The most likely effect of Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that Labour will support some form of second referendum is to increase the probability that the UK leave the EU without a formal trade deal.
That so many Labour MPs have pledged to stick by their election pledge to honour the 2016 referendum means that a second referendum remains highly unlikely. And a good thing too given the serious damage it would do both to democracy and, due to the division and business uncertainty it would bring to the UK economy.
Corbyn’s U-turn will, however, cement the impression in the vital Leave-voting heartlands that Labour is a party of Remain. Just as importantly, it will stiffen the EU’s impression that they have no need to make a serious move on Theresa May’s demand that the unacceptable Northern Irish backstop be re-written. Why give any ground when so many of our parliamentarians and the official Opposition are stating openly that are prepared effectively to cancel Brexit on 29th March rather than allow the UK to leave without a trade deal?
It should go without saying that if the EU know we will not leave without a deal, then they have no incentive to change the backstop. And with no change to the backstop, the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands looks dead in the water.
Attention now is likely to switch to whether Theresa May will reverse her long-standing promise to leave the Customs Union with the aim of tempting enough Labour MPs to back a Withdrawal Agreement.
For some months, the Labour front bench has taken to endless repetition of the “permanent customs union” mantra as if this is some sort of magic key to unlocking the Brexit stalemate. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The real puzzle is why journalists (as well as Labour backbenchers) do not subject this flagship policy to more scrutiny. As as soon as you do, it becomes clear a permanent customs union does not solve the problems it is aimed at and creates even worse ones of its own.
The fundamental arguments against the EU’s Customs Union are well established: it works as a protectionist mechanism to protect large EU companies from overseas competition. Although many tariffs are low, this is not the case for significant sectors such as food, clothing, footwear and cars. As a result, prices for hard-pressed consumers are higher than they should be, companies have little incentive to invest in improving productivity (which in turn limits wage increases), whilst poorer countries can find they are effectively frozen out of EU markets limiting their ability to develop.
On those grounds alone, it’s odd that Labour MPs think this is going to be a vote-winning strategy, but that is only the start of it.
Being in the Customs Union after we have left the EU would leave us in the same situation as Turkey – having to accept whatever tariffs the EU decide on whilst having no say in trade negotiations. But, even worse, when the EU strikes a future new trade deal with another country, say India or Argentina, we would be bound to accept zero tariffs on imports from that country, but with no obligation on them to drop tariffs on UK exports.
It is sometimes suggested that the UK could keep a say in future trade policy, possibly through the EU and UK forming a new customs association going outside EU boundaries. If you believe that the EU would ever countenance such a proposal, perhaps I can introduce you to a friend of mine who has a splendid bridge for sale. No doubt, the EU would be happy to pledge to ‘consult’ with the UK on future trade deals and tariffs but we can safely rule any significant role in decision-taking and safely rule in the European Court of Justice having the final say on our trade laws.
Have John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn forgotten TTIP – the proposed US-EU trade which they hated by so much? By strong-arming the UK into a ‘permanent’ customs union with the EU, they would forfeit any power for a future Labour government to stop such proposals in the future.
Defenders of the customs union idea suggest that it will keep frictionless trade and solve the Northern Ireland border, but even that is not so. Getting rid of tariffs does not in itself solve the problem of border checks because nil tariff customs declarations must still be filed and sanitary/phytosanitary and other regulatory checks are required. Only by remaining within the Single Market at least for goods can checks on trade be avoided.
The catch is that the EU will not allow the UK to have partial membership of the Single Market for goods as they believe this will distort trade. Staying in the Single Market would mean accepting freedom of movement and continued payment to the EU, effectively staying in the EU in all but name – giving away our money and losing even more control over our laws. It’s hardly the slogan that will endear Leave-voters to either of the main parties.
In reality, being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market need not involve significant delays at the border. The vast majority of checks and tariff payments are already made electronically or away from the border. Actual border checks tend to focus on smuggling and other illegal activity and are highly targeted and intelligence-led.
As soon as you look beyond the headline, it becomes clear that committing to a permanent customs union is a policy without any serious merit, unless of course you want to nullify Brexit completely. So what should MPs who want to respect the referendum result but are worried about the impact of No Deal on their local industries be looking to achieve?
Well, in the first place, they should remember the advantages that a clean break on 29th March will bring. First, it would end the uncertainty for business far sooner than would any version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement under which our future trading relationship with the EU would remain unresolved for many years.
Further, the Government would regain the ability and the cash to help affected industries through the transition. On current trade patterns, even if full tariffs were charged, UK firms exporting to the EU would be the liable for about £5 billion whilst EU firms would find their exports to the UK liable to about £13 billion of tariffs. This is money which the Government can use to provide agricultural assistance, more targeted regional policy, R&D credits and even some transitional payments – measures that are all legal under WTO rules but only become possible once we have left the EU.
The UK would not only be free to agree FTAs with non-EU countries, we also would have the option of immediately reducing or even abolishing tariffs on imports, starting with goods for which there is little UK production. This would help both consumers and firms importing intermediate goods as part of their manufacturing process. Despite the relentless coverage given to firms who say they may leave the UK, a clean break on 29th March would actually encourage firms to set up or increase manufacturing capacity in the UK, thereby ensuring good access to the strategically important UK market. Indeed, this process is already happening, although it is rarely reported. Look, for example, at Medstrom announcing a new manufacturing facility in the East Midlands because of Brexit, whilst Nissan have started the process of trying to source more parts from the UK.
Finally, it is likely – once out of the EU and freed of the time pressures of Article 50 – that we would find it easier to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. Then, the leverage would be on our side of the table.
There is a strong case to be made that, far from hitting the economy, leaving without a formal trade deal on 29th March will actually provide a net boost to UK business.
Perhaps most importantly, MPs need to realise that, in practice, ‘No Deal’ has already been taken off the table due to the large number of side deals that have already been agreed with the EU and other countries. These cover areas such as citizens’ rights, cross-border transport within the EU, mutual recognition on standards with the US, a number of financial services and continued free trade with important partners such as Switzerland.
Putting pressure on the Government to prepare properly and fully for 29th March should be the main focus for MPs of all parties.
A key step in that process should be to rule out once-and-for-all damaging policies such as another referendum, delaying Brexit or a permanent customs union. A clean break on 29th March is nothing to be afraid of; but only when the EU understands that the UK will be taking back control of its laws and trade policy, come what may, will there be a real prospect of achieving a Withdrawal Agreement that is acceptable to both sides.
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There has been much speculation about what the UK and EU will do in the event of No Deal, focused in the UK on the no-deal planning notices emanating from the Department for Exiting the European Union. What little attention has been paid to the Department for International Trade (DIT) has usually taken the form of criticism that crucial deals for the UK’s external trade will be lost because we will have failed to novate or roll over the agreements with a host of countries we have through the EU.
Any DIT announcement of a successful roll over or novation is usually accompanied by howls of derision from various doomsayers who say that this is a small percentage of the number of agreements the UK has through the EU with other countries outside the EU27. Reference is often made to 60 or 70 agreements that fall into this bucket (it is actually around 40 agreements covering around 70 countries).
When it comes to what we might have if we leave with no deal, the analysis is entirely static, assuming that some mythical gate will come down and foreclose all trade if we have not immediately rolled over all agreements, and assuming that whatever we have when we leave will remain the status quo forever from that point. It is also fair to point out that our trading partners have been confused by the UK’s EU negotiating strategy, something on which DIT has no input, and this has led our trading partners to doubt that we will ultimately be in a position to offer deep liberalisation in the future, because we will be locked into the EU Customs Union or have such high regulatory alignment that we will be unable to have the requisite regulatory autonomy to make us relevant to them.
