Let’s be clear. I’m no supporter of Boris Johnson. I dislike his Tory politics and social priorities and I think his economics are daft. But he is the best hope for Brexit. So let’s offer him some advice for when he becomes Prime Minister (if I can do so without being expelled from the Labour Party).
A new Prime Minister with a new government has the right to demand a new negotiation. Do so, and take a tougher line than trembling Theresa. Get the predictable reply from an EU so amorphous and disorganised it can only say “no”. That inflexible intransigence will be encouraged and defended by clamouring Remainers and the Blair/Mandelson/Lib Dem fifth column in Britain.
Ignoring the fact that their collusion has encouraged the EU to evade any acceptable agreement so far, the Remainers will denounce “No Deal” or “crash out” to undermine our negotiating position and frighten the nation. It ain’t true. Only the EU can produce No Deal by refusing to change its position. They won’t dare to embark on a trade war. It would be damaging to them as well as us, at a time when recession is developing. It’s a little difficult to see a shambling organisation which Remainers tell us is so benign and virtuous, rejecting all the norms of modern trade by setting out to cripple and punish their former partner, for the crime of doing what its people want.
The medicine won’t disappear, flights will arrive almost on time, students will still exchange, travellers visit and nationals from each country will still work in others and trade will go on. Even if there’s no comprehensive treaty, there’ll be a live and let live de facto settlement to allow the EU to get on with its follies, an EU army, trying to make the euro work and dealing with refugees.
Build confidence, use No Deal as a negotiating threat, rouse British anger at their bullying then call an early election. Gordon Brown made the fatal mistake of not calling for a new mandate. You need one and you have a good chance. Labour has divided and disabled itself. The nation wants the impasse ended and is crying out for leadership. The time is ripe. And you can always take the precaution of offering, say, £50 million to the constituency of every Labour MP who votes for your settlement. Several will accept it – I certainly would if I was still there!
My one proviso is that you avoid splitting the Brexit vote by reaching a pact, like the Lib-Lab agreement of 1905 which was brokered by Herbert Gladstone between the Liberals and the new Labour Party to bring Labour in. That would have kept Labour as a minority pressure group, had the Liberals not split. The Brexit Party can’t be treated like lepers now they’re a force.
Theresa’s failure can be a springboard to your success. Feebleness was her metier. Now the country wants someone strong and convincing. After years of misery, bafflement and failure, people want leadership, optimism and a bit of fun – not more misery and fear from the cheerless Remainers.
The Kill Boris campaign waged by the media who once loved him, the liberal intellegentsia and The Guardian has succeeded only in convincing people you’ll provide all that. So boost your prospects further by promising to end austerity with a big boost to spending.
That’s vitally necessary anyway. None of it should go in tax cuts for the rich, they’ve already done well. The greater need is state aid to exporting industry and venture capital for import substitution so we can seize the opportunity to boost exports and replace imports, which the inevitable devaluation (due anyway, so horrendous is our trade deficit) will provide.
Winning will be the start of the first serious negotiations with the EU in which we’ll fight our corner, not lie down like a mat to be walked on. The Northern Irish border remains a problem, but could surely be dealt with by making the whole of Northern Ireland a free port where we won’t impose customs barriers. The Irish can put them up if they want to, but having benefited for years by unfair tax competition they might welcome the competitive advantage of becoming a goods entrepot too, which would allow customless trade both ways.
Good luck. Britain deserves some. Doing what the people want won’t be as tough as the miseryguts fear, the Remainers want and Treasury miscalculates.
Throughout the negotiation of Mrs. May’s Withdrawal Agreement (WA), and her subsequent attempts to have Parliament approve it, the issue of the Irish border loomed large. In fact, it was the EU’s intransigence over the border issue that finally undermined the WA.
But it has now become totally clear that the EU’s position on the border was a falsity peddled in order to exercise maximum pressure on the UK while they negotiated the terms of the WA and then to maintain that pressure, via the backstop, while a free trade agreement was established.
The EU’s argument was essentially as follows:
Any Withdrawal Agreement must simultaneously assure the integrity of the Single Market and the adherence by the UK to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). It was claimed that the GFA requires that the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland be open at all times, thereby prohibiting border infrastructure/a “hard border”.
The argument continued that the only way to achieve this, without breaching the integrity of the Single Market, was to keep Northern Ireland within the Single Market (the backstop) until such time as adequate technology existed for customs controls to be implemented away from the border. The EU further insisted that, without its agreement, Northern Ireland would not be entitled to exit the backstop.
Had the UK signed up to the backstop, it would have been locked into the EU – possibly in perpetuity – without any say and obliged to adopt all EU laws as well as freedom of movement. As a result, it would have found itself without any negotiating position while the future trading arrangements with the EU were being established. It was the invidious potential effects of the backstop, amongst other things, that prompted many, including myself, to describe the WA as the equivalent of political and economic unconditional surrender by the UK.
But the EU’s position has now been busted.
First, the Good Friday Agreement does not require an open border. The only place in which the border features in that agreement is in the section on security. During the Troubles there were heavily fortified army barracks, police stations and watchtowers along the border. The GFA merely required the removal of these and the demilitarisation of the border. It refers to the normalisation of security arrangements. There is no suggestion that there should not be any arrangements for customs to be collected or passports checked.
Second, it is frankly impossible to close the 300-mile border. The notion is absurd.
Third, also from a practical perspective, the value of cross-border trade on the island of Ireland is about €2.6 billion per annum or less than 0.5% of total UK trade with the EU – it is tiddly in trading terms. Irrespective of the mechanisms put in place to collect tariffs, any customs leakage would not even amount to a rounding error in the accounts of either the UK or the EU.
And finally – and what has prompted me to write this article – is the declaration by the Irish Government yesterday that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it would not implement a “hard border” and that customs checks would, as has been argued by the UK Government for years, take place away from the border. It has at last admitted that it can live without such a border.
