This isn't a Compromise, it's a Capitulation
It should be clear to all by now that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is insufficient. Not only does it not satisfy the demands of most Brexiteers, it also infuriates Remainers for its ability to wilfully alienate both parties. To me, it’s like the arguments of why a centrist party would never work domestically because, in pandering to both sides, it fails to win over sufficient support from either. Now, one must be sympathetic to some extent. It was a close referendum result, and so it would be incorrect to utterly discard the voices of the Remain camp. However, a deal of the like proposed by Mrs May is not only useless in satisfying anybody but is also compromising to the interests of the United Kingdom. When the former Brexit Secretary himself, Dominic Raab, comes out and states that EU membership itself is preferable to May’s deal then perhaps it is time for a new approach.
Where exactly does May’s deal fail?
In its capitulation to the Irish government and the European parliament, Downing Street is allowing separate regulatory rules for Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the United Kingdom. This “backstop” alienates Belfast from the rest of the country. This is pure insanity. On the one hand, this infuriates unionists in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, the SNP will have renewed ammunition to demand greater autonomy from the United Kingdom. Put simply, the entire proposal compromises the integrity of our sovereign nation. Imagine you are an American in New York, and you read one morning of Washington’s plans to change VAT regulations in Alaska to align to that of an Asian trading body to satisfy foreign demands. It’s unheard of, it’s a betrayal of the Northern Irish people who, after all, are British.
The alternative to this is that the entire backstop be extended to include the entire United Kingdom. This, effectively, would mean that the United Kingdom would remain in the Customs Union. What is the result of this? Remaining in the Customs Union completely defeats the economic point of the referendum. It would completely dash any chance of establishing new free trade deals around the world which, as should not be forgotten, was the entire financial incentive for the referendum. Further, by retaining EU regulations, the UK would indefinitely be tied to its overbearing and undesirably invasive legislation. For example, by being tied to the EU, the UK cannot remove the ridiculous tax on tampons that the EU insists on maintaining. (For anyone who believes that overregulation is a good thing for an economy, one need only see the studies which indicate how compliance to EU regulations costs between 2 and 12 per cent of the EU’s entire GDP) *.
All of this will go ahead without the UK having a say at any EU negotiations and, indeed, almost certainly will include the absurd £39 billion payment to the EU: which as should be clear by now, is a fine. To put this in context: this £39b fine would pay for 26,000 nurses for the NHS: for forty years. By lodging the UK (or even just Northern Ireland) into an EU controlled backstop, the UK would forever lose its ability to leave the EU in the future.
Personally, the entire Brexit plan reeks of deception and corruption. Downing Street has never had the intention of leaving the EU, and it seems the objective is to tie us so close to it that we would inevitably just be reabsorbed into it. What exactly is the solution then? The Express has recently revealed that supposedly the Cabinet and the Treasury are secretly preparing for an EEA agreement **. This ‘Norway Option’ (through the EFTA), which would allow us retained access to the single market without the burdens of EU membership, is an option that can find support from both moderate Leavers and Remainers alike. In addition, the DUP has indicated its support for such a route. Other politicians that are particularly vocal about the viability of this option include Nick Boles, George Freeman andGeorge Trefgarne. Even Nicola Sturgeon has indicated how it would be acceptable for Scotland, a part of the UK that voted to remain ***.
I have written much about the feasibility and potential of this Brexit option, but will summarise its benefits briefly again.
- Inside the Single Market
- Protection of our financial services
- Legal potential to control immigration
- Outside the Customs Union, so we are free to strike new trade deals abroad
- Free from the European Court of Justice
- Contributions to the EU are cut dramatically, saving hundreds of millions of pounds
- Resolution of the Irish border problem
- Outside the CAP and CFP, both overwhelmingly opposed by the British agricultural industry
- UK becomes free from burdening EU regulations
- And, most importantly, this is an economic model already established, tried and proven.
- Finally, it is an option already offered by the EU as a viable and preferable resolution.
It is becoming increasingly likely that May’s deal will fail in parliament, despite its obvious endorsement from the EU. A no-deal Brexit is equally likely to be blocked by a Remain majority. As such, it is hoped this third option will continue to gather momentum and coverage across the political spectrum and progressively be seen as the most practical and utilitarian outcome.
* Sir David Arculus, speech to the Financial Services Authority (July 2005) & Gerrit Zalm, speech to UK Economic conference ‘Advancing Enterprise: Britain in a Global Economy’ (January 2004).
At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a second year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying Modern History and International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK defence strategy and foreign policy.