The next few weeks will see an outpouring of advice for Boris Johnson. All the commentators who’ve spent the last few weeks denouncing him as a walking disaster, womaniser and serial liar will rush to tell him to redeem himself by doing what they want.

Which makes me, as someone impartially opposed to his politics, who found him good fun and a chance for a new start in our deadlocked nation, feel justified in offering my more friendly advice. Britain’s only human politician who finds himself in a deep hole deserves it.

A new Prime Minister will have a short honeymoon before the carping commentariat get back to grinding their axes. Anyone is better than Theresa, and it will be nice to have a human in charge instead of a badly-programmed robot. The Conservative Party will rally round with its usual mixture of loyalty and and grovelling servility. The electorate will like a new start out of a deadlock which frustrates them.

So use that happy period – the only one you’ll get now that misery has become the national mood – to make a real new start and rally the people. They’re fed up with bickering deadlock and the long rearguard action of the recalcitrant Remainers. They can’t see why nothing has been done about their vote to Leave.

A new Prime Minister and a new Government can’t be doomed to pushing Theresa’s deal for a fourth time. It’s dead, deceased, and inoperable. So it’s right to demand a new negotiation from the EU which they’ll probably refuse, saying Theresa’s is as far as they’ll go. That puts them on the wrong foot.

React by doing the old Macmillan trick: announce the end of austerity, more borrowing and turn the spigots on to boost the economy. Then call an early election. That makes it shit or bust, but the lesson of Gordon Brown is that it’s better than struggling on with no majority and no mandate. A government with a majority of two can’t carry on. You have no alternative.

The Remainers are wrong footed and (for the moment at least) Labour is in a mess which can’t be cleared up quickly. A leader determined on Brexit can undercut Farage’s party, while the Lib Dems are still tainted by the Coalition and their support for the euro. The excitement would delay the onslaught of carping which builds as the honeymoon ends.

Denounce the intransigence of the EU. Show that “No Deal” would be its fault, ask for the nation’s backing for a fair deal, wave the patriotic banner, bash Corbyn and Boris can win. Then go back to the EU with new proposals which should include a promise never to impose a customs border in Northern Ireland, leaving them free to incur the odium if they want to.

Add in a dollop of criticism of the damage agricultural protectionism does to developing countries, a promise of full rights to EU migrants who can support themselves and whatever covert trade deals we’ve been able to arrange against EU rules. Don’t threaten overtly not to pay Theresa’s ransom money – that will only unite them; just keep it covert, indicating that we’ve got to be prosperous to pay up.

That’s a high-risk strategy. But Boris is a risk-taker and what’s the alternative? Only humiliating rejection by a stultifying EU, a long, whimpering failure as the country slumps back into bickering decline and a fun Prime Minister turns pathetic.
Photocredit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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As we have been reflecting over the last few days on the success of the US mission 50 years ago to put man on the moon, it is worth reflecting on John F Kennedy’s role in that, and the role of leadership in bringing change.

JFK was far from a saint, but his ambition and inspiration set the scene for great task-focused independent decision-making and investment and innovation that made the moon landings possible and led to many consumer spin-offs that have underwritten the US economy for the last 40 years.

Without his incantation “We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy but because it is hard”, and commitment of government effort, Silicon Valley may well not have had the impetus and imprimatur for the ecosystem that encouraged so many different personalities and sources of capital and ideas to pull together to achieve the goal.

Although the world of trade, customs and regulation sounds more prosaic, the effect on UK prospects of doing these things well after we leave the EU, with authority and holistic purpose, could be equally dramatic. To paraphrase JFK, we choose to leave the EU, not because it is easy, or hard, but because our choosing matters.

Boris Johnson’s ability to reach millions of people makes him the man for our moment. Like JFK, he asks us to take responsibility for what happens, and deliver on the nation’s choice. Give each citizen agency, however big or small, inspire greatness in each individual, and the public good will be elevated.

Boris can unite the country with his optimism, can level with people and inspire them. He can reassure with action but also with words. PM Boris and his Cabinet communicating a positive vision that people respond to would be more than a breath of fresh air. They are the wind needed for our sails.

We need relentless optimism in our presentation of the benefits of a positive working relationship to the EU. Yes we would like to agree various things to make interaction work well when we leave, and we stand ready for such mutually beneficial agreements. The draft Withdrawal Agreement won’t pass though, as it rides roughshod over the independence our people directed, so we may need to come formally to those agreements after we leave.

We want the EU’s wonderful produce. We want to drive their cars. We want to contribute our creativity and commitment to Europe’s defence and its culture. We’d like our people to feel they want these things more, not less.

They should however complement, not constrain, our global and domestic focus that was the cri de coeur of the referendum. If the EU’s wish is to obstruct those things, then we will have to make other arrangements.

It does take two to tango, and the EU and UK need to trust each other. Clarity on what we want and what we will do are the first steps. After all, it is we who have made the move.

So we should accept the offer Donald Tusk made of free trade. We should agree to facilitate trade and cooperation on the island of Ireland without a hard border through the “alternative arrangements” we are working up that look to involve the Good Friday Agreement institutions. We should guarantee citizens’ rights, and talk about an appropriate financial settlement.

If we keep EU-level agreements autonomous and away from Investor State dispute mechanisms and investment provisions, they can be concluded rapidly without need for ratification by each EU Member State.

In any event, we should reciprocate the EU’s unilateral “no deal” contingency measures, which are actually types of deal that already cover for example air services, haulage permits and product acceptances to keep things moving in any scenario.

In the mean time, we should plan trade policy to move rapidly to improve trade conditions with the rest of the world after October 31st. We should prioritise benchmark comprehensive free trade agreements with Australia and Japan, and continued work towards free trade agreements with the US and key states that cover services, procurement and intellectual property intensive industries. Trade partners can make mostly low-tariff access to the UK, offered temporarily to all after October 31st, permanent and better by signing UK free trade agreements.

If Boris is chosen to lead, his Government must move at pace and in scale though, to change the game with respect to things in its power.

It must get behind our farmers with marketing support and tax breaks for local production and environmental stewardship, especially where EU market access or other pressures may be difficult.

It must get the Treasury to review and make forecasts using actual cost figures not unrealistic negative assumptions, and actively mitigate, defray cost of, and communicate business needs for new processes.

It must help EU traders navigate the need for new regulatory declarations and registrations and any related checks, and support business organisations in their efforts to do so.

It must support logistics providers, not just customs brokers and big companies, to facilitate trade by consolidating shipments, driving out costs and taking advantage of simplified procedures. Arrangements for pre-clearance and Transit in premises and logistics hubs and stops must be made, and communicated on the ground with traders and shippers so they will use them ahead of arrival at the Channel ports, to have smooth passage through them and beyond.

