Happy third birthday to Brexit! Despite the sense of crisis in government and country, it’s worth recalling what we for – the democratic freedom to make our own laws and determine our country’s destiny. Impressively, Christopher Howarth’s piece for Briefings on this subject has amassed nearly 20,000 views in a single week. Readers are also encouraged to look at Sir Bill Cash’s relaunch of the European Foundation, designed to advocate in defence of UK sovereignty.
Blue skies for Britannia
Viewers will have seen the confused news around a Northern Ireland deal earlier this week. It looked as though the government had agreed, essentially, to a full capitulation to EU demands on Northern Ireland – before negative public reception forced the administration to disclaim having made a deal. Unionists are encouraged to maintain a firm line on any potential capitulation.
The British Army has been seriously criticised as no longer a “top-level fighting force” by an anonymous US general. The unusually severe remarks reflect cuts to the Defence budget and the consequent downsizing of British troop numbers. Though not as bad as the dire state of other NATO armed forces (such as Germany), much investment is needed to bring the services up to scratch. Culture-war attempts to diversify the Armed Forces merely distract from this fundamental problem.
In other news, the Bank of England has made a profit on the emergency bonds it purchased during the crisis under Liz Truss’s government last September. Dominic Raab continues to be accused of bullying, although there are suspicions that such accusations are merely cover for civil service insubordination to ministers. Conversative MP David Davis has also criticised civil service weakness during Brexit negotiations, claiming they were too deferential to EU demands.
Outside the UK, the MEP Guy Verhoffstadt has claimed that Britain leaving the EU accelerated Putin’s invasion of the Crimea. For the opposite view see the report from our contributor Gwythian Prins (linked below). In France, mass strikes and public disruption threaten to undo President Macron’s proposed pension reforms – though there are worries that France’s public spending is becoming more and more unsustainable. Finally, the EU’s rule of law crisis seems to be accelerating.
A Guyde to the Eurofederalist view
In addition to his aforementioned Report, Professor Prins published a piece in the Telegraph directly responding to Guy Verhoffstadt. Co-editor Graham Gudgin published a piece on the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations for the website (see below), and an article on the same subject for Conservative Home. Meanwhile, co-editor Robert Tombs wrote an article for the MailOnline, suggesting ten awkward questions you can ask Rejoiner friends.
We would like to clarify a comment from last week’s Newsletter. We incorrectly referred to a “dispute” over access to land on Dartmoor, where in fact the court case concerned whether or not there existed a right to wild camp on private land in the National Park. The court having determined that there was not, landowners and National Park Rangers speedily came to an agreement to allow camping at specified sites.
This issue matters because one of our early donors has been affected by this process and the landowners have received considerable vilification from elements of the press. Our apologies for any distress caused by our error – we merely included the comment as an example of the political harassment supporters of Brexit suffer. We remain immensely humbled by (and proud of) the generosity of our supporters.
Gains from Brexit on the 3rd Anniversary, by Christopher Howarth
Three years after the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and two years after the exit from the Single Market on 31 December 2020 there is a surprisingly long list of achievements, regaining legislative autonomy, ending annual payments for access to the Single Market and the embrace of ‘ever closer union’.
“We have taken back control of our laws. Henceforth we will make our own. We may do it well or badly. But we can hold our lawmakers to account. So, we are more likely to make laws which benefit us – more than submitting to laws made for very different continental countries (Lord Lilley).”
Are the Northern Ireland Protocol talks going anywhere?, by Graham Gudgin
What can we realistically expect from the current negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol? It is possible to imagine goods reaching NI without customs declarations but other serious issues remain unsolved, leaving the Protocol as a constitutional threat. There is little sign of a new approach from Brussels sufficient to meet unionist demands, and the fear is that a weak deal will stoke up a new round of unionist resentment.
“In NI without a land-border, vigorous enforcement by the UK would be needed to support legislation protecting the Single Market. The EU has always, perhaps wilfully, mistrusted UK intentions on such issues. We will see whether this has changed but there is little sign of a new approach from Brussels.”
The IMF released a forecast this week which predicted Britain would be the only advanced economy to see contraction next year (though the fund’s record is not immaculate). The report did not list Brexit among the postulated causes, citing instead high taxes, interest rates and persistent energy price-led inflation. That has not stopped Remainers from making the connection, however – see this Twitter thread from Lord Frost rebutting this view.
The Productivity Undertow
Financial writer Max King makes an interesting argument in a piece published for MoneyWeek. As he notes, many Remain economists have blamed Brexit for the UK’s relatively poor showing in productivity metrics (though as we’ve noted before, this problem predated EU membership). Instead, he points the finger at the UK public sector:
“Research by the IFS narrows the problem down further to the NHS. In the last 3 years, health service expenditure has risen by 11% in real terms, including 8% more nurses,15% more junior doctors and 10% more consultants. Yet treatment volumes have fallen by 12% for a combined 21% collapse in productivity. It would take major reform of the NHS to reverse this, but that is inconceivable, while asking NHS ‘management’ to resolve a productivity crisis for which they are responsible would be absurd.”
For those familiar with the state of Britain’s public services, this should unsurprising. Whether it is policemen not investigating crimes, cases taking years to reach a courtroom, or even trying to book a driving test, chronic inefficiencies in the system were exasperated by mass lockdown. For all her faults, the again-topical Liz Truss was surely right to question the increasingly statist bent of modern British politics – if this is all such statism can achieve.
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 Britain’s relationship with Europe that remains 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. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
Yet 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 has benefited the UK economy and democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
A Cambridge PhD Student
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge