Cllr Steve Bell CBE is a former President of the Conservative National Convention.
The Prime Minister recently sent a letter to all members defending the Chequers Deal and the Government’s Brexit White Paper. This followed a previous “charm” offensive with Association Chairmen, who were clearly seen as key advocates for the plan.
As a former President of the National Convention, a long-standing member and a campaigner for the Conservative Party, I can say with confidence that the Prime Minister will not get the response she desires. Huge numbers of members and voters are disillusioned with Chequers, and simply want a better deal that actually delivers what the majority of British people voted for in the 2016 Referendum.
I am sure that my fellow party members and voters are making their views known to their MPs and, if they haven’t already, I’m sure that this letter, on which thousands of pounds of our money has been spent, will encourage them.
A majority of those who voted opted to take back control. Both the Leave campaign and the Prime Minister have stated that a vote to leave meant a vote to take back control of ‘our borders, laws and money.’ The Chequers plan will deliver no such thing. This deal would prevent taking back control of our borders, because free movement will be replaced by something that sounds a lot like free movement in new words.
It would prevent control over our own laws, because it will mean a ‘common rulebook’ for goods, and ‘consequences’ if we diverge, plus threats of ‘action’ that may result if we do anything to gain an ‘undue competitive advantage’ – in other words what any normal independent state should be able to do.
It would prevent control over money, because it commits us to collecting tariffs on the EU’s behalf, contributing to EU funds which could be spent on EU defence funding and coordination programmes that Jean-Claude Juncker admits are intended to create ‘a single EU army’.
This ‘compromise’ is Brexit-in-name-only. It’s a capitulation to the Remainers because, in so many ways, we will be de facto remaining in the EU. In effect, we will be staying in the Single Market and Customs Union. Even the Government has admitted we will keep Single Market regulation in goods, which experts say will also mean in a large swathe of services regulations too, as in competition. The Government’s White Paper based on Chequers proposes that we carry out customs checks for the EU at our own borders – which means checking whether EU regulations are being met, because the Customs Union requires products to meet regulations as well.
We are capitulating in the face of bully boy tactics from the EU. The EU don’t want us to leave, want to punch us and want to deter other states from leaving. It’s time we stood up to them. That’s what our members want. That’s what our voters want.
The back page of the Prime Minister’s letter claimed that this is “the right deal for Britain”. I’m afraid it isn’t. and its time to think again and accept that there is a better alternative. Let’s accept we will be far better off leaving with a Canadian free trade agreement (to which the EU has already signed up) or, failing that, if the EU insist on being spiteful, we should leave on WTO terms, which are perfectly agreeable.
Leaving the EU on WTO terms will allow the UK to make its own laws, agree trade deals with the world outside the EU and set our own course for a brighter future. That’s what the British people voted for. Let’s rip up the White Paper, rip up the Prime Minister’s letter – and start again with a better plan.