Owen Paterson’s article in today’s DT (paywalled link) was written after the Treasury announced that government planning for No deal would be wound up, having spent £ 4.2 billion on it. The title: “Abandoning no-deal planning proves Brexit was a stitch-up all along” shows that he’ll not mince words.
Also, this is not one of those articles written by hopeful contenders (or pretenders) for Ms May’s job. Owen Paterson has not made any noises to that effect. Moreover, he has considerable experience of the workings of Whitehall and the EU as former NI Sec of State and Sec of State at Defra.
Here are his observations relating to that latest Treasury stunt – as always, I’ll quote at length as the article is paywalled. From the top:
“Time and again, the Prime Minister told us that “no deal is better than a bad deal“, and yet the House of Commons has now told her three times that the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement is a bad deal. It will go on doing so. Unionist MPs from the DUP and Conservatives – myself included – will vote it down as many times as she brings that document unchanged to Parliament.
The reason is simple. It does not deliver Brexit. It threatens the constitutional position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom in breach of the Belfast Agreement’s Principle of Consent and the requirement to consult the NI Assembly. Without giving the UK a unilateral right of exit, laws will be imposed on us without a say by 27 other countries. It means being subject to substantial fines for non-compliance. To cap it all, it means paying £39bn for the privilege.”
Note the last two sentences. These are facts which our EUrophiliac remainers, from the Cabinet down, never mention. Onwards:
“MPs have been completely clear that they will not accept this. The EU have been similarly clear that they will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement. In such circumstances, the Government’s only chance of securing a good deal – the kind of zero-tariff Free Trade Agreement that Donald Tusk first offered in March 2018 – might have been to walk away, having been thoroughly prepared for no deal, to bring compression to the negotiations. Instead, the Government opted for an apparently infinite loop. The Prime Minister goes to Brussels. The Agreement does not change. It is presented to MPs with no new arguments, no new ideas and no new plan. It fails. That this ludicrous situation has been allowed to take root through a combination of obstinacy, unimaginativeness and incompetence is an embarrassment.”
An ‘infinity loop’ – I like that. Hands up all who are aware of that Tusk proposal? March 2018 – that was well before Chequers. I can’t help but wonder if our, that is Ms May’s special negotiating team – not DexEU – killed that proposal stone dead at birth. Next:
“More than that, it is insulting. It is insulting not merely to the 17.4 million Leave voters, but to every single voter who expects our democratic institutions to be trustworthy and expects their taxes to be spent responsibly. Things were bad enough when the UK proposed to give away £39bn – £60m per Parliamentary constituency – in the Withdrawal Agreement. But we now know that the Government is prepared to fritter away vast sums of money on policies it never even intends to implement.”
That’s put the spotlight on the Treasury, and it puts the continuing screeches from Labour about “Austerity” in a rather different light. After all, their wish to Remain means this and more money will have to be taken out of our wallets, solely for the benefit of the EU. More:
“The Government has spent £4.2 bn on no-deal planning. That is the equivalent of 91 thousand police officers or nurses, 93 thousand teachers, or 78 thousand doctors. The preparations are “well advanced” as former Minister Chris-Heaton Harris has confirmed. Aeroplanes will fly and land. Medical supplies will arrive. Livestock movements will continue. What was the point of spending all that money, if there was never any intention to use them?
It gets worse. In grasping an extension, the Government commits the UK to spending around £1bn each month in membership fees. Worst of all, it commits the UK to squandering £100m on wholly unwanted European elections, only for newly-elected British MEPs to immediately stand down in October. This expensive Government vanity project must stop. So, too, must the fear-mongering.”
Even worse: our Remain HoC is perfectly happy with squandering all that money – our money! – while still blaming the government for not spending enough in our country, on our problems. Moving along:
“Sensible measures, adopted in the best interests of both the UK and the EU, can mitigate any no-deal disruption and ensure that our relationships with our neighbours remain amicable and prosperous. These include alternative arrangements for a seamless Northern Ireland border.
No deal would not be an end state. It would trigger discussions of a wide-ranging, zero-tariff Free Trade Agreement – for the whole of the UK rather than just Great Britain. In such circumstances, both sides can invoke Article XXIV of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. As long as the UK and EU agree to an FTA and notify the WTO of a sufficiently detailed plan and schedule for the FTA as soon as possible, we could maintain our current zero-tariff arrangements while the new deal was being negotiated.”
Again, we must ask our MPs why this WTO deal has been turned into the one thing to be shunned at all cost? Why is it that to the Remainiacs the WTO deal is worse than garlic and a silver bullet to a vampire? Owen Paterson concludes:
“Rather than tack further towards Labour’s nonsensical position of permanent non-voting Customs Union membership, the Tusk Free Trade offer after leaving should now be the Government’s aim. To get there, it should be accelerating, rather than scaling back no-deal preparations. The Prime Minister has already missed two Brexit deadlines, on 29 March and 12 April. To avoid the humiliation of missing another, she must cancel the European elections, prepare fully for no-deal, and take us out of the EU on 1st June.”
Brave words, Mr Paterson – but as we all know by now: Ms May won’t listen and nor will the HoC, a.k.a. House of Clowns. Tinkering around the edges of her deal is no longer sufficient. The only solution is getting rid of Ms May.