EU Trade Deal: there are no good options left

European and British flags.

I hate 13th December. I really, really do.

On this day in 1984, my Grandma died, way too soon, at the age of 64. I still miss her.

And last year, in the early hours, any hope of avoiding Brexit evaporated as Boris Johnson got a majority that could have enabled him to govern with more wisdom and flexibility from the constraints of the reckless extremes of his party. He chose not to take that chance.

On top of it all, we lost Jo. I’m still not over that. She remains one of the most exceptionally talented people I have ever known. She’s proof that the best people don’t always win in politics.

An election once Jo had had the time to establish herself would, I suspect, have had a very different result.

We are where we are though. And it isn’t fun. 2020 has not excelled itself. A couple of bright spots – the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, to be confirmed by the Electoral College tomorrow, the development of effective vaccines against Covid have not lifted the gloom by much.

Now the dreaded 13th December is the day we enter the final stage of the Brexit drama.

Whatever emerges from the EU negotiations over the next hours is going to be far from good. We’re looking at a catastrophic no deal or a damaging fig leaf of a deal that will hurt our businesses and cost people their jobs and homes. Let’s be clear. The Government is choosing this path. It had better options open to it. When we were gripped in the first wave of Covid, they could have done the responsible thing and requested an extension to the transition period. We’d have voted for it, so would the SNP. Labour probably would and the EU would almost certainly have granted it. The more excitable ERG types on the Conservative benches would have made a lot of noise, but we would have bought ourselves some time and stability.

I’ve always thought that the Brexit agenda was mostly about turning our economy into a low regulation, rights-free zone. This is why they are so resistant to any future improvements in things like environmental standards or workers’ rights. They dress it up as sovereignty, but it’s an oligarch’s charter really.

They manipulated people’s feeling of powerlessness with false promises of taking back control. The truth is that those people at the sharp end, the lowest paid and most vulnerable, will have less control than they had before.

There should be no problem with accepting the EU’s reasonable level playing field requirement in the trade deal. I doubt that there will be any major changes within the next few years anyway. These things take time to get through and would take even longer to actually come into force. If there were any changes, we could debate them and decide whether to accept them or take the consequences.

That we are so close to no deal shouldn’t be a surprise. Remember when Boris brought his deal back last year? He sold it to the ERG lot as no deal in a year’s time. If we end up with no deal, it’s no accident. They planned this all along. This has been a cynical exercise in public manipulation and we should be calling it out loudly.

Reading today’s Sunday Times (£) account of Boris Johnson’s dinner with Ursula Von Der Leyen this week, I felt shame and embarrassment in equal measure.

EU officials have told MEPs that in a 50-minute pre-dinner meeting, attended only by the two principals plus Lord Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator, and Stephanie Riso, von der Leyen’s French political fixer, the prime minister went in “with all guns blazing, urging her to sideline Michel Barnier”, the EU’s French negotiator, calling him “unimaginative” and an “obstacle” to a deal. In this version of events, Johnson also made a joke about how the British and Germans both know “how difficult the French can be”. Von der Leyen made clear that Barnier had all 27 member states behind him.

Yep, he went in there and slagged off the French. He treated the most important negotiation in our country’s history as if it was a Bullingdon Club Dinner. I feel like I want to apologise to our EU friends for the boorish and insulting behaviour of our Prime Minister. These are not the actions of someone who actually wants a deal.

So now ministers are apparently advising supermarkets to start stockpiling food. This is not what people voted for. In 2016, the Sunday Times was pro Brexit. Today’s leader (£) eviscerated the Government over the outcome.

And so we stand on the brink. There are no cabinet heavyweights to warn the prime minister of the dire consequences of taking the UK to the edge of no deal, just yes-men and women who owe their political advancement to him. Nobody is warning of the potentially catastrophic damage to the car industry, the nightmare for many farmers and the potential loss of investment and jobs in large parts of the rest of the economy, or of the fact that a no-deal exit is not only about short-term disruption but also long-term economic pain. Mr Johnson’s assertion that Britain will “prosper mightily” in the event of no deal runs counter to all the evidence, including the government’s own.

There is no good outcome left. Only catastrophe or bad. Heaven help us.

Marina Hyde wrote a searing recap of the lowlights of Brexit this week, which is well worth a read.

We must hope the way to the sunlit uplands is via shit creek – because that’s certainly the direction we took.

