The List is a grassroots organisation of Leave voters which I founded over a year ago, to represent the voice of the electorate. We are not affiliated to any political party or organisation, but are very active as we continue to campaign for the voice of Leave voters to be heard and are advocating leaving the EU under WTO rules.

Members come from different political persuasions but are united in ensuring respect for the democratic result of the 2016 referendum. We firmly believe in leaving the EU in its entirety and also believe that our sovereignty and powers were given away illegally and unconstitutionally.

The List has also found that most of our members extensively researched the issues and knew the applicable treaties, as well as WTO principles, prior to voting in the referendum – and even after all the Project Fear, we still decided to vote Leave.

In view of the current circumstances surrounding Brexit, The List believes that Brexiteers are even more motivated today compared to how they were in the referendum. In March last year, we put together a petition to Theresa May stating the reason why we believed most of the 17.4 million voted Leave, and delivered it direct to her at No. 10 with over 1.2 million signatures.

Now we have decided to write an Open Letter to Parliament which you can view here on our new website. We are asking people to sign the letter online, and to take a copy of it and send in an email to their local MP with a link to the website where they can view people’s comments. This Open Letter demands that we leave the European Union and not be tied to any trade deal. These are two separate issues and should not be combined. By not agreeing to a ‘no deal’ or
trading under WTO rules, those elected MPs are stipulating that they will not support 17.4 million people who voted Leave; the highest vote for anything in British electoral history.

The Open Letter has recently gone live and continues to receive new signatures daily. We are hoping to reach as many of the 17.4 million as possible, and are therefore asking Leave voters and those that voted Remain but support the result, to leave their name on the website and pass the link on.

So what is there to fear from trading under WTO rules, even for an interim period? The answer is, nothing.

The WTO, established in 1995, (preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, established in 1947) is an international organisation aiming to reduce all barriers to trade.

The combined share of international trade of WTO members now exceeds 90% of the global trade. Most countries around the world are members, including the UK and the EU.

In 2016, UK world-wide trade accounted for 52% of goods exported (48% exported to the EU, which continues to decline, and 52% to the rest of the world). As EU members, our trade with various countries outside the EU has been dictated largely by agreements with the EU, and devised to suit them. Under WTO rules, we will be free to make our own trade arrangements with those countries, tailored more to our needs.

The WTO requires member countries to apply tariffs (taxes) on goods and services to other WTO countries equally.

Unlike the EU, the WTO does not tell countries what to do other than to keep their promises. There is no ‘confrontation with WTO officials’ as one Irish Government source reportedly claimed in a newspaper report in respect of arrangements concerning the Irish border. The WTO is a member-driven organisation and there is no WTO rule requiring governments to secure their borders. There are, however, non-discrimination rules, but a ‘waiver’ could be sought for the UK/Ireland border either based on national security, or if the EU are in agreement, the UK and Ireland could act in the interests of the Good Friday Agreement and permit no hard border between the two. These are just some suggestions which Remain-backing MPs seem to refuse to discuss.

Under WTO rules, the UK will not only be able to negotiate our own trade agreements with the world, control our borders and make our own laws, but with no more annual payments to subsidise the EU and our armed forces free of the EU command structures to boot, we will be free to paint our own future on a clean canvas.

If there are problems along the way, then we will deal with them, as we have always done, with a pragmatic and flexible attitude – for you cannot put a price on freedom.

The List believes that we, the electorate who voted Leave, should have our voices heard; about what Brexit means to us and why we voted Leave. We have all heard about “the People’s Vote” so it’s time we were heard, the other side of the story, “the People’s Voice!”

The post There is nothing to fear from leaving the EU and trading with them under WTO rules appeared first on BrexitCentral.

With just over forty days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the likes of Lord Adonis, Dominic Grieve, David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, to name but a few, continue to pound the “People’s Vote” drum.

The Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiating strategy may have been branded as reckless, but second referendum supporters are surely being equally as reckless by continuing not to press their case so close to Brexit day. If they’re so confident of securing a People’s Vote, then they should put the amendment forward.

Although they may not admit it when pressed on Sky News or the BBC, those proposing a People’s Vote are not oblivious to the risks attached. The likes of Umunna, Soubry et al. know that the idea that the elite failed to implement the verdict of 2016 would play into the hands of populist leavers. If they thought ‘Take Back Control’ was fatal in 2016, then ‘Tell Them Again’ would be seismic.

And politicians can barely expect to look at the turnout statistics as a means of trying to reduce the legitimacy of the vote in 2016: the Brexit referendum produced a turnout not seen in a national election contest since 1992.