This uncertainty has certainly impacted their negotiating strategy, and made them more determined to extract as much as possible from us now, because they believe our EU strategy will mean we will be unable to negotiate properly in the future. The more that parliamentary voices lobby hard to take No Deal off the table or extend Article 50, the less incentive these countries have to close these agreements with any urgency, so our own lack of discipline is contributing to the issue.
Despite this hostile working environment, DIT has been quietly and successfully rolling over many of these agreements; and with regard to the ones that matter – and that actually impact meaningful amounts of UK trade (as opposed to say agreements with Andorra and San Marino) – progress is relatively good (with a couple of exceptions which I will discuss below), even in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a signed withdrawal agreement.
First of all, some threshold points. It is often assumed that if 1% of our trade is with country X, and country X has a trade deal with the EU, this means that if that EU-X agreement is not rolled over in favour of the UK, then that means all of that 1% of our trade will fall to zero. But this is not how trade works. Clearly for some products, especially agricultural trade where tariffs are high, failure to novate could have a big impact on our exports (assuming the agreement in question lowers agricultural tariffs for country X, not always the case in the EU-X agreements).
But equally, where the tariffs are low, and industrial goods tariffs are very low (Most Favoured Nation rates for industrial goods are on average 3%-4%), then failure to novate will simply mean a marginally higher tariff that may be compensated for by a host of other factors such as currency fluctuations or tax policy. Right now, even in some of the most established agreements, such as NAFTA and the EU-South Korea agreement for example, some traders still choose to pay the MFN rate and do not take the benefit of the preferential rate because proving origin is more hassle than just paying the low MFN rate.
With that caution, let’s look at progress to date. The agreements that we have through the EU (excluding the recently-signed Japan agreement where tariff cuts only commence in January 2020) account for 11% of our total trade. Looking at how much trade is duty free around the world (or duty free under a GSP programme), it would not be surprising if the trade actually affected – in case the agreements are not rolled over – would be approximately half of that. Of these, the Swiss agreement alone – which has been rolled over – is worth 20% of our trade. Other significant agreements here include CETA, covering a further 12% of the trade under these agreements (almost rolled over), and the EU’s agreements with South Korea and Singapore, each covering around 10% of this trade.
Equally it is worth pointing out that 20 of these EU-X agreements account for only 0.8% of total UK trade. Many of the EU-X agreements are Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that are with small developing countries, not critical to UK trade. We would certainly like to replace these arrangements with UK arrangements, but we should take the opportunity of having a different approach to development here. The EU’s approach to development is to charge high tariffs on the products that developing countries produce (often with significant tariff escalation), and to compensate by lowering that rate through its preference programmes such as GSP, and GSP+ which are conditional (and could be lost by the developing country for any number of reasons outside of the control of individual traders and exporters), and to limit the unconditional programmes (Everything But Arms) to only the poorest of the poor.
A smarter approach for all sides is for the UK to actually be genuinely open to the products of these countries, but to compensate them on a one-off basis for the preference erosion that this will cause. We should also eliminate tariff scalation from our schedules so that these countries are incentivised to go up the value chain and garner more value for their producers – a key element of development. Notwithstanding this, the UK and the Eastern and Southern African states have now rolled over their agreement with the EU.
The UK is very close to rolling over the EEA agreements which cover around 2% of UK trade, mostly with Norway, as Liam Fox pointed out in a ministerial statement last week. We have also rolled over a series of nuclear safeguarding agreements. The UK has acceded to the Common Transit Convention. Although the UK is a member of the WTO by right, and does not have to re-accede to it, it does have to accede to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, and is in the process of doing so. The recently-signed Swiss agreement also contains important cumulation provisions covering goods originating in the EU, EFTA and Turkey. Crucially, goods that would have been considered ‘of community origin’ by either the UK or Switzerland will remain so.
But trade is also more than just about trade agreements. The UK has been able to roll over a number of mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) that are very important to facilitate trade. MRAs make it easier for people to trade and easier to prove that their products satisfy the standards and regulatory requirements of the other party. The UK has already signed MRAs with the US, Australia, Israel and New Zealand. There are sectoral agreements on insurance with the US and Switzerland, on wine with Australia, and the US. A range of air services agreements have been signed with the US, Canada, Switzerland, and Israel to name a few. The UK and New Zealand have rolled over the UK-NZ veterinary agreement. A distilled spirits mutual recognition agreement with the US (with whom there is a rapidly growing whisky trade) has been signed and a similar agreement is due to be signed shortly with Mexico.
It is true that there are issues with the Japanese and South Korean novations, but it is important to understand why this is the case. In the case of Japan, the Japanese recognise that the EU deal is not an ideal agreement in terms of Japanese trade policy. Japan has made concessions on data that do not suit its IP-based economy that relies on data flow. The Japanese would rather have the UK in the CPTPP arrangement rather than simply rolling over the agreement, and that would be in our interests too. They rightly don’t want the new EU-Japan agreement to be the basis for the UK-Japan trading relationship going forward. This is because Japan is particularly concerned about countries like its large neighbour, China, which are increasingly pushing anti-competitive and prescriptive regulations domestically and on the rest of the world. This would stifle their own innovative industries.
Like many global supply chain managers, Japan needs an open trading, pro-competitive regulatory environment. It sees the UK as potentially moving in that direction, and if the UK accedes to the CPTPP, it also sees a possibility that the US will one day return to the TPP fold. If the UK, US and new accession countries like Indonesia and South Korea accede to the CPTPP, then it will command 45% of the world’s GDP, and include the fastest growing countries in the world (compared to the EU27’s 20% assuming static performance over time, whereas it is likely that on current trends the EU27 will decline from this 20% figure).
Indeed, the Japanese may also think that their current negotiating position will prevent a “No Deal” situation arising. There is also a specific nuance with the EU-Japan agreement because it is a new agreement and the tariff cuts are only just starting, and the MFN rate applies to all UK and EU trade until January 2020 anyway. Whatever else is said, the Japanese are committed to a better agreement with the UK than the EU, but only want to go to the Diet for approval once with a better agreement. Other countries have complicated legislative processes too.
In the case of South Korea, they want to see more liberalisation from the UK than they secured from the EU, which is also to be expected. The UK can liberalise more than the EU, but does need a base line from which to operate. It is fair to say that the Koreans have been particularly affected by the confusion in Parliament regarding an extension of Article 50. Why should they negotiate with any urgency, if in fact there is no need to do so?
Additionally, both the Koreans and Japanese have given confused messages – on the one hand seeking more liberalisation either directly or through CPTPP accession, while maintaining that the UK should disturb their UK-EU27 supply chains as little as possible – two inconsistent positions. It would be better for all if these managers of global supply chains took the position that they wanted maximum trade openness between the UK and EU through a comprehensive, advanced FTA consistent with allowing their global trade ambitions of more liberalisation and pro-competitive regulation to be simultaneously fulfilled.
With regard to Turkey, the hysteria is even more divorced from reality. We could never negotiate anything with Turkey until we have actually left because Turkey is in a partial customs union with the EU. Nothing has changed there. It is not news that this particular agreement won’t be rolled over by March 2019.
Of course, if a deal can be agreed, the EU-X deals would continue to apply in their entirety until the end of the transition period. No-one wants a no-deal scenario, but the UK has made sufficient progress on rolling over some of the existing FTAs, MRAs and other sectoral agreements such that leaving without a deal would not be the disaster that some have painted.
