1) The UK will be trapped. Currently the UK is free to leave the EU unilaterally under the Article 50 process of the Lisbon Treaty. If the current Withdrawal Agreement is passed into Law the UK cannot unilaterally withdraw from the agreement. The EU would have the final and say if the Withdrawal Agreement could be superseded by a future trade agreement – but the EU would have no incentive to do so unless we bargained away further concessions such as more money, while the UK’s arm is twisted over issues such as the sovereignty of Gibraltar or access to our fisheries.
Moreover, backed by international law, Parliament would have no legal mechanism to unpick this deal without the other parties’ agreement. Therefore should this proposal pass and become law, then this Parliament binds future Parliaments to it and gives up its strongest negotiating hand – the ability to walk away.
2) Money for nothing. By unilaterally handing a minimum of £39bn (and possibly as much as £60bn) of taxpayers’ money to the EU without agreeing any future deal on trade, other than being tied to the current acquis communautaire in its near entirely, is equivalent to offering to buy a house before you have seen the title deeds. It clearly and obviously further weakens greatly the UK negotiating position.
3) Subservient rule takers. Should it be agreed, Parliament would effectively be forced to accept, apply and obey whatever regulations the EU proposed and de facto bound with any rulings by the European Court of Justice. While the current UK say in regulation is minimal (the UK has had only an 8.4% share of the vote in the Council of Ministers) the Withdrawal Agreement reduces that to zero. Thus the deal is effectively remaining in the EU in all but name, but no longer having a say, thus breaking the spirit of the referendum result and the solemn election manifesto promises.
4) Unaccountable foreign judiciary. Contrary to the Prime Minster’s Lancaster House speech and manifesto pledge the European Court of Justice retains de facto primacy over the UK, remaining the final arbiter of the agreement and of the EU laws that effect the UK.
5) Breaking our Union. Unless the EU unilaterally agrees otherwise Northern Ireland can effectively be held in the EU Single Market in perpetuity with the UK having no ability to amend this agreement without EU support. Unless the Government is planning for the whole UK to remain in the Single Market in perpetuity, which would be a clear breach of its manifesto pledge, then it would only be Great Britain that would depart – resulting in significant and tangible divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. With 55% of Northern Irish trade linked directly to the UK but only 15% to the Republic of Ireland, this arrangement would not only threaten Northern Ireland’s prosperity but also the integrity of the UK.
It would create the unacceptable situation that for voters in Northern Ireland to have any influence or redress over Single Market rules they would need to seek representation from politicians from the Republic of Ireland (who would have a voice and a vote) but not their own politicians who would be spectating from outside the legislative process. Such an EU legislative veto would open up a gulf where once was the Irish Sea. Could one imagine, under similar circumstances, France allowing the EU to treat Corsica as effectively a colony? We very much doubt it.
6) Delivering our fisheries back to the EU. By including future negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy (at the last minute and against all promises to the contrary) in the transition period the UK government has guaranteed that access to UK fishing grounds will become a bargaining chip to be traded away. The comments of President Macron immediately the Withdrawal Agreement was announced confirmed this outcome to be certain.
7) Aiding and abetting nationalism. By treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK the Agreement opens up the charge of why not introduce a different deal for Scotland? If ever there was a proposal designed to drive a wedge between the four territories of the UK this Withdrawal Agreement is it. The SNP leadership has not been slow to raise such objections and make corresponding demands.
The SNP often manufactures grievances to further the belief that Scotland would be better off outside the United Kingdom – in this instance, the nationalists are being handed an example of double standards on a very large salver. That so many self-described unionists, especially in Scotland are willing to accept this proposed state of affairs saddens us immensely.
8) Betraying democracy. Without question the agreement materially breaches the letter and spirit of: 1. the referendum result; 2. Theresa May’s own speeches at Lancaster House, Florence and Mansion House; 3. the very basis the Prime Minister was accepted as David Cameron’s replacement; and 4. the solemn manifesto pledges of the Conservative and Labour parties in the 2017 General Election. If it passes it will do untold damage to the electorate’s trust in the democratic political process. Many lectors will simply ask themselves “why bother to vote?”
9) Betraying voters. Further, as a matter of self-interest to the Conservative Party and its elected representatives – and a matter of common interest to advocates of the democratic process – given that 70% of Conservative voters are believed to have supported Brexit during the referendum, support for the Withdrawal Agreement risks a breakdown of trust amongst a material proportion of the Conservative Party’s core support, risking its electability in both the short and medium term.
Global Britain’s poll of 22,000 voters in the top 44 Conservative marginal seats clearly demonstrated the electoral risk for the party such a breach of trust could deliver – with all seats likely to be lost. Likewise, Global Britain’s second poll of the top 25 Labour Party marginals showed that it too could breach its own manifesto pledges if it helped obstruct Brexit from happening. Global Britain’s polling is backed up by numerous other independent and reputable polls indicating a substantial rejection of firstly Chequers and then the Withdrawal Agreement.
10) There is worse to come. In summary of the foregoing, because the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration is only the beginning of a further negotiating process – but from a self- imposed weakened position – the nation will suffer continued economic uncertainty be bitterly divided for at least a further two years.