Writing for BrexitCentral yesterday, Lee Rotherham hammered home the point that the soon-to-be-appointed Prime Minister urgently needs to install Brexiteers inside Downing Street and Whitehall departments in order to deliver Brexit. He wrote:

“If Brexit means Brexit, then change as sanctioned by the referendum must, by definition, involve change. Ministers should now start accepting that they are in the business of transformation… Delivering Brexit needs freshness. It needs empowered departmental leadership. It needs ministers who have not become entangled in the small print of the Dead Deal they have been advocating, or intellectually compromised by it. It needs actual Brexiteers.”

There is little doubt that Theresa May’s administration has throughout its three years had the feel of a Remainer Government grudgingly seeking to deliver the Leave result as instructed by the voters at the 2016 referendum. And that’s hardly surprising, given how few of its members actually believed in Brexit from the beginning and campaigned for a Leave vote.

The numbers are actually quite stark. Of the 93 MPs who were appointed by Theresa May to her first Government in July 2016, I calculate there as having been 73 Remain backers (78%), 1 Undeclared voter at the time of the referendum (1%) and just 19 Leave voters (20%).

Three years later and the balance has barely improved. Naturally there have been many resignations (although departing Leave-backing ministers were actually often replaced with Brexiteers). But today, of the 94 MPs currently serving as a Minister or Whip in the Government, they break down as:

  • 69 Remain backers (73%)
  • 1 Undeclared voter at the time of the referendum (1%)
  • 24 Leave voters (26%)

However, of the 219 Conservative MPs currently residing on the backbenches, they break down as:

  • 102 Remainers (47%)
  • 112 Leavers (51%)
  • 4 Undeclared (2%)
  • 1 Did Not Vote (Kirstene Hair, before you ask)

This imbalance between an overwhelmingly Remain-dominated Government while Brexiteers make up the majority of Tory backbenchers is unsustainable and must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the new Conservative Prime Minister.

I therefore felt it would be a worthwhile exercise to draw attention to a number of the talented Brexiteers currently languishing on the government backbenches – whether or not by their own choice – whose skills and expertise could be used in government under the new PM.

I’m not going to get into earmarking people for specific posts and there will be others not mentioned below who deserve recognition. Furthermore, I should emphasise that I am not proposing a 100% Brexiteer government and there are many honourable former Remain-backers who accept the referendum result and will play important roles in the next administration. But I hope the following might provide some inspiration for the new Prime Minister as he assembles an administration committed to delivering Brexit.

First of all there are the many Brexiteers who have quit the Government specifically over the May administration’s handling of Brexit. Aside from Boris Johnson – who BrexitCentral readers know I hope will be the one making the appointments – from the Cabinet we also lost David Davis, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom (as well as Priti Patel who quit for other reasons). From the Brexit Department itself, former ministers Steve Baker, Suella Braverman and Chris Heaton-Harris ought surely be due a recall to the ranks of the Government, while other Leave-backers to quit over Brexit itself were junior ministers George Eustice and Nigel Adams along with Whip Gareth Johnson.

Then there is a significant raft of parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) who quit over government policy on Brexit. Ordinarily, these unpaid ministerial aides are the next likely candidates for promotion to the ranks of the government proper, but in each of the following ten cases their decision to resign has for the time being stalled their progress: Andrea Jenkyns, Conor Burns, Chris Green, Robert Courts, Scott Mann, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Ranil Jayawardena, Michael Tomlinson, Craig Tracey and Eddie Hughes.

Some more junior Brexiteer Tory MPs have opted to beaver away on select committees these last few years rather than find themselves obliged to toe the government line by taking a PPS job. Jacob Rees-Mogg is probably the most prominent example, but others who the new PM might want to consider fast-tracking to ministerial office include Marcus Fysh, Simon Clarke, Maria Caulfield, Henry Smith and ex-MEP Andrew Lewer.

But it’s not only those Brexiteers whose talents are yet to be recognised who the new Prime Minister should be looking at using: what about the wiser owls who have ministerial experience but who Theresa May either ignored or fired? Former Cabinet Ministers Theresa Villiers, Iain Duncan Smith, David Jones, Owen Paterson, John Whittingdale and Sir John Redwood all fall into this category, as do former junior ministers like Sir Mike Penning, Mark Francois and James Duddridge.

