Brexit gives us a chance to become a modern, outward-looking, free-trading nation once again.

17.4 million people asked the political class to take back control over our trade policy so that we could trade freely with other countries, determine our own trade policy and develop our industries and ports so that we can open our country to the world.

Whilst we must do everything we can to move seamlessly to a new trading relationship with our friends and allies in Europe after we leave, we should recognise that we have been guilty in the past of placing far too much emphasis on our relationship with the EU’s Single Market.

The report released yesterday by Global Britain – How the EU is a drag on UK prosperity economy – makes bleak reading and shows that the Single Market has never been central to UK prosperity.

The EU institutions are so focused on their political vanity projects, such as the euro, that they’ve forgotten why they were created in the first place: to look after the needs of the citizens and businesses of Europe.

The EU is failing the countries of Europe. Before the Single Market was formed in the early 1990s, the US and Eurozone each accounted for around a quarter of the global economy. Today, America’s proportion has largely remained untouched but the EU’s share of the world economy has almost halved. Had the Eurozone continued to grow at the same rate as the US the UK could have expected to have sold £82bn more in exports due to greater economic demand.

Unemployment is rife in the EU as well. Levels of unemployment are five times higher than ours in Greece, almost four times higher in Spain, more than double in France and over 17 per cent in much of the south of Italy. More than one in every three young Italians and Spaniards find themselves without a job and youth unemployment stands at a devastating 44 per cent in Greece.

Countries outside the EU will account for 90 per cent of global economic growth in the years ahead and Brexit will give us control over our trade policy so that we can adapt quickly, engage with the emerging global economic powerhouses and prioritise the interests of British consumers and businesses.

We will, at last, be able to look beyond the shores of the EU: to forge a free trade deal with countries like the US and to take up Japan’s invitation to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would link us to our Commonwealth partners and we would be the only non-Pacific country with preferential access to this huge market.

This doesn’t mean that we will be turning our backs on our close trading partners in Europe. We will continue to trade with, protect and work closely with our friends in Europe – but we shall do this as a sovereign nation, championing free trade around the world.

By unshackling ourselves from an organisation that is more concerned about super-state status than economic competence, there are no limits to what our country is capable of. And we can re-focus on raising the living standards and future opportunities of many generations to come.

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The UK political commentariat are a lazy bunch. Brexit is one of their biggest topics in decades – a bonanza that any amateur can pitch in on – yet remarkably few have got to grips with the key texts. If they had, they would realise Brexit is at that stage of the chess game where the result is already a foregone conclusion. Brexit is going to happen.

Some more enlightened MPs saw this a while ago. Would Anna Soubry have resigned from the Conservative Party if she thought Remain or BRINO (Brexit In Name Only) were on the cards? Would Jeremy Corbyn offer a second referendum to his diehard Remainers if he thought there was any probability of Remain? You can hear the anguish of opportunists who placed their chips on defending BRINO from space as they realise they will end up on the wrong side of history.

So why should we be so certain that Brexit will triumph?

You would be right to be sceptical. We have a Remain Prime Minister, a Remain Civil Service, a Remain Cabinet, a Remain state broadcaster, a Remain undergrowth of NGOs, an increasingly bitter and unpleasant spectrum of Remain campaign organisations and, of course, a Remain Parliament. But no need to panic. They are all going to lose.

So here are the key facts and texts:

Article 50 & The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017

This legislation passed by Parliament by a massive majority authorised the Prime Minister to notify the EU under Article 50 (TEU) of the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The UK under EU law will leave the EU on 29th March 2019 at 11pm unless the UK requests – and gains EU approval for – an extension.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act (EWA)

The EWA, again passed by a large majority, is the domestic counterpart to the Article 50 notification. This Act sets 29th March as the exit day in UK domestic law. Exit day can only be changed by a Statutory Instrument that would have to go through the Commons and the Lords (s.20 EWA).

The EWA (s.13) also sets out the procedure for ratification of a Withdrawal Agreement:

  • It requires approval in the Commons;
  • It requires an Act of Parliament to implement it. The so-called Withdrawal and Implementation Act – the WAIB – would need to get through both the Commons and Lords.

The Cooper Amendment F passed on 27th February

This amendment – supposed to be a copy of the Prime Minister’s commitment to further votes – was added to a non-binding Commons motion that the Prime Minister has agreed to be bound by. It allows for a further ‘meaningful vote’ on a Withdrawal Agreement followed by (a logically flawed) vote to accept or rule out ‘no deal’ and lastly, if ‘no deal’ is ruled out, a vote to seek an extension to Article 50 to Remain in the EU.

These texts taken together make the life of a pro-Remain insurgency very difficult, even if that insurgency were headed by the Prime Minister.

Imagine yourself as a bitter Remainer…

Imagine you were tasked with trying to overturn Brexit. If that is too difficult, study the plans put forward by one of the authors of the Chequers Proposal/Withdrawal Agreement/Political Declaration, in a bar in Brussels – it’s much the same thing. You have some immediate and catastrophic problems. 

Requirements for a straight Remain without ever leaving

Ultimately, unless you are a highly committed enemy of democracy, you would require a second referendum to overturn the first. Assuming the voters can be instructed to behave a second time, you would also require an Article 50 extension to gain the time to conduct the poll. This would require the following basic requirements:

  1. Parliamentary time to push a Bill through the Commons and Lords to empower or force the Prime Minister to seek an extension of at least nine months. This could be done in the Commons maybe via a rebel amendment to the 12th March motion to take control of the Order Paper followed by speedy readings of the latest iteration of the Cooper/Boles Bill. Gaining Commons time would be difficult enough but the Lords would present a similar problem. Attempting this Bill would be even more difficult to attempt if the WA had already passed, so diehard Remainers would end up having to vote against the WA (see below).
  2. All EU states would have to agree the extension to a specific date for a specific purpose. This is unlikely to be straight forward or cheap.
  3. Parliament would have to vote to accept the specific date and change the ‘exit date’ in the EWA.
  4. Parliament would have to pass a Referendum Bill and hold the referendum before you have timed out.
  5. Negotiate with the EU to turn the ‘extension’ into a permanent say – no doubt involving Parliament endorsing new terms.

