Gale's View - 18/07/2018

July 18th 2018

It is, I think, now highly likely that we shall leave the European Union without a deal.  

The “Chequers Agreement” offers the prospect of exiting on 29th March 2019 , taking back control of our borders, curtailing the vast sums paid to support Brussels bureaucracy, creating a business-friendly customs model and the freedom to negotiate new trade deals with non-EU countries, introducing a common rulebook for an EU-UK free trade area for goods and agricultural products leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries policy while maintaining  and enhancing welfare standards, delivering a parliamentary veto on all new rules and regulations and ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and obviating the need for a hard border between the Irish Republic and Norther Ireland and  ought to square a very difficult circle.  That is why all of those Cabinet Ministers meeting at Chequers signed off on the deal and the fact that two of them then reneged on the agreement and resigned cannot gainsay that fact. The agreement is not `the breach of faith` that some have claimed but the realisation of an election manifesto promise and the honouring of the will of the British people as expressed in the referendum. 

That referendum question did not specify detail. It simply posed the question “Do you wish to remain in or to leave the European Union”.  The idea that “this is not what we voted for” is, to say the least, arrogant. People voted for very many different aspects of “Leave” and I do not believe that they voted for the wanton destruction of our economy or the abandoning of our security – a small fact that some have chosen to dismiss. Those who take a harder line when saying “this is not what we voted for” mean, I think, “this is not what I voted for” which is not the same thing at all. 

We all need to remember that the Prime Minister and her Government do not need to reach a proposal that with satisfy the Conservative Party or even the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  We have to strike a bargain with the remaining twenty-seven countries of the European Union and one that will be approved by the European Parliament. Given the intransigence and the lack of willingness to compromise even within our own ranks it is hard to see how, with no room for further manoeuvre, the Prime Minister is likely to be able to sell the package to those negotiating for Europe and that leaves, only, the option of walking away without a settlement. 

Those with no `skin in the game` who are wealthy enough not to have to worry about our future employment prospects, about the supply chains for our motor, aviation and defence industries, those whose incomes or holiday spending will not be affected by a further fall in the value of the pound and those with little or no concern for the prospects that will face our children and our grandchildren or their security will no doubt welcome this outcome. It will be the `clean hard Brexit for which they have been clamouring.  Or will it? 

 

The idea that we can just walk away from international treaties and obligations and without payment is moonshine. Doing business under World Trade Organisation conditions requires compliance with other rules Quietly but very efficiently Whitehall has been making the necessary preparations for this scenario and if we have to walk we will do so and we will not be caught unawares.  Such a move, though, will come at a considerable price both for the EU and for the United Kingdom, The Pan-European research and development projects in which our universities have been involved for example will be placed in jeopardy.  The European Arrest Warrant and international police and anti-terrorism  co-operation upon which much justice and much protection has relied in recent years could well also be compromised .Our ex-pat community living within other countries of the European Union are likely to find themselves placed at a considerable disadvantage and an end to freedom of movement will result in inconvenience at the very least for those who have become used to `frictionless` travel within the EU whether on business or on holiday. 

The former Brexit Secretary, a personal friend, said before the referendum that “once we vote to leave the EU we will negotiate a new relationship with the EU” but, eighteen months into those talks he has left the negotiating table with that `new relationship` not yet agreed. As someone rather wiser than I said at the time “Those who want to leave want a revolution but there is no indication as to what Britain will look like one day, one month, one year or one decade later”.  After that referendum I said in an article published in June 2016 that “Those who love and have worked for our Country for decades have a duty to try the limit the damage and, in the interests of our children and our grandchildren, to get the best deal for Britain that we can” and that is what most of us are still trying to achieve. 

There have always been politicians who have preferred the grievance to the solution because their `power-base` and position, often out of all proportion to their own self-importance, is reliant upon conflict and not resolution. Those on both sides of the House of Commons, and some who have failed even to secure election who have, for their own doctrinaire reasons, sought to undermine the process of negotiation have, I think, a very great deal to answer for. We have to trust, though, that even at this late stage the determination and courage of the Prime Minister and her Government will win through and that, albeit in years rather than months, there will be a prosperous and secure future for a still United Kingdom.

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