My letter to the Attorney General about the draft “Withdrawal” Treaty

The Attorney General raised with me the question of a reply to my letter when I bumped into him in Parliament this week. He wanted to tell me they are planning a reply. He also said that as my letter raises policy issues as well as legal ones it might be the Brexit Secretary who replies. It was clearly on his mind as I did not raise the matter.

I said I did not mind who replied on behalf of the government. I take the long delay in replying to mean the government is finding it difficult to answer my points in a way which puts a better gloss on the “Delay our exit and take away our powers” Agreement we are talking about. The more people who read the critique of the Agreement the better.


  1. Pominoz
    May 10, 2019

    Sir John,

    Thanks so much for the update on the situation. At least it keeps quiet those few who write who keep suggesting you have forgotten the matter.

    Over here, we do not have access to live Biased Broadcasting Corporation programmes. I have, however, just viewed Part 1 of ‘Brexit: Behind Closed Doors’ via Youtube. Surprised the BBC showed it at all, but Channel 4 is better than nothing.

    What a revelation. This should be seen by the whole UK population – Leavers or Remainers. It certainly reveals why it is imperative to get out. Quickly, Cleanly and Completely. It also shows the total arrogance of the EU negotiation team and their utter contempt for those on the UK side. The comment regarding Olly Robbins, towards the end, is particularly poignant.

    Our PM is shown in the light expected by all who genuinely want a proper Brexit -incompetent, and even the EU negotiators say they cannot trust her. I see she has twisted the 1922 Committee around her finger once again and has delayed any move to kick her out for a further week. During this time, no doubt, she will come forward with more dirty tricks to keep us locked into the EU.

    Please see her off, once and for all, Sir John – and do it immediately before she can inflict more damage in pursuit of her blinkered, self-serving ambitions.

    1. Mike Stallard
      May 10, 2019

      Double uptick for this excellent comment!

    2. matthu
      May 10, 2019

      (It was BBC 4 and not Channel 4. Well worth watching.)

      1. Pominoz
        May 10, 2019

        Sorry Matthu. Ignorant UK expat here in Aussie.

    3. Know-Dice
      May 10, 2019

      Haven’t seen the second part yet, but it shows clearly the EU’s contempt towards the UK.

      David Davis certainly was “stabbed in the back” by Mrs May and her style of non-negotiating fell straight in to Barnier’s & Verhofstadt’s laps…

  2. Mark B
    May 10, 2019

    Good morning

    Well done and thank you .

    . . . the government is finding it difficult to answer my points . . .

    I’d say !

    Alternatively they are delaying it because to answer it would open a can of worms which would be embarrassing.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Ian wragg
    May 10, 2019

    Lies, lies and more lies from the AG. It will be answered after the 4th vote on the WA. It will be very vague.

    1. Lifelogic
      May 10, 2019

      Sounds rather likely. It seems Gavin Esler who is standing for the Change UK party, thinks the following: ‘TV news must stop giving airtime to the “village idiots” of Brexit — the dubious right-wing supposed “thinktanks” and pseudo-experts among ERG MPs who simply haven’t a clue what the implications of Brexit truly are.’

      I suppose nearly all the lefty, pro EU dopes at the BBC think like this.

      By the way Gavin, Gove did not say he had “had enough of experts”. He said “I think the people in this country have had enough of experts, with organizations from acronyms ……saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.

      1. Richard1
        May 10, 2019

        It is no surprise that that a former senior BBC journalist is an ardent remainer, but revealing that he thinks those opposed to his views should simply be shut out of public debate.

        1. Lifelogic
          May 10, 2019

          They largely are on the BBC already. As are climate realists.

          1. Lifelogic
            May 10, 2019

            And real economists seem to be banned too, other than lefty, magic money tree ones.

    2. Ian wragg
      May 10, 2019

      Signing the WA binds us irrevocably in the EU
      All that is left is agreeing FoM to placate the Germans, full access to our fishing grounds to suit the French and joint sovereignty over Gibraltar to get the Spanish onside.
      Game set and match to the Remainiacs.

  4. Everhopeful
    May 10, 2019

    What a dreadful position the Tory govt. has got itself ( and the country) into.
    All through trying to destroy UKIP and believing the majority would vote Remain.
    Now the party is teetering on the brink, saddled with a PM who is shoving them over that brink.
    Which way to turn? Get rid of her and rock the already sinking boat?
    Which MP would even WANT to assume her tainted mantle now? ( Well except Corbyn obviously).
    Oh WHAT a tangled web…no wonder govt. has no idea how to reply to sane criticism.