This admission has revealed that the EU never actually needed the backstop. In that revelation it has proven itself to have always been in bad faith in its negotiations with the UK.
In commercial negotiations of lesser importance, such bad faith may have been tolerable, but this act of bad faith all but triggered a constitutional crisis in the UK. It is abhorrent that the EU held such a false position, given the enormity of the consequences. It proves that the institution is entirely untrustworthy. Armed with that knowledge, we must decline any further negotiations with it. We must simply leave the wretched institution at the very earliest opportunity.
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It is three years since we voted to leave the EU. Since then we’ve dithered and delayed. Broken our promise once, then once again. The uncertainty is terrible for business. Big issues have been ducked. And constant attempts to overturn the result have destroyed what little faith there was in our politics.
Three years of hand-wringing, of a managerial outlook that saw Brexit as a problem to be mitigated rather than an opportunity, has left us humiliated. It’s created the Brexit Party and nourished the Lib Dems. Both have feasted on our vote, as over a thousand Conservative councillors will testify.
It’s almost a year to the day that I resigned from Cabinet, so I could argue my case for a proper Brexit that unites people around the exciting opportunities for our country. Not only were we the architects of our own incarceration – in the form of the Irish backstop – but we also laid down the one weapon that might have got us what we wanted. By never truly meaning the threat to walk away, our demands were never taken seriously.
This election comes at a critical moment because there is still time to change. The choice for members of our great party – legitimately wondering if this is its final chapter – is whether we change direction or settle for more of the same.
More of the same means more Brexit dithering and delay, more uncertainty for business and continuing division in our country. Kick the can and we kick the bucket. That means only one thing: the proto-Marxist, Chavez-worshipping, anti-Semitism-appeasing Jeremy Corbyn. That’s the consequence of more of the same.
We need a change of direction. That’s why we must treat 31st October as a real deadline for leaving the EU, come what may, not a fake one.
The hour is darkest before the dawn. Get this done and we can turn things around. What I’m offering is a more optimistic, dynamic approach to these negotiations. I want a deal. I believe our European friends want one and they will be in no doubt that we are serious because we will prepare all-out for No Deal.
In so far as our wishes have appeared unclear in the past, our friends will quickly see where things stand. The no-brainer of protecting citizens’ rights, putting the £39 billion into a state of creative ambiguity and moving discussions about the Irish border to their proper place: our future trading relationship.
If our friends feel they cannot agree, then we will be match fit for No Deal. We will have the fiscal firepower to support business and agriculture. We will be free to substantially diverge on tax and regulation. I don’t know about you, but I have had enough of being told that we cannot do it — that the sixth biggest economy in the world is not strong enough to run itself and go forward in the world.
Politics has changed and many of my colleagues understand this. MPs on all sides have got to understand it is their responsibility to deliver Brexit as democrats first and foremost. It was right to ask the people whether we should stay in the EU or leave, and it is right for Parliament to enact that decision. Dogs in the manger need to wake up – our democracy is too fragile to be played around with.
We voted to leave and leave we will.
Campaigning for leave up and down our great country, I got the same message. Town after town felt invisible and ignored. Our great economic success was for other people in other places. Not theirs. Yes, people wanted control over our borders and our money. But the clincher was opportunity, or the lack of it.
I will unite this country by doing for all the regions and nations what I did in London: building the infrastructure to unlock jobs and growth, closing the opportunity gap.
That’s why alongside delivering Brexit by 31st October I will deliver the funds to level up education funding for every child, deliver full fibre broadband for every home by 2025 and 20,000 more police officers on our streets. I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail — the Crossrail of the North — what I did in London with Crossrail. I will protect our Union by becoming the Minister for the Union, with the clout in Whitehall to match.
I feel a deep sense of personal responsibility for Brexit and that’s why I am the one to see it through. This is it. No second chances. We can choose more of the same, or we can choose change: delivering Brexit on 31st October, uniting the country and beating Corbyn.
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For too long we have witnessed this Parliament trying to delay or dilute Brexit. The very institution the British people has trusted to govern us has shown a pathetic reluctance to take on the task. Instead of leading us proudly and sensibly out of the EU, Parliament has served the EU’s interests by making up problem after problem where there is no issue, and exaggerating every complexity. It has been a sorry case of Parliament against the people.
We are now close to the Conservative Party electing a new leader who will be committed to our exit by 31st October. Boris Johnson – who has my support and is likely to win – has told us we will leave then, “do or die”. Jeremy Hunt has shifted closer to saying we must leave by that date. Yet there are still some in the Remain-supporting media who trot out the falsehood that as there is no majority for a so-called no-deal exit, Parliament will not allow such a departure.
The first thing to grasp is there is no such thing as a no-deal exit. Despite the weak and lacklustre negotiation conducted by Mrs May, there are various agreements and arrangements ready for our exit without signing the Withdrawal Treaty. There are haulage, customs, government procurement and aviation agreements and arrangements. The EU has set out how they will handle such an exit, and the UK Government says they too are ready, after three years to prepare for just such an eventuality.
There is no great problem with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland/EU. It is today a complex border, with different rates and coverage of VAT and Excise taxes, and different currencies. The necessary calculations and payments for most trade are not made at the border, but by computer away from the border with settlement to the relevant tax authorities against electronic manifests of the consignment. So too could any tariffs and customs adjustments be done. There is no UK need to put new barriers and impediments on the border once we leave.
How could Parliament seek to prevent exit without the Withdrawal Treaty? Some say Parliament could pass a motion to condemn a so called “no-deal” exit. As we are due to leave in both UK and EU law, a motion would not trump that legal obligation. There would also be a need to define a “no-deal exit”. Some say the forces of the Opposition could somehow grab control of parliamentary business and pass an Act of Parliament amending UK law to delay or cancel our exit. It is difficult to see how. Of course, a parliamentary process to repeal the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act and the EU Withdrawal Act could keep us in the EU, but I do not believe even this Parliament would dare to try that or have a majority to do so.
