In 2016, I, like thousands of others, campaigned hard for the Leave side in the referendum. We spent countless hours delivering leaflets and knocking on doors across the country, to convince people that this is the opportunity of a lifetime for our country.
We each had our reasons for voting Leave, but mine were simple: the ability to make our own laws again, have control of our borders, control of our money and our ability to strike international trade deals.
I’m now disappointed to find that, after two years of negotiation, the deal before Parliament is one that fails on almost all fronts. It also breaks the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto commitments.
On our laws:
- The UK remains under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice until at least 2020;
- The UK must abide by all EU laws until December 2020, with no ability to influence them;
- The deal treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK, threatening our precious Union;
- If we are unable to agree a trade deal in this period, the backstop arrangement comes into force, keeping the whole of the UK in the customs union and subject to EU rules. This breaks our manifesto commitment;
- The EU would have a veto over the UK leaving the customs union. No democracy has ever signed up to such an arrangement, tying us indefinitely into a rule-taking position;
- The UK is prohibited from seeking a competitive advantage over the EU whilst under this arrangement.
On control of our borders:
- Freedom of movement continues for as long as the transition period lasts;
- The transition period can be extended indefinitely.
On control of our money:
- The UK agrees to pay £39 billion upfront, with nothing guaranteed in return. We pay this even if we do not get a trade deal. The prospect of a free trade deal remains as far away as it ever has;
- The UK ceases to pay its £13 billion annual contribution.
On trade deals:
- The UK cannot strike any trade deals outside the EU until at least December 2020
- If the backstop is implemented, the UK will never be able to do any international trade deals on goods. We will be able to do some deals on services
- The backstop arrangement severely prejudices the next phase of negotiations against the UK, making the customs union the starting point for our future trading relationship with the EU.
The millions of people who voted to the leave the EU in 2016 and voted for a Conservative government to implement their decision in 2017 will not forgive us for failing to deliver.
I have always believed that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. If the EU is unwilling to negotiate further, now is the time to walk away. The UK should spend the next four months preparing to leave on its own terms.
There may be some short-term pain. But significant preparations have already been made and it will be in the EU’s interests to ensure trade continues as unhindered as possible. This is by far preferable to locking the UK into an agreement from which it cannot escape and which damages our long-term economic and democratic interests.
I hope that Parliament realises that accepting this deal and its backstop arrangement would be seen as a democratic betrayal, with consequences that are hard to predict.
It’s time to walk away from this terrible offer from the EU. Our future and the future of the Conservative Party depend upon it.
Lewis Feilder is on the Conservative Party’s Parliamentary Candidates’ list and works as a management consultant in London. Follow him on twitter: @LewisFeilder