Whatever you think about Brexit, it’s already happened. It’s true that we are in a transition phase until the end of the year, so in practical terms nothing yet has changed, but it is a fact that we have left and the only good use of our energy from now on is focusing on the future.
That means that after the getting a grip on the Covid crisis, getting a trade deal with the European Union should be the Government’s top priority. They promised this, and there is an overwhelming mutual interest in achieving one, so we should expect them to deliver it. Failure to do would be a huge failure – there is no country our size in the world that does not have preferential trading terms with it’s near neighbours.
It this is to happen, and if trade deals with other countries are to be secured, then we cannot be a country that does not stick to its word. What we have seen this week, with Government Ministers presenting legislation to Parliament that they themselves admit breaks international law, is not only astonishing but a massive own goal.
I do not want border checks between any part of the UK. But that is what the Prime Minister agreed to in the Withdrawal Agreement he negotiated, and he fought an election entirely on the basis that it was a good deal and he wanted a mandate for it. For him to now say that it never made sense is taking people for fools.
Because we have left the European Union and the Republic of Ireland has not, there are only three real choices available for future arrangements: 1) a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; 2) a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain; or 3) a trade deal with the European Union that makes border checks unnecessary because we broadly have the same standards and rules. The Prime Minister chose option 2), and then signed a legal agreement saying any issues arising from this would be handled by a new Joint Committee.
The way the Government is behaving is not only detrimental to the prospects of a trade deal with the EU, but to good relations with other countries too. It’s not good to see politicians from our allies like the USA criticise the UK as a place that doesn’t stick to its promises. It is all so unnecessary and avoidable, and it’s been good that some of the most vocal opponents of the Government in Parliament have been leading Brexiteers themselves.
This is no strategy for national success. I believe the vast majority of people in this country want to be a good and friendly neighbour to all the people on the island of Ireland. I hope the Government thinks about what it is doing and changes course.