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ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: Lie by lie, May’s deceit is exposed

Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Matt Crossick/ EMPICS Entertainment. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL analyses Theresa May’s ‘Mendacious’ Brexit letter and exposes eleven of the lies within.

There was something truly Trumpian in the prime minister’s ‘Letter to the Nation,’ the main points of which – ‘strong and stable’-like – she has repeated ad nauseam ever since the nation received it, and is now taking on a nationwide tour.

Trumpian not just in the grandiosity of the concept, or the overblown claims about the ‘brighter future’ to which she says her ‘deal’ is going to lead us. But Trumpian above all in the half-truths, blatant misinformation and downright lies. For a vicar’s daughter, she is a bit cavalier when it comes to the ‘thou shalt not bear false witness’ commandment.

Not for the first time in the Brexit debacle, Nicola Sturgeon was the leader who best captured what I felt about May. ‘I don’t say this lightly,’ tweeted Scotland’s first minister, ‘but almost nothing in this desperate letter is true. This is a bad deal, driven by the PM’s
self-defeating red lines and continual pandering to the right of her own party. Parliament should reject it and back a better alternative – single market/customs union or #PeoplesVote.’

May wants us to believe that her deal delivers on the referendum, and provides clarity about our economic future. It does neither.

Theresa May’s Brexit letter which was posted onto social media. Picture: Number 10 – Credit: Archant

So now she hits the road, assuming that the more the country sees of her talking about her deal, the more they will like it and so put pressure on MPs to support her. This is good news for the People’s Vote campaign.

Her track record, most notably the snap election campaign that led to her losing the majority David Cameron had won, suggests that far from building support, she might further erode it.

Indeed, every time she warns that defeat of her deal takes us ‘back to square one’, I sense more and more people thinking back to square one might be a very good place to be right now.

Back to having a government able to focus on more than Brexit. Back to being one of the most respected countries in the world, not something of a global laughing stock. Back to having the fastest-growing economy in the G7, not the slowest. Back to being one of the three foremost European powers. Back to having a seat at the most important top tables in world politics and economics. And, of course, back to square one takes you back to the most fundamental question of all… should we even be doing this?

Theresa May’s Brexit letter which was posted onto social media. Picture: Number 10 – Credit: Archant

If this really is the best deal available, might we not be better sticking with what we have? A few months ago, that question was an eccentric whisper. If Theresa May did not have such a tin ear, she would hear that the whisper is becoming a loud cri de coeur she and her fellow MPs would be wise not to ignore.

It is time to face the truth… that what we have is better than any version of the Brexit on offer. A People’s Vote, I believe, would confirm that. Which is why May and the Brextremists are united in fear of it.

Here are eleven lies in May’s mendacious letter

1 The deal is ‘in our national interest’. There can be many definitions of the national interest. But actions which enhance the prosperity and the power of the nation in question are usually top of the list. This deal weakens our power in the world, and by every single analysis, including the government’s, also harms our future prosperity.

Hence the queue of ministers who have tried so hard to avoid a straight answer to the straight question ‘will this deal make us worse or better off?’ The answer is: worse off. Since when did doing something which the government knows will make people worse off represent ‘the national interest?’ This really is a first in political history.

2 The deal works for ‘all of our people, whether you voted Leave or Remain’. Likewise, there can be many definitions of ‘works for’. But when both sides have condemned the deal for different reasons, and when the most vehement critics appear to be the Brexit supporters for whom she insists she is doing this, even if this falls short of the outright lie category, it is at best a statement of the absurd. As for her promise that the deal will unify the country, this might have carried more weight if she had sought to unify us over the past two-and-a-half years.

3 The deal will put ‘an end to vast annual payments to the EU’. I wonder how many citizens of the nation saw that and made an assumption that this ‘end’ will be ‘put’ as soon as we leave? In fact, we will be paying off the so-called ‘divorce bill’ well into the next decade, and if we have to extend the process, that bill will go higher and have to be paid for longer. As to what we get in return, this seems to have been lost in the post.

4 ‘We will be able to spend British taxpayers’ money on our own priorities, like the extra £394 million per week that we are investing in our long-term plan for the NHS.’ This one is in the pants on fire category, a blatant effort to pretend there is a link between Brexit and additional funding for the NHS, the so-called Brexit dividend, a big black lie spawned by the big red bus, and exposed so often it is a definite and disappointing breach of the above commandment that she continues with the pretence.

5 ‘We will take back control of our laws.’ This is a pretty fat one too. We have always had control of our laws, some of which we have chosen to pass as part of our sovereign membership of the EU. She is giving that control away, as during the transition period we have to obey all EU laws – including new ones in whose creation we will have no say at all. Rule-taker not rule-maker. Added to which, she has been forced to concede that the EU has a veto on whether and when we can be freed from the restraints of the ‘backstop’. This really is the vassal state of which the Brextremists have warned. And in any future trade deal with the EU (the trade arrangements that in previous iterations she said would be clear at the same time as the divorce bill was settled) the UK will have to follow ‘level playing field’ rules on tax, the environment, state aid, and much else.

6 ‘We will be an independent coastal state once again, with full control over our waters.’ Hmmm, president Macron clearly didn’t get the letter. Sunday’s summit was barely over when he reminded the UK that the deal keeps ‘existing reciprocal access and quota shares’ to avoid the backstop. Far from settling these issues, the ‘deal’ has left them wide open, but we have diminished our own negotiating strength at a time we will need it most.

7 UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU will ‘have their rights protected’. Only up to a point. They won’t have the right to move between the 27 EU countries unless and until that is agreed in the negotiations that flow from the future declaration. Unsurprisingly, the author of the ‘hostile environment’ for foreigners was less concerned in her letter with the right of EU citizens in the UK. They will have to pay to apply to continue living and working here.

8 ‘A free trade area will allow goods to flow easily across our borders.’ ‘Easily’ is not the same as the ‘frictionless’ trade that was promised, and which she failed to deliver.

9 ‘Security co-operation will continue, so we can keep our people safe.’ Well, it might. But this is all kicked into the next phase of the process. It is not all sorted, and she is being less than straight with people in pretending otherwise.

10 ‘Outside the EU, we will be able to sign new trade deals with other countries.’ President Trump didn’t get the letter either. This is another piece of the action she said would be sorted by now, and it’s not. She has locked herself into big restrictions on the deals the UK can sign with non-EU countries, while putting at risk the trade deals with 88 countries we have as EU members.

11 ‘With Brexit settled, we will be able to focus our energies on the many other important issues facing us here at home.’ Here she is trying to pretend her deal gets Brexit off our plates and out of our lives. It does anything but. Because she failed to secure clarity about the future, kicking many big questions down the road, we will be locked into negotiations with the EU for years to come. Brexit will continue to consume the government bandwidth.

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