Requirements for BRINO – keeping the option of Remain open

The current Withdrawal Agreement would lead to a customs union and dynamic regulatory alignment, keeping UK laws in harmony with the EU. Some more far-sighted Remainers might think this vassal status would be a good springboard to re-join the EU. If we accept all the EU rule book, why not go that further step and have a say on how they are drafted – i.e. membership?

This plan requires the adoption of a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration (WA&PD) deal built on a permanent backstop that leads with all certainty to a customs union. This agreement is the one that Parliament rejected.

In order to push through the WA&PD, the Government has a problem. The issue that MPs have taken up most vocally – the lack of an exit from the backstop – is the part the Government most requires to deliver BRINO. So how do they get their deal through Parliament? This is set out, following the Government’s acceptance of the Cooper Amendment F:

  1. Request a change in the WA from the EU27 to give what appears to be (but isn’t) a legally-binding exit from the backstop.
  2. By 12th March hold a new vote to approve the WA&PD and overturn the previous defeat by a majority of 230.

In order to pressurise MPs into voting for the WA&PD the Government will seek to deploy the threat inherent in the second two parts of the Cooper Amendment F: if the WA is voted down, the Government (if it decided to acquiesce in Remain and follow the motion) would then table a motion to endorse leaving without a deal which, if defeated, would require a further motion on 14th March to instruct the Prime Minister to seek an extension. 

Is threatening an Article 50 extension a credible threat?

It is of course gratifying that even Remainers acknowledge that remaining in the EU is a threat to be wielded. But it’s not a credible threat. If MPs are minded to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement they are not voting to stay in the EU. So, what would happen?

If the Commons defeats the Withdrawal Agreement again before 12th March, they may be presented with a vote on ‘no deal’. If for the sake of argument the Commons votes against ‘no deal’ and then votes on 14th March to request the Prime Minister to request an extension of Article 50, they are too late – there would be only 17 days left. In that time they would need: 

  1. The Prime Minister to seek approval of the EU27 to a ‘short, limited extension’ for an unknown period for an unknown purpose. That would not be favourably received by the EU27. There would also be a threat of legal action if the request were not endorsed by a full Act of Parliament.
  2. Assuming an extension could be agreed, the Government would also need to move a Statutory Instrument in both the Commons and Lords to change the exit date in the EWA to the one agreed with the EU27 – but that would only buy a short extension before all the same issues re-emerge. Nothing would really have changed. If you do not want the Withdrawal Agreement, a small probability of a short delay is not a credible threat.

In any event, if the WA does get through there remains the need for the Government to push the complex WAIB through the Lords and Commons pre-29th March or be timed out.

So far, so technical. But this is a discussion in isolation to the world outside of Westminster. These decisions have electoral consequences for political parties.

Firstly, the cause of Remain requires the Prime Minister to actively promote it or at least acquiesce in the face of Remain MPs and Ministers. If the Prime Minister wants to leave, we leave.

There is no need for her to champion Remain, accept motions or give parliamentary time to Remainers – that is a political choice. It’s a choice that will have dramatic political consequences for the Conservative Party if the UK is still in the EU (or has BRINO) after 29th March. In that circumstance, the DUP might depart, if they had not already and the Government would either fall or require a new Prime Minister who had not supported the WA. That is not something a Conservative Prime Minister would want a as legacy – the balance of threat is very much in favour of Leave.

Secondly, the reputation of Parliament generally would take a hit. The EU issue would become further polarised to an extent that even committed Remainers (and EU partners) would realise that the UK’s continued membership would be politically unstable and counterproductive.

This brings us to the obvious conclusion that Brexit cannot be stopped.

If the EU does agree a replacement to the backstop (a scenario made less likely now the PM has floated an extension) then the WA may yet get through the Commons, and shorn of its permanence, a new PM could then build a genuine free trade Brexit deal.

If the Government brings back the same deal without an exit to the backstop, it will be defeated. If it is defeated, there will be no second referendum or prolonged stay in the EU. The UK will leave.

In short, don’t panic: if MPs hold their nerve, we are leaving the EU on 29th March without a permanent backstop.

Deal or No Deal 2

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33 months have passed since the greatest democratic exercise in the history of the United Kingdom, with over 17.4 million people voting to leave the European Union. Yet here we are within sight of ‘Independence Day’ and the likelihood of a clean, swift Brexit is diminishing by the day. While MPs and commentators may say otherwise, be under no illusions, the great Brexit betrayal is in full swing.

The Westminster elite have had over two years to implement the result of the EU referendum and yet with 24 days to go we still have no clarity as to what will happen. Will a majority of MPs vote for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement? Will the Government seek an extension to Article 50? Will the unelected Brussels bureaucrats have the last laugh? So many questions with so few answers…

Despite this apparently gloomy forecast, there is cause for optimism. Last Thursday saw the launch of Leave Means Leave’s epic March To Leave campaign; a nationwide march from Sunderland to London.

This peaceful march, starting on March 16th and lasting for 14 days, offers the public an opportunity to demonstrate the extent of their disappointment at how Brexit has been handled and to apply pressure on the Government to get the best deal possible for the UK.

The stakes have never been higher; the failure to deliver a true Brexit would do irreparable damage to the British people’s faith in democracy and corrode their trust in elected politicians to implement the result of the referendum.

Join me as we walk across the nation braving the rain, wind and snow to take our simple message to Parliament that Leave Means Leave. Starting in Sunderland we will march our way down the country, culminating in Parliament Square on Friday 29th March for a massive rally.

