Why Britain must ditch the Brexit deal

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John Longworth is director general of pro-Brexit think tank the Centre for Brexit Policy. He was formerly director general of the British Chambers of Commerce and a Conservative MEP. 

The referendum campaign was fought by Leavers above all else on the issue of sovereignty. Taking control of our laws, borders and money was central to why the people of Britain voted to leave the EU. Nothing could be clearer.

It is therefore a major scandal that the Remain establishment and the U.K. parliament did everything possible to undermine the will of the people and to make leaving as painful as could be. The Remainers will always be shamed for shackling the country to a poison pill: the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Alongside the declaration on a future relationship, the Withdrawal Agreement remains to contaminate our opportunities and our relations with the EU for decades to come — our future as a nation.

So toxic is the agreement that it would be quite legitimate in international law to repudiate the treaty, and that is exactly what the U.K. government should do if the EU refuses to adjust its implications.

Theresa May’s government clearly saw executing Brexit as an exercise in damage-limitation and did not embrace it as an opportunity, a new beginning. The government worked hand-in-glove with Remain elements of the British establishment and in cahoots with Brussels and foreign powers to come up with the infamous 2018 Chequers deal, the basis for the Withdrawal Agreement.

It is outrageous that Germany should now seek what amounts to reparations from the U.K. for having the audacity to want to break free of the Teutonic chains.

That allowed the small-minded Lilliputians to bind us like Gulliver to the mast of the sinking ship that is the EU. It also precipitated the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson, to their credit, from the May government.

On acquiring the top job following the disastrous European election results, Johnson and his government managed to release some of those bindings — most importantly from membership of the Customs Union. He also had the courage to call and win a general election in December 2019, resulting in an 80-seat majority in parliament and changing the terms of the debate.

But the timing and the politics were such that Johnson had no alternative but to accept the Withdrawal Agreement largely as it stood. In the end there was an exit door from the EU, but the handle was smeared with the EU diplomatic equivalent of Novichok.

According to new analysis from the Centre for Brexit Policy, our obligations during the transition period, our continued involvement in the European Investment Bank and other charges under the Brexit deal could have us paying in excess of £180 billion to the EU in the coming years. This is daylight robbery.

Part of that is because the Germans have for the first time agreed to major contributions to support Club Med countries through the coronavirus crisis using EU cohesion funds and via the European Investment Bank while Britain is still very much on the hook for the bill.

It is outrageous that Germany — a country that had its national debt written off after World War II, was given free money to regenerate and paid limited reparations for the most savage war it could wage — should now seek what amounts to reparations from the U.K. for having the audacity to want to break free of the Teutonic chains. Would France secede Corsica to Italy? Would Germany give back the Pomerania region to Sweden?

And the poison goes further than money. The price we must pay for retaining Northern Ireland is the continuation of EU control over Britain’s tax, regional and industrial policy through the mechanism of so-called state aid rules. Furthermore, we forego jurisdiction as this continues to be the domain of the European Court of Justice.

Even with a trade border down the Irish Sea, our analysis shows how the EU will leverage the Withdrawal Agreement to maintain power and control over our future prosperity. It must not be so.

What is most frightening is that this remains the status quo even if we leave with an Australia-style deal on World Trade Organization terms. The May administration were either fools or knaves to agree to this, and the Johnson government must repudiate it or be forever the government who left the troops on the beaches at Dunkirk.

Johnson is a scholar of Winston Churchill, but the rational choice in the summer of 1940 would have been to seek terms to end the war as Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax wanted rather than fight on for liberty.

The battle to leave the EU is coming to an end. The battle for Britain is just beginning — and we are about to find out if Johnson is more Churchill or Halifax.