Boris Johnson survived a no-confidence vote on Monday. Along with further revisions and bargaining the effect of the vote has been to delay publication of the government’s planned changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol until the following (ie. this) Monday. At this point Briefings feels rather like a broken record for repeatedly announcing the same proposed changes but it seems the bill is finally to be published. The DUP and Conservative ERG members say they will scrutinise the bill heavily.
Partying in No. 10 to celebrate?
Just in case readers need reminding why this matters as aside from constitutional principle – because the Protocol forces Northern Ireland to adhere to EU rules, that increases the costs created by regulation from Brussels both in the province and for traders sending goods there from the rest of the UK. Two recent examples include rules on the marketing of construction products, estimated to increase costs by up to 8%, and the EU’s ban on alternative phone chargers.
While the latter regulation may feel consumer-friendly to anyone who has ever struggled to find a cable for more than one phone, decreeing one centralised solution for all industries stifles competition and innovation in favour of uniformity. If on balance this proves a sensible idea, a sovereign UK can always copy it.
The EU, meanwhile, has included among its wider review of common defence and security policy the desire to bring the UK into a closer partnership via the TCA (full text here). The significance of one line should not be overstated. But it is suggestive of the difficulty the EU will have in approaching the UK’s decision to reassert sovereignty in Northern Ireland.
Hardliners like Macron simultaneously recognise that the EU is sorely weakened against Russia without British intelligence and defence capabilities, though they yearn to defend the advantageous Protocol arrangements secured against a weak UK government in 2019. While it was difficult for the UK to leverage its defence capabilities then, due to the structure of the negotiation process for leaving the EU, those hard geopolitical considerations now favour Britain’s position.
Strategic depth or strategic dearth?
In European news more broadly, Australia’s new government has agreed to compensate the French submarine company which lost its contract last year – though only by €555 million on a €90 billion deal. Proposals for a carbon border tax and higher levies on industry have been rejected by left-wing European MEPs for being too unambitious, after being watered-down in the Parliament. Finally, France has its legislative elections in two rounds today and Sunday 17th, with a left-wing coalition group potentially in the wings to end President Macron’s majority.
As we mentioned last week, Robert Tombs took part in a debate on Brexit for Intelligence Squared, which will be available on YouTube at some point soon. Robert is writing a short piece on the exchanges.
No Mr. Ellwood, the single market is not the answer, by Harry Western
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has claimed that if the UK rejoined the EU single market, this would help tackle the cost-of-living crisis and solve the Irish border issue.
His claims do not, however, stand up to serious scrutiny. Indeed, most of the economic arguments he deploys to support his argument are misleading or simply false. There are other approaches the UK government could take which would be more effective and would not mean returning control of UK regulatory and immigration policy to the EU.
“The National Institute for Economic and Social Research – in a notable recantation of its previous view – has accepted that not only have the poor trade numbers predicted before Brexit failed to materialise, but the net trade position with the EU has improved substantially since 2016, by around 2% of GDP.”
Can’t see the wood for the trees?, by Catherine McBride
Why did the Telegraph publish a story taken directly from an environmental activist press release without checking the facts and ignoring the advice that the article did not reflect the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s findings? The activists’ obvious agenda is to stop the trade deal by blaming beef production for deforestation. The trouble is – in Australia’s case this isn’t true. Catherine McBride, a TAC commissioner and member of its Environment working group, sets the record straight.
“So yes, some Australian land is being cleared for agriculture. But no, this has nothing to do with beef production or beef exports to the UK. But if the good people at the WWF are wearing cotton T-shirts – then this is on them.”
UKRAINIAN Update no. 6, by Adrian Hill
The Ukrainians are more than holding their own on the ground. But can they count on the rest of Europe—apart from Britain—to support them?
“There’s also a PSYWAR campaign. Russia is reduced to mobile phone threats to individual Ukrainian soldiers or their families. That such a campaign is possible in a vast, poor country that ought to be fabulously rich, tells all you need to know about the Kremlin’s priorities.”
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 – 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 benefits the UK economy and our own 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