Sadly it seems that the Government didn’t even bother to bring a paddle.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Caron Lindsay: Your summary just about says it all, this Prime Minister is an embarrassment to our country, not a surprise to me though, just hope I can keep going long enough to see his demise.!

  • I doubt that the government really wants to leave the existing trading arrangements. They will probably string things out, hoping support for leaving falls to about 35% or less, and then say is this really what we want as a country and call another Referendum of trade not the Union, “just to make sure”, and the two days before Postal Votes go out recommend staying as we are.

  • nigel hunter 13th Dec '20 - 12:57pm

    Options. Turning us into a Tory tax haven for the rich and powerful?
    Drag it out to the last minute NEITHER wanting to be blamed for the disaster?
    Or 35% say it is a disaster, vote to remain ,gets the Tory cabal off the hook and a breathing space to win the 2024 election?
    Any offers?

  • Jane Ann Liston 13th Dec '20 - 1:22pm

    Caron – I sympathise with your feelings about 13th December. For me, the date, being 12 days before Christmas, was when our family put up the tree and decorations.

    It was tragic that we lost Jo, and I hope her political career has only taken a sabbatical. On the other hand, we gained Wendy.

  • Good point about Jo Swinson. The revoke option was not only totally democratic but offered a wonderful opportunity to defuse the ticking timebomb and save the UK.

  • Theakes.I really really hope you are right. Bojo and the brexiteers are stuck between rhetoric and reality. Fear of ERG and Farage will probably pull him to no or thin deal.Reality will now become our ally.Now is the time to go for the Tory jugular.

  • John Marriott 13th Dec '20 - 1:55pm

    A recent article referred to dogs (the canine variety) and puppies to be precise. I seem to recall that, in my youth, some people’s method of stopping their young dogs pooing in the wrong place was to rub their faces in it every time they misbehaved.

    Well, with that in mind, let’s crash out of the EU without a deal and see how it goes. If it really is that bad the desire for a deal (probably largely on EU terms) will be inevitable. I’m sure that Barnier and Co would be willing to oblige. As they say “Try before you buy”, or not, in this case, or, as Nick Lowe famously sang; “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind”.

  • Paul Barker 13th Dec '20 - 2:28pm

    So why are we even considering voting for the Deal, if there is one ?

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head. Brexit is about the few making more and the many having less. It has little to do with Sovereignty.

  • Paul Holmes 13th Dec '20 - 4:20pm

    The Revoke policy was a complete disaster, as was the entire LD Campaign strategy of June – Dec 2019. The then Leader of the Party must take a great deal of responsibility for that.

  • Yes. Andrew George and others warned Revoke was a bad decision -see our position in Cornwall.But now rhetoric will clash with our new ally reality and we must ensure that BoJo takes the blame for failures.

  • There is now a strong arguement for the Lib Dem’s to become the ‘rejoin party’ in a reverse Brexit party sort of way. The Tories think they had problems with the Brexit party but if Brexit becomes really unpopular a reverse position might become very popular in both Tory and Labour seats. It could make for an interesting debate.

  • Yes, I, too, am embarrassed by the clumsy and continuing incompetence of Johnson who wouldn’t recognise the truth if it hit him in the face….. (which ultimately it will, probably sooner than later). Watch out for Tobias Ellwood….. (the former Royal Green Jackets Captain is on manoeuvers).

    Johnson couldn’t even tell the truth about the fact that for a short while he attended the same school (the European School in Brussels) as Ursula von der Leyen. “We went to school together” had to be corrected by Ms von der Leyen, “at different times,”.

    Whatever the future brings (probably succeeding Angela Merkel) Ms von der Leyen is a class act.

    As for Jo Swinson, it all came far too soon for her. I am sorry for her, but politics is a rough old trade. Gaining a bit more experience for a later date would have helped and given her more time to get after those 149 electors. The sudden arrival of all those new M.P. converts flattered to deceive and clouded a few judgements after the Euro elections. And…. was the party professional enough to warn her of the dangers by doing direct polling in East Dunbartonshire ?

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '20 - 2:08pm

    Is a vaccine for Covid-19 an opportunity to make money?
    Does Russia and/or China think there is a need in Brazil and/or Nigeria and/or India?
    Do they want to share their scientific knowledge?
    If so, please join the world, the world may need to be saved, soon.

  • Poor old Spencer Percival, our only PM to be assassinated, simply because a chap reckoned he had damaged his business. Percival’s offences were trivial in comparison with Johnson’s crimes. I am not advising drastic action in Downing Street but revisiting the Treason Acts might not come amiss….

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