A Brexit that will work for nobody

“Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May famously said on a number of occasions last year, “And I intend it to work for everybody.”  With the half-way point between the referendum vote and Brexit day looming next month, current pronouncements from the Government suggest that on the contrary, we could end up with a Brexit that works for no one.

Our fishermen have good reason to be worried. Unless the Fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 is exempted from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – and there is no sign that this is the Government’s plan – we will end up leaving the Common Fisheries Policy only to revert to what is in effect a shadow CFP, including all the access arrangements which would continue to give away our nation’s resource to the EU. Last week, when asked about fisheries, the Prime Minister said,

“When we leave the European Union, we will be leaving the common fisheries policy. As part of the agreement that we need to enter into for the implementation period, obviously that and other issues will be part of that agreement.”.

While this “implementation period” may exist only in Mrs May’s imagination, she should instead have given an unequivocal statement that upon Brexit, we will not only immediately take full control of our Exclusive Economic Zone, but will not be running it on a quota basis.

At least as far as fisheries is concerned, there is hope that ultimately it will be Michael Gove who determines post-Brexit policy. He has shown himself sympathetic to the plight of our fishermen and his mention of John Ashworth in person during a fringe meeting at the Tory Party Conference is a recognition that the fishing community is running a well-organised campaign that not going to take no for an answer.

Another area of concern is the reluctance of this government to disentangle ourselves from the EU’s military machine. Our friends in Veterans for Britain  were understandably critical of the Government’s recent  “future partnership” paper on defence, which would limit our independence. They also do not want to see is tied in to PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) a key factor in the EU’s military ambitions to create a defence union. It appears from an earlier briefing put out by VfB that many MPs are still in the dark about the very limited military autonomy with which government ministers plan to allow us. This is unacceptable. As an independent country, our political objectives will inevitably diverge from those of the EU. We will no longer be interested in its empire building in the Balkans or among the former soviet republics. Our defence policy must be disentangled from that of the EU before we leave. If Mrs May is planning a reshuffle, as is widely being rumoured, the appointment of a genuine Brexiteer to  replace the most unsatisfactory Micharl Fallon as Defence Secretary would be a very good move.

We also need to make a clean break with the EU on criminal justice matters.  Torquil Dick-Erikson has raised the issue of the European Arrest Warrant on this website before. We agree with him that it is totally unacceptable for the Government to keep us as a signatory to the EAW and to be a member of Europol. More than that, Torquil has pointed out that the Government has also declared its willingness to allow “special intervention units” from the EU to set foot on British soil, and under a smokescreen of “ensuring security.”

In these three areas – fishing, defence and criminal justice, Brexit must be as “hard” as possible and the Government’s shortcomings will be highlighted over and over again on this website until there is a change of heart. This is not the Brexit we voted for.  As last year’s Vote.Leave slogan said so graphically, it was all about “taking back control”. If our fishing grounds are shared with the EU, our defence is bound up with that of the EU and EU judges still have the power to haul us off to any one of 27 member countries on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, we are not in control at all.

What is more, these issues must not be swept under the carpet while all the media focus being on trade talks – or rather, the lack of trade talks. Thankfully, as far as trade is concerned, a number of senior figures from industry, supported by a small but growing number of MPs are expressing their concern that the “No deal is better than a bad deal” mantra is unrealistic and dangerous. Leaving the EU without a deal would be a calamity for our economy, even though one recent opinion poll suggested that as many as 74% of voters would prefer this to a supposed “bad deal”. Do they realise that planes would be unable to fly? That the M20 in Kent would be turned into a lorry park overnight?

Of course, it is possible that the Government is engaging in brinkmanship to try to twist the EU’s arm and get it to start trade talks before the three contentious issues of the Irish border, the “divorce bill” and the rights of EU citizens have been agreed, but it is a high-risk strategy and one that looks unlikely to succeed. It is based on a long-standing failure to perceive that the EU is first and foremost a political project, not a trading bloc.

This mistaken perception of the EU’s nature suggests that the transitional arrangement mentioned recently by Mrs May (where we would be able to trade seamlessly with the EU after Brexit in return for being subject to most of the EU’s rules and policed by the European Court of Justice) is mercifully a non-starter.  It is an unsatisfactory pick-and-mix deal which violates the EU’s political integrity while being an extremely bad arrangement for the UK. It remains a mystery why the EEA/EFTA option is still being ruled out of court by all senior government figures when something far worse is being publicly advocated instead.

