May’s Brexit deal – a Chequers cherry pickers’ charter or a dog’s dinner?

Introduction

So after locking up her entire cabinet at Chequers on a boiling hot Friday in July, confiscating their mobiles and threatening to make them walk home if they resigned, Theresa May has finally managed to bully her cabinet colleagues into signing up to a position statement on Brexit – for the moment.

Without a hint of irony, or recognition of what a shambles they’ve been, the Government published that statement yesterday about the outcome of its Chequers Away Day

Quite what the EU will make of this document – or rather the more detailed White Paper that will follow next week – is anyone’s guess. But it’s hard not to view what May has come up with as anything but the worst of both worlds, as far as the UK is concerned.

Shades of another ‘Munich” in the making perhaps when May eventually returns from Brussels with a “deal” as Neville Chamberlain once did.

IMG_3976 2

Cherry pickers’ charter

From an EU perspective, we suspect the hardliners in Brussels will simply view the Chequers deal as wishful thinking from a government that still seems terrified of the consequences of leaving the EU and desperate to stay tied to its Brussels comfort blanket for as long as possible.

Right from the moment the UK voted to leave the EU, there have been repeated warnings that Britain could not “cherry pick” from what it used to have as an EU member state. Yet to the EU, the Chequers statement looks a lot like a cherry pickers’ charter and one that is full of inconsistencies and irreconcilable fudges. Indeed, we would even have some sympathy with Michael Barnier if he rolled his eyes on reading some of the text.

Although the proposals do tie Britain in to the EU and make it very hard – if not impossible – for us to really benefit from Brexit in economic terms, the EU are likely to push for even greater concessions. As history shows, the more you give these people, the more they take.

May and her advisers have consistently made this mistake from the very start of the negotiations. It borders on the criminal how they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Dog’s dinner

From the UK’s perspective, there are some words which are clearly put in to try and kid Brexit supporters that we are getting what we voted for. But elsewhere, these are either watered down or negated altogether by various caveats and contradictions.

The UK wants out of free movement but it wants a common customs area.

The UK will end the primacy of the European Court of Justice, but says that the English Courts will still have to take into account the ECJ’s decisions.

According to the paper, the UK will be free to strike trade deals with other countries, but it also says we will strictly follow Brussels’ regulations and standards on goods – effectively giving the EU a means of veto over any trade deals we might do.

Worse, whilst giving all sorts of concessions to the EU in relation to the trade in goods where EU countries benefit from a huge trade surplus with us, we get nothing reciprocal in return in relation to the trade in services, which are the most important earners for our economy. At least we aren’t agreeing to let the EU regulate our service industries. Not yet, anyway.

But perhaps most stupidly of all, the paper rules out any notion that we might actually take advantage of our new found freedom to enact sensible employment, environmental and transport laws that could boost our economy. In other words, we can’t rid ourselves of the ruinous burden of stifling red tape and regulation that all of our businesses have to suffer at the hands of EU bureaucrats.

Where now for Brexit – May’s sell-out or “no deal”?

We still have to see the detail before reaching a final judgment. But it is likely that most of us who want a genuine Brexit with all the huge political, economic and social benefits that would accompany it, will not just be disappointed ; we will be angry too. How did our government throw away such a good negotiating hand?

The only crumb of comfort from what emerged at Chequers yesterday is the Government’s stated intention to “step up” preparations for “no deal” just in case. But can anyone seriously take that at face value? A cynic would say that the reference to no deal is merely insincere window dressing stuck in to keep the Brexit supporters happy

Brexiteers might now be pinning their hopes on “no deal” as the last chance to stop a complete sell-out of the UK to Brussels.

After the wonderful sense of hope created by the referendum result, how did it all come to this?

“Tolerance” and “Diversity” – it’s time the liberal left looked in the mirror.

Introduction

For years now we have been witnessing a creeping intrusion into one of the most cherished features of Britain’s democratic heritage – free speech. That’s because there’s a group of influential people who are clearly trying to destroy it.

They never tire of preaching to us about “tolerance”, “diversity” and “human rights”. Yet when their own views of the world are challenged or repudiated, they react aggressively and show nothing but…er…intolerance towards divergent opinions. Who are “they”?

