How UK officials are trying to shackle us to EU military structures – despite Brexit

Brexit must mean military independence, or it will be no real Brexit at all. But with the focus on trade issues, the public and even MPs have been blindsided by UK officials’ attempts to shackle us to the EU’s military structures post-Brexit, writes former CIB Operations Manager John Petley.

Supporters of Brexit have disagreed with each other – sometimes quite vehemently – when it comes to trade issues. Which model shall we go for? WTO? Canada? Norway? Take your pick, but you’ll find someone equally committed to Brexit who will tell you that you’re wrong.

The focus of the Brexit debate has been trade, and no one would deny that our future trading arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world are an important consideration when it comes to life after 29 March 2019.

There are, however, other important issues related to Brexit which have received much less coverage. Our relation to the EU’s military structures is one of the most critical. On this subject, Brexiteers ought to be united – our Brexit should be a very, very hard one indeed.

As a member of the EU, the UK has rightly been highly sceptical about EU plans for closer military integration – at least, that is, until after the 2016 referendum.

You would have thought that, following the Brexit vote, the EU would have done two things. Firstly, stepped up its plans for closer military integration now the that member most likely to drag its heels is leaving. And secondly, frozen the UK of the discussion.

What has actually happened is rather different. The EU has indeed pushed ahead with closer military integration. But not only was the UK included in the discussion, but UK officials have been happy to sign us up to closer military cooperation with the EU. This has been done without most MPs even being aware of what was going on.

They are not alone. MPs from other member states have been equally shocked on discovering what their representatives have signed up to.

WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT HAS SIGNED US UP TO

So, what have we signed up to? We did not sign up to PESCO, the EU’s PErmanent Structured COoperation (note the word ‘permanent’). But we did sign up to five separate EU Council agreements between 14 November 2016 and 22 June 2017, relating to Federica Mogherini’s Security and Defence Implementation Plan and Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Defence Action Plan.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty makes our signatures to the current arrangements null and void on 29 March 2019. But both the EU and its supporters in the UK are keen for us to sign a new treaty which includes a commitment to involvement in the EU’s military ambitions. This must be avoided at all costs, or else our military independence will be compromised.

The EU will increasingly make decisions about defence, and the process of gradual integration into the EU military machine will affect a number of areas – ownership of assets, defence procurement, intelligence, asset development, budgeting and research, to name but a few.

BUT WHAT ABOUT BREXIT?

So why did we sign up to anything after June 2016, considering we are going to leave?

It appears that some civil servants were not only happy to sign on the dotted line, but actually want to keep us tethered to the EU after Brexit.

What about government ministers? They, including Prime Minister Theresa May, clearly have some very serious questions to answer.

When it became known that the UK had signed up to a number of structures within the EU Defence Union, the explanation given was that it was only a formality. We were leaving anyway, and so it was best not to show dissent. Once we left, anything to which we had signed up would cease to apply anyway.

This, however, is being economical with the truth. Let us be in no doubt. Senior figures in both Whitehall and Westminster wish to see us shackled militarily to the EU after 29 March 2019.

It is not too late to achieve the clean break which is an essential part of a genuine Brexit – indeed, it is vital that we do so. Cooperation with EU member states under the auspices of NATO is, by and large, very desirable. However, independence from the EU’s Defence Union is another matter altogether. Why should we be involved with the EU’s empire building?

The EU has claimed that if the UK pulls away from the EU’s defence programme, we would be isolated militarily. This is utter nonsense. Not only are we members of NATO but, free from the EU, we could conduct cooperative defence research and development projects with any partners we chose.

What is more, we still have an excellent military – although parts of it are seriously underfunded – and we are of course a nuclear power. The idea that by withdrawing from the EU’s defence programme we would be left weak and vulnerable is laughable.