It must rapidly invest in people and systems for Border Force and HMRC, in their interfaces with counterpart agencies in the EU and elsewhere, and their resource needs. It must make sure procedural simplifications and mitigations work in the real world of logistics. Ease of use of new processes to manage the differences between jurisdictions should be the primary goal.

It should reduce VAT and excise rates to lowest neighbouring levels to reduce incentives for non-compliance.

The new Government should shock and awe with improvements to business conditions in the UK more generally.

It should introduce lower, flatter, simpler taxes, and proper incentives for hard work. It should raise NIC thresholds that discourage people from earning more. The safety net should be provided not just through general taxation and national insurance, which has become just another tax spent in-year, but also through progressive actual insurance of pooled risk, for example to fund social care.

It should incentivise saving and investment in UK operations that generate local jobs, skills and technologies – incentives similarly applied whether people are employed, self-employed or in corporate or partnership structures. It should make the UK the place of choice for people to keep and invest their capital, by transforming and broadening the capital and investment allowances system and treatment of onshore funds and their owners.

It should stand by sectors and communities which are in transition to different processes and opportunities, and back them with local infrastructure, skills development and incentives.

A relentless “can do” attitude and focus on the goal of making a success of independence, is how we will do this and deliver on people’s ambition.

Our country can do much to make this work – it must – and Boris is the one to lead it.

In return we should ask, as JFK did, what each of us can do for our country, to make it happen.

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One of the most provocative refrains in the extended Brexit row is “people didn’t know what they were voting for”. I run a political intelligence agency that is briefed by officials on both sides of the Channel and, while our clients know what’s what, I fear it’s too often it’s the politicians who are in the dark.

For example, here are three key factors that seem to be misunderstood in parts of Westminster: first, even if we revoked Article 50, the EU27 would not allow the UK to resume full membership; second, close alignment with the EU is likely to become less attractive, not more; and third, No Deal would not be as disruptive as some people fear – but the UK would have to pay through the nose for that.

On the absence of any prospect of resuming full membership, it’s important to understand what the EU27 wants to achieve out of the Brexit process. The EU27’s primary objective is to retain regulatory influence with a UK government that makes ongoing financial contributions to institutions in which it has limited voting rights. That’s the basis of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

The Commission and the most influential Member States want to pursue a more integrationist agenda for themselves, involving greater use of Qualified Majority Voting, a joint eurozone budget and a pan-EU fiscal, industrial and social policy. Despite claims that the UK is still a full participating member of the EU until the day we leave, the EU27 can already take decisions without the UK regarding all areas of policy-making, budgets and appointments – and they do. Even if the UK were to ask to stay on as a Member State, it would not be allowed to resume its veto over a project that is picking up pace.

In fact, some Member States see the prospect of the UK adopting de facto EU membership minus voting rights as a potential future model for other third countries that want to associate with the EU. They want that model to become semi-permanent and more widely used.

We also need to understand that close alignment with the EU is likely to become less attractive for the UK over time, not more so. Many EU27 national governments believe it is only a matter of months before the bloc suffers a significant economic downturn – with all eyes currently on Italy and the risk that it sets off a domino effect caused by a toxic combination of bad debts, weak financial instruments and cross-border institutional exposure.

Economically, it is not possible to pull up the drawbridge and immunise the UK economy from continental problems (and, arguably, we may be better off trying to get involved to limit the damage). But politically, it will become a much harder ‘sell’ to persuade voters that the UK should be permanently aligned with the EU – it could be like trying to convince people to rent a room in a house that’s already on fire.

So, what would happen if the Government goes the other way and the UK makes a ‘clean break’ with the EU27 this year? The answer, in many ways, is not much.

In the event of ‘No Deal’, the Commission expects Member States would act bilaterally to counter some potential economic shocks. Indeed, legislation has already been passed in a string of EU countries – including Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Spain and even Ireland – to do exactly that. Moreover, the Commission would be unable to obstruct or censure these bilateral actions as, in the Commission’s own words, they would be taken under “the derogation provided in existing legislation”. In most other areas, the Commission itself would preserve status quo arrangements – and even try to use those measures to expand its own remit through the use of emergency ‘Implementing Acts’.

There is a catch, though. In fact, three of them.

Mitigation measures would only have a temporary legal basis, with the Commission setting the limit for most no-deal programmes at between six and twelve months. The Commission would also try to focus any disruption on specific and contained areas to create incentives for the UK to reopen talks based on the Withdrawal Agreement – the Commission doesn’t want to mitigate all risk, but to be able to decide where that risk should be borne.

And, most significantly, the UK would be made to pay an extraordinary amount of money to the EU27 ‘in return’ for those mitigation measures – even though a direct link between the two would never be made. The Government could expect its third-party contributions to various EU programmes (especially those concerning development objectives and research) to go through the roof – and Parliament wouldn’t have much chance to stop it.

Whatever happens this autumn, negotiations between the UK and EU27 will continue. Brexit is a process, not an event. But I’m reminded of the Military Intelligence Corps motto that I served under years ago: ‘Manui Dat Cognitio Vires’ or ‘Knowledge gives strength to the arm’. All of our political leaders must make sure they have a true knowledge of the Brexit situation, or else they risk missing the whole picture – and they would be considerably weaker for that.

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I believe we can make a great success of Brexit. If we take full advantage of our new-found freedoms we can be the best place in the world to start a new business, trial a new product or develop emerging tech like AI.

But first we’ve got to actually leave. Our failure to deliver Brexit on March 29th was a democratic disaster. Now we need a credible plan to leave on October 31st. I have that plan.

To deliver on that commitment I’ve set out my detailed Brexit Delivery Plan.

It’s a plan that deals with the world as it is, starting with a realistic assessment of the facts.

The first thing is that, like it or not, this House of Commons has blocked a no-deal Brexit and threatens to do so again. Whether by changing procedural rules with the blessing of the Speaker, or by forcing a confidence vote and an early general election, MPs would either seize control of the parliamentary timetable as they did in March, or bring down the Government.

The oft-cited Institute for Government report which argues that No Deal is the ‘legal default’ comes with a huge caveat: it says right at the top that’s all true unless the Speaker of the House of Commons devises any constitutional innovations aimed at frustrating No Deal. That assumes away Speaker Bercow. But Speaker Bercow is a fact.

The honest truth is that No Deal is not a policy option available to the next Prime Minister. The only way to escape the bind is to get a new Parliament. But that would mean an election, which would risk Corbyn by Christmas, a second referendum and no Brexit at all.

It’s also clear that renegotiating the Political Declaration on the future is much easier than renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement.

Changes to the Withdrawal Agreement must now be unanimously agreed by all 27 member states, not just Brussels. Any such agreement is highly unlikely to be forthcoming. And if it were, it would only be offered with unacceptable strings attached, like conditions on issues like Gibraltar and fisheries. A Brexit plan based on changes to the Political Declaration is more credible than a plan that rests on reopening the Withdrawal Agreement.