“They” are the new liberal establishment. A set of privileged, arrogant and increasingly neurotic people of left wing persuasion, who chiefly inhabit the worlds of politics, the media and the public sector, but whose pernicious influence has spread like a virus into areas such as the tech and entertainment sectors too.

Their disrespect, bordering on contempt, towards anyone who dares to take issue with their views has been shockingly exposed since the Brexit referendum. Those who voted against remaining in the EU are routinely dismissed as ignorant, xenophobic morons who didn’t know what they were voting for. And elsewhere in Europe where voters have returned Eurosceptic politicians who dare to reject EU policies, their electoral success is dismissed as mere “populism”.

The liberal establishment views the governments of Austria, Italy and Poland as a bunch of vulgar nationalists who have wickedly exploited public hysteria about immigration to pursue “authoritarian” and “islamophobic” policies.

Then there’s Hungary.

Hungary refuses to be bullied

Hungary, like the rest of Central Europe, suffered more than 40 wasted years imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. As with Poland and other Warsaw Pact states, Hungary endured decades of the economic failure and political oppression that invariably go hand in hand with authoritarian socialism (Corbyn supporters please take note).

Hungarians have seen what has happened to Western European societies in the era of mass, uncontrolled immigration. They have seen “multi-culturalism” in action. They have also seen how political correctness stifles free debate and disengages people from expressing themselves freely and honestly. As a result, and much to the chagrin of the liberal establishment, Hungarians keep votng for politicians who have no truck with such nonsense.

For example, when Hungary’s borders were threatened by a mass influx of economic migrants, instead of allowing an army of human rights lawyers to descend on them, and instead of showering them with free housing, benefits and legal aid, Hungary promptly erected miles of razor wire fencing aimed at keeping them out.

In doing so, Victor Orbán and his government have become the bogeymen for “liberals” across Europe.

The Maitlis interview

So it was naturally with great interest that we tuned in to watch an interview between BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis and Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s straight-talking Foreign Minister.

And what mesmerising television it was. Here was something we don’t see very often in Britain – a politician who answers questions honestly and directly and who refuses to hide behind platitudes and politically correct soundbites.

The result was to completely show up Maitlis as a biased, fully paid-up member of the new liberal establishment. She duly berated her guest about Hungary’s alleged failure to embrace so-called “tolerance” and “diversity”. But in doing so, it was very clear that she had no tolerance for any views
that diverged from her own.

It was as though she was thrown off balance by Mr Szijjártó‘s frankness. Challenged as to whether he supported some of the more colourful comments made by Victor Orbán about immigration, a British politician would have side-stepped such a question. But not Mr Szijjártó. He agreed with his Prime Minister.

Nor did he flinch from explaining that Hungary did not believe that multi-culturalism was in itself a good thing. But he respected the right of others to disagree.

Maitlis, however, showed no respect for a diversity of opinion that differed from her own. Her whole “interview” comprised a series of leading questions, hostile statements and interruptions. Her distaste for Hungary’s policies were not disguised.

This was not journalism; it was largely crude invective. Maitlis will no doubt win plaudits from among like-minded friends at her next dinner party, but for TV audiences looking to Maitlis for some objective commentary, her distasteful treatment of Mr Szijjártó has left her a much diminished figure.

It has also highlighted again the utter hypocrisy of the liberal left. Isn’t it time they looked in the mirror?

Beware the Brexit “transition” period

Introduction

In The Godfather III, mafia boss Michael Corleone finds his hopes of exiting the world of organised crime are in danger of being thwarted.

Just when I thought I was out; they pull me back in…” he laments.

Whilst we would not wish to push the gangster analogy too far (despite the EU’s behaviour), nor compare Corelone’s fate to that of the UK, there is a certain aptness to his phraseology when describing Brexit. Yes we are supposedly leaving the EU in March 2019 – despite the threats, blackmail and bullying from our erstwhile fellow EU gang members – but in reality we’re still at risk of being pulled back in.

May: scared to leave?

As we have previously observed, whilst repeatedly stating that “Brexit means Brexit”, Theresa May has often given the appearance of being fearful of actually leaving the EU. Hence, her government’s unhealthy fixation with the so-called “transition period”. It is as though she and her fellow remainer ministers and civil servants cannot quite pluck up the courage to walk out of that exit door.
They seem to want to hang around by the exit for as long as possible.

