May on the Brink: PM 48 Hours from Activating ‘No Deal’ Plan as Boris Slams ‘Total Surrender’ to EU

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Theresa May’s premiership is skirting disaster, with Brexiteers accusing her of embarking on a strategy of “total surrender” in the face of a 48-hour deadline to either secure a deal with Brussels or activate ‘No Deal’ preparations.

The Prime Minister has offered a raft of heavy concessions to the European Union in order to secure free trade in goods and agri-products with the bloc and maintain an open border between the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

These include payment of an enormous multi-billion pound ‘divorce bill’ to Brussels, continuing wholesale adoption of the EU’s rules and regulations through a ‘common rulebook’ effectively adjudicated by EU judges, and membership of the EU Customs Union.

The proposals, which would effectively prevent the United Kingdom from regaining sovereign control of its international trade policy and regulatory regime, have already been denounced as ‘Brexit In Name Only’, or BRINO, by Leave campaigners — but, for the European Union, they do not go far enough.

Specifically, the bloc’s negotiators seem unwilling to let Mrs May keep the United Kingdom in their Customs Union as a so-called ‘backstop’ solution to the supposedly all-important question of the Irish border unless there is an additional ‘backstop to the backstop’, which would keep Northern Ireland inside the Customs Union by itself while the rest of the UK is ejected in the event of any issues.

They are also insisting that the British government must not be allowed to end the backstop arrangements on their own initiative, but must instead appeal to some sort of adjudicating body — overseen by the European Court of Justice.

Moreover, the EU has reportedly said it will not consider modifying these demands without further sacrifices by the United Kingdom — namely the continuing surrender of the country’s plundered fisheries.

While the Prime Minister embarked on her negotiations with Brussels insisting that ‘No Deal’ would be “better than a bad deal”, she seems reluctant to seriously consider exiting the bloc without a formal agreement and dealing with it on standard World Trade Organization terms, as countries like Australia and the United States do.

With just 48 hours remaining to secure an agreement before she will be forced to activate much-delayed ‘No Deal’ preparations costing hundreds of millions of pounds, both Remainers and Leavers are unhappy, with reports that that EU loyalists within her government are considering following Jo Johnson’s lead in resigning to campaign for a second referendum, and senior Brexiteers like older brother Boris Johnson calling for outright mutiny.

“I really can’t believe it but this Government seems to be on the verge of total surrender. With every day that passes we seem to be getting more craven,” wrote the former Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in his regular Telegraph column.

“We have agreed to become the punk of Brussels, signing up not just to their existing rulebook but to huge chunks of future regulation – even though we will have no say in drafting that legislation…. We have been so feeble in our preparations to leave the EU on WTO terms, and so unnaturally terrified of the consequences (greatly exaggerated by the scaremongers) that we have now said we will remain in the so-called customs union,” he lamented.

“Under the shameful proposals now before Cabinet it will be up to some joint UK/EU committee, or some “independent arbitration mechanism” to decide whether the UK – an ancient and sovereign nation – is finally allowed to come out, to run its own trade policy and set its own tariffs. And most incredibly of all, the whole process will be justiciable by the European Court of Justice – yes, that court that we were all told would cease to have any say in this country,” he added.

The former two-time Mayor of London urged readers to “to savour the full horror of this capitulation,” which he characterised as a downgrade on Britain’s current situation, equivalent to “terms that might be enforced on a colony”.

Johnson then went even further, accusing the Prime Minister — who like most of her Cabinet campaigned for a Remain vote in 2016 — of having “deliberately and flagrantly failed to prepare the UK to walk away from the talks, the better to be able to bludgeon MPs into voting for surrender.”

“This deal, when it comes, must be thrown out wholesale. It is not too late to do better – and the country deserves it,” he pleaded.

Indeed, if Tory Brexiteers and pro-second referendum Remainers like Jo Johnson combine with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party and the Labour opposition to vote down a deal, the only Brexit on the table would be a ‘No Deal’ which commands little support in the largely europhile House of Commons.

How the Prime Minister could square this circle is unclear — and there are rumours that her only plan is to gamble on securing a public mandate in another snap election.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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