The logic of Brexit

Robert Henderson

Remainer  determination to subvert Brexit  is shamelessly alive and kicking. Since the referendum on 23rd June 2016 those who voted to remain in the EU have given a ceaseless display of antidemocratic and profoundly dishonest  behaviour in their attempt to overturn  overtly or covertly the result of the referendum.

The favourite tune of the Remainers is  “I respect the result of the referendum  but …”, the’ but’ being  variously that the “British did not vote to be poor”, the electors were suffering from  false consciousness , and the most absurd of all, that electors  made their decision to vote leave solely on  the leave side’s promise that £350 million a  week would be available to spend on the NHS. (This was a clumsy piece of leave information because the £350 million was what the UK as a whole paid as a net figure (after the rebate) to the EU each year and included money such as the subsidies to UK farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy.  Nonetheless, it was factually true in the sense that once  the money was not paid to the EU the British Government would be free to use it, with Parliament’s approval, in any way they saw fit.  What was a an outright and unambiguous lie  was the Remainer claim that the UK receives money from the EU each year.)

To give  substance to the Remainers wishes to stay in the EU  there has been calls for  a second  referendum once a deal with the EU is made (this is official LibDem policy); suggestions that if no deal is made after two years  the UK should remain in the EU (a surefire way to ensure that the EU will come to no agreement with the UK);   proposals to keep the UK in the Single Market and Customs Union (which would effectively mean no Brexit) either by direct treaty with the EU (SNP Leader’s policy) or through  the UK joining EFTA, and calls for Brexit to be simply  overturned, most notably by Tony Blair. Perhaps most dangerously  all the major UK parties now  have as their official policy a transitional period, including The Tories after Theresa May’s Florence speech.   This has real dangers  for Brexit because apart from committing the UK to at least another two years of paying into the EU, accepting free movement, being  bound by  new  EU  laws and being subject to the European Court of Justice,  thetransitional period could  turn into a permanent condition or at least be extended   so far into the future that a Remainer government might use to effectively  bind the UK  permanently into the EU.

To the domestic attempts to sabotage Brexit can be added the internationalist institutions which have  continued to fuel project fear with dire economic warnings, the most recent case being the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  (OECD)  which urges a reversal of Brexit with a second referendum to improve the UK economy. .

More formally, there has been the legal case brought  by Gina Miller which  forced the Government to consult Parliament on the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. There  has also been the  failed attempt  by  Peter Wilding and Adrian Yalland  requesting the High  Court  to  in effect direct the Government to hold a Parliamentary debate and vote on leaving  European Economic Area on the grounds that that the issue  not  on the referendum ballot paper.  A third court case which sought to reverse the triggering of Article 50 was  started in the Republic of Ireland  with a view to getting a favourable judgement which would then provide a  basis for further action in European courts was started but stopped.  Doubtless there will be further legal attempts to interfere with what is a quintessentially political matter before Brexit is completed.

The   most serious current attempt  by Remainers to  delay and  sabotage Brexit  is to  try to amend the  EU Withdrawal Bill so that Parliament have the final say on whatever is the final outcome of the Brexit process.   There is also probably  something of the McCawberish principle of waiting for something to “turn up” in this attempt.

The remainers  attempt to  justify this behaviour on the spurious ground that the referendum  result was about returning sovereignty to Parliament. This is to ignore the logic of the referendum for the form of the referendum placed the will of the people over the will of Parliament and, indeed , of government.

Why Brexit is not like a business negotiation

A main plank of  Remainer cant is that the Brexit negotiation is just like any old  business  negotiation where the two sides come to the table hiding what their bottom lines are before agreeing to a compromise. But the  Brexit negotiation is very different because  the British people were offered a chance to vote to take us out of the EU by voting in a referendum.

That referendum was simple and   unequivocal : there were no caveats required   to make it valid such as requiring  a minimum percentage of the electorate voting about Brexit or a minimum percentage of those voting to vote to leave. It was a straightforward one-vote-is enough yes or no ballot.  The  question on the ballot  paper was  beautifully  straightforward : “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Consequently,  the  leave result was an unambiguous instruction to  the Government and  Parliament to take  the UK out of the EU, no ifs,  no buts. The  vote  did not mean  deciding during the course of  the post-Brexit negotiation with the EU how many  of the EU  shackles which  currently   emasculate the UK as a nation state  should be removed and how many retained .  In short it   was simply  a question of leave meaning  leave,  just  as leave means leave when someone cancels their membership  of a club.

That being so the Government  is bound to have red lines and  cannot  go into the negotiations with a free hand  to barter away things as they might do in a business negotiation. The Government has no authority to pursue anything other than a true Brexit,   which means  out of the customs union, out of the single market,  away from the jurisdiction of the court of the European Court of Justice, control of our borders ,  free to make our own trade deals   and  paying no money to the EU.  Anything less than this would be a  betrayal of the referendum result .