We would of course continue this process after we have left the EU, and extend it to include further and deeper liberalisation. However, amendments like Cooper-Boles force other countries to assume that No Deal is in fact off the table, and so there is no point in drawing down political capital with their own legislatures if it not necessary – another example of the UK shooting itself in the foot, but that’s a mistake that is being made by those voices calling for No Deal to be taken off the table or for Article 50 to be extended. It cannot be laid at the door of the DIT. It’s a bit like sending your army into battle, but deliberately taking away its weapons.
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Now the Withdrawal Agreement and all the negotiations have been so roundly defeated, it is the moment to seize the opportunity to vigorously promote the WTO way forward. There is no signed agreement, and there is no legal obligation to abide by its costly rules.
Let us now be confident in the enormous opportunity which presents itself. It has been calculated that a WTO Brexit would produce a GDP boost of 7 per cent to the UK economy over the next 15 years which would be worth about £140 billion. Furthermore countries outside of the Single Market have increased their exports faster than Britain has to the EU over the last 30 years. Even Peter Mandelson admitted the Single Market has its downsides, estimating the cost of EU regulation at 4 per cent of GDP.
The UK economy is growing, public borrowing is down and unemployment is at its lowest since 1975. Facebook, Apple and Google have planned big headquarters in Britain, London has been crowned the world’s most popular city for work and Siemens plan to create 2,000 jobs in the UK. Whilst the good economic news continues, the scare stories about border disruption have been completely torpedoed. The head of the Port of Calais, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, has said they won’t restrict UK trade at all if we leave without a deal. Please can we now end Project Fear? Nobody else sees us in the drab, declining way we sometimes see ourselves. By contrast, the rest of the world is waiting for Britain to shake off the tin-pot diktats of Brussels and emerge as a global trading giant. Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the US want to sign speedy trade deals. Now the Withdrawal Agreement has been voted down, Britain could lower tariffs and have the pick of the world’s markets.
Legally we’re on solid ground. The House of Lords EU financial affairs sub-committee published a report arguing that we can leave the EU without paying anything: Brussels would have no realistic chance of getting £40 billion of taxpayers’ cash. Legal expert Martin Howe QC points out that leaving the European Union without a formal deal is not a step into a legal vacuum as our international trade with the European Union will become subject to the same legal regime which currently governs the majority of our export trade to the rest of the world: the rules-based system of the World Trade Organisation.
Electorally we can offer the country an authentic and optimistic agenda that offers enterprising Britons a bright future. Outside of EU constraints we can take on the vested interests, slash costly taxes for small businesses and re-balance the economy towards wealth creators and entrepreneurs. The provisions under the doomed Withdrawal Agreement for State Aid could have been used by the EU to restrict the UK’s ability to attract foreign investors by cutting taxes. But outside of EU rules we are free to recreate the ‘big bang’ of the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher successfully managed to free the parts of the economy which create wealth to do what they do best, boosting growth across the country.
In almost every aspect of British life there are positives to leaving without a deal. For example, a WTO Brexit would be the catch of the century for Britain’s struggling fishing community. At the end of March we can regain 60% of the UK’s fisheries resources and rejuvenate a multi-billion pound industry for the nation, boosting coastal towns and regaining our sovereign waters. For consumers that means cutting tariffs on imports, reducing the cost of food, clothing, and footwear. And leaving now, with no deal, ends business uncertainty. The Chairman of JCB Anthony Bamford says opting for a WTO deal does not worry him at all.
With the euro stagnating, youth unemployment between 20 and 50 per cent in many EU countries, Germany in technical recession, Greek democracy shattered, and France steeped in riots, we should look with confidence to our own future. As aloof bureaucrats who were voted by nobody give succour to the far-right across the continent, it is clear that the failing institutions of EU integration are the wrong side of history.
With our dynamic skilled workforce, the English language, and our global opportunities under WTO rules, a rejuvenating atmosphere of freedom – both democratic and economic – means an exit without a deal is what Britain can now embrace.
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Legally British subjects until January 1983, we must never forget our African and Caribbean friends from the Commonwealth who stepped up in Britain’s time of need. Those who came over in their vast numbers to help us fight the Nazis and those who boarded HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 to come and rebuild this country after the war.
From the British West Indies Regiment to the Royal West African Frontier Force, over half a million volunteers from both Africa and the West Indies joined the British Army and served in the RAF, fighting to defend “King and Empire” during Britain’s Darkest Hour. 10,000 Africans were killed, with 166 receiving medals for bravery. By the end of the war, 11 battalions from the Caribbean, comprising of 15,000 soldiers, had seen action.
Fast-forward the clock to 1948, and HMT Empire Windrush was heading from Australia to England, due to dock at Kingston, Jamaica, to pick up servicemen from leave. An advert had been placed in a Jamaican newspaper, offering cheap transport to those who wanted to come and work. It was from the British Government, inviting people to come and help rebuild the “mother country” a time when it was most in need.
Of the 800 that boarded that ship that day, some came in the hope of re-joining the forces. Others made the most of the opportunity just to take the trip to England. But many stayed and settled, as under the British Nationality Act of 1948, they were legally British citizens. They filled important labour shortages, sometimes almost solely so, from working in British Rail to the NHS. They formed new communities, had children and grandchildren – and like many of us in this country who have heritage from around the world, they added a chapter to the pages of the British story. They formed an integral part of the modern, diverse and tolerant nation that we are today. A country that so many of us are proud to call home.
From Ghana in 1957, to Antigua and Bermuda in 1981, the majority of Commonwealth countries in Africa and the West Indies fought for their independence from Britain over the years to follow. British Citizenship for those coming from the Commonwealth came to an end in 1962 and, as they were going out on their own, we were getting closer and closer to our European neighbours.
Although certain privileges have remained, such as the ability to vote in our elections, the more integrated that we have become with our European neighbours, we have drifted further and further apart from our Commonwealth friends. Brexit provides us the opportunity to change that – to develop those long-standing relationships once more.
When it comes to trade, the EU does have its own trade deals with both the Caribbean and several African countries, but they are less than perfect and not necessarily how we might choose to do things going forward. There is some degree of relief from EU tariffs for the poorest countries, but this does not apply to farm produce, where the trade is largely in the EU’s favour. This protectionist nature is often seasonal, for example higher tariffs are applied to oranges when EU crop is available and the price of sugar is guaranteed for Europe at three times the world average.
The Common Agricultural Policy, with the subsidies that it provides European land owners, makes it almost impossible for African farmers to be able to compete. Thousands of tonnes of subsidised food from large transnationals are able to be dumped into Africa at low prices, and tariffs applied the other way mean that German manufacturers can make double their profit on re-exporting raw goods from the continent. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari earlier last year refused to sign an EU-West African trade deal, in order to protect Nigeria’s economy, her industries and her small businesses. In Buhari’s own words, jobs needed protecting to keep her “youthful population busy”.
Now that we are going out on our own, we have the opportunity to move away from this model of protecting when it suits and charity when we wish. Should we so choose, we can trade freely and open up our markets. Fast growing economies like Nigeria will have the opportunity to be rewarded for their entrepreneurship, and places like Zimbabwe will be free to trade with us outside of the EU’s embargo.
In leaving the European Union, we can trade with countries on the African continent once and for all as equals. And in doing so, we are presented with an opportunity to re-balance the global stage.
