Editor's Note: The use of the expression, "TCA" in this series of posts refers to the "Trade and Cooperation Agreement" signed between the UK and the EU on December 24th 2020.
After four and a half years of negotiations, on December 31st 2020 at 11:00pm, Britain finally completed the process of leaving the European Union with a “free trade deal”.
Yes, Boris had “got Brexit done”. Since the 2016 referendum delivered an unexpected body-blow to the plans of the “Global elite”, the British people had been treated to
• all the delaying tactics, the manoeuvrings, and downright betrayal from Remainers both inside and outside Parliament,
• betrayal by our judiciary,
• sanctimonious humbug from former failed prime ministers,
• the subterfuge and weakness of former Prime Minister Theresa May and her government and their attempts at total sell-out,
• a well-funded lawsuit that sought to give Parliamentary Remainers the power to frustrate the referendum result,
• the threats and lies about what would happen if we actually went ahead and insisted on leaving,
• and all the other spiteful tactics that the Remain camp, the mass media and the EU itself could throw at us.
It took the Euro elections of 2019, and two general elections sandwiching them, in all of which the parties and factions supporting Brexit triumphed in the teeth of determined and well-funded opposition, to get to a position where we are a free and independent nation once more. That is, free and independent from the European Union.
Or are we? This series of posts takes a closer look at the Agreement that was arrived at between the UK and the EU and signed on 24th December 2020. The full title of the Agreement is “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”, and I am going to refer to it for the most part as the “TCA”.
Twists and turns of the Tory Party
The Tory Party, having hitched itself, for the time being, to the ‘Leave the EU’ cause, was especially pleased with itself. This is the party, remember, that was happy to have the arch-traitor, Edward Heath, at its head as Prime Minister, when the disgraceful negotiations to join what was then the “European Economic Community” went ahead without any mandate in 1971. The same party, without doubt, most of whose members applauded as Heath signed the Treaty of Accession the following year, surrendering our country’s sovereignty to Brussels. That subjugation was to last nearly fifty years.
It is sobering to think that, since the end of the Second World War, our nation has been a vassal state of an artificially constructed, anti-democratic European super-state for 48 out of less than 76 years. What would our fighting men have thought if someone had been able to whisper that into their ears as they departed these shores in 1940 to fight yet another European war?
But back to the present day. We are now, on the surface, no longer in the Euro superstate that the original European Economic Community had become. This is due to a number of factors, including long-standing opposition from minority parties such as the National Front of the 1970s and, more recently, Nigel Farage’s UKIP and Brexit parties. Nigel Farage himself has to be credited with having the single-minded resolve and determination to see through the whole campaign right up to the 2016 referendum and beyond. Let’s hope he receives some kind of national recognition for his achievement.
The Tory Party were always heavily pro-EU until UKIP and, later, the Brexit Party, threatened to keep them in permanent opposition. Of course, there always were plenty of Tory “Euro-sceptics” as well. They didn’t like the idea of our country being sold out to Brussels in the first place but went along with it for career reasons. Now they are celebrating our departure from the EU and congratulating themselves on getting our nation’s freedom and independence back.
Does the CTA “fully achieve the goal of Brexit”?
Let us take one of them, Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire and member of their “European Research Group”, as broadly representing them. He wrote a piece in the Daily Mail of 30th December 2020 headed “I see no traps… that’s why I’ll seize our day of destiny”, heralding “a new era of free co-operation in place of the former dominance by Brussels”.
Bridgen is satisfied that the deal “fully achieves the goal of Brexit”.
Under the agreement, according to Bridgen, “free movement will end, as will the jurisdiction of the European Courts and the vast contributions to Brussels’ coffers”.
Try telling that to the good citizens of Northern Ireland.
“The biggest obstacle,” Bridgen writes, “was fishing rights, since control of our waters is a symbol of nationhood. But here too I am satisfied…”.
Try telling that to our fishermen. We have a further period of five and a half years before we see the last fishing vessel from mainland Europe cease from plundering our fish stocks.
No worries, according to Andrew Bridgen. “The transition period…. will provide time to rebuild coastal communities.”
So all is well, according to populist politicians.
Sadly, all is not well. Before examining the “deal” in detail, let’s briefly recap on how things turned out this way.
The Brexit “negotiations”
May’s negotiators, at the start of negotiations in 2016, immediately announced that the UK would be giving the EU £39 billion as a “sweetener”, to give the negotiations the best chance of success for both sides. May’s team thought that this would be sufficient to induce the EU into granting a Canada-style free trade agreement that would be even better than Canada’s.
The EU negotiators immediately trousered that, and then acted as if that was the least we should have offered. They then scuppered any prospect of a Canada-style agreement with the UK. They realised that Canada is on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The UK is just 22 miles away from the French coast. That fact, of course, only affects the fisheries part of the negotiations, but that’s the excuse they used.