Given all this, my Brexit Delivery Plan will get us out by October 31st, without gambling Brexit on an early election.

I want to see a much more ambitious Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, one that will need changes to the current Political Declaration. That way we restore our sovereignty, protect the economy and safeguard our Union.

The first part of my Plan is to seek a democratic mandate from the Conservative Party by setting out my plan in advance. I hope other candidates will do the same.

Second, I will unilaterally enshrine the rights of EU citizens in UK law. This is the right thing to do, and will create much-needed goodwill for the negotiations ahead.

Third, I will propose a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement as the basis for our future relationship with the EU. That means leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.

This free trade deal with the EU will include a major security co-operation element. It will also ensure UK regulatory autonomy on emerging technologies, helping us create the high-pay jobs of the future.

The fourth part of my Plan provides a long-term solution to the most vexed issue of the whole Brexit process: avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

I will set up an Irish Border Council with a remit to agree, as soon as possible, a political, administrative and technological solution that avoids a hard border and allows for an independent UK trade policy.

This will be modelled on the George Mitchell talks which drove the Northern Irish peace process and will include cross-party representation from across Northern Irish society, as well as a role for the EU and the Irish government. Its aim will be to secure the consent of communities on both sides of the border.

To support the Council’s work, we will make it a national UK mission to develop an effective border system. And we will invite the world’s leading logistics and technology experts to come and help us solve this problem.

But this problem cannot be solved with technology alone. It will need political buy-in and the consent of those on both sides of the border. So we will invest an initial £1 billion in communities on both sides of the border, including a new PEACE programme and a new fund to support North-South trade.

The fifth and final part of my Brexit Delivery Plan is to include a time limit on the backstop.

This will focus minds and, crucially, will put an endpoint to the Irish border process. It will be delivered through an addendum to the Withdrawal Agreement. Conversations I have had with EU contacts give me cautious grounds for optimism about the prospects for this.

That’s my Brexit Delivery Plan: a Comprehensive Free Trade and Security Agreement that respects our sovereignty; an Irish Border Council to find a solution that all sides can live with; and a time limit to the backstop.

Once we’ve left the EU by October 31st, I am determined to make such a success of Brexit that we vindicate the choice of those who voted to Leave and we surprise those who voted to Remain.

We can start to reunite our country with an open and optimistic, patriotic unionism. We can focus on the properly-funded, world-class high-tech public services that people want to see. And we can make the new dividing line in British politics higher pay with the Tories or higher taxes with Corbyn’s Labour.

So let’s get Brexit done, let’s make it a success and let’s move our country forward.

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As President Trump visits the UK, it is worth thinking about the potential for a UK-US free trade deal of the sort that President Trump has promised, and how that might work in practice.

On February 28th, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced its negotiating objectives for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the US and the UK. It announced objectives for negotiations with the EU and Japan at the same time. While the objectives are similar for all the countries with which the US is seeking to negotiate FTAs, they were received in the UK with predictable howls of anguish from those who fear being railroaded by superior American negotiating strength and forced to consume supposedly dangerous, unhealthy American food. Here, we will consider whether the objectives could yield a genuinely liberalising FTA, and whether they accord with what the UK government is likely to seek in negotiations. We will also compare the potential UK response with the potential responses from the US’s other trading partners.

The US Context

Under the US’s Trade Promotion Authority legislation, the USTR must produce negotiating objectives prior to negotiating trade agreements. The objectives for the proposed FTA with the UK mirror the equivalents published recently for FTAs with the EU and Japan, and essentially build on existing agreements which the US has negotiated to date. They look to address the key trade barriers where the US is most concerned, responding to consultations with industry and interest groups. The negotiating mandate is consistent with a comprehensive UK-EU FTA. It is not consistent with the UK being in the (or a) Customs Union, or regulatory harmonisation with the EU (whether achieved through membership of the European Economic Area or a bespoke agreement, or by operation of the backstop set out in the Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement).

The US wishes the UK to honour its WTO commitments particularly in the SPS area.  It should be noted that these objectives are what it seeks from all of its partners, not just the UK. Many of the objectives merely restate commitments already made in international agreements such as a commitment to regulate in the SPS area on the basis of sound science. These would not, in the normal course be seen as an aggressive move, but they do highlight the fact that the EU is in violation of WTO rules in a number of these areas, and does not give them in its FTAs. The US government appears to be proceeding on the basis that the UK will be prepared to be more open than the EU in a variety of areas, making a UK-US FTA both more likely and quicker to deliver than an EU-US agreement.

The UK Context

The UK government has also carried out a public consultation on the basis that “the UK will have the opportunity to negotiate, sign, and ratify Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) during the implementation period (provided for under the draft Withdrawal Agreement) and to bring them into force from January 2021”. Responses have not yet been published. The consultation document, issued in July 2018, stated that the UK would be pursuing an “ambitious bilateral trade agenda, taking full advantage of the flexibility provided by our proposal for a future economic partnership (as set out in the White Paper on The future relationship between the UK and the EU on 12th July 2018)”.

This refers to the so-called ‘Chequers plan’, under which, as previously noted, many of the trade objectives of a UK/US FTA would not be achievable. The future relationship described in the Political Declaration (which the parties are obliged to use their best endeavours to negotiate) is based on a single customs territory with no rules of origin, and consideration of regulatory alignment, so even if the UK is able to avoid or exit the customs union arrangement provided for in the Irish backstop, the prospect of the UK’s future relationship with the EU allowing either the UK or the US to meet its objectives seems remote. The outline terms in the Political Declaration would be difficult to reconcile with a US-UK FTA meeting these objectives; a more usual FTA between the UK and EU would be.

US negotiating objectives must be looked at in the context of the evolution of US trade objectives over the last several years. These objectives have been developed to secure a bipartisan consensus in the US, and to achieve maximum market access gains abroad.

Goods

Tariffs

As an opening principle, the objective is to “ensure fair balanced, and reciprocal trade with the UK”. The US will be seeking “comprehensive duty free market access for US industrial goods” this is certainly positive and liberalising but there are a couple of protectionist hangovers, in respect of textile and apparel products where “US import sensitivities” are to be taken into account, and for agricultural goods where there is a suggestion that tariffs will not be eliminated entirely and will be subject to adjustment periods in close consultation with Congress.

If the UK is ultimately in a customs union with the EU (whether as a result of the backstop coming into effect or the conclusion of the future relationship currently envisaged in the Political Declaration), then it will not be possible to fulfil this negotiating objective. On the other hand, if the UK and EU agree an FTA, then this would be consistent with the US objectives. If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified on its current terms, then the UK could have simultaneous negotiations with the EU and the US, in which case the terms pursued in each will influence what is possible in the other. The negotiation that is moving more rapidly will drive the process. If the US is prepared to exert political will as is evidenced by the many statements of the US President and the US Ambassador in London, then it is possible the US track will move much faster than is generally thought. It may even be possible to achieve an interim agreement with the US on basic matters like tariffs and quantitative restrictions more expeditiously.

