The last few months have been so full of unexpected turns that we have almost grown used to them. Most surprises have been unpleasant, but there has been the occasional delight too. Like this one – the Financial Times giving a front-page splash last Friday to the exciting news that Renault are to close a car assembly plant in Spain and move the production of two models to the Nissan site in Sunderland. No mention of the danger of no deal on Brexit, or of all of those years when the FT told us confidently that with Brexit such investment was impossible. It is good to see the FT finally forced to break away with its earlier exaggerations and scare-mongering, though it would be nice if they admitted they were doing so.
Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost continues to offer some cause for cheer in these bleak days of continued lockdown. He has written a clearly worded letter to Michel Barnier, setting out again the points he made in his statement last week. Frost speaks for many in Britain (including us) when he writes, “We find it perplexing that the EU, instead of seeking to settle rapidly a high-quality set of agreements with a close economic partner, is instead insisting on additional, unbalanced, and unprecedented provisions in a range of areas, as a precondition for agreement between us.” We have reprinted the full letter on the BfB website.
Meanwhile, the latest variation on the tedious ‘lockdown breaches by public figures’ theme involves Dominic Cummings’s much reported trip to Durham. The lockdown rules give some latitude for special circumstances involving children, so we do not regard his behaviour as a sacking offence. If Cummings ends up resigning over his ill-advised travels, we must hope that the government’s Brexit strategy, of which Cummings has been a prominent champion, is not thrown out with him.
There has also been talk of a cabinet reshuffle, so we may soon see further shake ups at the centre of government. However, changes seem set to signal a shift in the government’s Covid strategy, rather than any shift in Brexit policy. The recent performance of Boris Johnson and his team can be criticised on a number of fronts. But on Brexit, they continue to push on with admirable resolve, undeterred (and perhaps encouraged) by the effects of the pandemic. As we report on the website this week, this is a wise strategy, as problems in the Eurozone continue to mount in the wake of the Karlsruhe judgment.
On the website this week
Injustice at the Court of Justice? By Baroness Deech
The European Union claims to be based strictly on law, and its Court of Justice claims the supreme and exclusive right to decide what that law is. But is it doing justice even in its own affairs, and do its members inspire confidence in its independence and integrity? Crossbench peer Baroness Deech examines some particularly questionable moves made recently by the Court, including its dismissal of its own Advocate General, Eleanor Sharpston QC.
“Every British lawyer and every defender of the EU should be shouting from the rooftops about the case of Eleanor Sharpston. If you can sack a member of the court, judicial independence is meaningless.”
“Dear Michel…” Britain raises its voice, by Briefings for Britain
David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, in a polite but blunt letter to his opposite number, Michel Barnier, makes it very clear that the EUs basic position in negotiating our future relationship is extreme, illogical, and quite simply unacceptable to a modern democracy. We publish the full text of the letter here.
Weakening our defences: dangers in the Political Declaration, by Lt Gen Jonathon Riley
Debate concerning our future relations with the EU has concentrated overwhelmingly on trade. But, as Lt Gen Jonathon Riley explains, there are vital defence elements too in the Political Declaration which it is dangerous to overlook, for they risk being seriously damaging to UK interests. Yet commentators and even ministers seem to know little about them.
“The Johnson Government must be encouraged to maintain its line and avoid moving back towards an attachment to the defence policy of the EU institutions as proposed during Theresa May’s premiership.”
Barnier’s Impasse, by Robin Dunbar
Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, Robin Dunbar, suggests that there is a cultural gap that the negotiations between Britain and the EU have to cross. So far they are not doing so.
“The constitutional histories of the Britain and France could not be more different, despite a common origin and the better part of 500 years of shared history thanks to the Normans. It still colours our respective approaches to governance and negotiation.”
The clock is ticking for the EU’s legal order, by Anna Bailey
Earlier this month, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the European Central Bank (ECB) had exceeded its legal mandate with its PSPP bond-buying programme. It also found that the European Court of Justice had acted ultra vires in ruling the PSPP lawful. Dr Anna Bailey explains why the EU is now caught between a rock and a hard place in a crisis set to explode in under three months’ time.
“The clock is ticking. But for once, it’s not the Brexit clock. Earlier this month, the German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) in Karlsruhe set a timebomb ticking under both the Eurozone and the EU’s legal order, with a three-month-long fuse.”
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. Jonathan Bush penned his own letter to the EU: “Dear EU, Stop messing about. Don’t think you can push us around any more. Get a grip and agree an FTA pretty much like those with other nations. (Unwritten: Get a grip and make a deal, or else WTO.)”
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