29 December 2020. I am writing this the day before Johnson’s last minute Brexit Deal is rushed through Parliament. That ‘easiest deal in human history’ that is now so late in the day that no one’s had a chance to read it properly and all political parties agree that there’s not enough Parliamentary time left to scrutinise it. However, the only other option is leaving with no deal which would be even more catastrophic for jobs and livelihoods.
So, is this deal a bad deal, or does it do what Boris Johnson’s Leave campaign promised it would do back in 2016 – ‘taking back control of our laws, our sovereignty, our money and our waters’?
1. Our Laws: well, we have the right to change our laws, but we also want tariff free trade. If we do change our laws to make our goods more competitive, the deal gives the EU the option to apply to put tariffs on those goods. And those tariffs are decided not in our Parliament, but in a committee.
2. Our sovereignty - Are we ‘getting rid of bureaucracy and red tape’: actually, we’re creating more of it. Michael Gove’s department has admitted that all of the extra checks on goods crossing the border will create about £7 billion in costs on form filling that British exporters will have to pay.
3. Our money: some industries, like financial services, the UK economy’s largest sector, have been left out of the deal completely and still need to be negotiated. Closer to home, will we see replacement of the EU funding Cornwall will lose, £700 million over the next 7 years, ‘pound for pound’ as promised? So far, Cornwall Council has confirmed that Cornwall’s part of the Shared Prosperity Fund pilot is likely to run to just £5 million next year. Yet another broken promise?
4. And what about taking back control of our waters: well, that hasn’t worked out either. The small quota share increases are over a 5 ½ year transition period, when there will be another negotiation. The deal also gives access to our waters for some EU boats up to the six-mile limit, when the UK industry thought 12 miles was a red line. And British boats will no longer be able to swap quota with their counterparts from Europe.
The Conservatives seem to have sold our fishermen down the river and out to sea again.
5. And will the NHS get an extra £350 million per week: well, no. But we have spent billions on No Deal Brexit preparations such as ferry companies without ferries and the M20 Brexit lorry park.
6. And does this deal ‘Get Brexit Done’: No. As the deal can be renegotiated in just 4 years, in reality, we will be constantly negotiating with Europe. Brexit will never really end.
Johnson’s deal is too late and is littered with broken promises. It is however, marginally better than no deal with the chaos and huge tariffs that would bring. But, let’s be clear, the consequences of this deal will define this government and will affect us all in Cornwall for years to come. If you voted Leave, you didn’t get what you were promised.
Newlyn Harbour thriving in 1909