House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Reference democracy and a public forum.
Dear Ms Braverman,
For the first time in my voting life, I was moved to attend your open meeting at the Kings Church in Fareham on 1st March, mainly because of the impact that Brexit will have on the lives of many current family members and certainly my children and grandchildren for longer than for me, through the loss of Freedom of Movement.
I have to say at the outset that I was disappointed by the organisation and tone of the meeting. While I can accept that it was an attempt at open democracy, out of a 75-minute meeting, you spoke for 40-45 minutes, seemingly in self-justification of your personal choices on this issue. The subsequent questions enabled a reprise of many of the points already made, and in doing so, essentially encouraged a body of opinion, which ultimately was prepared to shout down any dissenting questions. You may not be aware that your own tone, initially presentational, with some attempt at demonstrating understanding towards alternative views, became hectoring towards any questioning of your position during the Q&A session.
Your factsheet, placed on seats before the session were covered during your 40-minute speech, but, in both, economy with the truth enables part fact to be seen as gospel. With a son-in-law who is also a barrister, over time I have been able to see how narrative can be created to suit any purpose, whether or not the speaker fully believes it or not. This is the current state of British politics. While I accept that life is often a judgement call, your allusion to your crystal ball at different points during the evening is probably as good as mine.
For anyone who follows Edwin Hayward or Steve Peers on social media, the detail and complexity of Brexit are laid bare. For it to be reduced to a few routine sound-bites is demeaning.
The NI backstop is there, not because NI becomes a third country, but because the UK becomes a third country, with a hard land border with an EU nation, which is then subject to international laws and treaties, not least the Good Friday Agreement. You wouldn’t want your neighbours hopping over your fence to take a short cut, which effectively is the ERG argument; we can get around this…
The WA is an agreement to leave a “contract”. Leaseholders and mortgage holders are tied into contracts with another party. To leave either early results in a penalty to be paid through the loss of earnings from the rest of the lease. The £39 billion is a release clause payment. It is interesting that your much-vaunted “Malthouse Compromise” suggests paying £10 billion a year during any transition, which may be compromised by WTO details.
The Political Declaration is a statement of intent to carry on talking should there be an agreement, with some general areas to be discussed, not pinned down in detail, as that is what the Government representatives, including the Prime Minister signed up to in late 2018. It is deliberately vague, to allow future discussions to be necessarily broad.
Freedom of Movement is fast becoming a rhetorical red herring, in that, at no stage has the Government organised a registration system, despite being reminded on numerous occasions that it was for us to do so; three months grace, no job, no benefits, as with other EU countries. As a result, a relatively easily sourced workforce, highly visible in many front-line industries, is fast disappearing, causing business distress, closure and relocation, while immigration from non-EU countries is still rising, despite being in the Government’s “control”.
Malthouse no deal “transition” may well end up being yet another pipe dream, in that it has already been rejected by the EU, but, while words are played with in Brussels, we may well be offered a fudge, which superficially satisfies a few extra MPs. It seems less about the future health and security of the country and more about sustaining the Conservatives in power.
Your own Government produced a series of impact papers, a summary of which was recently published. Every Brexit related scenario showed negative impacts on the UK, with some areas extremely hard hit. Brexit, in part, is responsible for swathes of industry relocating into the EU to ensure business continuity.
Your “myth” busting, like all myth busting, creates more myths, in that they are potentially small truths elevated through your political need to present a particular argument.
Dover-Calais, port entries. The chairs of port authorities can be overridden by the regional and national governments, so, while there may be good intentions, there are no guarantees.
Your repetition of technological fixes to the NI border is a direct myth. No border has a “technological fix”, although there are computerised systems that enable tracking of goods. These are not currently in place, nor will they be on March 30th. Checks still need to happen at borders to avoid smuggling in various forms. In extremis, this will slow queues, leading to disruption.
Your mention of agencies charged with guaranteeing various qualities of goods in transit. Given that the UK agencies currently work closely and under the auspices of the EU agencies, ours would have to go through a process of validation to agree standards. One notable issue is the use of vets to validate meat exports.