Your support would be greatly appreciated throughout the march, but it is on Brexit Day, Friday 29th March, that we need as many supporters as possible to show the Westminster elite that we will not sit idle while they betray Brexit. From 4pm onwards, the March To Leave will finish in Parliament Square and we will hold a mass rally to let the establishment know that a Brexit betrayal will not be tolerated. Register your attendance here.

So Leavers, what are you waiting for? It’s time to dust off your walking boots and join us on our once in a lifetime March To Leave.

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I left the House of Commons last Wednesday night more disillusioned with politics and politicians than ever before.

Faced with unhelpful amendments, signed by MPs on both sides of the House, the Government caved in to their demands since, had they gone through, they would have delayed Brexit or killed it off altogether. As I told MPs in my speech, a divided Commons is a sure comfort to a bureaucracy that’s intent on preventing us leaving.

These times remind me of May 1940, when the people of our dear country were prepared to fight, while most MPs sought appeasement.

Today is no different, although now we must stand up against stifling rules and regulations, which still threaten our freedom. Remain in the EU, and we will lose our borders, laws, currency and control of our destiny.

We are told now that the people did not understand what they were voting for in June 2016. What piffle! They knew exactly what they were doing, and this ongoing democratic deficit is going to harm politics, trust in politicians – and give rise to a possible Marxist government.

The problem is that we have forgotten what a precious gift freedom is. The EU has remained benign for many years and complacency has set in. Now, as we know, it wants to centralise into a truly federalist state, ruled from the centre. This is not in our country’s interest. How often have I heard that same refrain from Remainers!

Yes, we’d rather leave with a deal, but clearly an obstructive EU is not going to give us a fair one. They want to punish us to deter others from leaving – and there I have some sympathy – but as the EU continues to implode, there will be an exodus as calls for democracy and accountability grow.

Regrettably, where we need leadership, we have none. This Remain-orientated Government never had the will and courage to really leave the EU. Instead, they vacillated and capitulated, aiming to stay as closely linked to the EU as possible.

The Prime Minister’s deal, as it stands, does not deliver Brexit, and everyone knows it. The only way to force it through the Commons is to keep bringing it back until the very real threat of no Brexit at all forces MPs like me to vote for it.

The word ‘betrayal’ is a strong one, but that is what is being levelled at us by constituents.  The Conservative Party, if it ever hopes to win the next election, must deliver Brexit in full, or face annihilation.

Again, as I said in my speech, a united Commons could deliver a good deal.  To be fair, there are a few colleagues who have genuine concerns about a no-deal departure. But, for the majority, Project Fear is a fig leaf covering their real intent.

No deal would be bumpy, there is no denying that. But, we’d be free to chart our own course, create an economy that encourages investment and strike trade deals around a world that is rapidly changing. As a country, we’ve faced far bigger challenges and not only survived, but flourished. We will again, if we have the courage and integrity to honour what we have been instructed to do.

Finally, Article 50 is our only lifeline to freedom. You have been warned.

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In the EU referendum of 2016, 60% of Labour constituencies voted to Leave the European Union. However, in the last two years you would have thought the very opposite was true, whether this is because of the behaviour of Labour MPs or the Labour leadership’s inaction on Brexit.

More than failing its voters in constituencies which voted to Leave, Jeremy Corbyn and his lack of direction has, above all, failed the country as a whole by providing an ineffective opposition to Prime Minister, Theresa May, within Parliament.

Last week, the Labour leader betrayed millions of Labour voters, the country and his own well-documented eurosceptic beliefs by committing to a second referendum after his suggested Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament. This is nothing more than a partisan panic move to try and stop the wave of Labour MPs ready to jump ship from the party.

Corbyn has said this is just following party policy set at the Labour Party Conference last year – which, by the way, was attended by only 2.1% of members and 0.09% of Labour voters. So, for Corbyn to suggest this is ‘the will of Labour voters’ is simply untrue.

Since the EU referendum in June 2016, Labour has had more policies on Brexit than you can count on one hand, all the while attempting to prove they are both pro- and anti-Brexit. While this may be politically expedient in terms of preparing for the next general election, it has deprived the country of an effective Opposition.

This has escalated in the past fortnight following the resignations of nine Labour MPs, eight of whom have joined the so-called Independent Group – a group which consists of nothing but Remainers and second referendum campaigners. One of their major goals in leaving the Labour Party was to try to pressurise Jeremy Corbyn into backing a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ – a ploy which seems to have worked.

All those MPs are refusing to call by-elections, meaning that despite being elected on platforms to deliver Brexit, they are now betraying their voters by not doing what they were sent to Westminster to do. This is an abject betrayal of the trust placed in our elected representatives.

Brexit should not be an issue with which to play party political games. This should have been a real chance for MPs to come out of their entrenched positions of bickering with each other across the House.

Last month Jeremy Corbyn flip-flopped between repeatedly refusing to meet with Mrs May to discuss Brexit, to then sending her letters outlining Labour’s Brexit ‘position’ – if it is at all possible to call what he proposed a ‘position’. Included within his proposal was the need for the UK to stay in the Customs Union and the Single Market, both impossible if we are to deliver Brexit.

Corbyn has played political games, making Brexit a party political issue, knowing the Prime Minister has alread -, and rightly – ruled out his suggestions as they would mean the UK having to accept the EU’s freedom of movement rules, European Court of Justice jurisdiction, as well as sending vast sums of money to the EU every year.

Meanwhile, throughout this whole process the Prime Minister has put forward a damp squib vision for a global Brexit Britain. Labour had held no formal collective position – being led by Corbyn as a eurosceptic Labour Leader! Now, in the final weeks before Brexit Day, it appears the Labour Party has decided to betray their Leave-voting supporters.

They want to block attempts to pursue our global trading future with World Trade Organisation rules when we Leave the EU. Instead, Corbyn has bowed to pressure from a vocal minority in favour of cancelling Brexit, while ignoring the groundswell of Leave Labour voters in the North.

