"Smile and grin at the change all around. Pick up my guitar and play….just like yesterday. Then I'll get on my knees and pray… we won't get fooled again"
The Who (1971) "We Won't Get Fooled Again", from "Who's Next?"
On 10th November I had the good fortune to attend the 'Brexit or Bust' Bruges Group Conference in London. There were some very good presentations, and (entirely justified) criticism of Theresa May.I heard her described as a 'traitor' as a consequence of her Chequers proposal. Since then, things have moved on at a swift pace, with multiple resignations - including Esther McVey, Shailesh Vara, Suella Braveman, and most importantly, Dominic Raab the Brexit Secretary. To these we should perhaps also add Jo Johnson Minister for Transport who resigned on 9th November, his brother Boris (Foreign Secretary), who along with David Davis (the first Brexit Secretary), both resigned in July of this year – in protest over the lack of 'exit' in the brexit process!
We are now faced with the proposal document, which, if accepted by MPs when it goes before Parliament, would be possibly the worst solution possible to the whole Brexit issue. Even as an ardent supporter of leaving the EU, I must admit that had I been shown this proposal before the referendum and told that it were the only basis on which our escape from Stalagluft Brussels could be achieved, I would probably have voted 'remain' and dug a tunnel in another direction! Basically, it leaves us tied to the EU through various 'rulebooks' (adjudicated by the EU courts), unable to forge our own trade links as we would still be part of the Customs Union, and still obliged to accept free movement of EU citizens, for the duration of the 'transition period' at least. Robert Oulds (2018) summarise the proposal, pointing out that, particularly with regard to Northern Ireland:
"…provisions that originally looked palatable for a transition must now be regarded as permanent since the transition no longer has a fixed end date - making them much less acceptable. The EU has structured the Northern Ireland arrangements so that the transition either:
a) continues indefinitely (the most likely scenario),
b) ends (presumably after extension) but without a comprehensive trade deal, thus bringing the Northern Ireland Protocol automatically into force and dividing the UK, or
c) is replaced by a different deal which (pursuant to Art2 of the Protocol) somehow achieves the same ends of avoiding a "hard" border (as determined by ECJ/arbitration)."
May's latest proposal is the total opposite of what we voted 'leave' for, and as such, appears to have been well–received in Brussels: it allows the EU to bind us to them for an unspecified period, during which time a number of other considerations would emerge, bringing us still further under EU control, rather than freeing us. It would take us into a new round of EU finances, to which would doubtless be expected to make a significant contribution, thus increasing the reparations bill yet further! Yet during the same period for which we would be expected to pay, we would have no voting rights or opportunity to influence any budget decisions or policies.
Perhaps of greater importance, we would remain under the jurisdiction of EU courts, and subject to EU legislation in the area of common agricultural and fisheries policies. We would be unable to control our borders, which would remain open to unrestricted migration by EU passport-holders (a major reason behind the vote to leave two years ago), and would become enmeshed still further in those rapidly-expanding areas that are designed ultimately to subsume us within the 'Grand Project' – the formation of a United States of Europe.
Foremost amongst these ventures is the European Action Service - the EU's parallel Diplomatic Service which is envisioned to take over once all states get rid of their own Embassies. In addition, we would be one year (at least) further into the bureaucratic nightmare of a European Defence Force, and closer to the adoption of the Euro. Whilst critics might scoff that all this is unlikely, I would ask them to look at the proposals by Juncker: in September 2017 in his "State of the Union" (a telling heading if ever there was one) he called on all EU states to join the euro, and suggested that the post of European Finance minister be created. He also suggested widening the Schengen passport-free travel area, and claimed that by 2025 the EU would have "…a fully-fledged European defence union…" (Boffey, 2017).I suggest that we got out just in the nick of time, and that May's proposal would only bring us back in, and in a much weakened position. For these and many other reasons, this asinine proposal should be confined to the rubbish bin.
Everybody knows full well that the so-called 'temporary transition' would drag on for years and years. All the while we would be obliged to accept Brussels diktat, not being part of the rule-making process yet having to abide by their rules and paying though the nose for the privilege of being lorded over by corrupt, unelected, EU Civil Servants. I used to think that the two year 'negotiation' period was designed specifically to allow both sides to work out details of the transition. Now we are being told that we need more time to allow both sides to work out details of the transition! Can there be anybody in their right mind who would support such a bare-faced capitulation to the 'bastards' (the term was first used in relation to Europe by John 'Maastricht' Major) from Brussels? May we hopefully conclude, therefore, that the current proposal is as dead as the Monty Python parrot? In tandem with the demise of this dangerous document, we will hopefully see the departure of Theresa May.
