Theresa  May and the attempted murder of Brexit

Robert Henderson

A  transition period lasting at least two years after March 2019 when the UK will have to abide by EU laws including new ones; a massive “divorce  bill” currently slated to be around £39 billion  and probably much more ; the European Court of Justice  (ECJ)  to  have a role in the UK justice system not only during the transition period but perhaps  for years after the UK has supposedly left the EU; the  cut off point for EU citizens gaining  rights of residence to be at least  March 2019 (and probably substantially  longer) ;  EU citizens with rights of residence in the   UK to  have  the right to bring in their relatives, spouses and even their   partners  to the UK   and  the UK and the EU to be in  alignment on standards and procedures  when it comes to trade  because of the “hard border”  problem between  the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  All that and more tells the  story  of Theresa May’s rapid betrayal  of Brexit.

What has motivated the woman to dishonour the  Brexit vote  so obviously and emphatically?  It  can only  be attributed to one of two things  or a combination of both, viz:

  1. May is simply out of her depth and acted out of fear.
  2. May is an unrepentant remainer at heart who  is quite happy to see circumstances arise which allow Brexit to be effectively nullified.

It is unreasonable to expect May to be wholeheartedly working to achieve a true Brexit  because someone  fundamentally  opposed to a course of action will be unable to support  it  with  enthusiasm.  Indeed, it is more than  likely  that a person in such a situation will be secretly  pleased if the attempted course of action fails. At worst  the person will use their involvement in  the course of action to sabotage its  desired end.

It is also worth remembering that May  is the worst type of remainer, namely, a  cowardly one as  she showed with her near invisibility  during the referendum  campaign. That was the behaviour of an opportunist not  a person acting out of principle and opportunists can never be relied on to  do anything other than follow their own interest. May   well have decided that her own interest in this situation  is to actively  sabotage Brexit or at least to drag things out in the hope that, Micawber-like,  something will turn up to destroy Brexit. .

May’s  capitulation to the EU   should surprise no one who has followed her  ministerial career.  As Home Secretary May was constantly making encouraging statements   about reducing immigration but never doing anything to make reality match her words.  This habit of talking tough and then not seeing  a  stated policy through to  fruition extended to much of what she did. This is also how she has behaved  over Brexit, espousing tough slogans such as Brexit means Brexit and then collapsing in a heap  when faced with a hostile  EU.

Here is what May  said in her campaign to be Tory leader and PM:

“There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it by the back door, and no second referendum.

“The country voted to leave the European Union, and as prime minister I will make sure that we leave the European Union.”

And here she is on 11 December 2017 about her “offer” (in reality a modern Danegeld) of £39 billion to allow the negotiation of the UK’s  relationship with the EU post Brexit  to  begin:

““It [the£39 bn) depends upon a broader agreement being reached – as I have said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – so if there is no agreement then our offer also falls away.”

Based on her past behaviour can  anyone rationally  believe May  will  be willing to walk away with no deal?  Moreover, even if a hallway decent  deal is done on trade the  UK would still be left with all the concessions May has already made and some of those in themselves make a true Brexit impossible, for example, the alignment of the whole of  the UK with EU trading standards and procedures .

Remainer domination of the positions of power and influence

It is true that May is in a stickier position now than a year she was a year ago  because of the result of the General Election which  she called that  resulted in the loss of her Commons  majority.  But that is no excuse for her weakness when dealing with the EU for the  Election  did not fundamentally alter the Commons arithmetic . It is marginally easier now for the remainers to amend or  vote down legislation or pass motions  hindering Brexit but that is all.  Even if May had not called an election her Government would still have been  vulnerable to  remainer  attempts to destroy Brexit for  we have a Remainer dominated cabinet, a Remainer dominated Tory  Parliamentary Party, a Remainer dominated House of Commons and a Remainer  dominated House of Lords.

Nor is it just the those with a formal political position who have been grinding the remainer axe incessantly.  Tony Blair has made no bones about wanting to stop Brexit at any cost and Nick Clegg has come down in favour of a second referendum  and  advocated the votes of  the under 30s count double.

Outside of ex-politicians there have also been attempts to delay and complicate Brexit  by wealthy people such as Gina Miller who  forced a judicial review  which resulted in the Supreme Court forcing the Government to legislate before activating Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

It is true that remainer political and social dominance  gives them great opportunity to delay and chip away at the idea of a  true Brexit with practices  such as amending Brexit Bills to death. But that does not mean May has to cave in to the EU.  Rather  it should  be a signal to her to press ahead as hard and as fast as possible to thwart  remainer efforts to delay the leaving date and to obfuscate the nature of the referendum result by making bogus claims that the British had not voted for a hard Brexit (this is the remainers  post-referendum BIG LIE) when in fact  what the British  voted for was to leave the EU, no ifs, no buts.

