() View gallery
WHY weren’t we told?
Phew – so an injury time agreement has been reached with Brussels that will now finally allow full trade talks with the EU to begin.
Earlier this week – with the DUP apparently vetoing any such outcome – it seemed unlikely; but politics has never been more unpredictable and those who said that no deal would be possible were wrong.
But before we hang out the bunting, there is for me at least, one big nagging question – why, during the seemingly interminable referendum campaign, did nobody tell us that before we would ever get to start negotiating a trade deal (let alone conclude one) there were three massive potholes on the road to an EU settlement?
And whose job was it to spot these potholes?
The government’s, maybe, but my sights are trained on the Remain campaigners.
In the past I, and many others, have been fiercely critical of the highly misleading Leave campaign.
And although the Remain campaigners might not have told as many blatant porkies it’s what they didn’t say that makes them almost equally culpable
I’ve been doing a little research.
I visited the official site of the Remain website – ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ – (still standing) and found that on both the video featured on the front page telling me why I should vote Remain, and on their ‘Get the Facts’ page, there was no mention of the three issues that could have – and might still – kibosh our attempts to negotiate an orderly withdrawal from the EU.
The three roadblock issues – as is now well-known – were the price we’d have to pay to leave, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU and, most problematic of all, the fate of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic?
So how could these (presumably) experienced campaigners have missed what is now so crystal clear?
And what might well have influenced the final outcome of the referendum?
We all heard loud and clear the clearly misleading claim that by leaving the EU we would gain an additional £350 million a week to spend on the NHS but how often were we told that there would be a price to be paid for exiting the EU?
Did anyone tell us that we would be paying something close to £40 billion pounds, or to put it another way, £40,000,000,000, for the privilege of leaving the club?
If they did, I didn’t hear.
Then there’s the issue of the rights of Europeans living here and the rights of the 1.2 million Britons who now live in the EU.
This was supposed to be a relatively simple matter to settle – which it has now proved to be.
Except that Mrs May chose to use it as a bargaining chip.
Something which, unsurprisingly, did not go down too well with the other 27 EU members and consequently has made the negotiations far more tetchy than they ever needed to be.
And finally there’s the ongoing problem of Ireland.
Much of the success of the Good Friday agreement – which has brought Ireland one of the longest periods of peace in recent memory – was down to the fact that it was being negotiated between two members of the same club.
With no customs barriers between the two there was no need for a north/south border – one of the most contentious issues throughout the years of the Northern Ireland troubles.
It now looks like there will be no return to a hard border but the details are hazy and the DUP are far from happy; we’ve not heard the last of this issue I fear.
And another thing, why weren’t we told that far from wanting to negotiate the best possible deal for the UK, the remaining 27 would ensure that they put their own interests first?
But then again, why wouldn’t they?
Each of the sovereign member states, rightly, want to make sure that, however Brexit affects the UK, it won’t be bad news for their citizens – we might complain, but that’s what governments are supposed to do isn’t it?
Second, at a time when populism and separatism are on the march in Europe, the 27 are understandably concerned to do all they can to keep the Union together and hence it was never in their common interest to make the prospect, and process, of leaving look like an attractive option.
It’s all so obvious really. It’s just such a pity that the Remain campaigners never told us.
Had they done so it might all have been so different.
l Ivor Gaber is professor of political journalism at the University of Sussex and a former Westminster political correspondent.
Source: The Argus