Theresa May’s continued efforts to sell her withdrawal agreement appear to be slowly winning over some with Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox falling in line. Though it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to get it through the crucial parliamentary vote on 11 December, as up to 100 MPs have already criticised May’s travelling salesman act.
In dramatic news this morning, The Sunday Times reports on a leaked letter shown to ministers containing legal advice on the proposed Irish backstop. In the letter, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox warns that “The protocol would endure indefinitely” and that Britain could become permanently trapped in the arrangement (a scenario against which BfB has long warned).
If the report is correct, the government may well be forced to release this legal advice in the Commons; having lost a vote in the Commons on 13 November, the government is obliged to reveal the full legal advice it received on the Brexit deal. This could lead to yet more explosive exchanges tomorrow, when Cox is due to give a statement on the government’s legal position in Parliament. Labour is already threatening to combine with other parties to initiate contempt of Parliament proceedings if the government continues refuse to publish its advice, with Keir Starmer warning of a ‘historic constitutional row’. This is a controversy which could bring down May’s government.
Amidst more doomsday predictions by the Treasury, all seven of the UK’s most important lenders passed stress tests to satisfy the PRA – despite any Brexit concerns. The predictions look as overly pessimistic and silly (see below) as previous Treasury and Bank of England efforts. The Treasury predictions of loss of trade are outlandish – a 25% loss even with free-trade and no tariffs (why?). These forecasts are generated from a new and fiendishly complex model with too little detail for our economists to replicate the results and find flaws as they did with previous versions. The Bank of England report has been dismissed as ‘bogus’ and ‘out on a limb’ by senior pro-Remain economists Andrew Sentence and Paul Krugman (the latter a Nobel prize-winning American).
Sir Richard Aikins and Dr Anna Bailey have fact-checked some very dubious claims being made by government supporters about the consequences of MPs voting down the Withdrawal Agreement for Conservative Home. Sir Richard is a former member of the Court of Appeal, former Vice-President of the Consultative Council of European Judges, and a member of the Briefings for Brexit Advisory Committee. Dr Anna Bailey is a political scientist and editorial consultant for Briefings for Brexit.
Brexit deal: Martin Howe QC responds to No. 10’s ‘rebuttal’ in The Spectator
BfB contributor Martin Howe responds to 10 Downing Street’s ‘rebuttal’ of his article ‘May’s Brexit Deal: the legal verdict’, also published in this week’s Spectator, criticising the legal implications of May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
A group of eminent figures from in the intelligence, legal, business, economic and military worlds have penned a letter to Theresa May urging her to consider the current deal, given how it represents surrender to the EU, rather than the mutual and constructive relationship both parties need.
“What is being presented to British citizens as “the best deal available” is the exact opposite of the people’s instruction to take back control”
On the website this week
Contrary to her claim to the British people, Theresa May’s proposed withdrawal agreement fails UK farmers. Not only will we lose our powers to affect the Common Agricultural Policy, the government will be prohibited from funding the UK farmers at a level as high as that received by EU27 farmers, whilst agricultural policy in NI will in effect be run from Dublin – the capital of what increasingly appears a hostile power.
“[May] has agreed a ‘deal’ which surrenders our green and pleasant land and our farmers to perpetual control by the EU on the most disadvantageous terms possible.”
We argue that May’s ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ is a complete misnomer as it fails to provide the UK the opportunity to leave the customs union and single market, ECJ jurisdiction or provide and end to free movement of labour in a meaningful sense.
“Far from ‘taking back control’, the UK government is proposing to give it up in relation to massive areas of economic policy, with no prospect of getting it back”
Technology and the Irish Border, by Edi Truell
Co-founder of Disruptive Capital Finance, Edi Truell has set out exactly how technology can not only solve the Irish border issue, but be in place by the deadline of 29 March 2019 – despite the obstructionism emanating from south of the border.
“the Withdrawal Agreement is almost certain to be rejected in Parliament and a new approach will be needed. At that point serious and genuine attention may be given to technological solutions”
Rock Solid , by David Abulafia
Cambridge history professor David Abulafia discusses the Gibraltar issue and reflects on how Spain have jumped on the withdrawal process as a means of furthering their own national interests – which run contrary to those of the UK, and the integrity of its borders.
“It is important to speak up for Gibraltar and the democratic decision of its people to remain under British sovereignty, because the principles are the same as those that were expressed by Great Britain … on 23 June 2016: a democratic decision about where sovereignty should lie”
A leading practitioner at a London firm gives a damning verdict on the draft withdrawal agreement, despite being ambivalent over Brexit itself. He raises key concerns regarding the subservient position in which the backstop will place the UK, the minutiae of EU rules that the UK will have to follow and the failure to extract meaningful agreement over financial services – a key aim of the UK from the outset.
“we have an agreement which fails to address many of the UK’s red line issues and concerns, most of which are kicked down the road.”
Former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and economist Graham Gudgin set out how a no deal is not the catastrophe the media insist on. The real calamity is if this fear persuades the UK to accept the current withdrawal proposals – instead we should aim for a Canada-style FTA, using as leverage the EU’s desperation for its £39bn and its strong desire to avoid the hard border that will accompany ‘no deal’.
“We have some good bargaining chips. Let’s use them in the national interest to avoid this unsatisfactory Withdrawal Agreement.”
We are suspicious of the Treasury’s latest nay-saying. Its most recent predictions are based on an estimate of GDP growth comparable with the most pessimistic interpretation of the Great Depression, the most catastrophic shock to the UK economy in over a century.
“the Treasury’s 8% GDP loss for a ‘no deal’ Brexit is equivalent to the worst estimate…many will think that it is worse than silly: that it is a deliberate attempt to mislead and alarm”
This week we argue that as the government only needs to make a statement to Parliament on the 26 January, it should use this time to negotiate a better deal, rather than spend it selling the current flawed version to an unconvinced British public.
“there is more than enough time to shred the draft Withdrawal Agreement and produce something that actually respects the spirit of the referendum”
Harwich and North Essex MP and former city worker, Bernard Jenkin, has this week spoken to BfB to outline why he has been a Brexiteer for decades. Jenkin is part of the ERG which is fighting against the “Remainery Brexit” unfolding before us. He explains how the UK will benefit more from trading with the rest of the world, and from retaining UK control over our own military.
“I would have a muscular, bilateral, Free-Trade Agreement with the EU ”
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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