It is worth reminding ourselves that despite the UK voting to leave the EU in June 2016, it took until the following March 2017 to formally serve notice that we were going to do so. That should have meant finally leaving the Bloc by no later than the end of March 2019. But now, we are to “leave” but then immediately enter a transitional period until the end of 2020. This amounts to leaving in name only.

Throughout that “transition period” we will continue to pay huge sums to Brussels and must abide by whatever laws it decides to make. We must also bow down before the rulings of the European Court. Free movement of people (i.e. mass uncontrolled EU immigration) will continue unabated. Yet, despite all these “business as usual” features of EU membership, we will have even less say in how EU laws are made during the transition than than we have now. Such are the huge concessions given by May to the EU in her desperation to reach a deal.

It is true that we are allowed to make new trade deals with other countries during the “transition”. Also, the risk of a second referendum being called (let alone delivering the result the Remoaners want) appears to have receded. Nevertheless, the real worry for Brexiteers is that what is supposed to be a limited transition period to implement our exit deal becomes an endless suspended animation – the worst of all worlds.

We know that in order to secure the transition period and move to the next stage of negotiations, the Government agreed to go on paying budget contributions up to the end of the EU’s current 7 year funding period (to 31 December 2020). But that was a voluntary gesture and must remain conditional on our getting an acceptable final free trade deal. In other words, the EU must not be allowed to string out negotiations so that we have already paid all that money before we know what the final deal is.

We must watch the government like a hawk on this. Already there are calls in some quarters to extend the transition period still further. That would be totally unacceptable.

We want out of the EU. But just when we thought we were out, we must not allow the bullying EU gang to pull us back in.

Vote Leave funding row shows Remoaners’ utter desperation

Introduction

The increasing hysteria being whipped up in MSM by anti-Brexit forces over the last week about supposed irregularities in Vote Leave’s campaign funding is instructive. It demonstrates an increasingly obsessive search by Remoaner journalists and their political allies for a “silver bullet” that they believe will magically stop Brexit and overturn the historic decision made by the UK electorate in June 2016. But it also shows the Remoaners’ increasing desperation.

Despite Court challenges, endless attacks on the motivation and character of Leave voters, the faux outrage over the £350m slogan on a bus and the antics of Remoaner MPs and peers to impede Brexit legislation in Parliament, nothing has so far worked. Brexit negotiations may not have been handled well (to put it mildly), but there is still a prospect of the UK finally doing what the people voted for and leaving the EU at the end of 2020.

So the latest Remoaner wheeze is to allege that Vote Leave spent more money than the £7m it was allowed to during the referendum. That, say the Remoaners, shows that the whole Referendum result was a cheat. The implication is that the referendum result lacks legitimacy or perhaps that it should be re-run.

What utter, total nonsense.

Electoral Commission figures shatter Remoaner arguments

In their shock at how the British people have rejected their view of the EU, the obsessive, blinkered “remaniacs” appear increasingly to have lost all sense of reality. The idea that because a few hundred thousand pounds extra may have been indirectly spent by the Leave campaign, the whole referendum result should be voided is ludicrous.

According to the Electoral Commission a total of just over £27m was spent on campaigning in the Referendum. (Although this of course ignores the general pro-Remain stance of the Government and the huge sums of taxpayers money spent by David Cameron’s administration on supporting the Remain campaign).

But crucially, of that £27m, the majority – over £16m was spent by Remain. By contrast, the Leave campaign spent under £12m. So even if (which is far from clear) extra money was diverted to BeLeave or to another Leave group, the fact is that the Leave side’s expenditure was millions of pounds less than its Remain rivals.

The following table produced by the Electoral Commission shows the official breakdown:

fullsizeoutput_3bc5

As has been said, these totals ignore the £9m of public money spent on the Government’s infamous Remain propaganda leaflet. Also, they take no account of the huge publicity given to the pro-Remain cause on a daily basis by David Cameron and other senior political figures, plus further state-sponsored propaganda such as the Treasury’s now totally discredited Project Fear document of 23 May 2016.

In other words, the real figure spent on promoting Remain was well in excess of the official £16m and probably more like double that sum.

