Theresa May has secured the agreement of all 27 other EU member states and the EU negotiating team to the Withdrawal Agreement crafted primarily by herself and Olly Robbins, the unelected civil servant and unrestrained Europhile who has had more influence on the policy than the last two elected Brexit Secretaries. We have reached the point at which if Parliament does not reject this deal it will shape the entire future course of our relationship not only with the EU but with the rest of the world. The deal will define who rules Britain and how, determining not only the kind of Brexit we receive, but the kind of governance that goes with it. And it will determine these things in a far more profound way than even the harshest critics of the deal have thus far acknowledged.
I should start, perhaps, by recognising that there has been endless comment on the Withdrawal Agreement already, together with every other aspect of Brexit, and it is entirely possible that millions of people have already switched off, thoroughly bored by the twenty four hour rolling news coverage that so frequently expresses little more than an urgent journalist’s guesses as to what might happen next. Apathy in the face of so much meaningless content is entirely understandable, but deeply mistaken. Every con artist knows that a distracted or bored mark is more easily duped and robbed than an alert and suspicious one. This is why each and every citizen has a duty to be bothered, because the issues at stake here are enormous no matter how dull so much of the commentary becomes. Pay attention, or you will be robbed blind.
And we are not dealing with a lone deceiver here. We are not dealing with just an EU bureaucracy that wishes to impose the worst possible terms on the British people and still walk away with billions of pounds of their money. We are dealing with a global business community, represented by organisations such as the CBI, a British Civil Service, represented by individuals such as Olly Robbins, and with British politicians, represented by the treacherous Theresa May, who are all in on the grift. These are not forces in opposition who have been engaged in adversarial battle for the fate of Brexit, because what has become clear in the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and in the government’s actions since Chequers is that the British government determined some time ago that the people it had a duty to please, the people for whom it must deliver, were not the ordinary British people, Leave or Remain, who made their pick between two entirely clear choices in 2016. The people they decided to deliver on behalf of were those who would never accept the result of the 2016 vote, primarily the international political and business classes who had campaigned for Remain.
The worst market stall traders of dodgy or stolen goods would always plant a supposed critic in the crowd when hawking their wares. Someone would shout out that the prices were suspicious or that the 24 piece dinner set of plates and dishes were all broken inside the box. The hawker would triumphantly quash such criticisms, and the patsy would agree that yes, indeed, the goods were worth having. In the long and tedious negotiations we have seen over the last two years, the British government has played the role of this corrupt placeman, pretending to object whilst accepting any cracked plate the EU was selling. Again and again the government and Theresa May in particular have firmly described as unacceptable that which they have then incorporated in the Withdrawal Agreement. Twenty times Theresa May stood in the House of Commons and insisted that we would leave the Customs Union, and then delivered a deal that ties us into that union with no end date and no mechanism of escape without EU approval. Having done so, she still insists that we are indeed leaving the Customs Union her deal legally and bindingly ties us to forever. It has reached a stage beyond mere lying, a point where the market huckster believes their own dishonest rhetoric. Having Theresa May declare that her deal takes back control of our laws, our borders, and our money, whilst the deal actually hands over £39 billion with potential extra billions to follow and actually enshrines both a custom union and the supremacy of European courts and the ECJ as the sole arbiter of any disputes that may arise, is rather like, in terms of scale of delusion, Jack the Ripper declaring a deep and profound respect for working girls.
The charitable interpretation of the terms contained in the Withdrawal Agreement, which remember only entitles us to talk about a future trade deal with the EU rather than actually acquiring one, is that these terms represent an extraordinary level of incompetence. But given the way that first David Davis and then Dominic Raab were sidelined from their supposed roles in the negotiations, and whatever advice and expertise the entire Department they headed ignored in favour of plans concocted by Robbin’s secretive Downing Street unit, the argument that May has merely been incompetent gives way to the suspicion that she has in, fact, aimed at this hideous outcome from the beginning. It is not so much a failure of diplomacy that explains why we have obtained such appalling terms, but rather a triumph of deceit and betrayal. In the course of concluding this deal, Theresa May and her loyalist ministers have betrayed 17.4 million voters. They have betrayed the largest democratic mandate in living memory. They have betrayed May’s own speeches and promises such as those given in her Lancaster House speech. They have betrayed the last vestiges of democracy, accountability and responsibility to have clung to the tattered frame of British political life. They have, in short, betrayed their nation and people.