It may not be apparent to those in the claustrophobic Westminster bubble, but folk up and down the country are sick to their back teeth of hearing about Brexit. To many voters, it feels as if politicians have gone around in circles for the past two-and-a-half years. The electorate wants to change the conversation towards topical issues such as poverty, the NHS and education.

Since September 2014, there has been a Scottish independence referendum, devolved legislature elections, local council elections, two general elections and, of course, the EU referendum. What would be the result of forcing another referendum on an already weary electorate? There would be no guarantee that the turnout would be the same or greater than in 2016. Unlike our Australian counterparts, the UK does not use compulsory voting, so people are perfectly entitled to stay away from the polling booth if they choose to do so. What would happen if the turnout were less than fifty per cent and a Remain victory?  

Currently, the parliamentary arithmetic opposes the idea of a “People’s Vote”. Jeremy Corbyn, especially, appears extremely sceptical about the idea. Labour members seem to have failed to appreciate he is a lifelong eurosceptic – voting against EEC membership in 1975, siding with Tory rebels in the Maastricht debates and voting against Lisbon. Corbyn was in Ireland during the second Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign in 2009 and infamously described the Brussels project as a military Frankenstein.

Labour Party Conference kept the idea of a public vote on the table, as a last resort; however, this is a mere smokescreen. Unbeknownst to pro-EU party members, the idea of a public vote is still on the table, but the motion has been ripped up. Furthermore, in order to win an election, Corbyn knows he would have to gain marginal Tory seats which also voted Leave.

Amendments to government motions can be put forward by backbench MPs but the reality is that they are not legally binding. Convention suggests that if an amendment secures a majority, then it puts pressure on the Government to act; however, we live in such unprecedented times that nothing can be taken for granted. This was seen with regard to the series of amendments put forward on 29th January. MPs voted 318-310, a majority of eight, to reject the UK leaving without a deal; however, this amendment was meaningless since it does not change the default position should the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement. Furthermore, MPs rejected an extension of Article 50 (the Cooper Amendment) beyond the end of March. So, to quote Mrs. May: nothing has changed.

It is only the Government which can propose legislation and the Prime Minister opposes a second referendum. She has explained that a second referendum would undermine ‘social cohesion’. And a shift to a second referendum does not appear to be materialising as Brexit Secretary, Steve Barclay has reconfirmed that the UK will be leaving on 29th March, with or without an agreement.

In essence, People’s Vote campaigners know they are championing a lost cause. Despite continuing to defend the idea, they are extremely aware of the risks and know that a second vote might not even provide a different result to the vote in 2016.

Most importantly, as long as the Government continues to sit on its hands and stubbornly resist the idea of a public vote, then the dream of overturning the result of 2016 is up in flames.

The post People’s Vote campaigners know they’re championing a lost cause appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay kicks off the debate, including an early intervention from former Brexit Secretary David Davis MP…

John Baron MP intervened…

Nigel Dodds MP also made an intervention…

Owen Paterson MP followed…

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer responds…

Ian Paisley MP made a humorous intervention…

And former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab MP, made his contribution…

Henry Smith MP makes his contribution… 

Sir John Redwood MP responds to Sir Bill Cash’ contribution…

Peter Bone MP follows with his contribution… 

And David T C Davies MP adds his thoughts…

Mark Harper MP followed…

Then Sammy Wilson MP delivered his speech…

Shadow Brexit Minister, Jenny Chapman gives her closing remarks…

And finally Brexit Minister Chris Heaton-Harris closes the debate with a touch of humour…

Jeremy Corbyn responds to the Government’s EU Withdrawal motion defeat…

And finally Steve Baker of the European Research Group reacts…

The post Highlights from the EU Withdrawal Motion Debate appeared first on BrexitCentral.

When you’re in a nightclub and the bouncer asks you to leave, there is no confusion as to what they mean – and you also don’t get to haggle over whether you get to stay in the smoking area. You just leave.

Well, in my analogy the nightclub is the EU, the public are the bouncer and the Government are the patron.

And in 2016 the Government of the United Kingdom was told in no uncertain terms that the majority of the public wanted to leave the European Union. There was not an option on the ballot paper saying ‘Leave but only with a deal’ or ‘Leave but have another vote’.

It was a binary choice. Leave or Remain.

In 2016, I chose Remain, although I was never a die-hard Remainer. I thought long and hard about which way to go and eventually after weighing all the arguments I decided that the Leave campaigns had failed to make their case for change and as such I voted for the option which at the time seemed more certain as to its consequences.

As the results unfolded on the night of the referendum, I watched (and drank) as the results came flooding in. I did the maths in my head. I knew ‘my side’ had lost and this, ironically enough, was the moment that I became a Brexiteer.