The EU has indicated that it does not intend to include agriculture in its FTA negotiations with the US, and therefore will find it difficult to match the pace of a UK-US FTA if the UK is willing to have different regulatory settings than the EU.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Rules

The US will seek to build upon the existing WTO commitments of both parties, working towards rules and mechanisms to eliminate unjustified restrictions and barriers on trade in food and animal products. This has been a source of friction between the US and the EU and will be an important test of the UK’s commitment to, and capacity for, real progress towards free trade. The EU has a history of violating WTO commitments on sanitary and phytosanitary (“SPS”) rules, in particular with respect to goods of interest to the US and does not make significant commitments beyond the WTO SPS Agreement in the SPS area in its FTAs. Critically, under the US objective it is expressly stated that each side “can set for itself the level of protection it believes to be appropriate to protect food safety and plant and animal health in a manner consistent with its international obligations”. This is vital for sovereignty and innovation and makes clear that it will not be a case of adopting US standards, rather of removing or amending regulations that are discriminatory in their effect and not based on sound science to achieve their policy goal.

The US wishes the UK to commit not to “foreclose export opportunities to the US with respect to third country export markets, including by requiring third countries to align with non-science based restrictions and requirements or to adopt SPS measures that are not based on ascertainable risk”. This is unusual, but given the challenges the US faces as the EU actively seeks to export its regulatory approach, it is understandable. There is a global battle between the EU’s approach to regulation, which is prescriptive and precautionary, and more liberal approaches based on evaluations of equivalence and adequacy, as envisaged by the WTO SPS Agreement.

A significant concern of the US and other trading partners of the EU and of China is the tendency of both to use the size of their markets to project their regulatory approaches, and base their market access offers on trading partners having identical regulation. This is an outlier position to that of most countries in the global trading system, which is to try to recognise as much as possible of other countries’ regulations provided the regulatory aims are aligned, and the regulation objectively achieves these goals. The US will be anxious to ensure that its trading partners adopt this vision of regulatory coherence and not that of the EU and China.

It is in the SPS area that the EU would find the greatest difficulty in meeting US negotiating objectives. It would require a course reversal on the EU’s overall direction on SPS regulation. If anything, the EU’s SPS regulation is becoming more restrictive not less.

Technical Barriers to Trade

The US’s objectives for non-agricultural goods are similar to the objectives for SPS rules. The US wishes the UK to address trade barriers in its technical regulation by adhering to WTO TBT Committee decisions and recommendations, and pursing mutual recognition of conformity assessment, amongst other things. This section includes an equivalent objective in respect of third country agreements that might prejudice US trade to that in the SPS section. Depending on the negotiations of the future relationship with the EU, the UK is more likely to share this objective than the EU. TBT/SPS and other regulatory issues have plagued the EU-US relationship from the early days of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue in the 1990s to the more recent attempt to negotiate an EU-US deal (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, “TTIP”). TTIP foundered primarily on the fundamentally different approaches to regulation, and standard setting between the EU and US. If the UK merely replicates the EU approach, it is likely the UK-US FTA would founder for the same reasons.

Services

There should be much for the UK to agree with in the objectives that the US has set out for services trade and investment.

The US objectives for trade in services, including telecommunications and financial services, are generally very liberalising on market access and non-discrimination, with reservations from the core commitments to be by way of “negative list”, which means that all sectors will be covered unless specifically excluded. This would lead to greater openness than the “positive list” approach under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The US has long advocated a negative list approach. Even the NAFTA agreement, now almost a quarter of a century old, has this approach to services.

The US objectives also accept the possibility of exceptions from the core disciplines for the UK, to be kept as narrow as possible. This will be of vital importance to UK negotiators who will be required to secure reservations to protect public services, including the NHS. As noted by Liam Fox, “the UK’s public services are protected by specific exceptions and reservations in all EU trade agreements, and as we leave the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections are included in all trade agreements to which it is party.”

The EU has now partially adopted the negative list approach to services but is likely to require many more reservations than the UK, as the UK has traditionally been one of the most open member states on services.

Horizontal Matters

Investment

The US primary objective in investment negotiations is to ensure the best possible protection for US investments. In international agreements, this has come to mean agreeing not to engage in expropriations, actions tantamount to expropriation and even to cover some areas where government action takes away an investor’s legitimate expectations. Investment is an area where the US seeks maximum protection for its investors. Since both countries are the largest investors in each other’s markets, both will likely seek this protection they should come to an agreement on this measure of protection.

The US objectives are silent on the issue of investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) which allows private parties to bring claims against state parties for violations of investment provisions. The UK has not made its position on ISDS clear. In his letter to the International Trade Committee, Liam Fox was at least open to the inclusion of ISDS, but given the political sensitivity of ISDS in the UK as well as in the US, it seems unlikely that the UK would insist up on it as an objective. Investor-State dispute resolution has been a part of the regulation of investment for decades under Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). While publics in the EU have resisted them, it should be pointed out that they do provide an avenue for smaller firms to hold governments to account when they expropriate their property or take actions tantamount to expropriation. Large firms can simply rely on their governments lobbying on their behalf. The mere possibility of being sued under ISDS does have an effect on a government’s domestic policy choices.

The US has handled this issue in the USMCA by eliminating ISDS with Canada but limiting it in Mexico to certain sectors (oil & gas, power generation, transport services and management of infrastructure). Given that flexibility compared to previous BITs and FTA investment chapters, we do not expect the ISDS issue to be a significant problem with the UK. 

Data Flow

The US will be seeking “state of the art rules to ensure that the UK does not impose measures that restrict cross-border data flows and does not require the installation of local computing facilities”. This will be one of the most difficult areas for the UK to agree. Even if the UK leaves the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement or otherwise negotiates a future relationship restoring regulatory autonomy in this area, the attachment to the EU approach to data protection and privacy is strong amongst regulators and larger businesses. This lays down barriers to international transfers of personal data (so vital to financial services, which are specifically mentioned by the US in this context) and the uses of personal data.

The UK has already enacted the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and as a matter of domestic policy there is no intention to reform or amend it. In a letter to the International Trade Committee, Liam Fox noted that the UK will wish to promote “robust data protection standards and the flow of data internationally” but wishes to “discuss with the US how best to ensure that the current protections afforded to UK citizens can be maintained post exit”, referring to continuing the EU’s Privacy Shield arrangement for data transfers between the UK and the US, which has now been confirmed.  

There is deep concern among US firms about the EU’s approach to data protection. The US has long set great store on data flow – it is currently one of its most important trade objectives. If there is to be a global solution to the data issue, it can only come from a global set of disciplines based on adequacy as the US will never accept the EU approach. This will be one of the more difficult areas of the tripartite negotiation between the UK, US, and EU, all elements of which will be moving broadly simultaneously. The UK must be able to move away from the strict territorial requirements of the EU’s data protection regime, but build on and extend the EU’s Privacy Shield arrangement with the US. It should also work to eliminate barriers to the flow of non-personal data. These efforts would deliver huge benefits in services trade and e-commerce.

