It is mid-August and all the headline writers have gone on holiday. Or so we must hope – it only reasonable justification for the dreary frequency with which one header has been recycled this week: ‘No-deal Brexit will be a disaster for [insert sector here]’. Shrill, ludicrous and dull; Project Fear 2.0 is alive and well.
This week’s most authoritative warnings about a no-deal scenario, however, have been addressed to the EU Commission. Alex Tsipras’s government has warned Brussels that no-deal will increase the pressure on the Greek economy. Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt has said that the EU risks losing the respect of UK citizens for a generation if it behaves in too uncompromising a manner.
As Theresa May’s government finally seems to be taking preparations for no-deal seriously, with more detailed plans due for release next week, it is the EU which has more to fear from being caught on the back foot. Such preparations are important and sensible; it is on this, rather than ill-informed Jeremiads, that Britain should be focusing.
In other news, we have been subjected to two very silly polls. The first, gleefully reported in the Independent, informed us that Brexit is now perceived as more ‘establishment’ than it was before the referendum. Something starts to be perceived as more ‘establishment’ after being adopted as government policy… Amazing. Shock revelation of the Pope’s religion to follow shortly.
The prize for most ridiculous poll story, however, goes to reports that 112 Brexit constituencies have ‘turned Remain’. The statistics on which this claim is based simply do not support the conclusion (see below). We won’t be losing sleep over threats of a second referendum just yet.
Lies, Damned Lies and 112 Constituencies ‘turned Remain’, by Dr Bob Edwards
This week the press has reported, on the basis of a study by Focaldata, that 112 Westminster constituencies have ‘switched’ loyalties from Leave to Remain. As our subscriber Dr Bob Edwards has pointed out, however, this claim relies on some very shoddy statistics.
Focaldata used a YouGov sample of 15,000 voters, covering 632 constituencies. Therefore, the average sample in each constituency was just 24 persons. If you apply the basic laws of statistical sampling, any statement based on a sample of 24 persons has a margin of error of +/-16.78% with 90% confidence.
It follows that of the 112 constituencies, only four (Knowsley, Liverpool Walton, Southampton Test and Liverpool West Derby) can be said with 90% confidence to have a majority for Remain.
Our Blogs this week
A Brexit Proposal, by Christopher Bickerton and Richard Tuck
We reproduce here the November 2017 Report published independently by Dr Richard Bickerton of Cambridge University and Professor Richard Tuck of Harvard University. The report aims to contribute to the public debate on Brexit and, if possible, to move us beyond the current impasse. Tuck and Bickerton look at the big-picture political stakes of Brexit, arguing that the referendum was a powerful reassertion of popular sovereignty which cannot be ignored.
“At the heart of Brexit is the desire to regain political control over our society, our economy and our political representatives. This is not an act of nativist rage, it is an expression of democratic will.”
Mandelson has a Nerve on Nationalism by Richard Tuck
Professor Richard Tuck argues, pace Lord Mandelson, that it is the EU not the UK which epitomises ‘nationalism’ in its latest form. The bloc is attempting to override old state loyalties with a new political arrangement based on a cultural identity and special ‘European’ values. Britain should not follow the EU down this dangerous path.
“The British state constitutes for its citizens the tried and tested focus of their common life, and any replacement would have a fantastic or utopian character, something which Brexiteers have instinctively grasped.”
Lessons For Brexit from the Hanseatic League, by Lee Rotherham
Lee Rotherham, historian and former foreign policy advisor to three Shadow Foreign Secretaries on the EU, explores the lessons Britain can learn from the Hanseatic League. The League, a highly successful free-trade network of independent German cities, existed for centuries, before finally being overawed by the might of Prussian nationalism. Today’s EU promotes a similarly aggressive protectionism; the UK is better off relying on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Hansa towns.
“The continent has for centuries seen repeated attempts to close off economies and shelter behind alienism and protectionism. The EU’s Customs Union and Single Market, despite the pretences and early ambitions, are thus really an exaggerated and highly administratively technical repeat of past trends.”
Rotherham has also written a longer report on the same topic for in collaboration with MEPs as part of Projekt Hansa. Read it here: https://projekthansa.org/media/resources/Modern%20Lessons%20from%20Historical%20Drivers%20of%20Trade.pdf
Proposals for Regulatory Equivalence in financial services, by Jamie Arnell
Jamie Arnell, a partner at Charterhouse, writing in a personal capacity, Jamie Arnell concludes that seeking a regulatory equivalence finding from the EU Commission for UK financial services on the broadest basis is an urgent priority, and since the EU can take their time this must be a condition of our divorce payment. We should be prepared to play hard ball here if required.
“If the UK is accorded regulatory equivalence with the EU (as is the case for the US, Japan, etc) then this very significantly reduces the size of the problem. The EU will want to continue to access the City’s services and therefore should have a clear incentive to accept regulatory equivalence. They can also hardly argue that it is not equivalent as it is currently part of the EU system.”
This article is part of a longer series by Jamie Arnell that can be read on the ConservativeHome website.
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome. We are particularly grateful this week to Dr Bob Edwards, whose comments on the 112 constituencies story, sent via our website contact form, can be found in the ‘Media’ section above.
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. This week we have tweeted a request for feedback, and we look forward to hearing your views.
Discussion continues on Facebook too, and we are already benefitting from your suggestions for improvements to our social media strategy. Keep the feedback coming!
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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