With Parliament in its current state of disarray, Labour had a real chance to stand up for working-class Labour Leave voters and demonstrate that their voices will be heard. Instead, they have capitulated to the minority of strident London-centric liberal Remainers in their party, chanting for another referendum vote – which was clearly ruled out in the Labour Party manifesto at the last general election. In doing so, Corbyn and Labour have shown no backbone or belief in their own opinions or support for those of their voters. The communities they have sworn to represent and stand for are once again being sold down the river.

Even when the Labour leadership has attempted to become involved with the Brexit process, they have been determined to undermine the UK negotiating position at every stage. At a recent press conference, the Government stated there must be compromise on the Northern Irish backstop by the EU and there are ‘set in stone red lines’ – such as leaving the Single Market.

Yet after the Prime Minister’s most recent trip to Brussels, the following day Corbyn travelled to Brussels to meet with EU negotiators with a delegation of his front bench, only to tell them and the press, that Labour would in effect capitulate to the EU’s demands. By playing these political games, the Labour Party continually undermines the talks and deliberately seeks division within the UK’s negotiating position. Brexit is about making this country a truly great global nation again and it should not be about scoring cheap political points.

Instead of a principled Opposition with a clear line of argument which could have pushed the Government into delivering a solid, true and clean Brexit, we have seen political deception, with the sole focus on trying to play the Great British Public for the fool. This has been followed by a Labour Leader betraying his own beliefs – all for a far-fetched idealistic dream of attempting to gain political power.

The decision to fall in behind the ‘Peoples Vote’ campaigners will come back to haunt the Labour leadership. We need to Get Britain Out of the EU as quickly as possible and make sure we deliver on the will of the British people for our global future – even if Labour Party MPs don’t seem to remember how their constituents voted in the EU referendum!

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Those campaigning to reverse the EU referendum result talk of the EU as if it is the very basis of British and European prosperity. When viewed against the evidence, such an analysis is simply untenable. A new report from Global Britain, £82bn reasons the EU held back the UK, shows how.

Almost every aspect of the EU’s economic performance – not least UK trade with it – has been dismal, underperforming regularly against every corner of the globe – be it advanced or developing nations – for a very long period of time.

For many countries across the European continent, EU-induced policy – primarily designed to hold the euro together – has directly led to economic hardship, socially damaging levels of unemployment and a questioning of the very fabric of their societies. The result has been a rise in more radical politics and people leaving their countries of birth to seek better economic opportunity elsewhere. This is the antithesis of what the EU was founded to achieve.

The failure of EU economic policy has not only impacted EU nations but also cost the UK £82bn over the twenty years to 2017 due to lost economic opportunity, as weak demand has impacted negatively on UK exports to the Eurozone.

To understand the failure of the Eurozone, we need to go back to a time when it did not yet exist. In 1994 the economies of the US and the future Eurozone were of broadly similar size – worth 24.9% and 24.5% of global GDP respectively. Today the US economy is 30% larger than the Eurozone. Simply put, had the Eurozone grown at the same rate as the US, the UK could have expected to have sold £82bn more in exports due to greater economic demand. The unfortunate truth is that EU economic performance has been the global laggard over the short and long term.

By comparison, since the financial crisis, the UK economy has outperformed all the major EU economies including Germany. Overall it has grown 19% over that period compared with a 13% rise in the Eurozone. That 6% differential is worth £120bn, or to illustrate what that sum represents, just less than the entire NHS budget.

For the British people, the beneficial result of the country’s performance has been more jobs. The UK has materially outperformed the EU in both job creation and reduction of unemployment. UK unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974. French unemployment is 2.5 times the UK level, Spain 4 times and Greece 5 times higher. Since the EU referendum, 750,000 more people are in work in the UK. This contrasts with HM Treasury forecast of 500,000 job losses following a Leave vote – meaning its prediction was an embarrassing 1.2 million out.

Despite misplaced criticisms, job growth has been across the board and not just in the ‘gig economy’. More people work in manufacturing, construction, utilities, IT, health, education and the arts sectors than before the referendum. UK wage growth has started to pick up too and is growing in real terms, while the UK’s minimum wage is the second most generous in the EU.

The underperformance of the Eurozone can be laid firmly at the EU’s own door. Fundamentally, the Eurozone is not an optimal currency area; it lacks fiscal transfers and is weakly controlled with no central Treasury. The structural weakness and disequilibrium of the euro has led to sub-optimal firefighting policy choices to prop the currency up. The lack of political will and democratic accountability make it near impossible to rectify its flaws. These are structural issues that will not be easily rectified, leading to continuing divergent performance, socially damaging unemployment levels in the south and a loss of competitiveness. The problem is the euro’s construction and there is no easy fix. Underperformance is baked in.

Imbalances are growing, not reducing, be they employment levels, migration trends, fiscal strength, competitiveness and Target2 liabilities (intra-country balances).

The big myth remains that the Single Market is central to UK prosperity. It is not. Over the last 20 years, UK trade has grown 12 times with China, 3.1 times with the rest of the world ex-EU, 2.6 times with the US and just 2 times with the EU. Moreover, the UK trades with a modest surplus with the world ex-EU but has a £96bn deficit with the EU. Does it not strike you odd that UK trade not only is growing faster where it trades generally under WTO rules rather than within the EU Single Market – and is in surplus, not enduring a huge deficit?

EU citizens are voting with their feet. An estimated 3.5 million have moved to the UK over the last 20 years. Economic failure has directly led to widespread migration away from Italy, Spain, Portugal and most of Eastern Europe. People follow the opportunity and it has generally not been in the Eurozone. Again, despite claims, net EU migration has remained positive to the UK since the EU referendum.

The EU’s problems are structural and not cyclical. They are largely self-inflicted. The euro’s structure is the root cause of the problem, together with increasingly costly one-size-fits-all regulation that simply does not work for such a disparate Union. The price of preserving the euro is likely to continue to lead to low growth and poor employment prospects. Italy, as an example, has a smaller economy than 15 years ago. Such dreadful performance is fuelling economic and political dissatisfaction in Italy itself and across the EU.