And finally, there is a clutch of long-serving Brexiteer MPs who have never served as ministers and instead directed their energy at other roles, for whom the assembly now of a new government might finally present the opportunity to serve as a minister. The 1922 Committee Chairman Sir Graham Brady considered a run for the Tory leadership but opted against doing so and ought to be in line for a government job, while I wonder whether senior select committee veterans like Sir Bernard Jenkin, Julian Lewis and Richard Bacon could be considered for a job?

Putting together a government is evidently a tricky business, managing egos and expectations, and likely disappointing a number of colleagues. Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration, not least regional balance and gender/ethnic diversity, but when many of us look at the new government to be appointed later this month, the one thing that we will consider first and foremost is: does this government collectively believe in Brexit and the opportunities it affords? The identity of those who the new Prime Minister appoints to his government will give us our answer and I hope to see many of those I have highlighted above being suitably employed.

The post We need a government that believes in Brexit: some advice on ministerial appointments for the new PM 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.

Following the passing of the Brady amendment in January, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC, is currently engaged in talks with the EU in search of a legal change that will ensure the Northern Ireland backstop cannot endure indefinitely – what some have termed ‘Cox’s codpiece’.

And the fate of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – when it is put to another meaningful vote within the next fortnight – is likely to hinge on whether what he brings back from Brussels cuts the mustard with Brexiteers on the government backbenches.

So I can reveal today that as they await a breakthrough in the talks, Tory eurosceptics have assembled a panel of eight lawyers – seven of whom are serving MPs – to examine forensically whatever proposal is forthcoming and judge whether it makes the deal acceptable.

They are:

  • Sir Bill Cash – Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee whose knowledge of constitutional law has been oft-shared in the Commons during his 35 years in Parliament
  • Dominic Raab – Former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union who resigned to oppose the Brexit deal as currently drafted and whose legal career included time advising on EU law both as a solicitor with Linklaters and at the Foreign Office
  • Nigel Dodds – DUP Deputy Leader and the party’s Westminster Leader who was a prize-winning Law student at Cambridge who was then called to the Bar of Northern Ireland
  • David Jones – Former Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union and Secretary of State for Wales who worked as a solicitor for more than a quarter of a century before entering politics
  • Suella Braverman – Ex-Chair of the European Research Group and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union who resigned to oppose the Brexit deal as currently drafted, she practised as a barrister for a decade before becoming an MP and holds a Masters Degree in European Law
  • Michael Tomlinson – Former Deputy Chairman of the European Research Group who was a barrister prior to entering Parliament
  • Robert Courts – European Research Group supporter who was also a barrister prior to entering Parliament
  • Martin Howe QC – Chair of lawyers for Britain and the only non-MP of the octet, he was called to the Bar in 1978 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1996 and is arguably the most prominent eurosceptic barrister, having amassed an immense knowledge of EU law during his legal career

The inclusion of Dodds in the group is especially significant, since an acceptance of any change to the deal from the Government’s confidence and supply partners in the DUP would likely pile pressure on Tory backbench Brexiteers to follow suit.

A source close to the group explains to me: “Tory MPs from the European Research Group may have vehemently voted down the Prime Minister’s deal, but they are equally keen to back a deal if the necessary changes are forthcoming to make it acceptable. This is a serious group of respected legal and political minds who will be as well equipped as anyone to make the judgement as to whether whatever Geoffrey Cox negotiates merits their support.”

The post Meet the eight lawyers who will judge whether ‘Cox’s codpiece’ cuts the mustard appeared first on BrexitCentral.

It seems fair to say that the draft withdrawal agreement agreed between negotiators and published this week has not been universally welcomed. In particular the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has been the source of much criticism. In a detailed briefing by the Institute of Economic Affairs, I described how, if it were to come into effect, this Protocol would effectively rule out an independent trade policy for the UK, and would throw up serious trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of why this Protocol was thought to be necessary. Our government agreed in December last year to guarantee that there would be no physical infrastructure or related checks and controls at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In order to achieve this they conceded that, unless they could put forward alternative solutions, Northern Ireland would stay in alignment with the rules of the customs union and single market in all areas necessary for north south cooperation, the all-island economy and protection of the Belfast (“Good Friday”) Agreement. It was also stated in the Joint Report that the UK would not allow new regulatory barriers between Great Britain and the United Kingdom. The EU’s interpretation of that was a draft agreement under which, “unless and until” other terms were agreed that would meet the objectives for the Irish border, Northern Ireland would remain in a customs union and regulatory area with the EU. This is what the backstop is.

