A deal has been agreed and we are finally over the line. I am pleased that we are no longer subservient to the EU after 47 long years. But, Boris’s deal – though obviously a better outcome than remaining – is far from perfect.
First, I must congratulate the Prime Minister on some significant victories. Continued tariff and quota-free trade brings a great amount of immediate certainty to businesses. Second, freeing the UK from the palsied grip of the European Court of Justice is very much something to be celebrated. Third, the significant and lucrative agreements on the future of financial and legal services are very welcome.
However, these all could have been achieved if we had left with UKIP’s preferred option of No Deal. I understand the Prime Minister has a lot on his plate, but I’m afraid, just like his last “oven-ready deal”, this one is tepid and needs more cooking.
Conspicuously, this deal was released on Christmas Eve – a notoriously good day for spin doctors to try to bury bad news.
Just as Heath sacrificed the UK fishing industry to get us into the EEC in 1973, Boris has betrayed it now and treated it as an expendable battalion in the greater battle for a half-decent trade agreement with Brussels. Our coastal communities will be unable to flourish for another 5 and a half years, with Frau von der Leyen gloating that the EU has secured “strong tools to incentivise” the UK to continue allowing their trawlers into British waters after 2026.
The “bribe” (as ‘Fishing for Leave’ put it) of a £100m funding package is nothing more than a consolation effort. British fishermen know that they are being shafted out of the billions that could be made if we opted now to reclaim 100% of our fishing grounds. It is a scandal that Welsh fishermen were allowed to land only of 10% of the 83,000 tons of fish caught in Welsh waters last year. We must correct this injustice.
No wonder ‘Fishing for Leave’ have called this a “pretty dismal deal”. The Prime Minister has sacrificed the fishing communities, granting free access to our waters during the 5.5 year transition. This will see foreign vessels allowed to fish up to 6 miles from the coast. We have also extraordinarily committed 1/3 of our fishing stocks to the EU thereafter.
Make no mistake; this is not a good deal for our left-behind coastal communities. They were promised a Brexit that would revive them but have been thoroughly let down.
The theatrics of the Brexit negotiation and Tory HQ’s euphoric, grandiloquent spin on this deal will fool only those who want to be fooled. Examine the fine print and you’ll see that, whilst better than remaining, there is plenty of scope to return us to the European project through the back door.
The Brexit deal establishes a “Partnership Council” made up of UK and EU representatives. Alongside this, it has spawned of a raft of specialised committees. The document is also scattered with reviews after 4-years on many aspects of the agreement. We must be sure that this Council cannot abuse the reviews as an opportunity to return us to EU control.
I had hoped that we’d cut ourselves free from rule by bureaucrats.
In a spectacular Tory U-turn, Boris has committed the UK fully to the European Convention on Human Rights. Strasbourg judges will retain the power to strike down British Acts of Parliament. So don’t expect a stop to the rubber dinghies flooding across the Channel or an end to violent foreign criminals using legal loopholes to avoid deportation.
This is a devastating blow for those who, like me, advocate a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act so we can truly get a handle on illegal immigration.
Also, let’s not forget that unresolved questions still remain in Northern Ireland as well as Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.
Once again, today’s Conservative politicians demonstrate their lack of the creativity and ingenuity that once made their party great. This aversion to any sort of calculated risk explains why this Government can never put the Great back into Britain.
Radical, unique thinking is what’s required to make Brexit the great success it can be. Sadly, this Government will miss many opportunities Brexit will bring.
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