THE BLOG
01/03/2018 10:51 GMT | Updated 01/03/2018 10:51 GMT

Boris And Davis Not The Only Ones Suffering From ‘Delusionitis’

Brexit is far more complex than anyone had ever envisaged, and the Government handling of it so far is woeful

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

As the Government scrambles its way through the Brexit negotiations, it is becoming increasingly clear that Brexit was not all it was made out to be by the Leave campaign.

However, the end of the referendum campaign did not spell the end of Brexiteer’s delusions. Just over ten days ago, in what was presumably meant to be a conciliatory, reassuring Valentine’s Day speech, Delusionist-In-Chief, Boris Johnson, once again failed to engage with the realities of Brexit.

Writing off the legitimate concerns of the British people as obstacles to his misguided and fanciful vision for Brexit, he chose instead to focus on ‘cheapo flights to stag parties’ in European cities.

Last week, David Davis grabbed the baton and promised that Britain would not be plunged into a ‘Mad Max’ post-Brexit dystopia. Gone are the days where he promised ‘no downside to Brexit at all’. Sadly, this contagious ‘Delusionitis’ has now quickly spread across to other sections of the Tory party. I have highlighted 6 cases of ‘Delusionitis’ in a recent letter from the Tory MP for Sutton & Cheam to one of his constituents.

1. The EU Withdrawal Bill will not mean the immediate conversion of EU law into UK law

What he says: “[The EU Withdrawal Bill] will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert all EU law into UK law. This will mean the immediate conversion of EU law into domestic law on the day of the UK’s departure from the EU.”

Transferring EU legislation into UK law is far from the straightforward copy-and-paste exercise which he makes it out to be. Some laws cannot be transferred directly into UK law because they refer to EU institutions – for example requiring the UK to obtain an opinion from, share information with, or adhere to standards set by EU bodies or agencies. Others refer to reciprocal arrangements with other Member States, such as quota regimes, and will therefore depend on the outcome of the UK and the EU’s exit negotiations as it will not make much sense for the UK to continue to honour void agreements.

To work around these challenges, the Bill gives ministers so-called Henry VIII powers. These will give ministers far-reaching authority to tweak laws to make them suitable for the UK statute book – without proper Parliamentary scrutiny. Many people voted for Brexit because they wanted Parliament to take back control of legislation. What they are getting is a blatant power grab by a Government dancing to UKIP’s tune.

2. EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU cannot carry on living their lives broadly as before

What he says: An agreement has been reached so that both EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU can carry on living their lives broadly as before thus there is no need for this to be duplicated in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

Brexit is going to have profound implications for both EU citizens in Britain and for UK citizens in the EU, and claims to the contrary make a mockery of those affected. Britons will be stripped of the rights and privileges that come with EU citizenship, such as, for example, the right to work and live in another Member State. Faced with this unappealing choice, many have already left, leaving the UK with a shortage of skilled workers, such as NHS nurses and doctors.

It is also important to remember that the agreement – which Brexit minister David Davis has previously referred to as merely ‘a statement of intent’ – will not apply if the UK walks away from negotiations without a deal. Including a provision on citizens’ rights in the EU Withdrawal Bill would therefore not be unnecessary duplication, but a chance for the Government to provide legal certainty for millions of people. The Government should do the right thing and unilaterally ringfence EU citizens’ rights in the UK. Only then will they be provided with this necessary certainty.

3. There are no guarantees that all workers’ rights will continue to apply after Brexit

What he says: ”All workers’ rights will continue to apply after we leave the EU as they did before.”

The Conservative Party does not have a great track record when it comes to workers’ rights. When the EU’s Working Time Directive was adopted, the Conservative UK government unsuccessfully sought to have the directive annulled. Again in 2015, David Cameron’s Conservative Government tried to secure a British opt-out from the Directive, along with other EU employment laws. Finally, Theresa May has repeatedly refused to promise that the Working Time Directive will be kept in place after Brexit, despite strong popular support for the Directive: A new poll from the IPPR shows that 73 per cent of the public support retaining or strengthening it.

Moreover, the proposed Henry VIII powers contained in the EU Withdrawal Bill will give ministers ample opportunity to scrap workers’ rights.

4. Being out of the EU does not have to mean being outside the Single Market

What he says: “Leaving the EU cannot mean membership of the EU’s single market.”

There is no reason why leaving the EU must necessarily mean leaving the Single Market. In fact, the Single Market currently extends to three non-EU countries: Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Single Market membership would allow the UK to continue to trade with its top trading partner, the EU, on the best possible terms, and give our companies the chance to hire the best and brightest from across the EU. It would also give us access to EU programmes like Euratom, that facilitate importing cancer treating materials, and Europol, the European police agency that is instrumental in keeping us safe in the UK and across Europe. Finally it would allow UK residents to study, work and retire in another 27 European countries. According to the Government’s own research, Single Market membership would also be the least destructive Brexit scenario in economic terms.

5. A vote on the facts would not undermine the UK’s negotiating position

What he says: It would not be appropriate to have a second referendum. This would severely weaken our negotiating position as it would remove any impetus for the EU to offer us a reasonable deal.

So far, the negotiations have clearly demonstrated that the EU is in a much stronger negotiating position, with our Government capitulating at every turn. In fact, when asked in December to name a concession that the EU had made, the only thing EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier could think of was that he did not “at this stage insist that the UK should pay the removal costs” for EU agencies. This should come as no surprise as the EU’s GDP is five times larger than ours. In other words, Brexit will damage our economy much more than theirs.

The EU’s position has been clear from the very beginning; The integrity of the Single Market must be protected and is non-negotiable. This does not mean punishing Britain by giving it a bad deal. It simply means that a country that does not accept the four freedoms, the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and contributing to the EU budget, will not enjoy the exact same benefits of the Single Market membership. Neither a Hard Brexit nor a second referendum is going to change the EU’s position. We know what is on offer, and the ball is thus in the Government’s court to decide what type of future relationship with the EU it wants.

6. Democracy did not end on 23 June 2016 – the British people must have a final say on the facts

What he says: The referendum campaign was fought, turnout was high and the public gave its verdict.There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it and no second referendum.

His claim is farcical at best and dangerous at worst. In a democracy, people have the right to express their views, revisit decisions as circumstances change, and campaign for what they believe is best for their country. That is why Brexiteers have been able to campaign for Brexit since we joined the then European Communities in 1973 and why, as declared by Nigel Farage pre-referendum, they would have continued their quest for Brexit in the case of a narrow ‘Remain’ win.

When the UK voted to leave, no one was certain of the full extent of the implications of this decision. Brexit is far more complex than anyone had ever envisaged, and the Government handling of it so far is woeful. We now know that their Exit Deal will not deliver on the promises of the Leave campaign: There won’t be an extra £350 million per week for the NHS or dozens of Free Trade Agreements ready to be signed when we leave the EU. We also know that we will not have the same economic benefits outside of the EU, as we currently enjoy as members. And according to the Government’s own report, Brexit will eventually cost £2,000 million a week. It is wrecking our economy and putting at risk the future of our NHS. For these reasons alone, it is right that the people cast the final verdict on the facts, with a Vote on the Deal.