May’s ‘clean’ Brexit can hide neither dangers nor dirty dealing

PM threatens European's security if she doesn't get her way.

Theresa May’s journey towards a bleak, deluded UKIP view of the world continued today as she abandoned key areas of potential negotiation over the Single Market (favoured by most businesses, trade unions and economists) and instead moved the battleground to an ill defined (and unlikely to be agreed) partial membership of aspects of the Customs Union.

She fell into easy but meaningless tropes about a “Global Britain” – the EU does not prevent the UK from trading with the rest of the world, although you wouldn’t have guessed it from this speech. In reality, our trade with the rest of the world will suffer if we have to negotiate quick new deals with other countries to replace the EU deals that we already have. Nor did she evaluate the economic costs of losing market share in Europe itself. Instead, she pandered to the small minded, nationalistic right wing of her party who still seem to think that Britain should have an Empire compliant to all our desires

She did not mention what she intends to do about British participation in the various European agencies through which we jointly check the safety of medicines, aircraft and chemicals, and authorise their use. We cannot simply drop out of these systems with no alternative arrangements in place.

And while claiming that she wanted to maintain friendly relationships with the other 27 countries in the European Union, she implicitly threatened them if they won’t let her have her cake and eat it.

The nature of these threats are particularly unpleasant – both for europeans and for most ordinary people in Britain.  She repeatedly emphasised the strength of British intelligence services, while implying that if she didn’t get what she wanted, they would not collaborate with our european allies. Just think about this for a moment: this is effectively saying if you don’t give us the deal we want, we will not help fight terrorism on the continent!

Further, she explicitly said she would walk away from any deal at all if she doesn’t get her way and, echoing Philip Hammond’s speech in Germany at the weekend, fundamentally shift the UK economic model into an offshore corporate tax haven. This would jumpstart a debilitating race to the bottom that would destroy jobs, security and public services within this country. Although it would be welcomed by huge global corporations who can easily move capital and nominal headquarters from one country to another, it would turn the UK into a bargain basement economy. Despite her promise to protect ordinary working people, employment rights would be swept away, industry would suffer, and there would be less and less money to pay for vital infrastructure and service such as the NHS.

How can she think that this is the right deal for Britain?

Granted, she finally accepted that the Brexit deal would be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. But she is not being generous or conciliatory here – Parliament is after all the sovereign power in the UK – so to present this as some sort of gesture towards democracy is duplicitous. Furthermore, she will no doubt try to hold a gun to the head of MPs and Peers who would disagree, saying “this deal or we’re out with no deal”, which would be a legal nightmare – though Parliament might yet call her bluff if faced with a bad deal, and choose to block Brexit.

May has long insisted that she would not give a ‘running commentary’ and this was reinforced today, again with darker overtones. ‘Those that ask for more detail,’ she said, ‘will not be asking in the national interest. Every stray word will make it harder.’ At best this is an attempt to impose a national gagging order on at least 48% of the population. At worst it implies that anyone who dares to challenge her new brand of UKIP-lite conservatism is a traitor. She is descending to the level of the social media trolls, who think democracy is not about debate but about putting up and shutting up, no matter what happens.

These are the tactics of the playground bully, not a unifying head of government.

May finished her speech in full self-delusional fantasy. “The country is coming together” she asserted. The victors “should be magnanimous” (there has been remarkably little of that) and the “losers must respect the result of the overwhelming majority” (48-52 is hardly overwhelming). The irony of her describing the country as united while she divides them into victors and losers should not be missed.

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  1. Sad. I feel very sad.
    And I’ll sad as long as you have not convinced me, Richard, that far less than 52% of British people agree with her.
    By the way, did she mention the question of the island of Irland? If she didn’t, that is evidence she don’t give a d…. to Peace even in Northern Irland.

  2. Thank you for this Richard, depressing as it is.

    Can you help shed any light on what she meant by ‘associate member’ of the CU? I have absolutely no idea what this means. Either you are in a customs union or not in a customs union. In order to be accepted by the WTO, a CU must cover virtually all traded goods, but can clearly leave out services and also agricultural products, which seem to be treated as a bit of a special case at the WTO.

    If we leave the EU we clearly have to leave the EUCU. We could attempt to negotiate a new CU between the UK and the EU along the lines of what Turkey has done, but you cannot be an ‘associate member’ of the EUCU.

    I guess she just didn’t want to say that her aspirations for the UK’s relationship with the EU is to be more like Turkey.

  3. “the EU does not prevent the UK from trading with the rest of the world, although you wouldn’t have guessed it from this speech”. No, I’d assumed, from this whole referendum and post-referendum propaganda, that if you were in the EU, you could only trade — or make trade agreements — through the EU!

    Please, please, elucidate, Richard. I really appreciate your knowledgeable blogs; could you give us one on this, please?

    • 7 out of 10 leading exporters are in the EU. Germany very closely behind USA. We are in 9th place behind Italy. In addition to the free trade with 27 other nations through the EU we have the buying powe and have access to 60 favoured nation agreements with other countries.

    • I agree Elaine – this continued harping on about how the EU prevented us, or held us back from trading with the rest of the world needs to be strongly rebutted.

  4. She did not get 52% of the UK, she is pandering to the 52% of those that got off their butts and went to vote for Brexit. I believe the 20% of the electorate that didn’t vote only did so as they believed in the status quo and a good numberjust never believed the status quo would or could have changed.

  5. May’s idea that we can ever unify over Brexit as a nation is just incredibly silly.

    I’ve been mugged by a mob led by besuited liars and racists, and now one of them returns to say: “I want us to be friends – but I’m still taking away your citizenship rights in 27 countries, a stack of your money and shrinking your public services, while creating a colossal burden of unnecessary national debt for your children and their children. Surely we can move on with this great project together?”