While no sane person would disagree with the statement by David Davis that Brexit is “the most complex peacetime operation in our history”, it is now nearly 14 months since the referendum vote and we do not yet have any indication that the Government has come up with a strategy which will deliver a satisfactory break with the EU.  Thanks to David Cameron’s ban on allowing the Civil Service to work on any Brexit plan before the  referendum, the Government and Whitehall have found themselves on a sharp learning curve, but some campaigners, such as John Ashworth have been active for 20 years or more and have considerable knowledge their specialist subjects. Why are their recommendations not being adopted? Why, after all this time, is the government still seemingly confused about the difference between the Customs Union and customs clearance agreements? Why has the defence integration continued since the Brexit vote without any consultation with the military, who actually understand the issues?

It does not help when anyone who dares to stick their heads above the parapet and suggest that we are heading for a disaster is labelled a “traitor” – as was the case with Philip Hammond last week. Of course, Mr Hammond supported remain during the referendum and some ardent Brexiteers refuse to believe that anyone who did not campaign for Brexit can possibly be genuinely committed to making it happen, in spite of our own soundings which suggested that most MPs, whatever side they took in the referendum campaign, have accepted the result and will not seek to be obstructive over Brexit. More worryingly, a veteran leave supporter like Christopher Booker, whose pro-Brexit credentials are impeccable, has been tarred with the same brush for expressing concern about the direction of Brexit talks. What is the point in saying things are looking good when there is every evidence that they are not?

There are two very big worries which force concerned Brexiteers like Mr Booker – and indeed, your author – to stick to their guns. The first is that a calamitous Brexit would be grist to the mill of the hard-core remainiacs who have never accepted the result of last year’s referendum. A spike in unemployment and inflation coupled with possible food shortages would lead to calls for us to start negotiations to re-join the EU, even though we would lose our opt-outs on the €uro and Schengen along with the Fontainebleau rebate won for us by Mrs Thatcher. This would be a disaster.

Secondly, it would lead to unprecedented political upheaval. Less than a year ago, some Conservatives were convinced not just that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable but that the Labour Party was in its death throes. Last June’s election was a rude awakening for the Tories, proving their optimism to be very wide of the mark. The mood at the Party conference was apparently very sombre indeed.

There is good reason for this, as today’s young people in particular are far more likely to support Labour than the Tories, suggesting that far from Corbyn being unelectable, he is likely to become Prime Minister in 2022, bringing with him a team of MPs who are in the main, even more reluctant Brexiteers than the Tories. The best way  – indeed, probably the only way – of avoiding this is for the Tories to deliver a successful Brexit. Analysis of voter intentions suggest that the most popular reason why voters opted for the Conservatives last June was a conviction that they would deliver on Brexit. To betray the voters’ trust  would not just hand over the keys of No. 10 Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn in 2022; it would produce the biggest crisis in the Conservative Party since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

As  Anthony Scholefield, a CIB Committee member, pointed out in his 2011 critique of Cameronism, “Too ‘nice’ to be Tories – how the modernisers have damaged the Conservative party“,  attempts by the Tory leadership since 2005 to reach out to urban touchy-feely politically correct types have served rather to alienate many traditional supporters. As I argued a few years ago, there are plenty of people who genuinely want to vote for what Mrs May famously called a “nasty” party. I was wrong in predicting that Cameron wouldn’t win the 2015 election, but he only won it because he was forced to give in to the mounting pressure within his party to hold a referendum on our membership of the EU. It was the EU issue which also saved Mrs May’s bacon two years later. Given that a good few Tory voters (and indeed activists) still remain most uncomfortable about this move to the supposed centre ground since Cameron became leader, I believe that nothing else can save the Conservatives from calamity in 2022 except a smooth, well-managed and complete Brexit that will enable our businesses to keep trading while at the same time revitalising our fishing industry and freeing us from the clutches of the EU’s military and the EAW.

