At last we have the White Paper. Not, alas, one that is likely to survive opposition from either Tory Brexiteers or the EU. Criticised by both Brexiteers and Remainers, albeit for starkly different reasons, it seems likely to become one of the great might-have-beens of British politics.
Importantly, Theresa May narrowly saw off Remainer efforts to commit Britain to remaining in the Customs Union in the case of a no free-trade deal, with the invaluable help of four Labour Brexiteers, including Frank Field and Kate Hoey. The PM had to capitulate, however, to four amendments proposed by the European Research Group. One of these, enshrining the principle of reciprocity in the collection of custom duties, is probably enough to kill the deal in Brussels. Number 10, however, insists that the White Paper plan was already characterised by reciprocity, in which case it contained the seeds of its own destruction.
Michael Barnier has already poured cold water on the customs proposals, quite reasonably suggesting that they will open Europe to smuggling. He has also stated that he does not want to construct a border in the Irish Sea and repeated his calls for the issue to be ‘de-dramatised.’ A bit rich, from the author of the drama, but a definite signal that Brussels may settle for a limited range of checks (e.g. on animals coming into NI on ferries) that the DUP could live with.
The EU is likely to string things out while trying to carve out further concessions, but in our view, the Chequers plan should be abandoned as soon as possible. The good news is that no-deal planning has been stepped up in the UK, with the announcement of a series of 70 public notices to prepare people and businesses. The EU is also belatedly warning its own people of potential damage from no-deal.
We may thus be approaching the stage in which real negotiations begin, But, not before Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s attempted one last idiocy, as he claimed UK planes would be blocked from flying over Irish airspace in the case of no-deal. Unfortunately for Mr Varadkar, access to airspace is guaranteed by international treaty not the EU, but in any case who believes such implausible threats? Not us.
The EU has signed a free trade deal with Japan, but it looks like talks with India will be abandoned. The UK is India’s biggest European trading partner, and a deal with the UK when it has left the EU is likely to offer more to both sides. Trade deals like this are what Brexiteers must continue to fight for.
The EU promotes ‘worst kinds of nationalism’ – Professor John Gray on BBC Points of View
BfB contributor, the eminent philosopher Prof John Gray, featured in a 10-minute piece on Brexit for BBC Points of View. He argues the European Union is no longer a force for liberalisation and its approach to immigration has led to the rise of far-right movements across the continent.
Remainers insistent on overturning Brexit risk returning the UK to a ‘dark European past.’ Gray, who retired as Professor of European Thought at LSE in 2008, argues that we should instead be looking to the future.
‘We find ourselves in a new world. Why not make the best of it?’
Listen to the episode here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07hj8bv
Professor Gray’s comments have also been covered by the Express at https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/992130/Brexit-news-latest-EU-UK-Europe-immigration-nationalism
Setting up simple lorry checks would avoid us giving up our independence – Dr Graham Gudgin in the Sunday Telegraph 15th July
BfB co-editor Dr Graham Gudgin’s objections to the Chequers Agreement were published in the Sunday Telegraph last week. He argues that the UK should accept a Canada–style free trade agreement. He examines common problems cited as evidence that Britain should stay in the Customs Union, and offers simple, practical solutions.
‘The UK does not need to be trapped inside a customs union to deal with what is a manageable problem. There are better ways forward.’
A longer version of the published article can be found on our website: https://briefingsforbritain.co.uk/setting-up-simple-lorry-checks-would-avoid-us-giving-up-our-independence
Robert Tombs on Political Realignment and Englishness
BfB co-editor Robert Tombs has this week published a piece for Reaction, arguing that Brexit is a symptom of a traumatic realignment in our politics, the consequences of which are still being worked out.
‘Only a referendum on Europe obviously combines the grass-roots toxicity of the Corn Law issue with the patriotic emotions aroused by the Irish Question, and therefore has the potential to remake the political landscape almost overnight.’
On a lighter note, those who missed it in last week’s Spectator might enjoy Robert’s article ‘The World Cup has made us proud to be English’, which deals with Englishness and that (alas) now distant World Cup cheer.
EVENT: ‘Is Britain’s Growth Model Broken – and Can Brexit Help to Fix It?’ – Monday, 23 July, 2018, 17:00–18:30, at Policy Exchange HQ, London
On Monday, Policy Exchange will publish a paper by Cambridge political theorist Dr Chris Bickerton arguing that Brexit is happening partly as a result of the UK’s ‘flexible labour market’ growth model. Leaving the EU may be the only way of transcending this model in favour of a (more European-style) ‘high investment in people’ growth model. Thus, Brexit provides an opportunity for historic change in Britain’s political economy.
