Newsletter 18 October 2020


Somewhere, a lady with a Covid-risk BMI is warming up her vocal cords. It’s the final Brexit countdown. Will it be deal or no deal?

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Dear Subscribers,

Somewhere, a lady with a Covid-risk BMI is warming up her vocal cords. It’s the final Brexit countdown. Will it be deal or no deal?

There have been mixed signals this week. The European Council’s refusal to offer any reasonable compromise and tough rhetoric from French President Emmanuel Macron left Boris Johnson’s government with the same old choices: no deal or a bad deal. There is still a danger that the Government will make the wrong call and accept a deal which leaves us shackled to the EU for years to come. As we note on the website this week, Brexiteers need to keep a close eye on the so-called concessions being offered. It is only worth accepting a deal which will allow Britain to regain its status as a fully independent state.

So far, Boris Johnson has made the right noises, asserting that the deal currently on offer is unacceptable, and that if the EU does not substantially revise its thinking we walk away without a deal.

There has been some rowing back from the EU since then. Dutch PM Mark Rutte says there has been a misunderstanding. When the EU said that any further concessions in the trade talks must come from the UK, the UK was ‘left with the false impression that the EU was asking it to make all the concessions’! Alice could not have expressed it better in wonderland.

We now wait to see what happens. Both no deal and a deal which follows a substantial shift from the EU could be good outcomes. Signing up to the current offer would not be, and we must hope that the Government is not tempted to cave in. Michael Gove’s article in today’s Sunday Times, which argues that Britain is ready for no deal, is a good sign. Gove is one of the biggest no-deal sceptics in the Cabinet. If he is prepared to hold his nerve, we can hope that the rest of the Government will too. It is imperative that they do so, forcing the EU to come up with a better offer or to let Britain go its own way without a deal.

On the website this week

This week BfB co-editor Robert Tombs has written a piece for The Spectator, entitled ‘Only a ‘good’ Brexit can stop Scottish independence’. Professor Tombs notes that the current uncertainties over Brexit and Coronavirus are feeding the Scottish Nationalist cause. However, once Brexit is a done deal, Scottish secession from the UK will look far less appealing.

The Spectator magazine was impressed with our ‘Brexiteers Beware’ article (see below) and asked to republish it. It appeared on the Spectator’s Coffee House website under the byline of our two co-editors Graham Gudgin and Robert Tombs.

On the website this week


Eutopianism and the Future of the European Union, by Philip Cunliffe

In much media coverage of Brexit Britain is cast as perfidious and deluded, and the EU as moderate and pragmatic.  Britain’s post-Brexit future is seen as dim.  But a realistic analysis would look first at the EU, and how its irrational and obsolete ‘Eutopianism’ is threatened by the new challenges of the contemporary world.  The real question is how long Eutopianism can survive in the absence of democratic legitimacy.

“Idealism, naivety and magical thinking occludes rational and sober discussion of the EU and especially of the Eurozone at least as much as Brexit.”

Boris must bring down the curtain on this farce now, by Caroline Bell

The conclusions of the European Council on Brexit were entirely predictable. The communiqué has been published in draft in the European press and widely trailed in the media for the past two weeks. We knew that the Council would not be reaching any decision on a trade deal with the UK, but instead listening to a “stock take” of progress in the talks by Michel Barnier. The UK’s lack of engagement would be duly deplored, and the EU would double down on its untenable demands of full access to UK waters, control of the UK economy through state aid legislation and judicial governance by the ECJ.

“If the EU27 really want a deal, they will have a humongous bust-up amongst themselves and return in short order with some common sense and fresh proposals which respect the UK’s position as an independent country.”

The EU’s negotiating tactics: A sorry tale, by Lee Rotherham

In a comprehensive report Dr Lee Rotherham examines at length what Team Barnier were instructed to get out of the negotiations as set out in the EU Council decision of 25 February 2020 and how they set about the mission. What this tells us about the EU’s objectives and how much the UK should trust the EU is disconcerting and reveals that Brexit-scuppering British MPs, undermining their own Government, have been hacking the keel from under their own boat.

“The UK to Barnier is, post-Brexit, “a direct competitor that is right on our doorstep”. If so, we should take him at his word – and only accept a suitably flexible and light-touch FTA in response.”

Brexiteers beware – a bad deal is still a real risk, by Briefings for Britain

The UK’s negotiating efforts with the EU this year have been dramatically better than under the May administration. But a bad deal is still a real risk as a result of political and time pressures.

“The goal of re-establishing the UK as a fully independent state can be achieved merely by exiting the transition period at the end of the year. No negotiations or further agreements are needed for this.”

Key points this week

Coming Unstuck on Services?

One source of recent concern has been the problems that may be faced by lawyers post-Brexit who wish to practice in the EU.  But exporting legal or accounting expertise to the EU has never been easy, because the countries of the Union have legal regimes and professional standards which substantially diverge from each other, limiting the ability of firms to service these markets.  As a result, most firms which deal with EU business have offices in the EU anyway, staffed by local professionals, largely because of language.  Particularly regarding law, comparison, Common Law jurisdictions such as the United States provide far more business for British companies.  And Brexit will make little difference to the significance of London as a center for writing and litigating for British Common Law contracts, which have considerable international commercial reach, making recognition of qualifications to it far more important for EU lawyers who wish to practice in the UK than for UK professionals who need to practice abroad.

Key Points is compiled by a Cambridge PhD student.



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 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 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 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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About the author

Briefings For Britain