Better trade relationships also mean that in the long term, we can move away from this old, somewhat colonial model of giving vast amounts of aid, simply for the sake of patting ourselves on the back and meeting an arbitrary target. We can be proud of the role that we play on the global stage in delivering aid when it is needed, such as the £427 million direct support package that Britain gave during the Ebola crisis of 2014, or the £15 million sent to the Caribbean after hurricane season. Nobody can doubt that spending this kind of money is the right and the noble thing to do. We will always be on hand where we can to assist countries in need.
This is vastly different, however, to perpetuating a culture where teenagers from the West now think that they are more qualified to build a school than a local, or working in an orphanage unqualified is a gap year ‘adventure’. The time surely has come to question this attitude that we have had for so long, to be honest in how this behaviour might skew our lens and mindset when we compare ourselves to certain cultures around the world.
We have an opportunity now to rethink our aid budget and how it can be put to better use. To find small and local organisations to fund, harness skills to pass on and move into a model of empowerment, instead of seeing ourselves as perpetual rescuers, hopefully re-balancing our relationships in the long term. The Ghanian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, elected in 2016, has had the consistent message of his vision for a “Ghana beyond aid”. He is committed to growth in the private sector, and said that “we have to take our own destiny into our own hands”. From Gambia to Zimbabwe, slow and steady progress for democracy is being made in Africa, and with it a new generation determined to take their nations forward to standing on their own two feet. Britain herself now has a unique opportunity to stand with them side by side, and do what we can along the way.
As Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, and many can argue that it is the best tool a government can ever provide in order for its people to lift themselves out of poverty. Our membership of the European Union has brought us so many benefits in terms of science and research, data-sharing and forming collaborative working in our universities. Now we have the opportunity to use all of that and go further, opening up our world-leading higher education sector and forming new partnerships around the world. In Africa and the Caribbean, particularly, this is a key moment to use education for the greatest possible good.
From water sanitation to wildlife conservation, committing to working together through new collaborations and ways of doing things could transform so many lives, whilst solving crucial global challenges in the process. We can build on the outstanding work done by so many in the third sector, through the frameworks used during our years of EU membership, to think innovatively about how we can work together in the future. From exchange programmes to more formalised training, the possibility of opportunities that we can offer both those in Britain and abroad, to share their knowledge, have new experiences and make a real difference in the process, is endless.
For our universities at home, up until now, EU students have enjoyed the same tuition fees as home students, whilst those from outside pay almost triple. From visa applications to finding a home to rent, financial barriers hit non-EU international students the hardest. Upon graduation, they have to jump through the most hoops if they wish to stay here and work. The opportunity to devise a new system now lies in our hands, to attract the best and the brightest to study here; free to stay and form part of Britain’s story, or to head home with a life-long connection and skills and an education that they can really put to use.
Back to our African and Caribbean friends, who have helped us so much in days gone by: now is the perfect time to say thank you and time for Britain herself to renew her relationships with each nation, to tailor our immigration policies to ensure that we treat each nation as fairly as every other or to give special preferences to the Commonwealth, should we so wish. Whether that be in education or work, an opportunity arises now to show each nation how much they are valued to us.
Brexit gives us the opportunity to trade with them as equal partners, opening up the market for fair competition; the opportunity to rethink the way that we deliver aid – to not perpetuate patronising viewpoints, but to move towards real empowerment, trusting in each other’s ability to stand on our own two feet, never putting ourselves above or below each nation, but simply standing side by side during potentially turbulent times.
For our African and Caribbean friends, it’s time for us to remember the realities of our past, plan optimistically for our shared future and to become the equal partners in a post-Brexit world.
This article is an extract from Clean Break, Bright Future: Leaving the EU, Rejoining the World, published by the Freedom Association’s Better Off Out campaign
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What follows is an open letter to the Prime Minister written by a businessperson who backed Leave at the referendum but who for professional reasons is currently unable to enter the political fray.
Dear Prime Minister,
I have watched with a sense of appalled inevitability your recent unsuccessful visit to Brussels, characterised as it was by a lack of ideas, an absence of combativeness and a reckless and relentless desire to cling on to every rotten element of the vassal state deal that you and your small Remainer clique of advisers in Downing Street have concocted with the EU. Harsh words? Perhaps, but they are words that are endorsed – sometimes in more polite phrases, sometimes in less polite phrases – by the vast majority in our country and even of our Parliament.
Why are you so recklessly clinging to every suspect element of this ‘Brexit in name only’ deal? Many believe the problem all began with your still-secret promises made to Nissan, the car manufacturer in Sunderland, shortly after you took power in 2016. You have never published those promises. Many of us guess that it was partly as a result of those promises that in your talks with the EU you then gave away – whether in ignorance or because you never truly meant to leave the Customs Union – every possible negotiating element that would allow the United Kingdom to pursue its own independent economic and trade policies. Was that so? Can you not come clean with the electorate and tell us what those Nissan promises were, how much they are now constraining you and how much your desire to cling to your secret agreement with one company, Nissan, has led you to all this foolishness? Because if that is the case, then the honourable thing for you to do would be to resign and let someone else – someone not burdened by that promise – create a way forward for our country that is not shackled by that apparently all-constraining Nissan cursed promise.
If there was no such promise, then I am puzzled by your insistence that a WTO-terms deal – what is most truthfully termed a ‘Sovereign Brexit’, the thing that 17.4 million people actually voted for – must be ruled out by you. Your Remainer friends who dominate the media have managed to spin non-facts into a general belief that a Sovereign Deal would be catastrophic. Your grid in Downing Street has, month after month, delivered to a credulous press and public a remorseless stream of doom-laden statements by those rent-seeking members of the business community on whom you have chosen to rely to spin your message. Yet neither you, nor the spinners, nor your business allies, actually ever credibly articulated what the specific negatives of such a deal would be (the contemptible catastrophe forecasts by your discredited Treasury modellers, and by your apparently politically motivated Governor of the Bank of England, are no longer believed by anyone – as I am sure you must know).
What could go wrong, and what would go right, in a Sovereign Brexit? The claims of your Remain-loving enablers as to what might go wrong are economic. They relate first to exports from the EU into this country and second to exports from the United Kingdom into the EU. Once even the briefest analysis is conducted, both sets of claims are quickly seen as hogwash.
Exports from the EU into the UK – no disruption threat there
There have been the most extraordinary and juvenile claims of potential (albeit very short-term) shortages in this country after 29th March 2019. Even you, lamentably, mentioned your diabetes and your desire for being sure of your supply of insulin. Who persuaded you to say that? Did you give the slightest thought to how ridiculous that scare story was? Insulin is sold under a wonderful system we call private enterprise, from one company to another. In the UK’s case, it’s mostly a Danish company selling insulin to companies in Britain. The insulin is put on a plane or a boat and comes over to our country. What, do you assert, would prevent this from happening after a Sovereign Brexit? Come on, what? Are you saying that the EU would somehow seek to prevent insulin being placed on a ship or a boat and exported to us? You aren’t saying that, are you? Such an action would be illegal. Or, OK: let’s even say that, however unlikely, the EU indeed decided on 29th March to start acting entirely illegally (again: for a short period of time only, which is all they could possibly ever do). Then the UK would get its insulin from the US, or the Danish company would sell the insulin to Norway, or some other non-EU country, which would then export it on to the UK. Businesses successfully deal with complications of this sort all the time. All that the EU’s (highly, highly unlikely) illegality would result in is the Danish company losing money, one way or another. But you and I know that the EU wouldn’t shoot itself in the foot like that.
So, were you claiming instead that Britain would somehow put up barriers against Danish insulin coming into the country after 29th March? We wouldn’t, would we? Come on, you know that, don’t you? So why did you raise a false scare story, that would have had tens or hundreds of thousands of diabetics worried that their supply of insulin was suddenly going to dry up, when you know it’s hogwash? Isn’t that the sort of rabble-rousing nonsense that we try not to do in the Conservative Party?