    I say we treat treat this call to ‘friendship’ with the utter contempt it deserves.

  6. Let those of us that want to remain in the EU fight for a fresh clean vote with no lies from either side. I believe that the Brexit mob would be annihilated and I suspect they do too.

  7. Elaine, my interpretation of Richard’s comment that EU membership does not stop the UK from trading with the rest of the world is that the EU has good trade deals in place and is itself the world’s larges exporter. Germany is an EU member state and challenges China and the US as top trading nation. The UK successfully buys and sells lots of products and services and has prospered as a trading nation while a member of the EU. Bad trade deals negotiated in haste post-Brexit will be repented at leisure and greater barriers to trade with our closest and most culturally similar market (also the world’s largest single market) will likely create whole in our International trade that is hard to fill no matter how much energy is invested in harder-to-access markets.

  8. First of all, I would like to express my thanks for all the useful and helpful information provided here.

    I have some thoughts on Mrs May and the “will of the people”. The “will of the people” can be, and has been, used to justify more or less anything. I am sure that the Nazis would have claimed that the persecution and murder of large numbers of Jews, homosexuals, Roma and others was the “will of the people”. Democracy is the best system of government that has yet been devised, but it is not perfect. It is entirely possible for the “will of the people” to be wrong, and sometimes very badly wrong. I would suggest that there are times when the “will of the people” not only can be opposed, but absolutely MUST be opposed. It is now an old adage that “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. Unfortunately, in a democratic system, it is only necessary to fool a majority of the people (say, 52%), for part of the time.

    Democracy has failed very badly many times in the past. During the 1920s and 1930s, it permitted the rise to power of Mussolini and the Fascists in Italy, and of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany. As an interesting matter of fact, both the Fascists and the Nazis used referendums (then usually called plebiscites) to justify some of their highly questionable actions. Indeed, referendums became largely discredited as a result (which is why the word ‘plebiscite’ was generally replaced by ‘referendum’ – like changing ‘Windscale’ to ‘Sellafield’). Democracy also failed to prevent the rise of militarism in Japan, which was the most democratic nation in eastern Asia, with a constitutional monarchy and an elected national assembly. Democracy did not stop the invasion of China, it did not stop Japan walking out of the League of Nations, it did not stop the attack on Pearl Harbor, it did not prevent the horrors of the war in the Pacific, Southeast and East Asia. Nor did it prevent war in Europe. Democracy is not perfect, and the will of the people cannot be sacrosanct.

    I do not intend to suggest that Mrs May is comparable to Hitler (perhaps she is a little like Mussolini!). However, she has shown an alarming tendency to resemble the leaders of Communist China and of the old Soviet Union, in that she apparently believes that everything she says is right and true and that no one can or should question it. She is now telling us not only what we should do, but also what we should think. She insists that we should all now cease to be “Leavers” or “Remainers” and embrace Brexit. I refuse! I am a Remainer, and I shall always be a Remainer. I am British AND European, and I shall proudly continue to be both British and European, whatever Mrs May and the Eurosceptics and Brexiteers may say. I am determined to fight tooth and nail to remain fully European, a citizen of the European Union.

    As for the result of the referendum of 23 June, I consider that it has very little legitimacy. Firstly, the result was not clear cut. 52% to 48% is NOT a resounding victory. Moreover, the people of Scotland and the people of Northern Ireland voted decisively to remain in the EU. If the “will of the people” must be respected, how can the wills of the peoples of Scotland and Northern Ireland simply be brushed aside? How can the 48% who voted Remain simply be ignored and told sharply to toe the line, as Mrs May would have it? The referendum result was indecisive, and the status quo should therefore prevail. It is also clear to me that the referendum was won by lies and deceit. The Leave campaigners, supported by a large section of the media, deliberately lied to the electorate. The referendum campaign was one of the most disgraceful political spectacles of all time.

    There is another very good reason to ignore the referendum result. There can be very little doubt that many Leave campaigners and voters were at least partly inspired by bigotry, ultra-nationalism, xenophobia and downright racism. The sharp rise in hate crimes after the referendum is evidence of this. There should never be any question of giving in to prejudice and racism. The “Little England” mentality of the Eurosceptics and Brexiteers must be challenged and defeated.

    At least there should be no question of leaving the single European market and stopping all the “four freedoms”. Mrs May is trying to sidestep parliamentary scrutiny and impose Brexit by prerogative, and has taken the Article 50 case all the way to the Supreme Court in the attempt to maintain her claim to what amounts to dictatorial power. Similarly, she and her government insist that leaving the EU must automatically mean leaving the European Economic Area (EEA). This, too, is facing legal challenge (see I very much hope that the government will lose all such challenges in the courts. The EEA was not even mentioned in the referendum question. The government has no mandate to take the UK out of the EEA. It would be comparatively simple to remain in the EEA, by joining EFTA.

    Finally, I wish to encourage all those who want to Remain to stand up and fight. The referendum result does NOT have to be respected, and I insist that it MUST not be respected. If I see someone about to do something very stupid, likely to result in harm not only to himself but also to others, should I simply say “It’s what he wants to do”, and let him do it? Of course not. It is morally right to oppose Brexit. It is time to tell Mrs May clearly and forcefully that she is NOT a dictator. She has no right to interpret the result of the referendum in any way she sees fit. She has no right to drag all those who voted Remain completely out of Europe. I call upon all right-minded people to stand up and say “We do not want to Leave! The UK must remain within the European Union!” I especially wish to urge all MPs who oppose leaving the EU to make their voices heard. It is time to end the stupidity of Brexit, which can only bring harm to everyone in the UK.

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