She would appear to be faced with a choice of four courses of action:
1. She puts the Proposal before the House of Commons, where it will undoubtedly be defeated. The maths alone should tell her that most 'leavers' will vote against as it does not deliver the Brexit that even she promised on a number of occasions. In addition, those who voted 'remain' will reject the proposal as they never wanted Brexit in the first place. Finally, the DUP (the only reason she still holds a majority) is unhappy with the EU demands over the Irish border, and the proposal will only increase their discontent – probably resulting in a lack of support.
2. Another option is that she seeks an alliance with Corbyn's Labour Party – with votes (Conservative and Labour) being 'whipped through'. I am unsure as to how this might pan out in the short term – she might even win – but in the long term it would be disastrous, and May would go down in history as the only Conservative leader to have 'given so much to so few, in return for so little' (with apologies to the great man himself).
3) She could call a general election, and run the risk of a Corbyn win. This, I suggest, is the 'nuclear option' that she has brandished before the Cabinet in her recent one-to-one meetings. It would never work, as once again, history is not on her side. She might become the only Conservative leader to lose a general election to the most left-wing Labour government since the 1970s! How heavy would hang the verdict of history and Conservative Central Office on such a disaster!
4) The final course of action (and one that I hope she will adopt) is to retain her dignity and resign. Were she to do this and trigger an election for Leadership of the Conservative & Unionist Party, there would be a number of advantages; for herself, the Party, and most importantly, for the UK. The advantage for her is that she could go down in history (an important consideration for all politicians) as someone who did her level best, stuck to her guns, tried to get the best deal for Britain, but in the end was defeated by the intransigence and duplicity of the unelected and therefore unaccountable EUROcrats, in the shape of Michel Barnier, Guy Verhosfstad, Donald Tusk, and the arch villain Jean-Claude Juncker (see Swift, 2018d) Thus, she would be seen to go down fighting, and the British love a dead hero! The advantage for the country would be that we could hopefully end up with a leader who really believed in Brexit, and one who did not do their best to frustrate the process. As I have pointed out before, it was a grave error to assume that a Remainer would be sufficiently motivated to deliver a 'leave' result (Swift, 2018d). Were a pro-Brexit leader elected, they would stop this farcical 'negotiation' with the EU, and simply leave!
Many readers will remember that at one point in July 2016, the leadership of the Party was a two-horse race between Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Ultimately, rather than May winning, it was Leadsom who lost, and on what might be considered relatively trivial grounds. Asthana, et. al. (2016) explained that, "Leadsom had been shaken by the scale of the response to a newspaper interview in which she suggested being a mother meant she had a larger stake in society than May. She admitted she had been left in tears at the weekend after a stream of colleagues said she was inexperienced and had been insensitive." How heavy hangs the caprice of fate; a slip of the tongue meant that instead of the pro-Brexit Leadsom, we were left with the pro-remain May – who had to lead a government to negotiate an exit from the EU.
I can remember thinking at the time that the issue was comparatively trivial, surely insufficient grounds to debar a candidate for running for Leadership of their party? But now I wonder whether, as a vocal 'leave' supporter during the referendum, was Leadsom pressurised into withdrawing her candidacy, and if so, by whom? As someone with a naïve faith in UK democracy, it came as a shock to realise that, since the referendum campaign began, a malevolent force of elites (the Establishment) has been trying to prevent the fruition of what they consider to be an error committed by the UK public. Could it be that the 'remainer' elites struck their first blow by ensuring the withdrawal of Leadsom, and thus securing for May the leadership of the Party in the full knowledge that, as a 'remainer' she would do exactly as she was told: ie. stall and at the final hour accept the crumbs from Barnier's table, or better still never leave?
If we accept this theory, it would explain why the Brexit process appears to have been thwarted at every stage by a combination of treachery from within the UK establishment, and duplicitous dogmatics from the EU; both parties in this unholy alliance being anxious that the UK does not leave, as they have vested interests in our remaining. The elites (or the Establishment) are a group of highly privileged and influential people, from many walks of life. They include politicians (of all parties), civil servants, industrialists, educationalists and the media people. In previous publications I have referred to them as the "EU Fifth Column" (Swift. 2018a).
