All eyes are on the US this week, following the killing of George Floyd and widespread protests against police brutality. As the world grapples with urgent questions about racism and inequality, all other news has been understandably side-lined.
But the Brexit news continues too. It will be important for us to remain vigilant over the next few months on a couple of fronts. Firstly, we must guard against attempts to extend the transition period. Any such extension would be damaging and unnecessary, as a number of contributors discuss on the website this week.
Secondly, as Dr Anna Bailey argues, the British negotiators need to continue to rebut Michel Barnier’s attempts to pin the blame for the slow progress of negotiations on the British. There is a battle underway for control of the narrative of these negotiations. This was a battle that was decisively lost when Theresa May was Prime Minister, but as David Frost’s spirited defences of the British case show, there is an alternative way forward.
As things stand, the EU is slowing negotiations with its insistence that Britain should accept subservient status unprecedented in international agreements between free nations. This is the EU’s choice. They should abandon this unreasonable stance and accept that if they do continue to pursue it, it is their intransigence, not that of the British, at fault.
At the core of the impasse between the EU and Britain is the question of fishing rights. We also publish this week an important analysis of the fishing question by Harry Western, who concludes that no deal would be no disaster for British fisheries, although there is still scope for a good deal which would smooth the transition.
Meanwhile, after announcing the move of production of two of its car models from Barcelona to Sunderland, Nissan now says that without an EU:UK free trade agreement its operations in the UK will not be sustainable. This is par for the course. In the 1990s Toyota said that if the UK did not join the Euro it would close its UK operations. The UK did not join the Euro and happily, three decades later, Toyota remains in the UK.
BfB co-editor Robert Tombs has written a piece which appears in today’s Mail on Sunday, entitled ‘Return of the Remainer Undead’. Robert discusses the Remainers who are trying to use the Covid crisis as an excuse to cancel Brexit and sets out the reasons why the pandemic actually makes Brexit more attractive than ever.
On the website this week
Frost Vs Barnier: The battle for the blame narrative, by Anna Bailey
The EU and UK chief negotiators, Michel Barnier and David Frost, are engaged in a ‘blame game’ propaganda battle. Barnier’s claim that the UK is reneging on commitments made in the Political Declaration is disingenuous, and the government must counter it before it becomes established as the dominant narrative. Although this article was written before the end of the fourth negotiating round, Barnier’s recent statement on the negotiations, in which he repeated the lines discussed here, reinforces Dr Bailey’s points.
“It is essential that the government’s whole Brexit team – the PM, Frost, Gove, and the Cabinet and ministers collectively – now actively debunks Barnier’s claims of ‘broken UK promises’ before it becomes established as the dominant narrative.”
Why ‘no deal’ is a good deal for the UK fishing industry, by Harry Western
The UK fishing industry is hugely disadvantaged by the current allocation of catches in the UK’s territorial waters. Economic analysis suggests a reallocation of catches based on the ‘zonal attachment’ principle could raise the value of UK fish landings by 50-60%. Moreover, such gains would massively outweigh any losses resulting from a rise in EU trade barriers to UK fish and fish products exports. ‘No deal’ is therefore a good deal for the UK fishing industry, although there may be scope for a deal with the EU that smooths the transition to a new allocation of catches.
“The key finding from these studies is clear – the reallocation of catch quotas in the UK’s favour dominates any negative effect on UK fish output from trade barriers.”
The Economic Case Against Extending the Brexit Transition, by Julian Jessop
If you are someone who believes that Brexit is absolutely marvellous, or a complete disaster, then the question of whether the coronavirus pandemic justifies an extension of the transition period is presumably a no-brainer. But what about those who think the issues are more delicately balanced? This piece is pitched at them. In particular, Julian Jessop argue that the Covid crisis actually reduces the short-term economic costs of leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.
“Extending the transition period is only likely to increase the UK’s exposure to the mounting fiscal and financial problems in the EU, even if additional budget contributions can be capped.”
How level are our farming fields? Trade Deals versus Farming Standards, by Catherine McBride
Economist Catherine McBride argues that protectionism on the misleading pretext of ‘lower standards’ or animal welfare is not the best future for British agriculture or for British consumers. Good quality cheap food can and should be imported, and British family farmers can and should find profitable markets abroad for specialised quality products. Factory Farming is already established in the UK and a US trade deal is not the cause. Lazy agricultural protectionism should not be used as a barrier to trade deals potentially benefiting all.
The full report on which this summary is based can be found here.
“UK politicians should let consumers decide what they want to eat and let trade provide the most efficiently produced products to meet that demand. All politicians need to do is to ensure that the choices are clearly and strictly labelled.”
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