  5. Adam
    May 10, 2019

    The letter is effective. Facts exposed in the right place shine a bright light of truth to reveal what is wrong.

  6. Dominic
    May 10, 2019

    We admire your determination and efforts but it just isn’t enough any more. We don’t need another letter. We don’t need another vacuous, empty government reply to a backbench query.

    What we need are more Eurosceptic MPs in the Commons that aren’t aligned to the Tories and Labour. That is the only way to smash this duopolistic scam that is endangering our nation, our freedoms and our liberties

    It is disturbing to see both leaders talking up restrictions on freedom of expression. It is evident that both are working together to taint, tarnish, demonise and de-legitimise discussion surrounding nationhood, immigration and sovereign democracy.

    The environment is one of Germany in the 1930’s in which the media and the freedoms of people were slowly targeted, diminished and extinguished

    It is unacceptable and utterly abhorrent that Brexit voters are continually demonised by May and Corbyn. Maybe you should compose a letter to the PM about this vile process that is being directed at a significant proportion of the British people?

    Reply I do vote against the Agreement and all efforts to thwart or delay Brexit

    1. Glenn Vaughan
      May 10, 2019

      Dominic (formerly known as “Duncan”)

      Instead of bellyaching daily about Corbyn and May (we don’t need you to tell us they are both useless) do something constructive by voting for the Brexit Party on May 23rd.

      It is the only party which commits to taking the UK out of the reviled European Union so I suggest you accept the death of the Conservative party and move on by making your vote count on behalf of this country.

    2. Richard1
      May 10, 2019

      It’s really very silly to compare the UK today with Germany in the 1930s. Let’s try to keep debate rational.

      1. L Jones
        May 10, 2019

        ”’Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
        I don’t think Dominic was being at all irrational. These things should be considered and not dismissed with ”it could never happen again”. There are certainly more ways of making it happen.

  7. Oggy
    May 10, 2019

    Turd and polishing are words that come to mind.

  8. Captain Peacock
    May 10, 2019

    Iv just watched Nigel Farage on Question Time this is the person we need as PM of this country not that appeaser May.

    1. Julie Dyson
      May 10, 2019

      You’re not wrong. The only way they can push through that awful WA is to make the end result even worse for Britain by acceding to Labour’s demands, which for the dwindling Conservative voters would be the absolute last straw. This means it’s very likely the whole mess will just go on and on, with no agreement reached and no clear majority in the HoC for anything.

      Enter the original Mr Marmite — because, love him or hate, boy do we need him. The fear on the QT panel was palpable (let’s drag up that 3-year-old poster to discredit him, while completely glossing over our own even worse exaggerations, sheer hypocrisies and outright lies) and if anything will make them get their act together and finally go WTO, it will be to do so before the Brexit Party have chance to take that decision away from them. Nothing short of WTO will stop TBP now.

      1. Barbara Castle
        May 11, 2019

        Very true, Julie, however, it would still leave a Parliament stuffed to the rafters with Incompetents. How much more will be given away when “negotiating” a trade deal? There is no trust in the abilities of Parliament as a whole.

    2. Caterpillar
      May 10, 2019

      Captain Peacock,

      Sadly Mr Rees- Mogg is reported as out in Wales saying that a vote for the Brexit Party is a wasted vote and to vote Conservative. This is a somewhat preposterous position to take for someone wanting ro.leave the EU. If the Conservatives get UK out quickly on WTO terms then no representation will be needed in EU – the only way to send this message is by voting Brexit Party. Mr Rees-Mogg is very disappointing on this.

    3. Richard1
      May 10, 2019

      I thought his performance was weak. It’s amazing he couldn’t answer a relatively simple question about trade arrangements under WTO rules after all this time!

      1. William1995
        May 10, 2019

        A quick Google reveals Mauritania, with GDP $4.5 bn, is the only member of the WTO that has no trade deals. I do not think that Mr Farage not being a walking search engine constitutes a weak performance. The question was somewhat meaningless. Obviously Countries outside the EU have trade deals. The point of WTO is that it facilitates the formation of these trade deals. In fact, we should take it as a good sign that there is only one small WTO Country that has not been able to sign any trade deals, as it suggests signing these deals must actually be quite easy.

        1. Richard1
          May 10, 2019

          the point is this is a frequent trick question from continuity remain and farage ought to know the answer. the other simple question was why dont we have any trade deals already. farage said because liam fox is useless. wrong answer – whatever you think of fox. the answer is you cant sign, or even negotiate, trade deals while in the EU.

          When leading figures from leave cant address fundamental and very simple questions you wonder whether we might better just stay in as we simply cant source politicians capable of governing an independent country!