The referendum was binding on the Government and Parliament

Remainers have also  tried to pretend that the referendum was merely advisory. Amongst the  many  falsehoods and deceits attempted by Remainers this is arguably  the most shameless because the position is clear cut.

The fact that the referendum was intended to be binding on both Government and Parliament  rather than merely advisory  was repeatedly  made unambiguously clear from well  before the referendum .   The Conservative General Election Manifesto of 2015  Page 72 said this about the referendum: “We believe in letting the people decide: so we will hold an in-out referendum on our membership of the EU before the end of 2017.”

In opening the second reading debate on the European  Union Referendum Bill on 9 June 2015, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said “This is a simple, but vital, piece of legislation. It has one clear purpose: to deliver on our promise to give the British people the final say on our EU membership in an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.”

and

“Few subjects ignite as much passion in the House or indeed in the country as our membership of the European Union. The debate in the run-up to the referendum will be hard fought on both sides of the argument. But whether we favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision about our membership should be taken by the British people, not by Whitehall bureaucrats, certainly not by Brussels Eurocrats; not even by Government Ministers or parliamentarians in this Chamber. The decision must be for the common sense of the British people. That is what we pledged, and that is what we have a mandate to deliver. For too long, the people of Britain have been denied their say. For too long, powers have been handed to Brussels over their heads. For too long, their voice on Europe has not been heard. This Bill puts that right. It delivers the simple in/out referendum that we promised, and I commend it to the House.”

In the light of this  MPs cannot have believed  that the referendum would  not be binding from the very beginning . Moreover, at the third reading of the  European Union Referendum Bill  the Commons voted 316 for and   53 against with 52 of those against being SNP Members.  Only one Labour MP voted against.  It was an overwhelming  acceptance, direct  or tacit,   by MPs of all parties barring the SNP  that the referendum was binding.

Finally, in the course of the referendum campaign the government spent £9.5million of taxpayers’ money on printing a leaflet and distributing it to all households in the United Kingdom.  It included these words:

“The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in the European Union.” (Page 2)

And  it went on to be even clearer and more emphatic:

“This is your decision.  The Government will implement what you decide.” (Page 14)..

The problem with Brexit  is Remainer politicians  still holding  the levers of power

We have a Remainer PM, a Remainer dominated Cabinet, a Remainer dominated Government,  a Remainer dominated House of Commons (with remainers dominant in the Tory, Labour, LibDEms and the SNP parties) and a Remainer dominated House of Lords.

A recent  report by the Daily Telegraph  found that the Cabinet is overwhelmingly Remainer. They asked all Cabinet members  whether they would vote leave  if another referendum was held. The result was :

– 16 Cabinet members either  refused to say whether they would vote leave  now or failed to respond to the question.

– Two Cabinet ministers who backed Remain,   Elizabeth Truss, the Chief Secretary of the Treasury  and Jeremy Hunt, the Health secretary,  said they would now vote Leave.

– Five other Cabinet ministers who voted Leave – Priti Patel, David Davis, Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Michael Gove –  said they would still vote to leave the EU.

The PM Theresa May  has  repeatedly refused to say whether she would be a leave voter if a referendum was held.

The overwhelming Remainer sentiment of those occupying the leading roles in the Government  automatically undermines the Brexit negotiations because the politicians of the  other EU member states and  the politicised  EU bureaucracy will think that at  best the UK Government will be happy to concede a great  deal  of  ground to the EU  and at worst will not push for a true  Brexit because their hearts are simply not in it.

The only way to change matters is to have a committed leaver as PM and a  Cabinet comprised only  of committed leavers. Anything less and  serious Cabinet disunity will continue.

Such a Government should lay down  the redlines listed above and commence immediately and with all speed the  preparation  to trade if necessary under WTO rules . That  provides a ready made template for our trade with the EU  . More boldly we could walk away from the EU now by invoking the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which includes the provision to  throw aside a treaty where the other parties o the treaty are acting in bad faith. The fact that Article 50 exists means that the other EU members have to act in good faith over a member state’s withdrawal. Patently they are not honouring that obligation.  Bad faith is  shown amply by both Eurocrats and EU political leaders since the referendum decision.

Remainers need to think  about what  is likely to happen if a true Brexit is denied by the multifarious machinations which Remainers have attempted.  That would be saying to the British electorate it does not matter how you vote the only thing you will ever get is what the ruling elite wants. At best  British politics would be poisoned for a very long time  and at worst political violence  could result.

After more than half a century of internationalist politicians and their supporters in  the media, universities and the civil service  the concept of treason is out of fashion in  the UK.  But treason is a crime like theft or murder,  which always exists whether or not there is  a law on the Statute Book for it  is the ultimate betrayal. If Brexit is thwarted  the cry of  treason may  be on people’s lips again in earnest.

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