The question should be: why can our policy makers not see that while we must remain friends with our European neighbours, the EU project has failed Europe? The answer is for Britain is to re-emerge as a true global trading nation.

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In November 2013, Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group invited me to speak at a conference in London. He asked me because I had been for some years accredited as a journalist to the EU institutions in Brussels, writing in particular the Brussels Blog for the Mail Online.

More, being Irish, I had particular experience in the matter of EU referendums. Ireland had just finished some years which became known as “the never-endums.” I’d been in the middle of it all. I had some warnings for Britain. And Britain should have listened.

What is going on now, in the Commons and at the European Commission, is a movie I’ve sat through before, twice. I know how it ends.

The never-endums in Ireland began in June 2001, when the Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty – that’s the treaty which readied the EU for new member states from Eastern Europe. Ireland’s Constitution required a vote. The Irish voters recognised that the treaty marginalised the power of smaller states. They voted No.

The shock was fierce in Brussels, and Irish politicians, to their shame, went to the European Council to make apologies for their own people. The Irish were forced to vote again. The firepower and Project Fear of the political parties, and some gestures and garnishes from the EU, made sure this time the people gave the right answer.

Then, in June 2008, there was another referendum, this one on the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish were the only people in the EU to be allowed a vote, and they voted No by 53.4% to 46.6%. That was a larger margin than Leave won in the British 2016 referendum.

Brian Cowen was then the Irish Prime Minister. I had to watch him at the European Council, shivering like a whipped spaniel, promising he would reverse the vote if only the EU would give him something, anything, he could take home and present as a concession.

The EU finally promised to tack on a few paragraphs to a future accession treaty with Croatia that only repeated what was already in the European treaties – that Ireland could be neutral, that abortion was Ireland’s business and that powers of direct taxation remained with member states.

None of that had anything to do with what was in the Lisbon Treaty. But it was enough. In October 2009, in a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, held as the terrifying Irish property and bank crash was underway, the Irish voted Yes. The vote allowed the treaty to come into force across the EU.

My patriotism has never fully recovered from the humiliation.

And now I am out of the Press Corps and working as Head of Communications for Steven Woolfe, an independent Brexiteer member of the European Parliament. My life is soaked in all the Brexit manoeuvrings of May and the rest. I’m back at the movies. Spoiler alert.

In that speech I delivered in 2013, I gave details of how the Irish voters were betrayed by their own government. I had hoped that, since there were a handful of Tory political heavies in the audience, the warning might get through.

It didn’t. But to the Conservatives in particular I know, I say: don’t say you weren’t warned.

What follows is an edited version of that speech from 2013.

I have spent the past several years in Brussels, covering the EU institutions. I’m back in Britain now, which is where I ought to be, since this fight on the future of the EU is shifting to Britain. I understand most of you believe that, if you get an In/Out referendum, and the Out vote wins, then – hurrah! – free at last. You’ve won.

Don’t kid yourselves. This is where I stop speaking as someone from Brussels and start speaking as someone from Ireland. You need to remember that in the EU, a Yes vote is forever. A No vote is only ever temporary. Trust me on this one, I’m Irish. I know. The EU has forced the Irish through this more than once. Therefore, it is naïve for any of you to think that, if you get a vote in a referendum to leave the EU, then that is the battle won. It is not. It is just the end of the phony war.

What I am here to tell you today is that what was done to the Irish after they voted No to the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 will be done to the British if they vote No to the EU in 2016. I’m going to give you details of how the Irish government and the EU elite worked together to overturn the democratic Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. What they did to the Irish, a Conservative government and the EU elite will do to the British.

Here is what to expect. If you want to get your country out of the EU, you’d better come up with a strategy to overcome this. First, of course, to overturn a referendum result, there must be in place a national government willing to collaborate with the EU elite. I have seen no sign in Brussels that the elite are in any way worried over Cameron’s talk of a referendum. The EU elite know that Cameron is one of them. He is a collaborator. Ireland had the same sort of EU collaborator in the former Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who was leader of the Irish government at the time of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

I hope you will see from what I am about to tell you that for the sake of your country, you must work to make sure the Tories, if they are still led by Cameron, do not win the next election. A referendum under a Cameron majority government would be worse than no referendum at all. Here is why.

Imagine the Out side, your side, wins the referendum. Imagine what happens after the result is announced. Cameron will face the banks of cameras outside Number 10 and say that the people have spoken and now his government will respect them, will listen to them, will ‘understand’ the referendum result. A day later Cameron will face the journalists again and adjust his phrasing slightly. He will say that his government must learn what the British really meant by their Out vote. Not that his government must obey the vote, no, must understand the vote.

A few weeks ago, I was in the European Parliament and asked Nigel Farage about this danger. He is aware of it. He said that “what we need is a big No. To win, they need only a small Yes, we need a big No. Otherwise the government might choose to interpret the vote.” I think Farage is being too trusting if he imagines a government attempt to interpret the vote will only occur if the Out majority is narrow. I forecast it will happen no matter how large the margin. The Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty by a vote of 53.4% against, 46.6% in favour. The EU still told their collaborators in the Irish government it had to be overturned.

So, I’d say that even if your Out vote achieves a margin such as that, I’d forecast your Prime Minister, following the pattern the EU set for the Irish, will announce he must consider what the vote ‘really means.’ And you can stand outside Downing Street all you want and scream ‘What it means is that we want out of the EU!’ but a Cameron government will only say that they understand that this is ‘an emotional issue’ for you.

Meanwhile a statement will come from the President of the European Commission saying the Commission respects the democratic decision of the British people. And meanwhile the UK Permanent Representative, whoever he is in 2016, will be around at the Commission to explain just how the Foreign Office will get the colleagues – because in Brussels they are all colleagues – out of this one.

