Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Brexit's wretched betrayal

A SPEECH given yesterday by Sir John Major, the UK prime minister from 1990 to 1997, is one that every journalist, TV host and political pundit should be obliged to watch from beginning to end. And, for that matter, anyone else who is interested in the country's post-Brexit trajectory.

In a pre-recorded lecture at Middle Temple, London, he told viewers that Brexit may prove "even more brutal than expected" due to the UK's own negotiating "failures".

He stated that the UK's "inflexibility" and "threats" towards the EU would make future trade "less profitable". And he warned of the "corrosive" impact to the UK's reputation of a proposed new law giving ministers the power to over-ride aspects of the Brexit agreement.

It came on the same day that the House of Lords rejected parts of the government’s controversial Internal Market Bill. Peers removed a series of clauses which would give the UK the right to disregard obligations in the EU Withdrawal Agreement in relation to Northern Ireland, defeating the government twice by huge margins.

Sir John, an outspoken critic of the UK's exit from the EU, described the Bill as a “slippery slope down which no democratic government should ever travel" and he urged Parliament to resist measures which he said threatened essential liberties and could place ministers above the law.

"This action is unprecedented in all our history - and for good reason. It has damaged our reputation around the world," he said. "Lawyers everywhere are incredulous that the UK - often seen as the very cradle of the rule of law - could give themselves the power to break the law."

Sir John stated he was not optimistic about the prospects for trade talks between the UK and EU, which resumed in London on Monday, saying the UK was not being "frank" about the possible outcomes when the UK leaves the single market and customs union at the end of the post-Brexit transition period.

The government  has said it is hopeful of securing a comprehensive deal modelled on the EU's arrangement with Canada but Sir John said it was "disingenuous" of ministers to pretend they were not seeking far deeper commitments in key areas, such as energy and aviation.

He said he feared, as a result, the process would end up with either no deal or a "flimsy and bare-bones" agreement that created new trade barriers and would be a "wretched betrayal" of the promises made to British voters during the 2016 referendum.

"These costs and complexities are the certain legacy of Brexit," he stated. "This is as a result of our negotiating failure - and it is a failure.

"Because of our bombast, our blustering, our threats and our inflexibility - our trade will be less profitable, our Treasury poorer, our jobs fewer, and our future less prosperous.

“It now seems that on 1 January next year, Brexit may be even more brutal than anyone expected," he added.

 To listen to Sir John Major’s speech in full click here: ‘The State we Are In’

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