Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP
Brexit can only be considered to have been delivered once the United Kingdom has left the strictures of the European Union on the 1st January 2021 having restored complete control of our laws, borders and money and as a coastal state again, our waters. The point is that Sovereignty was at the core of the Brexit vote. The British people understood that, encapsulated as it was in the phrase – ‘Take back Control.’ They know unless we complete the Transition Period as a fully sovereign state without conditions or limitations, we will not have delivered on the Brexit mandate. However, at this moment, the British negotiating team has inherited Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration it is these which continue block the UK’s sovereignty despite Boris Johnson’s elimination of the Irish Backstop and fixed end to the Transition Period. The Chief Negotiator, David Frost, knows this for he has said, it is not “some clever tactical position” but the “point of the whole project”.
Apart from understanding the purpose of Brexit, I am sure the government also knows now that the present Withdrawal Agreement poses a direct challenge to the achievement of that purpose, culminating in the restoration of sovereignty for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is why the Centre for Brexit Policy’s new report, ‘Replacing the Withdrawal Agreement – How to Ensure Britain Takes Back Control on Exiting the Transition Period,’ sets out not just the risks to the UK’s sovereign future but importantly the solutions.
Some of the clearest problems with the Withdrawal Agreement are contained within the Northern Irish Protocol, and as Lord Trimble puts it “the Withdrawal Agreement clearly rips the Good Friday Agreement apart” as these problems could lead to Northern Ireland being torn away from the rest of the United Kingdom and realigned into the EU’s Single Market rather than the UK’s internal market. The Protocol means that significant areas of EU law will apply to Northern Ireland as well as ECJ jurisdiction. The UK government would be unable to effect huge swathes of economic and social policy in NI meaning no democratic accountability of EU rule in that part of the UK.
Additionally, the State aid provisions within the Protocol would mean that that the EU’s rules would continue to apply to both Northern Ireland and the wider UK – resulting in UK laws having to be approved by the European Commission. Allowing the EU to continue to exert influence on the UK’s legislative process in this way would be an enormous dilution of our sovereignty. Indeed, as is made perfectly clear in the report, the measures contained within the Protocol combine to create a clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement and of UK sovereignty as the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the UK will have changed without the consent of its people.
The UK must also continue to dismiss the EU’s efforts to tie the UK into a “Level Playing Field” arrangement. This is essentially a demand from the EU that EU laws should apply to the UK economy so that the UK can only compete internationally in a way that is acceptable to the EU. The EU has never required this of other sovereign countries in trade deals is why it cannot apply to the UK in any shape or form.
The CBP’s report has several solutions to the problems in the Withdrawal Agreement. For example, if the EU refuses to accept an Alternative Arrangements solution – a system of Mutual Enforcement would achieve an “invisible border” on the island of Ireland. Another part of a “Sovereignty Compliant” Brexit arrangement would involve the complete extraction of the UK from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other similar EU institutions as well as any attendant liabilities as the UK will have no ongoing role in EU project financing.
Brexit should be seen as an opportunity to reassert our status as an independent coastal nation. While the fishing industry may not be the nationally important industry it once was, it is still a vital industry for many of our coastal communities. People in these areas have seen first-hand the damaging effects of EU control resulting in overfishing of our waters and know the brighter future that awaits a sovereign UK. Sole authority over our waters and departure from the Common Fisheries Policy is a clear expression of the exercise of our sovereignty.
This detailed paper, written by some of the most expert lawyers in the field of European, contract and commercial law details how the UK can create a new arrangement with the EU – a “Sovereignty Compliant” deal that frees us from all EU control. One that replaces the flawed and dangerous arrangements that are within the present Withdrawal Agreement The changes proposed in the paper are reasonable and workable and should be adopted by the government. Of course the EU is bound in treaty law to use best endeavours and good faith to reach this new agreement, a failure to do this would ensure that the UK would have to exercise its right as a sovereign nation to walk away.
This report is critical in understanding the complexity of the task ahead of the UK as it seeks a balanced arrangement between the UK and the EU. It recommendations should form the foundation of an agreement which respects the sovereign rights of all engaged in the negotiations. Anyone who has an interest in this subject should read this report as soon as possible, including I hope the Government.
Click here to read the report.