My position on the European Union and Brexit
22nd December, 2018.
Why the Prime Minister’s plan does not deliver the Brexit people voted for.
All my political life I have been campaigning to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union super-state. Quite simply, I believe the United Kingdom should be a sovereign nation making its own decisions. We should control our own borders, not pay billions and billions of pounds to the European Union, and make our own laws in our own country judged by our own judges.
In 2011, I was behind the motion that we should have a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union. This was opposed by David Cameron’s Con/Lib Government, and winding up that debate I suggested MPs should put the country first and their party second. The vote resulted in 81 Conservative MPs defying a strict 3-line whip, putting their country first and supporting a referendum.
In 2014, alongside Philip Hollobone MP and Tom Pursglove MP, I held a ballot in North Northamptonshire to find out whether the people of North Northamptonshire wanted to leave or remain in the European Union. This was the biggest vote on the European issue since 1975, with 100,000 ballot papers distributed across Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and East Northamptonshire. With 81.1% of people voting to leave, it clearly showed that residents of North Northamptonshire wanted to leave.
In December 2015, along with Tom Pursglove MP, I co-founded the non-party political campaign – Grassroots Out. This grew into the second largest leave campaign group in the country and was nearly designated as the official leave campaign. I travelled to every corner of the United Kingdom, speaking to people from all areas, ages and backgrounds. I held grassroots events in village halls and at street stalls. I addressed major rallies of thousands of people at venues in every part of our United Kingdom. I knocked on thousands of doors talking to people who were energised by this great democratic event. Wherever I went, the message from the public was clear and consistent - people wanted to end the free movement of people, stop giving billions of pounds each and every year to the EU, and for us to make our own laws in our own country, judged by our own judges.
On the 23rd June 2016, after this massive democratic debate, the people of the United Kingdom voted by a substantial majority to leave the European Union.
Unfortunately, more than two years on from that great debate, the Prime Minister’s proposal does not deliver the Brexit that 17.4 million people voted for. Let us look at what people told me mattered to them.
First, they wanted an end to the free movement of people from the European Union. They thought it unfair that people from the European Union could come to this country and enjoy the benefits of our public services when they had no connection with the United Kingdom, yet at the same time skilled workers, such as doctors, from outside the EU, couldn’t get in. They wanted to see a fair immigration policy based on merit, not whether you lived in the European Union. The Prime Minister claims her deal ends free movement, but this is palpable nonsense as it clearly does not. The House of Commons was promised an Immigration Bill more than a year ago. However, it was only this week that we got a white paper on what might be in the Immigration Bill. If the Government was planning to end fee movement when we left the EU, we would have had such a Bill by now. No such legislation has been brought forward.
The non-binding political declaration, which is just a wish-list, talks about ending free movement, but of course we have no detail of our future trading relationship and it is highly likely that the Government will trade-off ending free movement for a trade deal. The one thing that is certain is the PM’s plan does not guarantee the ending of free movement.
Secondly, they wanted an end to billions and billions of pounds paid each and every year to the European Union by UK taxpayers - in other words, a direct subsidy to countries in Western Europe who are part of the European Union. Last year, we gave the European Union £13 billion of which we got a small proportion, £4 billion, back for projects that the European Union wanted us to implement in the UK. This left a net amount of £9 billion pounds to the European Union super-state. In other words, our net-subscription last year to the EU was £9 billion.
Since we have been a part of the European project we have given the European Union a net subscription fee of over £210 billion pounds. If that money had stayed in this country, we could have improved our public services, cut taxes and lowered national debt. Our economy would have been transformed with this money. This might not have been so bad if we had had a trading surplus with the European Union, but of course this is not the case; they sell £100 billion of goods more to us then we do to them each year.
Under Mrs May’s plan, we would pay a minimum amount of £39 billion to the EU for the implementation, or what is now being called the transition period. That equates to £60 million for each and every constituency in the country. I know if I had £60 million to spend in Wellingborough & Rushden I could dramatically improve the everyday lives of my constituents. The Isham Bypass could be built, roads could be repaired properly, the Finedon medical centre could be saved and we could have the urgent care centre at the Isebrook Hospital, with millions left over to spend elsewhere. However, the £39 billion is only the minimum amount Mrs May’s plans call for. Her plans allow for a further extension of two years for the transition period, which would cost more than £20 billion.
In addition, we don’t know how much we have to contribute each year in any future trading relationship. So it is reasonable to expect that Mrs May’s plan will cost a minimum of in excess of £60 billion. That is hardly stopping paying billions and billions of pounds each and every year to the European Union. Only moving to a clean global Brexit and trading on World Trading Organisation rules will guarantee we don’t send billions and billions of pounds to the European Union each year.
Thirdly, they wanted us to make our own laws in our own country. Clearly, our citizens want to take control back to Parliament. They want to elect their politicians to make laws which are in the interest of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They also want the power to be able to throw out those politicians through the ballot box if they are not satisfied with their performance. Simply, they want sovereignty returned to our country. They are fed up with laws and regulations made by European bureaucrats. Laws not being made in the interest of the United Kingdom, laws which are in the interest of the European Union. These highly paid European bureaucrats are not subject to scrutiny and are not subject to election by the people. They do not even spend the money properly or wisely - indeed, it is years and years since the auditors of the European Union have signed off their accounts as a true and fair record. In other words we are giving billions of pounds to an organisation with dodgy accounts.
My constituents find it hard to understand why a country that has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, is a member of the G7, leads the Commonwealth, and is the fifth biggest economy in the world, has to bow down to diktats of the European Union. Clearly one of the strongest messages of the referendum was that people wanted our country to take back control of its laws.
