My red lines are the freedom to agree trade worldwide, control over our borders, and supremacy of our law. Today?s agreement meets those tests
The deal sealed on Friday morning in Brussels and first heralded by the tweet of a puff of white smoke is ? as all deals are ? a compromise. But not all compromises are bad.
The pressure on Theresa May over the last few days has been immense. The British media have reported her travails with the DUP and both Remainer and Leave colleagues of mine in the House of Commons in considerable detail. But readers and viewers in Britain are less aware that the pressure has not all been one-way.
The EU too needed an agreement and they needed it fast.
The UK?s weakness, its balance of payment deficit with the rest of the EU, has strengthened the Prime Minister?s hand. While Boris Johnson?s Prosecco joke with the Italian Prime Minister may not have sparkled, the UK being the largest importer of French agriculture, horticulture and viniculture has focussed the mind of President Macron. He has been on the receiving end of anxious representations from French farmers while Chancellor Merkel has been under still greater pressure from the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, a more influential and powerful version of our own CBI. They have been demanding a successful trade deal with Britain for the sake of German jobs.
Having been an exporter of electronic equipment before I became an MP, I have always understood Britain?s global r?le as a trading power. Our strength lies in an incorruptible and international legal system which supports commerce, our language and culture, our tax system, and our worldwide contacts. It made me a ferocious Brexiteer.
Jacob Rees Mogg mentioned at Prime Minister?s Questions last Wednesday (6th December) that he thought Theresa May?s red lines were fading though he didn?t actually specify what those red lines might be.
Perhaps I can help. If there was one thing I believed before entering the House of Commons it was that the UK would be better off out of the EU.
So for me, the red lines are: the freedom to make bilateral trade agreements worldwide, membership of the Customs Union prevents this; control over our immigration and of our borders; and the supremacy of English and Scottish Law and not that of courts in Luxembourg.
Friday?s agreement meets those tests.
For months, the Prime Minister has said the United Kingdom must leave the Single Market and Customs Union. This has been confirmed and it will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom ? Northern Ireland included.
If, in the months to come, the French and Germans have their way and a comprehensive free trade agreement is confirmed between the UK and the EU, the Republic of Ireland-Northern Irish issue can easily be managed.
And leaving the Single Market will enable the UK to enter into similar trade agreements with countries which have been unable to agree settlements with the EU.
I also welcome the agreement concerning EU and UK citizens domiciled in each other?s territories. Labour were foolish politically and were irresponsible to argue for the welfare of EU citizens living in the UK while not insisting on similar protections for UK citizens living in Europe. I welcome immigration, but not to protect the rights of a million of one?s own citizens living in the EU is a huge dereliction of duty. Mr Corbyn should be ashamed. But at least he can now welcome protections on both sides of the English Channel.
And I am content too with the handling of the thorny issue of the European Court of Justice. Our British courts can choose to ask the ECJ for a legal view on the law in relation to citizens? rights where there is a point of law that has not arisen before, but it will be our Courts who will make the final judgements on each case, not the ECJ. The compulsory jurisdiction of a foreign court will have ended and after 8 years, a sunset clause will terminate this voluntary mechanism.
We have been members of the EU for around 44 years. Over that period we have paid into the system over half a trillion pounds net. Between 2019 and 2022 we were due to pay in a further ?32 billion if we were not leaving the EU. We are no longer hearing as we did just a few months ago that we would have to pay ?100 billion to the EU. Far from it. I believe that what we will pay will be cheap at the price.
So given that the agreement announced today is subject to our achieving a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU in both the UK?s and the EU?s interest, we have made a good start.
As Churchill might have put it: we have reached the end of the beginning of negotiations. Let the church bells ring!