By contrast, the figures for Leave campaign spending were as follows:

fullsizeoutput_3bc6

Thus, there was already a huge gap between what was spent by Leave compared to Remain – even without the Government expenditure.

In the circumstances, the idea that somehow Vote Leave “cheated”, let alone that any money spent over and above the official total would have made any difference to the result, is plainly absurd.

Can the Remaniacs not see how risible their argument is? Evidently not.

Biased journalism

Indeed, one of the features of Brexit is the way in which a number of journalists and media figures, whose job is report impartially on events, have evidently allowed their own personal prejudices and opinions about Brexit to infect their work. The obsessive pursuit of the so-called Vote Leave funding scandal by remoaner journalists such as Carole Cadwalladr is a classic example. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of their narrative about Brexit – not even facts that are staring them in the face.

On Sunday’s Andrew Marr show, Tom Watson MP, the self-appointed “WitchFinder General” of the recent – discredited – campaign to smear senior conservative figures as child abusers was busy calling for the police to be brought in. (Anything to distract attention from the latest Corbyn anti-semitism row).

That the odious and shameless Watson should be jumping on this bandwagon tells you all you need to know about it. It’s also impossible not to be suspicious about the credence given to the “whistleblowers” at the centre of the row.

Watson should be careful what he wishes for. We already know – because David Cameron’s former adviser Craig Oliver admitted it – that the Remain camps co-operated with eachother. The suspicion that they didn’t exactly follow the spending rules remains.

Desperate Remoaners

Ultimately, this pathetic campaign against Leave may fascinate the likes of the Observer, the Guardian and their fellow Remoaners. But like the 17.4m of us who voted Leave, most people in Britain will surely see it for what it is – a sign of the utter desperation of anti-Brexit forces.

The Great Brexit giveaway

Introduction

The last few weeks have been both depressing and frustrating for Brexiteers. This is not because Brexit itself has suddenly become the wrong decision to have made. Nor is it because Britain is really suffering as a result of our vote to leave – despite what the Guardian, the BBC, Faisal Islam and James O’Brien may say. Indeed, barely a week goes by without the Remainers’ negative narrative being further discredited by inconvenient things called facts.

No, the reason for our rising concern has been the awful spectacle of Theresa May and her government making the most appalling hash of the Brexit talks with the EU. It seems that they have learned nothing from witnessing the EU’s tactics from the very start of the negotiations. Instead, like some desperate retailer on Black Friday, all we have seen them do is to give concession after concession to the bullies in Brussels. A kind of ghastly Brexit giveaway.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has became embroiled in a completely unnecessary Twitter spat with the US president over a few dumb retweets sent from his Titter account. At a time when playing our relationship with the US against the EU has never been more useful, it is an astonishingly inept way for a British government to behave.

Strong Negotiating position

Moreover, there is no need for the UK to give in to EU extortion and blackmail. Britain’s position is strong, not weak.

There are five factors which give Britain very powerful leverage in the negotiations with the EU.

1. Money

First, there is the money. It has long been obvious that the EU is terrified of the impact on its budget that a UK withdrawal will inevitably have. Part of the EU’s power over its Member States, is its ability to dispense financial largesse. Without the billions we have been contributing, Brussels’ power will be weakened and it will face having to make awkward requests for money from its remaining contributors such as Germany. We should not be making it easy for the EU by promising any money at this stage. That sword of damocles should be left hanging over them for the duration of any negotiation.

Further, there is no legal liability on the UK to pay anything after the end of March 2019 unless it wants to. It was a mistake to allow the EU to impose a two stage talks process demanding a deal on money first, before trade talks. But it is even more foolish to offer them money at the first stage as May has done – twice now. There must be no money on the table unless and until we see what (if anything) we will get for it. If they won’t talk to us without it then so be it. We walk.

2. Huge UK market

The second big negotiating card we have is that the UK is an immensely important marketplace for the EU’s goods worth over £300 billion a year. It is true (as Remoaners never cease to point out) that the UK represents a much smaller percentage of the EU’s trade than the other way around. But that is to overlook something more important. The UK is a hugely significant trading partner to a number of the EU’s most important countries (i.e. Germany, France, Holland and Italy). For example, we are Germany’s second most important market after the US and they make a massive surplus from selling to us. A failure to agree a trade deal will undoubtedly hurt Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy very hard. It doesn’t matter for these purposes that we may only do a tiny amount of trade with Romania or the Czech Republic. The impact would be severe where it counts – in the very heart of where the EU’s power resides.

