Newsletter 13 Jan 2020

Briefings For Brexit

The Pope remains Catholic, bears continue to do their business in the woods, and the EU is making pessimistic noises about a Brexit deal.

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Dear Subscribers,

The Pope remains Catholic, bears continue to do their business in the woods, and the EU is making pessimistic noises about a Brexit deal. This week Ursula von der Leyen’s made a trip to Britain. During an important speech delivered at the LSE, she emphasised the complexity of the upcoming the negotiations. Her remarks make clear that the EU hope to keep as much economic and regulatory control over the UK as possible. The Commission’s approach is directly opposed to that of the British Government, which hopes to sign a ‘thin’ trade deal, dealing with goods only for now and leaving other questions to be settled later.

As economist Harry Western discusses this week on our website, there are reasonably simple compromises to be made which would benefit both sides. But making such compromises relies on both sides treat economic self-interest as the main consideration. In the case of the EU, however, there are other considerations. As ever, the integrity of the Single Market – and the underlying goal of ever closer union – takes precedence.

This means that though there is a deal to be done, the EU will try to block and complicate it. Boris Johnson’s government will need to be prepared for the hardball tactics to come. In the last resort, they must be prepared to walk away on WTO terms rather than sign a deal which leaves Britain constrained by an EU ‘level playing field’.

In talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, von der Leyen has already set out the first of what will likely become several preconditions to the next phase of discussion, with her insistence that the EU be granted generous access to UK waters. Johnson and his government swiftly produce a counterproposal to prevent the EU setting the agenda, like it did under Theresa May. They should also step up negotiations with other nations, reminding the EU that from Britain’s point of view, there are plenty more fish in the sea.


Our co-editor Robert Tombs has written a piece for The Spectator, entitled ‘Britain after Brexit: it’s time to decide on our place in the world’. Robert discussed the historic opportunity available to our new government to define pot-Brexit Britain’s place in the world:

“If we can make ourselves a model national democracy in the eyes of the world, with clearly articulated values (do we know what they are?), the foundations of a global role will be firm.”

On the website this week


Prospects for an acceptable trade deal worse than most people think, by Harry Western

Economist Harry Western explains what the UK wants from a free trade deal by next December and the difficulties which the EU are likely to put in the UK’s way. While the UK is prepared, in this first instance, to strike a ‘thin’ trade deal just based on goods trade and add other elements later on, the EU demands that even a ‘thin’ goods-only deal be accompanied by whole panoply of other elements.

A deal with [the elements laid out here] could prove amenable to both sides… But this is only true if economic rationality is the prime consideration. Unfortunately, from the EU side, it isn’t. The EU’s main aim is rather to assert the maximum degree of economic and political control over the UK.”

The world we seek in 2020, by Sir Peter Marshall

Sir Peter Marshall former Commonwealth Secretary General makes a plea that the UK should remain as globally oriented once it leaves the EU as it was 75 yeas ago at the foundation of the United Nations.

Concepts such as “rules-based international system/world order” are seriously inadequate descriptions of the reality. They can – and do – so easily lead to a detached, self-regarding evasion of responsibility.”

Subscribers’ Views

The old lion has woken, by Adrian Hill

Veteran British diplomat, Adrian Hill, now based in Switzerland, argues that the old Commonwealth Relations Office should be revived and separated from the Foreign Office to cement our ties with our natural allies.

We are like a ship that has sailed on the wrong compass bearing for nearly 50 years. Turn the ship onto the true bearing with the wind behind her and her speed picks up almost without effort.”

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 continues on Facebook too. As Karen Lewis comments in response to Robert Lee’s article about the likelihood of an EU/UK FTA getting done in 2020, “Roll on 31st January!”

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