Hot on the heels of the Coronation, the UK hosted another big show in the Eurovision song contest yesterday. Whether Liverpool gave the native act a home field advantage is an open question.
Merseyside Music Marathon
After initially trailing plans to reduce the number of Retained EU Laws scrapped from around 4,000 to 800, Rishi Sunak’s government has abandoned the Retained EU Law Bill, instead promising to identify a list of some 600 laws it wishes to replace.
Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has been heavily criticised by the European Research Group of Conservative MPs for failing to come before the Commons on the matter, and received a dressing down by Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle for the government’s attempt to sneak the news out rather than announce it in Parliament.
This disappointing news continues a run of concessions on various reforming policies, such as the plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. It might well be asked why the task was left so late in Parliament – though the difficulty of the process has been exaggerated – but it has been suggested that a retreat on the Bill was one of the more clandestine conditions for the EU’s agreement to the Windsor Framework. On that subject, Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has announced his intention to run as an MP in 2024 for the Conservatives, and apparently is in contention for a Conservative safe seat.
Economically, the Bank of England has been criticised for failures in controlling inflation and forecasting future trends. This comes in addition to controversial recent appointments to its governing body and its ignoring of last October’s LDI crisis before it materialised. In better news, the UK’s exports are looking buoyant, confounding fears as recent as last year that the UK was in for an exports slump post-Brexit. You can read more on this in the article by Harry Western for Briefings below.
Warding off Defeat?
In global news, Turkey’s new president will be decided over the weekend. Incumbent Recep Tayip Erdoğan faces a formidable challenge from centrist candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who leads the race according to many polls. Mr Kilicdaroglu pledges to repair relations with the West and resume EU accession, though Turkey is unlikely to change its relatively neutral stance towards Russia.
Finally, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s former president, had his house raided by police in connection with allegations of having falsified vaccine documents. France and Italy clashed over illegal migration policy. Ukraine has gained ground in Bakhmut, with some Russian units retreating chaotically in a sudden reverse after months of slowly gaining territory in the city. Its long-awaited summer offensive, however, is yet to materialise, as Adrian Hill argues below for Briefings.
UK exports and Brexit – what has really been happening?, Harry Western
It has become an accepted ‘fact’ in many circles that Brexit has had a big negative impact on UK trade and economic growth. But studies that promote this view feature selective use of time periods, data series, and comparison economies alongside often questionable methodologies. A careful look at the actual trade data suggests that far from UK goods exports facing disastrous declines due to Brexit, a more likely conclusion is that the ‘Brexit effect’ has only been a few percent – far better than most analyses from 2016-2020 claimed. Moreover, UK services exports appear unaffected and there is no sign in the data of the kind of large negative impact on productivity that the OBR and other bodies claim has resulted from Brexit.
“There is clear evidence of a large initial disruption to UK exports to the EU, with actual exports in Q1 2021 some 19% below the predicted level. But the effects then fade through the rest of 2021 and 2022 and for the last four quarters there is on average essentially zero deviation (see Chart 4).”
The controversy over-repeal of retained EU Law has been a foolish distraction. The better approach is that taken by the Irish after Independence. They did not rush to repeal pre-Independence statutes, but gradually removed what they did not want, and now all remaining UK Acts take their authority from an Irish statute. Reform of retained EU Law should be treated like any matter of law reform.
“A country that is comfortable that it is in control of its own laws does not need a symbolic purge of the ancient regime from its statute books in order to prove it.”
Ukraine – Lull Before the Storm?, by Adrian Hill
Poland’s prime minister lately raised concerns about France and Germany’s lack of a wholehearted commitment to helping Ukraine win the war against Russia and how it affects Warsaw’s ability to back Ukraine.
“One suspects that Xi has made Putin very clear about what he does not want – wild nuclear threats that risk a conventional clash getting out of control – and now he gradually negotiates what might allow Putin to escape military defeat.”
Readers may have seen a recent exchange on Newsnight between former MEP Alex Phillips of Reform and Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell. Campbell was corrected by presenter Victoria Derbyshire over claims about a 4% Brexit had reduced GDP. He later complained that the BBC never corrects Brexiteer lies, and generally finished in a froth of apoplexy.
The failure of the Retained EU Law Bill highlights the failure of Conservatives to effectively control and direct the civil service, and the party’s failure to remodel institutions during its years in power. As suggested in The Economist (ironically), the next Conservative government should take lessons in method from the last party to effectively transform the British state – Tony Blair’s Labour.
What the article neglects, however, is how far this drift resulted from a lack of political opportunity. The Conservatives have only had a sizeable majority from late 2019, leaving an entire decade in which Blairite reforms and personnel could embed themselves without serious challenge. Moreover (Middle Eastern adventures excepted) Blair’s Labour enjoyed a decade of geopolitical quiet. A lack of vision may be part of the story of Conservative failure – but “events, my dear boy, events” have played an outsize role of their own.
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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