Monday 26 November 2018

Theresa May's letter to the nation

by Robin Baker

The Prime Minister wrote to the nation on 24thNovember setting out her views on the benefits of the agreement reached with the EU27 on Brexit and seeking to rally support for it.  She did not succeed in convincing me, although I have to concede that would have been a herculean task.  But worse, she did convince me that her arguments are false and based on a number of misstatements.  Here is the text of her letter, and my comments on it in red.

"When I became your prime minister, the United Kingdom had just voted to leave the European Union.  Correct, but by a majority of just 37% of the electorate and 27% of the UK population, by a margin of 2.7% of the electorate and with those most affected by the result denied the right to vote despite the promise of expatriate votes for life in the Conservative election manifesto.
"From my first day in the job, I knew I had a clear mission before me - a duty to fulfil on your behalf: to honour the result of the referendum and secure a brighter future for our country by negotiating a good Brexit deal with the EU.  Despite the fact that the voters were fed a series of lies; for example that we would save £350 million a week when the true figure was about half of that, and that the Prime Minster herself told the Conservative Party conference that “the referendum was not just a vote to withdraw from the EU.  It was about something broader - about a sense – deep, profound and let’s face it often justified – that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them.”
"Throughout the long and complex negotiations that have taken place over the last year and a half, I have never lost sight of that duty.
"Today, I am in Brussels with the firm intention of agreeing a Brexit deal with the leaders of the other 27 EU nations.
"It will be a deal that is in our national interest - one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted 'Leave' or 'Remain'.  The fact is that it cannot possibly work for those of us who voted remain, because it takes us out of the EU, and it doesn’t work for those who voted leave because the UK remains subject to EU rules indefinitely.
"It will honour the result of the referendum.
"We will take back control of our borders, by putting an end to the free movement of people once and for all.  It will not, see my blog of 6thNovember below.
"Instead of an immigration system based on where a person comes from, we will build one based on the skills and talents a person has to offer.
"We will take back control of our money, by putting an end to vast annual payments to the EU.  But the Government’s Office of Budget responsibility says that there will be no Brexit dividend for the Government because any savings will be offset by the loss of revenue caused by a lower GDP.
"Instead, we will be able to spend British taxpayers' money on our own priorities, like the extra £394 million per week that we are investing in our long-term plan for the NHS.  But she decided to spend that before she knew the terms of our leaving.
"And we will take back control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. 
"In future, our laws will be made, interpreted and enforced by our own courts and legislatures. Not for an indefinite period and, after that, we will still be subject to the rulings of the WTO disputes procedure.
"We will be out of EU programmes that do not work in our interests: out of the Common Agricultural Policy that has failed our farmers, and out of the Common Fisheries Policy that has failed our coastal communities.  The Common Agricultural Policy does work in our interest because if makes us part of a self-sufficient food producing area which we will no longer be after Brexit.  When we leave the Common Fisheries Policy over-fishing will still have to be controlled, otherwise the industry will not be sustainable in the long term.  Were the EU and the UK to adopt different fishery conservation policies, since fish do not understand boundaries between different territorial waters, the one applying more stringent controls and therefore deserving greater sustainability with their fish stocks, would inevitable lose fish to the other one.  This would lead to political pressure to increase quotas which, in turn, would endanger the future of the fishing industry in both UK and EU waters.
"Instead, we will be able to design a system of agricultural support that works for us, and we will be an independent coastal state once again, with full control over our waters.
"The deal also protects the things we value.
"EU citizens who have built their lives in the United Kingdom will have their rights protected, as will UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.  No, that is not true, many rights on both sides will be denied to us.  See the blog of 9thNovember below.
"A free trade area will allow goods to flow easily across our borders, protecting the many skilled jobs right across the country that rely on integrated supply-chains.  But does the PM really think that the UK will be allowed access to a free trade area with the EU for free.  I believe that we will be charged for that as EU member states are, and that is going to have a substantial affect on what we save by leaving the EU.  Also there is threat by the French to tie a free trade agreement to concessions by the UK on fishing rights.
"Because our European friends will always be our allies in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, the deal will ensure that security co-operation will continue, so we can keep our people safe.
"As prime minister of the United Kingdom, I have from day one been determined to deliver a Brexit deal that works for every part of our country - for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for our Overseas Territories like Gibraltar, and also for the Crown Dependencies. But the agreement reached by the Prime Minister with Spain excludes Gibraltar from the general negotiation between the EU and UK and "will allow Spain to negotiate directly with the UK over Gibraltar”.
"This deal will do that.
"Crucially, it will protect the integrity of our United Kingdom and ensure that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland - so people can live their lives as they do now.
"It is a deal for a brighter future, which enables us to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
"Outside the EU, we will be able to sign new trade deals with other countries and open up new markets in the fastest-growing economies around the world.  Only when the EU has agreed to this, if they do not agree we are still tied to the agreement indefinitely.
"With Brexit settled, we will be able to focus our energies on the many other important issues facing us here at home: keeping our economy strong, and making sure every community shares in prosperity; securing our NHS for the future, giving every child a great start in life, and building the homes that families need; tackling the burning injustices that hold too many people back, and building a country for the future that truly works for everyone.  That would be fantastic, but we would always have been in that position had we never started this Brexit nonsense in the first place.