Articles of Surrender

The EU 27 is triumphant, its super-smart negotiators have outfoxed the ‘Rolls-Royce’ brains in the Foreign Office, reducing the UK to a province of its empire, and its government to a rabble.

So runs the official EU version. Its tripe. Whitehall-in Brussels is a pillar of the EU empire. Since 1972, when the Heath government brought the UK into the then EEC, with the backing of the Jenkins-wing of the Labour party, the UK has been officially more supranational than the Pope.

The problem has always been that the electorate of the UK never bought into official doctrine. What voters favoured is close co-operation with European constitutional democracies, where national electorates would be able to sanction their legislators at the ballot-box.

But EU-membership does not allow for that. All 170,000 pages of the EU’s corpus juris have been negotiated over decades, behind closed doors in Brussels, and then implemented in the UK, bypassing parliament, and granting civil servants extensive powers to elaborate secondary legislation.

When Prime Minister Cameron proposed handing powers back to national parliaments, the answer in Brussels was more centralisation. The EU’s ideas of returning powers was that if 16 national parliaments formed a coalition against an EU proposal, the Brussels authorities would consider it.

What the referendum of June 2016 has revealed is that a very large chunk of the British electorate does not like their country being a province of an EU empire. What they want is to be able to sanction their legislators at election-time.

They cannot sanction Brussels. From its inception, the EU edifice has been created to keep voters at bay. The battle of politics carries on within the member states, but to less and less effect as ever more powers have been  syphoned off to the EU institutions.

Since the 2016 referendum, there can be no concealing what Heath did to the UK’s constitutional arrangements all those 47 years ago. The draft Withdrawal Treaty reveals without any question of doubt that the UK is legally a province of the EU.

Heath declared, passionately, that the days of the nation state are over.  May’s Treaty makes that apparent.

The true story of Brexit, contrary to the EU27’s triumphant narrative,  is that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michael Barnier and his team succeeded in bringing the UK to heel, with the help of the Remainers. Chief among these was May.

May could have opted for very different outcomes. She could have gone for UK membership in the European Economic Area, the arrangement created in 1994 to incorporate Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway into the single market. UK-based companies trading in the EEA would have been bound by EU regulations and laws. But the EEA would have made the Irish border question easier to handle; and  the  UK would have repatriated farm and fisheries policy, greatly reduced its budgetary contributions and be free to make trade deals with third partners.  

She chose not to. Why? The answer is simple: she put party cohesion before country. That meant trying to win the support of the three Tory factions in the House of Commons: hard-core Remainers; the half-in-half outers, which she claimed to prefer; and the hard-core Brexiteers.  

Most importantly she never ever contemplated revising the 1972 European Communities Act, or binning it, prior to the opening of negotiations. The result is she went into the talks in early 2017 with an official policy that held that EU law trumps UK law.  All that Michel Barnier, the chief EU27 negotiator, had to do was to hang tough. 

She then yielded on all of the major demands of the EU27. When she begged for some wiggle room, the EU27 declined. The result was a Withdrawal Treaty that submits the UK indefinitely to the supremacy of the European Court of Justice.

The EU27, and May, signed off the draft Treaty on the assumption that the Commons would rubber stamp what in effect was a surrender document. By now, she had switched from Prime Minister to her new role as the EU’s Governor of its rebellious province of Britain.

But May cannot deliver parliamentary ratification of her “deal”. Her problem has been that that the Remainer majority of MPs are only too aware that 60 to 70% of their constituencies voted in June 2016 for a return to constitutional government.

So when May submitted the draft Treaty to the Commons in January 2019, the MPs voted it down by a record majority. If traditional UK parliamentary conventions still held, the draft Treaty would be dead. Instead, she has flouted UK parliamentary conventions to get the EU27’s draft treaty onto the books.

The beneficiaries in the UK have been those parties which stand clearly for Remain or Leave. The Remain parties, the Lib Dems and Change UK, are clear what they stand for but they face an uphill task in selling a supranational EU to a skeptical UK public.

Leavers have the wind in their sails because they alone answer the central constitutional  question: Who governs? After withdrawal, the UK, the Brexit party states, shall not ‘make any Treaty or join any international organisation which involves in any way the surrender of any part of the United Kingdom’s sovereignty’.

The Brexit party wants the UK to be able to say No. The  Barnier-May draft treaty  illustrates that it can only say Yes to whatever Brussels proposes. That is a case of imperial overreach, not a triumph of skilled diplomacy.


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3 Comments on Articles of Surrender

  1. Even while the Leave vote has won the referendum, it is undeniable that the Remain campaign continues to be irreverent. It has fundamentally to do with the fact that the moral force of the argument is not sufficiently with the Leave side even though they have won the referendum. They have a point.

    If three out of four people sitting at a table vote that the fourth person has to be killed, how is it moral? This is the argument being used by Remain, and the root of their call for a second referendum. They feel the moral side of the argument is with them.

    There is a clear moral case for Brexit – and everything the campaigners and the intellectuals (pro-Brexit) say have merit, but it still is not sufficient. Just look at the optics. Campaigners like Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, AM Waters all of them may have genuine public support, but just look at how easy it is for the media to portray both them and their supporters as “angry, old, white SOBs”. It is the reason for the poisonous polarisation of British politics, which is not healthy, Brexit or otherwise.

    The campaign to leave the EU has a very strong moral argument. It is undemocratic, unelected and not answerable to the people and open to influence by NGOs and other interest groups, pretty much like the system in Iran at the moment. It would not be difficult to call the NGO industry the new Catholic Church, and just like the Church, they do what they do “to save the world”. There is as much a moral argument to leave the EU as there is for regime change in Iran.

    But the Leave side should demonstrate it. For that, they must really revise their tactics. This is not the first time that an independence campaign has been fought. Brexiteers must review history and look up Gandhi and the Salt March. It was the masterstroke which forever changed public opinion against colonial rule anywhere; the moral argument would never again be in favour of colonialism.

    For all their bravado in front of the camera, how many times have Leave campaign leaders or their supporters gone to prison? Are they committed enough to their cause that they can break an EU law (peacefully and non-violently), surrender themselves to police and go to prison en masse for it? Even if they are standing up for the fishermen, the miners, the factory workers or the brewers and the farmers, what are they demonstrably doing to evoke popular sympathy? What Britain desperately needs, is Gandhi.

    The victory at the referendum is not enough; Leave has to win the moral argument.

  2. A convincing analysis. But note that there is an error in the ninth line of paragraph 4.1, where the reference to “the UK” should be “the EU”.