On the 12 of July, the Foreign & Commonwealth Secretary began with an answer to a question tabled that he thought the EU could “go whistle” over the payments. Michel Barnier decided to hit back at the press conference, and he did so; emphatically, energetically and firmly. He denied that the EU was charging Britain a ransom, and that their ‘financial obligations” would have to be paid. Curiously, no answer was given to the suggestion that Britain owns the share of EU property they funded; that, it would seem was not part of the settling of accounts following the end of a relationship. Furthermore, Barnier maintained that ensuring EU citizens in the UK had the same rights after Brexit remained undebatable: This was the line in the sand, he inferred. He expressed hope to work and negotiate, even offering to work on Monday, which is a French bank holiday. All in all, he appeared to be a pleasant, kindhearted man, bravely standing up for his moral principles and the defenceless against the irresponsible British government. To hammer this home, he spent the next day meeting with British opposition figures, including Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon.
His statement revealed something noteworthy, something more inflammatorily Unionistic than the planned Orange Order march through Drumcree. Leaving aside the issue of defending the £100bn ‘Brexit Bill’, he said was that Britain could not achieve a Brexit Deal. It was hidden in an innocuous sentence that went as follows: “We want EU citizens in Britain to have the same rights as British citizens who live in the EU”.
We are left with a number of key points. Either Monsieur Barnier is bluffing, and this is not what the Commission will accept, but rather a negotiating position, or he means it when he says there is no negotiating over this one issue. If this is indeed an impassable red line for the Commission, any negotiation on Brexit has become automatically pointless. To understand how this is the case, he continued to explain that “this would require the ECJ to be the ultimate guarantor of these rights.”
What Mr Barnier is demanding is this: “Following Brexit, the irresponsible British Parliament will pass laws that may be against our legislation and , and we need to protect our citizens in the UK from such outrages.” In other words, the Government of the UK will not be the supreme law of the land, and the Supreme Court will not be the Supreme Court. Her Majesty the Queen will be Queen only in name. Any law, ruling, regulation or statutory instrument originating in the UK may at any time be vetoed the the European Court of Justice. Brexit will no longer be an issue of taking back control – it would only be an appearance of taking back control: it would ultimately remain in Luxembourg.
That, regrettably, is merely the beginning. Not only will the EU have the theoretical ability to overrule British law, we can rationally presume to forecast what such cases would be. The infamous Four Freedoms would again make their appearance, and we would be subject to the negative aspects of Common Market membership, without the benefits. Therefore, regardless of any Brexit ‘deal’, we could easily see its clauses repealed in the ECJ: Free Movement could return in its entirety. The Court could decide that Britain needs to pay more for any EU project, and would have the ability to force us to pay. Clearly, being under the ECJ’s jurisdiction cannot under any stretch of the imagination – or English language – be described as “Taking Back Control” – the very essence of Brexit.
This, according to Barnier, is “fair”. I have nothing against the ECJ of itself (although I do believe Jacob Rees-Mogg was entirely correct to floccinaucinihilipilificate them in the Commons as he famously did), yet I do not have the “trust” that he required, that they will not meddle in domestic British affairs. Their track record alone is sufficient to deprive them of the trust of even the most ardent Europhiles. I am a proud European – I have lived, travelled and visited many nations in Europe – both inside and outside of the Union. ‘Leaving Europe’ has not and never been the issue – it is also a geological impossibility. What is the issue is that I am British; it is my nationality and my home, and it comes first before continental affiliation.
This is another issue where Barnier would appear to draw a red line: he objects strenuously to the idea that EU citizens in the UK are treated as citizens of any other nation-state. He denies the British government the ability to treat all nations equally: He demands that white Europeans have greater rights in the UK than Africans, or Asians or Indians or Americans, or indeed any other race, nation or colour. This would be unheard of in the modern history of the world: any nation’s law is the law of that nation. St Ambrose, the Archbishop of Milan in the late 300s, famously stated that one should, ‘When in Rome, Do as the Romans’. It would be advisable for Barnier to understand this concept. If one does not like the laws of any nation, as a visitor or permanent resident, one has no right to change other nations to one’s own model. This is cultural imperial in its purest form. If one does not like the laws of another nation, one can adapt or leave – provided they can leave.
To fully understand the outrageous requirement Barnier is demanding is to note what the equivalent in Britain would be. We would demand that British subjects in any European nation have the right to sue any EU member-state for their laws not being the same as ours! The sheer gall of such a suggestion can be explained by a hypothetical case: In Britain we drive on the left. Let us a say a British tourist in France decides to drive on the left. He is arrested by the Gendarmerie Nationale for hazardous driving. The tourist then proceeds to sue the French Government that their Highway Code is in disagreement with ours as they drive on the Right. Leaving aside the reasons why driving on the left is safer and ruling purely on British law, the court would naturally rule that we do indeed drive on the left. The tourist would win the case, most likely damages, and all British citizens in the EU would forever hold the right to drive on the Left in any EU member-state!
These two are the latest in a string of unreasonable demands originating in the European Commission, the undemocratic body intent on driving a wedge between the British and European peoples. In total, the Commission is demanding:
- We pay £100,000,000,000 to them – in Euros. As Daniel Hannan pointed out, this is a suspiciously round sum.
- We re-join the Single Market – which historically was known as the ‘Common Market’, and have access to all of the Four Freedoms
- We are under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and thereby under all EU legislation – including future laws.
- We do not retain the same “seamless” access as we had previously – after acquiescing to all their demands.
I can quote all the examples that senior members of the Commission have stated that we will be worse off after Brexit. It would appear some wish to see us punished for daring to try to leave, to prevent ay further thoughts of ‘rebellion’.
Unlike Mr. Barnier, I do not see these as ‘reasonable’ by any means, and I am sure I am not alone. Their minimum demands are often greater than our maximum offers. The government – and opposition – have stated that we will not be part of the Single Market, but rather have access to it. This is the core of Brexit. No control will have been taken back if we are under the ECJ and still have no control of our borders.
We, the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland are presented with an impasse. The only ‘Brexit Deal’ the EU appear to offer us cannot be described as “Brexit” by any means – we will only have given up our seats in Parliament and any influence we have previously had. The public voted for Brexit, both major parties campaigned that they would indeed perform Brexit, and they won 80% of the votes. Therefore, as a deal without Brexit is unacceptable, by deduction we must have a Brexit without a deal: Unless the Commission change their position these are the only two options. As they are unlikely to do so, with their previous statements of red lines, the only available course to the government would be to begin planning a no-deal Brexit. It need not automatically be disastrous by any mean, it could actually be the best option.