The European Union has never tolerated democracy. It preaches it to its member states and lectures about it to the world at large but never allows the principle to interfere with its own self-interest. When confronted by any national referendum result that doesn’t go its way, Brussels’ standard operating procedure is to relentlessly pressure the member-state to hold another.
The voters of Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 but were required to go back and approve it the following year. Ireland rejected the Treaty of Nice in 2001 but were told to try again and duly approved it in 2002. France voted against the European constitution of 2005 but their voters were considered too volatile to bully into a second referendum. Instead two years later it was ratified without referendum by incoming President Sarkozy. Again, Ireland rejected the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008 only to approve it in a second referendum a year later. And let us not forget that after the people of Greece rejected the EU’s bail-out conditions in their July 2015 referendum, even harsher ones were imposed on their government less than two weeks later.
The next stage of the EU’s method of dealing with dissent is to use every means at its disposal to ensure that the second time round it obtains the result it wants. Pressure of all types can be brought to bear privately and secretly on influential MPs of both government and opposition parties, from the PM down. ‘Sleepers’ can be activated from those ranks of senior civil service bureaucrats who see themselves as having more in common with their counterparts in the EU than with the governments and country they’re supposed to serve. The Chairs of all those Jean Monnet Centres of Excellence (think Confucius Centres on steroids), carefully set up and funded by the EU in universities throughout Britain, can be called up to appear in the media as ‘independent’ opinion-formers. The ranks of big business, who have never had any regard for individual or national freedom and have always found it easier – and more profitable – to deal with an omnipotent power, can also be called upon as ‘useful idiots’ to support anything that more centralises power.
By any standards Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement is a shockingly bad deal for Britain. It is so bad that one is tempted to describe it in terms of ‘Wednesbury unreasonableness’, i.e. a public decision ‘so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it’. But worse, when viewed in the light of the background above, it can only be described as deliberately bad. Two successive Secretaries of State for Exiting the EU have resigned because they could not support the deals put to Cabinet by the PM in their name. She has just appointed her third Brexit Secretary – on terms that prohibit him from dealing with the EU.
What of her draft agreement? 175 of its 585 pages are devoted to the Irish ‘backstop’ Protocol. The Northern Ireland/Republic border was seized upon by the EU as a potential weakness in the UK’s bargaining position at a very early stage in the negotiations, and they have promoted its significance far beyond its importance ever since.
The truth of the matter is that less than 5 per cent of Northern Ireland sales are to the Republic, accounting for less than 0.2 per cent of the UK’s GDP.
But the whole edifice of the ‘backstop’ protocol, whilst supposedly merely to prevent goods from Northern Ireland entering the Republic (the Single Market) without being compliant with EU standards or tariffs, is designed to prevent the UK from reducing any tariffs on any imports from any third country. This means that the UK is effectively barred from entering into free-trade agreements with any non-EU country as long as the protocol remains in force. And, not surprisingly, the protocol is carefully crafted to give the EU a complete veto on the UK leaving the protocol.
The withdrawal agreement contains many more examples of major concessions to the EU that would require several further articles to fully discuss.
Suffice it to say that there is ample evidence to suggest that the EU is seeking to punish the UK for wanting to leave; to make an example of her in order to deter any other Exiteers, rather than to reach an amicable free-trade agreement with an ongoing trading partner. For example, my old friend Sir Gerald Howarth, a former Defence Minister, tells me that the EU’s aviation safety agency has been barred from discussing with the UK’s CAA the management of air-travel post Brexit.
Turning now to what lies ahead politically, it is beyond dispute that the EU has been spectacularly successful in portraying the UK government, its leaders and its negotiators, as incompetent and chaotic. The extent to which the EU has been assisted in such portrayal by those whose job it is to promote and defend Britain’s national interests will probably not be revealed for many years – unless a patriotic whistle-blower emerges.
The EU’s strategy from here on is simple. It has successfully narrowed down public debate in the UK to just three Brexit alternatives; Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement; crashing-out on a ‘No Deal’; or no Brexit at all. Mrs May’s agreement received almost universal condemnation on presentation to parliament but that won’t bother the EU. If she manages to get it through parliament they’ll have the UK trussed up tighter than the Christmas turkey. If she fails only two alternatives will remain. But such has been the dire warnings, curiously from both sides, about the dangers of a ‘No Deal’ crash-out that most people have dismissed it as an option. This leaves only ‘no Brexit at all’ which is what the EU and its UK fellow-travellers have been aiming at and planning for all along.
It is no accident that George Soros-financed ‘charitable’ organisations have been demanding a Peoples Vote to reverse the people’s referendum of just two years ago. The irony that such defenders of individual freedom should be fighting so hard to get back into the Gulag appears to be lost on them.
But it is still not too late for Britain to turn this around. It needs only to find a leader who can and will show the British public that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is not to be feared, and that such a reversion to WTO rules will be implemented on 29 March 2019 unless by that date the EU comes up with an acceptable free-trade agreement.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free