We should not have been surprised by the climbdown at Chequers. Avoiding difficulties for the just-in-time manufacturers in the car, aircraft and other industries has driven the process since the start of Mrs May’s tenure as PM. Confidential undertakings were made to Nissan right at the beginning to keep up investment from Nissan and other car producers. The PM has now delivered. She is also aiming to have no impediments to goods trade with the EU, no tariffs, no regulatory differences, and no border checks.
Unfortunately, this means there will probably be no trade agreements with non-EU countries either, including the USA. The USA and South Americans will want to sell us hormone treated beef and GM maize, but our adherence to EU rules will prevent this.
The climbdown is mystifying. We have a large deficit in goods trade with the EU, so trade without impediments helps the EU more than us. The new proposals offer no advantages to our large and growing services exporters. The EU opposes concessions on services, and we have caved in without any threat of retaliation, e.g. threatening their agricultural trade.
But wait a cotton-picking minute… Strangely little is being said, on either side, about tariffs. A free-trade agreement with the EU is assumed, but what about non-EU goods? If we retain the freedom to set tariffs on these, we can eliminate tariffs on many food and drink imports where we produce little or not enough. Why put tariffs on oranges or wine, except to protect EU producers? Will the EU accept this risk, or will we see new cave-ins?
Talking of cave-ins, the EU is likely to press hard for further concessions on migration. Will Mrs May retreat to David Cameron’s deceptive formula of letting in all EU migrants with a job offer (which in these days of employment agencies and the internet means almost all migrants)?
Brexiteers in the Cabinet apparently believe that too little preparation has been done for ‘no deal’ and it is now too late to press this option. We should leave on the best terms we can get by next March and then campaign for a better deal after that. Is this whistling in the dark? Maybe, but he hopes to fight another day.
At least there is now some clarity on what May’s position is. It may now be a case of waiting out a disappointing deal next March as Gove suggests, then thinking again about how to achieve the freer trade policy that we believe is the best option for Britain. Or perhaps we will see a backbench revolt and a leadership contest sooner than expected…
BfB’s Media Coverage and Political Impact
This week we’re celebrating the launch of the Briefings for Brexit podcast on iTunes and Google Play. If you subscribe to the podcast via these services, you can automatically receive each new podcast when it’s released.
This week’s new podcasts are as follows:
Lawyers, Historians, Educationists, Economists: Speaking up for Brexit
Five leadings lawyers, historians, educationists, and economists speak up for Brexit and tell BfB listeners why they think the UK needs to leave the EU, including the single market and the customs union and some of its legal institutions too.
In this special BfB documentary you will hear from the lawyer Baroness Deech, the historian Professor Robert Tombs, the educationist & author Dr Joanna Williams, the political Labour historian Richard Johnson, and economist Dr Graham Gudgin.
Thomas Simpson: Would a Second Referendum disrespect the First?
Tom Simpson, an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College, reflects on what Teresa May’s responsibilities to the 51.9 per cent of voters who opted to Leave the EU in the June 2016 Referendum. Two years later some are still calling for a second referendum, in what has been termed the ‘Remainers’ revolt.’
Simpson explains why he thinks that a second referendum on our membership of the EU would be unjust, but that voters could legitimately be asked if they agreed or disagreed on the eventual Brexit deal that is struck by Theresa May and her government.
“It is pretty transparent for anybody looking on that calls for a Second Referendum are in bad faith. They are an attempt to overturn the first referendum result with a rival source of legitimacy.”
Our Blogs this Week
Evidence-based policy or fake news? Ten economic propositions made by Remain
A senior private sector economist (who prefers to remain anonymous for career reasons) examines ten widely believed facts about the economic impact of Brexit and finds all of them wide of the mark, in some cases substantially. A long version of this article appears on our REPORTS page.
And the longer version:
The Chequers Summit on a Future Customs Union. By Graham Gudgin
The UK urgently needs to clarify what exactly it will ask for in terms of customs arrangements. The Government’s continuing preference for some type of customs union with the EU is unnecessary. Graham Gudgin argues that a future outside a customs union but with a free trade agreement is a better alternative.
“Some controls at the Irish Sea will be necessary to control imports of animals, food etc. into Northern Ireland. The DUP are not necessarily opposed to a ‘cordon sanitaire’ for the whole island as long as there is no possibility of creeping additions towards a full border, and as long as its introduction does involve what can be seen as a constitutional change in the status of Northern Ireland. Lorries necessarily spend hours on the ferry crossings, giving a good opportunity for checks, as senior NI civil servants have suggested. Indeed, some such checks already exist.
“Remaining issues, including regular border crossings by local small traders and farmers, can be dealt with within a free trade agreement. The UK is willing to provide customs exemptions in these cases, but even with ‘rules are the rules’ EU authorities there is wide latitude for what goes into an FTA.”
The Government should ignore the special pleading from business by John Longworth
John Longworth argues that corporations oppose Brexit because they do not like change. Change costs them money but, more importantly, upsets the cosy system they have stitched up for themselves. In particular, multinationals which have no allegiance to any peoples see change as a down side.
“The recent manifestation of ‘Project Fear’ mark III, clearly a blatant attempt to frustrate and stop Brexit by organisations and businesses which have openly declared their opposition to it, is a shocking, anti-democratic intervention in the body politic.”
Towards “Onshore Bonding”: a British Geostrategy for Mainland Europe By James Rogers
James Rogers explains the positive impact Brexit can have if treated as a geopolitical opportunity for the UK to shape Europe.
“Irrespective of its withdrawal from the EU, the UK should be taking its European relations more seriously… By stepping up as a European power, the UK could do much to enhance European security, and help it find a new and important role for itself as it leaves the EU.”
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome.
We are also 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 too, with a series of featured podcasts this week to celebrate our iTunes and Google release. Peter Fisher says, in response to Thomas Simpson’s ‘Would a Second Referendum disrespect the First?’ podcast, “‘Disrespect’ is a term that does not come anywhere close to describing the consequences of having a second referendum. We have all become far too casual with our relationship with democracy – we think that it does not need our input or our vigilance and indeed there are those who wish for its downfall.”
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