The Encyclopedia Britannica describes a Fifth Colum as:
"A group or faction of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation's solidarity.…[through]….the infiltration of sympathisers….into positions of policy decision... From such key posts, fifth-column activists exploit the fears of a people by spreading rumours and misinformation"
Against such a conspiracy, it is small wonder that the British public has been brow-beaten into a semi-comatose state. Every day we have been subjected to anti-Brexit statements from these groups, in a concerted effort to bring about 'Project Fear – Part 2.' The latest is the call for a second referendum, now referred to as a 'People's Vote.' Some of loudest voices shouting for this are politicians who should respect democracy and know better.
What those politicians who voted 'remain' do not like is the undeniable fact that, in terms of UK politics, no issue has attracted as many votes as the 'leave' campaign did. In the referendum, 'leave' gained 17,410,742 votes, compared with the 16,141,241 for 'remain' giving 'leave' a majority of 1,269,501 votes, on a turnout of 72% (Swift, 2018a:93-94). In the 2005 general election (the last fought by Tony Blair), Labour polled 9,567,589 votes to the 8,784,915 votes for the Conservatives, giving Labour a win by 782,674 votes, on a 61.4% electoral turnout (UK Political Info, 2005). A similar pattern is discernible at other general elections: the 2015 Election (with a turnout of 66.2%) gave David Cameron 11,299,600 votes (36.8% of the electorate), and Labour under Ed Milliband polled 9,347,300 (30.4%) - a margin of 1,952,300. Whilst the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg polled a miserable 2,371,861 votes (7.37%).
In other words. the 'leavers' in the 2016 referendum won by a larger majority than Tony Blair did, and on a much larger turn-out! Yet this man who was happy to accept the results of the 2005 election as it went in his favour, has been saying that we need another referendum (Wright, 2017:11), presumably as he did not like the result of the last one! In the last three elections, neither David Cameron (in 2010 or 2015) nor Theresa May (in 2017) managed to attract as many votes as the 'leave' campaign, nor such a high turnout of the electorate. No general election has presented such a convincing set of figures, suggesting that politicians who gripe about the referendum, are unwilling to face the reality of democracy.
A Comparison of Voting Figures:
Referendum vs General Election Results
% of Total Vote
Referendum (2016) Leave votes:
For Blair to encourage people to 'rise up' against Brexit is not only hypocritical and cynical, but also hugely un-democratic. Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) summed up Blair's pathetic posturing when he said: "…this is the guy who would have taken our country into the euro with what would have been disastrous consequences. This is the guy who dragooned the UK into the Iraq war on a completely false prospectus… I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaigns" (Swinford, 2017:4). Blair has even managed to alienate sections of his own party, when he urged people to vote Conservative where there was a pro-Brexit Labour candidate (Wright, 2017:11). An editorial in The Daily Telegraph noted that, "Tony Blair's latest bid for relevance comes via the EU. He now believes he is a rebel, representing the insurgent forces of the Remain campaign – that plucky band of outlaws otherwise known as the entire political and cultural establishment" (Editorial, 2016:25).
Other Labour politicians who have voiced undemocratic opinions include Gordon Brown (Elliott, 2018), Peter Mandelson, and Peter Hain.
David Cameron also has a great deal to answer for: in addition to his outrageous and unsubstantiated claims made during the first phase of 'Project Fear', his contribution to EU-UK relations is likely to be mired in confusion for many years. In 2011, he introduced what is generally referred to as the 'referendum lock' which prevents any significant change in the EU-UK relationship without the proposed change being put to the public (Merrick, 2018). One is forced to ask, if personal gain is not the motivation for their ill-judged interventions, then what is? They appear to fly in the face of democracy when they wish to overturn the results of a democratic referendum yet cite 'democracy' as their standard! I challenge all high-profile politicians (of any party) to publish a record of their financial interests in the EU. I await responses to this challenge, although I sure that there will be none.
I fear that in our dealings with the EU we are looking in the wrong direction, and have been doing so ever since two-year 'negotiation' period. We have wasted two years in fruitless talks with people who never had any intention of letting us go without seeing us financially, socially, politically, and economically crippled. The EU establishment 's treatment of the UK should be a warning to the many anti-EU parties throughout Europe, in particular in France and the ex-Communist bloc countries of Easter Europe.
As French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire said, "I'm sorry to say it so callously: there is something more important for us than the future of the U.K., and that's the future of the EU…Any decision that would give European citizens the feeling you can exit the EU and keep all the advantages would be suicidal and we won't make that decision" (Horobin, 2018).
