The Prime Minister has achieved the remarkable. After a mere 86 days in the job, he has achieved what Remainer pundits, critics and MPs alike have long held was undoable, unattainable, even impossible.
Boris Johnson has proved them each and all wrong and truly delivered for this country, not by bringing back a deal that I and other Brexiteers have to hold our noses and reluctantly support against our better judgement, but by securing a genuinely exciting and hugely positive deal that true eurosceptics can – and should – enthusiastically support.
It paves the way towards a best-in-class free trade agreement with the EU, while ensuring that the whole United Kingdom leaves the EU as one sovereign customs territory, alongside a reasonable and pragmatic solution to the Irish border over which, crucially, Northern Ireland itself has democratic control.
Not only has he been successful in negotiating a new Brexit deal when so many believed he could not, but he has achieved changes which are not merely cosmetic but fundamental.
Entirely expunged is the anti-democratic backstop, by far the single most dangerous part of the previous effort which risked trapping us in the EU Customs Union and under the yoke of EU law in perpetuity. The backstop would have been even harder for the UK to leave than the European Union itself, with no exit clause or mechanism for the UK to escape without the EU’s permission.
Gone too are the clauses in the Political Declaration which attempted to sneak through a UK-EU customs union. The backstop and any prospect of a UK-EU customs union are now safely confined to the dustbin of history.
Instead, the Prime Minister has agreed a proportionate and workable solution to the Irish border, which both guarantees that Northern Ireland leaves the EU Customs Union along with the rest of the UK and is fully part of the UK’s customs territory forever, and ensures that Northern Ireland will also reap the benefits of all the new trade deals the UK will sign with our friends and partners around the world once we have left.
I understand the concerns of our friends in the DUP about the new deal, but I would gently suggest to them that there are many reasons why they need not be so worried. This is a good deal for Northern Ireland which will guarantee – and reinforce – the peace process, avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland and means Northern Ireland will benefit from trade deals we make around the world.
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Furthermore, under the deal, the UK has the ability to impose safeguard measures unilaterally should negative circumstances arise and, most crucially of all, the measures are not permanent. They must receive fresh democratic consent by a simple majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly every four years. No longer will the EU have a permanent veto over any change in the arrangements, it will be up to the people of Northern Ireland to decide democratically for themselves.
The Political Declaration, instead of taking the UK down the path towards a customs union and Single Market deal in all but name, now sets the UK on the path towards a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU to come into force at the end of next year. Fundamentally, it will be in the style of the most ambitious free trade agreements around the world, while it will be the UK’s right as a sovereign state to decide exactly how deep a trade deal we wish to negotiate with the EU and indeed with every other independent WTO member in the world, without the EU being able to use the threat of the backstop to force its own decisions upon us.
In addition, the Political Declaration opens the door to innovative new customs procedures and technologies being introduced to streamline future arrangements between the UK and the EU, which could also have the potential to supersede Northern Ireland-specific customs arrangements in time. Indeed, the uniquely flexible economic position of Northern Ireland under this deal could give it the opportunity to flourish in the years to come.
After the referendum was hard-fought and hard-won, with a clear victory for the Leave side led by Boris Johnson, few then could have predicted that the process of respecting and implementing that result would be more hard-fought still. Every possible obstacle has been thrown in the way of delivering the result.
Now Boris Johnson has triumphed against the odds and delivered a victory arguably even more remarkable than his original victory in the referendum. It has not been an easy process by any means, but it has unquestionably been worth it for us to reach the position we are in now, with an intrinsically good deal now in front of us and a true Brexit on 31st October firmly within our grasp.
At long last, the Brexit prize has fully manifested itself before us and what a great prize it is. We must seize it readily with both hands.
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