FIGHTING FOR OUR MILITARY SOVEREIGNTY

Thankfully, these dangers are being highlighted by Veterans for Britain, a grassroots organisation set up to highlight the risks to the UK militarily if Brexit is compromised. Thanks to their campaigning, MPs are being made aware of the concerns expressed in this article. Many, sadly, are still unaware, particularly of the agreements signed since the Brexit vote and their implications for our future military independence.

We are heading for a turbulent period as Mrs May’s Chequers proposal comes under attack from her own MPs. We are thus still a long way from any final sign-off agreement, and there is everything to play for. But with trade issues still dominating the press coverage of Brexit, it is vital that these other areas are not swept under the carpet.

Brexit must mean military independence, or it will be no real Brexit at all.

…………………………

Comment from CIB: John Petley’s informed expose is yet another illustration of why our long fight for UK sovereignty is far from over, even assuming a satisfactory Brexit in March 2019 (something which itself looks in great doubt). It is not only EU membership itself that poses a threat to our sovereignty, but our own Europhile politicians’ and officials’ willingness to surrender our independence by stealth to the European project in the guise of ‘co-operation’ and ‘partnerships’. This is precisely why CIB has no plans to wind down post-Brexit. We have been fighting for UK sovereignty since 1969, and we will continue to do so as long as threats like those highlighted in this article remain.

Photo credit: European External Action Service

Mr Davis’ Brexit bridge to nowhere

Some of us will no doubt remember learning the song Sur le pont d’Avignon in our French classes at school. If you are careful, the bridge in question, the Pont St. Bénézet, may be a possible venue for dancing, as the song suggests, but it no longer fills its original function of providing a crossing of the River Rhône as only four of the original 22 arches, which date from approximately 1345AD, are still extant. When the river flooded, the arches tended to collapse and by the 17th century, the authorities gave up their attempts to repair the damaged masonry, leaving its four surviving arches as a bridge to nowhere.

David Davis is now engaged in a hard sell, trying to convince MPs and the general public that his proposed transitional deal is a stepping stone to full severance from the EU. He called it a  “bridge to the future.” If this deal is agreed by our parliament and the EU, nothing could be a less accurate description. Like the Pont St Bénézet in Avignon, it is a bridge to nowhere.

Those Tory MPs making a statement on these lines (and there have been some recently who have use somewhat different terminology to say the same thing) have been denounced as “swivel-eyed” by Claire Perry, the energy minister. The uncomfortable reality is that from what we know of the terms of this deal, it is nothing less than an unmitigated disaster.

We can start with the words of the Brexit secretary himself. Here is his speech. He talks about “strictly time limited implementation period,” yet not only did Mr Davis not specifically mention 21 months but already, rumours are circulating that it may be extended to last for three years.

And during this period, for all Mr Davis’ evasive language and hard-selling, yes, Jacob Rees-Mogg is correct, we would be a vassal state of the EU with no representation yet forced to accept all its laws. Our friends in Fishing for Leave have analysed both Davis’ speech and the EU’s terms for the implementation (aka transitional) period. You can read the analysis of the speech here and a summary of the Commission’s recommendations to the EU council about the terms and conditions for the transitional arrangements here.

The European Council has now (today 29th January) published an annex to its guidelines of 29th April 2017 which covers the transition period. You can read the document here and an analysis of it here. “Vassal State” sums it up well. In case anyone is in any doubt, Clause 13 insists that during the transition period, “The Union acquis should apply to and in the United Kingdom as if it were a Member State. Any changes to the Union acquis should automatically apply to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period.” We’ve got to accept the whole caboodle and we don’t have any say in what may come our way. Davis assured the Select Committee that it takes a long time for new EU laws to pass through the system so it was unlikely that anything which was still only in the pipeline on Brexit Day would actually get through onto our statute books at the end of the transitional period. This is wishful thinking, The Common Fisheries Policy was rushed through in three months in order to be in force when the UK joined in 1973.

