Nigel Farage has denounced Boris Johnson’s EU deal as “95 per cent the same” as Theresa May’s withdrawal deal, which was deemed so terrible by Remainers as well as Brexiteers that it was voted down three times by the House of Commons.
You can watch much of his blistering speech here.
Farage’s verdict, that the Johnson deal is a reheated version of May’s deal, accords completely with what I wrote here on Friday.
He also points out that it would split the UK by effectively imposing a border down the middle of the Irish Sea, thus separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
It would mean, as he said, the UK committing itself to a “level playing field” – in other words, no deviation – on employment legislation, social protection, environmental law, state aid and even taxation. So the terms of the Johnson deal would prevent the UK from becoming more competitive than the EU.
Various commentators, however, have decided that the only conceivable reason Farage is so opposed to the Johnson deal must be that Farage believes it would spell the end of his political career. This profoundly misunderstands both Farage and the Johnson deal itself.
Farage does not want a political career as such. He wants the UK to leave the EU and rule itself again as an independent sovereign democratic country. That is what the British voted for in the 2016 referendum. Farage’s Brexit party exists for the sole purpose of delivering that or ensuring that it is delivered.
The Johnson deal would not do so. It would deliver Brexit in name only, leaving the UK still shackled to the EU – unable to do trade deals with the rest of the world free of EU regulations, unable to control its own defence or foreign policy and with laws that are passed by the Westminster parliament still subject, in some circumstances at least, to the European Court of Justice.
The reason these commentators think the only conceivable reason for Farage’s opposition must be personal ambition is that they fail to understand that Johnson’s deal is not Brexit any more than May’s deal was Brexit.
Those who support the Johnson deal are either faux-Brexiteers who want the UK to leave but in terms that bind it to the EU in perpetuity, or don’t much care if it is thus bound because they believe idiotically that the UK can be a little bit in and bound by the EU as well as being out and an independent sovereign nation. Such people didn’t have a big problem with the May deal either, for those reasons.
Or the Johnson deal supporters are Brexiteers who have been so spooked by the Remainer coup against the people that they believe the choice they face is between the Johnson deal and no Brexit. And in their emotional and panicky exhaustion, they are all-too susceptible to the Johnson spin that he is such an supremely Brexity prime minister he will die in the ditch to get Brexit done in a heroic stand against the Remainer parliament that is intent upon kicking the British people in the teeth – even if he has to go to jail! What a star, eh!
And so, clinging to this image of the super-Brexity superhero who has charmed the hitherto intransigent Eurocrats into making concessions and who has even got France’s president Macron purring (that would be the same Macron who cynically predicted not long ago that, whatever concessions the EU might grant, the British would still end up voting for yet another version of Mrs May’s deal) even the most Spartan Brexiteers seem unable to grasp that the Johnson deal is still a stinker. It would still trap the UK in a permanent state of vassalage – legal commitments with no power to change them – which these Brexiteers once rightly excoriated but now are prepared to endorse.
They seem unable to grasp that no-deal is the only route to a clean and true Brexit, that a half-in, half-out Brexit would leave the UK worse off than remaining in the EU, and that therefore no Brexit is better than a bad deal.
And it’s not just those supposed political opportunists Farage and his Brexit Party who are crying foul over the Johnson deal, but also the Bruges Group and the Bow Group and Northern Ireland’s DUP. Ah yes, of course – all Brexit supporters are just stupid or nuts, aren’t they; or, in the case of the DUP, impossibly obdurate sectarians.
The who are inclined to think so really should read the analysis by the Bruges Group and Brexit Party, and also the devastating speech made in Saturday’s tragi-comic Commons debate by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds here:
“Weariness in this House over Brexit should not be an excuse for weakness on Brexit or weakness on the Union. This party has supported respecting the people of the United Kingdom’s referendum decision to leave the European Union. We have supported that and we continue to support that, but it must be Brexit for the whole of the United Kingdom—leaving the single market and the customs union if that is what the rest of UK does, along with the rest of the UK. This deal puts Northern Ireland, yes, in the UK customs union, but applies, de facto, all the European customs union code.The situation now is this. Brexit has been frustrated for three years by a Remainer parliament determined to stop it and which, aided by an unconstitutionally partisan Speaker and unconstitutionally activist judges, has been tearing up the constitutional rule book to do so (see here for Professor Vernon Bogdanor’s opinion that the Letwin amendment which wrecked Saturday’s “meaningful vote” is unconstitutional).
The Prime Minister indicated dissent.
Nigel Dodds: Yes, it does. Read the detail. It also puts us in the VAT regime. It also puts us in the single market regime for a large part of goods and agrifood, without any consent up front, contrary to the agreement made in December 2017, which said that regulatory difference could happen only with the consent of the Executive and the Assembly. It drives a coach and horses through the Belfast agreement by altering the cross-community consent mechanism. It was once said that no British Prime Minister could ever agree to such terms. Indeed, those who sought the leadership of the Tory party said that at the Democratic Unionist party conference. Will the Prime Minister now abide by that and please reconsider the fact that we must leave as one nation together?”
Now the Remainer parliament has further delayed consideration of Johnson’s deal – which doesn’t deliver Brexit, although he says it does – on the basis that it might be a Trojan horse for a no-deal Brexit – which is in fact the only way Brexit can truly be delivered.
The question that now threatens to derail British politics altogether is this: why should anyone vote for any of these mainstream politicians or their parties ever again?
Melanie Phillips is a British journalist, broadcaster and author - you can follow her work on her website HERE.