There is simply no point in trying to negotiate further with the EU, because any concessions on our part are regarded as weakness by the unelected Eurocrats who run the EU. Churchill, in his study on the Second World War, noted (admittedly with the benefit of hindsight), that appeasement 'only encourages an aggressor further' (Churchill, 1948:194). Hitler viewed Chamberlain's offer of peace as a sign of weakness and an inability (or unwillingness) to oppose him. Similarly, Barnier, Tusk and Juncker view the UK's accommodating tactics as weakness. We have acceded to their demands time and time again, and in return have received nothing of any significance.
I accept that David Davis and Dominic Raab had well-intentioned proposals to the current impasse, but to have grasped the nettle, ignored the Prime Minister and said we must leave immediately, would have meant there were no financial or other impediments to bind us to the EU into the future. The 'remainers' have demonstrated that their objective is to water down Brexit to such an extent that it becomes BRINO (Brexit in Name Only) thus enabling them to maintain their lucrative dealings with the EU and its various organs.
What depresses me is that we appear to be falling into the trap of discussion, debate, analysis, negotiation, and compromise. This all prolongs the so-called 'negotiations' from which we have nothing to gain and everything to lose. To avoid this trap, the simple solution is just to leave! Leave now, and without any agreement.
If we do this, we will be able to make our way in the world unencumbered by the corrupt, costly, and callous civil service that runs the EU. I have consistently advocated (Swift, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c, 2018d, 2018e) a 'hard' Brexit – in which we simply go, saving £50 billion in the process, trading on mutually beneficial terms with the trading partners we choose (not those dictated to us by Brussels.)
We can be sure that the one thing we really want – to cut all political ties with the EU and be an independent country – will never be offered to us by the EU. We shall have to take it and the best way to do that is to raise two proverbial digits to Brussels, and leave, taking our reparations money (reportedly around € 60 billion) with us.
Asthana, Anushka, Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot (2016) "Andrea Leadsom pulls out of Conservative leadership race." The Guardian (11th July); https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/11/conservative-leadership-andrea-leadsom-pulls-out-of-race
Boffey, Daniel (2017) "Juncker says EU will 'move on' from brexit in state of the union speech." The Guardian (13th September); https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/13/
Churchill, Winston S. (1948) The Second World War: Volume I The Gathering Storm. Cassell & co. Ltd., London
Editorial (2016) "A distrusted man who inspired Brexit."The Daily Telegraph (29th October), p.25
Elliott, Larry (2018) "Gordon Brown backs call for a second Brexit referendum."The Guardian (2th November); https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/12/gordon-brown-backs-calls-for-second-brexit-referendumHorobin, William (2018) "France's Le Maire Slams Idea of a Positive Brexit Deal for U.K." Bloomberg Economics (26th September); https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-26/france-s-le-maire-slams-idea-of-a-positive-brexit-deal-for-u-k
Merrick, Roy (2018) "Brexit: Second referendum required before Britain can leave the EU,
legal challenge claims." Independent (10th March); https://www.independent.co.uk/news/
Oulds, Robert (2018) "The Draft Withdrawal Agreement: An analysis." The Bruges Group (Blog: 15th November); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/the-draft-withdrawal-agreement
Swift, J.S. (2018a) Brexit KBO. Cambridge Academic, Cambridge. ISBN 1-903-499-94-1
Swift, Jonathan S. (2018b) "Go now: call Brussels' Bluff and leave the EU immediately and without a deal." The Bruges Group (Blog: 20th June); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/go-now-call-brussels-bluffleave-the-eu-immediately-and-without-a-deal
Swift, Jonathan S. (2018c) "Mrs May's 'Scrap of Paper': will it be 'Peace for our time'?" The Bruges Group (Blog: 17th July);https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/mrs-may-s-scrap-of-paper-will-it-be-peace-for-our-time
Swift, J.S. (2018d) "Do you expect us to negotiate?" The Bruges Group (Blog: 26th September); https:www.brugesgroup.com/blog/do-you-expect-us-t-negotiate
Swift, J.S. (2018e) "Gimme Some Truth" The Bruges Group (Blog: 30th October); https://www.brugegroup.com/blog/gimme-some-truth
Swinford, Steven (2017) "Blair's Brexit revolt insults voters, says Boris." The Daily Telegraph (18th February), p.4
UK Political Info. (2005) "2005 General Election Results Summary." http://www.ukpolitical.
Wright, Oliver (2017) "Oppose Brexit even if it means voting for the Tories, says Blair." The Times (24th April), p. 11