The Council document also denies us the right to sign any trade deals during the transition period without the EU’s permission. Clause 16 states:- “During the transition period, the United Kingdom may not become bound by international agreements entered into in its own capacity in the fields of competence of Union law, unless authorised to do so by the Union

The Council document interestingly did not repeat the Commission’s refusal for us to piggyback on any deals which it has signed with third countries. Clause 14 of the Commission document was  unequivocal: “It is also recalled that as from the date of its withdrawal from the Union the United Kingdom will no longer benefit from the agreements concluded by the Union, or by Member States acting on its behalf, or by the Union and its Member States acting jointly.” In other words, we would have to agree not to ask the countries in question if they still wished to keep the same trading arrangements with the UK. We would essentially be under “WTO rules” with the rest of the world. Is its absence a “concession?”

Whatever, we would be stuck in the EU’s customs Union. As we have mentioned countless times before, if we are in the Single Market, there is NO NEED to be in the Customs Union. The two are NOT joined at the hip. “Davis, come here, you bad boy. Your punishment is 100 lines; write out the following until the message sinks in:- we do not need to be in the EU’s customs union after Brexit. “

Add to this an insistence that the ECJ will have an ongoing role in the UK’s affairs (Clause 10 of the Council document) and a continuation of free movement of people (Clause 16). The Council document only briefly mentions the EU budget (Clause 17) but the Commission’s insistence on a payment into the EU’s coffers which is little different from our current payments as a member state appears to be implied.

Naturally, during this transition period, we will be subject to the Common Fisheries Policy (see Clause 21 of the Council Document) which is a disaster. Indeed, if it is extended beyond the current 21-month period, there will be very little left of our fishing industry, which would be catastrophic given that Fishing for Leave’s proposals would have turned the UK into a world leader in fisheries management and would have revived our coastal communities.

What is more, any concessions made to the EU in any transitional deal cannot easily be revoked when it is replaced by a long-term arrangement. Because this “transition” is part of a new treaty AFTER Article 50 terminates the current relationship, and because we will have agreed to replicate and adopt all EU laws, we will create a “continuity of rights” under Article 30 and Article 70 of the Vienna Convention. As this new transition treaty will not terminate with a clinical Article 50 clause where “the treaties (& obligations) cease to apply”, the EU will have grounds to argue that because we undid Article 50 and re-adopted the entire Acquis with no clear exit clause that their rights and obligations established under the transition treaty should continue past 21 months.

The EU may be eventually proved wrong to argue so, but protracted litigation on what is a grey area of international treaty law could tie this country in knots and quickly erode the minuscule resistance within the British establishment to concede to any EU demands.

To say therefore that this transitional arrangement is unacceptable, even if by some miracle a new deal could be signed in 21 months with no continuity, is hardly the language of “swivel-eyed loons.” It is merely stating what over 17 million people voted for in June 2016 – in other words, we must leave the European Union. Adopting the transitional terms on the basis of the Commission and Council documents would be like having a dance on Pont St Bénézet in Avignon – once the fun is over, your only choice is to walk off the bridge at exactly the same place where you walked on. In other words, we would not be out of the EU in any meaningful sense of the term – not in 2019, not in 2021, maybe not ever. It is a complete surrender – the worst of all worlds. The sooner the likes of Claire Perry, David Davis and indeed Theresa May realise this, the better.  If they don’t, their party will face the wrath of voters all too soon and could find itself in the middle of its worst crisis since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Thankfully one MP has realised this. His colleagues need to  wake up quickly. It really is that serious.

 

Photo by Dano

Macron and Marr muddy the waters as Brexiteers speak out against the ECJ

The headlines in Open Europe’s daily e-mail sounded very promising:-  “UK could have a bespoke arrangement between full single market access and a free trade deal, says Emmanuel Macron.” Isn’t that what everyone has wanted? Could it even be “having cake and eating it”?

