A few honourable MPs aside, the Labour Party has dumped its manifesto commitment to respect the Brexit referendum result. It is now calling for Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union forever – which would effectively mean being locked into the EU forever while having no say at all over how it works.
Say what you like about Theresa May’s negotiating skills, her task would anyway have been nigh on impossible given the continual attempts at sabotage from politicians and others in Britain.
One example: when May went to Brussels in February she was told by Donald Tusk that Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals for a permanent customs union represented “a promising way out” of the current impasse on Brexit.
Another form of sabotage is the constant exhortations from the establishment calling for the EU to give no ground to the government.
Brexit is in danger. At the time of writing a clean Brexit is still the default position, leaving on 29 March to trade on WTO terms. Yet despite the defeat in parliament on 29 January of every binding amendment to block or delay Brexit – including Labour’s permanent customs union – Theresa May’s so-called Withdrawal Agreement is still on the table. Even though MPs voted against it on 24 January, May still wants MPs to vote again on it, still using No Deal as a threat rather than an opportunity.
Her chief adviser Oliver Robbins said, in a staged leak, that she will give MPs a choice – her deal, or a “long” postponement of Brexit. Brexit has been delayed for far too long already! Extending Article 50 would keep us in the EU. So would her deal.
Extending Article 50 would solve nothing. A general election would solve nothing. Only leaving will cut the Gordian knot that MPs have tied.
To be clear: her deal with the EU is not a Withdrawal Agreement – it is a Remainer Agreement, in every clause on every one of its 585 pages. It is No Brexit. It would bind us forever into a United States of Europe.
It is meant to be permanent, inescapable. The Attorney General told the Cabinet that there was no legal escape route from the backstop Protocol and that it would “endure indefinitely”.
Her deal would give the EU tariff-free access to our market and control of our trade policy, force us to fund the EU’s defence programme, give EU fishing vessels free access to our waters, give the EU control of our farms, and allow free movement of labour through clauses about “mobility”. And we would pay £39 billion for the privilege!
No surprise, then, that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, boasted that the EU got “almost everything” it wanted with the deal.
MPs rejected May’s deal – almost the only thing they can agree on – then voted to tell her to go yet again to Brussels with her faithful lieutenant Oliver Robbins, to beg the EU to drop the Irish backstop.
And as it stands, May’s deal would trap us without an exit – a legally binding international treaty that can only be changed by the unanimous consent of the 27 EU member states.
As the Attorney General stated, “in international law the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place, in whole or in part, as set out therein. Further, the Withdrawal Agreement cannot provide a legal means of compelling the EU to conclude such an agreement.”
So, we would be locked into the deal unless the EU agrees to let us out. The EU does not want us to leave, so it could just block an agreement forever.
Under her deal, the EU bars the exit. But exit is precisely what the British people voted for in the referendum of 2016. Anything else would be a betrayal.