Why? Because I’m a democrat and I believe that my opinion is not more important than anybody else’s. We had a vote. We saw two sides set out their stalls. One side lost and there is a duty afterwards to ensure that those who won that vote get what they voted for – or at the very least to accept it with some grace and humility and not actively stand in the way.

Instead those at the top of the Remain campaign immediately began plotting to reverse the decision because they didn’t like the result. They called those that voted for Leave stupid, they told us people didn’t know what they were voting for and that maybe our politicians needed to interpret the result…

If I recall correctly, similar arguments were once used to disenfranchise women, working-class people and, in some countries, those from ethnic minorities.

So for me, ensuring that Brexit happens is not only about Brexit. It’s about democracy and the right of people like myself to make a meaningful impact on the future of our nation. And as an experienced campaign manager, I decided to take an active role in the campaign to ensure the people’s will is realised.

Why? Because that’s what you do in a democracy.

The post I voted Remain but as a democrat feel duty-bound to help ensure Brexit is delivered appeared first on BrexitCentral.

A few honourable MPs aside, the Labour Party has now dumped its manifesto commitment on Brexit to respect the referendum result. It is now calling for Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union forever – which would effectively mean being locked into the EU forever while having no say at all over how it works.

Say what you like about Theresa May’s negotiating skills, her task would anyway have been nigh on impossible given the continual attempts at sabotage from politicians and others in Britain.

One example: when May went to Brussels last week, she was told by Donald Tusk that Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals for a permanent customs union represented “a promising way out” of the current impasse on Brexit.

Another form of sabotage is the constant exhortations from the establishment calling for the EU to give no ground to the Government.

Brexit is in danger. A clean Brexit is still the default position, leaving on 29th March to trade on WTO terms. Yet despite the defeat in parliament on 29th January of every binding amendment to block or delay Brexit – including Labour’s permanent customs union – Theresa May’s so-called Withdrawal Agreement is still on the table.

Even though MPs voted against it on 24th January, May still wants MPs to vote again on it, once again using No Deal as a threat not as an opportunity.

Her current deal with the EU is not a Withdrawal Agreement – it is a Remainer Agreement, in every clause on every one of its 585 pages. It is No Brexit. It would bind us forever into a United States of Europe.

It is meant to be permanent, inescapable. The Attorney General told the Cabinet that there was no legal escape route from the backstop Protocol and that it would “endure indefinitely”.

Her deal would give the EU tariff-free access to our market and control of our trade policy, force us to fund the EU’s defence programme, give EU fishing vessels free access to our waters, give the EU control of our farms, and allow free movement of labour through clauses about “mobility”.  In sum, it would bind us into the EU in perpetuity.

No surprise, then, that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, boasted that the EU got “almost everything” it wanted with the deal.

MPs rejected May’s deal – almost the only thing they can agree on – then voted to tell her to go yet again to Brussels with her faithful lieutenant Oliver Robbins, to beg the EU to drop the Irish backstop.

But the EU will not give up the huge advantages they gain under the backstop. As Robbins observed, renegotiating the backstop with the EU is “for the birds”.

We do not need to beg the EU to change its position – that would be fruitless, as all experience from Harold Macmillan 50 years ago to David Cameron has proven. We do not need to beg the EU for a new deal, as Boris Johnson has suggested. We do not need to pay the EU £39 billion for the privilege of leaving, nor even the £20 billion that Johnson proposed.

We can and should just declare our policies on trade, fishing, the Irish border, immigration and everything else. We do not need to ask the EU’s permission. We declare our independence and then, if we wish, we can negotiate with the EU.

The post We should leave without a deal, declare our independence and let the EU then negotiate with us appeared first on BrexitCentral.

This past week has sadly brought further damaging rhetoric in the Brexit process and some who ought to be statesmanlike have been anything but.

This is surely a moment for statesmanship and for finding a way through the current impasse. We must calm things down and focus on developing a common sense solution to Brexit and the Irish border question in particular. In this context I welcome the visits of both the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to Belfast and the meeting between both leaders in Dublin: this is the kind of engagement and leadership that is needed to help find a sensible way forward.

I recognise that the UK and the Irish Republic do not agree on Brexit itself and that many in Ireland feel hurt by the decision of the UK to leave the EU. Nevertheless, it is important we all respect democratic decisions of this nature, even when we don’t agree with them. Undoubtedly, the last two years have seen damage done to the three sets of relationships that formed the core of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

The absence of the political institutions, including the Assembly and the North-South Ministerial Council, has been to the detriment of all of us. Just think how differently we might have handled this very difficult situation if such institutions had been in place to provide a forum within which Belfast and Dublin could engage and take a more considered view on all of this. Instead, the politics of cooperation has been replaced by the old ways of megaphone diplomacy.

