‘Cliff Edge Corbyn’
Bernard Jenkin MP
Monday 26th June: As the Left go into overdrive about the prospects of a Corbyn led government, Bernard Jenkin MP* explains that the real battle to leave the EU is about to begin.
There is so much tosh being talked about the difficulty and perils of leaving the EU. There is no “cliff edge” if the UK and the EU are able to conclude a half decent agreement about arrangements for our departure – and it is inevitable that we will. There is too much at stake of mutual interest to fail in this. Some people think that “no deal” means no customs facilitation agreements, no mutual recognition of product standards, no transition to separation of institutions like the Medicines agency, no new aviation services agreements. These need prompt no great difficulty, certainly nothing more than reaching the kind of arrangements that the EU has with a hundred or more third countries, with whom they do not have a formal trade agreement. Otherwise, the EU’s largest export market, the UK, would be at risk. “No deal is better than a bad deal” means the UK should be ready to trade on the same terms as the US does with the EU on WTO Most Favoured Nation terms, and when it comes to a long term comprehensive trade agreement, but you have to believe the EU is completely insane if you think that they will cut the telephone lines, ground all UK flights in and out of the EU, and insist on checking every mini exported to the EU at the border, to see if it does in fact meet the EU’s definition of “a car”.
The scaremongering reflects a very effective attempt by the unreconciled Remainers, who are determined to de-rail Brexit if they possibly can. We know who they are. They are the likes of Sir John Major, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell. They are the big corporates, the City institutions, the US banks, and all the other vested interests represented by the CBI and the British Bankers Association. These are the people who wanted the UK to join the Euro. They brought you the financial crisis. Now they really believe they can overturn the substance of the referendum decision. One former Cabinet Secretary who worked under their aegis was heard reassuring a retired senior diplomat.”Don’t worry, the aim is to finish up with Brexit in name only.”
The fact that almost all the former civil servants in the Lords, including every single former Cabinet Secretary, voted against the Article 50 bill, underlines that Mrs May’s policy for leaving the EU is probably being undermined from within Whitehall with as much determination as from the House of Lords, though to be fair to Sir Jeremy Heywood, there is no sign he is part of the plot.
We need to be aware that there is such a plot – to thwart Brexit. They argue we must stay in the single market or the customs union, but the more concessions we demand on exit, the more likely it is that the EU will say, “no”. Perhaps when that happens, they hope we will all have second thoughts about leaving altogether. Alistair Campbell has really written, “Believe me, Brexit can be stopped.”
Their plot cannot possibly succeed for three reasons. First, if they press too hard, and topple the May government, they get Jeremy Corbyn. Some of them are beginning to realise that a Corbyn government will no more wish to keep the UK from leaving the EU than the Conservatives Just look at the Labour manifesto! And Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell voted against every EU treaty that they could, including the Single European Act, Maastricht and Lisbon.
Second, the Conservative Party will come to realise that survival, and a positive vision for leaving the EU, are indivisible. We got 42.5 per cent of the vote because UKIP voters believed the job would be finished by other parties, and and we united the Conservative Party in the country behind a policy to leave the EU. And Labour only prevented us from garnering more votes because their EU policy was indistinguishable from ours. This enabled them to prevent the EU being the central issue and to force us on to the defensive on the more traditional issues such as schools and the elderly.
The message could not be clearer: If the Conservatives turn back on the referendum result in any substantial way, the huge divisions that beset the party from Thatcher to Cameron will re-open, and we will become again unelectable.
Third, if there is a slow but steady ratting on the referendum result, it may not become immediately apparent, but the disillusion we have seen so far, that the voters have with their politicians, will be as nothing to what will come. The referendum vote was a cry for democracy and accountability, very much from those who feel their have no voice and have been ignored. To plot to overturn the greatest vote in our history for any single proposition or government is to court the kind of social and political unrest the like of which we have never seen.
*Bernard Jenkin has been a Member of Parliament since 1992 and represented Harwich and North Essex since 2010. Until May 2017, he was a member of the Liaison Committee, the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. He has also served as Shadow Minister of State for Transport (1998-2001), Shadow Secretary of State for Defence (2001-03) and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change (2005).