Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Surely This Could Not Be a Treaty

The Cabinet has agreed the draft deal of the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union. Wednesday evening Theresa May well after 7 pm came out and gave a very luke warm presentation, a small puff of white smoke, that agreement had been reached. The Cabinet meeting went on more than two hours over the expected time period.

Given what was known and assumed at the time before agreement, Nicky Morgan MP was prepared to consider it, even approve it, in a desire to 'move on' and consider all these problems in society receiving such little attention these days. This worried me, because it sounded like yet again the so-called 'Remainers' capitulating to something sub-standard. And of course a bird in the hand, a document that would be so difficult to tweak, to change, is better than a calamity of no deal. Theresa May also raised this 'binary' option into a 'tertiary' on, of no Brexit at all, as an alternative. The latter used to be her position.

I have tried to imagine what this agreement would look like as a treaty. It won't get there, of course, but what if it did? It means we have no political representation in the EU, an extendable transition period, a backstop that means a sort of customs union and Northern Ireland in the Single Market and Customs Union in effect.

What would future governments do with this? The trade agreement to be UK-wide must match Northern Ireland. Would they keep extending the transition period? Would the backstop be the model for the trade agreement?

This is like some or most of the advantages of being in the EU, without the political representation? What is the point of this?

There are reasons in political life why we let sleeping dogs lie, or get them to sleep again when they wake, and why the anti-EU sentiment had to be suppressed. We see it in Northern Ireland, now to be treated differently from the UK if this becomes a Treaty. These are deep ethnic and constitutional issues. Deep too were the resentments of austerity that were dumped on the political class via the 2016 referendum. The gamble of the EU referendum was made to solve a Tory Party problem, which was then able to exploit a damaged public and bring in moneyed interests to cause damage against a social market economy model of political co-operation. The referendum has been made 'sacred' by interests that want a raw economy, that will do down the very people they conned to vote for the future not in any ordinary person's interest.

But imagine future governments of different political persuasion inheriting this agreement as a binding treaty? What would they do? They would extend the transition period. They would have the backstop as a model for the trade agreement: it must be to preserve Northern Ireland as part of the UK, and even then this agreement makes Northern Ireland different. And how come Northern Ireland has the benefits of the EU Single Market when the other countries of the UK do not? Imagine UK firms leaving England, Wales and Scotland to set up in Northern Ireland!

Perhaps the Cabinet ministers opposing this decided to back it on the basis that it would fail anyway. They will, presumably, resign anyway in order to vote against it themselves. Chequers seems to be the model for this: agree one minute and resign the next.

The elements of this agreement do not add up. It's like saying, here is this half-baked, half-offering what you have, inadequate product, without political representation. It's about the best on offer, we are told. But as a treaty it would be ridiculous and no future government would want to work with this. Surely this is now obvious? Surely now politicians can do what politicians should and stop this altogether. We work within the EU because it is there, and because it gropes towards democracy compatible with sovereignty not in itself but among Member States, sharing and pooling sovereignty via EU institutions, such as its Parliament and, critically, building a body of law which gives certainty of governance.

We've had two and a half years of this experiment into what is possible and impossible, what is a calamity and what is a pipe dream, mental imaginings that do not equate to realities on the ground. It is time to realise that this experiment was a delusion, that nothing was ever on offer, and bring it to a close. Parliament can do this, and start to heal what Angela Merkel, a woman of deep democratic and liberal principle, brought up through the oppression of East Germany, recently described as a deep wound.

No comments: