Is it worth the price asked?

An open letter to MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

Monday, 10th December 2018, 8:00 am

I have just read the Government’s 271-word explanation for May’s Brexit deal.

It quite properly puts her case, making 16 points at an average of one per 17 words. Commendably brief and clear.

However, without suggesting any deliberately misleading spin, that very brevity leaves an impression, justifiable or not, of selected information and of manipulation.

As you are our MP, and were until recently a member of the Government, you will want to combat such misapprehension.

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I list below the 16 key phrases from the explanation and in each case indicate the main suspicions held by Government critics such as me.

As this is such an important public issue, I am copying this letter to interested parties and we look forward to your detailed corrections and reassurances.

‘Democratic decision’ – from an electorate after illegal campaigning, which never understood the EU and gave no costs.

A total of 37 per cent voted Leave, 63 per cent didn’t (not enough to call a strike), yet it is called ‘the will of the people’. Do we need a People’s Vote to break the deadlock?

‘Nation can unite’ – why? The Prime Minister refused a united cross-party negotiation and fought to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny, and now you want the public’s help?

‘Time to get on with it’ – after more than two years of delays caused by in-fighting in the Government party and attempted suppression of key information from the public?

And now you want a blind Brexit and years more of negotiation and uncertainty.

‘End free movement’ – when you failed to use the EU brakes available, still have no immigration policy, have only just recognised our need for EU workers, and have no idea of how to limit immigration to your vote-seeking, finger-in-the-air target of tens of thousands?

‘Protect jobs’ – lots of which we’ve lost already, with more to go.

And the quality of the jobs?

‘No longer send .. money to the EU’ – only up to £90billion.

‘Spend more on our priorities’ – which, from your record, are tax cuts for the better off, but service and benefit cuts for the less well off.

‘Free trade deals around the world’ – when we’re in the biggest free trade area already, one which hasn’t stopped other members out-exporting us, one which has agreements with 88 other countries, with each of which we’ll have to renegotiate separately from a weak position.

Perhaps a deal with Trump’s America First will compensate overnight – though he’s now doubtful.

‘Control .. our laws’ and leave the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – but we won’t for years, might not at all (backstop), and anyway we need the ECJ to curb rogue corporations and governments.

And the other 800 international tribunals?

‘Keep people safe’ – but what threatens that is not the EU, but police under-funding by this UK Government.

‘Protect the integrity of the UK’ – better bribe Scotland and Wales then, as well as Northern Ireland (and Gibraltar and the Falklands aren’t too happy either).

‘Damaging uncertainty’ – which we have already, with poorer jobs, slackened investment, slower growth and weak productivity, and apparently more to come.

‘More division’ – which you’ve already widened, for example a hostile environment for visitors.

You also show no sign of tackling the anger made apparent by the referendum; anger at party before country, at areas and industries left to cope with global change without a support system, at the rich getting richer and the poor being left behind, at failing economic and political systems, at slow tackling of major issues like climate change, the environment and big tax avoidance.

‘Less time’ (if we reject the deal) to tackle issues like health and education (and those immediately above) – and less capacity and less tax revenue to pay for it, and even less political will.

‘Brighter future’ – when even the PM admits we’ll be worse off and her lead Leaver says we’ll wait 50 years for a Brexit benefit.

We’ll actually be poorer with any sort of Brexit, according to the independent NIESR (Brexit having already cost each household £1,140 and about to cost each of us a further £1,000 per year on this deal.)

‘Back to square one’ – vague, but suitably discouraging of thought about whether Leave has turned out to be as advertised and whether it is worth the price now being asked.

Peter Watts