The Withdrawal Agreement has been offered yet another a life-line by the EU extension, but it looks unlikely to be enough to save it. Rather like a Shakespearean tragedy, every time you think the death scene must be over, one of the dying (probably Theresa May) pops up to make another speech. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the parliamentary arithmetic appears little changed, and the WA will have to die soon. A third defeat – which looks inevitable – surely cannot be brushed off as another flesh wound.
Then, when the WA is finally laid to rest, possibly along with Theresa May’s premiership, MPs will have to make the real choice: Brexit or Remain. Reports this weekend suggest that Theresa May will soon be gone. Her demise as always depends on some degree of cabinet consensus on a replacement. Rudd, Clark and co. of course want Lidington to continue the cave-in to Brussels, but Gove or Morgan seem more likely. A Morgan-Gove leadership would hopefully bring the Malthouse Compromise back into contention.
Here at BfB this week, we have focussed on making a WTO Brexit more comprehensible. We explore the preparations that have already been made, and the advantages they will bring the UK. Our arguments have been given further weight by a remarkable public statement by John Alty, the Director General for trade policy, Department for International Trade: ‘We were tasked @tradegovuk to prepare for EU exit on 29 March. UK now has (inter alia) functioning trade remedies regime; day 1 tariffs; WTO scheds and GPA membership; agreement to half value of EU FTAs and counting’. Does this statement also show that civil servants are themselves getting impatient with politicians’ dithering?
We also highlight the traps contained in the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. Now is an important time to get to grips with these arguments, as in these late stages the voices of Project Fear will grow ever shriller.
We recently learned that Lord Malloch-Brown, director of the Best for Britain anti-Brexit lobby, has been trying to raise another £500,000 from big business in order to try to overturn the Brexit vote. In his own words in an appeal made to wealthy backers “We will only achieve the critical extension of Article 50 by encouraging as many MPs as possible to support the necessary amendments. Our focus now will be directed at local constituency level, using both digital and traditional campaigning, with this objective.” Perhaps history will one day relate how much money was spent in creating the anti-Brexit campaigns we are now witnessing.
On the website this week
The UK is ready for a WTO Brexit, by Harry Western
Senior private-sector economist Harry Western argues that the widely-held view that the UK is ‘not ready’ to leave the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms is wrong. In fact, such an exit would now be perfectly viable thanks to preparations and agreements made over recent months.
“Most of the horror stories surrounding a WTO Brexit are redundant given the scale of preparations now made. Indeed, the Bank of England recently claimed that such preparations had slashed the potential economic damage from no-deal disruption by up to two-thirds.”
Fact Checking the BBC Fact Checkers, by Professor David Paton
Prof. David Paton, Chair of Industrial Economics at Nottingham University Business School, explains that the BBC wrongly contradicted the US Ambassador’s claim that the USA had an outstanding record on food health. The data do not support the BBC claim that food poisoning rates are higher in the US than in Europe. The BBC have yet to correct this error despite its relevance to the Brexit debate.
“The Today programme piece was wrong from start to finish. The reporting failed even the most minimum requirements of journalistic checks and scrutiny. Worst of all, it misled listeners on an issue of political significance and sensitivity.”
Theresa May should stop worrying about Northern Ireland, by Kate Hoey and David Trimble
MP Kate Hoey and Former First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble set out their reasons for believing that Brexit is not as great a threat to Northern Irish peace than many would have us believe. Theresa May should stop basing her policy decisions on these false claims.
“We understand the future of Northern Ireland weighed heavily in your decision to agree an Irish backstop in the draft Withdrawal Agreement and remains a factor in your continuing support for the backstop, albeit now on a temporary basis.”
Can we ever get a good Brexit deal? By Ed Robertson
Ed Robertson reminds us that soon after becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May assured us that she was confident of getting a good Brexit deal from the EU, being as much in their best interests as it is in ours. So why then, after over two and a half years of Brexit negotiations, has she failed to get one and is such a deal even possible? It would certainly have been possible, and would still be possible, if our politicians behaved with a minimum of honesty and sense.
“Contrary to what Mrs May would like us to believe, it is NOT in the best interests of the EU to give the UK a good Brexit deal… we need to leave the EU on WTO terms which immediately guarantees all but one of our nine “best deal” objectives.”
What price democracy? By a Diplomat
A Diplomat looks with disappointed at the Brexit process, after spending half a lifetime advocating for our democratic system overseas, often in dangerous places. In the wake of the referendum, however, our writer has been dismayed to find Foreign and Commonwealth Office colleagues expressing utter contempt for democracy and the decision of the UK electorate. Like many MPs, numerous civil servants feel entirely comfortable about slamming the gears into reverse, whatever the cost to our democratic tradition might be.