Some of course, will still see such comments as hyperbolic or libellous, the emotional response of an outraged Brexiteer. The government has already commenced spinning this deal as the best that could be obtained, as ‘not ideal’ but totally necessary and unavoidable. So I will explain exactly why, for those who refuse to see, this deal is the most grotesque betrayal of its people by a serving British government in centuries. The betrayal hinges on two things, democracy and sovereignty, both of which were fundamental to the Brexit vote and both of which seem to be alien concepts to much of our ruling class. The majority of the people understand and value both of these things, the majority of our leaders do not.
Firstly, when a vote of 17.4 million people is deliberately and cynically transformed into the opposite of what those people were asking for, you have struck a blow against democracy. Democracy requires not only that we have a vote but that the vote is respected and enacted. If such an enormous vote can be distorted or ignored, any vote can be. Why expect General Elections to be sacrosanct when referendums engaging even more of the people are manipulated? But even this is actually trivial compared to what the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement do. Under those terms we lose all representation in the EU. We have no MEPs, no Commissioners, no judges in the European courts. There is nothing left in place to represent the desires, hopes and views of the British people. All fine if we were actually leaving. But at the same time we accept the continuance of all EU law. We accept ANY and every existing EU law and ANY new EU law whilst having no representation. The EU can quite literally do whatever they like to us and there is nobody to vote against it or even protest. Without representation, there is no democracy. There is no accountability, nor any control or restraint on those who rule us.
Another agreed term is that our government should do nothing that upsets the EU or that the EU does not approve of. This horrifying concession gives the EU a veto on any UK government decision. By that, our votes within the UK become completely meaningless. You can vote in a UK government but they can’t actually change how they act. Their actions can be entirely dictated by the EU. On an individual level concessions which allow the continuance of EU law and a necessity to have EU approval of government action combined with lack of representation instantly renders every British citizen inferior to every citizen of the other 27 nations. They have a say in the bureaucracy that rules us, and we do not. We are all disenfranchised. We are reduced to a status we have not all seen in this country since the days of Norman conquest or Roman rule. Our universal right to a vote or a say was not lightly won. Barons had to fight for such a right from medieval monarchs. The Chartists had to fight for such a right from the Whig governments of the 19th century. Women had to fight for the right into the 20th century. And all of that is rendered meaningless if we are ruled from abroad with no representation and no means of our government reaching decisions that are not approve from abroad.
Secondly, of course, there is sovereignty. EU enthusiasts have lied from the very start by pretending that you can cede huge areas of policy making abroad and retain full sovereignty. You cannot, which critics of EEC membership like the great Peter Shore passionately recognised. Sovereignty is the capacity of a nation to take independent political action. If political decisions are transferred elsewhere it is like a man giving control of his arm or leg to another and then claiming to have full independent mobility. Since in the Withdrawal Agreement we agree not to do anything that offends the EU it does not actually matter if some portions of sovereignty are reclaimed. If we leave freedom of movement the EU could still claim that they are offended by a points system on immigration that did not in some other way prioritise their interests. So even the one positive Theresa May can claim from her repeated submissions is illusory. The EU can decide otherwise. If we protest, the ECJ, a European court, arbitrates. If we wish to defy them on anything, May has agreed that we should ask them to decide if we can! So the effect of the agreement as a whole, once the backstop comes into play, is to deny us all meaningful representation, to render all our votes worthless, to end our democracy and to concede all that remains of our sovereignty. We will be a slave people in a colony, not a free people in a sovereign nation state. And we have no means of escape from such a situation without EU approval.
When the Chartists were trying to gain the vote for working men in 1842 they submitted a petition with three and a half million signatures to Downing Street. It was ignored. The Northern Star, a Chartist paper, said this:
“Three and a half million have quietly, orderly, soberly, peaceably but firmly asked of their rulers to do justice; and their rulers have turned a deaf ear to that protest….the House has resolved they should not be heard! The same class is to be a slave class still. The mark and brand of inferiority is not to be removed. The assumption of inferiority is still to be maintained. The people are not to be free.”
Think of the 17.4 million of us who voted Leave. Think of how many of us are working class, and think of what has been done to the instruction we gave. It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?