Brexiteers of the World Unite
I think there are a number of Brexiteers who believe a “WTO-Brexit” is the only true Brexit. I’ve wanted to leave the EU since Maastricht, along with a large proportion of Brexiteers. Whilst I was more than prepared for the UK to leave on WTO, it was never a condition of mine that we leave on WTO. We weren’t on WTO before Maastricht, after all. It’s clear, to us, that the EU direction of travel is towards a Federal State which we want nothing whatsoever to do with. There is a vast chasm, however, between not having anything to do with being part of a Federal State and only ever trading on WTO.
If I had to say what off the shelf “Brexit” I wanted it would probably have been either the Swiss model, or the Canada model. Not in the Single Market or the Customs Union, but nonetheless having comprehensive trade arrangements with the EU. All trade agreements involve compromise. No-one is going to agree to tariff free trade with you if you can simply subsidise your domestic produce! “We’ll still be under EU state aid rules!” We have state aid rules in the WTO! The U.S. only in the last few weeks was awarded $7.5bn in a WTO dispute about Airbus subsidies.
Take a step back. When you first really wanted to leave the EU was it because they wanted to impose a “level playing field”? If it was we’re going to have to leave far more organisations than the EU. Look up CENELEC, ISO, WTO – they all make references to a “level playing field”. The EU will have “level playing field” rules with Switzerland. So we WILL be able to agree our own independent trade agreements – just as Switzerland does.
The ECJ in the WA only has jurisdiction over references to EU law in the free trade agreement. It doesn’t say anywhere that there must be references to EU law in the free trade agreement. If there are, and a future EU/UK trade dispute is a matter of interpretation of EU law, should the dispute be settled by a UK court interpretation? Reverse that situation.
This is the important message...
Leave all that aside. If, at the end of the day, you want a WTO Brexit or you think a WTO Brexit is the best/only means to a clean, “normal” Free Trade Agreement, fine. You are absolutely entitled to that view. I don’t think it’s stupid, fanatical, or anything else. You may feel that being entwined with the EU at all will just begin the slow but inevitable power-grab that has led to where we are today. It is absolutely a fair position, and I don’t criticise you personally for holding that view (although I may not share the view itself) and arguing the case for that view.
You should be cautious however.
If some of us rule out certain “Brexits” because they are not the specific Brexit that we want we won’t have a majority for any of them. It’s that remainer line “there is no majority for any particular Brexit, therefore there is no Brexit mandate”. I don’t buy that. Follow this logic:
10 students in a house-share, 4 want to stay in, 6 want to go out. Out of those 6, 3 want to go to dinner, 3 want to go for drinks. It doesn’t follow that because “stay in” beats “dinner” and it beats “drinks” that there is no mandate to “go out”. Some of those “drinks” people might prefer to have “dinner” than “stay in”, and some of those “dinner” people might prefer to have “drinks” than “stay in”. The “drinks” and the “dinner” people have a common purpose so the democratic mandate to go for either “drinks” or “dinner” is sound.
However, if the “dinner” people detach themselves entirely from the “drinks” people, such that it is “dinner or nothing” then their “go out” options loses its democratic mandate. The “dinner” people owe their democratic mandate to a common purpose with the “drinks” people”. Once they become three distinct options, the democratic mandate belongs to “stay in”.
If the Brexit Party are the only party offering “Brexit”, what does it do for the democratic mandate for “Brexit” if it loses by a landslide without winning a single seat? Don’t write the remain narrative for them. You need my Brexit and your Brexit to be subsets of “Brexit”. If I exclude you or your exclude me the only winner is no Brexit at all. If you decide that your Brexit is the only Brexit, and no other form of Brexit is any different than “remain” then you have lost your democratic mandate.
Remain has won the referendum because my Brexit has been categorised as “not Brexit”. It doesn’t mean the process will start again, that Brexit will just be delayed. No, it won’t be visited again in the next decade, probably not in the next generation and quite possibly never.
The only thing that provides us with a democratic mandate is our common purpose. If we decide that we don’t have common purpose our mandate is rightly, and entirely democratically, lost.
If we do have common purpose, then we have common enemies. Let’s reunite behind that common purpose fight the election in that vein.