3. Singapore model

Thirdly, Brexit provides a huge opportunity for Britain to adopt a lower tax, lower regulatory environment than the EU’s protectionist, high tax-high regulation alternative. Whilst talk of making the UK a new “Singapore” is simplistic, there is no doubt that we can make life very difficult for the EU after we’ve left by reducing, for example, our corporation tax rate. Stupidly and inexplicably, the UK government has failed to play on the EU’s fears in this regard. Instead, Downing Street has gone out of its way to stress that it won’t depart from the European model. No doubt the EU will be hoping to shackle us to the protectionist model after we’ve left. We must resist this.

4. EU’s troubles

The fourth piece of negotiating leverage is the inherent instability of the EU itself. For all the talk of unity, there is precious little of that in reality. The former Eastern European nations will not co-operate with the EU on muslim migrants. The ClubMed states still have serious systemic debt and competitiveness issues. France too is desperately in need of economic reform. Germany is now struggling to form a working government. The latest Greek bailout package comes up for renewal in 2018. Italian elections in 2018 may produce a Euro-sceptic government. ECB money printing cannot go on forever. The list of the EU’s problems is endless and mounting.

5. Project Fear myths exploded

Fifthly and finally there is the absence of the fear factor. Brexitblog has long believed that the Leave majority in the referendum would have been much higher had people like Jeremy Hunt not been scared into voting to remain by Project Fear. But more than a year on, we know that almost all of the Project Fear scare stories have proved false. There’s nothing to be afraid of. (Even the City has now admitted that the real threat to Britain comes not from Brexit but from a Corbyn government).

So we can negotiate strong in the knowledge that we are doing fine “despite Brexit”. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

What is May doing?

But has May exploited our strong negotiating position? Sadly, there is no sign that she has. Instead, she keeps folding a winning hand and the EU keeps successfully calling her bluff. Every single time.

As we have previously pointed out, the EU has no interest in giving the UK a helping hand or a fair deal if we leave. It will never voluntarily do so. Showering it with endless concessions and appearing too scared to walk away from the talks will never work. It can only prove disastrous. Equally, a continuing failure by May to advance any kind of positive or coherent vision for post-Brexit Britain is failing to reassure waverers at home (or EU negotiators abroad), that the UK is confident it has a strong hand to play.

But despite the calamitous start to the process, even now, it still isn’t too late to salvage the situation.

The way forward

In a letter to the Government today, Leave Means Leave has set out the demands we should be making of the EU as a price for continuing the talks. Brexitblog.info has argued in similar terms on these pages. We agree with them.

The bottom line is that we should be telling the EU that we expect significant forward progress in the negotiations and if none is forthcoming, we will walk. If that happens, they can kiss goodbye to any more money after we’ve gone and it will be open season on their exports to us which will will henceforth have to compete with tariff-free goods from other countries.

Theresa May cannot seriously think that doing a deal with the EU which is seen to be unfavourable to the UK will do anything for hers’ or the Tories’ chances of political survival. Yet evidently she and her cabinet continue to cling to the delusion that a rubbish deal is better than no deal. It isn’t.

She can still turn things round but only by focussing on the real enemy – the EU – and playing them at their own game. There is still a huge opportunity for her to harness anti-EU feeling in Britain to her political advantage. But she cannot keep missing that open goal at one end and scoring own goals (i.e. with Trump) at the other.

May’s desperation for a “deal” is putting Brexit at risk

Introduction

Theresa May is back in Brussels battling with EU leaders in an effort to put the Brexit negotiations back on track. But whose track is that?

The problem right from the start of these talks has been a twofold one.

First, there is the apparent lack of reality on the UK side about what the EU wants out of the Brexit process. Secondly, there is the political weakness of the Prime Minister, whose divided cabinet is riddled with Remainers and whose government can barely command a majority in the House of Commons.

All of this has led to Mrs May staking everything on being able to trumpet that she’s “done a deal” with the EU – no matter how much she may end up giving away in the process. Moreover this obsession with doing a deal is to look at Brexit through the wrong end of the telescope.