Not if one reads the small print. Macron’s comments were made during an interview for the Andrew Marr Show. Nicola Shawson of the Guardian listened to the full interview and pointed out that Macron insisted that there would be no cherry-picking:-

Pressed on whether there would be a bespoke special solution for the UK, Macron said: “Sure, but … this special way should be consistent with the preservation of the single market and our collective interests… and you should understand that you cannot, by definition, have the full access to the single market if you don’t tick the box.”

So nothing new here. We will get a deal giving us some degree of access to the single market, but not full access. It will be worse than the access we enjoy as a full member. Fine. We already knew that.

Another person who listened to Macron’s interview with Andreew Marr was Richard North, who pointed out that Macron contradicted himself:-

By definition, he said, the relationship will be “less deep than today”. The deepest possible relationship is being a member of the European Union. But he then adds: “As you decided to leave you cannot be part of the single market”.

Now this is confusing because he goes on to say that “you can have some deeper relations and some others”. For instance, he says, “we have a deeper relation with Norway than the – the one we have with Canada”. So it depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiation but, unless you change your mind, you will not be part of the single market because you will not be part of the European Union.

Addressed to someone like Andrew Marr, who already has a slender grasp of the basics – to say nothing of the body politic in general – this sort of confusion, where he elides membership of the EU and the Single Market, can be fatal.

Certainly, the French President seems to contradict what he was saying last week in the aftermath of the Anglo-French summit at Sandhurst.

It’s therefore not only our side which is getting into a muddle over Brexit.

Macron and Marr were discussing a longer-term EU-UK relationship, Turning to the transitional arrangements, it is encouraging to note that opposition is mounting among Conservative MPs to any role for the ECJ and to free movement of people after 29th March 2019 – Brexit day.  Jacob Rees-Mogg didn’t mince his words about free movement nor the cost of the Brexit settlement, while ex-ministers Iain Duncan-Smith, John Redwood, Owen Paterson and Lord Lawson also made clear their opposition to any involvement of the ECJ once we are formally out of the EU.

Of course, it is one thing to point out the bad features of a proposed deal and quite another to come up with a suitable alternative, particularly one which will satisfy the business community, which is desperate for some guidelines in time to plan for life outside the EU. Some compromises will have to be made as it is impossible to find even a short-term deal which will tick everyone’s boxes. A total surrender to the EU, however, turning us into a colony of Brussels for 21 months, is definitely not the answer and it is good that voices in Parliament are beginning to be raised which will hopefully force a re-think – and soon.

 

PS: Since this article was published, a further article which provides an indication of the scale of opposition to free movement of people and any role for the ECJ after Brexit has appeared in the Independent. Mrs May is going ot have a very tough time trying to get an agreement for the transitional deal as it stands, although a leadership challenge, as suggested by the author of the article, does look very unlikely.

Photo by LeWeb14

One step nearer….

It’s good to have some good news on the Brexit front after hearing of the hardening of the EU’s stance on the proposed transitional arrangement and the recent but unnecessary talk of a second referendum. Last night, something positive happened which takes us one small step nearer to leaving the EU – the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons and will now go to the Lords.

Recently, the focus of Brexit has been on our future relationship with the EU once we leave. There is another equally important aspect of leaving the EU  – ensuring that we have sufficient laws in place to enable the country to run smoothly on Brexit day. Essentially, all laws passed by the EU which have then been included on our statute books derive their authority from the EU treaties, but these will cease to apply once we leave the EU and repeal the 1972 Accession treaty, so the resultant legislation also becomes null and void.

In order to avoid a legal vacuum, with no regulation at all covering areas of day to day life, laws originating with the EU must be “repatriated” so that they derive their authority from our Westminster Parliament instead and this is what the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill provides a framework for. They will not necessarily be transposed verbatim. Last year, we highlighted the problems with so doing using one particularly obnoxious law – the Fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 – as an example.

