Fake Brexit means never Brexit

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Fake Brexit means never Brexit

This is not a deal for Brexit, but a further indefinite extension of EU membership, says Bruce Newsome. To deliver the Brexit vision the British people voted for the country first needs a new government, one that isn’t led by Remainers.

As predicted on these pages, the Prime Minister (Theresa May) has left her deal with the EU to the last minute, to bounce her Cabinet into agreeing for lack of time, just as she bounced the Cabinet into agreeing to her plan at Chequers in July.

This is not a deal for Brexit – it’s another indefinite extension of EU membership, marketed with the same spin that has been disproven over the previous year.

May is pretending that she has prevented both a hard border between Northern Ireland and Eire, and the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain, but she is dishonest.

The dishonesty began with her entertainment of the EU making an issue of this particular border. Northern Ireland and Eire never had a hard border – not before the EU, not even at the height of Irish terrorism and insurgency. The government did not cry alarm about a hard border between England and France, or propose to keep Kent in the EU in order to guarantee a soft border at the Channel Tunnel, so why did it collude with the EU in pretending that Northern Ireland must have a special border arrangement?

May used it as a fake issue that she could promise to prevent – spun as her commitment to prevent the “break up” of the union. In fact, she was prepared to keep Northern Ireland in the EU, while taking the rest of Britain out, which is as good as breaking up the union practically. This option was casually characterized as a border in the Irish Sea, which under-states its implications for sovereignty: for instance, the EU could have dictated changes to Northern Irish taxes independently of the British government.

May – having wasted months by negotiating to avoid this “backstop” – is now claiming triumph for preventing the “backstop” – but in reality the EU has dropped a demand that it should never have been allowed to demand in the first place.

The consequence is not a triumph for May but for the EU, because May has avoided a border in the Irish Sea by keeping the whole of Britain in the customs union, which is as good as staying in the EU. If you’re a member of the customs union, you’re subject to all EU regulations and legislative and judicial decisions. Britain is not leaving the EU in any practical terms, even though May continues to pretend that Britain is leaving in March 2019. In fact, her nominal separation in March 2019 is the worst of all world, because Britain will lose its say in the EU, while remaining fully subject to the EU.

Worse, this extension of Britain’s practical subordination to the EU is indefinite, and is subject to the EU’s determination. Britain will not be able to leave the EU when it wants, only when an unspecified “independent panel” says so. Since this “independent panel” will be stacked with representatives of the EU (not to mention pro-EU British civil servants), the panel is as good as the EU.

May should never have agreed to any party but Britain deciding when Britain leaves. If she must agree to third-party involvement, she could have picked an international court (even the World Trade Organization; WTO), but she has stupidly agreed to the EU’s demands on this too. Her spin of an “independent panel” just adds a lie to a stupidity.

If Britain disputes the decision of the “independent panel,” then the next adjudicator would be the European Court of Justice. Yep, you’re getting the picture: Britain isn’t leaving the EU in March 2019.

But wait, the news gets worse: at this rate, Britain will never leave the EU: fake Brexit predicts never Brexit. Two-and-a-half-years have passed since the referendum, frittered away in indecisiveness and wilful diversion into fake crises over fake issues, without readiness for full separation under WTO rules (the mischaracterized “cliff edge” or “no deal” contingency).

Everybody is so tired of the uncertainty, so spooked by ongoing “project fear,” that Britons are more willing to stay in the EU now than in 2016, just to end this indefinite purgatory. Remainers are exploiting this impatience and insecurity. This morning, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, staunch Remainer-Conservative Anna Soubry said that everybody has realized that leaving is much worse than we were promised, that we should hold a second referendum to overturn the first. Soubry, like May, is exploiting impatience, by urging us to repudiate what we voted for just to escape our impatience.

The truth is not that Brexit is impossible or stupid, but that Remainers have messed up Brexit to make it slower and more painful that it needed to. The prime minister and her next most important cabinet member (Philip Hammond, the chancellor) are Remainers, who have wilfully under-prepared for anything but fake Brexit.

Separation from the EU is much simpler than the elite wants to pretend – its pretence is self-interested, an excuse for its own failures, and a collusion to put elite interests before popular interests.

At any time, Britain could and should declare itself a sovereign country, outside the EU, under WTO rules. (“At any time” includes the past: I first urged this solution eleven months ago.) That “all” includes the EU, which would no longer be able to raise fake issues and spin fear about fake doomsday scenarios, and would be forced to negotiate a mutually advantageous deal, instead of a selfish one.

Britain would need a new government first, one that isn’t led by Remainers. Let’s hope that happens today. Members of cabinet: I hope you’re listening; if not, you’ll condemn your party to a decade in the wilderness.

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    Bruce Newsome
    Bruce Newsome, Ph.D. is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of California Berkeley
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