Then after careful consideration – what one Irish politician called “mature reflection” – Cameron will say he now understands what you, the British people, were saying by voting Out: he will say you are angry that the EU has not been reformed. He will say that the Out vote was really a protest vote, because – and here comes the cliché – referendum votes are rarely about the question on the ballot paper.

If you were Irish, you would know the rest. The Cameron government will commission an opinion poll to find out what the British people ‘really ’meant by their vote. Yes, the government will use taxpayers’ money to pay a polling company to find out what the taxpayers meant when they voted to get Out of the EU. Which is itself outrageous. But the Irish government did exactly that. The Government in effect said to their own electorate: ‘You are far too stupid or reckless to be trusted with a ballot paper.’ Which is of course the attitude of the EU elite to voters, why they are squeezing democracy out of every part of the EU. But that is another issue. 

The Irish government commissioned a poll after the Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty. The Cowen Government said they wanted to find out the “real reason” the Irish people voted No to Lisbon. It was all of course just a way to find an excuse to run the referendum again.

While this fraud, this collaboration between quislings in Dublin and the EU elite continued, the people, the voters, stood by powerless. As will you. The British people can expect the same kind of fraud if they succeed in voting to leave the EU. They will be patronised, and frightened, by government insistence that they did not know what they were doing.

They – you – will be told in effect that the British voters are too dense, too uneducated about the EU, too much under the influence of what the EU denounces as ‘dangerous nationalism’ to understand the implications of their own vote. Cameron will announce he understands your Out vote, understand what it really means.

The EU institutions will make assurances about this being a matter for the British alone, but will also make statements meant to frighten the British people about the danger of leaving the EU. Then the Cameron Government will identify – by way of a taxpayer-funded opinion poll – two or three allegedly key issues as the reasons Britain voted to get out.

Brussels will reply with some statement which Cameron will accept as an assurance that the worries on these two or three issues can be ‘addressed’ by an EU elite he will call ‘our European partners.’ ‘Addressed’, of course, is a word of no particular meaning.

But you will not go to the polling booths a second time as the Irish did.

Unlike in Ireland, a referendum here cannot override Parliament. To have a referendum vote ignored, all that is necessary is for Labour opposition, the Lib Dems or what’s left of them, and the euro-loving wing of the Tories to vote with the Cameron to overturn the referendum vote.

And there will be nothing the voters who delivered a majority Out vote will be able to do about it. Which is why it would be better for you to wait until the Conservative Party has a leader who is actually a Conservative, and go for a referendum then. At least then there will be a chance of Out meaning Out.

So that is what I have to say to you, drawing on the Irish experience of how a quisling government and an anti-democratic EU elite can overturn a referendum result.

What you can do about it – well, that is up to you. You can either be disgraced as a nation, or you can fight. Good luck.

The post How an Irish observer warned in 2013 how the pro-EU elite would seek to block Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.

The most likely effect of Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that Labour will support some form of second referendum is to increase the probability that the UK leave the EU without a formal trade deal.

That so many Labour MPs have pledged to stick by their election pledge to honour the 2016 referendum means that a second referendum remains highly unlikely. And a good thing too given the serious damage it would do both to democracy and, due to the division and business uncertainty it would bring to the UK economy.

Corbyn’s U-turn will, however, cement the impression in the vital Leave-voting heartlands that Labour is a party of Remain. Just as importantly, it will stiffen the EU’s impression that they have no need to make a serious move on Theresa May’s demand that the unacceptable Northern Irish backstop be re-written. Why give any ground when so many of our parliamentarians and the official Opposition are stating openly that are prepared effectively to cancel Brexit on 29th March rather than allow the UK to leave without a trade deal?

It should go without saying that if the EU know we will not leave without a deal, then they have no incentive to change the backstop. And with no change to the backstop, the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands looks dead in the water.

Attention now is likely to switch to whether Theresa May will reverse her long-standing promise to leave the Customs Union with the aim of tempting enough Labour MPs to back a Withdrawal Agreement.

For some months, the Labour front bench has taken to endless repetition of the “permanent customs union” mantra as if this is some sort of magic key to unlocking the Brexit stalemate. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The real puzzle is why journalists (as well as Labour backbenchers) do not subject this flagship policy to more scrutiny. As as soon as you do, it becomes clear a permanent customs union does not solve the problems it is aimed at and creates even worse ones of its own.

The fundamental arguments against the EU’s Customs Union are well established: it works as a protectionist mechanism to protect large EU companies from overseas competition. Although many tariffs are low, this is not the case for significant sectors such as food, clothing, footwear and cars. As a result, prices for hard-pressed consumers are higher than they should be, companies have little incentive to invest in improving productivity (which in turn limits wage increases), whilst poorer countries can find they are effectively frozen out of EU markets limiting their ability to develop.

On those grounds alone, it’s odd that Labour MPs think this is going to be a vote-winning strategy, but that is only the start of it.

Being in the Customs Union after we have left the EU would leave us in the same situation as Turkey – having to accept whatever tariffs the EU decide on whilst having no say in trade negotiations. But, even worse, when the EU strikes a future new trade deal with another country, say India or Argentina, we would be bound to accept zero tariffs on imports from that country, but with no obligation on them to drop tariffs on UK exports.

It is sometimes suggested that the UK could keep a say in future trade policy, possibly through the EU and UK forming a new customs association going outside EU boundaries. If you believe that the EU would ever countenance such a proposal, perhaps I can introduce you to a friend of mine who has a splendid bridge for sale. No doubt, the EU would be happy to pledge to ‘consult’ with the UK on future trade deals and tariffs but we can safely rule any significant role in decision-taking and safely rule in the European Court of Justice having the final say on our trade laws.

Have John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn forgotten TTIP – the proposed US-EU trade which they hated by so much? By strong-arming the UK into a ‘permanent’ customs union with the EU, they would forfeit any power for a future Labour government to stop such proposals in the future.