Insulin is just an example of any other product that comes into the UK from the EU. We would not prevent any product from arriving; the EU would have no legal locus (or indeed any physical ability) to prevent any product from being sent; can you please just stop being silly and admit that there would be no supply shortages in the UK? (And please, can we in particular try to keep our Conservative ministers from making fools of themselves, in their eagerness to support you, by escalating the level of ludicrousness of such scare stories from a possibility of momentary disruption of a day or two, through to six-week problems, through to six-month problems? The more outlandish their claims get, the less anyone believes them – though some Remainers tactically pretend to. We will actually need to have a set of ministers who are seen as competent by the UK electorate after all this settles down, if the Conservatives wish to remain in power.)
The UK’s exports to the EU – not credible to assert any long-term or even short-term disruption
Let’s turn to the second set of scare stories running against a Sovereign Brexit. We keep being warned about “lorry parks in Kent”. The idea is that Calais will somehow impose restrictions on us, so that we won’t be able to get our goods speedily into France and through to the rest of the EU. Of course, we send just 6% of the UK’s exports through Calais, and those exports can swiftly be diverted to go through other ports, were Calais were to seek to prevent the easy flow of UK goods into Europe. But we needn’t particularly worry about anything like that happening, because every local official from Calais, and the Pas de Calais region, has said that this will not happen. It would take an edict from President Macron – an edict that would be entirely illegal, whether in EU law or in the WTO agreement – to impose such a blockade (Indeed: if you really were to believe – and I for one don’t think you do – that Macron would truly seek to impose an illegal blockade, then it would be utterly abject of you, and unworthy of the Prime Minister of our sovereign nation, to bow to a perception of a threat of this sort).
In any event, let us assume that the worst happens and that Macron does indeed seek some way of blocking British exports into the EU. The French did that once before, when they for a while diverted Japanese VCRs to Poitiers, so that EU manufacturers could win in the VCR market. They were very swiftly brought to court by the WTO and made to stop. Japanese VCRs continued to dominate the world (and the EU) market. France have never tried that trick again. And what would be the result for the French, were they to try it on us? Well, within a couple of weeks, as their just-in-time-systems were affected, thousands of French and German auto workers – possibly tens of thousands, in the unlikely event that the French were successful for more than a few days – would be thrown out of work, as French and German car manufacturing plants had to shut down. Do you really think, Prime Minister, that this would be allowed to happen? Or is your assertion, that somehow the EU would inflict such a monstrous act of self-harm upon itself, just a stance that you are pretending to believe in, so as to insist on this foolish deal that you and the EU are trying to impose upon the British people?
In either case – exports or imports – the very wildest claims are of a possible disruption that would last for, even your wildest claims allege, only a few months. Why, then, should this be the dispositive consideration, when we are talking about Britain’s future for many decades to come? Why would you shackle the country permanently to a lordly EU, in order to avoid a very temporary (and, if you read my above arguments, not going to happen anyway) disruption? Why would you abandon even the threat of a WTO terms deal – and in so abandoning it, allow us to become the hapless prey of what everyone now knows are entirely ruthless EU negotiators?
The Irish Border and the Backstop – a Hoax
On the Backstop, and its claimed urgency and importance, the trick is to look at your language, where one finds your people always using the passive mood – a classic giveaway. You say you are worried about a hard border “being imposed” (passive mood). You do not offer a noun in front of the verb, to show who it is, exactly, that is predicted to be going to do this “imposing”. That’s because, in fact, nobody wants to, nor do they intend to, impose such a border. You have said that Britain will never impose a hard border. The EU has said that it will never impose a hard border. The Irish have said that they will never impose a hard border. The Revenue of the UK has said that imposing a hard border will in all circumstances be entirely unnecessary. Talk of a hard border is nonsense, and you know it. Plan after plan has been published showing how the Irish border question can easily be dealt with, away from the border. To assert that this issue might bring back the IRA, that there will be one disaster or another if we don’t have the Backstop, is irresponsible. Which brings us back to what many aver, that the Backstop is just a cover for implementing some promise you made to the auto industry in 2016, that we would be in some form of Customs Union with the EU – precisely the thing that 17.4 million people voted against.
(And by the way, could you please get your people to stop briefing the credulous media as to how the EU don’t like the Backstop? To believe that – if indeed you do – would be a colossal, monumental piece of self-delusion. The EU love this Backstop, created as it is without an exit clause, with the EU entirely in control as to when – if ever – the backstop is removed. And Leo Varadkar is of course – and rightly – terrified of a Sovereign Brexit because the Irish economy would, unlike the UK’s economy, drastically contract as soon as we stopped buying Irish agricultural products and started buying cheaper, alternative produce from New Zealand and Argentina, were the EU to fail immediately to agree a free trade deal with the UK.)
As constituted in your proposed deal, the Backstop turns Britain into a permanent, shackled vassal state of the EU, subject to all its laws, on which we’d have no say; gradually reduced to a pathetic vestigial outcropping of the EU, with German goods and French produce increasingly defined under EU laws as the only sources that we will be allowed to accept. If the EU wishes – and why should they not? – that Backstop would be for good. Our manufacturing, already half destroyed by our membership of the EU, would continue to shrink, and our farmers and fishers would continue to be at a disadvantage – forever.
The positives of a Sovereign Brexit
So much for the specious arguments that a Sovereign Brexit would be problematic, and that your surrender deal is therefore necessary. But what about the positives for a Sovereign Brexit? I sometimes wonder what Downing Street’s grasp of numbers is like. Do you have any true feel for what £39 billion, so insouciantly promised to the EU in return for illusory favours, could do for this country were we to spend it on ourselves, as we could if we opted for a Sovereign Brexit, rather than giving it away?
For a start, were there any sector (including your much-loved auto sector), but let us say, for example, the agricultural or the fisheries sector, that indeed for some (unlikely) reason suffered during any years of further negotiations, then just a small fraction of this £39bn would be enough to keep those industries whole, for the (in the scheme of things) short period it took to get a free trade deal with the EU. We do not owe this £39bn to the EU. It’s possible that the EU could make an argument for us paying over a small fraction of that amount as one or another obligation, that we might eventually agree, but we certainly wouldn’t pay it any time soon, were the EU to keep on playing the sort of hardball with us that they have adopted so far as their negotiating posture; it would take them years, possibly decades, to establish legally that we owed the money.
Regardless, there is no way that the UK would ever have to pay anything but a small fraction of the full sum. Don’t you think, Prime Minister, that the EU are rather keen to have that money? Do you not see that by ruling out a Sovereign Brexit, and by promising to pay the money before you have agreed a trade deal with the EU, you have taken two enormous bargaining chips off the table? Wouldn’t keeping that money in a Sovereign Brexit scenario make a huge positive impact for the UK?
So, for a start, we’ll have that £39 billion (a sum that in your deal, as we pay it to the EU, will massively and worryingly increase this country’s debt – for no clear return). But a Sovereign Brexit will give us so much more than just that money; we’ll retain our ability to do free trade deals with that part of the global economy from which 90% of future global growth will be coming (you may know this as the ‘not the EU’ world. I hope you sometimes think about it?); we’ll keep our ability to unshackle our entrepreneurs from EU regulation (so that, as just one random example, we can regain the 12% of the global clinical trials industry that we used to have, until EU regulations in 2002 suddenly collapsed our share to around 2%); and above all, the clothing, food and other essentials that the people of the United Kingdom buy in the future being far cheaper as we move outside the protectionist barriers of the EU’s Customs Union and Internal Market.