The facilitated customs arrangement and common rulebook of the Chequers plan were an attempt to provide the alternative arrangement that would mean the backstop would never be activated. When Chequers was roundly rejected by the EU, and the Prime Minister declared after the Salzburg summit that no prime minister could accept the EU’s terms, the negotiators went back into their tunnel and reformulated the backstop so that Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be in the same customs territory, and Northern Ireland would retain EU regulations on goods “unless and until” a new agreement could be reached. Mrs May is now satisfied that this is something that a British prime minister can sign up to.

Some of us have long been convinced that keeping the Irish border free of infrastructure could be achieved by way of legal, technical and technological solutions. European customs experts Hans Maessen and Lars Karlsson have confirmed to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that this can be done. But the EU negotiators and the Irish government have been adamant that the requirements of EU law mean that only a customs union and regulatory harmonisation on goods can achieve this, as even with a free trade agreement with zero tariffs and quotas, the risk of goods that have not been duly declared for customs purposes or that do not meet EU regulations might cross the border cannot be tolerated. Except, it now transpires, for fish. Because under article 6 of the Protocol, fisheries and aquaculture products will be excluded from the customs union arrangements (and therefore fish caught by British and Northern Irish boats would be subject to tariffs) unless an agreement between the UK and the EU on access to waters and fishing opportunities is reached. But by the EU’s own reasoning, the exclusion of even one product would require a full customs border, to ensure that that product isn’t smuggled in undeclared. Now Irish government and EU negotiators could be forgiven for assuming that the British negotiators will concede on this as they have on almost everything else, and sign away fishing rights to the EU. But they might not, and then we would need a hard border wouldn’t we, and the Protocol would be for nothing? Or could it be, that for fish, as for everything else, it is possible to manage a customs border without physical interventions, and the EU is prepared to take the risk of having to do so in order to leverage access to UK territorial waters.

It is often overlooked that as well as being by far the biggest market for goods sent outside Northern Ireland  64% of goods brought into Northern Ireland come from Great Britain, with 12% from Ireland and 59% of its external sales are to Great Britain, as against 12% to Ireland. In seeking to preserve frictionless trade with Ireland, the Protocol, if it were to come into effect, would introduce costs and formalities for the vastly more significant trade within the UK. As former Brexit minister Suella Braverman noted in her resignation letter, customs professionals are clear that this could have been avoided. It’s time to start listening to them.

The post The Irish protocol in the withdrawal agreement rules out an independent trade policy appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Dominic Raab has tendered his resignation as Brexit Secretary, saying he “cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU”. Below is the letter he has written to Theresa May:

Brexit secretary

It follows the resignation a little earlier this morning of Shailesh Vara, the Northern Ireland minister, whose letter to the Prime Minister is below.

Education Minister

Esther McVey has confirmed her resignation as Work and Pensions Secretary, and referencing the draft Brexit deal, she wrote, ‘I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal.’ Below is her full letter to the Prime Minister:

Rehman Chishti

Brexit secretary

Suella Braverman resigns as Brexit Minister, saying, “This has not been an easy decision.” Her letter to the Prime Minister is below:

Education Minister

Anne-Marie Trevelyan resigns as PPS to the Education Minister, saying, ” It has been a joy and a privilege to have served in defence and education.” See below for her letter to the Prime Minister:

Rehman Chishti

 

Ranil Jayawardena has resigned as PPS to Justice Ministry, and writes, ‘…I cannot agree, in the cold light of day, that the deal in front of us is right for our country.’ His letter to the Prime Minister is below:

Brexit secretary

Rehman Chishti has resigned as Conservative Vice Chairman and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Pakistan, giving his inability to support the draft EU Withdrawal Agreement as one of his reasons. See his letter to the Prime Minister below:

Education Minister

The post Dominic Raab heads host of ministerial resignations over Brexit deal appeared first on BrexitCentral.




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