This week struggles over the Irish border continued to make headlines, making all hope of a deal seem ever more distant. Dominic Raab travelled to Brussels a day earlier than planned to ensure Olly Robbins’s negotiating team did not sign up to a “backstop to the backstop” – a plan which could have paved the way for a customs border in the Irish sea, something unacceptable to unionists. “How can we have such a disconnect between officials and ministers at this late stage?” complained one ministerial source.
In the face of the looming deadline, the possibility of an extended transition period has this week been mooted by various sides – to the collective groans of a continent, and an island just off it. Andrea Leadsom’s pizza party suggests a level of cabinet rebellion rarely, if ever seen; it begins to look like a rival Brexiteer cabinet within the cabinet.
Counter-cultural icon and The Who frontman Roger Daltrey urged Britain not to get fooled again, calling on Brexit sceptics to “wake up a bit”. Albeit no longer draped in a Union Jack with Pete Townshend, Daltrey espoused a patriotism and optimism so often lacking in Westminster, lambasting the EU’s “democratic deficit” which has led to “far too many people of far too many gravy trains soaking us dry.”
Donald Trump, who knows the art of a deal, announced that he was ready to start formal trade talks with the UK, even if the EU is reluctant to co-operate. This came in a week when strong economic performance once again confounded pessimistic Treasury forecasts. The Brexit monster under the bed failed to prevent both the fastest wage growth in 10 years, and the lowest unemployment rates in decades.
On the website this week
The EU’s favourite diplomat?
Responding to a Times article which hailed Oliver Robbins’ diplomacy in dealing with the EU, this piece questions just how effective the PM’s Europe Advisor has been in advancing the UK’s best interests. From the transition deal to the ongoing Irish border issue, Robbins has failed to gain any visible advantage for the UK.
“[The Times article] curiously fails to highlight a single issue on which Mr Robbins has obtained a compromise from the EU.”
May doubles down on deception, by Harry Western
A senior private sector economist has attacked the economic fundamentals of Chequers – and the dishonest manner in which it is being sold to the British electorate. The common rule book is a “deliberate misnomer” for an EU rule book – which is as exhaustive as it would be permanent. The costs of the facilitated customs agreement (FCA) have likewise been hugely understated, and the bureaucratic nightmare it would entail has been covered up.
“The most important public policy choice in a generation… is being driven by a mixture of shoddy calculations, exaggerated claims and deliberately misleading use of data.”
Transforming the political landscape: Lessons from history, by Robert Tombs
BfB co-founder Prof Robert Tombs looks back over paradigm shifts in British history and speculates that Brexit could be the latest. Historically, paradigm shifts in the political landscape have been caused by the presence of “a crucial issue about which both active politicians and grass-roots voters feel sufficiently betrayed… that they are angry enough not only to rock the boat but to sink it completely.” Brexit could thus prove to be the catalyst for a new political landscape.
“A fraudulent fudge would not bring closure, but it would ingrain Brexit as the central fact of political life in Britain indefinitely.”
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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