The debate over the Bill has centred on the scale of the task in ensuring all this legislation works for an independent UK. Labour has been concerned that the Government may try to twist the necessary re-wording of some directive and regulations for its own political advantage, bypassing Parliament in the process – commonly referred to by the media as the “Henry VIII powers”. However, all the proposed amendments were defeated (See here)

What is more, not a single Conservative MP voted against the bill. Even Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry trooped into the “Aye” lobby! Four Labour MPs – Kate Hoey, John Mann, Graham Stringer and Frank Field (along with the suspended Kelvin Hopkins), rebelled against the party whip to support the government which ended up with a majority of 29. They deserve our thanks. A further eight Labour MPs did not vote either way. A full list of how MPs voted can be found here.

For the benefit of anyone not familiar with Parliamentary procedure, bills normally pass through three reading before coming law. The final reding has now been completed. The predominantly Europhile House of Lords may try their hands with further amendments, but some of their number have thankfully acknowledged that it is not appropriate for an unelected body to try to mess up the democratic will of the people. There may, perhaps, be a bit of further Parliamentary ping-pong with any Lords’ amendment, but  essentially, we are one step nearer leaving the EU as very little now stands in the way of one vital piece of the Brexit jigsaw finally being put in its place.

Awaiting the storm (or explosion!)

It cannot be much longer before the penny finally drops regarding the terms being proposed by the EU for the UK’s 21-month “transitional arrangement.”

Businessmen like John Mills and John Longworth, both of whom met Michel Barnier in Brussels last week, are distinctly unimpressed with what we are likely to be offered, but it is surprising that there haven’t already been even louder cries of outrage from the Conservative back benches. Last November, at a meeting organised by Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman, Rt Hon David Jones MP was quite unequivocal that any further involvement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the legal affairs of the UK after Brexit would be an “absolute red line” for himself and a number of his colleagues, who would rather leave with no deal.

As more details emerge, it is becoming clear that it’s not just a role for the ECJ in our affairs which the EU wishes to incorporate into the transitional deal. According to an article in The Times, the EU will insist on the free movement of people throughout the period and the inclusion of people moving to the UK before 31st December 2020 in any post-Brexit agreement on citizens’ rights.. This again is a slap in the face for leave voters. It’s not just that many of us voted leave because we want to see a drastic cut in immigration; more to the point, we voted leave because we wanted our institutions to be sovereign – and this means that the EU must have no say in determining who can or cannot come into the UK or how long they can stay.

This tougher stance is contained in a new document dated 15th January. It is not the final word on the EU’s position, which will not be published until the end of the month, but it certainly gives us an idea of the general direction of travel. The guidelines produced last year by the European Parliament, although essentially a consultative document, were bad enough. We would be, in effect, a colony of the EU, unable to sign any trade agreements with other countries and still subject to the Common Fisheries and Common Agricultural policies. This document was bad enough, but according to Bloomberg, the latest document also states that we would need to seek the EU’s permission even to start negotiations on trade deals with third parties. We would be unable to strike out on our own path. The net “divorce bill” may also be increased.

Perhaps ironically, the Council President Donald Tusk told the European Parliament that “our hearts are still open “that the UK might “have a change of heart” and stay within the EU. This suggests a warmth towards us which just is not reflected in the negotiating guidelines which seem designed to squeeze and humiliate us as much as possible. Chancellor Philip Hammond claimed recently that the EU is “paranoid” that other countries will follow us out of the door. It has also been claimed that the EU is pressurising Switzerland not to make a bilateral deal with the UK The EU’s tough stance may well all be technically justifiable from the treaties, but it clearly wishes to interpret them in the toughest way possible as far as Brexit is concerned. No one with any sense of self-respect should give in to this bullying.

The transitional deal must therefore be kicked into the long grass as soon as possible, especially as there is no guarantee that a new trade deal will be ready to replace it after 21 months. The EU’s ambassadors have signalled a willingness for the transitional period to be extended, but this would only prolong an unsatisfactory situation which is not Brexit in any real sense of the term.

