The government has finally tabled legislation to address the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol. The proposed bill removes the requirement for goods going to Northern Ireland to comply with EU requirements, save where they are intended to pass on to the Single Market. Via the bill’s envisaged dual regulatory regime, businesses may choose to follow EU rules if they wish to export to the EU. The bill has little detail as to how this is to work: the details are, presumably, left to ministers.
Getting that “No” to the Customs Border?
The bill also removes the jurisdiction of the EU’s Court of Justice, removes the right of EU officials to oversee the Protocol’s application, removes Northern Ireland from the EU state aid regime. The bill also creates broad and undefined ministerial powers to disapply other parts of the Protocol, as well as to decide which goods qualify as “at risk” of entering the EU.
The bill is a relative victory for pro-Brexit politicians – though the width of the discretion left to ministers means there is a risk that they will avoid acting for fear of angering Brussels further. The government is pressuring the DUP to return to Stormont, but with the recommendations not yet law Unionists should think twice before conceding.
Needless to say, there has been hysteria in the pro-Rejoin press. The issue that Rejoiners face, however, is coming up with alternatives which satisfy Unionist concerns and preserve UK sovereignty. The Protocol hasn’t even been fully implemented: we have still seen huge disruption, despite the “grace periods” which mean that around 90% of checks are avoided, and the EU is determined that there must be controls.
Contrary to Rejoiner claims, the EU has not offered meaningful compromises on customs, as we explored when they were released in autumn 2021. The EU has made few concessions since. The only consistent Rejoiner solution for avoiding the Irish Sea border is regulatory alignment of the rest of the UK with Brussels, without a say in how its rules are made. Critics confine their attacks to the bill’s treaty breaches precisely because their only “solution” is to bring back Theresa May’s infamous backstop.
Hard Choices in Threadneedle Street
Briefly, in other news. Central Banks globally have been raising interest rates, though the ECB has to balance these concerns with the risk of rising borrowing costs in weaker European capitals. The EU is debating admitting Ukraine and Moldova to candidate status, though a long road lies ahead to potential full membership. The government’s Rwanda deportation policy for illegal asylum seekers has been delayed by an adverse ruling in the European Court of Human Rights. European electorates, meanwhile, are beginning to tire of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia – preferring that Kiev should cede territory to bring the war to an end.
Robert Tombs’ debate on Brexit for Intelligence Squared is now live on YouTube – watch it here. Robert has also written up an analysis of the debate for Briefings– see below.
Many of you will have seen the most recent study by the Centre for European Reform, which claims that Brexit has caused trade to fall by 13.6% relative to hypothetical performance. At Policy Exchange, Graham Gudgin unpicks the assumptions behind this analysis, demonstrating both that the comparator countries used are inappropriate and the economic data properly measured show no loss of GDP due to Brexit. Read it here.
What Remainers are saying now. And getting their facts wrong., by Robert Tombs
A debate against Stella Creasy and Dominic Grieve.Last Thursday I took part in a debate in London organised by Intelligence Squared. The title was ‘Were we right to Brexit?’ Arguing that we were indeed right were Lord (Daniel) Hannan and myself. On the other side were the rising Labour MP Stella Creasy, and the leading Remainer and former rebel Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve. Of particular interest to me was to learn what Remainers, or former Remainers, now think and say, and what evidence they can produce for their claims. Any who may wish to see the whole recorded debate will find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-fVMIUHmwE
“Our opponents did not attempt to defend the EU. Indeed, they hardly talked about it at all. Brexiteers have often noticed that reluctance to discuss the EU is a common feature of Remainer discourse. Their devotion to ‘Europe’ is left at a cloudy level of abstraction. Alternatively, they focus on the trivial: Stella Creasy praised the EU for aiming to ensure that there was only one kind of mobile phone charging cable.”
Ukraine: The Fight for Soft Power Values, by Michael Clarke and Helen Ramscar
Power exists on a spectrum where both hard and soft expressions of it are ever-present. Paradoxically, it is in times of war itself that the necessary fusion of both hard and soft power thinking is most evident, and certainly most required.
“The difference between hard and soft power lies in how policy instruments are used rather than what they are in themselves. As we analyse more carefully in our work, hard power is essentially about trying to project the coercive or pressurising ability to persuade others to do something. Soft Power is much more about magnetism. It doesn`t try to project – it just is.”
Russia, raw materials and geopolitics, by Frank Millard
Frank Millard explains Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in terms of access to gas-fields and of the geo-strategic importance of the Black Sea. He regards negotiations as essential in ending the conflict
“Quite apart from its abundance of grain, Ukraine boasts the third largest oil and gas reserves in Europe (after Russia and Norway), the majority of which can be found in the Dnipro-Donetsk basin in the East of the country. The Yuzivska gas field, estimated 70.8 trillion cubic feet and discovered in 2010, was expected go into production in 2017, but plans were shelved following the breakout of hostilities in the Donbas region in 2014 and is an area currently being fought over.”
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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 – 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