          1. William1995
            May 10, 2019

            Yes I was puzzled by that answer from Farage about Fox. He himself has pointed out many times before that you can’t sign trade deals whilst in the EU.

      2. Al
        May 10, 2019

        Sadly Ms. May has not done much better at answering basic questions (especially those of Sir Bill Cash and Andrea Jenkyns), and our host can confirm that the office of the AG has proved to have similar difficulty responding to his letter re: the Withdrawal Agreement in a timely manner.

        Compared to the government’s and CCHQ’s abilities to provide non-answers, I doubt Farage can be much worse.

    4. Peter
      May 10, 2019

      Yes I watched Question Time too because Farage was on. Added bonus was Pantomime Dame Soubry and Amber Rudd for the opponents. Nobody mentioned that Soubry only joined Continuity Remain before she was pushed out of the Conservative party.

      The young woman who was switching from Tory to Brexit party was the best of the audience. Never heard of the lightweight Labour Shadow spokesman.

      Farage is able to get his points across very well. Question Time when it selects Leave minded panellists often chooses people like Charles Moore who make sound points but are journalists more suited to the written word than the spoken word.

  9. Nigl
    May 10, 2019

    Good. Obviously he, or one of his minions, reads your blog and realises the anger and cynicism the government’s failure to address the issues, generates.

    I see that your Euro election leaflet claims you are the only Brexit party, repeats the ‘lies’ that the proposed agreement takes back control of money, borders, etc leaves the Fisheries and Common Ag policies, threatens us with Corbyn and Farage, with May at the helm, do I care and indirectly blames you saying that 90% of Tory MPs voted for it.

    No mention of a customs union.

    That of course is because they want to remain, so voting for this deal achieves that whilst claiming they are respecting the democratic vote. Only one minor problem, the public realises this is a total deceit and has trashed you at the polls and will continue to do so.

    Let’s see how many of the 90%, especially those with small majorities, continue to think the deal is a good idea after the Euro and Peterborough results and feel the hot breath of Farages candidates.

    Keep at it sir, this is too important to lose.

    Reply I have not issued any Euro election leaflet and was not of course consulted about the Conservative one

    1. Nig l
      May 10, 2019

      Sorry. Didn’t mean to imply it was your personal one.

    2. James Bertram
      May 10, 2019

      And my letter to the local newspaper (sent yesterday):

      ‘European Election Leaflet – Conservatives
      I have just received the Conservative European Election leaflet. It has to be the most dishonest material to ever arrive through my letter box. In other spheres of life there would be some body to report it to – Trading Standards, Advertising Standards Authority, Serious Fraud Office – but not for political literature, it would seem. Why?’

      I am glad you have had nothing to do with this charade, Sir John.
      You need to have a stern word with CCHQ over issuing these embarrassing deceits.

      1. Know-Dice
        May 10, 2019

        And a slightly off side comment.

        I notice that the Lib Dems are targeting younger voters by direct mail.

        How do I know this… Our 20 year old was the only one in our household that received this missive.

  10. agricola
    May 10, 2019

    Remove May, elect a new Leave PM with a Leave Cabinet, then depart the EU on WTO terms offering a free trade agreement on goods and services. Edit the WA and offer those items of benefit to both sides for the smooth running of a future UK/EU relationship containing no legal or political umbelicals. Keep it simple.

    If as we have seen May can do as she pleases as PM there should be no problem for a future PM and Cabinet. No more pissing about, get it done.

  11. Caterpillar
    May 10, 2019

    It is worrying, though not surprising, that answers are not immediately available.

  12. James1
    May 10, 2019

    Love your post. Off topic, I see there is a plan now to “re-freeze the poles”. How long before we are confronted by hair-brained tax proposals to prevent global cooling?

    1. agricola
      May 10, 2019

      Pertinent, how long do we give airtime to these scientific fruit cakes.

      The con is to lump climate change with how we treat the environment. Climate change is down to the Sun. It is fatuous for these Canutes to think we have the means to counter it’s unpredictable cycles. All we can do is try to mitigate them.

      The environment is in man’s hands. We pollute the rivers and sea. We kill elephants for ivory, and rhinos for their none existent medicinal properties. We destroy trolical forests for wood and to create agricultural space. We leap to electrify everything while failing to generate it. We deny ourselves natural gas while assuaging nimbyism. We deny ourselves the internal combustion engine because we deny engineering solutions to it’s emmissions, mostly led by ignorant populist politicians. Finally there is our desire to reproduce at unsustainable rates. Disease and crop failure contained this in the past, but less so now. Sort out our impact on the environment and there may be a climate change bonus, but it will be small. The real benefit is a healhier World to live in.

