The following is an extract from an article which first appeared in full in the Telegraph online on 27 July 2019 under the headline, “Why I rejected the offer of a Ministerial post in Boris Johnson’s glittering new government”: bit.ly/NoJobBetterThanABadJob.
We urgently need to correct some vital structural problems in our negotiations. The restoration of Cabinet collective responsibility is the first step. Long may it last.
Of course, Boris has fixed the problem of our restrictive over-interpretation of the duty of sincere cooperation which has shackled officials and prevented negotiation: as a departing member state, the UK is under no obligations to the EU over the deals to come into force after we have left.
Next, we must operate a global trade strategy centered on the department established for the purpose. Liz Truss and our expert negotiator Crawford Falconer must be in charge of the EU trade negotiation within our overall approach, engaging our allies and leading the world into a much-needed new era of free trade, especially in services where we have a comparative advantage.
We must stop behaving as if we are on the same side of the negotiating table as the EU, accepting their interpretation and demands as immutable poles to which we must adjust as supplicants. Of course, we must hear and respect the Commission’s views, but as a well-prepared equal, not a fearful subordinate, arguing with ourselves and relying, stupidly, on their goodwill.
It is time to ask for what we need and mobilise our allies, tabling legal text to take control of these negotiations. We should act with speed and agility, out-manoeuvering the slow and clumsy EU, while promoting our mutual best interests. Acts of devasting idiocy by Cabinet members to undermine our negotiating leverage at critical times, say, by taking no-deal off the table, must be put behind us.
Beyond these obvious problems, some issues are more subtle. We should never have tried to engage member states’ self-interest before taking the customs union off the table. Why would they break from a hard line leading towards it? Why would they move on the backstop if we were not clear what we would be forced to do on tariffs and quotas in the event of intransigence? Too often, matters have been seen as merely “technical” – that is, administrative – when such things often have a political dimension which must be handled politically, like acceding to the Common Transit Convention to help solve the Irish border issue.
It’s time to get out there in the world, making the case in foreign capitals for our negotiating objectives of a free-trading, open and liberal Britain which respects the Good Friday Agreement and the rights of our partners. It’s time for relentless clarity, absolute resolve and a warm hand of friendship. From the back-benches, that is what I am backing Boris to deliver.