The discussion of data flow does not take place in a vacuum. The UK also seeks to be part of the new WTO working group on e-commerce, and if it is to play any serious part in this group, it will have to diverge from EU data protection rules and instead seek an adequacy type arrangement both for itself and on a global basis.

Intellectual Property

The US seeks strong protections for intellectual property rights in its agreements with all its trading partners, and it is duly included here as an objective. While it can be expected that the UK may have broadly similar objectives, given the UK’s interests in pharmaceuticals and technology sectors. The economic literature supports the notion that intellectual property protection is a critical part of economic development. It is a part of the panoply of property rights protection, and the UK and US’s economic interests are relatively aligned on these issues. At the same time, it is important that intellectual property rights are not drawn so broadly as to curtail innovation and the activities of new entrants.

The US objective of preventing “the improper use of the UK’s system for protecting or recognising geographical indications (GIs), including any failure to ensure transparency and procedural fairness, or adequately protect generic terms for common use” will likely come into conflict with the UK’s commitment to protect EU GIs in the draft Withdrawal Agreement and intention in the Political Declaration to continue with “appropriate protection” for GIs. This will be a difficult negotiation as it is a crucial part of the US’s negotiating objectives. US agricultural interests see the vast number of EU GIs as a protectionist tool, and an incorrect application of intellectual property protection. The number of UK specific GIs is relatively small, and some are protected by international agreements to which both the US and UK are parties (such as Scotch Whisky, for example) so if it were possible to renegotiate the UK’s commitment on GIs in the Withdrawal Agreement, UK businesses would not be materially prejudiced.

The EU position on GIs is inconsistent with US negotiating objectives. This will make an EU-US FTA very difficult to negotiate.     

Good Regulatory Practice

The objective here is to facilitate market access and promote greater compatibility between US and UK regulations. This has been a persistent problem that has thus far proved to be unsolvable in trade talks between the US and the EU. What constitutes good regulatory practice is left at a high level and includes, for example, transparency, promoting the use of impact assessments and similar methods, and providing opportunities to comment on the development of regulations that includes both trade and competitive effects, and due process. The UK already operates practices that would meet many of these requirements, and provisions covering these matters are common in FTAs, including the EU’s. This objective is a sound one, and one where the parties would be well placed to make significant progress in achieving greater regulatory compatibility, but only if the UK is not bound to EU regulations, which would mean it would not be able to make commitments in respect of regulation that it has no real role in promulgating.

Liam Fox noted in his letter to the International Trade Committee of the UK Parliament of July 2018 that “it is critical… that UK-US FTA is a living agreement. We support the inclusion of a structured arrangement for future dialogue between UK and US regulators, while recognising that such a dialogue should not have a chilling effect on future public interest regulation.” This indicates that in principle the UK and US will be aligned on this objective, although Fox’s letter also cautioned that the independence of regulators in the UK and its partner countries would need to be taken into consideration in the context of regulatory mechanisms in an FTA with the US. This should be welcomed, but, given the commitment the UK has made in the non-binding Political Declaration to consider aligning on regulations and to maintain alignment in Northern Ireland, if Northern Ireland effectively stays in the EU single market for goods, the UK’s ability to negotiate around this objective would be constrained.

Competition Policy

The negotiating objectives set out basic requirements in competition policy, in particular some current high profile issues for the US. US authorities have become concerned with the application of antitrust law by the European Commission. The US believes that the EU is interpreting competition law in increasingly restrictive ways and applying it expansively outside of its territory, most notably in the tech sector. The US has previously complained about the Commission’s approach to transparency and due process, and so the negotiating mandate’s reference to these issues is also unsurprising. If the UK is committed to maintaining EU competition policy (as it would be under the current iteration of the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration) it would be unable to commit to anything in this area that would entail diverging from the EU. However, the UK could seek to negotiate a competition chapter in the UK-US FTA if it also negotiated similar provisions in an EU-UK FTA.

State-Owned Enterprises and Market Distortions/Currency Manipulation

These objectives do not particularly relate to specific UK challenges, but represent what the US will be seeking in any trade agreement given its current priorities and the situation in the global trading system.  The US has been pre-occupied by the impact of China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and market distortions on the US market, particularly in manufacturing. It would like to see strong disciplines in this area in all modern FTAs to put more pressure on China. The US anticipates that the UK would be a strong ally in the fight against market distortions caused by governments and SOEs. As this plays into concerns often raised in the UK, we can be hopeful that this will be the case.

Rules of Origin

The negotiating objectives here are unsurprising given recent pronouncements of the Trump administration. They include ensuring that the benefits of the FTA “go to products genuinely made in the United States and the UK” and that “the rules of origin incentivise production in the territory of the Parties, specifically in the United States”. This is disappointing in that it would likely result in the rules of origin becoming trade barriers. The FTA would then be trade destructive rather than trade creative, cancelling out or annulling the benefits of tariff elimination. Such an approach to rules of origin would present the UK with challenges as it negotiates an FTA with the EU at the same time. The UK will seek very liberal of rules of origin so that it can ensure that products from the UK-EU27 supply chain can qualify for preferences under its FTAs. This is likely to be one of the tougher areas of negotiation.

Government Procurement

A core objective of the UK will be minimal restrictions on competition for government procurement, including the US agreeing to waive its Buy America regulations for the UK. Buy America, and numerous other domestic preferential purchasing programmes allow sub-federal authorities (i.e. state and local government) to preference US suppliers and not open their procurement processes to foreign competition. While the US seek to open up government procurement opportunities in the UK, its objective is not to allow these disciplines to cover its own sub-federal entities. Most government procurement is at the sub-federal level in the US, and the UK would be seeking access for its suppliers to compete in that market, as confirmed by Liam Fox in his letter to the International Trade Committee.

In government procurement, the federal government for constitutional reasons cannot compel states to open their government procurement to foreign entities. In the Uruguay Round USTR was able to persuade some two dozen states and some large municipalities to unilaterally make procurement commitments in the WTO, but the willingness of states to do that now is less. The UK will have to convince the states and their municipalities to be more open on government procurement. A critical element of this will be how much market access the UK will be able to give for key exports of products from those states, and much of that will be in the agricultural area.

The UK also has major interests in defence procurement, and would likely seek to ensure its defence industry is not disadvantaged by US rules. There are Buy America provisions in defence procurement, as well as other restrictive rules such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). The UK should seek to be part of the common defence area with the US to which ITAR exemptions can apply (as have Canada and Australia). The US objectives state that it wishes to maintain exemptions for key Department of Defense procurements and broad exceptions for government procurement for national security, so there may be some room for negotiation in this sector.

