Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
It is extraordinary that the Prime Minister does not appear to pay heed to the advice of legal experts like Martin Howe, or members of her own Cabinet and leading Conservative Party activists. The only rationalisation is that she fears a no deal on WTO terms and has allowed herself to be influenced by the misleading propaganda here. Most of the world trades perfectly happily and effectively on WTO terms. But she has also concluded that she cannot get a better deal from the EU than the one she now has. She has thus ended up with the opposite of what she promised – a bad deal which is worse than no deal.
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, we would hand over £39 billion with nothing guaranteed in return. We would remain a rule taker over large areas of EU law, such as social, environmental and employment policies. We would be obliged to obey EU laws, but with no further influence on how they are drafted. Potentially worst of all, we would have no exit from a customs union.
A joint committee would be charged with overseeing the UK’s ability to proceed to a further trade relationship. If an agreement cannot be reached the UK, would enter a backstop-enabled customs union with the EU, despite manifesto and public assurance commitments to the contrary. We could only leave it with the agreement of the EU and, whilst remaining in it, we could not negotiate our own trade deals without EU permission. Having witnessed the EU’s behaviour in the negotiations to date, it is clearly not to be trusted to behave decently in future negotiations under May’s Chequers agreement.
Domestically, the agreement creates internal borders within the UK. Northern Ireland would become a rule taker. This is completely unacceptable to us, and to the Democratic Unionist Party.
The European Court of Justice would remain in control of the agreement and of major areas of EU law, effective in the UK. This Withdrawal Agreement would leave us half in and half out of the EU as a ‘vassal state’, bound by many laws over which we have no influence. Such a deal is a denial of the votes of 17.4 million people to leave the EU.