Feeble, flabby, frit: the latest buckling Brexiteers’ fantasies of fear

I wrote here that the arguments being mounted by buckling Brexiteers trying to justify their intention to fold and support Mrs May’s atrocious Brexit-in-name-only-worse-than-remain deal were wholly without foundation and a pathetic cover for cowardice, intellectual vapidity and absence of spine.

The examples have continued to pile up, and we should note them despite this afternoon’s latest bombshell that the Speaker has ruled out a Third Meaningful Vote on Mrs May’s deal (which had been scheduled for tomorrow) unless there are substantial changes to it.

While we all try to work out what in earth he’s up to and what this means, let’s look at the lamentable state of morale among the bedraggled Brexiteers.

On LBC, the intellectually sea-green incorruptible Jacob Rees-Mogg – Jacob Rees-Mogg! – spectacularly missed the point. He said:

“The deal is still a very bad deal, it doesn’t deliver on the promises of the Conservative Party manifesto and it doesn’t deliver on the referendum result in full. The question people like me will ultimately have to answer is, can we get to no deal instead? …I’m concerned that the Prime Minister in spite of her previous commitments is determined to stop no deal…”

But the point is not that Mrs May’s deal “doesn’t deliver on the referendum result in full”. It doesn’t deliver it at all. The belief that it’s a choice between Mrs May’s deal and staying under the thumb of the EU is totally wrong. Mrs May’s deal would leave the UK under the EU thumb. The actual choice, the one that really matters, is between Mrs May’s deal and no deal.

The next fear is that, if her deal dies she will ask the EU for a long (21 months-two year) extension of the Article 50 exit process.

Elsewhere, Rees-Mogg has said he would prefer to leave now with no deal –unless Mrs May engineers the UK remaining permanently in the EU. By which presumably he means remaining in a long extension.

But that doesn’t mean permanent at all. “Permanent” is signing Mrs May’s agreement which the UK can’t unilaterally exit. A long extension carries undeniable risks of further Remainer guerrilla warfare. But a long extension would also enrage the Brexit-voting electorate and almost certainly give rise to a Farage-led popular insurrection against this perceived coup against the people and against the political class that perpetrated it. Does anyone really predict that the UK would remain in the EU after that?

So here’s the next bit of Brexiteer flabby funk. Dr Liam Fox says failing to back Mrs May’s deal would alienate voters because it would bring a lengthy delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union. He said on TV yesterday:

“… if you really want to deliver the Brexit we all promised . . . then we need to back the prime minister’s deal because there is no other deal on offer.”

But there is an alternative on offer: no deal. To be more precise, no deal is the legal default option. What will alienate voters, possibly terminally, from MPs is the perception that if there is a lengthy delay, they will have prevented the UK from leaving with no deal.

Then –- oh dear – there’s Lord Trimble saying Mrs May “has secured substantive changes that would limit the impact of the Irish backstop”.

Lord Trimble is a great man and has done great things in helping secure peace in Northern Ireland. But he was wholly wrong about the legal situation when he tried to take the government to court over Mrs May’s backstop; and he’s wholly wrong now about the legal situation when it comes to the purported “Vienna Convention Article 62” safeguard against the backstop which has miraculously emerged from absolutely nowhere.

While legal opinion on this is divided with, ahem, mainly Remainer lawyers talking it up as a solution, others have said it is total rubbish. As the international lawyer Philippe Sands QC writes in today’s Guardian:

“Article 62 cannot be invoked where the circumstance that arises – the indefinite or extended application of the backstop – has been foreseen by the withdrawal agreement. Accordingly, it can offer no assistance. The argument that it could be invoked if negotiations broke down and the backstop pertained indefinitely is hopeless. It is not even arguable. Nor is the idea that the UK could somehow adopt its own interpretation, or laws, to get around the problem. The withdrawal agreement is an international obligation which trumps domestic law”.

Behind all this hysteria in parliament is the terror of leaving with no deal, supposedly the greatest cataclysm potentially to hit the UK since the Great Flood reportedly separated Britain from mainland Europe half a million years ago.

But here’s “Caroline Bell”, a pseudonymous civil servant said to be at the heart of preparations to leave the EU without a formal deal, writing on the Briefings for Brexit site that this is garbage and the UK has little to fear from no deal. “MPs and the public”, s/he says, “have been deliberately kept in the dark by some departments and Ministers: the civil service has done its job and the country is well prepared”. S/he writes:

“The desperate claims of Remainer MPs are even more risible than those of media pundits, since they cast serious doubt on their ability to read or even take note of the masses of no-deal Brexit legislation that has already been passed by Parliament to ensure there is no “cliff-edge” on 29 March 2019. Parliament, after all, has already legislated for a “no-deal” Brexit, principally through the European Union (Withdrawal Act) 2018 and the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, both of which seek to make the transition to an independent future as smooth as possible by domesticating EU systems businesses are used to precisely to avert the “chaos and confusion” so gleefully predicted by Remainer MPs.

“The EU, too, has not been idle. It published a whole raft of no-deal preparedness notices on 19 December 2018, after the first vote on the Withdrawal Agreement was pulled, and announced further measures in January and February. Since then EU27 member states have published more bilateral arrangements to enable life to continue as normal after 29 March – bar a few formalities which are nothing to anyone used to travelling or trading further than the Continent.

“Far from “No-Deal” (or as it should more correctly be termed, a return to full sovereignty trading under WTO rules) being a disaster or a “cliff-edge” scenario, it is looking more and more like the best deal on offer.

”Several mitigation measures have now been made to prevent a legal black hole for cross-border financial services, which could have severe repercussions on the already fragile Eurozone banking sector. On 19 December 2018, the EU published a range of contingency measures for a no-deal Brexit, including equivalence guarantees to enable the continuation of derivatives contracts in the City. Regulations and decisions followed to give these measures legal effect. The Bank of England and UK Debt Office were given mutual recognition statusfor all key market areas on 30 January. In February 2019, ESMA (the European Securities & Markets Authority) recognised UK clearing houses (LCH Limited, ICE Clear Europe Limited and LME Clear Limited) as able “to provide their services in the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit… in order to limit the risk of disruption in central clearing and to avoid any negative impact on the financial stability of the EU”.

And so on. Do read it all.

The only way to deal with bullies and intimidation is to stand your ground and call out the dishonesty and threats and bullying for what they are. What you don’t do is cave, because then the bullies can walk all over not just you but everyone else.

Alas, the systematic bullying by the axis of EU and Remainer MPs has had its effect on the buckling Brexiteers, destroying their powers of logic and reason along with the last vestiges of their courage.

The rest of us must remain resolute and hold firm. If you will it, it is no dream.

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