Boris Johnson theses backstop letter tusk
European Union

Boris Johnson nails his Brexit Theses to the door of Brussels Cathedral

As we countdown to 31st October, the date upon which the UK is set to leave the European Union; the day which happens to be by happy coincidence (if not divine appointment) Reformation Day throughout Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has nailed his 95 three Brexit Theses to the door of Brussels Cathedral (or the office of the President of the European Council). And Boris Johnson really couldn’t be any clearer:

boris backstop letter tusk

The backstop isn’t simply anti-democratic, but unconstitutional: Parliament cannot bind its successors. It is really quite astonishing that Theresa May’s ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ (aka the ‘deal’) ever entertained a notion of sovereignty-nullification. The mantra of the EU Referendum 2016 was ‘Take Back Control’, but quite how that was to be reified by this new UK-EU treaty which could potentially bind us in perpetuity to EU tariffs and regulations and subject to the judgments of the European Court of Justice (which is bound by legal obligation toward ‘ever closer union’) is something of a mystery. Theresa May’s ‘Withdrawal Agreement’, to which the backstop was intrinsic and inseparable, would leave the UK with less control than we had as EU members. That is patently unacceptable to Boris Johnson, and so it has to go.

That is to say, Theresa May’s ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ is dead. Not just as dead as a dodo or Monty Python’s parrot, but as dead as the Wicked Witch of the East; that is, morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead.

If the EU responds to Boris Johnson’s protestations with assertions of immutability and infallible dogma, then the UK will have no choice but to leave the EU with ‘no deal’ (that is, a clean, global Brexit on WTO terms). This is anathema to some:

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how so many eminent theologians and not-so-eminent clergy believe that the EU’s understanding and expressions of justice and charity should trump national democracy; and that any crisis in ephemeral expressions of national democracy is a price worth for the preservation of EU notions of justice and charity. It is almost as though they believe ‘God created Europe’ (for which, read: ‘God created the European Union’), and this divine sanction is unquestionable: supranational governance is intrinsic to the EU Magisterium; the UK must be subject to the Divine Right of EU Guardians.

There is nothing new under the sun. We have been here before, as the late Peter (Lord) Shore observed in his book Separate Ways: “..the EU Commission behaves like a priestly caste – similar to what it must have been in pre-Reformation days, when the Bible was in Latin, not English; the Pope, his cardinals and bishops decided the content of canon law and the message came down to the laymen, only when the Latin text was translated into the vernacular by the dutiful parish priest”. It is the priestly caste which expounds its divine revelation to the ignorant laity: it is the EU Guardians who defend all Treaty Truth with appeals to a higher source of knowledge; theophanies of enlightenment in which are manifest all mysteries of thinking and knowing. And our task is to be humble and submit to those whom God has chosen and anointed.

There is only one response to that, which Margaret Thatcher once expressed when confronted with the EU dream of empire: “No, no, no.” To adapt the words of Harold MacMillan, we have not overthrown the Divine Right of Kings to fall down for the Divine Right of EU Guardians. Either the backstop goes, or we leave the EU with ‘no deal’ (that is, a clean, global Brexit on WTO terms). Reformation Day calls.