Environment, Labour and Anti-corruption

The objectives in these areas are not especially controversial given the approach trade agreements have adopted in recent years. Both the UK and US maintain high standards in both these areas, and negotiation of this chapter should not present major difficulties. Both sides will likely need to include protections in these areas to reassure domestic interest groups and legislatures that the FTA does not start a ‘race to the bottom’.

Conclusions

There is nothing especially surprising in the US’s negotiating objectives. Even in the areas which have attracted the most media coverage, the objectives are as expected and do not materially go beyond what the UK can expect from other trading partners, such as the CPTPP countries. The US does not have adoption of its systems and regulations as an objective, but would require the UK to comply with WTO rules and regulate in ways that are consistent with sound science. This will raise issues in the negotiations between the UK and the EU, as the more goods that the UK allows into its territory that are not compliant with EU rules, the more border checks will be required to ensure that only compliant products are exported from the UK to the EU. This is a particular problem for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland where the parties have agreed that they will not operate physical infrastructure or related checks and controls. This makes the work of the alternative arrangements joint group as agreed between the UK and EU even more important.

There is no question that managing a UK-US and UK-EU negotiation at the same time will be a challenging task, not least because of the legal default underpinning the UK-EU negotiations comprising a customs union under the backstop. Many of the EU and US’s trading partners have found ways of agreeing with both but not from within a customs union or the single market. What the UK has forgotten after more than forty years of its trade policy being subsumed within the Common Commercial Policy is that trade policy is a dynamic process with an ever-changing battlefield. Ultimately it is at the intersection of politics, economics and law – and politics usually wins.

The post What do the American negotiating objectives mean for a future US-UK trade deal? appeared first on BrexitCentral.

It is astonishing yet not surprising that the Prime Minister and others in her party have taken the local election results as a signal to tell MPs that they must now come together and vote through her deal. Do the Prime Minister and her deal promoters think the British people are fools?

How many times have we heard this before from Mrs May? How many times did she tell us we would leave the EU by 29th March? How many times has she promised to ‘break the deadlock’?

To hear her plea for support from the Labour Party which – with the exception of a few – is crammed full of ultra-Remainers and has a leadership that is tilted to the far left is extraordinary and dangerous.

How anyone could countenance such negotiations to further the appalling Withdrawal Agreement is beyond most of us. Someone needs to tell her and her supporters that it is they (not the vote to Leave) who are damaging our country and our people.

The message must be clear and as follows: “Prime Minister, you may have heard what the British people have said, but you have not listened to them. We voted to leave the EU and all its institutions: the Single Market, the Customs Union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Your deal is rotten beyond belief, it is a betrayal of the referendum result.”

Despite this sorry saga, the media and some politicians talk of her tenacity and self-belief with a hint of admiration for her ability to resist pressure to resign. How much longer will it be and how much more damage will be done before the people in grey suits wake up to the reality that our PM and deal-backers have lost the plot?

As I said to a senior and highly-respected Conservative Member of Parliament only last week, the Conservative Party risks being obliterated if it maintains its current course.

Its only chance of salvation rests with changing the current leadership and leaving the EU now on WTO rules. To not do this would be the biggest act of self-harm for the Conservative Party in its history – not mention for the future of our country.

The local election debacle confirmed – if we needed any confirmation – that the public’s patience has worn out, to be replaced by frustration and anger at the damaging and embarrassing equivocation, indecision and inertia which has come to characterise Mrs May’s premiership.

She has clearly and quite categorically missed the point of the local election debacle. Does she really think that the ‘takeaway’ message is that we want her to get her deal through or ‘over the line’? Is this more disingenuous political rhetoric and capitulation or is she seriously in denial?

To be clear Mrs May: it is not that we want you to agree your deal or any deal merely for the sake of it, which would be Brexit In Name Only. It is that we are sick of the procrastination and betrayal; we want to leave, leave now, and leave with a clean Brexit, free of the EU and of any of its institutions and damaging directives.

There can be no face-saving departure, no resigning with dignity – as all of us would have much preferred. These opportunities passed many months ago, arguably as far back as the 2017 General Election result.

It’s time for the Conservative Party to face the facts: their leader and her willing crew believe in their deal and themselves so much that they have all gone off the reservation. It is time for them to depart now, before we all go the same way.

The post Theresa May is misreading voters if she thinks the local elections were a signal to pass her Brexit deal appeared first on BrexitCentral.

In many of the world’s democracies traditional parties are on the slide and populist movements are on the rise. I have been charting their ascent and looking at how the establishment tries to fight back in my latest book, We Don’t Believe You.

In the USA, a populist candidate took over one of the old parties and got into office against all the establishment odds. In the UK, the two traditional parties boosted their popularity at the last general election by adopting the mantle of populism by espousing the cause of Brexit, only to wobble by not delivering on time. In Italy, two different challenger parties cast aside the ancien regime of the older parties, just as Syriza did in Greece. At the root of much of this is a row over money and tax.

The traditional parties have become wedded to higher taxes to pay for big government. They also impose higher taxes to virtue-signal over a wide range of behaviours they want to control, from driving cars and flying away on holiday to eating the wrong foods and buying expensive homes. It took a Trump to sweep in promising to slash individual and company tax rates, cuts which proved popular when he drove them through Congress. In France, the gilets jaunes protesters took to the streets to demand a reduction in fuel tax, as they were finding it too dear to drive to work or get their children to school by car. Mr Macron tried to turn it into a big conversation with voters, only to discover one of the main demands is lower taxes. Many people think they can make better use of their own money by spending on it on their family and their own priorities instead of the government spending it for them.

The wish to control individual lives has led to taxes on owning a car, buying a car, putting fuel in a car and driving a car. It has led to taxes on buying a home, living in a home, renting out a home and selling a home. It has produced new taxes on foods and drinks the state thinks dangerous, new taxes on rubbish, on plastic bags, on parking, on buy to let properties and much else. It spills over into a wish to control our very thoughts, with a wide range of concerns the subject of surveillance in case people have inappropriate ideas. Taking individually, some of these proposals are good. I for one think it right that we ban hate speech, and wish to see less plastic litter around. Taken altogether, it becomes too much for many individuals who feel circumscribed, their freedoms damaged, by too many instructions, fees, charges and taxes. Many of the frustrated take to social media to let off steam. That too is now coming under government control, with new regulations to extend usual media restraints to more private conversations.

In the UK a crucial argument in the Brexit campaign was the wish to take back control of our money. Many voters feel our budget contributions to a rich club of countries is too large. They want that tax revenue to be spent here at home, or given back through lower taxes. At a time when many think our schools and social care could do with some more cash, it seems perverse to send £1bn a month to the EU which we do not get back. Many voters dislike the draft Withdrawal Agreement because it casually gives away a huge and unspecified sum for no good reason. The Treasury thinks it will be at least £39bn. It would probably be considerably more, and stretching forward over many years. EU austerity budgets have done considerable damage to economies and to voter feelings on the continent. The disciplines of the euro have been stricter than the UK imposed budget rules, and have helped fuel much higher unemployment and falls in real wages which have angered many electors.