A further complication is looming on the horizon. The Norwegians have indicated that they would seek to renegotiate their trading arrangements with the EU if we were given favourable access to the EU’s single market  while not being a member of it.  This, of course, refers to any long-term deal and therefore is not an issue for Mrs May at the moment as the EU has insisted that negotiations on a long-term trading arrangement cannot start yet.  Let’s face it, she has enough on her plate as her team prepares to negotiate the transitional arrangements. We must hope that there is already a storm brewing up on the Conservative back benches which will rapidly knock these unacceptable proposals on the head and force the government to take a different approach.

If not, the storm is likely to strike with far greater ferocity  in four years’ time. A botched Brexit where we leave in name only is not what we voted for and not what Mrs May promised us when she became leader.   Brexit must mean Brexit or our Prime Minister will not only find herself consigned to a “rogues gallery”, excoriated by posterity alongside the likes of Lord North, Neville Chamberlain, Heath, Blair and Brown, but she may well take her party down with her.

Tony Blair must be silenced

Do you know anyone who doesn’t hate Tony Blair? The most I can say in his favour is that I know a couple of people who loathe certain other politicians even more than they loathe him. Most people wish he would just shut up and retire to obscurity but unfortunately, being an ex-Prime Minister, the media is still more than willing to listen to what he says – and as far as Brexit is concerned, he has been rather verbose recently.

His latest outburst shows that he remains stubbornly opposed to the government carrying out the democratic will of the people.  He doesn’t want us to leave the EU. Even though much of the article focuses on the problems of a future trade relationship, his  support for the EU goes beyond trade issues. “Membership of the European Union is right as a matter of principle, for profound political as well as economic reasons.” he asserts. He goes on to say “We are making an error the contemporary world cannot understand and the generations of the future will not forgive….Brexit isn’t and never was the answer.”

Naturally, we would disagree, but if Blair and his ilk are to be silenced once and for all, two things are necessary. Firstly,  his arguments in favour of the general principle of EU membership have to be refuted, but secondly, the government must address the current weaknesses in its Brexit strategy.

The first of Blair’s points, namely that EU membership is a good thing politically as well as economically, is so fatally flawed  that no fair-minded well informed person could possibly agree.  Thanks to our EU membership, we have found ourselves unnecessarily mixed up in the EU’s empire building – for example, in the Ukraine, a part of the world where we have little strategic interest. We have found our excellent Common Law legal system compromised by our membership of  Europol or the European Arrest Warrant. Furthermore, the direction of travel in the EU is towards closer integration, which means in effect power will be taken still further away from the people and their elected representatives,  given instead to a largely unelected and increasingly unaccountable clique of bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels.

In 2012, Angela Merkel told David Cameron, “Your vision of the EU is so cold, David.’ The point she was making is that for most of us, including our former Prime Minister, the EU was about trade. We have always been sceptical about grandiose political projects.  and thus have always felt on the outside of the EU, most of whose member states do not share our scepticism. Only a few senior British politicians have ever embraced the EU’s federalism wholeheartedly. One of these few, however, was Blair’s mentor Roy Jenkins, the only Briton ever to lead the European Commission. As Prime Minister, Blair never felt himself in a position to display his federalist sympathies quite so openly as Jenkins but now Brexit looks like extinguishing the dying embers of his megalomaniac ambitions of becoming Emperor Tony the First, he clearly feels he has nothing to lose.

