Brexiteer IAIN DALE on his sadness over Theresa May… and the price he’s prepared to pay
Last Tuesday night I went to bed thoroughly depressed at the situation the country has been landed in.
Theresa May was trumpeting an EU deal which people on both sides of the Brexit debate can see leaves Britain in a state of total vassalage to the EU – having to abide by EU regulations, with no say over them.
The extent of this was set out by Michel Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand who was reported as telling EU ambassadors: ‘They [Britain] must align their rules, but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules. UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage.’
And we are supposed to sign up to this? It’s a constitutional outrage and reduces Britain – which is still the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world – to the state of an EU-controlled province.
This is not what I voted for on June 23, 2016. I am pretty sure it’s not what 17.4 million other people voted for.
We now have the worst of all worlds, a Brexit-in-name-only – or BRINO. Not in Europe, but still run by Europe, as William Hague might not have said.
Cabinet ministers have been urged to support this deal on the basis that it’s the best one Theresa May can get. That’s not good enough. It’s a deal which is not sustainable, it’s a deal which no one is happy with, with the possible exception of Brussels, and it’s a deal which can’t possibly get through the House of Commons.
Theresa May has done something I never thought was possible – to unite Jacob Rees-Mogg and Anna Soubry. That’s a rare talent. Both hard Brexiteers and hard Remainers can see that this deal is the worst of all worlds.
I feel I ought to be angry, but all I feel is a profound sense of melancholy. A sadness that it could have come to this. A sadness that our political leaders have proved to be totally incompetent. A sadness that a prime minister who promised too much has proved not to be up to the job.
A sadness that she is being advised by people with a basic lack of balls. A profound sadness that history will judge this period as one in which instead of taking back control, Britain was relegated to the status of minor power. It is no exaggeration to say that this period will go down as the one in which Britain ceased to become relevant.
And yet it could have been so different. It still could be.
I’m often asked if I regret my Leave vote. I most certainly do not. The reasons why I voted Leave are as valid today as they were two and a half years ago. There is no one to blame for the fact that the negotiations have ended up in this sorry way except for those who have been conducting them.
People say it was inevitable that things would end up like this. Poppycock, as John Major might have said. I do not subscribe to the view that our negotiating position was always weak. I do not subscribe to the view that the Northern Ireland issue was always bound to scupper things and mean we’d have to stay in the customs union and/or the single market. I could go on. But we are where we are.
I do not subscribe to the point of view that we should just get out on March 29 2019 and take things from there. The commentator Tim Montgomerie is a much bigger critic of Theresa May than I am, but he begs to differ, and has written in support of the deal…
As I’ve said I have zero regrets about voting Leave, and I don’t resile from my vote in any way at all. But. And it’s a big ‘but’. I regard this deal as so damaging to our country both in the short and long term that if I had to make a choice between voting for this deal or remaining in the European Union, I’d do the latter.
That does not mean I am advocating a second vote. I am not. It is the government’s job to get us through this mess and parliament’s job to hold them to account for it. If they can’t, then there will have to be a general election. I say that knowing full well what could happen. But this is the way a parliamentary democracy has to work. I don’t for one minute think Labour would have negotiated anything better, but they could hardly negotiate anything worse. We must let democracy take its course.
And for the avoidance of doubt, I’d prefer no-deal to this deal, and I’d prefer a no-deal to remaining.
Sorry to disappoint.
Iain Dale is a broadcaster for LBC and a former Conservative parliamentary candidate