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Newsletter 01/04/24

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The leader of the DUP, Jeffrey Donaldson, has resigned after being charged with historic sexual offences

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Dear Subscribers,

The leader of the DUP, Jeffrey Donaldson, has resigned after being charged with historic sexual offences. His resignation raises questions about the stability of the recently revived Stormont government. Donaldson was instrumental in convincing DUP colleagues to return to Stormont despite reservations over the Windsor Framework. Sources in Downing Street say that they had no foreknowledge of the charges, and that unionist fears that it had some role to play in bringing the DUP back to Stormont are unfounded.

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Instability in Stormont

Czech intelligence agencies have claimed that the Kremlin is trying to interfere in upcoming EU elections by paying MEPs to promote pro-Russian narratives. The revelation has caused a scandal in Brussels. Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk has been accused by European officials of bribing lawmakers on behalf of Putin.

Data published by the government this week shows that the UK was in recession in the final quarter of 2023, with the economy contracting by 0.3%. The Chancellor and the Prime MInister talk a lot about economic growth, but they seem to have no new ideas about how that might be achieved.

Spanish negotiators have demanded that the UK and Spain co-manage the airport in Gibraltar (which also includes an RAF base) in a move which could derail talks over free movement between the peninsula and the mainland. The Spanish say the land on which the airport is built was not covered by the treaty which originally ceded Gibraltar to the British, and insist that co-management of the airport is a reasonable benefit to demand in return for free movement over the border.

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Spain makes a play for the airport

UK car exporters will face tariffs on products sent to Canada after negotiators failed to reach an agreement to roll over existing trading arrangements. Naysayers will draw the usual inferences about Brexit, but the ability to walk away from negotiations when there is not a favourable deal on the table is a sign of strength and confidence and not something we were able to do unilaterally as members of the EU. By contrast, French lawmakers, unsatisfied with current EU trading agreements with Canada, have no power to walk away from what they see as a bad deal even when they pass motions in parliament.

Media

James Johnson on misleading polling about immigration

Danny Kruger MP on what Reform is getting right

Blog

Time for American voters to ask some awkward questions by Adrian Hill

Leave aside how Trump is a genuine friend of Britain, admired the Queen, would deport Harry, and might draw up a trade deal with us while slapping tariffs on EU imports. We face the prospect of an American withdrawal from NATO, possibly formally, more likely by Trump leaving a trail of chaos through indifference, inaction and drift.

We should be careful, and keep our distance from the EU. Fortunately most of our economy is involved with trade beyond Europe. Our task is to grow our global trade so that Europe becomes a much smaller portion of the whole. The Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance guards the safest path through our treacherous time. We must stay wary of Trump and his isolationist Republican Party pulling out of the Five Eyes as well. Putin won’t threaten the EU because they pay for his wars through buying his gas and sell him technical parts that are sanctioned. Rumour claims he keeps a second family in Switzerland where rich Russians have lots of property and cash stashed away. We, however, are trouble for Putin and his cronies, therefore as they keep reminding us, a nuclear target. Presently America’s bases in Britain deter Putin almost as much as our deterrent submarines. If Trump closes America’s bases when he quits NATO, instantly we become more vulnerable. These are matters that America voters should be asking awkward questions about. So should we.

India’s poor will not be wished away by Ashoka Modi

India is commonly hailed as a coming global economic superpower. Yet it has fundamental problems. The greatest is the extreme poverty of an increasing number of its citizens, which its present government tries to conceal. In stark contrast is the wealth of a tiny minority. Beware the official hype.

The last comprehensive consumption-expenditure survey in 2012 showed 22% living in poverty. The government junked a 2018 survey when leaked data indicated an increase in the poverty rate. Not surprisingly, the new partial consumption figures generated much excitement. Hastily, Surjit Bhalla, India’s former executive director at the IMF, and economist Karan Bhasin proclaimed – ­under the Brookings Institution’s imprimatur – that extreme poverty has been “eliminated.” But while such misuse of statistics will amplify the India hype in elite echo chambers, poverty remains deeply entrenched in India and broader deprivation appears to have increased as inflation erodes incomes of the poor.

 

Key Points

 

Critics of Brexit are as quick to jump on the perceived failures of Britain’s newly independent trade policy as they are slow to acknowledge the successes. Remainers in the media and will no doubt point to the failure to reach an agreement with Canada as evidence that Britain is floundering outside the EU. This is wrong on two counts. First, it is one failure amongst a sea of successes. Second, being in a position to walk away from talks without a deal is one of the benefits of an independent trade policy, and shows Britain is strong enough to stand up for itself on the world stage.

For a country that had not conducted its own trading negotiations for more than 40 years, Britain’s progress in the last 8 has been remarkable. The failure of negotiations with Canada should be understood alongside the many successful negotiations that have been concluded. 3 new bilateral deals, joining a free trade bloc in the pacific, 2 digital trade deals, and ongoing negotiations on 6 other deals (not including Canada).

But even taken in isolation, the fact that Britain has walked away from negotiations with Canada is not a sign of failure. Compare the position of Britain to that of those still members of the EU. 10 member states have failed to ratify the EU’s trade agreement with Canada, with many lawmakers convinced that it is a bad deal for their constituents. But their protests make no difference. The bureaucrats in Brussels impose the deal with the cooperation of heads of state regardless of what legislatures, let alone electorates, say.

Being able to back out of bad deals is a privilege of being a country responsible for making its own trade deals. Instead of being saddled with arrangements that are detrimental to British interests, Britain can ensure that all its trade agreements are beneficial, the bad ones put aside. If the picture painted by remainers were true, if Britain were helpless on the world stage, then we would be taking any deal we can get. The fact that we are in a position to walk away from negotiations when they are not yielding the right results is testament to Britain’s strength as an independent trading nation.

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Briefings For Britain