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Nobody is talking about leaving the single market


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"Daniel Hannan was an MEP from 1999 to 2020. He is cerebral, softly spoken, eloquent and pleasant, a kind of slow person's Matthew Parris or Evan Davis. Many credit him as founder of the European Research Group, the band of Brexit ultras - some now in government - who for two years were so busy voting against their own side that they never got round to researching anything except, in Mark Francois' case, how much beer the human stomach can accommodate.


Don't trust him. Don't believe him.


Hannan was also the one who solicited votes in the EU Referendum by saying, "Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the Single Market" when they - and he - obviously were.


Lying is a bad way to solicit votes. Hannan is lucky: he's now in the unelected Lords, where he can join people like Claire Fox in lecturing us about democracy: he doesn't have to lie any more.


But old habits die hard.


Yesterday Hannan wrote an article in 'Conservative Home'. It was about his fellow unelected technocrat Lord Frost's Lisbon speech and called on the UK to repudiate the EU Treaty he signed just a few months ago. But Hannan spent less time defending Frost than attacking those who, quite reasonably, want to know why he boasted about negotiating an "excellent" EU Deal, when in fact he was either too dim to see how crap it was or knew it was crap but had no intention of honouring it - neither of which looks good.


According to Hannan, such people - and most governments, organisations, commentators and bemused observers around the world - are petulant "Euro-zealots".


Let's nail that one straight away. Assuming that because zealots occupy one side of a debate their opponents must be zealots too is generally silly but particularly so in Brexit's case. I, for one, have never been zealous about the EU. I just thought being in it was much better for my country and my continent and the wider world than leaving it. Also I didn't like being lied to about it - as Hannon did. And anyway, zealots tend not to vote for the status quo. In short, extremism, bigotry and thuggishness are pretty well all on one side, and that Dan Hannon is a zealot doesn't make me one.


He lists some of the things we say: “Well, you signed it!”; “Should’ve thought of that before!”; "Didn’t you read it before you signed?” That all sounds about right.


Hannan claims such comments show unwillingness to solve the Treaty's problems, especially the Northern Irish Protocol. He says the EU - and by implication the rest of us - just want to teach us [brexiters?] a lesson. They - and we - want "a visible price for Brexit". That price is crisis in Northern Ireland.


This is nuts. Hannan is trying to recast hard Brexiters' indolence, lack of foresight and their ideological willingness to threaten Irish peace as their critics' fault. He and his fellow zealots lied about not leaving the Single Market to get Brexit over the line. Then ... they took us out of the Single Market after all, thus creating the very problem in Ireland that Hannan blames us for because we point it out to him.


He wants us to be more positive? To propose solutions to the Irish problem and not just observe how stupid (or deceitful) he, Frost and others have been? OK, fine, here's mine: rejoin the Single Market and Customs Union! Better still, rejoin the EU, before you wreak any more damage, you fool.


Hannan keeps digging: "No one in Northern Ireland is pro-Protocol." The only possible answer to that - I'm sorry! - is "So why did you sign it, then?" Didn't you ASK anyone beforehand? And if you did, didn't they tell you? And if they did, why did you agree it? Or did you - as fellow professional liar Dominic Cummings says - always intend to dump it? Whichever it is, don't blame anyone else for lack of concern about Northern Ireland. And if it's the last, BOY are you for it: which country out there will ever trust you again?


Hannan then starts eating his own tail:


"Most treaties are now defunct," he writes. "Where, now, is the Triple Alliance ... the 1914 Bryan-Chamorro Treaty ... the Warsaw Pact? ... the Peace of Callias between the Delian League and Achaemenid Persia in the fifth century BC."


I think he was just being a smart-arse with that last one. He's spent so long playing footsie with Rees-Mogg that there's been some worrying interchange of Ponce Molecules [cf de Selby in Flann O'Brien's 'The Dalkey Archive': two can be a smart-arse, Dan]. The result? Enlisting a dead treaty signed two and a half millennia ago to justify ratting on one of a few months' standing that you're on record as calling "excellent". Don't be so bloody silly.


Hannan even uses the Irish Free State's divestment (over three decades, mind) of obligations taken on "under duress" in the 1921 treaty with Britain as a template, claiming - like Frost - that the UK's hand was forced. Ignoring the identical actions of his own ERG, he blames Remainer MPs for doing their constitutional duty as representatives by refusing to vote against what they considered the country's best interests. This he calls "working with Brussels to sabotage Brexit", for the Protocol was agreed in “a moment of EU overreach when the UK’s negotiating hand was tied”.


NO: once Hannan and his cronies forced May into a hard Brexit, Northern Ireland was always going to be the barbed wire upon which their tweeds would snag. And the EU offered an extension of the transition period, within which further negotiation could have happened. The UK spurned it. The "duress" was of our making.


Isn't it funny how "holding all the cards" becomes bullying and "over-reach" when the other side wears the Lederhosen?"


"We might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb," Hannan concludes, "abrogate the whole deal and replace it with something more workable ... The sooner we act, the better."


Now THERE's zealotry! Brexit was always about the zealots, who would only really show their hand once the hardest possible exit was won, and by whatever means they had. Death or glory! And if the glory bit eludes us, just the death, then.


Götterdämmerung was nothing like this.

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