However, we are where we are and leaders on both sides of the border have hitherto shown a remarkable capacity to overcome enormous challenges in the peace process to find our way to the common ground. In the remaining weeks leading up to 29th March, we must do so again. Whilst it is London and Brussels who take the lead in negotiations, I believe that Dublin and Belfast can play a constructive role in helping to find the solutions.

We can begin by recognising that we already occupy significant common ground.

We all agree that the need to protect the peace process and the political and institutional arrangements of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Stormont House Agreements is vital.

Secondly, none of us want a hard border on the island of Ireland or the creation of a new border in the Irish Sea. Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland do a substantial amount of trade with Great Britain as well as with each other. The Common Travel Area ensures the free movement of people across the islands and is accepted by the EU. Now we need to find a sensible solution to ensure a similar approach on the smooth movement of goods. We in the DUP are of the view that a pragmatic approach can deliver an outcome on customs and trade that does not fundamentally undermine the EU single market or the UK single market.

Thirdly, both countries want to avoid a ‘no-deal’ outcome if possible as we recognise this could have significant implications for the short- to medium-term economic stability and prosperity of both parts of the island. Building stability and prosperity goes hand in hand with building peace.

For us, the primary problem with the draft Withdrawal Agreement is the backstop. It is not only the DUP that has concerns about the backstop and our opposition to it has been supported by many from all parties across the House of Commons.

On two occasions now, the House of Commons has voted decisively to reject the backstop in its current form and to call for legally-binding changes to these potentially harmful proposals. Our position on the backstop is also supported by other unionists like Nobel Peace laureate Lord Trimble, who has said that the proposals have the potential to “turn the Belfast Agreement on its head and do serious damage to it.”

Lord Trimble is in the process of taking legal action to challenge the legality of the backstop and his case is supported by leading experts on the Good Friday Agreement such as Professor Lord Bew. For such key architects of the Good Friday Agreement to raise serious concerns about the damaging nature of the proposed backstop must surely encourage the Taoiseach and others to pause and consider other options which are capable of commanding a wider cross-border and cross-community consensus.

If the current impasse between the UK and EU over the backstop results in no-deal then it will further damage relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic and undermine the prospects for restoring the political institutions. The absence of these institutions over the past two years has seen a re-polarisation of attitudes on both sides in Northern Ireland.

In my opinion, securing a deal on Brexit that is broadly acceptable can only improve the prospects for restoring the institutions. It may suit Sinn Fein to have a chaotic situation, but it surely can’t be in the interests of anyone else. Sinn Fein has tried to exploit the uncertainty over Brexit to raise the border poll issue, hoping to force a referendum in the near term. This is, of course, a party that was fiercely opposed to Ireland’s membership of the EU and sought to vote down each successive European Treaty. Clearly, Sinn Fein is self-serving, and its claim to act in the wider interests of the ‘Irish people, north and south’, is bogus.

The consequences of a no-deal outcome will undoubtedly impact on the economies on both sides of the border, with their heavy dependence on the agri-food sector. InterTrade Ireland commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), an Irish think-tank, to conduct an analysis of the impact of Brexit on the Irish border. ESRI looked at several different scenarios, including one where trade between Ireland and the UK would be based on WTO rules. The resulting imposition of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in this scenario could result in Irish trade to Great Britain falling by 12%, British trade to Ireland falling by 6%, Irish trade to Northern Ireland falling by 14%, and Northern Irish trade to Ireland falling by 19% – resulting in a total reduction in cross-border trade of 16%.

Agri-food in particular is a sector that has expressed concerns about no-deal. A study of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the EU’s agri-food industry has claimed that beef and cheese exports from Ireland to the UK could collapse by up to 90% with the loss of over 3,500 jobs. No amount of preparation by any government can nullify the significant economic implications outlined.

Additionally, a further fall in the value of sterling in a no-deal scenario would worsen the outcome for Irish exports to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In this scenario, Irish trade to Great Britain would fall by 20%, British trade to Ireland would remain broadly similar (at +0.3 %), Irish trade to Northern Ireland would fall 21%, and Northern Irish trade to Ireland would fall 11% – so there would be a total fall in cross-border trade of 17%.

Despite these stark statistics, there are some who seem determined to impose the backstop. Yet the Withdrawal Agreement and backstop in their current form have been roundly rejected in the UK Parliament because they could lock us indefinitely into an arrangement that undermines the economic integrity of the UK. The backstop is designed to prevent a hard border but could ultimately result in no-deal and actually compel the EU to impose a hard border in Ireland.

