In baseball, a game unfamiliar to many in the UK, when a player hits a home run it is normally considered good manners – and a sign of respect for your opponent – not to gloat, but to run the bases quickly without admiring the ball as it clears the fences, and certainly without making eye contact with the pitcher.
Likewise, last week when the EU leaders accepted the withdrawal agreement (apparently it took them only 40 minutes), they solemnly declared that it was not a time for celebration and self-congratulation.
But surely the EU leaders realised, like anyone who has been following Brexit, that they had resoundingly trounced their opponent. They had just hit a 500-foot grand slam.
While you might admire the loyalty of the Conservative MPs who have stood behind the Prime Minister and her EU deal, they are colluding in pulling the wool over the eyes of the British public, along with the misleading media blitz and the Treasury’s ludicrously exaggerated Project Chaos book-cooking.
Contrary to what Theresa May is telling everyone who will listen, the withdrawal agreement and its partner, the vacuous “political declaration”, will not end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, put a stop to free movement, or allow an independent trade policy.
If voted through, this “deal” will trap the UK into a potentially indefinite prison sentence in which it remains a quasi member state, with all of the burdens of the EU’s rulebook yet no say in the creation of the laws by which it will be bound, with the European court acting as final authority on matters regarding EU law – effectively the entire agreement.
For years after our notional departure from the EU on 29 March 2019, free movement will continue as we languish inside the EU’s Single Market during an open-ended transition stage – which was clearly designed to duplicate remaining in the EU in every way but name.
Although the agreement specifies that the UK can negotiate its own free trade agreements, this is wishful thinking. No one would waste their time in trade talks with a country that has no control over its economy and will not, until the EU decides to let it.
This is because the EU has a veto over the actual termination date for a transition, which it has no incentive to end. Ever-candid unlike most politicians, Donald Trump said as much.
Recall that many of the UK’s allies (Canada, Australia) had previously indicated willingness to pursue free trade agreements after Brexit with gusto. Now all we have is embarrassing silence from partners who must be shocked that the UK has given in so badly.
Let us also not forget that the political agreement’s empty promise of a future trade deal between the UK and the EU contemplates a customs union – the very type of arrangement we were told we were leaving – or else Northern Ireland must be sliced off from the rest of the UK.
The notion that a foreign power would demand the break-up of a sovereign state in order to access its market is nothing short of astonishing. There isn’t even a normal free trade agreement at the end of the whole mess worth toughing it out for.
Phantom trade agreements, foreign courts dictating our laws, out-of-control immigration, and a multi-billion-pound golden handshake giveaway to boot. This is a steal not a deal, and if the UK parliament is foolish enough to vote it in next week, the EU will have secured what is perhaps the single most one-sided treaty in modern history, an agreement in which one party has surrendered everything and secured next to nothing.
And so the UK stands by, watching as the EU politely clears the bases and romps home. It’s all very sportsmanlike. Well played.