A deal is done!
For the last four years, we have been endlessly told by experts, politicians, pressure groups and by Brussels itself that the EU would never agree to allow us to have access to their market unless we were willing to follow their laws. The EU knew Theresa May wouldn’t leave without a deal and would have lost a vote in Parliament if she had tried. So they felt free to dictate their terms and insist we continued to follow their rules after we left.
They nearly got their way. Many Brexit supporters, like myself, backed her deal as the least worst option. It would have kept Britain firmly within the orbit of the EU for years and left a divided Conservative Party facing the anger of voters on all sides of the argument. It was a marginally better alternative to cancelling Brexit completely when the public voted to leave in what was the biggest turnout since 1992. Luckily, Remain-supporting MPs decided to repeatedly vote down a deal that pretty much kept us in the EU than support a general election. How they must be kicking themselves!
Last year, with Boris Johnson at the helm and a Parliament with a clear Brexit majority, the best the campaigners could hope for was to call for endless extensions until a deal had been reached. At the very least, said the experts, it would take years for the EU to agree any sort of trade deal. How could one possibly be done in just 11 months? It was therefore vital to make clear there would be no extension for any reason. If we had called for this once, the EU would have seen weakness and would have held off from any kind of agreement, expecting that each deadline would result in a further extension. We also rejected yet another attempt just a few weeks ago to force us to accept “regulatory alignment” i.e. EU laws.
Both sides wanted a deal and once the EU realised we absolutely would leave without one, they suddenly came to the table. Forgive me for a bit of triumphalism but as of next week we will be completely out of the EU, no longer handing over billions of pounds and being subject to their laws. We also have the benefit of being able to import and export goods without tariffs or quotas. I have the utmost sympathy for those who believed in the EU project and are disappointed by this turn of events. But I have no sympathy for those in Parliament who deliberately tried to undermine the government’s negotiating position over the last four years - even going so far as to urge the EU to give us an unfavourable deal. They can help themselves to a large slice of humble pie. The rest of us may enjoy having our cake and eating it!
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 30 December 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 31 December 2020*