Having been an MP for over 20 years and in frontline politics since the early 1980s, too many times have I seen politicians become wedded to an idea and intent on implementing it, even when they are aware of the dire consequences. Now is not a time for brinkmanship but for leadership.

I am convinced that there are better solutions than this. Whilst I am not going to be prescriptive in this article about what they may be, I am aware of several ideas, including the ‘Malthouse Compromise’, that are surely worthy of serious consideration. If the political will is there on both sides, I firmly believe we can find a solution.

The people of the United Kingdom voted by a majority to Leave the European Union. Despite this, the leadership of the EU and some in the UK have sought to frustrate the will of the people and to make it as difficult as possible for our country to Leave. The indefinite nature of the backstop would harm the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.

The EU leaders have asked Parliament to state clearly what we want. That answer is now clear and the EU must address British concerns about the backstop if a no-deal outcome is to be avoided.

If the EU truly want to avoid harm to the peace process and to protect the political arrangements established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, then they need to take account of unionist concerns as well as those of nationalists, otherwise, as Lord Trimble has said, they violate the core principles of the Agreement.

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It is remarkable to be writing on behalf of the Students For Brexit team; it has been less than a month since we founded Students For Brexit and since launching in mid-January, our campaign has been going from strength to strength.

When I initially thought about creating a cross-party platform for young Leavers, never in my wildest imagination could I have anticipated the amount of support that we would receive so soon after launching the project.

The seeds of Students For Brexit were sown following a university debate: a student audience – when anonymously polled – voted 42% in favour of Brexit, yet when I asked the 42% to raise their hands, hardly anyone proceeded to do so.

That’s when it hit me that pro-Brexit students were either embarrassed, or fearful to admit that they supported Brexit.

This apparent shyness of young Leavers deeply concerned me. With the mobilisation of Remain groups pushing for a second referendum, it was obvious to me that unless young Leavers were galvanised into action, then our opportunity to secure an open and international UK would slip away from our grasp, right into the hands of those who wish to subvert democracy.

So that’s when I had the idea for Students For Brexit: a campaign that would not only aim to create a supportive cross-party community for young Leavers and re-Leavers to network and build friendships, but also to create campaign groups in universities across the UK that would host a range of events from talks and socials to street stalls and petitions as part of our #GlobalFuture initiative – our positive campaign to secure an open, international and truly global UK following Brexit.

Whilst we knew that a platform for young Leavers had been desperately needed for some time, it would be a lie to say that we were not surprised by the dramatic surge in support following our inception.

Within a day of launching we were bombarded with hundreds of subscribers, supportive messages, blog submissions and emails from people desperately asking how they could get involved.

Within the first 12 hours of launching we had gained over one thousand followers on Twitter – remarkable stuff for something that was thought up by a group of students in their university bedrooms.

Whilst we were in awe at the astonishing support, reality quickly hit home that our campaign was quickly transforming into something far greater than anyone had ever envisaged. Being a student-run campaign, we did not have the resources, or time, to keep up with the sky-rocketing support. Luckily, despite common belief, there is little shortage of young Leavers, so we started to decentralise our campaign to voluntary university coordinators who would more effectively take our positive Brexit message onto campuses across the UK.

Our message is simple: we, as young Leavers, are tired of the narrative that all young people support remaining locked into the EU. An economic union with youth unemployment rates as high as 43.3% is no place for a bold and ambitious economy like the UK; the idea that young people would be better off within the EU is just an absurdity.

Our slogan “standing up for our global future” perfectly captures the motivation behind our campaign. We believe that the UK should be a truly international and outward-looking country after Brexit, not a country that has turned its back on our allies and simply sets its sights no further than the outer borders of Europe.

Despite much support, our campaign has not gone without criticism. The most common being that we are “late to the party”. I profoundly disagree; whilst we are set to leave the EU on 29th March, nothing is certain in politics anymore. Furthermore, whilst Students For Brexit has an important campaigning function until Brexit, I do not believe that the debates around Brexit will just cease on the day that we eventually leave.

Remain campaigners will continue to seek to hold us suffocatingly close to the EU. This platform will be needed to continue to stand up for the arguments that secured Brexit, provide support for pro-Brexit students and speak on behalf of millions of young Leavers who have been too often claimed as the possession of the “People’s Vote”.

Brexit will affect my generation the most, therefore, young Leavers must have their rightful place in the forefront of national debate – our voice must be heard. The young generation of today will become the older generation of tomorrow. Ultimately, Brexit gives us the precious opportunity to change the direction of our country forever. The choice is clear: do we stand up for to an open, ambitious international future which Brexit will deliver? Or do we choose to stand back and allow anti-democrats to overturn the 2016 referendum and keep us shackled to a failing political project?

It is now the responsibility of young Leavers up and down the country to stand up, not just for our bright global future post-Brexit, but to defend the very essence of democracy in the UK for generations to come.

The Remain campaign are mobilising to water down Brexit, or even subvert democracy altogether by holding a second referendum. It is now incumbent on ourselves as young Leavers to mobilise too, and be ready to take the positive, global vision of an open, international post-Brexit Britain throughout universities across the country.

Stand up for your global future by getting involved today at studentsforbrexit.com.

The post Thousands have been signing up to Students For Brexit in the weeks since its launch appeared first on BrexitCentral.

The recent vote in Parliament attempting to prevent a no-deal outcome on Brexit was counter-productive and non-binding. Any attempt to hobble the Government’s negotiating hand would have been a self-inflicted wound. It was also irrelevant, since virtually no-one in the UK is advocating no deal.

The preference of the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative eurosceptic MPs has always been for what is usually called a ‘Canada-plus’ free trade agreement. Everyone also supports sensible side deals on such issues as aircraft landing rights, air and vehicle safety certification, and truckers’ licences. It may not be the Withdrawal Agreement signed off by Theresa May, but it is a perfectly coherent UK offer, especially if accompanied by undertakings on the Irish border.

It is entirely logical for Brussels to play hardball at this stage of the talks. The EU still see some prospect of Parliament reversing its rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement and are, of course, fully aware of the non-binding vote on no deal. However, the EU’s current refusal to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement is unlikely to be a guide to the endgame in March.

It would nevertheless be logical for the EU to offer Parliament a sweetener in the form of a codicil attached to the Withdrawal Agreement. This codicil could suggest that the EU will try hard to ensure that the backstop is either never used or will be used for only a short period.

However, this is unlikely to work since prominent ERG MPs have said that they will reject any formulation that does not replace the current wording of the Withdrawal Agreement with a clear get-out clause from the backstop. The likelihood is, thus, that the deal will once again be rejected if it returns to Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s first preference is clearly still to get an amended Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament. Her strategy all along has been to give Leave supporters a formal exit from the EU and control over EU migration, but to give companies an outcome very close to the customs union and single market. The recent Nissan decision not to build the new X-Trail model in the UK will have strengthened this resolve.

The voting strength of the ERG, however, means that a fall-back position is now under consideration – the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. This is close to the ERG’s long-standing preferred option, with the involvement of prominent Remainers giving the plan a far higher profile than we might otherwise have expected. These MPs find the Withdrawal Agreement unacceptable. They also share a survival instinct and wish to prevent their party from fracturing and losing the next election.

If and when the Withdrawal Agreement fails again to pass in Parliament, the plan is to have a compromise which the Malthouse group hope will command sufficient Tory and DUP support (together with up to forty Labour MPs from Leave-voting constituencies) to provide majority backing in Parliament. This can then be presented to the EU who will need to choose between this and no deal.

The Malthouse Compromise is based on a free-trade agreement with no tariffs or quotas. A commitment to avoid new infrastructure on the Irish border is supported by proposals for advanced customs and trade facilitation measures of the sort already in use on, for instance, the Swiss border. Regulatory equivalence of the type that currently exists for meat imports from New Zealand are proposed to remove the need for sanitary and phytosanitary checks for food and animal imports. Non-regression clauses of the sort common in modern free trade agreements are proposed to address EU concerns over unfair competition. Provisions on citizens’ rights and payments to the EU would be carried forward from the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Malthouse plan could involve an extended transition period agreed under Article 50 to allow time to negotiate a free trade agreement (which should not be difficult between two entities which already have free trade). Additional payments would accompany an extended period.

Alternatively, the free trade negotiation could be conducted without a formal transition period through making use of the provisions of GATT Article 24 as long as the EU agreed that formal FTA talks could begin soon after 29th March. Article 24 allows countries engaged in formal free trade negotiations to suspend the most favoured nation rule of the WTO and to continue with the existing tariff-free trade arrangements. In either case, the period would finish by December 2021 at the latest.

The EU is likely to resist consideration of this alternative for several weeks, but once the Withdrawal Agreement has sunk without trace, and both sides face no deal, there are three strong reasons why it might accept the Malthouse Compromise.

First, an agreement secures the £39 billion (or more) promised in the Withdrawal Agreement. Secondly, an agreement avoids potentially high tariffs for EU exporters into the EU. The EU currently sells £55 billion of products in high-tariff food and vehicle sectors into the UK. Exports from the UK into the EU in these sectors are lower at £21 billion.

But the most pressing reason is to secure a frictionless border in Ireland. The UK has guaranteed no new border infrastructure, deal or no deal, but without a deal there will be a problem on the Irish side to maintain the integrity of the EU Single Market.

It is obviously better for Ireland and the EU to accept some deal on the Irish border rather than no deal at all, even if that deal were inferior to the backstop in their eyes. The UK will also prefer to avoid no deal but can live with tariffs and side deals.

This is an extract from Brexit and Backstop: everything you need to know, published today by The UK in a Changing Europe.

The post There are very strong reasons why the EU ought to accept the Malthouse Compromise appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Let’s make no mistake – with the clock ticking down to 29th March, we have finally arrived at an existential turning point for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Talk of compromises and cross-party consensus and some kind of semantic fudge that will make the Brexit-negating Withdrawal Agreement pass the Commons at the third attempt is a painful distraction from harsh political and historic realities.

Both the UK and the EU still face a stark binary choice, whether all parties acknowledge it or not. Leave or Remain. Double or quits. In or out. Sitting on the Brexit fence while making the right noises to the right people, in the hope that this decision can be delayed or permanently taken off the political agenda, is an abdication of responsibility that will soon no longer be an option.

For the UK, the choice can be summarised as one between democracy and permanent second-class statehood; freedom to hire and fire the people who make the laws we have to obey and pay for, or the triumph of pessimism due to the mistaken and craven belief that we aren’t mature and sensible enough to run our own affairs, and must cleave to a supranational body with minimal democratic legitimacy because we are too insignificant to defend our right to democratic self-government.

Remainers trying to subvert the referendum result by locking the UK into the EU, even as we are supposedly leaving it, have completely missed the point of the Leave vote. It was a vote of confidence in Great Britain and its institutions, flawed or otherwise. It was a vote by optimists, by people who believe in the regenerative, sometimes messy but always liberating, principle of democracy – which is that you make your own mistakes, and if you don’t like the way the ship of state is run, you chuck out the government and give someone else a turn at the wheel. There are ups and downs, but you always have a choice. And that choice is precious.

People across the world have died in countless wars to be able to have such a choice. It is sad indeed that many of the guardians of this ancient, disruptive, rambunctious democracy of ours are so afraid of it that they dare not stand up for it. Indeed, they would rather abolish it and have us ruled by an unelected European Commission, which continues to assume with Ancien Régime arrogance that the British people can be made to vote as many times as necessary until they sign up to the European Project. One might say when hell freezes over, but one hates to employ such clichés. Except when they are true.

Staying in a customs union with the EU, accepting close regulatory alignment with the EU, joining an EU army with imperial ambitions (as outlined recently by the French), allowing the EU to decide on vast areas of policy-making – as the Withdrawal Agreement does – is not only not Brexit and a failure to deliver on the referendum result. It is to collude in the death of functioning, open, plural democracy, which is the only safeguard against dictatorship.

So the choice is clear: a Brexit that restores supreme law-making powers to the UK, or the triumph of technocracy and the enforcement by a foreign court of perpetual protectionist mediocrity, to ensure that no member state of the EU is ever independent enough to question the power exercised by an unelected Politburo in Brussels, whose mission is to create the United States of Europe, by fair means or foul.

One country’s upsurge of democracy, of course, can be another’s constitutional catastrophe. For the EU, Brexit is no less of an existential issue. That the second largest financial contributor and the oldest democracy in the EU voted to leave is a damning indictment of the political failure that has marked the European Project in the last twenty years. The fury and insults heaped upon Britain after the referendum testify to the total incomprehension of the EU’s political class when confronted with legitimate dissent.

And that nothing has changed since 23rd June 2016 is evidenced by the ludicrous stories peddled by Project Fear in recent days… Apparently the Queen is to be evacuated if we leave the EU on WTO terms. Given that Her Majesty produces much of her own food on her own land, one wonders where she might go to avoid “the cliff-edge” if the Roquefort doesn’t show up in time for the cheese course.

We hear that a third of UK businesses are thinking of relocating to the EU, only to see that the poll conducted by the IoD was of a tiny percentage of its members. Another headline claims that a majority of Chief Finance Officers believe that the UK will be worse off after Brexit – a majority of just one hundred CFOs surveyed by Deloitte. None of these surveys takes into account that a sovereign Britain can take whatever legislative and fiscal measures it deems fit to ensure that goods flow into this country unfettered and that our economy continues not only to function normally, but to thrive.

This acceleration of Project Fear in the media strengthens the belief that there will be no meaningful concessions on the Withdrawal Agreement before the next debate in the Commons. Indeed, EU leaders have repeatedly said that they will not reopen the legal text. Michel Barnier therefore has no mandate other than to listen politely to the Prime Minister and say no.

