Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Why as a Conservative Member, I support Farage's Clean Brexit


A Withdrawal Agreement isn't a managed, amicable departing of ways, it is an unnecessary albatross around the neck of Albion – we must leave without one. Since late 2017, I have concurred with the view that the entire process of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allocates of two years of negotiation between departing member-state with the EU to formulate a withdrawal treaty, is what Dominic Cummings referred to as a 'sham'.

Putting this into context, until 2007, there was no formal mechanism to leave the European Union. The idea of doing so was mostly unthinkable and public opinion across the continent did not support it. The consequences of the mass migration to the West of Europe following the Eastern enlargement had been largely and economically, the West was booming.

However, as the Union moved to become increasingly more federalised and enlarged, Brussels ideologues ingeniously created Article 50 when drafting the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 as a way to manage the crisis of a Member quitting the Union, in a way that was beneficial to Brussels. The need to create something like Article 50 is predicated on the fear of potential 'hissy-fits' by member states, like the United Kingdom, who would likely react badly to the more apparent realities of 'ever closing Union' that were to come.

Such foresight was wise. The British political class and media reacted badly to the Lisbon Treaty, which made Maastricht look like child's play in comparison to the competencies that Lisbon allowed for Brussels to have. In Britain, it was viewed as undemocratic and overreaching, with even the EU-wide ratification process one which didn't take No for an answer. Prime Minister Gordon Brown didn't even show up to sign the Treaty alongside other EU leaders, instead doing so quietly without any cameras present.

Even way before the UKIP machine exploded in the early 2010s, provoking David Cameron to call a referendum, it was the Liberal Democrats in early 2008 after Lisbon's enaction who reacted with fury after their motion in Parliament, which called for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, was not chosen by the Speaker of the time Michael Martin. Ed Davey was so enraged at this anti-democratic decision, he was thrown out of the Chamber. I wonder if they were defending the impartiality of the Speaker so gushingly back then?

The rise of Farage, who is most commonly associated with the British Eurosceptic cause, only came when the EU fell into crisis after crisis following the worldwide financial meltdown. Not before, having only came second in the 2009 European elections. The world after the financial crisis was different, and so was Europe. The effects of Eastern enlargement were now manifest, with Polish suddenly the second most spoken language in the UK. The Eurozone was on the brink of collapse, with Britain contributing to bail outs. Let's not forget the scenes of economic migrants flooding onto the beaches of Greece and Italy as Europeans enjoyed their holidays, that didn't help the pro-EU cause much either. This was a Europe out of control, and out of its depth. This is what did it for Farage.

So how may you ask, is a legal mechanism that gives formal ability for a member-state to withdraw from such pandemonium conducive to keeping the European Union together? It's simple: two years of hell, concluding in awful terms of withdrawal. So bad, that the member-state attempting to leave would be forced to think twice, and hopefully if the technocrats did their job correctly, would pivot into a humiliating U-turn and remain a member. Two birds with one stone - keep the departing member from leaving and deter any others from doing so by transforming the two-year negotiation period into a painful show trial.

This has been proven in the Brexit negotiation process with the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May. Everyone in Europe is happy about it, apart from Britain. Eurosceptics claim it isn't 'Brexity' enough, while the opposition parties argue it is pound-shop membership. Both sides are correct, and both forms of domestic opposition were the aims of the EU when negotiating the deal. The Withdrawal Agreement, as a product of Article 50, isn't designed to be pragmatic or helpful, it's designed to make EU membership the best option. Create vast domestic political opposition, throw the departing country into turmoil and make the idea of leaving seem terrible. The EU's Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier even said himself "I'll have done my job if the exit terms are so bad that, in the end, the British would rather stay than accept them".

How can any serious negotiation, beneficial for both sides take place with such an attitude from the side of the Europeans? The answer is none, and the punitive Withdrawal Agreement is symptomatic of that. The widely hated Irish Backstop, which prevents the UK from leaving with the EU's custom sphere without its permission, is a bringer of many problems and discredits Brexit as an idea. Many of the promises made in the referendum, such as vast global trade deals and the regaining of fishing waters, would be undeliverable with it. How can we organise our own free trade agreements (FTAs) if we do not control our own customs policy? How will we have full control of our fishing waters if in return for a transition trade agreement out of the backstop, the UK is blackmailed into giving access to them?

Such issues aren't even the beginning of the vassalage Britain faces under the agreement. The European Court of Justice would, for potentially an indefinite period, adjudicate on EU-UK issues and any decision by them would have to be implemented by the UK.We would have to hand over £39 billion with no promising of anything, and the dream of transforming our economy into a free and open one would be dead in the water, as we would remain locked into the EU model of fair competition and high regulation. While the removal of the backstop would in theory create an escape hatch for a British government willing enough to use it, the Withdrawal Agreement is so damaging because it does not bring about the most positive aspects of withdrawal that were promoted in the referendum campaign.

Some have argued for a further extension to allow for more negotiation - this is a non-starter. The EU will not move on the withdrawal agreement negotiated nor will they try to find a sensible pragmatic solution, like a free trade area, which would be good for Britain and equally sensible for both. Leaving can simply not be made to be a viable option for the EU. So, an extension is pointless, increases economically harmful uncertainty, of which Britain is hemorrhaging £600m a week on, and only increases the chances of a second referendum.

The only chance the UK has of making a success of Brexit is to leave the European Union without a formal withdrawal agreement. Sounds scary and reckless, but who says we need a treaty to withdraw? The EU. Where do they say it? Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. What is Article 50 for? There you go, the picture is clearer. It's high time the UK stop dancing to the EU's tune in attempting to secure a fresh agreement and leave the EU on October 31st on World Trade Organisation rules. No absurd financial payments, full control of fishing waters, unrestricted ability to negotiation FTAs globally – no obligation to engage in fair competition with our "friends and neighbours". We have to go for it.

Font size: +

Contact us

Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames