I’ve discovered that a more insidious question to which Brexit provides the answer is Tate & Lyle.
Prominent sponsors of the previous Conservative Party Conference, this company seems ostensibly just a public spirited part of British culture – what with all their art galleries…. Regrettably that was much more to do with the profits of nineteenth century slavery. Tate & Lyle, previous employers of David Davis, are now American owned, as this intriguing ‘Daydream Belizers’ article explains:
Tate and Lyle, oddly, neglects to mention either that they have been owned by US sugar giant American Sugar Refining since 2012 or that the ‘EU beet sugar’ they are so upset about is produced – in Norfolk. T&L’s cane sugar isn’t.
Lord Ashcroft and Aaron Banks, paymasters of ‘Leave.EU’ both have long standing links to the sugar industry and to Belize, where much of Tate & Lyle’s sugar cane is now produced. Brexit will be a nice little earner for them all, and, even if they have to retire to Belize, although this was previously British Honduras, the USA is Belize’s number one trading partner.
Still, when funding campaigns, it is fortunate if one of you owns a bank just as Ashcroft does, so it ceases to be surprising that finding enough money to run the Leave.EU campaign was not a problem but spending too much was.
That this group could so overtly promote their own narrow enrichment over the good of the country to which Brexit is happening, and to which they claim allegiance, is pretty shocking.
It is no wonder that there is an array of legal challenges to the Brexit result. The self interests of a few people are, unsurprisingly, not in the interests of the rest of us.
Yet in spite of gross violations of the referendum rules it appears that because the referendum was just advisory, legal challenge is actually more difficult.
‘The Independent’ has reported that the Court of Session in Edinburgh said it was referring the question of whether the UK is able to unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 letter to the European Court of Justice. “If successful, the case would give parliament the power to unilaterally halt Brexit if it feels the outcomes of negotiations are unsuccessful, regardless of whether the government wants it to go ahead.”
As matters currently stand, the Government will submit any Brexit deal which it reaches with the EU to Parliament for approval. If Parliament declines to ratify the deal, the UK will still cease to be a Member State of the EU, but will do so without any agreement in place. The campaigners in this case argue that if they are correct in their interpretation of Article 50, Parliament will have a third option open to it, namely to reject withdrawal and remain part of the EU.
Then there is the UK/EU Challenge (by Sue Wilson, aka Bremain in Spain) where “The case submits that it is irrational for the PM to treat the referendum result as binding which, had it been binding, would be void following the Electoral Commission findings. when Parliament gave the PM power to notify it should not be taken to have dis-applied principles of legality and constitutionality.”
The ‘corrupt and illegal practices’ that the Electoral Commission found, were in breach of the statutory requirements established by and under the EU Referendum Act 2015, as was also other conduct identified by the Information Commissioner (Cambrige Analytica et al).
All these legal challenges must be set against the background of the current legislation which means that we should be, by law, due to leave the institutions of the EU automatically by the action of Article 50 in March 2019. However, actually leaving the customs union or the single market would be likely to be, for all practical purposes, illegal under the The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 para 10/2/b simply because the EU cannot ever have an open border with a country which does not comply with its rules – why ever would they? It goes to the very reason for their existence. It was even why the Brits were so insistent on common rules and a common (single) market in the first place. The UK Parliament has legislated that any alteration to the Irish border must be by agreement with the EU.
The current Brexit, if it happens, oblige us to stay, pay and have no say.
For the avoidance of doubt, The European Union (Withdrawal) Act means that any border in Ireland cannot feature new infrastructure that is a result of the UK leaving the EU and has to be in accordance with an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU.
And all that has to be combined with the WTO’s non-discrimination rules, which means treating one’s trading partners equally.
This means that if Irish widgets are allowed through the EU/Northern Irish border without being checked, but non Irish widgets are checked when they are imported to mainland Britain, then the non Irish widget maker could complain of discrimination. (And meanwhile might choose to ship any dodgy widgets to the UK through Ireland). If the UK was found to be discriminating then it would be either border controls everywhere or no border controls anywhere. Particularly so, as each WTO Member has also to ‘apply common customs procedures and uniform documentation requirements for release and clearance of goods throughout its territory.’ As suggested above it is inconceivable that the EU would tolerate an open border.
So the government has both boxed itself into a corner and rushed down a blind alley. The DUP, themselves ardent Brexiters whilst insisting the UK must remain inviolate, might yet save us from Brexit because, unless Westminster jettisons Northern Ireland into the Atlantic or donates it to the Republic, I don’t believe the UK can properly Brexit at all.
A people’s vote with the people’s more ‘informed consent’ may be May’s only way out.
Provided, of course, that we see off the charlatans and the vote is to stay…..