It’s not just the backstop

The Withdrawal Agreement is a betrayal of Brexit. It must be scrapped entirely.

Brian Monteith


How can Boris Johnson appear so confident, so bullish, that he can succeed in taking the UK out of the European Union when Theresa May failed not once, but thrice?

After all the pessimism, doom and gloom of the May premiership – aided and abetted by the chancellor of the exchequer, the governor of the Bank of England and the Remainer cabal holding positions of power and influence – it is no surprise that Johnson’s positivity, effusiveness and commitment to deliver Brexit by 31 October have resulted in a political bounce for him and his Conservative government. But after bounces go up, they reach their peak and must come down.

The public can be forgiven for being enthused by his can-do approach. Brexiteers have been waiting for this for so long, and Boris’s self-confidence gives people hope. They are tired of politicians letting them down. They want to believe him – that Brexit will mean Brexit and Leave will mean Leave. Surely, for once, we shall not be lied to?

There should be no doubt that Johnson has a plan for Brexit. He has brought together many of his Vote Leave campaign team, including strategist Dominic Cummings and press secretary Robert Oxley, which has ruffled feathers. But how much of this is a bluff, designed to elicit a better deal from the EU, and how much of it is a genuine indication that we will be leaving at all costs? Among the many possible scenarios, two stand out as the most likely.

The first is that he really means what he says: he is so worried by the existential threat to the Conservatives following the Brexit Party’s European election success that he is beefing up preparations to leave the EU without any transitional arrangements. He is preparing the country to rely largely on WTO rules and a series of mini-deals with the EU on areas like road haulage, aviation and pharmaceuticals – all so he can meet the 31 October deadline. If there is no deal to be struck that smooths out any disruption, then the EU will be blamed for being intransigent. Perhaps the country will rally together and move forward as united as possible.

The key bargaining issue is the Irish border backstop – the section in Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement that could keep Northern Ireland tied to the Single Market and the rest of the UK in a temporary single customs territory. As the EU would have to agree to the UK leaving the backstop, it could be used to extract future concessions from the UK. Johnson swears that the backstop must go before any other aspects of a new deal can be negotiated. Naturally, the Irish and EU leaders say the existing offer is non-negotiable. If Johnson is true to his word then we shall indeed leave the EU the day after Halloween. But there are already signs that he is bluffing.

Earlier this week, the prime minister suggested that the UK might remain in the Single Market and Customs Union for the next two years in order to eliminate any need for the backstop, instead of leaving immediately. Clearly, he is trying to show the EU that he wants to modify May’s Withdrawal Agreement. If he succeeds in doing so, he can then claim he has won a better deal that could pass through the House of Commons. This second scenario is arguably more likely than No Deal. But the problems with the Withdrawal Agreement and its accompanying Political Declaration do not end with the backstop.

Firstly, the Withdrawal Agreement fails to give us back control of our money. In the event of a No Deal Brexit on Halloween, the UK will have no obligation to hand over the £39 billion divorce bill. The UK will also benefit from a net £8 billion per annum in tariff receipts from EU trade. That additional money could be spent in any way the UK sees fit.

The UK also remains on the hook for contingent liabilities of at least £207 billion that will crystallise when the next Eurozone crisis emerges. We need to leave without being tied to potentially crippling liabilities for decisions we are not and will not be responsible for. Otherwise, we could face austerity on stilts for a generation.

The Withdrawal Agreement also betrays Britain’s fishermen. Our waters would continue to be under the jurisdiction of the abominable Common Fisheries Policy for at least the duration of the transition period, and the Withdrawal Agreement contains no mechanism for getting us out of this. Worryingly, the EU’s draft guidelines for the negotiations that follow the Withdrawal Agreement suggest that any free-trade deal should be contingent on continued EU access to UK fisheries. The agreement also contains a commitment to serve under the EU’s Defence Union, putting our service personnel in the front line of any of the EU’s future foreign-policy adventures.

Both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration enshrine the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, ensuring that EU laws – in which the UK will have no say – can be imposed over our heads by its judiciary. They also prohibit the UK from setting its own regulations on state aid, competition law and even tax laws. With all of these concessions, it cannot be reasonably argued that the Withdrawal Agreement represents a meaningful Brexit.