Instead of acting decisively May  failed to activate Article 50 until March 2017. Had she done this immediately she became Prime Minister the UK’s  leaving date even under would have been July 2018. But not only was Article 50 triggered much too late it has become embarrassingly  apparent  since the  negotiation with the EU began  that there had been a complete  failure by the Government  to prepare for Brexit  either before or since the  referendum. That  is unforgiveable as both as a matter of administrative incompetence and indicative  of the remainer  belief that the referendum would result in a vote to remain in the EU and, when that did not happen,  that it would be possible to subvert the Brexit vote somehow, whether through a second referendum or by simply making a such a mess of the negotiation that the UK would  be left as a de facto member of the EU.

The dismal reality of the negotiation to date

The fact that Brexit exists because a referendum instructed  the Government to leave the EU means that the  UK side of the negotiation  should have the most crimson and indelible  of red lines. The Government and Parliament contracted out the decision on whether the UK  should remain in the EU by having a referendum. Consequently, the idea that this was just like a business negotiation where both sides hide their bottom line until the last moment  is simple nonsense.

The question on the referendum ballot paper was crystal clear, namely, Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  This meant no membership of the customs union, no membership of the single market, no payments to the EU, no jurisdiction  of the ECJ over UK affairs,  recovery of UK sovereignty over her borders and fishing grounds  and the reestablishment  of  full sovereignty to  the  Westminster Parliament.  Those should all be absolute lines in the sand as mandated by the British people in the referendum.

May has completely ignored this mandate. To date the negotiation has consisted  of  the EU saying they want this and they must have that and   May caving in.  She has not  been willing or able to  make any meaningful stand against what the EU have demanded. She has also allowed herself to be   insulted   by both the EUI bureaucracy and EU politicians  In allowing herself to be insulted she has allowed  the UK to be insulted.

May’s  first mistake was to accept the EU’s demand that they set the agenda for the negotiations with  the UK.  This meant  agreeing   to pay a huge  amount of money to the EU,  a settlement of the Irish question  and the position of EU nationals in the UK and British nationals in other EU countries before moving on to trade.  This insistence by the EU contradicted their own  guidelines  for Article 50 negotiations. These   state : “2. Negotiations under Article 50 TEU will be conducted in transparency and as a single package. In accordance with the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, individual items cannot be settled separately. “  May should have called them out on this but failed to do so. The fact that she  did not do so means that the UK is already committed to much which is  to the UK’s  disadvantage.

May began the  detailed process  of capitulation in September  2017 when she offered £20 billion  as a “divorce settlement”  if a satisfactory  agreement  between the UK  and the  EU could be made.  She also made it clear that  the UK would meet all its obligations which would  include the UK’s share of   all spending commitments the EU had made up to 2020 and the funding of EU pensions to politicians and bureaucrats which could go on for many  decades.  By December 2017  the UK appears to have accepted that the Bill could be £39 billion with again probably more to come for EU spending stretching into the future and other longer term commitments such as EU pensions.

The striking thing about all these promises is that no detailed computation has been made public to show why the UK owes such sums or is obligated either legally or morally to make such financial provision .   This is unsurprising because there is a strong argument to say that there is no legal basis for any “divorce” settlement. The House of Lords  European Union committee reported  in  March 2017 that “We conclude that if agreement is not reached, all EU law — including provisions concerning ongoing financial contributions . . . will cease to apply and the UK would be subject to no enforceable obligation to make any financial contribution at all.”

The remainers are very fond on analogies in their” explanations” as to why the UK has to cough up huge amounts of money to the EU both before and after we supposedly leave.  Their favourite analogies involve members of clubs and their taking on obligations which they have to honour if they leave the club.

Here is  an example of what happens in the real world when a club member ends his or her membership. Suppose  a club has a membership fee of £500 a year. Its  executive board  decides to raise the fee to £750 pa to pay for a  new and bigger clubhouse. This is put to the members  who vote to go ahead with the plan.  Members who do not wish to pay a higher membership fee leave the club. No one expects them to keep on paying towards the  new  clubhouse. Nor, if the club has paid employees with a pension scheme run by the club would members who left be expected to pay  towards these  pensions. That is essentially   the position of the UK in relation to the EU.  We owe them nothing.

The negotiation – the strong cards in the UK’s hands which have not been played

If  May was sincerely behind Brexit  and possessed of a modicum or courage and nous she would have realised that  she had a very strong  hand to play because she was holding  these bargaining  cards:

1) The shortfall in the funding for the EU caused by  the UK’s withdrawal.

Instead of simply throwing this card away by adopting the favourite internationalist ploy of “setting an example”  by offering  £20 billion  (a ploy guaranteed to make the opposing side pocket the offer without giving anything in return  and then   ask  for more ),   May should have  not made any offer and instead have insisted that the EU provide a detailed computation of the net amount they were claiming the UK owed and most importantly  give  the legal basis for their claim.

