Voices: Northern Ireland Protocol: Is Brexit really ‘done’? I wouldn’t be so sure about that
Does Rishi Sunak’s new deal on Northern Ireland mean Brexit is finally done? Have the Tories finally completed the first three words of their 2019 manifesto, three years after the election?
Let’s say parliament supports the deal. Let’s say even the DUP supports the deal and gets back into government in Northern Ireland. I am still not so sure you can say Sunak “got Brexit done”, given what’s coming over the next few years.
I will just give you the facts. You can decide that for yourself. But if you decide that Brexit is not in fact done, please remember two things: 1) The Tories did this; 2) Most people don’t want this, so there is hope.
Last year, arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg boasted about how they weren’t going to start checking imports from the EU until the end of 2023, to avoid what he called “an act of self-harm”. He said it would increase food prices by up to 71 per cent and that “at that level, goods just wouldn’t have come in.” With the current state of UK food supplies, what a Christmas present that will be! I’ll let you decide whether “control of our borders”, trade relations, and the economy are part of “getting Brexit done”.
Then there is the Retained EU Law bill, where the Tories plan to do a mass scrapping of UK laws that are based on EU rules. The problem is that the UK and the EU agreed on a level playing field, so that neither side would gain an unfair competitive advantage. That is part of the Brexit deal.
According to the Law Society, many of the laws on the chopping block are part of that level playing field: “Significant divergence from EU standards could see tariffs imposed upon the UK or even the suspension of parts of the TCA [UK-EU trade deal] under the level playing field agreements.” So it’s up to you whether you think “control over our laws” is relevant to Brexit.
What about fishing? According to the UK-EU trade deal, fishing rights will have to be reviewed in 2026 and then every four years afterwards. And given that the National Federation of Fishermen’s associations says UK fishing is on track to lose £300m from Brexit by 2026, the appetite for significant review will be large. But maybe “control of our waters” was just some remoaner issue? And Brexit is already done today? Thanks, Rishi!
However, with all the polls showing that Labour is likely to win the next election, and Keir Starmer bluntly saying he plans to change the Brexit deal, any notion that Brexit is settled may not last long.
What about the “will of the people”? Has that been delivered today? Two-thirds of Brits want a referendum on rejoining the EU because most of the country believes Brexit is a mistake that is harming the UK.
But I’m sure Sunak, a prime minister rejected by the majority of his party, a party that was rejected by the majority of voters, knows the “will of the people” better than… the people.
Besides, King Charles met with the EU Commission president to help get the deal over the line. And I can think of no better proof of what ordinary British people want than an “unelected” prime minister, an anointed royal and a foreign politician doing a deal behind closed doors. Can’t you?
So, we haven’t taken back effective control of our borders, laws, or waters – and the majority of voters want to fundamentally change our Brexit policy. The incoming party plans to do just that. But go ahead, Rishi, tell everyone you got Brexit done.