This weekend we should all spare a thought for the members of Theresa May’s government who have been packed off in two separate teams to sort out the Cabinet differences and splits over the ‘Customs Partnership’ and the “max-fac” options for future UK trade arrangements. With the clock ticking away the EU and the rest of us are eagerly waiting to see if May can unite her divided cabinet to come up with a cohesive bargaining position on how the UK might leave the EU Customs Union.
The curiously composed ‘teams’ worry Brexiteers. Pro-remain Ministers Greg Clark and Karen Bradley will outnumber the occasionally erratic David Davis on the team looking at Brexiter’s preferred ‘max-fac’ option which uses technology to avoid hard border in Ireland and to avoid queues everywhere. The EU and Irish Government assert that a technological solution does not exist but refuse to meet to discuss it. Remainer commentators are similarly dismissive (e.g. See Adam Boulton in today’s Sunday Times or Peter Foster in Saturday’s Telegraph, the latter containing the howler that the max fac scheme would need to exempt 80% of trade across the Irish border. In fact, the technology needed to avoid Irish border infrastructure or queues elsewhere already exists. It depends on mobile phones in lorry cabs and has been successfully trialled at the Norway-Sweden border. Similar technology is currently used by Network Rail to replace physical signalling infrastructure.
The Irish Government is hinting that it will accept the other ‘Trade Partnership’ option as the nearest it can get to the UK staying in the EU Customs Union. Theresa May argues that this will allow the UK to forge new trade agreements across the globe, but in practice these would be odd agreements, forcing non-EU trade partners to pay EU tariffs and then prove that their goods do not pass through the UK into the EU in order to claim a rebate. In addition, the UK is likely to have to be bound by EU regulations to make it work. Not exactly regaining control! Boris Johnson, who has called this option ‘crazy’, is not on either team, and neither is Philip Hammond. Both will have to agree a way forward in the next full cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile the Lord’s continue their high-wire act, risking future abolition or severe reform, for the sake of keeping the UK in the EU. ‘Just doing their constitutional duty’, they assert, but most would prefer some-one else to perform this duty.
Our media appearances
It’s been a busy week for us and our contributors who are setting the agenda on Brexit and countering the over-hyped concerns of Remainers.
Graham Gudgin has co-authored with the Ireland diplomat Ray Bassett (former ambassador to Canada) a report published by Policy Exchange, “Getting over the Line”, https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Getting-over-the-line.pdf. It explains (yet again!) how the Ireland border can be managed. This is now well known, and the conclusion that the issue is being ‘weaponized’ is unavoidable.
Graham wrote an article on this report for Brexit Central, do read. https://brexitcentral.com/post-brexit-irish-border-without-physical-infrastructure-fully-attainable/
The Report also made a number of national publications throughout the UK:
Robert Tombs has written an article for the Spectator published this week: Our great universities are struggling – but not because of Brexit: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/05/our-great-universities-are-struggling-but-not-because-of-brexit/ – our capacity to attract the best brains seems to depend on universities in other countries remaining worse.
Other media appearances
On Wednesday Lord David Trimble spoke on the BBC Today Programme about the NI Border and Customs arrangements: You can listen to this important interview 2 hours 34 minutes into the programme: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b1p5fn#play
On Tuesday Gwynthian Prins spoke on the BBC Today Programme about his recently published B4B article which has now had over 2,000 Views: https://www.briefingsforbritain.co.uk/the-galileo-spat-lesson-for-ministers/. You can listen 1 hr 13 mins into this programme. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b1p51k. Their support for an independent UK satellite positioning system was followed was a silly negative article in yesterday’s Times p 21 by their Science Correspondent (‘Galileo satellite row endangers military’) in which a certain Dr Bowen, at Leicester University, predicts ‘a scenario comparable to James Bond …’ if UK is ‘shut out’ of Galileo, and asserting that a British Galileo is ‘ridiculous … met with laughter’.
