I have become increasingly annoyed over the last year by those people who decry the desirability of leaving the EU on WTO terms – commonly referred to as 'no deal'. As I have pointed out on a number of occasions (Swift, 2018a, 2018b, 2019a, 2019b, 2019c), an exit without an agreement would give us numerous advantages when dealing with the EU, in particular the next stage of Brexit – the two year period during which the EU will seek to ritually humiliate us over the thankless process of trying to negotiate new terms of trade. The folly of taking 'no deal' off the negotiating table is already becoming apparent: the EU has (quite rightly) seen such a move as one of surrender, whilst vast swathes of the population have lost faith in the traditional politicians, and as the recent euro-elections showed, have swung behind Nigel Farage's Brexit party. Farage, as always, has been clear in what he stands for: to leave the EU, with or without a deal, on 31st October. It is this clarity of position that endears him and his party to thousands of voters – especially to those such as myself, who feel betrayed by the leadership of the Conservative Party.
Jeremy Hunt is the latest in a long line of politicians who are now attempting to lecture us on the inadvisability of any future Conservative PM pursuing a 'no deal' strategy. Sorry Jeremy, you have totally mis-read the mood of the nation, and whilst your comments will undoubtedly be music to the ears of the Brussels bully-boys, the 'remoaners', and the Brussels Fifth Column, all they achieve is to give succour to the enemy. The issue is so simple that even certain politicians should be able to understand it; if we retain the right to walk away without a deal, then Brussels has to tread carefully, as under such circumstances they would lose far more than we would. In addition to suffering in any subsequent trade disputes, they would increase the risk of other 'Exit-leaning' parties throughout Europe clamouring for national referenda on membership. The threat of 'no deal' (but continuing to trade under WTO terms) will focus the minds of the EU negotiators and their national governments. If, on the other hand, we throw away this advantage by saying that 'no deal' is not an option, then Brussels knows that it has won, and can insist on the most punitive of terms, safe in the knowledge that we will be forced into accepting them at some stage – after all, there is no alternative.
I would also question why there has been so much soul-searching amongst MPs with regard to the terms on which we leave, or even whether we should ever leave! It is not in their gift to leave or remain – this decision has already been made, and despite hand-wringing and hair-tearing by various Westminster windbags, they they have been elected to carry out the wishes of the voting public – something they would do well to remember when it comes to the next election.
So what are we faced with, and what are the options that the next Conservative PM can look forward to? Mrs May's deal has thankfully been consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs, and so this reduces the options by one. Another non-starter should be the Liberal Democrats (LD) proposal to stop Brexit altogether, revoke Article 50, and return to full EU membership. I find it outrageous, mendacious, and hypocritical that a Party with the word 'democrat' (one who respects democracy) in its title should seek to ignore the results of a decision that was arrived at democratically. The fact that the LDs don't like the outcome of the referendum is irrelevant: that is democracy, and the sooner they understand the true meaning of the word the better.
Another dangerous suggestion is that of remaining in the EU, whilst appearing to leave – ie. retaining many of the elements that currently bind us to the EU, whilst maintaining the charade that we have left. This is the option that is talked about by many Labour MPs – it includes such bizarre suggestions as retaining membership of the single market and tariff free zone – which would prevent us negotiating trade deals with other countries, and this was a major reason why many voted to leave in the first place. This is patently not acceptable. This brings me back to Jeremy Hunt, and people who talk about 'securing a deal' on which to leave and suggesting that a 'no deal' is undesirable. Firstly, let me say that I agree in principle with the desirability of reaching a deal, but as always the devil is in the detail. In this case the detail relates to the precise terms on which we can negotiate a deal with the EU. To my mind these terms are very straightforward: we wish to regain control of our borders, our judiciary, Armed Forces, and fishing grounds, whilst allowing us to develop trading relations outside the EU. This is the basis on which I voted 'leave' nearly three years ago. Anything less would be a betrayal of Brexit, and is therefore unacceptable.
We are constantly told by many MPs and other commentators (many of whom have vested interests in remaining), that a deal must be secured before we move onto stage two of the leaving process. Yet these same people appear incapable of outlining their proposed terms for a deal – presumably as they realise that options other than a 'no deal' exit amounts to staying put – confirming their contempt for the outcome of the referendum. Although such people are quick to suggest that 'no deal' is unacceptable, I have yet to hear their proposals as to what is acceptable? The 'remoaners' are constantly complaining that people voted for Brexit without really knowing what they were voting for; it seems now that of those clamouring for us to come to a deal before we leave, not one has had the intelligence, knowledge, or courage to say what they actually do want. I cannot remember having heard the likes of Hunt explain what he would like; he and others talk about 'deals' – fine, what would they put as the UK's red lines? What is an acceptable deal with Brussels as far as they are concerned? And remember, any deal must deliver the outcome of the 2016 referendum. Not so easy, is it? I therefore challenge Hunt (and all those with similar views), to lay out the terms on which they would be prepared to vote for a deal.
The success of the Brexit Party has given us another weapon in the fight against the EU: Brussels now has until 23rd June to come to an acceptable agreement with the new UK Prime Minister. If they have not done so by this date, the UK Brexit MEPs and similar-minded MEPs from other countries will take up their seats in Strasbourg – and the process of destroying the EU from within can begin. Basically Brussels is faced with a choice: let us go on our terms before the 23rd, or face chaos and disruption on a scale previously unimaginable. Over to you.
Swift, J.S. (2018a) "Go Now: Leave the EU Immediately and Without a Deal." The Bruges Group (Blog: 20th June); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/go-now-call-brussels-bluff-leave-the-eu-immediately-and-without-a-deal
Swift, J.S. (2018b) "Do You Expect us to Negotiate?" The Bruges Group (Blog: 25th September); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/do-you-expect-us-to-negotiate
Swift, J.S. (2019a) "No Deal – an Opportunity not a Problem." The Bruges Group (Blog: 12th February); https: //www.brugesgroup.com./blog/no-deal-an-opportunity-not-a-problem
Swift, J.S. (2019b) "'No deal' is our only remaining negotiating weapon; don't decommission it." The Bruges Group (Blog: 19th March); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/no-deal-is-our-only-remaining-negotiating-weapon-don-t-decommission-it
Swift, J.S. (2019c) "The Long and Winding Road just got a bit longer." The Bruges Group (Blog: 2nd April); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/the-long-and-winding-road-just-got-a-bit-longer