Steve Bullock’s epic response, point by point, to Theresa May’s “letter to the nation”.
Dear Theresa May,
Thank you for your letter.
From the very first sentence to the very last, it is a tissue of revisionism, wilful misdirection, false equivalences, and downright lies. You have a lot of bloody gall writing this to me.
That is, of course, assuming that you consider me, a British citizen living in the European Union as qualifying as one of the addressees, one of your “nation”, which I somewhat doubt.
Evidence that you do has, I’m afraid to say, been scant, as has evidence that you consider EU citizens in the UK, or indeed any non-UK citizen, to be part of what you consider to be your nation. As I far as I am concerned though, they are.
“The UK” did not vote to leave the EU. 52% of those who voted, or 37% of those who were eligible to vote did. Two of the four countries of the United Kingdom did not. EU Citizens in the UK were denied a vote, as were most UK citizens in the European Union (despite your Party’s earlier promises).
Your apparently beloved “will of the people” (you might want to look up historical uses of this term) was not the will of the people of Scotland or Northern Ireland, or, for that matter Gibraltar.
It was not the will of the people most immediately impacted by this, who were deliberately and with malice aforethought denied an expression of their will. It was not the will of only a little under half of those who voted in the 2016 Referendum.
You speak of your duty to “honour” the referendum result and secure a brighter future. The duty of the Prime Minister is indeed to act to secure a brighter future for the United Kingdom, by acting in its and its population’s interest. You have not done that.
For there to be a brighter future, which you identify as being your duty to provide, the Brexit deal would need to be better for the UK and the lives of its population than the one it has now. It is not, by any possible measure.
And the referendum which you claim it is your duty to “honour”, as if it were the solemn last wishes of a beloved relative, has now been shown beyond doubt to have been criminally conducted and manipulated, possibly with outside support from those hostile to the UK.
This is, of course, in addition to individuals having to make their decision on the basis of outright, deliberate, proven lies being told to them by public figures who, at the time and since, have been holders of high office, including members of your Government.
We have, you’ll note, only covered the first paragraph of your letter. The second one is no better, but I’ll endeavour to deal with it more quickly. It is, in short, deeply insulting.
You now, now, finally, after 2 years, bring up the interests of those who wish to remain in the European Union. I genuinely do not know how you can bring yourself to.
Since the day you took office, you have actively sought to ignore, belittle, undermine, brush-off, and insult both those who voted Remain, and their views, concerns and advice.
You and your Government have acted with and encouraged suspicion towards us. You have insulted us, calling us Citizens of Nowhere. You have dismissed advice and factual analysis by renowned experts and even your own government’s departments on the grounds they are Remainers.
Don’t start telling us now that this is in our interest. We know it is not. We have told you this, and explained why, and we have provided evidence it is not in our interests, or for that matter the interests of those who voted Leave. You have ignored us and our interests.
We have control of our borders. It is impossible to enter the UK without having your passport checked, aside from across the Northern Ireland/Ireland border, where checks will, thankfully, still not be made.
Even excluding the European Union, the UK has, rightly or wrongly, an immigration system based partly on where people come from. It is based on bilateral agreements between the UK and other countries, which the UK Government, and not the EU, have control of.
Belarussian citizens do not have the same rights to enter and stay in the UK as, for example, Canadian citizens. This has nothing to do with the EU or Freedom of Movement. It is your Government’s free choice.
It is disingenuous and misleading to imply that ending Freedom of Movement changes this, or allows it to be changed where it could not previously be.
It is also disingenuous and misleading to frame the consequences of ending Freedom of Movement solely as taking back control of borders. Freedom of Movement is a reciprocal right, which British citizens will also lose in the EU and the EEA.
You know this though, of course. It will have been in you briefing papers. It is in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It is even on Wikipedia. Choosing to frame it in this way shows little regard for either the rights of British citizens, or for the need for them to be accurately and truthfully informed.
I will not even go into the details of linking the (eventual) end of mandatory UK payments to the EU budget with being able to spend £394 million per week more on the NHS. You surely know this is a deliberate false connection.
Not only has the Chancellor said that most of this will need to be funded from tax increases, but you could have made the decision to do it at any point.
Every independent and credible analysis, including the Government’s own, predicts a reduced tax take as a result of Brexit, reduced further by non-membership of the single market. This is crass, politics, intended to mislead.
On taking back control of laws, it is extremely clear from the Withdrawal Agreement that, on every issue, Britain will face the stark choice between committing to aligning to EU rules, standards, and policies, or face damaging consequences.
The choice between acquiescence and self-harm is not one of a person or country in control. It is a mere miasma of control. A false choice for a country that has backed itself into a corner.
This was inevitable. it is not really your fault. It is a fact of Brexit. However, that you have not been honest with the population about this choice, and even now are not, reflects appallingly on the lack of regard you hold us in.
Britain will not be participating in any EU programmes, including those universally considered beneficial to the UK, unless we agree to follow the rules of them, including unfettered access for EU institutions to those participating in them, and unless the EU decides to permit it.