You know very well, Prime Minister, how all of your allegedly neutral and objective advisers have ostentatiously ignored all of these benefits. You know they have failed to seriously review the many analyses that show that far from a Sovereign Brexit being negative for the British economy, it is likely instead to have a significant positive effect. You know that the insistence of your Treasury officials on publishing neither their models, nor the assumptions they put into those models, make an absolute nonsense of the credibility of those models and a mockery of the alleged impartiality of those officials. Please, Prime Minister: you are juggling with the future of this country. At the very least, you should be honest with the people of this country – both in acknowledging the above points, and in forcing your officials to own up to the way they have jammed their thumb onto one side of the scales of public opinion.
Prime Minister, you are offering us a deal where you propose to break up the Union and hand Northern Ireland over to the EU. You intend to hand over money ahead of any trade deal, thus assuring that whatever is agreed in that deal will be even more horrendous than what you have come up with so far – Gibraltar threatened, our fisheries destroyed, our people deprived of their chance for the benefits of free trade and subjected to semi-permanent, quite likely perpetual, enshacklement to the EU. You have gone back on every single promise you made when the Conservative Party made you their leader, when you gave your Lancaster House speech, when you said “Brexit means Brexit”.
The sorry band around you are desperate for your deal to go through because if we went for a Sovereign Brexit instead, they, and their enablers in the media and big businesses, would be exposed as the complete charlatans that they are, when a WTO terms Leave is implemented (the Leave that those 17.4 million voters expected to happen). This is why your myrmidons are fighting so hard, because all of them – your advisers, the civil servants involved, the Treasury forecasters, your small clique of Remain ministers, The Economist, the FT, the BBC, and on and on – would have no choice but permanently to disappear from public life once we implemented a Sovereign Brexit and all their egregious negative spinning and outrageous scare stories were proved as false as their original 2016 Project Fear was.
You, however, Prime Minister, have a glorious chance to escape their fate, by doing one thing: you can still, now, and energised by Juncker’s utterly disrespectful behaviour to you in this past week, turn around to the European Union and say, finally:
“Fine. I understand you don’t want to do a deal. We’re now going to go full bore for a Sovereign-terms Brexit. Let’s sort out some administrative things like us allowing you to fly your planes over the UK, but other than that, let’s see each other in Geneva at the WTO. Do come back to us if you want to discuss some kind of Canada-plus deal, but otherwise, let’s all spend our time constructively in the next three months preparing for Britain’s Sovereign Exit from the EU.”
For the sake of our country Prime Minister, please take this chance. Now.
So the EU and the 27 have rubber stamped the deal and as our Prime Minister embarks on her nationwide tour to try and convince the public to lobby their MPs to back it, what does it means for us as a medium-sized business?
With 130 employees, exports to more than 140 countries to date in nearly a century of trading and multi-million pound investment plans, our future – and that of our people and their families – hinges on this deal and the outcome in Parliament on Tuesday 11th December.
And we think it is a con. The deceit behind the establishment’s efforts is plain to see. Our nation will not have taken back control and, as many have already said, this deal will leave us in a worse situation than had we actually remained in the EU.
Neither of these options – agreeing to Mrs May’s deal or officially remaining in the EU – is viable.
Mrs May wants us to lobby our MPs, and we should. We should tell them to vote against this terrible deal and to push for a totally clean break – the time has come for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
And here is why – staying in or agreeing to Mrs May’s deal would:
- Leave a business like ours under the control of EU regulation. Our business would be exactly as we were pre-referendum. We voted to Leave to be out of this trap. This deal damages our business, our staff and their families and many other UK companies.
- Leave us unable to sign trade deals with the rest of the growing world where the UK makes a surplus in our trade on goods. Not only will this be damaging to our business, it will damage all of us.
- Prevent us from being able to negotiate a future trading arrangement with the EU that is favourable to us. Already the French and Spanish are using the agreement to the Irish backstop to their advantage. This backstop is a threat to our United Kingdom and it allows others with different political agendas to use it as leverage against our country.
For the above we have the privilege of paying a £39 billion price.
Let us remember just what our membership of the EU has meant for us. Firstly, the payment of circa £10 billion (nett) a year in membership fees and the surrender of our sovereignty by allowing the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to reign supreme.
Membership has resulted in the demise of our manufacturing heartlands as multi-national companies exploit the system in their favour. Many jobs have been exported to other member states where labour is cheaper and regulations differ. Some businesses have even received EU backing to export British jobs overseas.
The never-ending burden of bad EU Directives and Regulations has held back business, and stifled competition and innovation. Meanwhile the free movement of people has helped to hold back productivity due to some employers taking advantage, making it less affordable and attractive for business to invest and boost output.
The uneven playing field that exists means that we are not able to trade fairly in the EU because of individual hurdles that are erected to keep us out and of course, the unfair competition that we face due to not everyone playing by the same rules.
Crucially, membership has led to the loss of our world-renowned British Standards (BS) and their replacement by Euro norms, despite them being probably the best in the world. REIDsteel has 150 structures in the Caribbean, all designed to British Standards. Every single one stood up to the category 5 hurricane that saw Chinese and American buildings blown away last year. The forced use of Euro norms increases costs by an average of 20%, making us less competitive in the real world.
So, unforgivably, Prime Minister May’s deal betrays what the people of this country voted for and locks us back into almost everything that the EU stands for; it is a capitulation.
Furthermore, if our politicians allow themselves to be bribed, coerced and pushed into agreeing the deal as it stands (even with the backstop removed) the insignificant gains of the arrangement will undoubtedly ebb away and we will be left like a sitting duck.
As Mrs May once said, no deal is better than a bad deal. The elite and the ultra-Remain camp promote catastrophe at the very thought of no deal, but this is absolute nonsense.
There will undoubtedly be some short-term disruption but it is worth remembering that Operation Stack at Dover has been in force more than 211 times without any reported catastrophes to the just-in-time delivery chain.
In any case, ‘no deal’ actually means a deal on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms which is infinitely better than what the Prime Minister and her Government are trying to sell us.
Those who prophesy the end of days in a no-deal scenario either don’t know what they are talking about or are deliberately spreading fear and lies to frustrate Brexit or bring it about in name only.
Most of the rest of the world can and does trade on WTO terms and countries like China, Australia and America seem to manage just fine; it is complete nonsense to suggest we can’t do the same.
We can and we should have a clean Brexit. So let’s get on with it. Write to our MPs and tell them to start believing in our country by supporting the rejection of this terrible deal and backing a clean and proper break.
Only then can we ever have a good meaningful relationship with our partners in Europe and across the world.
A no-deal outcome will be just fine: we will go on to prosper outside the EU’s protectionist bloc that has never protected our country and its people.
Without this we will never take back control.
The post I export to 140 countries and say we should reject Theresa May’s deal and embrace a WTO Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.
Within the draft Withdrawal Agreement (“WA”), 175 pages consists of a Protocol whose formal title is “Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland”, together with 10 detailed Annexes which form part of it. Informally it is called the Northern Irish “backstop” protocol. Neither its formal nor its informal title really describes it. It should be called “the whole UK permanent lock-in protocol with extra lock-in for Northern Ireland.”