The EU will try until the bitter end to ram its appalling deal down our throats, because the slightest sign that it is willing to agree a pragmatic, mutually beneficial trade relationship with a former member state will be seen as a green light for other eurosceptic members to flex their muscles and stand up to the Franco-German juggernaut that intends to sweep them up in its imperial embrace.

The ‘Malthouse Compromise’ recently floated by a group of Tory MPs is likely to be shot down in flames – if indeed it is even tabled for discussion by Theresa May. Whatever she may propose to break the impasse, negotiators in Brussels must cling to their position – that a centralised technocratic EU superstate is the ineluctable future.

It is, of course, the past: an attempt to create by red tape and judicial takeover what has not been possible to achieve through centuries of warfare. But it is hard-wired into the EU’s DNA, and it is a question of survival. For them a no-deal Brexit will be preferable to any ‘deal’ that fails to put Britain on the naughty step and keep it there until it begs to be let back into the nursery.

To EU or not to EU, that remains the question.

The post We have a precious choice between democracy or permanent second-class statehood appeared first on BrexitCentral.

The most remarkable thing about the votes in the House of Commons on the amendments that sought to frustrate the Brexit process last month was not how close they were but how close the results were to those of the referendum in 2016.

On the two most significant wrecking amendments – that in the name of Dominic Grieve seeking to ensure six and half hours of debate on Brexit in the Commons on six successive Tuesdays on amendable motions and the other in the name of Yvette Cooper seeking to override long-standing Commons Standing Orders and bring a bill which would direct the Prime Minister to seek an extension of the Article 50 period until 31st December 2019 – the percentage votes were exactly the same as those cast in the 2016 referendum: 48% for and 52% against.

Such voting figures in a Parliament that’s predominantly Remain is a testament to the underlying strength of British democracy and the societal robustness of the UK.

Parliamentarians may strut the national stage with the self-importance of those who have the power to legislate, making interminable speeches and debating the finer points of Brexit, but in this drama, it’s the working people who are in the driving seat and they have already written the script.

The EU – who are not used to any form democratic control – find this hugely frustrating. Their frustrations is beginning to boil over as we approach our departure date. With no sign of the British people wavering on Brexit and the prospect of a second referendum all but dead, they resort to abuse and insult talking about a “place in hell” for those who voted Leave, a sure sign of desperation. We are winning, we are leaving the EU, and though tempting, we need not respond in kind.

Jeremy Corbyn’s recent ground-breaking letter to the Prime Minister is the strongest indication that Labour will keep its promise to respect the referendum result to Leave the EU and of Labour’s intention to ensure an orderly departure in March. The letter rightly dismisses Keir Starmer’s farcical six tests and presents no principled opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop. All of Labour’s stated demands can be implemented within the current provisions of Withdrawal Agreement.

Some of Corbyn’s demands on workers’ rights and standards, for instance, have already been conceded, and participation in EU agencies and future security are uncontentious. However, having a customs union and close ties to the single market would be difficult for Theresa May to accept and once the caveats that Labour will undoubtedly place on these proposals as far as state aid, VAT and independent trade policy are concerned, it wouldn’t be acceptable to the EU either.

The EU’s initial response welcoming Corbyn’s letter is tactical and has no substance: they would rather deal with May any day of the week than Corbyn, who is fundamentally opposed to everything the EU stands for.

But that doesn’t diminish the letter’s importance. If the Prime Minister goes some way towards Corbyn’s position, such as providing guarantees on workers’ rights, participation in EU agencies and security, while indicating her willingness to consider the other issues in the course of the forthcoming negotiations on our relations with the EU, it would make it all but impossible for Labour to oppose an agreement to which it has no principle objection.

Labour may not be able to support it, but it dare not oppose it for fear of postponing Brexit or reversing it; it may have to go for abstention, either formally or implicitly by making it clear that Labour MPs may absent themselves from the vote. There are enough Labour MPs to ensure a deal is passed by a decent majority.

The threat to Theresa May in such a scenario where she depends on Labour to get the Withdrawal Agreement through is highly exaggerated. Far from weakening her, she would be strengthened by the mere fact that she delivered Brexit as she promised and restored the sovereignty of the British people as demanded by the EU referendum.

And the importance of sovereignty could not be overemphasised or exaggerated. The day after we leave, treaties that we may have signed with the EU becomes treaties between equals – which is not the case while we are still a member of the EU – and as a sovereign state we have the right to re-negotiate or unilaterally withdraw from these treaties, regardless of whether such treaties have escape clauses or not.

The post Labour’s dumping of its six Brexit tests suggests Corbyn is serious about respecting the referendum result appeared first on BrexitCentral.




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