they would at least seek some sort of feedbacl from the disillusioned electorate.
But alas, this is not so, because there remains an uncomfortable truth that they would rather not reveal. The country has not rejected Europe, it has rejected the EU.
But it is still Cameron that has taken the brunt of public anger for calling the referendum when all parties stood on the same commitment. Besides, if that is what the country demands, then it is up to democracy to deliver it. Public office is there to serve the people, not to rule. So, let us consider an alternative for a moment – if Cameron had turned around and said he was not going to grant a referendum, he would rightly stand accused of elitism, being out of touch, and would be out of office faster than what eventually did happen. His only option, having won the election, was to try to campaign on a promise of reform, which he pursued with little success. How arrogant was the EU by giving so few concessions in return?
But my opposition is not with Cameron, it is directed at all PMs that came before him. They were all complicit in signing up the UK to treaties, unbeknown to the taxpayer outside of the mainstream media and those with a passing interest in politics, that would ultimately control our instinctive national liberty and enterprise. Yes, that is why they have been so active in the debate for Remain ever since… to protect their own legacies. Therefore, it is vital that UK citizens look past the headlines and are consulted in any future relationships that enhance or endanger democracy. Never has freedom been so actively (and sadly, violently) recovered, so never again should it be so recklessly cast aside. On Wednesday 30th Dec 2020 the European Union Future Relationship Bill received Royal Assent and passed into law enabling the UK to not only leave the Single Market and the reaches of the ECJ, and the EU in its entirety. This is a cause for celebration, but should also signal a moment of caution for our national collective psyche. As a constitutional leaver, the deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated (resolutely led by Lord Frost) is something I thought would never come about.
But let’s not get bogged down again with any more tedious ‘on the side of the bus’ jibes. As I said at the start, I want to move past this political point scoring. Brexit has always been (for me) about sovereignty and the right to elect or reject those in public office. Simply put, citizens who live within the law should be allowed to make the law. No longer will faceless bureaucrats in Brussels determine what passes into law in the UK. That is not to say that I think UK politicians are any more or less capable of being corrupt; no, the key difference is they are accountable for their actions at the ballot box. UK citizens are free to choose, debate and ultimately decide who should represent them in Parliament.
It serves only to discredit establishments, mainstream media and the shrieking 10% on Twitter that ‘they still don’t understand,’ or worse ‘…why would anyone vote to be poorer?’ Rather than embrace the freedom and opportunities that Brexit will offer, they continue to misrepresent people that voted ‘Leave’ as racist bigots, pointing to projects delivered in the UK that are funded by the EU (e.g. Eden Project in Cornwall). They cite ‘just-in-time delivery’ as a reason to stay within the confines of the largest trading bloc in the world, the Single Market. Companies will go out of business if there is a delay in the delivery of parts. But this practice has only come about BECAUSE of the Single Market, so it is time for business to adapt and re-think their supply chain. How about the UK manufactures these parts? This would be good for the economy, create jobs, help the planet, and perhaps even curb China’s dominance. Rather than moaning about everything that is lost, why not seize the initiative and make our country less dependent on imports and the service sector in London? It also helps with the Government ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, which in the long run, should produce a fairer society for all of us.
More state interference is never the answer. The issue boils down to ideology, not economics. The Theresa May Government (2016-19) never truly believed in Brexit. During her tenure, the Chancellor Philip Hammond deliberately allowed the debate to drift into economics rather than talk about the political principle at stake. Many times in Davos, he called for the softest of all Brexits (his own interpretation of what it meant), deliberately undermining the PM. But these events only transpired because of May’s weak leadership and the resulting power vacuum. Her appalling legacy is solely down to her lack of any kind of vision. This encouraged everyone with an expert opinion to offer it. Woke celebs (Gary Lineker, Bono) started spouting how they were enlightened and European and knew what was right for the country. May’s weakness also caused in-fighting within her own Cabinet, Party and Parliament, losing thirty-three votes, sixty Ministers, of which forty-two she had to sack. ‘Strong & Stable?’ More like a government of chaos.