Parliament would need to take down the Government first anyway, assuming a government still hostile to the idea of staying in against the results of the referendum. Parliament would then need to form a pro-EU government, establish a majority for the repeal, argue and vote it through against strong opposition and ignore the hostile response of the public who expect Labour and Conservative MPs to fulfil their manifesto pledges to get us out.
It is important to grasp that EU law is superior to UK law. As we are leaving in EU law on 31st October, that can only be stopped by amending the EU law as well as the UK law. Mrs May delayed our exit because she wanted to. The Prime Minister can request a delay to our exit, and will get one if the EU consents. That is how EU law was changed to keep us in from April to October. Assuming a Prime Minister is determined to get us out, there will be no request for delay and therefore no further delay.
Could Parliament instruct the Prime Minister to request a delay? That too would be difficult with a determined Prime Minster. The Government controls the Order Paper, moves money resolutions and possesses Crown prerogative. These are all necessary for the passage of legislation. Nor could Parliament require delay, as it is a deal between the UK Government and the EU. They can only require the Prime Minister to seek a delay, not mandate a delay.
My conclusion is that a determined Prime Minister can get us out.
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Only a credible non-cooperative strategy that cannot be blocked by either the EU or Parliament will get us out of the EU by 31st October 2019. And that strategy needs to be executed with ruthless conviction and commitment by the new Prime Minister. To demonstrate his support for Global Britain, his first trip abroad should be to the US to kick-start the UK-US Free Trade Agreement.
As the largest ever list of candidates to offer themselves as the next British Prime Minister has been whittled down to the final two, it is clear that we are in grave danger of validating Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Between them, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have said that they will: renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and the backstop; leave the EU with a ‘deal’ on 31st October; and get parliamentary approval for their new improved deal. They both claim to be skilled negotiators, implying that this makes them ideally suited for the most important job in their career. There are differences, however: Johnson recognises that the WA as a whole is dead and just wants to lift some of its acceptable features, such as on citizens’ rights; while Hunt is prepared to delay leaving the EU for ‘a short while’ to achieve a ‘better deal’.
The naivety of the candidates’ positions is breath taking. Have they not observed how easily the EU has run rings around our current ‘skilled negotiators’? Are they like the Bourbons and learned nothing and forgotten nothing?
The new Prime Minister needs a credible negotiation strategy
It is going to be déjà vu all over again, unless the new PM has a clear strategy to leave the EU on the basis of what game theorists call a non-cooperative solution. That is one that the EU cannot block if it is not willing to cooperate in producing a solution that makes both sides better off.
This means that the starting point for any negotiations with the EU cannot be the WA. The EU says that it will not renegotiate this and it remains completely unacceptable to the vast majority of the British people. As Chairman of Lawyers for Britain, Martin Howe QC, says:
‘I can’t think of any clause in the WA end-to-end which is actually in the interests of the UK. The only neutral part of the agreement is the reciprocal rights of UK and EU citizens, in which the clauses on substantive rights are acceptable. However, even those are surrounded by completely unacceptable requirements that the treaty must perpetually have direct effect and must (as interpreted by the courts) override future UK Acts of Parliament in our own courts, and must be “interpreted” by the European Court of Justice for about 10 years by direct references and thereafter via a back-door mechanism in an international arbitration clause’.
His devastating criticism of the WA is here: Avoiding the Trap – How to Move on from the Withdrawal Agreement. How a British Prime Minister could collaborate with the EU to produce this document and how so many MPs could subsequently vote for it is beyond me. The WA is nothing less than a venus flytrap. It therefore needs to be avoided at all costs.
In any case, the WA does not offer a ‘deal’ about a future relationship in any meaningful sense. For example, there is nothing on services which account for 80% of UK GDP. Trade in services will be negotiated after the UK leaves the EU. It is completely bizarre for MPs to object to leaving the EU without a deal, when the WA itself involves leaving the EU without a deal.
A non-cooperative solution requires the UK to specify both the terms under which it will leave the EU and the terms under which it will trade with the EU in the future. And to do so in a way that the EU cannot block.
Theresa May specified the leaving terms very clearly in the Lancaster House speech in 2017. They were to leave the Customs Union, Single Market and the jurisdiction of the ECJ. In other words, a clean Brexit. This was a clear deliverable strategy that did not require EU cooperation. But then Remainer Philip Hammond stepped in and said there needed to be a transition period which would require EU cooperation and this was the beginning of the backtracking that led to the toxic WA and the equally toxic Political Declaration (PD).
The non-cooperative solution involves three steps. And each one has to be credible to the EU
The first step is for the new PM to restate that the clean Brexit set out in the Lancaster House speech will be implemented by 31st October 2019. This is credible and does not require EU consent.
In parallel with this, the new PM should immediately inform the US President that the UK will enthusiastically take up his long-standing offer to negotiate rapidly a US-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This also is credible and does not require EU consent once we leave. During the few weeks that remain before 31st October, the UK can make much progress in setting the stage for post-Brexit negotiations – a task that the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, has consistently dragged his feet in doing. This will send an electric shock to the EU that will tilt every aspect of subsequent negotiations with the EU in our favour. The prospect of us concluding an FTA with the US when the EU has been struggling for years to achieve this will motivate the EU to conclude an FTA with us. They will fear the fact that the UK would be able to import virtually all of its requirements from the US and at lower world market prices. This would signal to the EU that we can leave them behind if necessary.
The second step is to set out in a new Departure Statement (DS) how the principal issues involved in departing from the EU will be implemented: citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The PM can guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK without granting them the special status of the WA. He can agree to pay our financial obligations up to the point of departure. Any additional money is not a strict legal requirement but can be used as a bargaining tool in negotiations about the future trade deal – as the EU is fond of saying, ‘nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed’. Let the EU take the UK to international arbitration if they want. Finally, he can restate that the UK will not impose a hard border. All these are credible and do not require EU consent.
