Are the British people being short-changed over Brexit by Mrs May, the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union (EU), the government generally, and Parliament (made up of supposedly knowledgeable and prudent representatives of the people)? In the end the Brexit settlement achieved by Mrs May et al with the EU should correspond in large part to addressing the electorate’s significant wishes, hopes and fears as expressed in the referendum vote. What then are we not being told that we really should (in our interests) know? What will be the political consequences if and when we find out the hard way that our leaders are misleading and cheating us?
The Brexit (Leave) vote was for a change of direction, in particular to leave the EU, which is evolving into a centralised homogeneous superstate. It was not for politics as usual or the status quo of an out of touch ruling establishment (in Westminster and Brussels) concealing the truth, using fear to manipulate people and doing what it wanted to whilst ignoring the wishes of the electorate. Ultimately then it was about ‘the sovereignty of the people’ and their right to governed by consent; government of the people, by the people, for the people. Brexit, therefore, needs to be seen to be an actual change of political direction, not the political EU (aka Greater Germany) under a different name aided and abetted by a deceptive Westminster clique.
The vote to remain in the EU, for whatever reason such as succumbing to Project Fear, ideological commitment to remote authoritarian rule or obsequiousness, was acceptance of the current status quo and perhaps also of the EU’s direction of travel. Remain voters were effectively putting their trust in the ruling establishment (in Westminster and Brussels). Any Brexit settlement outside their ‘comfort zone’ of EU membership therefore needs to provide something like the same measure of reassurance and (wherever practicable) address their real concerns.
Whilst it would appear the objectives of Leave and Remain voters are completely different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot, or should not, be reconciled in the resulting Brexit settlement. To ignore the minority who voted Remain is tantamount to ‘dictatorship of the majority’ and un-British. It is also quite likely that the economic fears of Remain voters are also shared to some extent by Leave voters, whilst many Remain voters share the Leave voters’ disillusionment with, and distrust of, the ruling elite, and have concerns about uncontrolled immigration and open borders. Political independence from the EU whilst maintaining close trading arrangements (such as through the Single Market) and co-operation should be achievable if Mrs May and Mr Davis understood how the EU thinks and works and followed the example set by other prosperous countries in Europe, but not in the EU.
The political establishment and main stream media are not presenting us with anything like the full picture on leaving the EU. In turn the resulting distortion is creating misconceptions about what can and cannot be achieved.
Firstly, if we re-join EFTA (the European Free Trade Association) we can remain in the Single Market (more accurately the European Economic Area, EEA) under different, much more flexible or bespoke conditions including allowing us to control immigration (by unilaterally invoking Article 112, the Safeguard Measures) in the EEA Agreement and leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Secondly, the acquis (or body of law) of the EEA is about a quarter of the EU acquis and is needed to facilitate seamless trade.
Thirdly, about 80% of the EEA acquis originates outside the EU, to facilitate more global trade; we would (probably) need to comply with it anyway.
Fourthly, ‘all singing, all dancing’ free trade agreements (FTAs) take at least several years to negotiate and don’t provide seamless trade.
Fifthly, the EU is unlikely to agree to an advantageous FTA because it is not in the interests of their centralising control-freak political agenda.
Sixthly, outside the EEA we will be a ‘third country’ subject to vastly increased difficulty in trading with the protectionist EU through tariffs and non-tariff barriers including regulation, approvals and surveillance.
Mrs May and Mr Davis’s Transitional Deal and overall handling of Brexit so far has the potential to lead to dissatisfaction and disillusionment with many on both the Leave and Remain sides. For the Leaver there is dissatisfaction that Brexit is not a clean break on 29th March 2019, but delayed costly servitude to the EU as effectively a vassal state for at least 21 months, and quite possibly even longer; there may be an indefinite ‘Brexit in name only’. For the Remainers motivated by Project Fear there is the adverse effect on the economy during the transition period or afterwards as the FTA, if it is ever actually negotiated, fails to meet expectations. For businesses there is continuing uncertainty and potential barriers to the seamless trade with the EU that will occur whether or not there is an FTA.
Since the Referendum the disillusionment with the ruling establishment has continued. It is perhaps a long term trend here, within the EU and in the United States. Often decried as ‘populism’, it is a visible rejection by the left and right of the political spectrum of the status quo and its direction of travel. Rebellion against the political establishment of Conservative and Labour seeks alternative explanations and solutions, whether or not they are practical. However, perhaps equally or more significantly is the trend amongst the ruling class to become more insular and extreme rather than tone down their existing ideological views in response to their obvious unpopularity, impracticality or undesirable consequences. Rather than seek to respond to the democratic wishes of the electorate, understand major issues and offer practical solutions they turn to wishful thinking, internecine squabbling and deception.
The Brexit dividend providing the opportunity for our country to reinvigorate freedom, enterprise, democracy and our world-leading traditional strengths, for the benefit of all is being wasted. Unpredictable political change looks increasingly likely when the British people en masse conclude that the problem, making their lives and those of their children potentially worse, is the ruling class.