Less than a week to go until the election. And good job too, given the increasingly lacklustre performance of both major party leaders, as typified by Friday’s stultifying debate. Surely ‘Cruising with Jane McDonald’ over on Channel 5 has never had higher viewing figures. More dramatic news broke earlier on Friday, as Alexandra Hall Hall’s resigned as British counsellor in Washington, accusing the government of peddling ‘misleading or disingenuous arguments’ over Brexit.
The resignation is worrying, but largely as part of a broader story of unprecedented civil service partiality at moments of high political importance. This is a phenomenon that is addressed this week on the BfB website by Nick Busvine (formerly of the FCO), and has been discussed in the past by others including Sir Peter Marshall, former Assistant Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and associate of Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of European integration. Both contributors remind us of the worrying prevalence of Civil Service anti-Brexit group think. Addressing this institutional phenomenon will continue to pose challenges even if the Tories win a Brexit majority on Thursday.
There are many strong pro-Brexit points Boris could have made in last night’s debate but didn’t. Firstly, that Corbyn was wrong to say that ‘more than half our trade’ went to the EU and that ‘all our manufacturing industries’ depended on EU supply chains. Secondly, he could have pressed Corbyn on how Labour would go about abolishing student fees and giving nurse bursaries when inside the EU all nationalities would be eligible to benefit? Thirdly, that Corbyn’s references to France as a model are absurd when the country is paralysed by strikes. Most importantly, Boris could and should have come up with better arguments for Brexit than cheaper tampons and animal welfare. As we have pointed out, there are potentially enormous economic gains for ordinary people. Why can Tory ministers not manage to take this simple point on board?
This has been a frustrating election campaign, with the Conservative party pushing the ‘Get Brexit done line’, without emphasising the positive case for Brexit or giving much indication of what they envisage the UK will look like after we leave the EU. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn continues to play the ostrich, refusing to take a stance on Brexit, the biggest question of the election. This is perverse: the case for Brexit and the case for a better deal for British people go hand in hand. Despite their failings, it is clear that the Tories are the only party which can be relied on to deliver Brexit, and we hope they will win a solid majority. Then the work of building an independent, outward-looking and confident post-Brexit Britain can begin in earnest.
In other news, a Christmas Carol-esque tale of Brexit Scrooges seeing the error of their ways: Goldman Sachs which earlier gave £500,000 to the pro-European Britain Stronger in Europe Campaign, now thinks Brexit is a good thing. Its latest forecasts suggest a Boris boom if the Conservatives win a majority and get Brexit done. The bank also predicts a boom in share prices. More joy in heaven and all that.
BfB co-editor Robert Tombs has written an article for the Spectator, which discusses the momentous stakes of Thursday’s General Election. At issue is nothing less than whether or not Britain still has control of its own political destiny. Yet this major question is one which the media and our party leaders have been oddly keen to downplay:
“If Boris Johnson fails to win a majority to ‘get Brexit done’, it will show that the British electorate has backed away from that decision, perhaps through fear of the consequences following a constant battering with anti-Brexit propaganda, perhaps through the coming of age of a new generation for whom independent national democracy appears to have little meaning. And that would be it. We would have given up ultimate control of our destiny because independence was too difficult.”
Robert has also written a piece for the Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche, entitled ‘Decision Day’, discussing the election as a chance for Britain to reassert confidence in its own democracy – a desire with which many of the Swiss will sympathise:
“One can be European without being a member of the EU… Like the Swiss, most of the British feel that they can prosper outside the EU, and that the costs of membership—not only financial—are too high.”
On the website this week
Brexit looks Safe for the Time Being, by Graham Gudgin
In the second of our election prediction briefings, we observe that the latest poll of polls shows a continuing Conservative lead over Labour of 11 points. Using our elections model we predict that this could lead to an 65-seat Tory majority. However, Labour support continues to rise, probably due to the tactical voting intentions of LibDem supporters. The election outcome will depend on far this trend goes.
“The danger is of course that the transfer of LibDem votes to Labour will continue to deepen. The squeeze on minor parties has gone further on the pro-Brexit side leaving less still to gain.”
Labour’s Leave Deal, by Titus
Labour promises to negotiate a rapid Brexit ‘deal’ with the EU and put it to the people. What sort of deal does Labour really envisage? An examination of its manifesto shows that its idea of Leave is in reality Remain. Far from taking back control from the EU, Labour’s negotiating aims are consistent with nothing changing other than the UK no longer having a vote within the EU. Let Labour Leavers beware, argues Titus (a young academic who wishes to remain anonymous).
“The EU has a long history of overturning adverse referendum results by offering cosmetic and fairly meaningless changes. Labour’s offer to its Leave voters is precisely this.”
Bring down the curtain: La commedia è finita, by Sir Peter Marshall
Sir Peter Marshall, a leading expert on multilateral diplomacy and former Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, reports on the current state of affairs in the EU Commission. As he steps down after five years as President of the European Council, it is clear Donald Tusk still has no understanding as to why the UK voted to leave the EU. The yawning gap between the central institutions and the peoples of the member countries grows ever wider. Meanwhile, Remainers in this country either can’t or won’t say what “remaining” would mean for us in practice. They should be ceaselessly challenged on the point.
“We should revert to our default position in relation to any elaborate continental construct: namely close and friendly co-operation from outside – “semi-detached”, as Clement Attlee so aptly put it.”
Senior City financier Edmund Truell, founder of the Pension Superfund and former Chairman of the London Pension Fund Authority, warns that the ECJ is deciding whether to upturn UK pension arrangements that have been established for decades. The implications of an imminent ECJ ruling are potentially catastrophic to the wider UK economy. The UK should be able to govern its domestic pension industry without ECJ interference. This is a flagrant example of how the UK can be severely damaged by continuing subjection to EU jurisdiction.
“This case is a particularly clear example of how the European Union’s overarching rulings can and do have negative effects on the UK and its economy… The ECJ can reach into the plumbing of UK pension arrangements that have been established for decades.”
What Price Democracy Now? By Nick Busvine
Nick Busvine, formerly of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, suggests that the Brexit debate has done us all a favour by shining a spotlight on the state of our democracy and institutions, as well as those of the EU. We now know not to take our democracy for granted and of the pressing need to hold our partisan civil servants and politicians to account.
“Within days of the referendum, I was told by various serving and former officials that the result was wrong and that parliament would overturn it. I was aghast. How could so many members of our establishment so casually dismiss the referendum outcome?”
Remainers’ Democratic Deceit, by Brian Morris
Media consultant Brian Morris explores how Remainer politicians are ignoring democracy or falsely claiming their Brexit policies are democratic.
“Should Humpty Dumpty from Alice in Wonderland take a look at today’s UK politics he might well conclude that the word democracy means just whatever Remain politicians choose it to mean.”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion continues on Facebook too. Toby Lamper had a suggestion for how Donald Tusk might finally come to understand why the UK voted for Brexit: “Maybe he should speak to Leavers rather than just Remainers.”
How you can help
We urge our supporters to ‘take back control’ in our present confusion. There are thousands of you. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Sign up to the Brexit Pledge here. Write to your MPs. Perhaps send them copies of some of our articles (or links to them), especially when they are relevant to your local conditions – for example, in rural areas, on the threat to British agriculture. Better still, make an appointment to see them at their next surgery: they will take notice when people are lining up at their doors. Make you views known where MPs might be wavering, or where they are working to sabotage Brexit, especially in Leave-voting and marginal constituencies, which Richard Johnson listed in his recent article.
Do also keep reading our posts, and to tell others about us. Share links to our quality content so that others can understand how leaving the EU can 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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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