OPINION: Why a hard Brexit would spell disaster for Britain

There are issues for Northumberland fishermen.
There are issues for Northumberland fishermen.

Who could have imagined that 30 months after the Referendum, the Health Secretary would be announcing preparations for a ‘Berlin Airlift’ of emergency flights to begin bringing medical supplies into the country in the event of a hard Brexit?

Who would have dreamt that the MP for Berwick would be a vocal member of the anti-EU European Research Group (ERG) demanding a hard Brexit?

There are concerns for farmers.

There are concerns for farmers.

These people made us all 15% poorer when the pound slumped in 2016 and every expert on the planet is now warning that they will bring us varying degrees of further impoverishment, depending on the ‘hardness’ of Brexit.

According to Bloomberg, £800billion of investment has already been withdrawn from the UK economy, pointing to a serious economic decline, yet the government is completely paralysed, deranged by the impossible conundrum of ‘having our cake and eating it’.

Nobody can blame Brussels; for 40 years, UK politicians and lawyers have worked with their Continental partners in formulating the rules on how member states relate to the EU and on laws which cover cross-border issues to ensure that all European citizens enjoy clean air, seas, beaches and water, that their food is safe and humanely produced to decent standards, and ensuring that employees across Europe are treated fairly.

Successive UK governments have had the same input into creating EU legislation as their counterparts from France, Italy, Spain and the rest.

Not only was it Margaret Thatcher’s government which spurred the creation of the Single Market, but over the last 20 years, British Governments have been highly successful in agreeing EU laws; they got what they wanted in 95% of cases, abstained in 2% and only conceded on 3%.

The ‘cake’ fantasy perfectly sums up the complacent arrogance of the pampered, irresponsible elite who created this constitutional crisis. David Cameron called the Referendum purely to placate a reckless little gang of wreckers who make a mockery of the very word ‘conservative’.

The 185 Tory MPs who voted to Remain and the 135 to Leave were equally shocked at the result.

Instead of pandering further to its extremists, a grown-up government would have immediately set about resolving the dilemma of such a narrow 52-48% result by working to bring the British people together around a ‘soft Brexit’ which would have maintained the promised frictionless trade withEurope while respecting the Leave vote.

Most citizens and MPs would – albeit grudgingly – have accepted that such a solution reflected the vote.

Tragically, an ill-advised Theresa May’s Red Lines painted her into a corner, dividing Britain and leaving a rational outcome impossible.

The blame lies fairly and squarely with the fanaticism of the ERG who would scrap vital EU laws on the environment, food, water and decent employment rights but fight to preserve Britain’s sleazy global web of tax havens.

While the press have enjoyed comparing the ERG to Dad’s Army, their clear inability to grasp complex issues like the Northern Ireland border, WTO rules and Europe-wide industrial production chains is deeply alarming.

They pontificate about ‘our’ industries without grasping that the fate of Bentley, Mini, Vauxhall and Rolls-Royce cars hinges on decisions made in boardrooms in Munich and Paris, while the future of ‘our’ civilian aircraft industry will be decided in Holland by Airbus.

Further vast tracts of UK industry, utilities and infrastructure are either EU-owned or, like Honda, Hitachi and Indian-owned Jaguar/Land-Rover, are only here because of seamless access to the huge EU single market.

We live in a globalised, interconnected world, yet the ERG’s blinkered band of dreamers want to cut our young people off from the continent which they have most in common.

Without millenia of shared European history, the Britain we know and love could simply not exist.

Even if we overlook the harsh reality that they are all thousands of miles away and many are ruled by nasty totalitarian regimes, the ERG never add factual evidence to their claims of ‘incredible opportunities’ to trade with places like the Middle East, The Peoples’ Republic of China, Indonesia or elsewhere.

Even if little Britain can negotiate fair terms with ruthless giants, these societies all lack the human, non-monetary links and values which connect us with our near neighbours, reducing such bleak long-range exchanges to nothing but money.

Our ancestral, cultural and religious ties to our European heritage and our shared civilised values of social democracy, freedom of speech and human rights represent an infinitely more important relationship than anything possible with those supposed alternative purely commercial partners.

As for the very foreign land of Donald Trump’s gun-toting ‘America First’, the UK’s trading relationship would inevitably be that of a vassal state.

Our MP Mrs Trevelyan is quick to make political capital out of representing a fishing constituency.

While our small inshore boats catching crabs, lobsters and prawns are indeed central to Northumberland’s coastal communities, who can forget her cringeworthy failed attempt to grandstand with Jacob Rees-Mogg aboard Cap’n Farage’s silly boat on the Thames last March?

The critical issue for Northumberland fishermen is tariff-free overnight access to Continental markets for their catch.

A bigger group of constituents facing ruin from the ERG’s fantasies are Northumberland’s farmers, almost half of whose fresh lamb relies on rapid chilled transport across the Channel, yet the ERG are plotting to undermine them further with extra New Zealand imports.

Much is revealed by Mrs Trevelyan’s unfortunate choice of the duplicitous, underhand Treaty of London of 1915 as her example of British ‘Honour’ (Gazette, December 6).

That secret plot between Britain, Russia and France to bribe Italy’s leaders to attack Austria was hidden from the Italian people and even its military leaders, and 300,000 Italians were killed or maimed against Austria’s impregnable lines.

If this grotesque example typifies the ERG’s sense of honourable behaviour, it only confirms that history will not judge them kindly for dividing and humiliating our nation.