EXPRESS - Aug 12, 2020 -
I was in Brussels last October when Boris Johnson went to renegotiate the deal struck by Mrs May that had failed on three occasions to get a majority in parliament. The odd thing about the Prime Minister's position was that twice he'd voted against it and then at the third attempt capitulated.
That issue was the Northern Irish backstop and Boris’ victory on the night was its removal from the treaty, which meant that the entire UK would not be trapped in the customs union. But it came a price. Ever since that moment, Northern Ireland has effectively been placed in a different constitutional position to the rest of the United Kingdom; a point that has been used by Nicola Sturgeon in her attempt to break Scotland away from the UK. But the Prime Minister was able in the early hours of the morning to declare a great negotiating victory and a good deal for the United Kingdom. The press and much of the public believed him. There was a sense of relief following months of parliamentary deadlock and the appalling tactics of the Remainers that now there was a deal that would finally allow us to leave.
It was clear that this deal was little better than Mrs May’s. Not only was Northern Ireland to become a different entity, but the European Court of Justice would have a continued say in British public life.
There were also clever legal wordings that would keep us within the common fisheries policy and commitments to continued regulatory alignment. In short, I felt it was not Brexit.
As the moment of the general election approached, the Prime Minister continued to sell his “oven-ready deal” to a public that were more than happy to believe him.
It presented me with a huge political dilemma. If the Brexit Party fought every seat and condemned the deal, there was a real risk that our vote would allow many more Pro-EU liberal democrats into the House of Commons.
This may well have led to a second referendum, something that would have damaged trust in our political system for many years to come. Equally, the Conservative Party was keen to get Brexit Party candidates off their backs.