For those of us living in the real world, however, it is blindingly obvious that our political system needs to be reformed so that we digress further from the EU. In other words, power should be brought closer to the people – taking non-EU Switzerland as our model, which has one of the most accountable systems of government in the world. Indeed, we should seek to become the leader of Free Europe, as we were between 1940 and 1945, showing that there is a better way for countries to organise themselves than to emasculate their national democracies in favour of a remote, unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels. We can do far more good and wield far more influence internationally this way than by remaining in the EU. The future generations, far from being unwilling to forgive us for Brexit, will be delighted that by leaving the EU, we made not only our country, but other lands too, a better place. Blair’s argument that Brexit was an unfortunate mistake will, unless the Government messes up badly, prove to be about as accurate as his conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed a vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, our opportunities to help the government address the weaknesses of its Brexit strategy (and thus avoid making a mess of Brexit) are more limited, but we must do what we can. Blair outlines four possible outcomes:- staying what he calls a “reformed Europe”, leaving the EU but staying within the Single Market and Customs Union, leaving the EU but negotiating a bespoke Free trade agreement which “keeps us  close to Europe politically” or leaving the EU and “negotiating a basic Free Trade Agreement and market ourselves as ‘Not Europe’”.

As far as the first option is concerned,  the Conservative Party has spent much of the last 30 years trying to “reform” the European Union. last year’s “State of the Union” speech by Jean-Claude Juncker and the strongly pro-federalist speech by Martin Schulz a couple of months later  shows how deeply federalism which, above all, led to the Brexit vote, is still embedded into the EU’s DNA. Perhaps Blair has forgotten that for all his talk of our “staying in the EU, using the Brexit vote as leverage to achieve reform” that David Cameron did come back from Brussels with some degree of reform nearly two years ago.  He secured a sort-of exemption from ever closer union and a very weak concession that the EU might allow a limited “emergency brake” on immigration. The majority of the electorate wasn’t impressed and voted to leave. 18 months on, there has been no indication of any widespread change of heart.

The way Blair frames the second option, he is either being devious or just plain stupid. Like a number of other remainers, he portrays the single market and the customs union as somehow joined at the hip. They are not. Staying in the EEA as a transitional arrangement would be a vast improvement on the transitional deal currently being discussed, which would leave us as a colony of the EU with no power. The Customs Union, on the other hand, was never even discussed during the referendum debate. Apart from micro-states like San Marino, Turkey is the only non-EU country to be part of the Customs Union. The Turks do not like this deal and given that we would not be able to secure an independent trade policy, it wold not be popular here either. It is an irrelevancy and the sooner it falls out of any discussion of our future, the better.

Blair’s third and fourth options are more about politics than trade. Both assume we end up with a bespoke deal with the EU. Do we want to stay politically close to the EU or deliberately launch out on a different path? In reality, rather than a binary choice, the question should be phrased more on the lines of whereabouts on the scale of political closeness or political divergence do we wish to position ourselves? The answer is probably far closer to the “divergence” end of the spectrum than Blair would wish, as has been noted above.

Unfortunately, the muddle which the Government has found itself in may result in our ending up stuck in limbo between options 1 and 2 – a transitional deal which sees us effectively locked into the EU for a further 21 months and which gives us access to the Single Market but on far worse terms than Norway or Iceland. It is staggering that there has so far been so little critical analysis of the proposed transitional deal, as it is a very bad arrangement indeed. Somehow, the EU’s harsh guidelines have been completely ignored by many politicians and indeed, much of the media. As mentioned above, we would essentially end up as a colony of the EU, forced to accept the full acquis but with no say in the framing or implementation of these laws.  In such circumstances, it would be all too easy to end up saying “What was the point of the Brexit vote?”

To throw in the towel is exactly what Blair and co would love us to do. No one can deny that the last 18 months have been exasperating and there is still little light at the end of the tunnel as far as a sensible exit strategy is concerned. If you are a leave voter who has become utterly fed up with the whole subject of Brexit, take heart; you are not alone! Perhaps, however, we should think back to that momentous day in June 2016. Our elation at the time should act as a reminder that we must not give up, no matter how frustrated we feel at the moment. To allow the likes of Blair to win by default, especially given the weaknesses of his arguments, would be the ultimate tragedy for our countrymen and a betrayal of all  that we have fought for over the last four decades. Blair can only finally be silenced by persevering to the end, continuing to make the case for Brexit, seeking to influence the debate on how best to achieve the best deal – and persevere we must and shall.