At this point, if the UK’s negotiators really meant to protect our interests, they would have reciprocated by demanding the return of our £39 billion. There was absolutely no legal requirement for the UK to pay a penny for leaving the EU, and the fact that this money, and a whole lot more, has been paid is nothing short of a national humiliation and scandal. Withdrawing the offer of money would have signalled to the EU that we weren’t going to be pushed around any longer, and done wonders to make them more reasonable in the negotiations.
But May’s negotiators were Remainers at heart, and it was only taxpayers’ money. They were all too easily hoodwinked by Barnier and his cronies in the EU’s negotiating team. They had no real interest in securing a fair deal for the UK. Their main concern was to reach an arrangement that looked genuine to anyone who didn’t look at it in detail, and would make it as easy as possible for the UK to be re-admitted to the EU at an early date in the future.
They colluded with the EU negotiators and Remainers in Parliament and the media to bring about a phoney deal. A deal that would in reality bind us to the EU forever and make life so uncomfortable that public opinion would swing behind a move to re-join, just to relieve the pain.
Remainers fight to frustrate the Brexit vote
It wasn’t just the UK’s negotiators who were working secretly to frustrate the wishes of the British people expressed in the 2016 referendum result. As we’ve just seen, Parliament itself, even after the 2017 General Election, was dominated by Remainers. Nearly all these Remainer MPs had promised during the 2017 election campaign to honour the referendum result and play their part in securing Brexit. Almost to a man, they broke that promise and instead obstructed the process in every way they could.
One of the most blatant moves was to pass into law a provision that made it unlawful for the UK to leave the EU without a “deal”. I’ve commented before on how this move gave the EU’s negotiators tremendous power in making unreasonable demands of the UK and refusing any compromises.
The House of Lords was even worse. I’m not going into the history of treachery and betrayal over the period from the June 2016 referendum to late 2020 in Parliament. The important point is that until the 2019 General Election Remainers, both in Parliament and on May’s negotiating team, were openly and brazenly defying the referendum result.
Boris’s negotiators, headed by Lord Frost, were a little better, but not much. Their main fault was that they appeared to treat the EU negotiators as if they were genuine in wanting a deal that was mutually beneficial. That was a mistake. The EU wanted everything and didn’t want to have to give anything in return.
At least by this stage the UK’s negotiators had the prospect, and soon the reality, of a UK Parliament that had a pro-Brexit majority. It was only when Parliament repealed the notorious law requiring a “deal” and passed a new law binding the UK to leaving the EU by no later than 31st December 2020, with or without a deal, that the EU negotiators reluctantly eased their unreasonable demands and started to compromise in some areas.
Even so, the process of extricating the UK from the morass that the EU has become, was lengthy and complicated. Further months of negotiations followed. Deadlines came and went. There had to be a deal, if a “no-deal Brexit” was to be avoided, by no later than 20th December 2020.
Everything is covered
Negotiations still regularly ground to a halt. The EU seemed to enjoy displaying itself to the world in its true colours – an oppressive, intolerant, stiffling and anti-democratic bureaucracy. In the end Boris had to meet in person with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and smooth things out. The Agreement was announced on Christmas Eve 2020 to tremendous applause from the populist media.
That gave only a week, including the Christmas holiday break, for the Agreement to be scrutinised for any sign of a sell-out. The Conservative “European Research Group” instructed its “Star Chamber” of “top lawyers” to examine the document – all 1,426 pages of it – to determine if it really did deliver the Brexit promised.
This was duly done, or so we’re assured, and the genuineness of the Brexit deal negotiated was pronounced.
If Tory Brexiteers like Andrew Bridgen did actually read the full text of the TCA as they claim to have done, in the space of just a few days, then it was indeed a superhuman achievement.
The Agreement itself must be one of the most verbose, tedious, long-winded and unreadable documents ever produced in history. Page after page of it contain tables which in turn contain lists of things such as all the species of fish and animals likely to be affected by certain provisions, constituent parts of industrial products, agricultural products, medicinal products, and more, that have rules, and exceptions to those rules, for us all to enjoy. On and on it goes.
The Brussels bureaucrats who drafted the agreement sought to cover every possible permutation of every possible eventuality in all the minutia of commercial life that could possibly be imagined. Nothing has been left to chance. The problem with an agreement like that, as every lawyer knows, is that by defining everything you end up defining nothing. Rich pickings lie ahead for lawyers, especially those in the UK who specialise in European law, and those in Europe who specialise in UK law.
In the next part of this post, I will be looking at the TCA in some detail while at the same time attempting to preserve the sanity of my readers.