2) There many more EU migrants living in the UK than British citizens living in other  EU countries.

Estimates vary but UK citizens living in other EU states may be as low as 900,00 and as high as 1.2 million.   The number of EU migrants in the UK could be as high as 3.7 million. Migration Watch UK puts the figure at 3.3 million.   The question of  how many have  the  right to permanent residence is complex  because of interplay of EU law with British law but it is a reasonable bet that the large  majority will qualify for permanent  residence status under current rules. Moreover, based on the UK’s  performance when it comes to deporting illegal immigrants it is stretching credulity to believe any UK government would be willing or able to deport huge numbers of EU state citizens.

The fact that there are three times the number of EU citizens in the UK  than there are  Britons  in the EU means that the UK has to bear a  vastly heavier  burden than any other  EU  country both in terms of  direct state funding for the support of foreign EU nationals – education, healthcare, in and out of   work benefits  and so on –  and the indirect costs such as depressed wages for many  native Britons and much higher housing costs.   This is not simply because there are three times as many EU nationals in the UK as there are Britons in the EU. The UK has to bear the entire burden of the EU nationals in the UK while the remaining EU states have only to take a fraction of the one million Britons living in  other EU states.

Then there is the question of children. The children of EU migrants with the right to residence in the UK will  themselves have the right to residence in the UK. Consequently, the gross difference between the numbers of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU means that  EU nationals resident in the UK  are likely to produce many  more children than UK citizens in EU states. This effect will be amplified by  the differences in  the age profiles of EU migrants living in the UK and British citizens living in other EU countries. The age  profile of EU migrants in the UK is younger than that of UK citizens living in other EU states.   Consequently, they are likely to have more children pro rata than UK citizens living in EU countries.   As things stand these children will have the right to British residency regardless of where  they are born.

In a sane world the date at which EU immigrants should  no longer be able to claim residency in the UK should be the day after the referendum, namely, 23 June 2016.  Sadly, sanity is the last thing to expect of  the EU so the ongoing stream of immigrants from the EU into the UK  since the referendum  will have rights of residence. That immigrationhas continued to rack up some impressive  numbers. Even if the UK leaves in March 2019 that will mean thirty three months have passed since the referendum in June 2016. At  the level of EU immigration since the referendum  the net figure for new EU immigrants arriving in the UK   before March 2019 will be around 300,00. Moreover, if there is a transitional period when the UK remains a full member of the EU it could be much higher for there is no set period for the transition as yet and it is quite conceivable that any transitional period will be extended and extended. It is also a reasonable assumption that if it looks as though Brexit is to  be  emasculated or overthrown completely the volume of EU migrants will rise.   As for the  future  status of EU migrants in the UK, the EU are seeking  what seems to  be open ended ECJ  involvement in  decisions on how EU migrants in the UK will be treated.

Even if  UK citizens in the EU   are granted reciprocal rights those will only extend to providing the same standard and range of state support  which is granted to nationals in the country of residence of any British citizen who resides in the EU. This will be much less extensive and generous than that  which  would  have to be  provided by the UK to EU nationals in the UK.

It is also  unclear that Britons in other EU countries will be able to reside in any EU state after Brexit  or only in the EU state in which they have resided while the UK has been part of the EU. The joint agreement between the UK and the EU   states: “Union citizens who in accordance with Union law legally reside in the UK, and UK nationals who in accordance with Union law legally reside in an EU27 Member State by the specified date, as well as their family members as defined by Directive 2004/38/EC who are legally resident in the host State by the specified date, fall within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

That could be interpreted as meaning that Britons  who reside un an EU country will only have the right to reside in that EU country after Brexit.

Putting all these facts in the balance it is clearly not in the UK’s interest  to simply agree a reciprocal deal with  the EU over  British citizens in other EU countries  and EU migrants in the UK.  There needs to be a proper costing of the respective costs of migrants  to on the one hand the UK and on the other the EU. The cost of the EU migrants  in the UK would be vastly greater than the cost of British citizens  to other EU countries.  Far from accepting that the UK owes the EU anything May’s Government should push for payments from the EU to defray the  much greater costs of supporting more than three times the number of EU citizens in the UK compared with British citizens living in EU countries.

3) The UK/EU  balance of trade being much  in favour of the rest of the EU.  In  2016  other EU member states exported £82  billion more to the UK than the UK exported to the rest of the UK.  Perhaps even more significant the deficit in exports of goods was  larger being £96 billion  for it is jobs attached to the supply of goods rather than the provision of services which often get the most media and political attention because these are the  businesses which have large numbers of employees in one place, for example, car manufacturers.

4)  Ireland.  The position of the Republic of Ireland (ROI) could have been the  trump card in the negotiations.  The ROI  should have been told either you leave the EU when the UK leaves or there will be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the  Republic which would include an end  to the Common Travel area between   the Republic and the UK.