To put it another way, the Tories have a long list of EU-related sins for which they need to repent collectively, going back to the deceit of Edward Heath in the 1970s. This is their one and only opportunity to make atonement. They created the mess; it is poetic justice that they are being saddled with the task of getting us out of it. If they succeed, the country can move on after over 40 years in our unhappy relationship with Brussels and the party need never again “bang on about Europe”.  If they fail, our country may well end up marking the centenary of the resignation in 1922 of David Lloyd George, the last ever Liberal Prime Minister,  with the resignation of the last ever Conservative Premier. It really is as serious as that


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  1. Phil JonesReply

    John, I’ll always rule out EEA or EFTA. The UK might as well forget independence with those. I don’t know about you but I voted for the UK to return to being a self-governing independent country with no more association with the EU than do the US, Brazil, Russia, South Africa or ______ (name of any other independent country recognized by the UN and in full control of its borders and in which EU Directives and diktats have no relevance). Trading arrangement only. The UK in the EEA or EFTA is a total non-starter. I remember Christopher Booker banging on week after week in the Sunday Telegraph about the disaster that the EU was for the UK, citing problem after problem. Of course he also wrote on a book on the ‘EU illness’. Now, after Brexit, he seems to be a different man, trying desperately to keep the UK tied to the EU in some form. I can’t understand his thinking.

    • StevenReply

      I also voted for a total clean break with the EU and for Britain to return to being a, sovereign nation in control of its future destiny which (call me stupid if you want to) I thought being independent meant in practice. I have read about EEA/EFTA membership and whilst I haven’t sweated over every dot and comma of these arrangements it is surely the case that if we were members we wouldn’t be allowed to restrict the movement of capital overseas? Thus, in practice, it would still be like being members of the Common Market which didn’t allow this. If I had been around for the 1975 referendum I would have voted against membership as I don’t believe that British businessmen and women should be allowed by government to export vast quantities of British capital to invest overseas to the detriment of investment at home and yet I’m no socialist. I believe Britain should try a nationalist form of economics such as that which enabled Japan to rise from the ashes of World War 2 to being an economic superpower of today. Rich people like Phil Collins should, of course, be allowed to take their personal fortunes abroad as that is a form of personal freedom.

  2. StevenReply

    In my opinion, the economic union idea of the EU and before it the Common Market is the really fundamental part of it that doesn’t suit Britain’s best longterm economic interests. This underlying part of the EU is what it has always been built around and we wouldn’t have become involved in the political side of it without agreeing to membership of the Common Market first. I only agree with TWO of the ‘four freedoms’ of the EU ie the free movement of goods and services NOT freedom of capital and certainly not freedom of movement for people.

  3. Adam HileyReply

    I know the British public are dim but they are not that dim to vote in Corbyn as always with Labour We only get more debt & mass immigration the Conservatives must remove May, Hammond, Rudd & Greg Clark I am not bothered if Davis Mogg or Johnson replace May a new movement must replace the tired old LibLabConGreenSNPUKIP rabble britishconstitutiongroup.com populistpartyuk.blogspot.co.uk

    • StevenReply

      Sadly, the British people might well be sensible enough to NOT elect Corbyn and company BUT our loony electoral system WILL do so. After all, the ‘wrong’ winner has emerged before due to the system not accurately translating the ACTUAL VOTES of the British people into SEATS in the House of Commons. Often, FPTP DIVORCES real political support for a party from the seats they gain ie in the election earlier this year the Tories INCREASED their votes by quite a significant margin (5.5%) and YET THEY LOST 13 constituencies whilst in 2015 their vote share went-up by a miniscule margin of 0.8% on 2010 but the Tory Party gained 26 SEATS! Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats LOST a further 0.5% share of the national vote this year on their disastrous performance of 2015 yet MADE FOUR NET GAINS in seats!




    • StevenReply

      Jacob Rees-Mogg would be the best one. He appears to be one of the very few Tory MPs who does fully understand what EU membership is all about.

  4. Adam HileyReply

    there must a united effort to keep the awful trio of the IRA worshipping Corbyn McDonell and Diane Abbot from ever entering Government a disasterous calamity awaits us and all the gullible students who voted for that Communist clown the Conservatives are not much better most of it’s spineless MP’s should of stopped May from calling that unwanted General Election May had a working majority before that election the only way now is to get rid of the corrupt & falling Lib-Lab-Con-SNP and elect alternative independent candidates which will end the outrageous whipping system in Parliament where MP’s can be bullied by party leaderships to follow opposition and Government policies We need to immediately withdraw from the EU & ECHR now no money britishconstitutiongroup.com

  5. Ken WorthyReply

    What nonsense. No Deal doesn’t mean no deal on anything at all. Essentially it means no free trade agreement and no Article 50 agreement (and therefore no exit fee). There is no reason at all why issues like flying rights and medicines control can’t be settled separately. Is the EU going to take its ball and go home if we don’t give them everything they want? Is it going to prevent the airlines of any country flying to the UK, out of pique? Will it make German planes fly around the UK to get to the US?
    The EU seems likely to insist on full payment of an exit fee well over E50bn, plus ongoing jurisdiction of the ECJ over us, as a nominally independent country. That’s what a bad deal looks like. Do you honestly think we should accept that?