The big advantage of being absolutely clear on the border is that it will force the EU and, in particular, the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to agree a workable solution that allows the UK to leave the Customs Union and Single Market at the end of October. Solutions exist to protect the integrity of both the UK and EU internal markets without any physical infrastructure on the border or any need for new technology. The Smart Border 2.0 report commissioned by the European Union Parliament from customs expert Lars Karlsson confirms this – as does the more recent report of the Alternative Arrangements Commission. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel’s successor as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, has said that a workable solution could be agreed in five days of discussions. There were discussions between British and Irish customs officials on creating an invisible border, but Varadkar stopped these when he came to power. In doing so, he politicised the border issue and turned it from being the EU’s Achilles’ heel into the UK’s – ably abetted by collaborating British ‘negotiators’.
It was this single issue that was then exploited in order to propose the backstop comprising a ‘single customs territory between the (European) Union and the United Kingdom’, without rules of origin. Northern Ireland, in addition, would have to abide by the rules and regulations of the EU Single Market. So long as the backstop is in operation, the UK would have to meet ‘level playing field conditions’ that prevented the UK competing against the EU. The UK would not be able to leave the backstop without the consent of the EU.
This, of course, is completely unacceptable. By making it clear that the UK will leave the EU on 31st October, the positions are immediately reversed. Both the EU and Varadkar have said that there will be no hard border. Varadkar would be forced to restart the discussions between British and Irish customs officials. He knows full well how devastating for the Republic’s economy a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be: the Irish Central Bank predicts a 4% cut in GDP and 100,000 job losses. And there are plenty of five-day periods between now and the end of October to agree a workable solution. But it requires the UK side to make it absolutely clear that we are leaving on Halloween, come hell or high water. This too is credible and again does not require EU consent.
The third step is to make a Future Relationship Statement (FRS), setting out the terms on which the UK will agree to trade and cooperate with the EU. Again, this has to be done in a way that cannot be blocked.
There is only one set of trading terms that the EU cannot block. Under WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules – which almost all international trading arrangements follow – we are free to set the tariffs and product standards for trade with the EU, so long as these are the same as for all members of the WTO under MFN (Most Favoured Nation) rules, unless we have a FTA with any country or group of countries. This is the default position, so is also credible and does not require EU consent.
We can actually do better than that and offer the EU to continue trading in goods on current zero-tariff terms under Article XXIV of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and in services under Article V of GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) – while a full FTA is negotiated. But if they refuse, we can temporarily revert to the MFN rules under Article I of GATT.
The EU will ultimately agree to a FTA. In the meantime, we need to exploit the fact that the UK has a huge trade deficit with the EU – we are net buyers of goods of around £100 billion, equivalent to 5% of our GDP. Since the customer is king – and we are the customers – it should be us who decides the quality and prices of the goods and services we purchase from not only the EU but from the rest of the world. But what the WA and PD do is to allow the EU to determine these things. The audacity is astonishing. Did the EU and our ‘negotiators’ seriously believe that they could get away with this – and not just in the short term but indefinitely?
Since we will no longer be bound by the EU’s Common External Tariff, we can lower the tariffs we set on goods that we do not produce domestically. But whatever tariffs we set, the EU will be worse off given that they sell us mostly high-tariff goods like cars and agricultural products. We would pay tariffs to the EU of around £5 billion and they would pay tariffs of £13 billion. In addition, we would save the £11 billion net contribution to the EU.
This provides a strong incentive for the EU to agree a FTA, unless they want to continue punishing us for leaving the EU, and in doing so damage the EU economy even more. Given that we have a services trade surplus with the EU of around £30 billion, it is essential that this is secured in a future trading relationship. This means a SuperCanada deal, already offered to us by the EU in March 2018.
But although there is a strong economic incentive to agree a FTA, we cannot force the EU into accepting any deal that works for us in terms of services, and, in particular, financial services. Still this does not prevent us leaving the EU on the basis of the above DS and FRS. There are enough ‘mini deals’ in place – covering visa-free travel, aircraft landing, rail and shipping agreements, road haulage licences, student exchanges, defence and security etc – for the citizens and businesses of both the UK and EU to continue visiting and trading with each other. In addition, a sufficient number of the international trade deals negotiated by the EU have been novated that we can continue trading on the same terms with most of these countries as we do now. A key example is Switzerland which accounts for more than a quarter of our trade under these EU-negotiated deals.
A number of proposals have fleshed out the details of a future relationship along the lines outlined above: A Clean Managed Brexit from Steve Baker MP, The EU, The UK and Global Trade: A New Roadmap from Professor David Collins, A Better Deal from Shanker Singham, Robert MacLean and Hans Maessen, A World Trade Deal from Economists for Free Trade, and the Howe et al report cited above. For example, Baker suggests that we should send a draft UK-EU FTA to the EU – such as the ones proposed by Shanker Singham, Victoria Hewson, Hans Maessen and Barnabas Reynolds or Dr Lorand Bartels of the University of Cambridge – rather than wait until they do the drafting – which was such a disastrous error with the WA and PD. The EU could agree such a FTA under Article 207 of the TFEU (Treaty on Functioning of the European Union) on the Common Commercial Policy on the basis of qualified majority voting.
But unless the strategy is clear about what is needed to deliver these outcomes, we will soon be back wading through the same treacle of compromise and capitulation that have been the hallmark of our negotiations over the last two years. The only strategy that is guaranteed to work by 31st October is the non-cooperative one outlined above.
The new Prime Minister also needs to demonstrate conviction and commitment – and that involves putting Parliament in its place
A credible negotiating strategy is necessary, but this will not be sufficient. The new Prime Minister also needs to have ‘conviction and commitment’, as Dominic Raab has pointed out. But Boris Johnson – the front runner to be PM – has already wavered by first stating categorically that the UK will leave the EU by 31st October and subsequently saying that this is merely ‘eminently feasible’. This change was immediately picked up by EU negotiators, one of whom told The Times: ‘Even the boldest Prime Minister for a no-deal will have to demonstrate that he has had one serious try and that means an extension [beyond 31 October]’. Another told the Daily Mail that the EU believes Johnson will end up trying to sell an amended version of the WA: ‘If people really brief Boris and talk him through the implications of ‘no deal’, I think he will really think twice’. The first view is perfectly plausible and, unless further wavering is prevented, then we are very likely to end up with the second. After all, Johnson supported the Withdrawal Agreement on the third vote. Hunt voted for it three times. Johnson’s declared position, however, is that he is seeking a FTA with the EU and clarified that he will leave the EU by the end of October ‘do or die’.