Brexit? Try Asking History by Robin Dunbar
In this article in our ‘Remainer Revolt’ series Professor Robin Dunbar challenges the Remainers’ grasp of history.
Professor Dunbar begins his article with a plea to his readers: “I continue to be astonished by both the lamentable quality of argumentation in the Brexit debate and by what seems to be the complete absence of any knowledge of history. At one level, the debate seems to involve some rather desperate attempts to infer All from Some. Strident claims to the contrary, it is not, for example, the case that London and Scotland voted to remain and the midlands and north of England voted to leave:..”
He concludes: “It seems to be a truism that every path in the Brexit negotiations leads back to the Irish Question. One has to wonder why. Ireland has been a sovereign state for almost a century, yet we have managed to maintain a happy communal arrangement. Aside from police posts during the height of the troubles in the 1970s (a matter of security not customs, by the way), there was no border: goods, people and services flowed back and forth at will. Why, then, do we need a border now? The answer, of course, is: we don’t. It is the EU that wants a border, but wants us to bear the blame for setting it up for them. So, when we have our border, what should we do, I wonder, with the Irish Republic’s lighthouses (which, in case you weren’t aware, are overseen out of London in coordination with the British ones), their inshore lifeboats (which are mostly run by the UK’s RNLI) and their bank accounts (the Bank of Ulster being the biggest bank in the Republic)? The truth is that we have been making a common market work, and work exceptionally well, for more than a century – in fact, since 1707 when the Scots joined in and created a union of two jurisdictions with radically different legal systems, different educational systems and very different religions, none of which have proved an impediment to good governance and largely congenial relations. Shouldn’t Brussels be asking us for advice?”
What tribunal is to decide “Withdrawal Agreement” disputes by Sir Richard Aikens
Sir Richard Aikens QC summarises evidence given by himself and Martin Howe to a House of Lords Select Committee on what tribunal should determine any disputes that there might be about the interpretation of the terms of the “Withdrawal Agreement” that has to be agreed between the UK and the EU on leaving the EU. Sir Richard and Mr Howe advocated a solution which is simple; a tribunal consisting of distinguished judges from both the EU 27 and UK. The rights of EU Citizens would be the same as for UK citizens and any disputes could be arbitrated by the new tribunal.
Aikens takes to task commonly held myths about the legality of citizen’s rights come Brexit day. He writes: “It was suggested that when the UK left the EU, the rights of an EU citizen who continued to live in the UK would be “diminished” if that citizen could not longer have access to the CJEU if the citizen thought that the UK or its courts were not respecting his or her rights as an EU citizen. This is incorrect. First, the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens will be governed by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement which will be binding on the UK and the EU as an international law instrument. Those rights will therefore have been the subject of agreement at the level of international law by the EU and the UK. Secondly, by definition, as the EU citizen will have chosen to continue to live in the UK after it has left the EU, no person who lives in the UK can appeal to a court of an entity (the EU) of which the UK is no longer a part. Thirdly, the rights of the EU citizen, post-Brexit, that are contained in the Withdrawal Agreement, will be given the force of law in the UK and will be enforced in the UK Courts. Fourthly, if the EU citizen believes that the UK Courts have misinterpreted his or her rights contained in the Withdrawal Agreement, then the proposed independent tribunal can be asked to adjudicate on the matter.”
We have also been busy on Twitter https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the National News.
@LeavemnsLeave Tweeted out this important news that we had suspected might be true: “Whitehall Brexit adviser Olly Robbins ‘held back key advice’ on tech that could solve the Irish border issue..” The Sun article it refers to can be read here: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6259758/olly-robbins-max-fac-irish-border-customs-partnership/
And the MP KateHoey @KateHoeyMP has clocked up over 1.7k Likes for her tweet: “Jacob understands the border issue is being exploited and politicised by those who want to stay in the EU and by those who do not wish Northern Ireland to be a success within the UK.”
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