I am today signing the “Brexit Pledge”, calling for the UK to leave the EU the EU on time, with or without a deal, on October 31st. Boris Johnson has made the EU a very generous offer, with a view to negotiating, as quickly as possible, a mutually-beneficial Free Trade Agreement.
This is – and should always have been – the right tack for the negotiations to take. It is encouraging that the Prime Minister’s talks last week with Leo Varadkar appeared positive. But concerns remain that the EU will seek to trap Northern Ireland permanently in the EU Customs Union by trying to reheat the failed ideas of “customs partnerships” or “single customs territories” that proved so disastrous for Theresa May.
As the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, the May Withdrawal Agreement is dead. It was defeated in Parliament three times and the Conservatives, the only Party supporting it in the European elections, got just 8.8 per cent of the vote and came fifth. We await the full details of the new deal to see exactly how they address the objections to the dead Theresa May “deal” but dual-tariff systems like this would be, as Priti Patel has said, “unacceptable.”
When would any other country ever give up part of its territory as part of trade talks? It would be particularly absurd for Northern Ireland. 85 per cent of sales by Northern Irish companies are in the UK. Just five per cent are with the Republic and around three per cent with the rest of the EU. How could we saddle Northern Ireland with EU costs and regulations, and shut it out from trade deals which the rest of the UK would strike?
It would shatter the Belfast Agreement’s principle of consent and completely undermine Northern Ireland’s status as an integral part of the UK. We must not go down this route.
The EU must not indulge its long-established instinct of ignoring popular votes which do not go its way. The chicanery of Remainers in the Commons has done enormous damage to public trust in democracy; they have sunk the public standing of Parliament to new lows with the ridiculous “Surrender Act”. The UK must leave the EU. 17.4 million people – more people than have ever voted for anything in British history – decided that in 2016.
Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty requires the EU to build “a special relationship with neighbouring countries.” But if it continues to be unreasonable, refusing both Boris’s offer and ultimately a Free Trade Agreement, facilitated by the temporary arrangements of GATT XXIV, then he must take us out without a formal deal on October 31. At some point, we have to say “enough is enough” and that is why I have signed the Brexit pledge.