    • StevenReply

      I can’t speak for others here but I wouldn’t accept such a deal. There is absolutely no point in Britain becoming a vassal state of the EU and accepting a ‘fax democracy’ like Norway ie having no option but to accept EU rules WITHOUT having some form of say in drawing them up. The options are to either remain a full member of the EU with full representation ie MEPs in Strasbourg ect OR to leave the EU and all of its mechanisms. What part of this (AND the referendum question) does the British government not understand? I think all this trouble has actually been caused by successive British governments NOT understanding what the EU is all about ie it being a POLITICAL project above all else supposedly based-upon ‘harmless’ Tory wet dreams like ‘free trade’. The two parts of the project CAN’T be disentangled for the convenience of rather DIM Tory MPs and ministers. Of course, if they had listened to wiser and more intelligent men like Enoch Powell who knew what the so-called ‘Common Market’ would lead to then we wouldn’t be in this mess today. The Tory Party created this situation for the country through their stupidity and supreme naviety NOW they can get us out of it cleanly.

  6. John AshworthReply

    Well, well, well, an excellent article has got some comments. What the ballot stated for the referendum, was to remain or leave the EU – that is all.
    Whatever I say about the EFTA/EEA route you won’t take any notice because those against have taken in the propaganda well and truely.
    Steven – Now I would have voted against in 1975, but I didn’t I voted for, 42 years later circumstances have changed, as you were not around then you don’t know.
    As for having a go at Booker, people like he and I were years ahead of nearly everyone else, when abuse was poured on us in plenty, but when we point out the difficulties and effect of a 44 year old devorce the abuse starts again.
    The way some johnnie come lately are behaving it won’t be long you have handed on a plate to the die-hard remainers, and got the UK back into the EU.
    I might be in another planet then, hopefully I can frown from above, the people wouldn’t listen then, they won’t now, they got what they deserved.

    • Andrew PittReply

      For the record. I voted Labour twice in 1974 to obtain a referendum, and of course voted against our membership in 1975. The EEC was always political, and people such as Enoch Powell, Tony Benn and Peter Shore pointed this out; but most of Britain wasn’t listening. I was around so I know.

      As far as I can see, John Ashworth wants full control for Britain’s fishermen ( I hope he gets it) but when it comes to the rest of us, he wants us to stay enmeshed in the EEA, which in reality is in the EU. I think John Petley has got negative comments because he suggests that there may be food shortages, that the M20 may turn into a lorry park, and that aircraft may be unable to fly. These points are worthy of George Osborne. If those things happen, then the EU will have ceased to be part of the civilised world. The amount of goods that come into the UK (and therefore into the EU) from third countries without any problem at all shows that this is quite unnecessary and would only come about by deliberate intent, virtually an act of war.

      In particular, what we object to regarding the EEA is freedom of movement. That illustrates above all else the loss of independence which comes with the EU. The EU tolerates Liechtenstein using Article 112 to restrict immigration from the EU for the same reason that the UK tolerates unequal residency rules with Jersey. Both are so small that they could be overwhelmed by immigration. Article 112 is a temporary brake to prevent serious societal and economic difficulties. There has to be regular consultation with a view to abolishing any restrictions. Not only is it unacceptable in principle for control of our immigration policy to be subject to judgment by the ECJ, or indeed by any international tribunal, but Article 112 will not stand up to legal scrutiny. That is the reason the Government does not go down that route.

      • StevenReply

        Very wellsaid, Andrew. I have heard about that option exercised by the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein (population roughly 37,000 and 62 miles in area) but surely no one truely believes a large country like Britain would ever be allowed to have this as well as it would set a precedent. Indeed, loss of control over one’s borders is a potent symbol of our loss of sovereignty. Simply put, a nation not in in full control over its immigration policy and borders isn’t a real nation.

