Richard North, 24/06/2018  
 


Two years ago to the day, I watched the dawn come in as the results of the referendum were coming through, soon to learn that the nation had voted to leave the EU. Now, it is something of an irony that Booker writes in this week's column of the attention which has, for months, been lavished on the largely irrelevant pseudo-drama unfolding at Westminster over the EU Withdrawal Bill. 

The particular irony was that the publication of his piece coincided with another largely irrelevant pseudo-drama – this one also in Westminster but outside in the square rather than inside the semi-derelict gothic monstrosity that is soaking up so much of our money.

I refer, of course, to the "People's Vote" march in London – attended by people afflicted by the same lack of ability to think as the MPs they are trying to influence. As one of their number told the BBC, they want a vote on the Brexit deal negotiated by the government, apparently unaware that, if they got it and turned down what was on offer, the result would be a "no deal". Once the book is closed on the negotiations, the deal goes out for ratification and there is no provision for revisiting it. It really is take it or leave it.

Others of their number, such as Caroline Lucas, saw the march as an opportunity to promote their "remain in the EU" campaign. Alongside Vince Cable and Davis Lammy, these people are diverting attention from the real and only issue of importance: how we leave the EU.

Part of that story, the real story, has begun seriously to break surface. This, says Booker, is the way so many British industries have at last been waking up to the horrendous implications of Theresa May's decision in January last year that we should exclude ourselves from continued membership of the single market.

Building on this, Booker narrates a litany of woe. The starkest message, he says, came from the outgoing president of the CBI, Paul Drechsler. He warns that "there are sectors of manufacturing... in the UK which risk becoming extinct".

Although Drechsler singled out the potentially catastrophic consequences for our motor industry, he also mentioned the "hundreds of millions... invested by UK pharmaceutical and finance companies" to allow them to continue trading with the EU by relocating part of their operation to the continent. There is no way, Drechsler said, that those fondly imagined future trade deals with the rest of the world could make up for the damage already resulting from our decision to leave the "internal market".

Then, says Booker, there is the announcement by Airbus that it may have to quit the UK, with a direct loss of 14,000 jobs and possibly 100,000 more. This follows the recent letter to Michel Barnier on behalf of our entire aviation industry, as it wakes up to the fact that virtually all it does is only legally authorised by the EU. Dropping out of this system means that we risk losing not just our ability to make aircraft but even to keep our airports open to international traffic.

Nevertheless, Airbus quitting is the least of its problems. The more immediate issue is the ability of the company to keep working once its suppliers are unable to deliver. But, while Booker can write about it, and I can post long dissertations, where it comes to uncomfortable truths, the "Ultras" have their ways of dealing with them. They lie.

This was Peter (now Lord) Lilley's response on Friday's BBC Radio 4 Any Questions. Claiming he had "looked up the law", he told his audience that EU law said that organisations like Airbus or any of its suppliers outside in a state outside the EU could retain their certification if the EASA "has determined that the system in that state includes the same independent level of checking of compliance as provided by the regulations".

The actual law is Regulation (EC) No 216/2008, with Article 12 (currently) stating that the Agency or the aviation authorities in the Member State "may issue certificates on the basis of certificates issued by aeronautical authorities of a third country, as provided for in recognition agreements between the Community and that third country".

In other words, there must be a bilateral recognition agreement between the EU and the UK before certification can be accepted. Without a deal, certificates issued by the CAA cannot be valid in EU/EEA Member States.

If the media had been able to address such issues then the likes of Lilley would not be able to get away with their lies. But at least Booker brings us back to earth with the Freight Transport Association conference last week.

From this, we learned of the bewildering lack of planning and information coming from the Government, and heard apocalyptic warnings of the threat now hanging over our cross-Channel trade. The crippling delays created by new border controls could not just turn Kent into a lorry park but bring this entire trade to a halt.

Some of us, says Booker, have been warning of how all this and much more would be inevitable ever since Mrs May's fateful decision that we should leave not just the EU but also the EEA. This alone could help ensure that continued "frictionless" access to our largest single export market of which she so often casually spoke.

Now there are just five days before the European Council at which we were supposed to agree the terms of our withdrawal. What is about to happen is entirely our own choice, and we must just watch the consequences unfold.

That rather makes the week coming interesting if not pivotal. By now, the text of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Irish protocol, should have been finalised and we should be moving on to the final phase, the political declaration on our future relationship with the EU.

Yet, far from there being any sense of crisis, we're getting David Davis still bleating that the UK could leave the EU without making any concessions.

This stupid, stupid man tells us that, "We don't want to do that, never have. The best option is leaving with a good deal but you've got to be able to walk away from the table". Still treating the negotiations as if we were bartering in a souk, he blathers: "When you go to buy a house, you don't walk in and say – I'm going to buy the house, now what's the price? So why should it be any different in a big negotiation like this?"

Thus, does this man conclude: "We've got to have the right to walk away – not that we will – but we've got to have that right".

I wish we could chisel the words in mirror writing on this idiot man's forehead. In leaving the EU, we are redefining our relations with 27 Member States and the EU's institutions. There is no possible way we can "walk away" from that. That the UK should leave the EU and not re-forge a new relationship is simply not an option.

Getting that through to the lower intellectual reaches of the Tory party, however, is a forlorn hope. Hence we have the oaf Johnson embroiled in what the Telegraph luridly calls a "diplomatic row" with Brussels after he was asked about the fears of some business leaders over Brexit and replied: "f*** business".

This same gross creature tells The Sun that "the people want us to deliver a full British Brexit and we MUST bust out of the corsets of EU regulation". The British people, he says, "don't want some bog roll Brexit - soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long".

With that representing the level of debate, it is hardly any wonder we are going nowhere. Not only is there no meeting of minds – the two sides are not even in the same dimension, much less on the same planet.

Following on from Airbus and then BMW, we have Jürgen Maier , chief executive of Siemens UK, who calls Johnson's intervention "incredibly unhelpful". He joined calls for a deal that would not hit the flow of trade between the UK and mainland Europe. Maier says the aim should be "minimum friction" in any future trade deal and chastised the government for presiding over "two years of not having achieved what we were promised, which is that this was all going to be easy".

He adds: "I think the realities are setting in and I think it is time to get away from slogans, 'full British Brexit', 'going into combat with Europe',” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "It's all incredibly unhelpful and what we need to do now is to get closer with our European partners and work out what a realistic, pragmatic Brexit is that works for both sides, the EU and ourselves".

The one thing we're not getting though is pragmatism. Between the hyperbole and the lies, Brexit is sliding out of control. Not in our wildest imagination, two years ago, could we have dreamed that it would come to this. The crowds may mass in the streets but, like Brexit, they are going nowhere.






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