Why is Theresa May lying to try getting her deal through?

21 Feb 2019
The Brexit negotiations are reaching a crucial phase. For all the key political players this is the end game. There have also recently been a slew of job loss and closure announcements from major manufacturers like, Honda, Nissan and Ford make it clear that this is not “Project Fear”.

This is a succession of real time events that we actually need to be frightened of.

Outside of peace and war, discussions hardly get more serious than these. So it is extremely important that political leaders are honest in this debate.  How else can the public make informed judgements? Sadly, the Prime Minister has got into the habit of telling half-truths and complete untruths about Brexit.

She has posed false choices ‘my deal or no deal’ She repeats the same half-truths “‘there are substantive discussion with the EU on the backstop”.  And she has resorted to complete distortion on the crucial matter of the customs union.

In her recent letter to the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, the Prime Minister berated him for his consistent demand that for membership of a customs union. And it is worth mentioning that it is a demand which the support of both business and trade unions. The Prime Minister writes: “As I explained when we met, the Political Declaration explicitly provides for the benefits of a customs union - no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors and no checks on rules of origin (paragraph 23)”.

This would be reassuring if it were true.  The only trouble is, that this is a false and misleading assertion. The Prime Minister has misquoted the Political Declaration, and the misquotation helps her argument.

Here is paragraph 23 of the Political Declaration in full: “The economic partnership should ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors, with ambitious customs arrangements that, in line with the Parties' objectives and principles above, build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement which obviates the need for checks on rules of origin.”

What the Prime Minister has done is to claim that the Political Declaration ‘provides for the benefits’ of a customs union - when it does nothing of the sort. It is clear when paragraph 23 is quoted in its entirety that it is a hope or wish that this is the case. ‘Should’ is the crucial word. 

It is an aspiration, and not something that will necessarily follow at all. It is also accompanied (for example in paragraph 26) by all sorts of wishes based for ‘facilitative arrangements and technologies’ which have so far proved elusive if not illusory in relation to the backstop in Ireland.

Words matter. They particularly matter in Treaties and Political Declarations. The Withdrawal Agreement, widely known as ‘May’s deal’ clearly sets out the objective of leaving both the customs union and the Single Market. Leaving them both are part of the Prime Minister’s many red lines.

The Prime Minister’s claims on the Political Declaration are false.  They are an attempt to obscure the decisive difference between her deal and Jeremy Corbyn’s policy.

Jeremy Corbyn is demanding that our economy is in a customs union and the closest possible relationship with the Single Market. The Prime Minister is willing to destroy tens of thousands of jobs and lower living standards as workers at Nissan, Ford and Honda are finding out. And she is willing to distort the truth to do so.


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