Newsletter 01 March 2020


This was the week that both sides locked horns. Negotiating mandates were published by both the UK and the EU.  Both were as had been widely trailed, the EU adamant that we stay under their regulatory sway, the UK boldly asserting a new independence

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Dear Subscribers,

This was the week that both sides locked horns. Negotiating mandates were published by both the UK and the EU.  Both were as had been widely trailed, the EU adamant that we stay under their regulatory sway, the UK boldly asserting a new independence. Both sides made threats of walking away if their opposite number’s intransigence continues. “Don’t cherry pick,” warned the French. “If you don’t compromise by June, we’re off,” said the British.

It is a new and refreshing development to hear the British negotiating team quite so tough Finally, it seems that no deal really is thought better than a bad deal. And long, may it continue, because on close analysis the EU’s own proposals prove to consist of just the sort of cherry picking that they claim to so dislike. The previous EU offer of a Canada-style free-trade agreement has been withdrawn as Brussels fear-level of a competitive UK edges ever higher.

Meanwhile David Frost’s uplifting speech, which we wrote about last week, has predictably stirred the remain camp out of their post-election depression. Will Hutton, Master of Hertford College Oxford (how could that happen?), described the speech in the Guardian as “bunk”. To him Frost (“Johnson’s Brexit flunkey”) interprets the leave vote as “a vast affection for a feudal constitution” and “descends into fantasy”. This is the same Hutton who said that the Labour movement must save Britain from the “mob”. Three years on the mob of former Labour voters has said what they think about such rhetoric and the Conservative Government is getting on with the job.

In some ways, of course, Brexit is old news, and the most exciting decisions – about what post-Brexit Britain will look like – are being made elsewhere. These include questions of new immigration policy, HS2 and Heathrow. The debate now is which version of ‘Global Britain’ the government will choose.

In this more productive spirit, we would like to draw readers’ attention to an important new book, ‘The Left Case for Brexit’ by BfB contributor Professor Richard Tuck of Harvard University. The book argues that the left made a major error in backing remain. For Tuck, Brexit represents a golden opportunity for socialists to implement the kind of economic agenda they have long advocated.

Interested BfB subscribers can purchase discounted copies of Professor Tuck’s book using the discount code VBT43 (valid until 30 May 2020) by visiting Polity Press’s website.

On the website this week


A level playing field or loaded dice? What the EU is really up to, by David Blake

The EU claims that it wishes to negotiate the future trading relationship with the UK on the basis of a ‘level playing field’. However, the EU’s published negotiating guidelines actually seek to impose on the UK a very unlevel playing field. This amounts to ‘cherry picking’ by the EU which UK negotiators should vigorously resist. This blog is a summary of David Blake’s major report ‘Ensuring a Genuine Level Playing Field with the EU’. The full report can be found here.

The EU negotiating guidelines seek to ensure that the playing field is level at our end, while conveniently ignoring the uphill slopes in its own half of the pitch.”

The UK’s Pied Piper economy, the new immigration policy and Diane Abbott, by Catherine McBride

Economist Catherine McBride takes a look at the government’s new immigration proposals. Although many in the UK are applauding the Home Secretary’s new immigration policy, the people who should be giving her a standing ovation are the poorest countries in the European Union who have been waving goodbye to their brightest and best since they joined and now clearly understand the downside of the free movement of people. Diane Abbott’s idea that reducing EU immigration will somehow decrease the UK’s diversity is ludicrous.

European immigration to the UK is not new and it is not in itself a problem – but the unlimited and permanent movement of labour around the EU has distorted the economies of both the most affluent and the poorest member states.”

The EU is in trouble and Ursula Von der Leyen is the wrong person to rescue it, by Ashoka Mody

We republish here a powerful piece by leading economist Ashoka Mody. Mody catalogues the manifold challenges faced by the EU, concluding that it is “clearly losing its way”. The situation has only been made worse by the chaotic selection of Ursula von der Leyen as Commission president and the expectation of a fractious debate on the EU budget in the near future.

“Today it is hard to identify one strategic goal on which European leaders are unified to better the lives of European citizens.”


Dealing with the French: Frost versus Barnier, Bacon versus Descartes, by Robert Tombs

BfB co-editor and Emeritus Professor of French History, Robert Tombs, explores the reasons why the British and French have found each other particularly difficult to negotiate with over the years – whether as enemies, friends, or something in between. There are deep intellectual and cultural differences that go back centuries and show little sign of changing.

If Michel Barnier and David Frost seem to be inhabiting different mental universes, that is because they are.”

Social Media



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. Richard Sinclair was in fervent agreement with David Blake’s analysis of the EU’s negotiating stance, commenting simply, “LOADED DICE INDEED.”

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 see 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.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Yours Sincerely, 

Newsletter Editor

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

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Briefings For Britain