The populists are still gaining votes and friends. They offer people hope of a bit more of their own money to spend. They don’t lecture them so much on how they are to live or what they are to think the main problems of the world might be. When the elite come out now with their gloomy forecasts, people often bellow back “We don’t believe you”. The UK establishment came horribly unstuck over its economic forecasts of a recession in the winter after the Brexit vote. All the establishments failed to forecast and prevent the banking crash which went on to cost many their jobs or their businesses. The gap is growing between what the elite say the issues are and what the public wants sorted.

Social media allows the populists to send messages to the many at an affordable price. It allows the public to flag what they want tackled. Many of them want a bit more disposable income, so a bit less tax. They want to be able to get to work or take their children to school by car in an affordable way without too many delays. They want governments to listen to them, not to talk down to them.

Populism is an attempt to get politics to rejoin the public by taking their concerns seriously and trying to do something about them. Many old parties on the continent of Europe are no longer serious challengers for power because they ignored the growing gap between the public and their own views. They now disagree not just on how to tackle problems, but over what problems they need to tackle. Putting prosperity and wider ownership back on the agenda would be welcome for many.

We Don’t Believe You: Why Populists Reject The Establishment by John Redwood has just been published by Bite-Sized Books and is available from Amazon for £6.99

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It’s not often politicians have the power to shock these days. Predictable self-interest can usually be relied upon to trump their constituents’ concerns and dictate their actions in most situations. Having to take account of their thought processes on a daily basis takes the fun out of guessing what horrendous cock-up they might inflict on the British people next. But Theresa May really is in a league of her own – for sheer incompetence in negotiation, stupidity in execution, mendacity, duplicity and stubborn adherence to failure, few can match her. And that really is saying something.

Even now, despite losing two votes on her flagship policy and getting a mixed response from the EU to her desire to extend Article 50 for three months, she has come out and repeated the same lies about her dreadful Withdrawal Agreement. She’s promising to submit it – unchanged – to a third vote in the House of Commons. It is time for MPs to make up their minds, she claims. Well they jolly well have. They have chucked her deal out by a thumping majority. Twice. And rightly so. It is a toxic sell-out of this country for vast expense with only years of painful wrangling with the EU on offer, before we end up in a position where people we don’t know in Brussels can make laws for virtually every sector of our economy. It is not Brexit, it’s serfdom.

Anyone foolish enough to believe that Theresa May has any more respect for the British people than she has for her country or her party need only count the number of times she has promised to leave the EU on 29th March 2019, with or without a deal. Or listen to the blatant untruths she constantly repeats about the ‘Withdrawal’ Agreement. Her promises are not worth the paper they aren’t written on.

So it would be an extremely foolish person indeed who believes: a) that she regrets having to extend Article 50; b) that she is compelled to do so (the No Deal vote was not binding on the Government, and there was no requirement to propose an extension); and c) that she won’t drag us into years more chaos and repeated votes on her ‘deal’. It will be Brexit purgatory for the next decade if she isn’t stopped now. She has brought the Government, her office and, by extension, our country into disrepute. Vote for the deal and she’ll break international law, vote for the deal and she’ll resign, vote for the deal and she’ll splash some cash in your constituency… Just vote for the deal and she’ll stop her verbal waterboarding of the British people.

And failing all that, she will agree an extension to Article 50 with the EU and impose it on Parliament – with all its billions of pounds in costs – by breaking the law.

May has the ability of seeming to be hapless, but she is backed by a team who have led her – and the country – quite deliberately to this self-inflicted political crisis. The object, of course, is to overturn the referendum result and stop Brexit. And they aren’t shy about tearing up parliamentary procedure and testing constitutional law to destruction to achieve this aim. At the time of writing, key no-deal legislation vital for maintaining trade flows after 29th March is sitting in the Prime Minister’s office awaiting the moment she can kill it dead by pulling off her Brexit betrayal. Number 10 has now issued a briefing document (reproduced in full below this article) explaining just how the Government intends to keep the UK in the EU, even if Parliament votes not to change Brexit Day from 29th March.
We have reached May’s endgame. And it is diabolical.

“The House has been clear that it will not support leaving without a deal on 29 March,” says Number 10 (even though the House has legislated for just such an outcome). “Furthermore,” we learn, “the Speaker has been clear that he will do everything in his power to facilitate opportunities for Parliament to stop such an approach”. (This confirms what many might suspect, that John Bercow, Dominic Grieve and the TIGers are all enrolled in the Sabotage Brexit Service run from the Cabinet Office).

“Therefore the choice is unlikely to be between a deal and no deal, but between the deal and a longer extension,” claims the author of this plan. This is of course legally and factually wrong. Exit without a deal is the default position under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

According to the document, Parliament’s vote for an extension on 14th March gives the Government executive power to agree and enforce any extension period agreed with the EU. Under any conditions.

Is that even possible? There were, of course conditions attached to the (non-binding) amendment on 14th March.

Unfortunately dictators cannot always have what they want without a fleeting acknowledgement of due process. If the EU agrees to an extension, the law will still have to be changed. According to the briefing note, the exit date on the European Union (Withdrawal) Act and any other legislation due to come into force on 29th March 2019 can be changed simply by a statutory instrument under section 20(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

The statutory instrument “would need to be made and in force by 29 March,” and is subject to a debate in both Houses of Parliament. Whoah! It’s going to be a hectic week. Meaningful Vote 3 followed by Betrayal Votes in both Houses…

Stopping Brexit on 29th March by secondary legislation is legally questionable in itself. Given that there is a huge financial cost to an extension period (“As an EU member state during an Article 50 extension period, we would continue to have rights and obligations until our exit”), changing this date is in fact a revenue-raising measure. And you cannot raise new taxes, because in effect that is what May would be doing (VAT is part of the EU budget contribution), without primary legislation. This is why the Budget goes through the House as a Finance Bill.

But let’s not quibble about that. MPs can still be rendered impotent even if they choose not to go along with this chicanery.

“A rejection of the SI would create a clash in UK law,” claims the document, “because a large volume of EU Exit legislation preparing the UK statute book for the moment EU law ceases to apply is due to enter into force on exit day…
It would not stop the extension being agreed or coming into force, that is a matter of EU and International law, not domestic law“.

Yes, read that again. And again. And again.

So Theresa May is proposing to use executive powers to repeal the provisions of an Act of Parliament and to raise revenue to send to the EU (i.e. demand taxes from all of us), and impose this on the country even if both the Commons and the Lords decided at this late stage to respect their pledges and voted for No Deal.

Even though this would create legal and financial chaos for businesses when the no-deal Brexit legislation still kicks in, but they have to obey EU law at the same time. You cannot serve two masters. Brussels knows that perfectly well, even if May doesn’t.