The new PM also needs to demonstrate conviction and commitment with the other group trying to block Brexit: the British Parliament. It too needs a lesson in democracy. Read our lips: we voted to leave the EU in June 2016 by a bigger majority than any vote that any individual MP has ever received. We understood the decision we made. We understood why we made it. No amount of scaremongering by the majority of MPs who oppose this decision or their friends in the civil service and CBI etc will change this.
So if MPs are still determined to block the deal that the next PM sets or try to insist that the deal is put to a ‘confirmatory vote’ – weasel words for a second referendum to try and get Brexit reversed – then they also need to be blocked. They need to be made to understand that it is the people who are sovereign not MPs. And the people are here for ever, they are not.
If this, in turn, means that Parliament is prorogued until after 31 October 2019, then so be it. Constitutional historians like Professor Jonathan Clark argue that this would not be ‘“unconstitutional”:
‘[It] would be in accord with statute law, but applied in a situation that legislators could not foresee. [Nor] would [it] be “undemocratic”, for the point at issue is the clash between two sorts of democracy, representative and direct. Whatever the merits of these two, Parliament recognised the priority of the People in legislating for the referendum of 2016. Parliament’s claim to control prerogative depends also on public opinion, and support has ebbed away as Brexit has not been delivered’.
However, prorogation might not be necessary since, in June 2019, Parliament voted down a Labour motion to block a no-deal Brexit. Indeed, Maddy Thimont Jack from the Institute of Government argues that MPs have no decisive route – such as legally binding backbench motions, emergency debates, amendments to the Queen’s Speech, or ‘no confidence’ votes – to stop a PM determined from leaving the EU on 31st October.
Only a credible non-cooperative strategy executed with ruthless conviction and commitment by the new Prime Minister will get us out of the EU by 31st October
The message needs to be clear, simple, with no compromises. Theresa May said in her resignation speech outside No. 10 that the next Prime Minister must compromise. Well just look where that got her. Time’s up for doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Only a credible non-cooperative strategy that cannot be blocked by either the EU or Parliament will get us out of the EU by 31st October. And that strategy needs to be executed with ruthless conviction and commitment by the new Prime Minister. Given that both Johnson and Hunt have voted for the WA, the new PM would need to signal his conviction and commitment by appointing a Brexit Secretary who refused to vote for the WA on all three occasions. To demonstrate his support for Global Britain, his first trip abroad should be to the US to kick-start the UK-US Free Trade Agreement. There is no need to make another round of humiliating visits to Brussels or to Europe’s capitals – as Theresa May repeatedly did.
This is an extended version of a blog originally posted on Briefings for Brexit
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It’s funny, but every time one mentions ‘Article 24’ publicly – meaning (using the correct Roman numerals) Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which predates the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – you receive a barrage of hysterical abuse from Remainers, often with long academic titles. They are clearly terrified we’re on to something.
They say: ‘The EU would never agree to it!’, ‘The EU would not be minded to do a deal if we leave on bad terms!’, ‘You can’t do it in a no-deal situation’ and ‘We’d have to levy tariffs not just on EU goods but all good from around the world’. This last point was made on Radio 4’s Today programme discussion of Article 24 yesterday morning.
But these claims are wrong. We know they are wrong because collectively we have asked the EU: its Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, its trade advisers and personnel, and people David has worked with for ten years on the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament doing trade deals. And together we’ve asked very senior people at the WTO and top trade lawyers too, such as the impartial Article 24 expert Lorand Bartels of Cambridge University.
Their conclusion: GATT Article 24 is not only doable, it is desirable. Here are a few facts relating to Article 24:
1) Let’s not confuse what ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ we are talking about: we are not seeking to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement or attempt ratification of that deal by 31st October. Angela Merkel and other EU leaders have made it clear that ‘deal’ is not negotiable.
So this is not a deal based on the Withdrawal Agreement under EU law such as the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50. Nor is it a trade deal conducted under the EU’s ‘Future Relationship’ or ‘Political Declaration’ provisions either with its binding legislation – it is a separate deal done under World Trade Organisation rules.
2) The World Trade Organisation makes trade rules, not the EU. There’s a clue in the title. The EU quite correctly works within the global rules system on trade via the WTO. Most EU free trade agreements incorporate WTO level agreements like GATS – the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
3) GATT was the predecessor to the WTO and Article XXIV/24 is contained within these global GATT rules which all individual WTO members – that includes the UK as an individual full WTO member, every EU member state as individual WTO members and the EU as an entity – agree to implement.
4) The whole point of the WTO is to promote free trade around the world. The WTO does not like tariffs (taxes on goods entering), quotas (a certain quantity of goods entering at a certain tariff) or barriers to trade (e.g. excessive regulation advantaging home producers or in services). So the WTO will not like it if the UK and EU return to imposing £13bn tariffs on EU goods and £5bn on British goods into the EU. It goes against the grain.
5) GATT Article 24 is there to allow two countries or blocs to move towards a free trade area or a customs union. It basically allows the two countries to level lower tariffs and quotas than what is called ‘Most Favoured Nation Rules’ (MFN). Ironically it is the very basis of the EU’s zero tariff Customs Union which took between 1957 and 1968 to actually enact.
By offering one country a better deal than other WTO members you are discriminating – you are offending the rule that everyone must be treated the same – so you must levy the same MFN tariffs to all. This is such an important rule it is actually Article 1 of GATT. But Article 24 is a specific exemption to this.
