Brexit and Johnson’s deal made us a third country. Our choice. Our problem, not the EU’s.

I can’t help wondering how many people who voted for Brexit now wish they’d been given the chance to look at Johnson’s allegedly oven-ready deal and decide whether it was really what they wanted. I wonder how many people have ‘if only’ ringing in their heads like an earworm – especially if they are ever reminded of the campaign for a People’s Vote when a million plus people slogged up to London (on more than one occasion) to beg for some scrutiny, some sanity, some democracy, even.

How many people actually wanted to vote to become a third country, outside the single market and the customs union – the very things that made trade, travel and cooperation easy. So easy that we took them for granted. How many fishermen, farmers, car workers, people who relied on freedom of movement, people who relied on frictionless trade now feel betrayed?

To be fair, why would anyone have expected any negative consequences of Brexit after all the reassurances that there would be no change or that any change would be for the better? Remember Rees-Mogg’s broad, sunlit uplands…? They exist for him, no doubt! Or Owen Paterson saying that only a madman would leave the single market…something absolutely no-one was advocating! Hmmm.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said during an interview in 2015 that:

“To repeat, absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”.  

Following the referendum, Oliver Norgrove, a former Vote Leave staffer who supports staying in the single market, urged people to check the official campaign’s website and official literature – noting that the things they had campaigned for were “utterly achievable in the EEA and make no mention at all of leaving the single market”.

Even Farage would have settled for a Norway-stye deal, keeping us in the single market:

Unfortunately, Brexit meant that we ceased to be a member of the EEA:

“The United Kingdom (UK) ceased to be a Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement after its withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020. This follows from the two-pillar structure and Article 126 of the EEA Agreement, which states that the EEA Agreement applies to the territory of the EU and the three EEA EFTA States”

Instead, we are a third country. It does not mean third rate, third class or anything that indicates imagined churlishness or spitefulness from the EU. It is simply a legal fact.

A “third country” basically refers to any country outside the EU, and in this case outside its economic structures – the single market and the customs union.

Businesses in a third country have to fill in customs declarations, for example, when they import from and export to the EU – whether there is a trade agreement or not.

We sit outside. Alone. Image from Wikipedia

Announcing the trade deal, Johnson told the UK that the deal would mean tariff-free, quota-free access for business; that it would mean, if anything, even more trade for exporters. He boasted that we were out of the single market and the customs union seemingly with no concept whatsoever of the chaos and hardship this would create or that it meant that we automatically became a third country.

Instead, he thrust the nebulous, intangible, emotional and emotive ‘prize’ of sovereignty down the British people’s throats. Of course, he has never seen fit to explain that any and every trade deal demands an element of shared sovereignty and that the little we had shared as members of the EU had been more than worth it for the benefits it conferred.

But no matter. We, the people wanted sovereignty? We got it in spades according to every Brexiter .(Actually, we already had it!) We can’t see it or feel it or touch it or eat it or pay the bills with it, but hey! Oh…and while we’re are being told to feel all warm and patriotic about all that delicious sovereignty, Johnson et al are bypassing parliament, shovelling money out to mates, breaking laws and mishandling the pandemic, causing unnecessary deaths. Taking (back) control. Indeed.

Remember Johnson, crowing over his deal in his Christmas message, encouraging us to read the 500 pages after lunch? If anyone had done so, they would be a rare beast indeed, since it was very quickly evident that virtually no Conservative politician had a clue what was in it.

Did Johnson ever read it in one of his many sleepy pre- and post- Christmas moments?

So if you or someone you know is seething at the damage done by the deal negotiated by Lord Frost at the behest of Boris Johnson, it is perfectly understandable. But, to get any satisfaction, the anger must be directed at the perpetrators who lied to us all about what Brexit – especially in the form preferred by disaster capitalists and closet authoritarians – actually meant.

What’s more, given how oversold the eventual deal was, it is hardly surprising that people are ready to swallow the convenient lie that all of the problems are, in fact, the result of vengeful behaviour from the EU or straight-up breaking of promises. Not so.

For example, George Eustice tried to mislead us when he said that the EU had reneged on an agreement on shellfish. Untrue. The EU applied third country rules, no more, no less.

Brexiters and leave voters may not have explicitly voted for the UK to become a third country, but that’s the consequence of Brexit. No wonder our European friends are utterly bewildered. They cannot understand what the hell we were thinking when we decided to wreck our own economy and destroy our own jobs.

What is crystal clear is that even people in businesses which you’d think there would be some understanding of what relinquishing our membership benefits would do to them, have utterly failed to understand how the EU works. This ignorance is dangerous. Here’s international trade expert Michael M, quoting one of the senior figures in the Road Hauliers Association:

“But we know for a fact that there are, for example, ab load movements between France and Switzerland, which is not in the EU, so there is a solution out there – it’s a case of somebody finding it,” the RHA trade body’s head of Licensing and Infrastructure Policy, Tom Cotton told Lloyd’s Loading List. “it’s a case of somebody finding it”
Look no further than “the is solution out there” to Switzerland is part of The Single Market.
Is @rhatomcotton playing dumb or does he need relieving of his position? @EFTA4UK

He continues “It’s only when members come to us and say there is an issue that we find there is one” it never occured to him not being in/part of the SM/EEA might create such issues?
For somebody in such a position it is appalling. .and symptomatic of why UK is so fucked

Originally tweeted by Michael M. 🇨🇭🇳🇴🇮🇸🇱🇮🇬🇧 (@vivamjm) on 04/03/2021.

But this is not and cannot be about schadenfreude. Taking satisfaction in the pain and suffering of others gets us nowhere. There is also nothing to be gained from taking pops at individuals and businesses duped by a bunch of very determined, very wealthy, very devious people into voting against their own interests. I would urge those gloating that Cornwall got what it voted for, or the fishermen and farmers deserve everything that is coming to them to bite their lip and follow the simple advice that if you cannot say anything nice, say nothing at all. ‘Go for the conman, not his mark’ is my mantra.

It is this government, Johnson, Frost, the cabinet, the ERG, the Murdoch/Barclay/Rothermere mainstream media, Zuckerberg, Farage, the network of klepto-fascists and oligarchs who create and fund division and chaos and will weaponise both to exploit and control us, who deserve to be the focus of every citizen’s righteous anger.

The former French Ambassasor to the UK (2014-2017) Sophie Bermann hit the nail on the head in her memoir when she described Johnson as an inveterate liar who uses

“lies to embellish reality, as a game and as an instrument of power. The ends justify the means. He has no rules”.
She went on to predict:
“Boris Johnson’s temptation will be to hide the bill for Brexit under the Covid carpet, valued at more than £200bn for 2020, almost as much as the United Kingdom’s total contribution to the European Union since its accession in 1973, which was £215bn.”

If you want some kind of payback for the horror show that is Brexit, then call out its advocates, boycott its backers, do everything you can to counter the lies and the cover-ups. Keep writing to your MP to let them know that you see straight through the lies. And when you hear people trying to blame the EU, please set the record straight. Sure, they now want to take business off us, lure financial services away, bypass our ports. Who can blame them? We left the covered market and put all our wares out on the open street to be nicked! Fair game!

Want someone to blame? Blame Johnson. It’s on him.

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