Crucially, once signed there is no mechanism to amend or leave the Withdrawal Agreement without EU consent – a position the EU will insist on preserving in any new zombie version of the deal. As things stand, we would need the EU’s consent to govern ourselves!

The reason this scenario looks most likely is that the only ‘deal’ that has ever been supported by a majority in the House of Commons was the version put forward by Graham Brady MP. His proposal to ratify an amended Withdrawal Agreement (keeping it largely intact, only removing the backstop) won 317 votes to 302. No other variation has attracted a parliamentary majority. Johnson, Gove, Cummings et al know this. Under these circumstances, a deal could be passed without any need for a General Election. Johnson can then go into the next election, any time between now and May 2022, claiming to have delivered Brexit.

Simply removing the backstop does not make for a clean Brexit. Without going much further and dropping all of the damaging clauses in the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK will be tied into the European Union in perpetuity. The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration must be scrapped – not revived, not amended, but buried. Hidden behind the backstop could be the backstab.

Brian Monteith MEP is chief whip of the Brexit Party in the European Parliament.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Rod Conrad

2nd August 2019 at 5:38 pm

IT’s clear no amount of money can make “they need us more” true
So the EU must dismantle all it’s borders ‘cos UK didn’t do it’s home work and think it through

Look what is to stop Boris leaving at midnight tonight 02.08.2019 ?

Nothing … except a letter
EU can’t stop it
Mike the remainiac down the pub – no chance

So if it’s all so fecking good why are we waiting ….

Oh we need to scare the EU and put Germans, French out or work .. so they will have less money to buy from the world … and we are their only trading partner in the whole wide world …

World recession – lets do it for Blue PAssports and the USA big Business and Russia

Winston Stanley

1st August 2019 at 11:18 pm

BBC is in Project Fear and Remain/ WA overdrive with various scare stories for the first half of hourly news.

Christopher Tyson

1st August 2019 at 10:32 pm

As Von Clausewitz famously said ‘war is the continuation of politics by other means’. Former Blair advisor and architect of the Good Friday agreement speaking on newsnight this week, seemed to be saying that Brexit could or would re-awaken the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This is a serious point, he seems to be saying that the integrity of the British state is dependent on membership of the EU. Some of us have argued that the trajectory of the EU is toward a United States of Europe, it appears that for Powell we are already there. Leaving the EU then is not about leaving a voluntary trading block, it is an act of succession, leaving the EU becomes akin to an act of war, albeit civil war. The Remainers have characterised Brexiters as low information, racists, dumb, stupid and much more, I would say that they now appear to believe their own propaganda, if indeed it was propaganda. A while back Powell wrote a book, did TV interviews and such promoting the idea that ‘we’ need to talk to terrorist, particularly the most brutal middle eastern variety. I commented at the time that he was an advisor to a party who would cross the road to avoid speaking to its own working class supporters. For Powell Brexiters are not serious. Many have fought killed and died for freedom, sovereignty and democracy. Maybe we will have to take up arms before they think that we are worth talking to, hopefully it will not come to that. I wish the people of Ireland North and South well, I hope that we can arrive at some peaceful resolution to these problems, but would I sacrifice my own freedom and autonomy for peace in Ireland? No.

Linda Payne

1st August 2019 at 6:38 pm

Roll up roll up for the great Welsh lamb giveaway post Brexit; if the news is anything to go by the Government are going to buy up Welsh lamb if the farmers lose markets in Europe, they do not have the resources to store it so the only other option is to destroy it, what a waste of a good roast. Like the government really care about job losses and falling incomes but with Brexit they can no longer hide behind EU regulations and laws, we can hold them to account and they don’t like that

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 8:11 pm


Just how long have you people been forcèd to endure Jerry Oven-Kraut?

In years?

You’re under no obligation to answer this question, and I’m sorry for having to put it on you. It’s just that l want to find out, and l intend to.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 8:14 pm

Sorry to talk like that. He’s sending me crazy. I’m gonna get rid of both of them.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 8:21 pm

Anti Moreswill seemed to think that he could have a free go at you at one stage, too.

