Free at last, free at last! Masks have come off, the singing of hymns is back and night clubs are booming. It could almost be the summer of 2019. But alas, just like in summer of 2019, we are also still wrangling with the EU over Northern Ireland.
All eyes still on Northern Ireland
Nevertheless, this week’s Command Paper really does look like a step foward. Finally, the government appears to be prepared to talk tough – as it should have been doing since 2016. The intention behind the Command Paper is clear: replacing the existing NI Protocol. The UK government has been careful not to say that it intends to abolish the Protocol in so many words, but that is what its proposals amount to.
By focussing checks on goods ‘at risk’ of passing through the Republic of Ireland and thus the EU, the current invasive system of excessive checks would be transformed into something manageable and pragmatic. The Paper also proposes other important changes, such as ending the role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland. Overall, the sensible proposals now being made closely resemble the three-pronged approach – extending the current grace periods for as long possible, followed by invoking article 16 and finally moving to mutual enforcement – which BfB has been advocating in recent articles. We will be watching to see how the EU responds.
As Brexit (hopefully) beds into the fabric of UK politics, we at BfB have also been thinking about the future of the Briefings for Britain website. We have started to think more widely about what sort of society post-Brexit Britain should be and how we can help achieve this. We hope to continue to bring our rational, fact-based approach to bear on a range of new issues that have become prominent in the national conversation in recent months. In particular, we think the time has come to tackle a range of emotive topics that can loosely be grouped under the heading ‘Culture Wars’.
Britain is a well-integrated society – we should celebrate
In a new long read, ‘Do culture wars matter?’, we address Britain’s culture wars on race. As Brexiteer believers in national sovereignty, and perhaps supporters of the late Roger Scruton’s idea of the UK as our island home to be cherished and protected, we are naturally suspicious of new philosophies which appear undermine national cohesion but we need to be clearer about what is at stake and how we should react. We look forward to discussing these questions in more depth in the coming months.
On the website this week
Do culture wars matter? By Briefings for Britain
In this long read and new departure for this website we set out views on culture wars on race. Our view is that while some problems of racism persist, as they do anywhere in the world, Britain has become a well-integrated society and attempts to highlight racism, or the darker aspects of British history, have ulterior motives which are unhelpful, to say the least, in developing a cohesive society.
“What is surprising is the current anti-racist movement blossomed after what little racism there was in the UK had been very largely eliminated and race relations were good, indeed better in the UK than almost every other European nation.”
David Frost rewrites the NI Protocol, by Graham Gudgin
This week’s Command Paper ‘The Northern Ireland Protocol. The Way Forward’ contains radical proposals that seem bound to lead to a new crisis in relations with the EU. The proposals are described as reforming the protocol rather than relacing it but in practice amount to a very different set of trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.
“As the UK data are being reported on a more consistent basis, these are the better guide to what is actually happening.”
Key point this week
Good News for the Post-Brexit Economy
Post-Brexit Britain continues to defy the pessimism of Remainer analysts
Readers may recall that many Remain analysts claimed that the UK would become a highly unattractive place for investment. Indeed, some studies purported to show that this had already happened.
As it stands, however, US companies (for instance) are gung-ho about investing more in the UK. According to investment firm Bain Capital’s latest survey of investor confidence, a clear majority plan to increase investment in the UK.
Although relations with the EU remain a source of concern, they’re only one element in US firms’ decision-making. As the FT succinctly puts it, ‘the shared language, similar work cultures, regulatory certainty, and the attractiveness of London to international staff all combine to make Britain an attractive destination.’ One might add the strength of the UK’s research and university sector, demonstrated by the success of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
One can see a similar story in exports. At the start of the year, the news was awash with tales that the export sector was undergoing a full meltdown. As Harry Western details on the website, however, exports to the EU have largely or completely recovered. Indeed, goods exports to the EU are now at their highest since October 2019. UK imports from the EU have been less buoyant, and this likely reflects the increased competition that EU exporters now face from the rest of the world’s goods.
A final note, as Harry’s article addresses, is that we can now explain the difference between ONS and Eurostat estimates of Britain’s performance in exports. Essentially, EU statisticians include different types of activity under exports depending on whether the country in question is in the EU or not. Leaving the EU thus means that these activities are no longer included in the data, making the decrease seem much larger than it actually is.
Key Points is compiled by a Cambridge PhD student.
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook.
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge