Lord Kerslake Kt., formerly Head of the Home Civil Service will, alongside Lord Kerr GCMG, former Head of the Diplomatic Service, today (Friday) warn the Brexit deal provides no clarity about the UK’s future relationship with Europe and will only ensure a "never-ending nightmare" if Brexit happens.
Their intervention, at a People’s Vote press conference this morning, underlines growing concern in Whitehall and across civil society about the lack of clarity in a political declaration that was once supposed to set out the UK’s long-term relationship with its closest neighbours and biggest trading partner.
Launching a new report by the People's Vote campaign Lord Kerslake will call for an extension of Article 50 and urge senior figures in positions of public authority to be honest with the public about the risks of leaving without any clarity or certainty about the future.
The former heads of the two branches of Britain’s civil service will warn Britain is heading for a Blindfold Brexit that will settle none of the big questions which have split the country for the last two years, and which will also leave us economically weaker, less influential and potentially under threat from serious organised crime and terrorism.
Lord Kerslake is expected to say:
“There were once hopes, wildly exaggerated, that Brexit would be some sort of dreamland. But it is now clear it will not be an awakening for our country. Instead, it threatens to turn into a never-ending nightmare with no clarity and no closure for a decade to come.
“Brexit will become like a bad remake of Groundhog Day with the country waking each morning not to ‘I got you babe’ but the latest reports from an endless low-intensity political civil war. If – like me – you have found the last two years of political debate by turns depressing, dis-spiriting, infuriating and plain boring – the next decade will just be more and more of the same.
Lord Kerr is expected to say:
“To Leave on the basis of Mrs May’s deal would be a leap in the dark. No-one knows where we’d end up. The next negotiation would take longer, and our hand would be weaker. The only certainty would be continuing uncertainty.”
Lord Kerslake will add:
“There are three Brexit fallacies being perpetrated at the moment by the government.
“Firstly, that a no deal Brexit is like an ‘act of god’ like flooding. It is perfectly possible to prevent it happening if the government acts now. Parliament has already signalled that it would support this as has the EU. The failure to do so is creating great damage and distress.
“Secondly, that Brexit can be safely delivered by 29 March. Any serious analysis shows that the delay in getting an agreement means we are simply not ready. There is not enough time now even to deal with the required legislation.
“Thirdly, that completing a deal now will bring closure to Brexit. In reality, it will just be the start of another round of equally contentious and pressured negotiations.
“If the government aren’t willing to level with the British people on these issues, then others in authority must do so. There is precedent here. The intervention by Simon Stevens in the NHS funding debate is a good example. In these very dangerous times, it is not sufficient to just speak truth unto power. They also need to speak truth to the British people.”
The report examines nine aspects of the Political Declaration:
- Goods Trade with Europe – where People’s Vote warn that the UK side is still to formulate its objectives, the July 2018 Chequers proposal having died a death as long ago as last autumn.
- Services Trade with Europe – where the report warns that hopes of an extensive service trade deal are almost certainly going to be dashed as a result of pre-existing EU commitments in third-country trade deals
- Security – where the report notes that the Government are already scaling back on hopes of extensive security co-operation
- Foreign Policy – where the UK will be reduced to an occasionally consulted friendly state rather than having any significant influence
- Immigration – where the UK’s stated ambition of ending free movement will have to be traded off with its desire to access the Single Market.
- Citizens’ Rights – Where British citizens are set to lose certainty and powerful legal recourse.
- Trade Beyond Europe – Where the level of freedom Britain will enjoy is completely clouded by the desire to maintain strong trading relations with the EU.
- Fisheries – Where despite all the symbolism it seems certain Britain will have to trade sea access for market access.
- Agriculture – Where British farmers who might hope for easy access to both European and world markets in this most protected of sectors are surely set for disappointment.
Notes to Editors