Defenders of the customs union idea suggest that it will keep frictionless trade and solve the Northern Ireland border, but even that is not so. Getting rid of tariffs does not in itself solve the problem of border checks because nil tariff customs declarations must still be filed and sanitary/phytosanitary and other regulatory checks are required. Only by remaining within the Single Market at least for goods can checks on trade be avoided.

The catch is that the EU will not allow the UK to have partial membership of the Single Market for goods as they believe this will distort trade. Staying in the Single Market would mean accepting freedom of movement and continued payment to the EU, effectively staying in the EU in all but name – giving away our money and losing even more control over our laws. It’s hardly the slogan that will endear Leave-voters to either of the main parties.

In reality, being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market need not involve significant delays at the border. The vast majority of checks and tariff payments are already made electronically or away from the border. Actual border checks tend to focus on smuggling and other illegal activity and are highly targeted and intelligence-led.

As soon as you look beyond the headline, it becomes clear that committing to a permanent customs union is a policy without any serious merit, unless of course you want to nullify Brexit completely. So what should MPs who want to respect the referendum result but are worried about the impact of No Deal on their local industries be looking to achieve?

Well, in the first place, they should remember the advantages that a clean break on 29th March will bring. First, it would end the uncertainty for business far sooner than would any version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement under which our future trading relationship with the EU would remain unresolved for many years.

Further, the Government would regain the ability and the cash to help affected industries through the transition. On current trade patterns, even if full tariffs were charged, UK firms exporting to the EU would be the liable for about £5 billion whilst EU firms would find their exports to the UK liable to about £13 billion of tariffs. This is money which the Government can use to provide agricultural assistance, more targeted regional policy, R&D credits and even some transitional payments – measures that are all legal under WTO rules but only become possible once we have left the EU.

The UK would not only be free to agree FTAs with non-EU countries, we also would have the option of immediately reducing or even abolishing tariffs on imports, starting with goods for which there is little UK production. This would help both consumers and firms importing intermediate goods as part of their manufacturing process. Despite the relentless coverage given to firms who say they may leave the UK, a clean break on 29th March would actually encourage firms to set up or increase manufacturing capacity in the UK, thereby ensuring good access to the strategically important UK market. Indeed, this process is already happening, although it is rarely reported. Look, for example, at Medstrom announcing a new manufacturing facility in the East Midlands because of Brexit, whilst Nissan have started the process of trying to source more parts from the UK.

Finally, it is likely – once out of the EU and freed of the time pressures of Article 50 – that we would find it easier to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. Then, the leverage would be on our side of the table.

There is a strong case to be made that, far from hitting the economy, leaving without a formal trade deal on 29th March will actually provide a net boost to UK business.

Perhaps most importantly, MPs need to realise that, in practice, ‘No Deal’ has already been taken off the table due to the large number of side deals that have already been agreed with the EU and other countries. These cover areas such as citizens’ rights, cross-border transport within the EU, mutual recognition on standards with the US, a number of financial services and continued free trade with important partners such as Switzerland.

Putting pressure on the Government to prepare properly and fully for 29th March should be the main focus for MPs of all parties.

A key step in that process should be to rule out once-and-for-all damaging policies such as another referendum, delaying Brexit or a permanent customs union. A clean break on 29th March is nothing to be afraid of; but only when the EU understands that the UK will be taking back control of its laws and trade policy, come what may, will there be a real prospect of achieving a Withdrawal Agreement that is acceptable to both sides.

The post A permanent UK-EU customs union would create worse problems that those it would supposedly solve appeared first on BrexitCentral.

We are now entering the final stage of Article 50 negotiations with the EU. The meaningful vote is due by or before 12th March, setting a deadline less than two weeks from today; and the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, will take centre stage in the Brexit endgame. As the EU have stubbornly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement itself, Cox’s aim is to secure a legally-binding protocol on the backstop. The hope is that this will enable him to update his legal advice, which currently sets out that the backstop could exist “indefinitely” if negotiations on the future UK-EU trade deal break down.

History shows that when the EU’s refusal to renegotiate collides with the reality of domestic politics in a member state, Brussels has shown flexibility to facilitate ratification. Crucially, the legal instruments favoured by Brussels – protocols, addendums – have legal force even if the treaty itself remains untouched. At Open Europe, I have recently published a briefing which outlines historical examples of the EU revisiting a trade deal which was supposedly done and dusted. None are perfect analogies for the backstop impasse, but they illustrate wider points: that the EU is more flexible than it seems, and that it isn’t over until it’s over.

In 2009, the Republic of Ireland secured legally binding guarantees which enabled it to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. This included a commitment to a protocol, later annexed to the Lisbon Treaty, which clarified that the Treaty did not compromise Ireland’s sovereignty in several sensitive areas – abortion policy, tax policy and military neutrality. Whilst this did not directly contradict the provisions of the Treaty itself, it shut down unfavourable consequences of the Treaty which Irish voters feared. Although the UK’s case is a question of ratification by MPs, not voters, there is a parallel here. Many Brexiteer MPs object to the backstop not so much because of its substantive provisions, but because they fear the UK could end up ‘trapped’ there permanently. The EU may insist this is not its intention, but only by putting this commitment into stronger legal terms can they hope to win enough MPs over.

Ireland also convinced the Council to agree to legally-binding terms that the reduction in the number of EU Commissioners, established as a default by Article 17 of Lisbon, would not go ahead. Then Taoiseach Brian Cowen said at the time: “Ireland wanted firm legal guarantees. We got them.” If Theresa May can stand up and tell her backbenchers something similar on the temporary status of the backstop, there is hope for the deal yet.

Another example of EU flexibility came in 1992, when Denmark voted down the Maastricht Treaty. In the quest to unblock Maastricht’s passage, the Danes secured guarantees even stronger than those of the Irish. Though Maastricht itself was unaltered, its potential future effect in Denmark changed markedly. In particular, the European Council legally recognised two unilateral Danish guarantees recognising that any further integration in two areas – Justice and Home Affairs, and EU Citizenship – would be put to referendums in Denmark. This provided the Danish people with commitments in international law that they wouldn’t be sold out by a pro-integration government. 