“I also thought that if we believed as a country in anything, it was in our long nurtured and hard-won democratic tradition. Apparently not.”
Where are we on the Backstop? By Richard Aikens
Former Lord Justice of Appeal and Vice-President of the Consultative Council of European Judges, Sir Richard Aikens analyses the new interpretations of what the backstop means to the UK future negating position.
“The risk of being caught indefinitely in the backstop may have receded. But it has probably done so more significantly in political terms than in strictly legal terms.”
The Withdrawal Agreement is an EU Trap, by Briefings for Brexit
The government, and even Brexiteers spooked by the latest offerings from Project Fear, are now saying that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, despite its manifest flaws (not least the fundamental failure to deliver any kind of Brexit) and resounding rejection by both the House of Commons and the British public, is the only option to “deliver Brexit”. This briefing provides a full rebuttal of this position, setting out the ways in which the WA is a trap.
“MPs should realize the full dangers of surrendering to fallacious arguments from Number 10 at this late stage – for never has a full Brexit that restores full sovereignty to the UK been more possible than now. But it can only happen if the Withdrawal Agreement is permanently consigned to the dustbin.”
The Political Declaration: a plan for subordination, by Briefings for Brexit
The Political Declaration accompanying the draft Withdrawal Agreement has been largely overlooked in the furore over the Northern Ireland backstop. However, the two are closely linked and the PD contains its own dangers. This briefing is essential reading if you want to get to grips with the PD.
“Like the Withdrawal Agreement, the PD represents a very bad deal for Britain and an even worse deal for democracy.”
There’s no such thing as ‘No Deal’: a WTO Brexit is the only rational choice, by Briefings for Brexit
It is now clear by the publication of both bilateral and unilateral measures in recent days, that there is now no such thing as a “No Deal” Brexit. A package of agreements and legislation is now in place which means that an exit from the EU on 29 March 2019 – as promised – can be properly called a “WTO Brexit”. There is no “cliff-edge” but a return to certainty under international law. It’s a deal in the best sense of the word – a collection of arrangements of mutual benefit that guarantee continuity for businesses and individuals. This briefing summarises these arrangements.
“It seems that most MPs haven’t even bothered to take note of the masses of no-deal Brexit legislation that has already been passed by Parliament to ensure there is no “cliff-edge” on 29 March 2019.”
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome. This week we publish three pieces:
British friends, don’t miss Brexit! By Professor Edouard Husson
Professor Edouard Husson sends pro-Brexit greetings from France. He sees Brexit as an example which gives hope to defenders of democracy across Europe, but urges us to stand firm in the support of Brexit against EU efforts to subvert democracy once again.
“When I learned of the result of the referendum in favour of Brexit on the morning of 24 June 2016, I was deeply delighted. I saw it as a great hope for my country too, and for the whole of Europe.”
Letter from a Pleb, by Matthew Orton Wadhams
Lawyer Matthew Orton Wadhams suggests to the PM that we the people give to our representatives our sovereignty for a limited period. It is not for them to ignore our instructions and act in a way that is inconsistent with their office.
“Plebs are often told ‘we know things now that we did not know then’ – how true. That we are enjoying full employment and that the EU is on the brink of recession with an imminent banking crisis is one thing we now know.”
Caroline Bell argues that there is no need to snatch humiliation from the jaws of May’s defeat by supporting the appalling Withdrawal Agreement now. The UK is prepared for a WTO Brexit.
“The UK is perfectly capable of managing a WTO Brexit. Cross-Whitehall emergency command teams have already been established by the Cabinet Office in order to provide a rapid solution – technical, practical or legislative – to solve any problems due to the change over to domestic and international law.”
We are also on Twitter at https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion on Facebook continues too. Doreen MacLening says, in response to our article on so-called BBC fact-checking, “No surprise there, BBC have been working against Brexit from the start.”
How you can help
We urge our supporters to ‘take back control’ in our present confusion. There are thousands of you. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Write to your MPs. Perhaps send them copies of some of our articles (or links to them), especially when they are relevant to your local conditions – for example, in rural areas, on the threat to British agriculture. Better still, make an appointment to see them at their next surgery: they will take notice when people are lining up at their doors. Make you views known where MPs might be wavering, or where they are working to sabotage Brexit, especially in Leave-voting and marginal constituencies, which Richard Johnson listed in his recent article.
Do also keep reading our posts, and tell others about us. Share links to our quality content so that others can understand how leaving the EU can be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to
think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
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An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge