The Treaty of Versailles brought an end to the horrors of the First World War. Yet in seeking to punish Germany in a manner that insulted its proud sense of nationhood, the “diktat” (as the Treaty would come to be called by the aggrieved Germans) sowed the seeds for the rise of Hitler and the Second World War. It is a sobering lesson in how bullying and humiliation can backfire in the field of international relations.
Unfortunately, the EU’s behaviour towards the UK has not been dissimilar to the Allies’ treatment of Germany after the First World War. In fact, many an EU politician has argued that Britain should be punished for its decision to leave, as if it were in fact a naughty child that needs to be made an example of. At every turn in the Brexit process, the EU has done its best to ensure that the United Kingdom morphs into a satrapy of the European Union: a pseudo-state subject to its laws and regulations but bereft of any seat at the table. It is against this backdrop that the Internal Market Bill should be viewed.
As part of the Withdrawal Agreement, cobbled together by a belligerent EU and a UK government under pressure from its own defeatist Remoaner MPs, the UK scandalously agreed to acquiesce to a customs border on the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Ostensibly, this was to ensure that no land border would have to be erected between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but it was no doubt hammered home by Machiavellian EU diplomats bent on exploiting the soft underbelly of the British state. Hamstrung by the impossible balancing act of preserving the Union whilst simultaneously protecting the peace and stability of the island of Ireland, the UK Government duly caved in.
But all this was done in the expectation that a free trade deal would be agreed between the two parties before the end of the transition period (31st December 2020). Given that the EU still insists on regulatory alignment – with all the implications of legal subjugation that carries with it – as a precondition for a deal (despite the fact that its recent free trade deal with Canada carried no such stipulations), it now seems less likely that a deal will be done and more likely that the UK will leave on WTO terms (which, as I have argued previously, should not be of great concern to anyone – except possibly the EU). After all, what is the point of leaving the EU if we can’t make our own rules and regulations? What is the point of it all if we can’t take back control?
With this in mind, the only surprise is that the Internal Market Bill doesn’t go further. Indeed, how could any self-respecting nation-state countenance the piecemeal dissection of its sovereignty along the lines that the Withdrawal Agreement dictates without being given anything in return? Indeed, it is the EU who are endangering peace in Northern Ireland, as a cleaner Brexit would surely raise the spectre of Irish unification if Northern Ireland were still to abide by EU legislation and be subjected to a customs border with the rest of the UK. As is so often the case, the Irish Unionists have been completely overlooked in this regard. It is in fact a travesty that the EU’s cynical disregard for Irish peace and stability has not been called out in the press, whilst the British state is portrayed as nothing less than a marauding imperialist intent on taking a wrecking-ball to the Good Friday agreement.
And as for the notion that the UK would be breaking international law – pull the other one please… Let’s set aside the fact that the EU has little regard for its own rules, never mind its international obligations. It is beyond the scope of this article to enumerate the EU’s contraventions, but readers will no doubt have noted the lack of similar cries of outrage from the Remoaner press in response to the French Navy’s active assistance of illegal migrant boats sailing into British territorial waters. The point here is that supposed contraventions of ‘International Law’ happen all the time: it’s just that the Remoaner media are only interested in the contraventions that matter to them.
The next point is that the Bill itself does not breach international law: it only provides for certain contingencies in order for British ministers to act in the event that a trade deal is not agreed upon. In the event that no agreement is made, the EU must respect the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, as it has repeatedly promised to do – and as any lawyer will tell you, international law is only applicable in that it does not contravene the sovereign will of an independent state within its own borders.
But I would go even further and argue that it is in fact the EU that is in breach of international law. The following is an extract from the Withdrawal Agreement, signed by the United Kingdom and the European Union:
“The Union and the United Kingdom shall use their best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders, to take the necessary steps to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship referred to in the Political Declaration of 17 October 2019 and to conduct the relevant procedures for the ratification or conclusion of those agreements, with a view to ensuring that those agreements apply, to the extent possible, as from the end of the transition period.”
Has the EU really been acting in “good faith”? There are some very senior lawyers (yes, there are a few that aren’t committed Remoaners) that think not. In a report published by the Centre for Brexit Policy, Martin Howe QC, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain, and Barnabas Reynolds, a Partner at Shearman and Sterling, amongst others, argue that, “The EU has seriously breached the [Withdrawal] agreement, even as it stands, since it has been structurally unable to engage in meaningful negotiations (for what is now the majority of the intended negotiation period) towards a sovereign outcome for the UK.” Furthermore, “The UK therefore needs to prevail on the EU to agree to remove the sovereignty-incompliant elements of the WA and the Protocol or be ready to repudiate the arrangement.”
I would urge readers to be very suspicious of politicians’ cries of righteous indignation as the UK’s EU thraldom… ahem… membership reaches its close. The Remoaners know the game is up and their final acts of desperation will no doubt become ever more outlandish and cynical. Whatever you think of his handling of the Coronavirus crisis, Boris deserves respect for standing up to these bullies.