If  tariffs  were imposed by the EU  and reciprocal ones imposed by the UK this would cripple the Republic whose economy is very heavily dependent  on trade with the UK.

Northern Ireland  could be compensated for any loss of trade by the UK taxpayer  until their economy has rebalanced.  This rebalancing could happen by, for example, exporting much more of their farm produce to the British mainland.

5) The nervousness of the EU. There are very public  signs that the rest of the EU are distinctly nervous about the UK leaving without a deal. Once May had capitulated over  the shape of the negotiation she was shown on friendly terms with the EU negotiators and was reported to have been applauded at a dinner with other EU leaders.  This is best interpreted as  the EU political and bureaucratic elites considering  May to  be their creature whom they were determined to keep in office for fear that if her government falls  the chances of the UK walking away from a deal would increase  or a new government prove to  be less pliant to the EU will than that of May.

The future

If the negotiations continue as they have to date with May conceding ground time and time again the UK will probably be in a  Hotel California situation of booking out but never being  able to leave. Politics is a fluid business and  the longer the Brexit process continues the greater the opportunities for remainers to sabotage it.  Labour might win the next election with a promise to hold a second referendum to keep the UK in the EU or even stand on a platform which promises the cancellation of Brexit.   There may be some threat unrelated to  Brexit  such as another recession which might  frighten enough of the electorate into backing such a  Labour promise and,  in the case of a second referendum,   voting to remain.

It might be thought that the Labour  Party is in such  ideological disarray  on Brexit  – with  present or previous Shadow Cabinet members embracing everything from a true Brexit to cancelling Brexit –  that  electors would not take them seriously . But   Labour are not the Government and it is a truism that governments are more often evicted because of what they are doing or not doing than because an opposing Party has more attractive policies or more impressive personnel.

What should the UK do?  The only sane thing to do is to acknowledge what is obvious, namely, that the  leading politicians and bureaucrats of  EU have absolutely  no intention of behaving reasonably and  Theresa May  is either incapable of  withstanding  the EU’s  unreasonable demands or  is secretly colluding with the EU to sabotage Brexit. Having done that the way out is obvious, simply announce that the UK is walking away. Can the UK do  that legally under international law? Indeed they can  for no treaty is unbreakable if  one or more of the signatories to a treaty is seen to be  failing to meet  their obligations under the  treaty.  These obligations include acting in good faith  when  Article 50 is invoked.  No such good faith on the EU side has been forthcoming. Instead the EU representatives have not only made unreasonable demands such as those over the jurisdiction of  the ECJ in UK affairs after Brexit and claims for huge amounts of money  (some as much as 100 billion Euros ), they have also  regularly been humiliating May until  they thought they had disciplined her to their way of thinking and then made a public show of applauding her after that was accomplished.

Remainers   rail against their description as  traitors and Quislings.  Those remainers who have sincerely accepted the result  and have ceased to attempt  to prevent  Brexit certainly do not  deserve such names, but what else can those remainers who will never accept Brexit and do everything they can to overturn the referendum result by stealth or frontal assault  be reasonably called?  They  do everything they can to thwart Brexit by a mixture of interminable delay, calls for second referendums and  wilfully perverse  interpretations of the word leave such as claims that the UK could remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union  and still achieve Brexit.  That is a clear denial of democracy and what greater treason in a democracy is there than overthrowing  a  democratic vote?  And when the overthrowing is done with the purpose of ensuring  their country remains in the political grip of a supranational power, is that not  the act of a  Quisling?

There is a question  remainers should ponder long and hard. It is this, if they manage to sabotage Brexit either by  emasculating the process so that it is Brexit only in name or by simply reversing the result of the referendum,  perhaps by  standing on a general election platform  that one or more parties  would    annul  the Article 50  activation or by calling another referendum when the electorate are exhausted by the process of leaving (the favourite EU ploy to overthrow referenda which have the “wrong” result)  where does that leave the democracy?   If the results of  referenda, the purest form of democracy, are to be ignored or manipulated  out of all recognition,  what peaceful method of resolving political disputes is there where the politicians of any party with a reasonable chance of forming a government are largely of  one opinion and a majority of the electorate are of another?

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1 Response to Theresa  May and the attempted murder of Brexit

  1. Gearge says:

    I agree with all of your analysis except that we already know the UK will not achieve a good, nor even an acceptable, trade agreement. It is now clear that by March 2019 May is NOT aiming to have a fully defined trade agreement. It is intended only to have some sort of outline which I would say is meaningless. It now looks like “transition” will continue indefinitely, we will never get a full trade agreement as any negotiating leverage will have been dissipated this year, and we are likely top be effectively retained within the EU until some future event nullifies or reverses the Referendum result.

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