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are really a licensed form of discrimination where you are allowed to offer better terms to one country over all the others but only if you really free up trade – particularly getting rid of at least 90% of tariffs.
6) So given the WTO hates tariffs (it’s not happy with President Trump and others reimposing tariffs but that’s another story), then it is amenable to ways of avoiding tariffs without disadvantaging its other members.
So if the UK and EU go to the WTO jointly and say that we have agreed to move to a full and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (what we term ‘SuperCanada’ – that is better than the EU-Canada FTA) – that keeps tariffs at zero with no real change to other members, the WTO is happy to allow us a period of time to keep tariffs and quotas at preferential rates. GATT 24 allows what are called ‘standstill’ arrangements – much remains the same and this is essentially a WTO form of a transition – but is not an interim arrangement as is often claimed.
We can keep tariffs at zero for as long as the two partners need to negotiate the full works: that comprehensive FTA. Legally this could be up to ten years, but most are two to three years to negotiate. That is GATT 24.
7) Yes, GATT 24 needs a temporary agreement between the EU and UK, but frankly it could be written on the back of an envelope. Lorand Bartels has helpfully written a one-page FTA properly that is sufficient to allow Article 24 to apply. This is a ‘basic deal’ or a ‘temporary FTA’. But it is entirely manageable and legally sound.
So to our Remainer friends – yes, you need a deal, but one or two pages of FTA is much easier than the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement to agree.
8) So why would the EU agree?
Well, the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and the EU’s largest single market – bigger than the USA, China and India. The EU has a £96 billion goods deficit with us (we have a £13bn services surplus). Over a million German jobs alone rely on British consumers buying German goods like BMWs. Without a basic GATT 24 deal, the EU would have £13bn tariffs slapped on its goods – 10% on VWs; 12% on wine, 40% on cheese. They would suffer far more than the UK simply because they sell more to us than we do to them. The EU – particularly Germany, which accounts for nearly a quarter of all EU trade to the UK – does not like the idea of this. Better for everyone surely to keep on an even keel?
There is also the question of money. The UK may well be prepared to pay a fair contribution, if not anywhere near the £39 billion associated with the Withdrawal Agreement, but this would be contingent on such a basic deal. It is also much easier to deliver by the end of October.
In the absence of EU agreement to GATT 24, the UK can unilaterally and universally change its import tariffs, and be open to cutting all tariff rate quotas – but obviously the UK would not be able to control EU import tariff rates.
9) What about services and standards?
Services will be a part of the future trade deal but will be along the lines of ‘Mutual Recognition’ of standards or ‘enhanced equivalence’, not on a harmonisation or rule-taking basis.
10) What about all the the other non-trade elements, such as aviation flying rights?
GATT 24 is not the only basic deal needing to be done if there is no Withdrawal Agreement. It will need an accompanying flotilla of what we call ‘mini deals’.
But – good news – the EU has already quietly agreed most of these through emergency legislation. As an MEP, David has voted on 17 main pieces of legislation to keep trucks rolling, planes flying, trains running, goods flowing, fishing boats sailing, visa costs eliminated, energy efficiency maintained, social security cooperation, the Northern Ireland Peace programme running, Erasmus+ for students allowed, and other affairs. The UK just needs to reciprocate.
The reality is that much of the non-controversial elements of the Withdrawal Agreement can be agreed as separate ‘mini deals’ in exactly the same way – for example, the elements on citizens’ rights – but can be done outside the provisions of the European Court of Justice. This is the case with other EU free trade deals including Canada and Switzerland.
11) What about the Northern Ireland border and Good Friday Agreement?
Iain served as a soldier in Northern Ireland and well knows its challenges, whilst David worked on the Peace Process 20 years ago as a Government Special Adviser. There is no mention of the border in the Good Friday Agreement for a start (rather a sensitive subject!).
With Ireland only checking 1% of goods imported now and with existing trusted trader and other current mechanisms available, such as checks in factories and warehouses, even the EU admits alternative arrangements can be done with the border remaining free. No one wants a hard border. But the detail of this can await the negotiation of the bigger free trade agreement – and is part of that.
What GATT Article 24 represents is a Clean Managed Brexit – and what’s more it is deliverable by 31st October.
The post The facts about GATT Article 24 – and how it can deliver a Clean Managed Brexit by 31st October appeared first on BrexitCentral.
In April, Prosperity UK, the politically-independent not-for-profit organisation, launched its Alternative Arrangement Commission, co-chaired by Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands. The cross-party Commission will seek to explore practical and detailed Alternative Arrangements relating to the Irish border, deliverable in a timely fashion and ultimately clear a path for the UK to leave the EU. The work builds on the Brady Amendment which commanded majority support in Parliament as it proposed to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with Alternative Arrangements.
I am pleased to be one of the Commissioners, taking evidence from border and trade experts. Last week, we heard from members of the Technical Panel: Frank Dunsmuir, a logistics and licensing expert; Lars Karlsson, one of the best-known customs leaders in the world and former Director of the World Customs Organisation; Hans Maessen, a customs and business advisor; and Shanker Singham, a leading trade and competition lawyer.
Whilst I was a Minister at the Department for Exiting the EU, I visited several of our ports and borders to see first-hand the challenges – and opportunities – presented by Brexit. Whilst, of course, Brexit will involve change at some level at many of our borders and ports, there is every reason to see how new systems can be implemented in a way so as to minimise friction. And this is the case at the Irish border.
No one wants a “hard” border – and rightly so. No-one on either side of the debate wants to violate the Belfast Agreement or upset the lives of those living near the border. Nobody is seeking to create a climate for violence. That is why the UK has guaranteed that it will not introduce border posts and checks, HMRC has said that it will not need physical infrastructure at the border “in any circumstances” and the Head of the Irish Revenue has said that he is “practically 100% certain” that there will be no need for new customs facilities along the border.
