Boris Johnson recently suggested that the best way to manage Brexit without economic disturbance was to use the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [GATT] Article XXIV to trade freely with the EU on a temporary basis while a formal free-trade agreement is negotiated.
The BBC, certain politicians and even the Governor of the Bank of England appear to be almost wilfully misunderstanding this suggestion in order to deny its possibility. Those with suspicious minds might even suspect some collusion. On the Today Programme on Friday, Mr Carney was pressed by the interviewer to say that Boris Johnson¹s idea was ‘rubbish’. On the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Liam Fox was similarly encouraged. He was led to imply that a Withdrawal Agreement was necessary before Article XXIV could be used, which is the opposite of the truth. At the end of the interview Andrew Marr even said ‘Thank you for being so frank’ – surely the first time a BBC journalist has said anything like that to a Tory minister since the 1950s.
They are all being disingenuous. The plain fact is that Article XXIV of the GATT does permit tariff free trade to continue pending the conclusion of a full Free Trade Agreement. As Boris Johnson has suggested, the UK should offer this to the EU. All that is needed is for the EU to consent to a one-page agreement in principle. A basic tariff free trade agreement is plainly in the interests of EU exporters and consumers just as much as those of the UK, if not more.
There is no need for the 500-page Withdrawal Agreement or any elaborate ‘implementation period’. Theresa May’s discredited ‘deal’, which some politicians are trying to resuscitate, is totally redundant. A ‘No Deal Cliff Edge’ – the Remainers’ bugbear – loses its last frayed threads of credibility.
We challenge Mr Carney, Mr Fox, Mr Marr, the BBC and any other commentators to refute any of the above statements.
Sir Richard Aikens, PC, former member of the Court of Appeal
Professor David Blake, Cass Business School
Dr T D Grant, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Cambridge
Dr Graham Gudgin, economist, Cambridge
Dr Ruth Lea, CBE, economic commentator
John Mills, economist and entrpreneur
Professor Robert Tombs, historian, Cambridge