We will pay the EU at least at-cost for our ability to do so, and we will have little-to no influence in shaping programmes essential to the prosperity of the UK in science, technology, education, the environment, and investment.
As for whether the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) do not work in our interests, the UK Government will need to replace the vast financial support from CAP to farmers, and it is likely that the essential market access the UK fish industry needs will only be available with continued EU access to UK waters.
You claim that the deal also protects things we value. It does not. It is an outright lie that EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU will have their rights protected.
EU citizens that are currently free to live and work without hindrance in Britain will have to pay for the privilege of applying to be permitted to continue to do so to a Home Office that has shown itself repeatedly to be error-prone, and to deport first and question later.
They will have their current right to leave and return to the UK, which is time-unlimited, limited.
British citizens in the European Union will also, in many cases, have to apply to be permitted to continue their lives as they are now, and will lose their current right to move freely between Member States. (incidentally, we are all well aware that the EU27 were well prepared to continue the right to Freedom of Movement for British citizens currently in the EU in return for the UK agreeing to extend the right to return, and that you refused!) Two lost rights for the price of one.
It is abhorent that you would make these false claims having refused, along with your Cabinet Ministers, to even deign to meet the representatives of the3million and British In Europe, while the European Commission have been happy to meet both and others. For shame, Prime Minister.
You and your ministers have repeatedly claimed that frictionless trade will be achieved. This is, as was always known, impossible outside of the Single Market and a Customs Union. Outside of a backstop, this deal rejects both.
A mere free trade area does not therefore protect the many jobs (skilled and unskilled, by the way, if you care...) that rely on integrated supply chains. Any friction and delay is severely damaging, as companies, industry groups and experts have repeatedly informed you.
Security cooperation will indeed continue, despite you having shown a moment of moral weakness by making a veiled threat to withdraw this in you Article 50 letter. It will, however, be harder and less effective in many ways.
And in other things we value, the reach and influence of UK foreign policy will be severely weakened by the end of our participation as a decision maker in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
The UK’s global influence has been enormously amplified by this, as the EU’s unified response to the Skripal case showed. This deal allows only for cooperation on such things as sanctions where the EU27 decides its interests, decided independently of the UK, coincide with ours.
Brexit, and the form of Brexit you have chosen, are directly against the expressed wishes of Scotland and the Scottish Government. Devolved Governments have been systematically ignored, undermined and kept out of this process.
Even if you claim to know the interests of the countries of the UK better than their own people and governments, your Government’s own analysis shows that they will be economically damaged to a disproportionate degree by any Brexit.
The same goes for the already worst-off regions of England. Far from “working for them”, this deal will harm the industries the most precarious rely on. And, as ever, the poorest in society will be harmed the most.
Whatever your letter of promise to Nissan said, if indeed you did actually write one, the future of huge employers such as them is at risk from this Brexit deal.
It is not a deal for a brighter future. While attempting to sign new trade deals, the actual economic value of which are minimal in comparison to our current deal with our largest single, and closest trade partner, we will have to negotiate deals to replace the EU ones we lose.
Brexit has sucked up political attention and the resources of Government like a black hole suck in light. The negotiations of our future relationship with the EU will continue for years, and will do the same.
The Political Declaration leaves all but the top-line questions (and some of those) extremely open, including some of the most controversial questions of benefit versus control.
We know that whatever the eventual outcome, it will weaken, not strengthen our economy. I know you already know this, as you made the same point rather eloquently and forcefully before the referendum, and all evidence since points towards that.
The idea that this Government will now, suddenly, build a country that works for everyone after systematically harming and demeaning the poorest and most vulnerable in society as a matter of policy is barely credible.
No more credible is the idea that the poorest communities that this and the previous government, in which you were a minister, have ignored and underfunded for years are going to share justly in prosperity, even were that prosperity not illusionary.
Prime Minister, Brexit, and specifically you and your Government’s approach to it, have been the most divisive issue in the UK in living memory. Continuing on this appalling, harming path will not bring it together.
Those who you have othered, denigrated and ignored will not get behind your deal, and neither will the Parliament that you have so doggedly looked to undermine and circumvent at every stage.
If reconciliation was truly your goal, you would not have pursued this damn silly thing in this damn silly way. If the ‘Precious Union’ was really a priority, you would not have demonstrated the case for Scottish Independence, which must surely come, so perfectly.
Having worked for over a decade for the UK’s interests in the European Union, I will not support a deal such as this that acts directly against Britain and its population’s interests.
Brexit may happen on 29 March, but it need not. You, yourself, have said in Parliament that the choices are this “Deal, No Deal, or No Brexit.”
For the reasons I have given, I and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of others will continue to work together with no regard for Party divides, and with every ounce of our beings, to ensure that the outcome is No Brexit.
I do not expect you to read this reply to your letter. I gather listening is not your strong point. If it were, you would not have written your letter in the first place.
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s conscent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)