Much of the evidence has been well-documented already and it is clear that existing technology and administrative procedures can enable any customs formalities to be carried out electronically and physical checks to be carried out away from the border. There is, of course, presently a border between the two countries for tax, VAT, currency, excise and security; these are managed using technologies without infrastructure at the physical border.
Administrative procedures and existing technology will enable customs formalities to be carried out electronically and any physical checks (of which few would be needed) can be carried out elsewhere.
So far the Commission has taken a wide variety of new evidence. I was encouraged to hear how countries like Brazil, Australia and Dubai are using away-from-the-border arrangements such as sophisticated Authorised Economic Operator schemes. The UK already has AEO in place but with a very low take-up by businesses and traders. By incorporating a multi-tier Trusted Trader system with incentives and benefits for different types and size of business, both friction can be eliminated at the border and intelligence on contraband goods can be enhanced. Inland declarations can be made so that checks at the border are avoided.
With regards to sanitary and phytosanitary matters (SPS), whilst the Union Customs Code states that goods must be cleared at a border, there exist several precedents where away-from-the-border exceptions have been made to facilitate trade such as San Marino and Andorra (which are microstates outside of the EU, land-locked by EU Member States and enjoying special exemptions when it comes to EU customs rules).
Given that 4.9% of Northern Ireland sales are with the Republic (accounting for less than 0.2% of UK GDP) compared to 20.3% with Great Britain, we need to also keep this issue in perspective. The vast majority of sales is internal to Northern Ireland and, when combined with sales to Great Britain, Northern Ireland sales within the United Kingdom make up 85.3% of its economy.
Prosperity UK’s work on this matter will be invaluable in identifying solutions and I hope that the next Prime Minister will consider its conclusions seriously.
The post The solutions to the Northern Ireland border question are out there appeared first on BrexitCentral.
As politicians we are elected to serve the public. And three years ago, we asked them for their verdict on decades of membership of the European Union. They told us to get Britain out. We promised to deliver.
Our failure to do that has overshadowed everything else we, as a Government, have tried to do in the last three years. We look incompetent as a result, and our poll ratings have plummeted. And we allowed the Brexit Party to hoover up votes that meant many hard-working councillors and MEPs, who had given literally thousands of man- and woman-hours to the party, lost seats they didn’t deserve to lose.
Now, I do not think we will deliver Brexit and immediately receive an electoral dividend. We have to give the electorate far more than that – a vision for the future that people can unite behind. One built on the core values of the Conservative Party for more than a century – giving people the opportunity to get on, and rewarding them for their ambition when they do. Making a multi-year, multi-billion commitment to our schools, investing in infrastructure across the country to rebalance the economy, and leaving more of what people earn in their pockets.
To do that, though, we must leave. No ifs, no buts, no excuses.
I spent a career in business doing cross-border deals and I know how to negotiate. I’ve used those same skills in Government to get things done at home and build bridges with other countries. The security relationships I’ve negotiated for our post-Brexit future are testament to that.
Now I’m ready to apply those skills to the greatest challenge we’ve faced for decades.
First, I will focus on delivering the only thing that’s got through Parliament – leaving Europe with alternative arrangements on the backstop. Ireland is the key to that, and I believe we can do a deal with them. So to unlock the impasse I will make a big, bold offer to fund all of the new technology required for a border without hard infrastructure, now and in the future.
Economically, it’s the right thing to do: I firmly believe getting a deal will unlock investment that will trigger a mini economic boom. But morally, too. We have chosen to go our own way, free to be a sovereign nation in the world once again, and it is we who have chosen to say no to the status quo. So it’s right that we work to restore the goodwill at the heart of a relationship founded on family bonds, geography and shared history.
I’ve looked at this in the Home Office, tasking a team from Border Force to look at what we’d need in place. They were clear the technologies already exist to avoid a hard border, and important work in being undertaken by the Alternative Arrangement Commission on this front. What we need is the trust and will on both sides to make this work a reality – and it’s possible.
Don’t listen to those who say that the EU is dug in, that it won’t shift its position. Listen to what the BBC’s Europe Correspondent Katya Adler said on Wednesday night:
“EU leaders want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, so there is a bit of wiggle room if they think a wiggle could do the trick. What do I mean by wiggle? They know that any new Prime Minister will ask for something on the backstop and actually, amongst EU leaders, there is more openness among some to an end date to the backstop if push came to shove… If Dublin is agreeable, and only if all EU leaders are 100% sure it would do the trick (with Parliament), that would pass [through Parliament].”
I believe we can deliver a deal. I believe Parliament will unite, for the second time, around an orderly exit. But if we can’t, and the choice is No Deal or no Brexit, let me be clear.
As Prime Minister I would have a clear position. We should leave on October 31st. And if we cannot get a deal we should, with great regret, leave without one, having done everything we can to minimise disruption.
Of course, the arithmetic of a minority government is inescapable. As the recent comments of the Speaker demonstrated, it’s simply not credible to promise you can deliver a No Deal if Parliament is set against it. And anyone who promised this would risk driving us to a pre-Brexit general election this year: a disaster first and foremost for our country and public trust in democracy; but also for our party. So no – I will not be proroguing Parliament.
That’s why we need a leader who can unite the party, and country, behind a credible plan – and then go and actually deliver it.
I believe this is that plan. And I know I am that leader.
The post Here’s how I’ll get us out of the EU by October 31st – no ifs, no buts, no excuses appeared first on BrexitCentral.
During more than forty years in the property business, I’ve made hundreds of deals. Some good, some not so good; and some, with the benefit of hindsight, were awful. But pretty quickly I learnt the hard lesson that if we do not learn from past mistakes, then we are doubly stupid.
I know that for all sorts of reasons it is sometimes hard to admit, even to ourselves, that what seemed like a good idea at the time, was actually a disastrous mistake. It seems to me this is the position in which many involved, up to now, in our Brexit negotiations find themselves.
I therefore suggest the following – thoughts that I do not claim to all be original, but which hopefully will strike a chord as we enter the next phase of negotiations. And do remember that whether we leave with or without a deal, it will still be necessary to negotiate many future trade deals and treaties of mutual self-interest on things as diverse as countering terrorist threats to environmental improvements.