Most of its provisions do not come into force until the end of the transition period. However, at that point and in the absence of an agreement between the UK and the EU to the contrary, the whole Protocol will come into force and will require the whole of the UK to stay in a Customs Union with the EU – a Customs Union in which the UK has no vote on the tariffs to be charged, or on with whom to do or not do trade deals, but will be obliged to follow the EU’s tariffs at all times. Further, it obliges the UK not to deviate from EU rules on a wide range of so-called “level playing field” areas of policy, including environment, workplace rights, state aids and competition law.
Secondly, it will require Northern Ireland (unlike Great Britain) to be subject to a large number of EU Single Market regulations and directives, and customs and tax rules.
Finally – and this is the most important point – the UK has no right under the treaty either to prevent the Protocol coming into effect or, once it is in force, to leave it, unless the EU agrees. In this regard, the Protocol is unique amongst trade agreements, which invariably contain clauses allowing each party the right to withdraw on notice.
The Protocol can only be stopped from coming into force if the EU agrees with the UK to replace it before the end of the transition period with a trade agreement. If the Protocol comes into force, the UK cannot exit from it without a “joint” decision (meaning the EU has a veto) in the ‘joint committee’ (article 20 of the Protocol). This absence of a clause allowing withdrawal on notice is unprecedented in the EU’s own trade agreements with non-member countries. Under international law, future governments and Parliaments would be locked in and be bound by the treaty concluded by this government.
Because of this lock-in, the Protocol would not operate just as a ”backstop”. In negotiations on the future trade treaty, the EU would have no incentive to offer the UK terms which are any better than the Protocol – since if the UK fails to agree to the EU’s demands, the Protocol automatically comes into effect and lasts indefinitely, giving the EU tariff-free access for its £95bn trade surplus in goods and keeping up the EU’s external tariff wall around the UK market as a barrier against competing goods from non-EU countries.
The Protocol will require the whole UK to remain in a Customs Union at the end of the transition unless there is agreement between the UK and the EU to the contrary.
It will require Northern Ireland (unlike Great Britain) to be subject to a large number of EU single market regulations and directives, and customs and tax rules.
Under the backstop, the UK would have to follow the EU’s external trade policy and apply EU import tariffs. This would kill stone dead the chances of the UK following an independent trade policy after Brexit. We would not be able to offer tariff concessions to free trade partners, so they would have no incentive to offer us concessions on say services which we would want to export to them.
Further, it will render the theoretical right to negotiate third country trade agreements during the transition period totally meaningless. Since we will be unable to tell prospective free trade partners when we will be free to implement such an agreement, or indeed whether we will ever be free to do so at all, they will have no interest in spending time and effort on serious negotiations with us.
This subordinate relationship also applies to so-called trade remedies, where the EU takes action to impose anti-dumping or countervailing duties under WTO rules on non-EU countries. The EU will take these actions in order to protect its own interests, regardless of any negative impacts on UK consumers, and the UK will be obliged to comply with those measures by imposing higher tariffs – even where this is contrary to the UK’s interests. Under Art.4(3) of Annex 2, we will have merely the right to be consulted.
Where dumping affects UK industries, the UK will have no right to take anti-dumping action to protect its own interests. The UK would be totally dependent on the EU to take action. If UK industries but no EU industries are affected, why should we expect the EU to do that?
It is quite extraordinary for one of the leading trading nations of the world to be a complete rule taker on its trade policy in this way. This one-sided Customs Union arrangement would destroy the ability of the UK to take advantage of the freedom brought by Brexit to forge a new independent trade policy and would shackle us permanently to being a dependency of the EU.
The above is Martin Howe QC’s summary of the conclusions of a longer article published by Lawyers for Britain. He will be following up soon with a study of the constitutional consequences of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the way it treats Northern Ireland separately from Great Britain.
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When I took up my post as the RSPCA’s Chief Executive in August, one of the first documents in my in-tray was a briefing about how Brexit will affect animal welfare. I suspect for many people, they have never simply thought about how Brexit impacts animal welfare. When asked, 80% of the public said they do not want to see welfare standards watered down.
But with 80% of our welfare laws made in Brussels, of course Brexit hugely impacts animal welfare. And for no animals is this more true than for farm animals.
Brexit is the defining event for farming and farm animals in the UK in a generation. Last month MPs debated the Government’s suggested independent agriculture policy. Amazingly this was the first debate on agriculture policy since 1947, before many of the current intake of MPs were even born, although one MP followed his grandfather in discussing the policy. Since 1973, it’s been the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that has defined British farming.
No matter how you voted, we can all agree that the CAP has not delivered the best outcomes for British farmers and farm animals. Why? Because as its name suggests, it is common to 28 countries but is not specific to any of them. It remains a policy that spends 80% of its money – your money – solely on ownership of land. The more land you own, the more money you get. You are not even expected to produce much, and only have to comply with the baseline legal standards.
The CAP has certainly not delivered animal welfare in the UK. Although funding for animal welfare has been around since 2007, budgets are tiny: 0.5%. In England, no funding has ever been provided for animal welfare schemes. It’s not surprising that in England the CAP has resulted in negative impacts on both the environment and animal welfare. By failing to support higher welfare systems it creates conditions allowing more intensive, lower welfare farming methods to flourish.
Brexit allows us to move away from this approach, tailor our own agricultural policy based on our own world-leading animal welfare standards and properly recognise and encourage British farmers who want to follow better systems for their animals.
The Government’s new approach to farming, set out in the Agriculture Bill, is a system based on public money for public goods; public goods which crucially include animal welfare. A first, big step forward. In some areas, British farmers already farm to some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but in others they have fallen behind. They need a leg up to make improvements to their farms to deliver higher standards of animal welfare.
They also need the consumer to know this which is why we support – and the Government are looking at – mandatory labelling of how our chicken or beef got to our plates. We know this works. Mandatory egg labelling has made a huge difference to the numbers of free range eggs as consumers vote with their wallets.
We can do so much more. Brexit also provides us the opportunity to deliver this on a wide range of issues, including banning live animal exports, improving how we slaughter farm animals and reducing the times taken to transport animals from the farm to the slaughterhouse. No longer will our hands be tied by European rules. I hope that the Government is prepared to seize this opportunity with both hands. The signs are good so far that they are.
However, Brexit is not all sunlit uplands for British farmers and their animals. It will only work if we ensure we are not undercut by cheaper imports produced from less humane standards – in other words we need to keep our high standards, not lose them to other countries. The great unknown that is our future trading relationship with the rest of the world. As we approach B-Day it is absolutely essential that any future trade deals the UK strikes keep our standards intact by not allowing cheap, less humane imports to undercut our farmers. We must approach trade deals with the same standards we enforce domestically. We must ensure that these trade deals have language in them relating to animal welfare. We cannot allow the drive to become an international trading nation to undermine our animal welfare standards and threaten the livelihoods of British farmers. And it’s not just us saying this. Voices from across British agriculture – including the NFU – agree.
It’s been heartening to hear ministers from across Government commit to protect our animal welfare standards as we leave the EU. They must now deliver on these excellent intentions. High welfare standards will be an integral part of the appeal of British food and vital to the British competitive farming. The animals, farmers and consumers alike demand it.
The British people’s historic vote to leave the EU – the largest democratic result ever in our country – is not something to be feared.
It wasn’t a vote to leave Europe or to pursue an isolationist future. It was a vote for us to become a strong, independent nation once again – a country that is not afraid of standing on its own two feet.
The British people recognise, as I do, that around 90 per cent of global economic growth will come from outside the EU in the years ahead, and that the EU now accounts for less than half of our overall trade. Over 90% of all trade travels by sea – and we are inextricably linked to this global network. As we leave the EU, the one thing which remains fixed is our geography. We will remain, as we always have been, an island maritime nation, outward-facing and trading across the globe. British goods and services are recognised as the best in the world and sought after by global customers. This will not change.