Here are some facts:
The EU is made up of the European Commission, Council, Parliament, Central Bank, and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Of these five institutions, promoting ever tighter European ‘integration’ (replacing the rejected ‘federation’ to suggest a more progressive intention), it is perhaps the ECJ that offends any sense of democracy the most. Discreetly based in Luxembourg with one judge per member state, it operates far from the public eye, disallowing any public scrutiny or dissenting voices from decisions, and prohibiting access to its archives for research. Originating from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), then rolled into the EEC by the Treaty of Rome, its true origin was the Treaty of Maastricht and the formation of the EU.
In 2018, all public expenditure amounted to £865bn (source: ONS), of which £20bn was sent to the EU. However, with the ‘Fontainebleau Abatement’ (known as the UK rebate) of £4.5bn, the UK was only liable for £15.5bn. In addition, a further £4.5bn was passed back to the UK for public sector initiatives (£2.7bn Agricultural Guarantee Fund and £0.7bn Regional Development Fund). In summary, in 2018, the UK’s net contribution to the EU was £11bn. Over a five-year average (2014-18), the net contribution is £7.8bn, or £154 million per week, or £120 per person per year, or 1% of Government total spending in the UK. As EU contributions are based on the member states’ gross national income (GNI), the percentages have varied since 2010, peaking in 2013 at £11bn.
If further reminders that regulatory freedom from the EU were needed, then it is plain to see in the recent conclusion of their seven-year negotiations with China. They have signed a ‘Comprehensive Agreement on Investments’ to
This agreement is a disgrace. With China’s record on human rights and violence in suppressing democratic protests in Hong Kong, imprisoning over one million Uighur Muslims, and withholding information on the Corona virus in 2019 and 2020), to name but a few. How badly does China have to behave for the EU not to trade with it? The answer is, they are turning a blind eye with the prospect of a declining euro and trading future. Again, another senior politician is protecting their own legacy. Angela Merkel is desperate to sign a deal while Germany enjoys its six-month stint as chair of the European Council. But Mutti’s time is almost over, and her meagre reputation over the last two decades is in danger. Her successor (Armin Laschet) elected on Saturday (16th January 2021) in a (virtual) run-off vote at the Christian Democrat’s party conference will look continue her centrist’s course, but she needs a success story to go out with a bang. How about securing VW’s car sales to China? With 50% of its market reliant on China, it is easy to see why she signed up the EU. But at what cost? Profit before principles?
With an already impressive count of sixty-two Free Trade Agreements (FTA) secured by the UK government, and an FTA signed with the EU worth £680bn in less than one year (when most political commentators said this could not be done!), there are indisputable benefits of regulatory freedom. With more COVID-19 vaccines on order than the entire EU put together, and the so-called tampon tax scrapped on 1st January 2020 as soon as the UK no longer had to comply with the senseless 5% VAT mandated by the EU, it is obvious to see the benefits of agility.
In time, I hope that Brexit will shine a light onto the secret internal dealings of the EU. And, if they follow through this year on political threats of blocking exports of the Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine from Belgium to the UK, it will only confirm yet more double-standards – when fishing rights were discussed as part of the FTA, the EU lectured the UK on how the fish in UK waters should be available for all, but now when a delay in fulfilment vaccine orders highlights the inadequacies of the Commissions procurement process (when in reality a more agile UK placed their order four months earlier), they threaten the supplier and the UK with a blockade. This is not the behaviour of a friendly neighbour, but a scolded child. It is for good reason that the people of Brussels resent EU delegates with their inflated salaries, apartments, company cars and expense accounts.
In the end every empire collapses under the weight of its own corruption and hubris. But the UK never sought to rupture the EU, only resolution on a critical question. So, never again should this country’s freedom be squandered, whether by stealth or sycophantic assuagement from spineless politicians. Never again should this country ‘kneel for a deal.’ It just does not sit right with our citizens. Freedom, along with the indignation of satire, provide the only real response to tyranny and if Brexit leads other countries to follow in our footsteps, then that has to be good for democracy everywhere.