The UK, through the current EU agreements, is enabled to sell goods freely with around 70 countries, including the EU 27, under agreed terms that are better than WTO, including now Japan. This offers huge potential, that will disappear in 27 days’ time. At the same time the EU is negotiating with India, so the vast proportion of the world is available to us, if we are EU members; it’s the benefit of a membership fee. You get cheap general access, not having to pay piecemeal. It’s interesting to note that Germany already export more to China than we do, under the current rules. Maybe we just don’t make what they want or need?
We may well be about to throw away access to over half the world, to have to seek to replicate all those current agreements, in search of agreements with significantly smaller countries, who will probably come into the EU umbrella in due course. In the meantime, as a much smaller entity, desperate for trade deals, we will be taken to the cleaners by larger countries, who will use their economic muscle to tighten any future deals; eg the recent US announcement on agriculture. It’s a pity that the UK government and MPs don’t listen to the economics of farming. One thing we need is food.
After thirty-three months of “negotiation”, based seemingly solely on the premise that the EU will “blink first”, we are twenty-seven days away from the first self-inflicted wounds ever recorded. There is no country in the world that only operates on WTO rules.
The biggest danger to this country is the loss of easy access to security cooperation. While NATO operates at a supra-national level, the police and other security services have warned of the dangers of no access not data files. This may also include the Galileo satellite system.
Under your much-vaunted no-deal, using my crystal ball and my historic gypsy heritage, on April 1st, when markets open, there is likely to be a significant run on the pound. Speculators who have already moved their wealth to a safe currency, will then be able to return with even greater wealth, in order to buy up assets cheap. Reduced FoM will decimate agricultural labour just as planting season starts. British lamb farmers, currently lambing, will have excess stock, as they may not be able to sustain 40% tariffs. By the end of the first week, if there have been hold-ups at the docks, supermarket stocks will dwindle, causing panic buying. It was recently reported that supermarkets are talking with police about protections.
We are entering a period of such uncertainty and potential insecurity, unprecedented in my lifetime. There are more dangers than bright spots. Brexit is an unnecessary political act. We currently enjoy a disproportionate representation in the EU parliament. Had this been used to effect, the need to reform aspects of the running on the EU has been long telegraphed. Being a part of discussion is a stronger position than sitting outside.
Speculation has been behind some of the recent 33 months. Movements in currency allow speculators to take advantage of moving money from one currency to another. The example of Crispin Odey, a Tory donor, making significant amounts after the referendum is a well-publicised case in point. It is even speculated that during the referendum night, Nigel Farage announcing loss or winning caused market fluctuation.
My concern, as I said at the beginning, is the future of my children and grandchildren. If it takes ten or more years to regain our current status, I will hopefully have reached 76. However, it will last the whole childhood of every one of my grandchildren.
Twenty-five years ago, following my first wife contracting breast cancer, we bought a very small cottage in France that became a “life dream”. I have kept it, following her death, as a place of escape, available to the whole family. My sister retired to Spain, buying a house and living on her NHS pension, with the ubiquitous bad back, which had necessitated many hospital visits. Living in the warmth of Spain, she can exist on low dose painkillers, swim and walk to enable a healthy lifestyle. My step-daughter is married to a Spanish national and lives in Portsmouth and both speak Spanish when out, for her to practice after her Masters’ study. Recent reports of attacks on others for “speaking foreign” are very concerning.
This is your “yellow vest”, Brexit Britain. If you are right, then everything will go swimmingly. Your assertion that “it may get worse, bumpy” runs counter to your colleague assertion that it would be “easy”. If it goes badly, as I and other remainers fear, it affects everyone, apart from those who have been able to ring fence their wealth, or who have made money from speculation.
The public are impotently watching the politics and in-fighting, holding our breath. Staying in the EU would mean current stabilities. Every other scenario holds the prospect of damage to the country, socially, morally and financially. Satisfying a small group will ultimately potentially lead to the rise of populism that you sought to minimise through quoting Italy and Greece, two very different economic scenarios. However, with reports that the Northern League are being investigated for Russian money interference, it rather demeans your argument, if people like Carol Cadwallader is to be believed, that our own politics is being infected in the same way, but potentially from the US with their own agendas, as highlighted by the US ambassador this morning and recent pronouncements on the NHS.
I hope that, by April 5th, you will be able to hold another public meeting and face whatever the new reality brings. This is in your hands.