The Danish example bears parallels to today’s conundrum too. A key reason why the DUP (and indeed other Northern Ireland Unionists) oppose the backstop is because it can be superseded “in whole or in part” – raising fears that a future UK government might abandon Northern Ireland behind in the customs union while Great Britain leaves. Bluntly, the DUP does not trust London, which is why it poured scorn on the unilateral commitments offered by the UK to Northern Ireland in January. However, if the EU were to give legal recognition to these and other unilateral commitments, this would lend them much more weight. It did so for Denmark; it can do so for the UK.

There are two other examples of the EU offering legal guarantees to get a deal over the line. In 2016, a Joint Interpretative Instrument on the EU-Canada deal helped overcome the objections of the Wallonian regional parliament in Belgium. In the same year, another legal instrument – an addendum – was used after voters in the Netherlands rejected the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in a non-binding referendum. These examples are less directly analogous to the backstop, but add further weight to the broader point that the EU can be flexible when it needs to be.

Many argue that the EU can’t, won’t or shouldn’t offer the same kind of concessions for the UK as it would for a non-departing member state. But this is an unreasonable argument which makes a virtue of inflexibility – and also flies in the face of the evidence that the EU is prepared to at least consider additional guarantees for the UK. The key question will be what guarantees Cox can obtain from the EU, and what legal effect they will have. Even Brexiteer MPs are now recognising that substance matters more than form, and are no longer insisting on a reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement. It remains to be seen what the new legal scrutiny group, fronted by Sir Bill Cash and Dominic Raab, will make of ‘Cox’s codicil.’ But if the EU is willing to show the same flexibility that it has done in the past, then a smooth, timely Brexit is still possible. 

The post As the Brexit talks reach their endgame, the EU may again demonstrate its capacity for flexibility appeared first on BrexitCentral.

On a Thursday afternoon that was otherwise relatively Brexit-free for Westminster-watchers, the calm has been dramatically broken by another brexit-related resignation from the Government – from junior agriculture minister, George Eustice.

He is quitting in opposition to the decision announced by Theresa May this week to “allow the postponement of our exit from the EU” and cited his desire to be able to “be free to participate in the critical debate that will take place in the weeks ahead”. He observes in his resignation letter to Theresa May:

“I have stuck with the government through a series of rather undignified retreats. However, I fear that developments this week will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country. I appreciate that you have been terribly undermined by those in Parliament who refuse to respect the referendum result. You have shown tenacity and resilience over the past year. However, what our country needs from all its political leaders at this critical juncture is courage, and we are about to find out whether Parliament has it.”

Countering the message of a number of ministers opposed to a no-deal Brexit who have given written various articles and given numerous interviews (yet not been willing to quit the Government to make their case), he makes clear that the Government and Parliament should be willing to countenance such a scenario:

“We cannot negotiate a successful Brexit unless we are prepared to walk through the door. We must therefore have the courage, if necessary, to reclaim our freedom first and talk afterwards.”

Eustice has a long-standing eurosceptic pedigree: the one-time strawberry farmer was drawn into politics after seeing the effects of the ERM on his family’s business in Cornwall in the early 1990s and went on to join UKIP later in the decade and unsuccessfully contested the 1999 European elections for the party in the South West of England. He then became Campaign Director of the No campaign and Business for Sterling, opposing UK membership of the euro, before joining the Conservative Party as Head of Press and then Press Secretary to David Cameron as Leader of the Opposition.

The full text of his resignation letter is as follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with tremendous sadness that I have decided to resign from the government following the decision this week to allow the postponement of our exit from the EU. Since Parliament is now in direct control of events, I want to be free to participate in the critical debate that will take place in the weeks ahead.

It has been an honour to work alongside so many talented individuals at Defra over the past five years. Defra has phenomenal expertise and, more than any other government department, has embraced the opportunities posed by our exit from the EU. I have particularly welcomed the chance to craft two new Bills on farming and fisheries, which are the first for half a century, as we have prepared the ground to restore self-government in this country.

I will vote for your Withdrawal Agreement when it returns to the House and I very much hope that the Attorney General succeeds in securing final changes so that others might too. Although I campaigned to leave, I have always supported compromise to achieve a reconciliation in our country. Leaving the EU would represent an historic change and it is natural that some people will feel apprehensive. I have been open to the idea of using our existing membership of the EEA as an exit mechanism and I supported your approach outlined at Chequers when others did not. I have stuck with the government through a series of rather undignified retreats. However, I fear that developments this week will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country.

I appreciate that you have been terribly undermined by those in Parliament who refuse to respect the referendum result. You have shown tenacity and resilience over the past year. However, what our country needs from all its political leaders at this critical juncture is courage, and we are about to find out whether Parliament has it.

As a Defra Minister, I have enjoyed good relations with the European Commission and with Ministers from other member states. However, I do not believe that the Commission has behaved honourably during these negotiations. They have deliberately made progress slow and difficult. They have stated in terms that they will refuse to even hold substantive negotiations on a future partnership until after we leave. If the position of Parliament is now that we will refuse to leave without an agreement then we are somewhat stuck. This is uncomfortable for everyone, but we cannot negotiate a successful Brexit unless we are prepared to walk through the door.

We must therefore have the courage, if necessary, to reclaim our freedom first and talk afterwards. We must be ready to face down the European Union here and now. The absence of an agreement poses risks and costs for them too. We already know that in the event of “no deal” the EU will seek an informal transition period for nine months in many areas and settlement talks could continue within this window.

I will do what I can from the back benches to try to salvage this sorry situation and I hope that, when the moment comes, Parliament will not let our country down.

Yours sincerely,

George Eustice




The post DEFRA Minister George Eustice resigns over May’s “undignified retreats” over Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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