Fourthly, they wanted us to be judged by our own judges, not by a foreign court, as our judicial system is the envy of the world. Our judges are of the highest integrity and calibre and they make their decisions based on the law of the land and never for political reasons. Yet at the moment, our Supreme Court is subservient to the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg and whose judges are appointed for political reasons. They have a long record of producing dubious decisions which seem to be based more on politics than the law. In any case, they are duty bound to interpret European Law which by its nature is designed to support the interests of the EU, rather than the interests of the United Kingdom. What the British people want is a set of properly qualified judges, solely interpreting the law of our land and making their decisions purely based on the evidence they have put before them. That is what we have with our judicial system and that is not what we have with the European Court of Justice.
Unfortunately, Mrs May’s plans would have us in a transition period of a minimum of two years, but possibly as many as four years. During that period, we will be subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice. What is worse, is that we will not have any say in how the laws and rules are drawn up and we will have no presence in the European Court of Justice. Even after the implementation period, if there is what is called the ‘Irish Backstop’, we will still be subject to European rulings on vast swathes of the law and regulation that affect us. So clearly, the Prime Minister’s proposals do not allow for our own judges to judge our own laws.
So where do we go from here? I am writing this article on the 21st December and as the situation is changing almost hourly it is difficult to predict the future. However, we do know that Parliament will resume its debate on the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the 9th January, with a conclusion to that debate and a vote the following week. It seems to me very unlikely that Mrs May’s plans will be passed. So what should happen next? We are already less than 100 days to the 29th March, when we are coming out of the European Union. It seems to me the only solution is a clean global Brexit, leaving the European Union completely on the 29th March next year and trading with them on World Trade Organisation rules. WTO rules is of course how we trade with most of the world.
I reproduce below a letter from Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, dated the 20th December:
So there it is. One of our leading businessmen saying there is no need to fear a ‘no deal’. Before I became a Member of Parliament, I ran a manufacturing company and we exported all over the world, both to EU and non-EU countries. In addition, we imported our components from both the European Union and the United States of America. All our components whether they came from the European Union, or outside, arrived on time in our factory. Equally, our exports arrived on time without any problems with customs. This is the reality of our modern global trading system.
As the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt recently said - I’ve always thought that even in a no-deal situation this is a great country, we’ll find a way to flourish and prosper. We’ve faced much bigger challenges in our history.”
The Foreign Secretary is of course right and one of the advantages of coming out cleanly on the 29th March next year is that businesses will have certainty. The Political Declaration proposed by the Prime Minster does the complete reverse. It is a non-legally binding statement of what might happen in the future. It can be interpreted in a hundred different ways and the only thing that is certain is that it will be interpreted in a hundred different ways! So instead of giving certainty to businesses, it will provide at least two years of bickering and disputes with the European Union. Under Mrs May’s proposals there is no guarantee that we will ever leave the European Union. We could stay in a limbo of half in and half out of the European Union. A clean global Brexit takes us out of the European Union and honours the result of the referendum.
Some say that we cannot have a clean global Brexit, because it would lead to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. This is a myth. No British Prime Minister of whichever political party would ever construct that hard border. The European Union has said that it would not construct a hard border and even if they wanted to, they would not be able to do so.
Yesterday, the 20th December, the Irish Government published their contingency planning for a no deal, with their Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney confirming that Ireland has no plans to build a hard border in the event of a no deal. The Irish Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar, said at the same time “we are not preparing for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We have made no preparations whatsoever for physical infrastructure or anything like that.”
So if the British Government isn’t planning to construct a hard border and the Irish Government has said it will not construct a hard border, and the European Union cannot build a hard border, who is going to create the hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic? The arguments about the hard border have been created by those who support remaining to try and stop the will of the British people as expressed in the referendum.
For many months, no deal has been unhelpfully characterised by many as “crashing out” and often comparisons with cliff-edges have been made. But that does not have to be the case. This is why I think a managed no deal approach that has been advocated by senior politicians, including Esther McVey, and some that are still in the Cabinet, is the right way forward. But what does this mean?
Well, we could seek agreement with the European Union to adopt the two year implementation period that is contained within the PM’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement. That would of course come at a cost and we could reasonably argue, as some leading Brexit figures have, that we will pay half of the £39 billion, that is already a condition of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement. This would allow us two years of stability to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the European Union, as a former Member of the European Union, having left on the 29th March. Interestingly, this is mutually beneficial and entirely in line with what the President of the European Council has previously stated would be possible, when he said on the 7th March 2018: “I propose that we aim for a trade agreement covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods.” This to me still seems perfectly achievable, and at the point we conclude a trade deal, we would pay the remainder of the £39 billion commitment, having secured something tangible in exchange for it. However, if it is not possible by the 31st December 2019 to conclude such a free trade agreement, then we would come out on the 31st December 2020 on a WTO basis. Of course if this was the scenario we wouldn’t pay the EU the other part of the £39 billion.
Under this proposal, we would have certainty for businesses and we will be implementing something within 21 months of us leaving the European Union. The Prime Minister made it clear, up to a few months ago, that we would only accept an agreement with the EU if it was implementing something. In other words, the period to the 31st December 2020 was to be a period of implementation, not a period of negotiation. Unfortunately, under the Prime Minister’s current proposals we just have a Political Declaration of intent with no guarantee that we would have implemented anything by the 31st December 2020.
In conclusion, I want to be clear that I will continue to fight for the Brexit the British people voted for. This will include the ending of the free movement of people from the European Union. Stop giving billions and billions of pounds of our money to the European Union each and every year. To make our own laws and regulations in our own country and for our own judges to judge those laws.
If you wish to discuss this with me in person, I have a weekly advice surgery and appointments can be made by telephoning 01933 279343.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Peter Bone MP
Wellingborough & Rushden