Brexit and the return of sovereignty

The Brexit deal is the end of the beginning by Robert Tombs on Unherd

Boris has succeeded where all others failed by Matthew Goodwin on Unherd

The outcome of the Brexit deal is being interpreted according to where your loyalties lie. Naturally Boris Johnson is seeking to sell this as a success despite what the EU thinks. Hard line Brexiters will find plenty of evidence that this deal is not the key to full independence. No deal is better than a bad deal. Remainers will find the same evidence to show the deal is inferior to full membership. Matthew Goodwin refers to this a declinism – those that talk down the deal as bad for Britain to the point that they do not actually like Britain for the route it has chosen to take. In fact much of the media analysis will focus on our economic self-interest.

Ultimately this is a negotiated agreement that both sides need to some value in having i.e. unfettered access to each other’s markets whilst keeping the EU membership as the premium package and the UK markets as open to global markets. So it is probably unrealistic to expect the UK to be able to tick all the boxes on its wishlist. Criticism from both camps is inevitable without necessarily proving anything. Has Boris achieved enough to justify Brexit.

The departure from Erasmus in higher education is a loss to the UK although the UK will point to its lack of value. The agreement on fishing rights is a win win for both sides on a hotly negotiated area. Financial institutions have a problem with access to Europe for this staff – this is probably the one agreement that Boris will struggle to sell and, despite so many achievements, it could be argued he could have negotiated for a better deal for such a significant sector. The loss of permanent status for overseas ex-pats could also lead to a loss of votes from those having to now have a second home back in Blighty. Maybe some in the EU wanted to punish the UK to set an example to Greece and other populist political parties sympathising with Britain. This is a long way away from the naive message at the beginning that leaving the EU and joining another bloc like EFTA would be straightforward. How frustrating it then became when institutions sided with the EU to undermine UK’s negotiating position.

Who actually matters is the voters who voted for Leave. What they want to see is sovereignty, what Matthew Goodwin calls the restoration of power in our daily lives. This is what Matthew Goodwin `calls the reassertion of popular sovereignty over parliamentary sovereignty. We are in what for many is a unique situation of the majority of people outside of parliament given the opportunity of asking for something that the majority of people inside parliament did not want to give. And Boris, for all his many failings, as Matthew Goodwin points out, has triumphed over Europe, a question for previous Conservative leaders became their downfall. All ready Boris is talking about levelling up in the UK.

The Eurozone, Robert Tombs points out, is a black hole sucking authority away from its member states, whilst solving nothing. The UK would have become a net financial contributor that leave voters saw little value to them. Macron, behaving like a spoilt child and closing the border to spoil the UK’s celebration of the deal will be remembered all over Europe by drivers not returning home for Christmas.

Robert Tombs points to positives such as a return of our fishing rights, our sovereignty from the European court, and our ability to negotiate trade deals around the world without the protectionist nature of EU. But the effect of this will take a long time. Today’s newspaper headlines are only the different camps stating their own arguments.

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