Once I’m incensed, then that’s pretty much it.

James Knight

1st August 2019 at 5:33 pm

BBC news have been lying again. They said recently that the EU would be “forced” to impose tariffs on the UK when we leave. But WTO rules allow 10 years for that, assuming there is negotiation ongoing. They are trying to obscure that the EU committing an act of self harm would be a political choice.

The real problem is the EU, and Ireland especially, is in a permanent state of denial that the UK is actually leaving.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 6:23 pm

I’m sure that I’m one of many that appreciate your reports, James.

I really mean that. There are a around a dozen people on here that provide truthful updates.

Kimberly JGallion

1st August 2019 at 5:28 pm

I get paid over $90 per hour acting from home with two children reception. I ne’er thought i would be able to hump however my succor earns over 10k a month doing this and he or she convinced American state to undertake. The potential with this is often endless. Heres what i have been doing

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2019 at 3:18 pm

One possibility never mooted is that of an Independent Northern Ireland.

Given the high number of “don’t knows” in opinion polls it ought to be asked.

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2019 at 1:27 pm

He has already conceded freedom of movement by the back door.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 8:24 pm

Go hang round with Jerry Oven-Kraut and find out where your at.

Ven Oods

1st August 2019 at 12:54 pm

All of this seems to suggest that, if Bozza even had a plan, he have the attention span to carry it through. The Garden Bridge, the German 2nd-hand water cannons and his involvement in the incarceration of the Brit in Iran seem to indicate otherwise.
Let’s hope I’m wrong about that.

Amelia Cantor

1st August 2019 at 10:39 am

“How can Boris Johnson appear so confident, so bullish, that he can succeed in taking the UK out of the European Union when Theresa May failed not once, but thrice?”

Hmmm. I’ll have a stab at answering that. Maybe it’s because he’s a narcissistic psychopath who is, like all rightards, not even on nodding acquaintance with reality? Maybe it’s because he’ll say and do whatever he thinks will advance the all-important cause of “Bigging Up Bozza”? Maybe it’s because the racists, xenophobes and deluded wrinklies who voted for Brexit are easy to manipulate and even easier to fool?

Then again, Bozza’s glorious achievements at the Foreign Office and as London Mayor suggest that I’m being unduly harsh on the poor fellow.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 6:25 pm

We’re over you dude, and I’ll tell you why if you turn the mods off.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 6:26 pm

(This could not be lamer)

Neil McCaughan

1st August 2019 at 9:47 pm

Are you really the best the left can muster?

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 10:34 pm

Yeah…it’s like that, and exactly how it is.

I’m pretty naive, and lost for words on this one.

John Millson

1st August 2019 at 9:45 am

Suggestion: the immediate fate of our body politic and that of our nearest neighbours is more important than the ideals of no more than a small portion of those who voted to leave the EU in June 2016.
Suffering and a new, updated reputation for ‘perfidy’? All for what? For whom? It would be a Sorry, Sad ‘Disunited Kingdom’ if the Brexit Party had their way.
Be smart – Compromise.

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2019 at 1:26 pm

One way or another remainers always boil it down to them being smart and opponents not so. Keep it coming.
This is about the future independence of us. Not the body politic.

John Millson

1st August 2019 at 3:01 pm

‘The body politic’ – ‘the people of a nation, state, or society considered collectively as an organized group of citizens’ – that’s ‘us’, compadre.
The UK is ‘independent’- has been for centuries.
I have in mind the material quality of peoples’ lives. Why jeopardise that for a notion, when it’s not necessary?
No, many leavers are smart but they ignore their own good common sense. Wouldn’t be such a problem if the results of their wilfull ignorance affected just themselves…

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2019 at 10:29 pm

People were far better off under the Smith regime in Rhodesia. Would you support a return to that?
People were for 2 decades worse off after the fall of The Soviet Union.

The Irish were worse off for 70 years after independence.

John Millson

2nd August 2019 at 8:32 am

That argument has no basis. There can be no comparison with those three examples. How can a nation be ‘oppressed’ by a union, which it is voluntarily part of? If citizens have felt ‘left behind’ then it is up to the member nation to rectify this. A big, rich nation like the UK could have helped its own citizens more. Blaming and then leaving the EU is futile.

