While the Tory front-runner refuses to debate his Brexit policies in public, his own colleagues are rightly tearing them apart.
The more scrutiny that is applied to Boris Johnson, the more threadbare and tawdry his offer to the 0.25 per cent of the country who have a vote in picking the Prime Minister is seen to be.
Today we can see the dishonest core of Boris Johnson’s Brexit stance very clearly. His campaign are still circulating a video in which he says that he will seek to cherry pick from the Withdrawal Agreement and use the transition period it offers to secure an alternative to the Irish backstop.
But every informed Conservative figure from David Lidington to Rory Stewart – even Liam Fox – has dismissed the idea as wrong, or worse.
Nor is there any reasonable basis to expect that another myth peddled by Boris Johnson – that there can be a two-year standstill under Article 24 of the World Trade Organisation’s GATT treaty – will fly.
Instead, the advocates of a hard Brexit should focus on Article 1 of the GATT, because that outlines the cold, hard legal reality of what No Deal would mean for trade.
It mandates that if we crash out with No Deal and leave our borders open in Ireland or anywhere else to EU-trade, we have to offer the same terms – on both tariffs and product safety checks – to every other GATT signatory. That’s the vast majority of countries in the world.
Donald Trump wouldn’t have to negotiate a trade deal to get chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves: we’d have flung the door wide open. The other legal alternative – a hard border with WTO standard tariffs -would be an attack on the living standards of every family in the country as import duties send prices soaring and jobs are destroyed as exports to our largest market shoot up in cost overnight. [The Centre for Economic Performance estimates that No Deal under WTO rules would reduce the UK’s trade with the EU by 40% over a decade.]
It is no wonder more and more Conservative MPs are making it clear that whether he wins the leadership election or not, Boris Johnson will not be allowed to get away with imposing a destructive No Deal on the people.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood has become the latest refusenik, telling the BBC: “I think a dozen or so members of Parliament would be on our side, would be voting against supporting a no deal, and that would include ministers as well as backbenchers.”
Boris Johnson and his supporters need to face the facts – there is no majority in Parliament for No Deal or for any form of Brexit. The only democratic route out of the crisis is to give the people back the final say.
Anna Turley is Labour MP for Redcar and a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign.
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