Theresa May: A Study in Bare-Faced Wickedness
by Sean Gabb
21st November 2018
Because I am writing about the European Union, I shall be neither surprised nor upset if the majority of my British readers go straight for the delete button. I write near the end of a week of fierce and increasingly unanimous denunciation of the Draft Agreement the British Government has “negotiated” for our withdrawal. However, more than half the people on my mailing list live outside the United Kingdom, and some of these have asked me to explain to the best of my ability what is happening. Here is the briefest summary I can manage that still makes sense.
In June 2016, we voted, by a decent margin on a high turnout, to leave the European Union. Since the entire ruling class and its dependent bodies liked British membership of the European Union, and had expected the Referendum to go their way, it was never likely that departure would be a swift and simple matter. This being so, I did expect that an agreement would be negotiated that gave us some kind of withdrawal. It would not be an ideal agreement. It would involve a great deal of unnecessary expense. It would involve a longish transitional agreement. But I expected something that, if decidedly imperfect, would be a first step to disentanglement that could then be improved by a second wave of politicians stiffened by second thoughts after dealing with the continued financial appeals from Brussels. Having read the Draft Agreement published last week, I realise that I was nowhere near cynical enough about the wickedness of our rulers. If I assumed no good faith, I did assume a certain regard for their own reputations. I was wrong.
The Draft Agreement commits us to obeying all the rules of the European Union until December 2020 – that is for something since the Referendum like the whole length of the Great War, and even though we shall have “left” in March 2019, and have no members of the European Parliament, no European Commissioners, no seat on the various Councils of Ministers, and no judges in the European Court of Justice. In return for this decidedly unwelcome state of vassalage, we are to pay at least £39 billion. I was prepared for something like this, and prepared to accept it with some grinding of teeth. But there is more. Unless a long-term agreement has been reached by December 2020, an emergency set of provisions is to come into indefinite effect. These will tie us into a customs and regulatory union that amounts to continued membership of the European Union – continued membership without the ghost of representation in its decision-making bodies. It also allows no departure of our own choice. Regardless of the politics, the wording of the Lisbon Treaty allows us to leave the European Union by a simple lodging of notice. Leaving its replacement will require the permission of the European Union, or the determination of some third party as yet unannounced to us. Of course, with these provisions in force, the European Union will have no reason to accept a final settlement that is an atom more favourable – if, that is, any British Government is inclined to seek more favourable terms. The Government’s promise of returning control over our trade policies and regulations, and control over our borders, has been revealed as a transparent fraud.
We have three choices:
- We can sign the Agreement. After a few years of being governed at one remove like a country conquered in war, we shall be invited to rejoin the European Union. Because we shall have been kept in strict convergence with all European Union regulations, this will be an easy matter of signing a short treaty that has immediate effect. It will, no doubt, be membership with none of the opt-outs on budget contributions and free movement and the Single Currency negotiated since the 1980s.
- We can choose to remain in the European Union. There is a case before the European Court of Justice on the meaning of the treaty provision under which we are leaving. This will probably be decided in favour of the British Government’s right to cancel the leaving process. Whether or not staying in would be with our various opt-outs is unimportant. We shall have suffered a complete national humiliation, and no British Government will be taken seriously if it makes some future complaint about a European Army or any other step to “ever closer union.”
- We can reject the Agreement and leave, in March 2019, without any deal. At the best of times, this would be inconvenient in the short term. But the Government has made no serious effort to plan for it, and we can expect months of chaos with our foreign trade and investment. Everyone important agrees that this would be a calamity to be avoided at all costs.
As I write, the most likely outcome is another referendum in which a majority will vote to cancel our departure from the European Union. A smaller likelihood is that the Government will find enough Labour votes in the House of Commons to force the Agreement through in the teeth of opposition from the Ulster Unionists and about fifty Conservative dissidents. The smallest likelihood is a vote to leave without any deal. Or perhaps the smallest likelihood is some rearrangement in Westminster, so that the Referendum will be honoured.
Now, there are those who complain about the perfidy of the Europeans in presenting us with this Draft Agreement, and then in refusing to consider any changes. I am not one of these. The French and Germans and the European Commission have behaved with strict regard to their own interests as they conceive them. We have no more reason to complain about them than about an enemy that does its best, within the established rules, to win a war with us. The sole villain in these proceedings has been our own ruling class – and the plainest villainy comes from the “Conservative” Government led by Theresa May. This promised repeatedly to deliver on the Referendum. It brushed aside all criticism, and ignored all suggestions for any other way of setting about our departure. It has now unveiled, at the last minute, a Draft Agreement that does not and cannot deliver what was promised, and that gives us no practical alternative short of cancelling the Referendum result.
In more than half a century of watching this country misgoverned to the point of ruin, I have never seen an act of such bare-faced wickedness. Previous governments have lied to us, but nearly always with the complicity of a media that insisted the lies were substantially true, and to a people who had no easy means of reaching out to each other and confirming they were being lied to. Today, in the full glare of Internet publicity – I do not know anyone who has not read the Draft Agreement, or a fair summary of it – the Ministers stand before us with red hands and smiling faces. I stare back aghast. How dare they do this?
Well, they do, and they will get away with it for every purpose that matters in the short term. We can shake our fists and threaten never to vote Conservative again. But enough of us may vote for them. All that may need is a few blood-curdling predictions about the horrors of a Corbyn Government, and these people may scrape a majority at the next election. That is what they appear to believe. They may be right. Even if they are wrong about their own future in those black ministerial cars, there will be no meaningful departure from the European Union. Theresa May and her friends can break out the champagne and raise a toast to Mission Accomplished.
All this being so – and the pain felt by every patriot, left or right, is there to be seen – the greatest and most public betrayal in British history will have been a useful learning experience. For myself, I see that I have been a fool. I had no belief in the good intentions of our rulers. But I really lacked the imagination to believe they would so openly reject a mandate so plainly given. The flash of illumination I had on looking up from the Draft Agreement is unlikely to fade. If there are some who will vote Conservative from fear of Mr Corbyn, there are many of us who now understand that our most basic constitutional arrangements have broken down. Voting for or against any of the main parties is a waste of time. If we are to survive as a nation, we do not need a new party of government. We need a new system of government.
I could drift at this point from moan to manifesto. Instead, I will draw your attention to something I have already written. My book, Radical Coup: A Case for Reaction, is available in hard copy and Kindle. If you do not wish to buy it, please send me an e-mail, and I will supply a free pdf copy.
In conclusion, we have not been speared in our chests by any Europeans. We have been stabbed in the back by our own rulers. Our response should be gratitude for having this truth demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt – and not to rest until the lot of them have been deprived for their fine salaries and pensions, and set to work for twelve hours a day in telesales.