      It is a situation that needs to be answered by science and engineering, not by the great unwashed would be yurt dwellers of Westminster Bridge

  13. A David H
    May 10, 2019

    Dear Surgeon,

    I was pleased to hear that you had been up-graded from ‘Doctor’ Redwood, to ‘Surgeon.’ Please, continue with your invaluable efforts.

  14. nhsgp
    May 10, 2019

    It’s simple. Add an amendment. Insist that there is a combined spending and tax bill to pay all the costs of May’s WA.

    Note, its all the costs. That means a court case can force the big costs, subsidies, tariffs and regulations costs to be included

    Will remainers and Labour vote for massive austerity [80 bn a year and 100 bn one off] to get May’s deal through? Clearly not.

    It’s because they are voting out of ignorance.

    That screws the deal completely and we get a clean brexit.

  15. Stuart Beaker
    May 10, 2019

    Thank you very much for your unswerving efforts. I do wonder though, whether you will continue to consider it is worth the candle. You are up against an apparently unstoppable establishment which seems hell-bent on blocking all internal dissent from genuine conservatives like yourself. There is a central group of place-men in critical positions of control, and all in lock-step with Mrs May. How do you expect to derail what has in effect been a long-planned coup within the party, right at the point where its intentions are coming to fruition? You, and your few fellow dissenters, are in a position approaching internal exile – how can reason prevail against those who no longer even pay lip-service to it?
    Good luck, from someone outside the party, looking in in horror.

  16. L Jones
    May 10, 2019

    There was a very interesting letter from a ”G Cox” in the Daily Telegraph yesterday.
    Not the same person, surely! Well worth a read!

  17. ukretired123
    May 10, 2019

    After 4 English football teams in the European Cup finals we now expect a full British Brexit historic year too.

  18. El C
    May 10, 2019

    Thanks, John. Has anyone asked the PM if she has already signed the WA without gaining approval of parliament?

    Reply We are told it is unsigned.

  19. Gareth Warren
    May 10, 2019

    I wish here the government would take the approach Mr Gladstone had to Joseph Chamberlains questions regarding the proposals for a devolved Ireland. The questions were clear, as were yours, and Mr Gladstones replies were short and clear.

    Of course, I would expect Mrs May at least to be well aware of the result of such honesty as Mr Chamberlain resigned from government and left the liberal party over it, breaking it. It was the right thing to do as the proposal was unworkable.

    Here the majority of the conservative party is pro-brexit although its MPs are not, there is still a chance for a better PM and a clean brexit and your work so far is appreciated. Only one option would now be potentially successful, it remains to see whether the leadership of the conservative party grasp this fact.

    A future vote on the WA should be treated as confidence in the prime minister, the EU elections will be treated as that by the wider country.

  20. John Booth
    May 10, 2019

    Sir John

    Are you able to find out if Mrs May has already signed the WA Surender Treaty? All evidence points to the fact that she has. Why else does the WA keep coming back to the HoC unchanged?

    Reply We are told it us unsigned

  21. mancunius
    May 10, 2019

    I’m not surprised JR has to wait for so long for a reply – for the devious justification of a lie often takes longer to frame than the lie itself.
    Nor is it surprising that the reply has been shifted from the AG’s office so that legal matters (which demand specific answers and are less capable of equivocation) can be turned into the platitude-pudding of ‘policy’ by civil servants, in a department that has already reached its abject nadir of humiliation by No. 10, and can surely sink no further.

  22. MikeP
    May 10, 2019

    Dear Sir John, we await the Government’s and/or AG’s replies in due course,, thanks for the update.
    By now you may have seen the two-part “fly-on-the-wall” documentary “Brexit, Behind Closed Doors”. It does few favours to Barnier, Verhofstadt or their support teams, quite blunt and unprofessional in places. But I wonder if its airing provides opportunities for you or ERG members to raise questions of Ministers and the PM about how both sides have conducted the negotiations:
    – is it fitting for Verhofstadt’s team to talk of “colonising” the UK, and this being their plan all along?
    – why did Olly Robbins apparently intervene when Dominic Raab tried tore-open sections of the WA that had been agreed already? Given the mantra “Nothing is agreed till everything is agreed”, surely it was right, proper and understandable if a new DExEU Secretary wanted to re-examine sections of the Agreement if it took things forward?
    – last but not least, what has been Theresa May’s reaction to the light in which she personally is painted in the programmes, given several pretty damning comments made by Brussels

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