The paper’s release will coincide with a panel discussion on the theme ‘Is Britain’s Growth Model Broken – and Can Brexit Help to Fix It?’ held in London.
Dr Bickerton will defend his thesis in conversation with other notable speakers:
- Lord Macpherson of Earl’s Court, Former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury
- Bridget Rosewell OBE, Economist and Founder of Volterra Partners; Chair of Atom Bank
- Martin Sandbu, Economics Commentator, Financial Times
- David Goodhart (Chair), Head of Immigration, Integration and Demography Unit, Policy Exchange
Subscribers are warmly invited to attend. RSVP is essential; to register please follow the link below.
If you have trouble with the link, RSVP by email to [email protected]
Maria Caulfield MP, on May’s leadership and the Brexit White Paper
Maria Caulfield the Conservative MP for Lewes was one of a clutch of senior resignations from Theresa May’s government following on from the Chequers agreement that saw fellow Brexiteers the Brexit Secretary David Davis and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resign.
In this special BfB podcast interview Caulfield gives us her assessment of those concessions Jacob Rees Mogg’s European Research Group secured to the Customs Bill, why she can now live with it, and why she believes a leadership challenge to Theresa May would be counter-productive.
‘I am not completely opposed to the White Paper, [and it would have been acceptable] if the PM had come back to us at the end of the negotiations and said this is the deal. But this isn’t the deal – this is what she is going to the EU with.’
Our Blogs this week
Realists, Idealists and the EU by Dr Philip Towle
Dr Philip Towle, Emeritus Reader in International Relations in Cambridge, argues that British opinion on Brexit is emotionally polarised. Realism will again prove more prophetic than idealism but learning its lessons will be painful.
‘There is the same arrogance today towards people who take the realist view of the European scene as there was in 1930s when it was reflected in titles like Leonard Woolf’s Intelligent Man’s Way to Prevent War published in 1933.’
Waging the Culture War by Dr Joanna Williams
Dr Joanne William argues that the culture war against Brexit, having now been waged for almost three years, is growing increasingly desperate in its attempts to besmirch Leave voters. She exposes the crude insults and weak arguments underlying this effort.
‘We can only imagine the outcry if such insults as are routinely directed at Leavers were levelled at any other group in society. But the never-ending churn of excuses and insults continues because it allows Remainers to avoid the painful reality that millions of people rationally weighed up the arguments and decided to vote to leave the EU.’
The Single Market for Services in the EU by Paul Brewer
Paul Brewer, CEO of Rubicon Fund Management, London, contends that the EU has failed to create a free and single market for services, which account for most of the British economy. Most financial services are restricted to the domestic markets of EU member states. The ‘passport’ regime under which financial service providers operate is far from frictionless. The impact of Brexit on the British financial industry will therefore be limited.
‘The current “European passport” regime under which we operate does not provide borderless access but comes with specific registration/notification requirements in each country and associated costs.’
How to Break up the Union by Prof Richard Tuck
Prof Richard Tuck, Professor of Government at Harvard University, argues that if Theresa May were really to care about the actual possibility of the United Kingdom dissolving, the worst thing she could do would be to go down her present path.
‘Independence for Scotland inside an EU which also contained England was virtually costless, while independence (or even continued membership of the EU for Scotland) if England was not in the EU would impose huge costs which the Scottish electorate would baulk at.’
The role of identity politics in the Remainer Revolt by Ben Cobley
Ben Cobley argues that identity politics provides the only serious moral (or moralistic) element in the Remain campaign. It draws simple dividing lines of good and evil, right and wrong. It sets out to create negative associations towards those on the Brexit side, and a contrasting moral, virtuous aspect to those who voted Remain.
‘Presenting voters on the other side as a problem is one thing, but associating that problem with their gender, skin colour and age takes the rhetoric up to another level.’
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome.
We are on Twitter at https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion continues on Facebook, with Richard Tuck’s piece on why lack of trust has become a key issue in politics proving particularly popular. Comments include ‘Democracy has been the biggest casualty in recent days’ and, in response to our Editors’ take on the Chequers plan, ‘I do hope Briefings for Brexit are sending the articles or even speaking direct to the PM.’ No calls from Theresa yet, but we have our contacts…
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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