The Northern Ireland Protocol is back in the news. The government has reached what was described as a ‘breakthrough’ but which in reality involved the UK government providing the EU with complete access to customs data on goods going from GB to NI. Brussels now knows what is flowing to NI before the lorries even get onto the Irish Sea ferries. The EU will now graciously begin discussions on UK proposals 18 months after these were published in Lord Frost’s 2021 Command paper.
Meanwhile one of the UK pressures on the EU has been put on ice. As the Protocol Bill stalls in the House of Lords, Keir Starmer has pledged to assist Rishi Sunak in passing any legislation which might otherwise be blocked by the DUP or sovereignty-conscious Conservative MPs – who Starmer brands a “purity cult”.
Sir Keir doing his best impression of a cult leader
This bodes ill. The public messaging on Northern Ireland from the Conservative government has narrowed to issues around ‘green lanes’, the weight of customs checks, and issues for specific sectors. These are not the substantial changes to the Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, or the removal of checks entirely, that the province needs to restore the Good Friday Agreement. Making concessions to Labour and the EU, however, is unlikely to revive the party’s failing popularity.
Meanwhile accession to the Pacific trade agreement (CPTPP) is taking longer than expected. The predicted January signing has now been delayed to March,despite Japanese support for British membership. The CPTPP is a potential rival to the EU, without Europe’s regulatory burdens and political commitments to ever-closer union. As Europe’s share of global trade declines, Rejoiners are conscious that their economic case only grows weaker over time – though the anti-Brexit propaganda campaign remains in full force.
CPTPP: the way into the Pacific Century?
Abroad, the EU is considering subsidies for green technology, to rival the measures adopted by Joe Biden’s White House. Such measures might well violate its treaty commitments with the UK, as breaching economic Level Playing Field provisions – not that we expect this lack of good faith to be addressed as such by commentators in the UK.
We have re-posted a piece our co-editor Robert Tombs wrote for Spiked – see below. Robert also wrote on how the Church of England has been captured by critical race theory, with its recent pledge to pay £100 million in compensation for slavery.
Prince Harry seems an unlikely role model for UK Rejoiners. However, both have been in the headlines expounding their perceptions of the truth about Megxit and Brexit. When ‘curated’ memories trump reality, history can be rewritten to suit any agenda for the future…
“We need to look at the long-term political strategy behind all this anti-Brexit propaganda. Why now? Hasn’t Brexit been done?… Not if you are a committed Rejoiner, funded by billionaires, lobbyists and foreign governments and institutions who would like Britain firmly and perpetually contained under EU jurisdiction and policies.”
50 Years of dithering about Europe, by Robert Tombs
The 50th anniversary of Britain’s accession to the then Common Market seems a good moment for another look at this half-century detour, marked by persistent collective uncertainty about whether we wanted to join ‘Europe’, stay in it, or leave it.
“What surprises me about the 2016 referendum is that the result caused such a shock. The EU’s own opinion polling suggests that similar negative votes would have been likely in Holland, Italy, Greece, Germany and (as President Macron admitted on British television) France.”
EU Membership still a mistake for Ireland, by Brian Coughlin
What has happened in between accession in 1973 and today has been a monumental betrayal of democracy by Ireland’s political Establishment.
“European Union membership has brought benefits of course, just as our membership of the British Union did, but on any objective assessment the costs now outweigh the benefits. We are now net contributors to, rather than beneficiaries from, the EU Budget. Today Ireland does more of its foreign trade with North America and the UK than it does with the continental EU.”
The BBC take on the Brexit Scorecard Two years on, by Briefings for Britain
We reproduce here a recent BBC ‘scorecard’ on the impact of Brexit two years in. We do so to highlight the subtle and not so subtle biases. The article ascribes predictions to the Office of Budget Responsibility but appears not to know that the OBR undertakes no such predictions but merely reports selective results from others. It quotes results from the CER but not from BfB despite the latter being widely quoted.in the media. It ascribes to Brexit labour shortages which are mostly due to Covid and which are also observed across the EU. This reporter has already had a complaint upheld against his Brexit reporting but here ploughs on with a pessimistic assessment.
The BBC’s final assessment: “then, we can have a hard-headed look at how to build a new relationship with the European Union that repairs some of the damage and works for both sides. That reckoning still seems some way off.”
Keir Starmer has been attempting to win over pro-Brexit, ex-Labour voters by playing down his previous opposition to Brexit. Yet his party remains pro-EU – witnessed by his recent call for a closer trading relationship with Europe.
Starmer’s remarks draw support from the belief amongst commentators and bureaucrats that Brexit must necessarily be disastrous, and must therefore have destroyed trade. This is despite the lack of positive evidence for anything of the sort, as our recent Report attests. That doesn’t stop politicians like Sadiq Khan re-iterating this message, or nominally impartial groups like the Civil Service or the BBC repeating or passing them off unchallenged.
For all that, public opinion is less sold on Rejoin, when some of the consequences are put to voters (and that’s without putting the question of joining the Euro, which is less popular again). However, polling does suggest that positive support for Brexit has fallen in the last year.
This is broadly down to two factors. First and most important is “guilt by association”: Brexit happened roughly at the same time as Covid and inflation and is tarnished with them. Yet this has been aggravated by the constant re-iteration by many in the media of dubious economic claims.
Doom and Gloom
The Guardian recently pulled off a particularly egregious piece of headline manipulation. A headline proclaimed that the UK Economy “had only grown by 0.1%” in November – but admitted in the body of the article that this outperformed expectations, which had been for recession.
Along with falling inflation and lower-than-expected energy costs, this good news is embarrassing for the OBR and other pessimists. It shows up how negativity about British prospects, and corresponding rose-tinted view of matters abroad, is all too characteristic of broader coverage on Britain and Brexit.
A Hollow Crown
Readers may remember news that Paris had surpassed London in terms of value of shares listed. As this analysis shows, this relies on using unreliable metrics. When accounting for the prevalence of individual listings, differential movements in currency values, the importance of ancillary market services and the numbers of market entries/exits, London remains a substantially more significant centre. Day trading in London is worth $3.7 trillion – compared to $200 billion in Paris.
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