A week is a long time in politics, as the German agent Harold ‘von’ Wilson once observed. Not so long ago the media were asking whether there was any ongoing role for UKIP after the referendum. Labour had successfully wooed working class voters in the Midlands and the North by promising to support Brexit. Labour also promised opposition to the single market.
It turns out that Labour were lying. On Monday, 11th September they voted against the EU (Withdrawal) Bill at Second Reading. Not only that, they are now talking about ‘interim’ single market membership for such a lengthy period they are clearly thinking of permanently trapping us inside it.
Frances O’Grady, the economically illiterate General Secretary of the TUC, has openly called for permanent single market membership. Put shortly the TUC, desperate to give British jobs to European workers, wants to see continued uncontrolled labour dumping from Europe. Then they have the cheek to complain about wages being driven downwards!
Tony ‘von’ Blair, whose contempt for democracy was established when he rammed through the Nice and Amsterdam treaties without a referendum, has engaged in open defiance of the referendum result. Pro-Labour newspapers like the Guardian daily print articles attacking Brexit from the likes of Remoaners such as Matthew d’Ancona. He is scarcely more economically literate than Frances O’Grady. None of these articles of course engages the case for Brexit or even attempts to grapple with the costings of EU membership put forward by serious economists like Tim Congdon.
I have no personal issues with Jeremy Corbyn. We’ve met, as it happens, demonstrating together outside the US Embassy against the American invasion of Grenada. However, he is now open to a charge of deceiving the electorate.
Labour’s U-turn on Brexit did not happen overnight. Pro-Europeans in the party were obviously planning the switch months ago, probably from the time that the Brexit bill safely achieved its passage through Parliament after that silly litigation by Gina Miller. (Having deluded herself into believing that the perfectly proper deal between the Tories and those nice people the DUP was being sneaked through without Parliamentary sanction for the public expenditure involved, she has been threatening further silly litigation.)
Jeremy Corbyn now has to answer the question: when did he decide on the U-turn? No doubt it was forced on him, since his instincts on Europe are generally sound, but when was it forced? It’s no thanks to Jeremy that, helped by principled Labour Brexiteers, the Withdrawal Bill got over its first Parliamentary hurdle.
Labour will only have themselves to blame if their voters now turn to UKIP. Democracy is degraded if parties act in bad faith and deceive the electorate.
There are no legal remedies, only political ones. You take your revenge at the ballot box, not in the courtroom. Leaving aside the inability of the courts, with respect, to adjudicate fairly on matters touching our EU membership, it isn’t illegal to deceive the electorate.
The notorious paedophile Edward Heath lied his way through the 1970 General Election campaign. The Yes side lied shamelessly about the impact on sovereignty and the balance of payments in the 1975 referendum and the Remain side followed their example in 2016, using rigged export statistics. According to the Remain side, South Korea is in the European Union! They also falsely claimed that the EU is the world’s largest market. (NAFTA is far bigger.)
A political promise is only as good as the politician making it. Not every politician has Nigel Farage’s integrity. Very often what you see is not what you get.
Happily, Labour’s change of heart may not make much of a difference. With the help of Labour rebels Theresa May has the numbers in the House of Commons. The vote in the Lords on the Henry VIII powers will be tight, but it is difficult to see the unelected Lords being so rash as to defy the popular will on Brexit. The Withdrawal Bill should reach the statute book.
The Henry VIII Powers
The hypocrisy of the Remoaners knows no bounds. Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 is the single most used Henry VIII power in our history. Even King Henry VIII didn’t go as far, and he had the excuse of the threat from our community partner King Francis I of France.
Henry VIII’s approach to legislating by proclamation is not necessarily any better a precedent to follow than his approach to the resolution of matrimonial disputes. I am sanguine about the Henry VIII power’s falling foul of Parliament. I do not share David Davis’s mad desire to deprive us of much of the economic benefit of Brexit by lumbering us with idiotic EU regulations.
The Anglo-European Negotiations
As I have predicted on these pages, the negotiations are failing, indeed they have already collapsed in all but name. It’s all about the blame game now.
Just to reiterate – there is no provision in Article 50 for exit payments. A departing state is obliged to contribute to the EU budget during the notice period, but has no obligations thereafter. I am entirely in agreement with the recent LFB (‘Lawyers For Britain’) paper on this.
It seems odd to be talking about payments from the UK to Europe when Germany is potentially liable for huge reparations over armed attacks on the UK such as the Piper Alpha oil rig sabotage in 1988. Germany’s liability over Piper Alpha alone runs into tens of billions of pounds when reinsurance losses and interest are taken into account. If need be these reparations could be levied by way of punitive tariffs on German imports, at say 25%.
Since no deal will be better than any deal the EU would agree to the latest news from Brussels is encouraging. Juncker is now reduced to uttering threats. If by us regretting our departure from the EU he is hinting at the planned Spanish attack on Gibraltar he’d better realise that we know about that one and are making cunning plans.