  7. Derek ReynoldsReply

    I’m with John Ashcroft on this. But I would also like to know why the EEA/EFTA stepping stone is so deliberately avoided. Is it because it would (if correctly used – and that itself may be a stumbling block seeing as our Ministers are ignoring a constructive plan in Flexcit in favour of a disastrous ‘no plan’) actually work in returning our country as an independent nation, with greater control over fishing, agriculture, industry and law, or is it because those wishing to remain are deliberately shunning it to create a disaster in order to spite the population at large for making the “wrong” choice, leading to a second referendum as is currently being suggested?

    As the government, aided and abetted by the main stream media have actively worked to ensure the population is suitably mis-informed (or not informed) – a continuation of all that Edward Heath & Co. propounded prior to and after we took that plunge into what was sold us as a Common Market place. If you read history, you would know it has always been a political machine, with the intent of deceiving commerce and the people at large into believing it was just an economic move. It was, and has been nothing of the kind – it’s roots are purely political, camouflaged in commerce, and steadily interwoven into a net through directives and regulations which to some extend are necessary for trade to exist at all, but which are also a means of entrapment. As a 28yr old in 1975 I voted out, not through any detailed knowledge of how trade and commerce worked, but from a gut feeling that we had entered into something that we had – as individuals – insufficient information on. No internet, no blogs, no forums. Just the press and the half hour political party slots telling their stories. You had to trust your gut back then, but now we are even more bombarded with a distinct lack of information from government, a surfeit of media ignorance, and a population more confused and appalled at the quantity of bluff and bluster that they have become dismayed on hoping for a successful Brexit save a brave group attempting to drum some sense into generations brought up on sugar and spice, but with a core of Orwell’s 1984. Eat your heart out George – or look on in sheer disbelief.

  8. Petrina HoldsworthReply

    All of us are now prisoners of fate. Every since the Govt declared that it wanted a unique bespoke deal from the EU we have all been “looking through a glass darkly ” at the negotiations or at the pretence of negotiations.
    What we do know is that the EU has shown its hand as a thoroughly unpleasant ,untrustworthy bully which has no intention of dealing honourably with us which has, I believe ,strengthened our resolve to get out no matter what the price is .If we were to fail to escape and return to the fold we would be like lambs to the slaughter.

    • StevenReply

      Indeed. The EU is acting the way it is because they’re afraid that if we leave then some other countries not presently contemplating leaving will go down that route. That and also the fact we are amongst the largest contributers to the budget means they will try anything to keep us within its confines. Despite appearing to be a strong and formidable political and economic union of countries the EU is quite a brittle organisation and they are desperate to avoid the first serious breach of it ie Britain leaving.

  9. Gordon WebsterReply

    Received from Government today, in response to the Petition “Leave The EU Immediately – Saying that the Government will leave, and the ECJ will cease to have any control over Britain. Unfortunately the who response won’t copy and paste.

  10. John AshworthReply

    Let me make one point very clear, I want out of the EU as much as anyone, just coming out of the CFP by iteself is no good at all.
    We presently trade wide the rest of the world as a member state of the EU, as this is a full EU competency. We might be able agree to continue with some bits of the current arrangement a roll-over, but that is not guaranteed and the rest we can’t apply until 30/03/2019.
    I would rather join EFTA, knowing we were out, on 29/03/2019 rather than head into the two year unknown period (Mrs May’s proposed “Transitional deal”) when we are essentially fully back in with no say whatever -. and who knows what might happen after that? we could be heading back in.
    In those two years, while in EFTA, we can sort out the next stages, but the importance as far as I am concerned, is to get out and then we have the ability to make further changes to our arrangements, including forming a northern alliance.
    One annoying situation is Mrs May’s desire for a “deep and special arrangement”. Of course the EU can’t give that, or others will want to come out.

  11. PipReply

    I really thought that May would have the guts to execute a clean Brexit -not now!!
    May Davis versus Barnier its becoming like a multiple pile up of garbage trucks

  12. John AshworthReply

    Adam – I agree. Because of my job i had to learn to survive.
    I don’t underestimate the formidable forces against us.
    To suceed i believe in two objectives. a) get out b) from day one make a succes of Brexit.
    If we don’t I think those forces will overwhelm us and one way or another get us back in the EU with no opt-outs.
    The ETFA/EEA route is not perfect, but because of the time lost so far, i see no alternative, and we can turn that route to our advantage, but firstly we must get out.

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