This dangerous strategy is lunacy, and could precipitate capital flight and economic meltdown. What tax law would businesses obey? What processes would apply? The UK’s reputation as a great place to do business would be lost overnight, irretrievably. There could well be civil disorder.

One thinks that a certain judgment won by a certain Gina Miller might also contradict this plan. So let’s get an injunction and ask the Supreme Court also?

But given everything we know of Theresa May, she is still likely to try this on and do her damnedest to drive the UK over a Brexit cliff-edge by trashing parliamentary process, the law and the constitution in order to make the country ungovernable so we scream for it to stop, please just stop, we’ll do anything, where do we sign to say we want to join the United States of Europe…

This is not just a cynical abuse of power by a fanatical Remainer. It is a clear and present danger to the rule of law and the economic political and social fabric of the country.

author

Gina Miller

tax law

author

Gina Miller

The post Theresa May is pursuing a dangerous strategy for her Brexit endgame appeared first on BrexitCentral.

John Bercow certainly knows how to hog the limelight. The man who drones on and on, lecturing MPs about brevity, was at his grandstanding best in the House of Commons on Monday. But for once, I agree with him. It is wrong for the Government to keep asking MPs the same question in the hope that enough of them will cave in under pressure. Just because the EU deploys the same tactic to deal with recalcitrant voters who have the audacity to vote “the wrong way”, it doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister should be allowed to get away with it.

Thankfully, Bercow’s intervention has spared us all another meaningful vote this week, and although I am sure it was not the Speaker’s intention to help Brexiteers in Parliament in any way, it might just work in our favour.

I have to say that I am disappointed with some of my fellow Brexiteers – many of them personal friends – who have decided to back Theresa May’s deal at this stage in the negotiations. They have their reasons, and I don’t doubt their commitment to the cause. No-one can say that Philip Davies is anything but a committed Brexiteer, and if anyone starts questioning that commitment, I will defend him. No, the reason why I am disappointed is because I feel that their tactics are wrong.

Theresa May has written her letter and is today going cap in hand to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50 at the European Council meeting. Britain is in crisis, so she says – said as if she is an innocent bystander, not a protagonist of a deal that has been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs and is deeply unpopular with the majority of UK voters.

If she has any sense, she will say that the Speaker of the House of Commons has tied her hands; that she doesn’t stand a chance of getting the current deal through Parliament because he won’t allow her to. “If you want us to leave more or less on time (after a short technical extension), you had better give me something meaningful, otherwise there won’t be another meaningful vote”, she should say. She could use it as negotiating leverage.

The EU doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit which – despite how MPs voted last week – is still the legal default position in just eight days’ time. It doesn’t want a long extension to Article 50 either. It has offered us a truly awful deal that it wants MPs to approve. The EU has to contend with elections this year which are bound to increase the number of eurosceptic populist MEPs. It doesn’t want more of them from the UK. A new Commission has to bed in and doesn’t want to have to continue Withdrawal Agreement negotiations with the UK. It is far better to give some more concessions that will command majority support in the House of Commons (knowing that it still has by far the best part of the deal) than to allow negotiations to keep dragging on.

So please, Brexiteers in Parliament, stay true and be brave. I know that you are facing pressure left, right and centre. The whips are on your back; retired politicians are busy writing op-eds telling you to cave in; newspaper editorials are urging the same; and one of your number, Andrew Percy, the co-chairman of the misnomer that is the Brexit Delivery Group, has accused you of idiocy for holding out. Don’t listen to them. You know that this deal is awful. You know that it is the worst kind of Brexit in name only. Like me, you are probably resigned to not getting the Brexit that you want. You know that you will have to compromise, but you shouldn’t compromise until the second you have to.

MPs will vote again on Theresa May’s deal next week after the EU has made some tweaks, despite what Bercow said on Monday. The Government will get around it with another one or two pieces of paper from the EU. If it is still a bad deal, they should vote it down. Watch the EU stop the clock on 29th March if it has to, and watch them make more concessions. Please remember that the EU has invested an enormous amount of time and effort into these negotiations, too. Theresa May doesn’t want to throw away more than two years of work, but neither does Michel Barnier.

It has to be made clear that the implementation period must be time limited and there must be alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop for the deal to go through. It still won’t be my kind of Brexit, and it still may be a poor deal, but it will be much better than it is now. Importantly, we won’t be trapped.

Now is not the time to give in. There may be just eight days to go, but these negotiations are far from over. Now is the time to fight harder than ever before.

The post Now is the moment for Brexiteers in Parliament to stay true and be brave appeared first on BrexitCentral.

After the various votes of last week I felt that following the removal of the UK’s last little bit of leverage through the removal of “No Deal” from the negotiating table, the only option was for Brexiteers to vote through the flawed Withdrawal Agreement. I have great respect for Michael Howard and other prominent Brexiteers advocating that eurosceptic MPs hold their noses and vote through the deal. I was in agreement with them at the end of last week, but over the weekend realised that I had been sucked too far into the No Brexit vortex.

My reasoning for suggesting they vote for the proposed Withdrawal Agreement was that although the deal is awful, it does mean that we are at least out of the EU and we should at least bank that small gain. However, under the terms of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement, for the transition period, we won’t be out at all but instead virtually a full member but without any form of representation in the European Parliament or Commission. This is a worse situation than being a full voting member!

The second point that struck me is that we are all appalled by the Prime Minister’s inability to negotiate a good deal for Britain. It is therefore essential that she is not involved in the next phase and that we have someone of higher calibre in charge. However, if her Withdrawal Agreement is voted through then we are effectively handing her the keys for the next phase which would pile disaster on disaster.

The third point was this: why should we be afraid of an extension until December 2020 as suggested by some in the EU? The transition period was due to run until then and as explained above this would have been without representation at any level. If it comes to it, we should take up this offer and use the time to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement under a new leader now fully aware of how the EU operates and then leave properly at the end of the extension. In the meantime we would have European Parliament elections which I would expect to reinforce and reinvigorate the 2016 referendum vote.

Despite exporting a large percentage of our products to the EU, my preference still remains going WTO on 29th March as that gives us a clean Brexit now and we are then able to move on quicker. My second preference, which is about as likely as hell freezing over, is a short delay of weeks to dot the Is and cross the Ts of a WTO/No Deal exit. My third preference is remaining in the EU under an Article 50 extension until December 2020 and in that time negotiating a new Withdrawal Agreement whilst being fully prepared to walk away and leave without a deal.

Ironically it is by calling the Prime Minister’s bluff and seeing the threat of an Article 50 extension as an opportunity that can put the UK in a much stronger position long term. It is essential that the negotiating balance is reset and these, at this time, are the only ways of doing that.

The post I wobbled and considered backing the deal, but realised I was wrong appeared first on BrexitCentral.




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