The important thing is that proper Brexit is delivered – not the appearance of Brexit.

Concessions

In recent weeks, we have seen evidence of increasing desperation on the part of Mrs May and her government. In Florence, May offered concessions on the EU budget by promising to pay an extra two years’ worth of EU budget contributions up to the end of the EU’s current long term funding cycle at the end of 2020. This was despite there being no legal obligation on the UK to do so. It also came in the face of the continuing obstructionism, intransigence and bullying that have become the hallmarks of EU negotiating tactics.

Today, we learn of an open letter being sent by Mrs May to EU nationals in the UK.

All of this smacks very much of a Prime Minister who feels she must keep making the first move, to keep the prospect of a deal in play – no matter how unreasonable and intransigent the EU has been.

What is so frustrating is that none of this is necessary. The UK’s position is far stronger than the Remainers and the EU would have us all believe. We can leave with no deal and start enjoying the immediate benefits of Brexit – free and back in control. As Roger Bootle and many others have argued, we have nothing to fear from such an outcome. The screams and scaremongering from Remainers about the perils of “no deal” is simply a repeat of Project Fear – and about as convincing.

EU still wants to punish Britain

When she triggered Article 50, the PM was warned by none other than the former Greek finance minister that allowing the EU to dictate the terms of the Article 50 negotiations would be a recipe for disaster. Yet she agreed to the EU’s demand that initial discussions be limited to just three issues – the Brexit bill, NI border and EU citizens’ rights. Only if sufficient “progress” was made on those issues, so the EU insisted, could talks move on to the far more important subject of trade.

In the event, this has all worked out exactly as the EU intended. The pressure has built on the UK to offer concessions on these matters because – correctly – EU leaders have assessed that May is weak and desperate to reach a deal. We can expect them to keep turning the screw now they think they have May where they want her.

The point is of course that the EU has no interest at all in giving a favourable deal to Britain. On the contrary, they want to put our head on a proverbial pole and make an example of us so as to deter any other Member States from following suit. If Britain is shown to have suffered by leaving the EU, the hope in Brussels is that they will still be able to use fear to keep the other countries in line. By contrast, if Britain were to thrive after it has left, the writing would be on the wall. Populist politicians in other EU states would soon be campaigning for their own countries to come out. The dream of “ever closer union” would be in tatters.

So when Theresa May keeps talking up the idea of a “special partnership” and David Davis talks about how “constructive” his talks with Mr Barnier have been, the reality is that they are pursuing something that is never going to be voluntarily on offer.

The EU will never – voluntarily – offer terms that are anything but lousy for Britain. Only if it is forced to make a pragmatic compromise will there be a semblance of a deal that we can and should accept.

EU objectives

No doubt some in Brussels harbour hopes that the more difficult they make things, the more chance there is that the government could fall and the UK will end up giving up on Brexit altogether. But if that doesn’t happen, the EU has two very obvious objectives.

First it wants to screw as much money out of the UK as it can in order that it can go on spending and won’t have to ask other states to make up for the huge gap in funding that would otherwise be left behind by a departing Britain.

Secondly, the EU will do what it can to tie the UK’s hands, post-Brexit. The aim of this will be to stop the UK reaping the full benefits of its new found freedom. Brussels will want to stop the UK undercutting the EU on taxes and regulation or doing deals with other countries – the very things that make Brexit – economically speaking – worth doing. Talk of a “transition period” epitomises this.

The way things are going, the UK is simply going to end up being dragged along by its nose and kept in permanent orbit around the EU. As Boris Johnson has rightly pointed out before he was shouted down by the Remainers – that would be the worst of all possible worlds.

So the key question is how do we force the EU into a position from where it has no choice but to offer us a reasonable deal, but one that still delivers on the essentials of Brexit?

Time to make a stand

Theresa May and her government (which is full of Remainers), too often gives the appearance of being scared of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. The desire to cling on in a transition period illustrates this.

What she needs to do is make clear to Brussels that the UK has gone as far as it can in relation to the three pre-conditions of NI, citizens rights and the “Brexit bill”. We cannot and will not agree to pay anything to the EU after we have left, except possibly as part of an overall deal. Agreeing payments now, as the EU is demanding, is impossible.

