Newsletter 21 September 2020


This week saw a small string of resignations over the International Markets Bill, although the predicted rebellion in the Commons proved more muted than it might have.

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­Dear Subscribers,

This week saw a small string of resignations over the International Market Bill, although the predicted rebellion in the Commons proved more muted than it might have. Joe Biden also decided to offer his two cents, following up on the grand success of President Obama’s ‘back of the queue’ intervention during the Brexit referendum campaign – not a ringing endorsement of the efficacy of Biden’s political memory.

It was, of course, to be expected that some in the US would prove unhelpful on this score. Biden has always been keen to play to his Irish-American voter base. For another example, take Congressman Peter King, one of the authors of a recent Congressional report decrying the Internal Markets Bill. During the Troubles, King was known for his unhelpful support for the IRA, which he described as a ‘legitimate force’, as BfB contributor Nick Busvine this week reminds us. It is a bit rich to see King now proclaim himself a guardian of the Good Friday Agreement.

One of the key things to note in the heated reaction of the EU to the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill is that Brussels has not suspended or abandoned the trade talks. The story is that they wish to avoid the accusation that they pulled the plug on talks. More likely this is a sign they really want and need a free-trade agreement.

So while the hot air continues, the real story continues to happen behind the scenes in the negotiating room. We await further news on the outcome of discussions.

On the website this week


No short cuts to deterrence in a world of hybrid warfare, by Sir Jeremy Blackham and Sir Michael Graydon

In their submission to the Integrated Defence & Security Review, the authors explain that nuclear deterrence not underpinned by credible conventional deterrence is a dangerous delusion. Whenever a new way of war fighting is developed, it does not ipso facto render existing forms obsolete. Rather it creates a new vulnerability. This truism is an essential part of the test for effective deterrence, which depends on a continuum of credible deterrence.

“Nothing could be more dangerous to national security than deluding ourselves about the level of real operational capability we can deploy at short notice.”

EU not meeting its obligations to improve Irish Protocol, by Roderick Crawford

Roderick Crawford points out that the Irish Protocol is incoherent. The text that was agreed was a case of might creating right. Rather than work with the UK to address the challenges and contradictions in the protocol, the EU has treated the Protocol as a test that the UK must pass to be rewarded with a FTA.

“It is a well-established rule that agreements reached when one party is compelled to sign up under intense pressure are unstable and are at high risk of breaking down.”

The EU’s power grab in the Channel Tunnel must be stopped, by Caroline Bell

Civil servant Caroline Bell shows that Brussels is attempting to overturn agreements on how to govern Channel Tunnel safety in yet another attempt to keep control of UK regulations and to involve the ECJ.

“The EU must not be allowed to create another version of the Northern Ireland Protocol under the white cliffs of Dover.”

The recent US Congressional letter to the PM on Northern Ireland should be taken with a pinch of salt, by Nick Busvine

In this piece, former diplomat Nick Busvine reminds us that Congressman Peter King – one of the authors of a recent Congressional letter warning Boris Johnson not to press forward with the Internal Market Bill – has a long and undistinguished history of unhelpful interference in Northern Ireland.

“In 1985, he announced that ‘the British government is a murder machine’, before going on to describe the IRA as a ‘legitimate force’ and comparing Gerry Adams, the then leader of Sinn Fein, to George Washington.”

Key points this week

Internal Problems with the Markets Bill

Much has been made of the supposed concessions to rebel Conservative MPs on the Internal Markets Bill, with Downing Street supposedly having been forced to compromise.  Yet this hardly changes the substance of the Bill, which falls short of Brussels’ desire that the powers it grants be withdrawn entirely and not just delegated to Parliament.  In the event that the EU does threaten to impose unreasonable restrictions, such as refusing to recognise the UK’s food standards as adequate for export to the EU (and thus Northern Ireland), then the government will have easy access even under the amended bill to the legal powers needed to avoid such a blockade – via a simple vote in the House of Commons.  Contrary to soft Europhile opinion and the denials issued by Barnier, Brussels has been willing to threaten precisely that it will refuse to recognise to list the UK as compliant for export to the EU for food standards purposes.  (This is, of course, pure politics, and nothing to do with actual food standards.)

This is an obvious instance of the bloc’s bad faith in negotiations.  As Professor David Collins points out, ministerial indiscretions aside there is a strong case that it is the EU, not the UK, that is in breach of international law (as in so many other cases).  Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement commits the EU to negotiate a reasonable relationship with the UK which respects British sovereignty, and the bloc’s failure to do so is itself a material breach of the Agreement.  As the Vienna Convention provides for, treaties may be repudiated in the event of such a breach.  In any event, the bill has forced the EU to publicly disavow the kind of blackmail it was until recently indulging, making it a clear success despite negative spin from Remainer sources.

Fishy Stories

The EU has recently floated that the UK might ‘surrender control over Channel Islands fishing’.  It’s true that limited numbers of French fishermen will continue to operate in the Channel Islands’ waters, as the islands decide their own fisheries policy.  Guernsey had banned French boats from fishing in February, after the expiration of the Treaty of London pending a new licensing system, before subsequently agreeing to grant new licenses from January 2021.  This has not been done under the Common Fisheries Policy, however, but simply by bilateral agreement with France.  Despite the hot air, no significant concessions have yet been offered by the UK government – and nor should they be.  This non-story, however, is a useful illustration of a couple of points.  Firstly, it’s a concrete demonstration of the EU’s need for Britain as a market and a supplier – with some EU states depending on British waters for up to 40% of the total fish they catch.  (Compare financial markets: Brussels has been forced by economic reality to allow London to continue to act as a center for derivatives trading.)  Secondly, it demonstrates the effectiveness of bilateral arrangements and EU members’ willingness to engage in them to secure their economic interests, despite Brussels’ protests.  When the cards are down, the Commission’s posturing and attempts to take a tough line fall foul of the mutual advantages that such deals bring to both Britain and our European partners.

Key Points is compiled by a Cambridge PhD student.



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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.

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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