The terrifying post-Brexit monsters with which we were so often threatened continue to prove to have been Treasury officials saying ‘Boo’ with sheets over their heads all along. Nissan – once held up as one of the companies at highest risk of leaving the UK post-Brexit – has now come out and announced that the Brexit deal has given it a competitive edge on car battery tariffs. The Japanese company plans to buy more batteries from within the UK involving the BritishVolt company setting up a new battery plant in Northumberland creating 3,000 jobs.
Nissan’s boss has said that the Brexit deal will improve Nissan UK’s competitiveness, He added that customs costs were “peanuts” and for a global company like Nissan, filling in a few customs forms was ‘nothing’. This of course comes as no surprise to us at BfB.
Much publicity has been given to empty shelves in Northern Ireland supermarkets. Our contacts in Belfast however report no problems. Tesco home deliveries are arriving with no substitutions. The BBC even showed empty milk stacks but did not mention that Northern Ireland is a major producer and exporter of milk with no need to import.
Last week we drew subscribers’ attention to a searing critique of the EU by prominent left-wing intellectual Perry Anderson. This week, we suggest that readers might be interested in this article by the German left-wing economist and critic of the EU, Wolfgang Streeck, in which Streeck analyses the ongoing difficulties within the EU, and its failure to learn anything meaningful from Britain’s Brexit vote. As you will see, Streeck shares many of BfB’s diagnoses of these problems.
Indeed, the EU still seems to be more interested with proving Brexit is a disaster than working constructively with the UK. It is going to be important in the coming weeks to distinguish the genuine teething difficulties in the Brexit deal from EU efforts to ensure the UK appears to have having as much difficulty as possible.
Reviews of BfB co-editor Robert Tombs’s new book This Sovereign Isle (Allen Lane) continue to appear. Following last week’s review in The Sunday Times, The Times has also published a very favourable review. Robert has also spoken to The Spectator’s ‘Coffee House Shots’ podcast about his book. You can listen here.
On 28 January, Robert will also be taking part in ‘Living with one another’, a debate on Europe and Britain after Brexit chaired by Matthew Parris. The event is part of the Institut Francais’s Night of Ideas/Nuit des Idees. The discussion will be in English and interested readers can watch the event livestreamed on Youtube or Facebook. For more details, see the Institut Francais’s online programme of events, available here.
On the website this week
Can Britain still have influence in the world after Brexit? by David Landsman
There is no reason why Britain should not continue to play an influential role in the world after Brexit, provided we are clear on what we want to achieve, take a long-term approach, demonstrate our value to our international partners and deploy to the full our unique blend of public and private resources.
“We won’t of course want to stop with the Europe and the US. We never have but should use the opportunity of Brexit – as the Government is, to its credit, already doing – as a spur to putting more effort, and smart language, into our other major relationships.”
Despite our best intentions, it is becoming clear that deal or no deal the basic problem faced by the UK is that the EU has no friendly intentions towards us. It is impossible to be a friend, partner or ally of a system that essentially wants to teach you who is boss. ‘Titus’, a lawyer working in the public sector, discusses the EU’s future plans.
“The EU27 are unique in having a specific strategic goal in making life worse for the UK. It is simply not a viable basis for friendship, partnership or alliance with the EU nor any of its member states. It is time we wised up.”
The British economy has long outperformed the EU, by Robert Tombs
This simple and demonstrable fact is something that many people find very hard to accept. Why? Because it contradicts a widely accepted narrative and undermines the anti-Brexit mindset.
“There are many people who judge Brexit and EU membership solely in economic terms. They should at least get their basic facts right.”
France’s vaccine problem, by John Keiger
France is the only permanent member of the UN Security Council not to have developed a coronavirus vaccine, and it hurts. USA: two; UK: one; Russia: one; China: one, France nul points.
“‘France is the laughing stock of Europe’, cry a range of politicians and media. How is this possible in the land of Louis Pasteur, the French ask themselves?”
Key points this week
Small Beer for British Banking
Scare stories continue to make the news regarding the post-Brexit fate of the City. This time commentators have seized on a €6.3bn/£5.4bn shift in Euro-denominated shares from London to EU markets as a sign of woes to come. The shift has come about as a result of the European Commission’s delay in granting ‘equivalence’ to British financial regulations in hopes that this will cause further moves in financial services from the UK to the continent, or scare British regulators into continuing to follow Brussels’ lead.
While it‘s true that certain business has had to move as a result of this tactic, however, this shift was expected and planned for. HMRC revenues from City trading amount to £76bn, making this shift immaterial for both the Treasury and the industry as a whole. Indeed, it is small change compared to the apocalyptic predictions made by Remainers in the aftermath of the referendum.
Moreover, there are various ways in which British financial service providers can continue to attract European business despite Brussels’ attempts to weaken the City. London’s concentration of capital and expertise from a wide range of fields, its business convenience as a common-law and English-speaking metropolis, and its newfound regulatory nimbleness all compare favourably with dispersed, inexperienced and over-regulated European financial industries.
Equivalence is therefore a less potent weapon than European regulators would like to think. Britain is already diverging from EU regulations by lifting the restriction on trading Swiss shares, a restriction imposed by the EU in an attempt to punish Switzerland for its reluctance to agree to a new integrated governance system for EU-Swiss relations (which would give the bloc a stronger hand). And as the governor of the Bank of England has suggested, equivalence is not worth becoming a rule-taker.
Finally, it’s worth looking at the actual consequences of losing equivalence. The EU’s Swiss ban was effected by removing equivalence status, and made little difference to Swiss financial services. As has been argued elsewhere, a fragile ‘equivalence’ that European regulators can revoke at will is not a stable basis on which financial operators can do business, and is not worth pursuing if the price is dependence on a European regulator whose fundamental interest is to inimical to Britain’s financial prosperity.
Whither the Queues?
While border supply issues were the object of our last rebuttal piece, the continuing rather desperate attempts to find problems with the flow of goods continues in certain sections of the press. Yet the news is broadly encouraging. Despite the relative unfamiliarity of new customs procedures, very few trucks are being held up at the border, and as the arrangements bed in and become more familiar that number will only shrink further.
And though EU officials scoffed at the prospect of ‘smart’ customs measures being used to streamline procedures when it came to the Irish border, such measures are exactly those being employed in Calais, which is largely reporting business as usual. Thus the absurdity of claims in the past that Brexit customs would cost an extra £7bn (or even £20bn) – claims predicated on the absurd assumption that economies of scale would not lead to a reduced cost of declarations. Such figures better suited to pen-and-paper declarations than the streamlined and efficient digital methods now being rolled out.
Although it’s true that fish and food exporters are experiencing some difficulties, many of these are exaggerated. Certain refrigerated goods such as lamb can last up to 40 days, and even these delays will shortened as systems become more efficient. On the other hand, manufactured goods, which make up a proportion of UK output, are experiencing no such difficulties – indeed, Nissan recently committed to expanding its UK operations, citing new Brexit arrangements as a direct incentive. Along with the expansion of Blyth’s own electric car battery industry, Brexit has brought real gains to the North East – directly assisting the government’s ‘level up’ agenda.
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.
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