If there are problems and issues, get further involved, find diplomatic ‘allies’ to push for reforms etc. Don’t destroy it for everyone else.

The divided opinion over Brexit is never going to disappear, especially if it costs people their livelihoods. In those circumstances any attempt to conjure up some sort liberated, ‘Jubilee’ or worse, ‘Blitz’ spirit would be perverse and sick-making.

Jerry Owen

1st August 2019 at 9:02 am

An insightful article.
For me no matter what Johnson does or promises I will not vote for him. I made a decision some years ago to only vote for a party that reflects my views ( in the main ) and none of them did. UKIP then arrived to change that. Not so much their policies as there weren’t any but the man himself.
I live in a Tory area yet have voted UKIP even though they do badly , on a par with Labour. Tactical voting keeps the establishment intact. Why anyone who supports Brexit would consider voting Johnson / Tory is beyond me considering the treachery of Cameron and May their last two leaders on the trot.. TWO for goodness sakes !
I was disappointed at Farage leaving UKIP it was a tactical mistake, it was a brand name, that got millions of votes winning the European elections.
Clearly the Brexit Party has stolen UKIPs clothes which owes a lot to the charisma of Farage. I have been to see Farage speak and he is a great orator, my fear is he is bigger than the party though ( is that bad I also ask myself ).
It is the Brexit Party for me. We have to shake off the shackles of the old pro remain parties.
Leave means Leave. The Brexit Party is the only leave party.

Hana Jinks

2nd August 2019 at 12:23 am

Fair comment.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 11:54 am

I’d just like to add, fwiw, that anyone teaming up with Fox and Widdecombe surely must be met with some kind of skepticism about just what he’s in it for.

Winston Stanley

1st August 2019 at 5:18 am

Thankfully we have recourse to the Brexit Party. If BJ tries to do a TM and to betray Brexit with some WA then we destroy the TP at the next GE. Only a full and proper no-deal Brexit is in any manner acceptable.

We demand full control of our government, our laws, our borders, our waters, our economy, our money and our trade deals. We want OUT of the EU full and entire like we voted for. We want our country back.

Nigel has signalled his full intention to destroy the TP if it attempts in any way to betray Brexit with any WA. We have to be ready and willing to follow through on that. Either BJ delivers a full and proper no-deal Brexit or we destroy the TP.

A majority of TP members signalled in the June YouGov poll their willingness to destroy the TP in order to secure Brexit. The figure for TP voters would be much higher, as we saw in the EU elections in May when the TP was pushed down to 9%.

The Brexit Party can win the next GE if Boris betrays us, and then we can force through a full and proper Brexit, regardless of any deal that Boris has struck. The TP would then rightfully be destroyed and we would never let it re-emerge.

> NIGEL Farage has vowed to “annihilate” the Tories if Boris Johnson pushes through a fake Brexit based on Theresa May’s hated deal.

The Brexit Party leader has fired off a warning shot to the PM that Britain must leave the EU by October 31 – or the Conservatives will face the consequences.

Farage said that after May’s failure to get a deal through Parliament and Jeremy Corbyn’s “betrayal” of Labour Leave voters, only his party could be trusted to deliver Brexit.

He wrote in the Telegraph: “Britain’s best chance of achieving its independence now comes from the Brexit Party.

“The electoral threat it poses is such that, if the UK does not leave the EU on 31 October, the Conservatives can rest assured they will be annihilated in any subsequent general election.” (The Sun)

Jim Wigan

1st August 2019 at 8:26 am


Neutralising the Brexit Party threat is more important to Boris than Brexit itself. He will cobble together a deal, no matter how bad, but which removes the BP from the EU parliament. This removes their representative voice.

He will then rush through a General Election before the faults in his deal become apparent, when he still has the faith of the general public, the people think the BP are no longer needed and labour are still a joke party.

By the time the faults hit the public domain he will have 4/5 years in government to find another electoral con tactic.

Jim Lawrie

1st August 2019 at 2:15 pm

He can rely on a generally pro-Remain media to assist in that plan.

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