So we must look beyond the shores of our European continent and be prepared to walk away from negotiations if the deal offered by the EU does not deliver a real Brexit – and be unafraid of doing so. We only need to be ready to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules: international laws that regulate the trading relationships of 164 member states and around 98% of global trade.
We will be leaving on 29th March next year and only a good deal for the UK should be agreed to. Otherwise we will be insulting the democratic request given to Parliament.
It is starting to be more than a little boring to have to listen to the almost daily ritual of doom, gloom and scaremongering. We are told there will be border chaos, food and medicine shortages, hikes in prices, states of emergency, gridlocked motorways, catastrophe – even an end to peace in Northern Ireland and civil unrest.
Beyond the Westminster village, and certainly at the top of England in my constituency, 350 miles from London, people listen to all this with incredulity. Last week’s Budget implemented our-tax cutting manifesto promises early, lifting more of the lowest paid out of tax altogether. It announced an unexpected tax windfall that we’ve been able to spend on our vital public services. UK salary growth has now risen to 3.1%, the fastest growth in wages in almost a decade, employment levels are at their highest since the 1970s and we’re growing steadily as an economy. Our future has never looked brighter.
Voters comprehensively rejected establishment scare stories during the 2016 referendum debate – and it turns out that they were absolutely right to do so. Let’s not bore and patronise them further; let’s get to the heart of how beyond March 2019 should look.
My long-held view is that we can deliver a great future trading relationship – and more – after our departure from the EU club, by agreeing a mutually beneficial trade deal for the whole of the UK, similar to Canada’s. This arrangement would allow us to boost our global competitiveness and innovation, as well as help the world’s poorest countries by enhancing trade and investment opportunities that contribute to the economic growth of their less-developed economies.
This isn’t a “hard” or “extreme” version of Brexit. This would be, as Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said of his free trade deal, about creating “good, well-paying jobs”, putting “food on the table for families”, helping to “grow and strengthen our communities” and ensuring that each generation is “better off” and has a “higher standard of living, than the one that preceded it”. Why would this sort of deal be so bad for us?
If the EU doesn’t want to negotiate this sort of free trade deal with us immediately, we won’t crash out of the EU over some invisible cliff edge. Far from it: there are protections in place for the UK under international law under a set of terms overseen by the World Trade Organisation. The US, China and India are among the EU’s biggest trading partners – and they do not have a trade deal with the EU. They trade on WTO terms.
No deal would be better than a bad deal because being tied into EU regulations without a voice would only mean their controlling our future success by anti-competitive actions.
Under WTO rules – putting the bluff, bluster and meaningless threats aside – the EU won’t be allowed to discriminate against UK businesses. It won’t be able to set tariffs on our goods that are higher than those they impose on other countries; and it will be forbidden from using other regulations or standards (non-tariff barriers) to discriminate against our goods and services.
Arbitrary health and safety inspections at borders would not be lawful and the WTO’s new “Trade Facilitation Agreement” would require the EU to maintain borders, which are as frictionless as possible, using all the modern technologies at its disposal.
The WTO has taken great strides in promoting global trade since its inception in 1995. And at its roots lie values we all share: an end to discrimination, more openness and transparency, increased competition, discouraging unfair practices, protecting the environment and ensuring less developed countries have extra time to adjust to WTO provisions.
We need to be having our own voice at the WTO, speaking up for the interests of British consumers and businesses. We don’t need the European Commission to do this for us.
The WTO option is an entirely acceptable, workable alternative to a free trade deal as we leave the EU and Roberto Azevedo, the Director General of the WTO, has said that he is looking forward to having the UK back as an independent champion of free trade.
The UK is strong enough to walk away from these negotiations. Future generations won’t forgive us if we agree a bad deal with the EU that means we have not left the controls of others over our decisions.
There is no cliff-edge, just a stepping-stone to the future that our extraordinary democratic voice shouted at us – let us become, once again, a self-governing, free-trading nation.
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The Chequers Plan has to be withdrawn if we are to achieve a meaningful Brexit. Discussions between the EU and UK about allowing an extension to the transition period in return for dropping the unnecessary Irish backstop are only of relevance if it means a Canada-style deal can then go ahead – it should not be a precursor to accepting a Chequers-based agreement.
The reason for this is simple: in a new report published today by Global Britain we show the Chequers Plan is the Single Market by another name – and remaining in it (rather than accessing it) would be damaging to British economic interests.
The key myth propagated in favour of the Single Market is that it is central to UK prosperity. It is not. Our report demonstrates that the UK trades well with the world but poorly with the EU. This is odd as the UK has no special trade arrangements with the US, China or Australia yet runs a small trade surplus with the rest of the world, but a very large deficit with the very region with which we have a customs union – the EU.
For example, our report exposes the contradiction that the UK enjoys a trade surplus with the US – arguably the most competitive market in the world – without having a trade deal, but suffers a huge trade deficit of £96bn with the EU where Single Market membership is the equivalent of a trade deal.
Due to its bureaucratic approach, the EU is in structural decline. It has underperformed every other region in the world for a generation. This is not a coincidence as other advanced economies including the US, Canada and Australia have powered ahead. It is the institutional arrangements of the EU – and the single currency in particular – that have resulted in rapid economic decline and socially unacceptable levels of unemployment in much of the EU.
The EU’s trend towards centralised regulation undermines competition and increases regulatory burden. Within the Single Market framework provided by adoption of a common rule book, the UK would continue to be beholden to needless regulation and legal creep as EU lawyers interpret a definition of EU competence well beyond merely trading standards and into to many other areas of national life.
The EU has also failed to sign global free trade deals with many of the world’s most important partners including the US, China and Australia. Inside the EU, the UK cannot strike its own deals with the many much faster growing nations. Because the EU is a diverse group of 28 nations, agreement is highly problematic and cumbersome, hence the failure to reach agreement. Outside the EU, the UK can much more readily strike free trade deals.
It is now apparent from comments from the US, China, Australia, India and others that far from being ’at the back of the queue’, other countries are very keen to strike mutually beneficial free trade deals with the UK. This will allow the UK to rebuild its historic mission of encouraging global free trade that has gone off track over the last 40 years as the UK has surrendered its trade policy, so unsuccessfully, to the EU.
It is also a myth that the UK needs to be part of the Single Market to trade with it. This is clearly not the case. All nations have access, outside a tiny number under sanction (North Korea and Syria for example) so long as they comply with local regulations. One does not need to join China to trade with it any more than one needs to join the EU.
It is clearly in the EU’s interests to agree a zero tariff deal with the UK – such as a Canada-style agreement. There are many reasons for this but the primary one is simply because the EU sells more to the UK than the UK sells to the EU. It would be nonsensical to undermine its own trade particularly at a time when EU growth is so weak.
If, however, the EU refuses to do so within a reasonable timeframe, the UK should leave the EU without a formal agreement on 29th March 2019, relying on WTO rules and striking free trade deals with our global partners. This outcome would be far better than what the Chequers Plan offers because the UK would otherwise be saddled with no say on Single Market regulation.
To remain under the jurisdiction of the common rule book, effectively still under EU jurisdiction, having left the EU, is a Remain option that delivers a sovereignty illusion – with no say, low growth and a high regulatory burden that would lock in perpetual trade deficits. That is why Chequers must be chucked and a Canada-style deal for the whole UK used as the template for a new relationship.
The post The EU is in structural decline – which is why we must not remain tied to its Single Market appeared first on BrexitCentral.
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