So here’s my ten-point “benefit of hindsight” guide to where we went wrong…
1) The whole country, including all MPs and former Prime Ministers, should have got behind the Prime Minister at the start of the negotiations. Or stayed totally silent. It was a disgrace that various politicians from both the Conservative Party and other parties went to Brussels to whisper sedition: “Stay tough and the UK will fold…” This was – and still is – utterly disgraceful behaviour.
2) The negotiations should have been held somewhere neutral – like Geneva – to emphasise that it was a negotiation between equals.
3) The UK should have insisted right at the start that the “deal” needed to be all encompassing – including the basis of our future trading relationship, which is, after all, actually much more important to each side than how we divide up President Juncker’s wine cellar or the value of the ECB.
4) We should have ensured the civil servants doing the main work had been 100% committed to Brexit, rather than looking upon it as a damage limitation exercise.
5) The “expeditionary forces” sent over the top first should have been better armed and fully supported by the “big guns” safely at home behind the lines.
6) We should not have allowed the negotiations to fixate on “the Irish border”. This is really a non-issue which has been amplified out of all proportion by Irish republicans, who see it as a once-in-a-generation chance to push their case for a united Ireland, and unreconciled Remainers, who will seize on any trick to try and stop or dilute Brexit.
7) We should have started proper preparations to leave on WTO terms within a week of the referendum result – and continued them in a high-profile manner throughout the negotiations.
8) Trying to do a “52% Out, 48% In deal” – it’s an impossibility and totally wrong democratically.
9) Allowing dissent to flourish at the most senior levels in the governing party. Imagine if “Remain” had won 52%/48%. Does anyone imagine that David Cameron would have allowed members of his Cabinet to continue to campaign to Leave? The debate would have been closed down for a generation.
10) Not actually believing “No deal is better than a bad deal”.
If these mistakes had not been made – and some continue to be – we would be out by now and dealing with all the other issues that face our country, rather than squabbling amongst ourselves.
I sincerely hope that the new Conservative leader and Prime Minister will learn from these, the past mistakes of others.
The post Lessons for the next PM from the mistakes made in the Brexit negotiations thus far appeared first on BrexitCentral.
The Withdrawal Agreement is dead, but the need to deliver Brexit is urgent and critical – and I am committed to taking us out of the European Union in a constructive way and by October 31st this year.
Parliament has made clear that in all circumstances it will not support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and the European Commission has said it will not reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, so we have to find another way.
I campaigned passionately for Leave, and I continue to believe that we have a superb future outside the EU as a global force for good.
I’ve had to make some difficult and uncomfortable decisions over the last three years, but I was always clear: I had a duty to do everything I could to get the Brexit we had fought so hard for over the line, and out of the EU. I made the decision to stay within Cabinet for as long as I could to fight for Brexit from the inside and to try to ensure that our departure from the EU was in line with what we had voted for.
Taking back control of our borders, our money and our laws ,and seizing the opportunities to once more trade freely around the world with old allies and new friends are the goals I seek.
I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement three times because it meant that we would be legally leaving the EU this year and, once the implementation period ended, we’d be able to take up all the advantages of our new-found freedom.
But what I could not support was a second referendum. My position has always been that re-running the June 2016 vote would be dangerously divisive and to do so would betray our democracy and risk our Union.
When it became clear that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill had been redrafted to include the possibility of a second vote, and those voices advocating policies contrary to the Government’s position on Brexit were gaining sway, I no longer had the confidence that our approach was going to deliver on the referendum result.
With the Prime Minister announcing her resignation, the next Prime Minister needs to be someone who actually believes in Brexit and will fight to secure us leaving by October 31st.
Crucially, though, they need a plan, and mine is well thought through and workable. I believe I am the decisive leader this country needs now; one who will honour the result of the referendum.
My three-step plan for a managed exit is clear, detailed, and deliverable, and will get us out of the EU by October 31st.
Based upon my experience as the former Leader of the Commons, and my knowledge of the parliamentary time available to us between now and the end of October – as well as the time I spent on Cabinet sub-committees focused on “day one readiness” for Brexit – I know that my plan is the only realistic one on the table.
I will immediately introduce a Citizens’ Rights Bill. This will give peace of mind to UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK, lifting the weight of uncertainty from their shoulders.
I will also introduce an EU Departure Provisions Bill that will include sensible measures that have already been negotiated and agreed by both sides – in areas such as sovereign bases, Gibraltar, security measures, air transport and medicines.
I will significantly ramp up preparations for leaving the EU at the end of October. I will speed up work on alternative arrangements for the Northern Ireland border and look at specific arrangements for ‘just in time’ supply chains and agri-foods. This will give business the certainty and confidence it is crying out for.
Vitally, progress on our preparations will be completely transparent with regular updates to Parliament and business. Communication will be sent to all households and businesses setting out steps they will need to take in all eventualities, providing greater clarity and an open debate.
I will personally lead a delegation of ministers to speak directly with key EU Heads of Government about the wide range of measures the UK is offering our EU friends to support our managed departure on October 31st. It will be for the EU27 to decide which of those measures they also want to accept, bearing in mind many of them have already been previously agreed between us.
The UK will convene a summit in early September in Belfast and Dublin to bring together the EU Council and the proposed new EU Commissioners to recognise that the UK is leaving the EU on October 31st, and to agree the sensible measures we will put in place to ensure a smooth exit.
The reality is that the country is tired of politicians in Westminster arguing, rather than doing. The result of the referendum was clear and there must be no rowing back from it: no further extension of Article 50, no more discussion of revoking it and absolutely no second referendum.
As Prime Minister, my three-step plan for a managed exit will get us out, give us the Brexit we voted for, and lead us to the bright future that awaits us.
The post How I would ensure we are out of the EU by October 31st: no more delays and no second referendum appeared first on BrexitCentral.
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