President Trump’s dramatic intervention into Britain’s general election may have raised eyebrows, but he has made the absolutely crucial point that I have been making here.
This is that the deal that Boris Johnson has done with the EU will damage the UK by preventing it from making beneficial trade deals with the rest of the world. It will keep the UK shackled to the EU but without the power to influence it. It will thus negate the point of Brexit altogether.
In his audacious LBC phone interview with Brexit party leader Nigel Farage last night, Trump said:
“We’re far and away the largest economy in the world and we want to do trade with the UK and they want to do trade with us, and to be honest with you, this deal, under certain aspects of the deal, you can’t do it, you can’t do it, you can’t trade,” he said. “I mean we can’t make a trade deal with the UK and we can be, because I think we can do many times of numbers that we’re doing right now, and certainly much bigger numbers that you’re doing under the European Union.”
Downing Street’s response to this was disingenuous. A spokesman said: “Under this new deal the whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union, which means we can strike our own free-trade deals around the world from which every part of the UK will benefit.”
But the deal’s political declaration commits the UK to adhere to EU rules and regulations even though it will no longer have any say over them once it stops being a member (quite apart from not having control over its own foreign and defence policies, and remaining under some control at least by the European Court of Justice). Any breach of this duty may result in an arbitration panel ruling which must defer to the European Court of Justice, and if that rules that a UK law goes against the declaration, UK courts will have to overturn that law.*
So Trump has stated the brutally obvious. If Britain leaves the EU on the terms of the Johnson deal, there’ll be no trade deal with America. Of course not. Why should America do a deal with the UK on the disadvantageous terms it would be offering which would effectively be laid down by the EU? Why indeed would any other successful country do so?
By making this deal — effectively Theresa May’s “worst deal ever” deal mark four with the backstop replaced by selling out Northern Ireland — Johnson has eviscerated the Brexit vote and made it meaningless.
Now he is preparing to fight the election on the boast that he’ll get Brexit done. Not true. He will tell the country that his deal will allow Britain to do beneficial trade deals with the world. Not true. He will claim that the Tories are now the real Brexit party defending the sovereignty of the people against the plot to scupper Brexit. Not true.
If Johnson claims all this, he risks being undermined by Farage and his Brexit party candidates telling the country that the opposite is the case.
The truth is that to vote for a government committed to this deal is to vote to make a mockery of the referendum result. Yet to read or listen to the mainstream media is to enter an Orwellian world where truth has become a hard-right concept.
For all those who realise that the Johnson deal is a fraud upon the public are presented as extremists. Those who advocate no-deal are presented as “hard-right” fanatics while those supporting the Johnson deal, or supporting Remain, are presented as “moderate”.
But the claim that the Johnson deal will deliver Brexit, by allowing the UK to break the shackles of the EU and be free to make policies in the interests of the country, is a falsehood. So how can it possibly be “extreme” or “hard-right” to call this falsehood out?
There is only one party leader telling the truth about this, and that is Nigel Farage. It is extraordinary that he is said to be extreme for telling the truth. It is those who denounce this truth as extremism who are themselves the extremists.
It is extraordinary that no-deal is called extreme. No-deal is in fact the only way of delivering a clean-break from the EU — which is what Brexit actually means. It is those who have hugely exaggerated its downside in order to terrify people into opposing it who are themselves the extremists.
Johnson is reportedly anxious not to appear “hard-right” or extreme in order to keep on board Tory Remainer or soft-Brexit voters. But he can only do that if those voters believe his deal means that the UK won’t really break with the EU. Which of course is precisely what it does mean, as I wrote here. So if he hangs onto Conservative Remainer voters by this tactic, he risks losing those Conservatives who voted for Brexit.
It is extraordinary that MPs who are leaving politics altogether at this election are all called “moderates”. Some of them may be; but many take a fanatical Remainer position and were complicit in the unprecedented hijack of parliamentary and constitutional procedure through which they worked to stop a clean-break Brexit — the only true form of Brexit — from happening.
In which extremist tactic they appear to have succeeded.
Astoundingly, even the supposedly “Spartan” Tory Brexiteers of the European Research Group all fell meekly into line behind the last iteration of this travesty, Boris Johnson’s deal.
Accordingly, not one of the three main parties deserves to be elected to parliament. Unfortunately, though, many voters desperately just want Brexit to be over. They don’t care if it’s through no deal or any deal; they’re not interested in the terms or the consequences or the arguments; they just want to be shot of the whole Brexit maelstrom.
Many may therefore fall into line behind the fiction that Johnson will deliver Brexit through his deal. They should therefore be told that this will not bring this nightmare to an end at all.
It will instead open the way to years more of it, as the UK twists and turns in further agonising negotiations with the EU over the long-term trade deal, the one that really matters; and in which, thanks to the Johnson deal, the EU will once again have the UK precisely where it wants it to be — on the ropes as a powerless supplicant. Which is precisely why the EU agreed to it.
The only way to bring this nightmare to an end is through a no-deal Brexit, with Britain able as a result to make make good trade deals with the US and other countries – and finding itself on the front foot for the first time against the dysfunctional, sclerotic economic basket-case that is the EU.
Johnson should take what Trump has said extremely seriously. Difficult as this would be, he must now ditch his deal and, as Trump advised, make an electoral pact with Farage.
That way he would win a stonking victory. If, however, he continues to stick to his deal, Britain may find itself either with a revolutionary left-wing government; or with a minority government or hung parliament and a continuation therefore of the Brexit impasse; or with a majority Boris Johnson government ending the UK’s membership of the EU on terms which would then plunge the UK into a debilitating struggle against the very vassalage Johnson once claimed to oppose.
*I originally wrote that the declaration was legally binding; it is not in itself, but the EU will be
legally entitled to insist on the UK seeking an agreement which complies with it.