The message should be that if the EU still insists on our making such a commitment before it will talk about the future, we will have no choice but to withdraw from further talks and work on the assumption that we leave without a deal in March 2019. Full and serious preparations need to be made and publicised to prepare the country for “no deal”. This cannot be a bluff. It must be real.

Pressure on EU

If the UK adopts that stance, then the EU will be faced with an unpalatable situation.

First, as of March 2019, it will no longer be receiving any money from Britain. So it will have to immediately revise its financial budgeting for the remainder of the current financial framework period up to the end of 2020. That will be painful and difficult because no other states will want to pay more than they already do. The UK’s offer to pay another two years’ worth of contributions will suddenly look very attractive indeed.

Secondly, for EU exporters, the nightmare prospect is that the UK will free up trade with other countries and the tariff-free access EU exporters have enjoyed in the huge UK market will disappear. EU producers will face stiffer competition from US, Australian, Japanese and other goods without the tariff advantage they have previously enjoyed. The main European economies of Germany, France, Italy and Spain all run trade surpluses with the UK. They stand to lose much.

And this is the EU’s catch 22. It wants to punish Britain. But if it does, it will inevitably hurt the economies of its own member states in the process. Sure, Britain will suffer too, but the pain will also be felt in Europe. That will do nothing for the EU’s popularity as jobs are lost and livelihoods destroyed – all to keep the EU’s vanity project on track and to spite Britain.

Wiser heads are likely to prevail when faced with the unattractive consequences of a punishment approach to Britain. But they won’t be heard as long as the UK keeps giving in to bullying and making concessions.

Don’t do it May

May is under pressure from Remainers who have foolishly whipped themselves up in a frenzy about the supposed perils of a no deal exit. It is as though she sees a deal with the EU as almost an end in itself, her political salvation perhaps, rather than a means to an end. The danger is that if she keeps giving away more and more concessions, she and her Remain colleagues, together with the Remainer civil service, will end up tethering Britain to the EU in the worst possible way.

The Brexiteers were correct to demand that Mrs May walk away from talks.

The fear is that her desperation to “to a deal” could ruin Brexit. It must not be allowed to happen.

Even Jeremy Hunt has had EUnough

Introduction

As the Secretary of State for Health in a Conservative government, it’s fair to say that Jeremy Hunt has not always been the most popular of politicians. But even he must have had millions of voters nodding in agreement during his refreshingly frank interview on 3 October 2017 with Ian Dale on LBC..

Hunt admitted in the interview that he’d supported Remain in the EU referendum due to his concern about the short-term impact of a Leave vote on the British economy. But he’d been pleasantly surprised at how his worst fears had not been realised. He also expressed his impatience with the attitude of the EU in the Brexit negotiations, lamenting what he termed their “arrogance” in the face of the UK’s repeated gestures of goodwill.

What conclusions do we draw from Hunt’s comments?

Hunt’s answers to Dale’s questions are interesting in two respects.

First, they tend to confirm what this writer has long believed about a good many Remain voters: that many of them voted to Remain not out of any great enthusiasm for the supposed “benefits” of EU membership, but because, like Hunt, they had been scared into supporting the status quo by the relentless propaganda of Project Fear.

Thus, if during the referendum campaign, the government had been more honest and less intent upon dressing up unlikely worst case scenarios as presumed facts, the Leave majority would probably have been much higher than 52% of the vote.

The second interesting aspect of Hunt’s comments is that they suggest the EU’s continued obstructionism and intransigence in the Brexit talks is finally starting to convince even moderate Remainers that the Commission is not negotiating in good faith.

This is important because the more unreasonable the EU is and the more absurd its demands are (and they are absurd), the more likely it is that even those who would have favoured compromise in the negotiations are coming to realise that we may have to leave without a deal. In other words, just as the EU pushed the UK too far during David Cameron’s ill-fated attempt at “renegotiation” in 2016 leading to an eventual Brexit vote, so the EU could be making the same mistake again.

In our next post on Brexitblog, we will examine what the government can and should do to change the mindset of the current negotiations and wrestle back the initiative from the EU. Sadly, whether Theresa May is capable of following this advice remains to be seen…