This week started with Theresa May discussing her Chequers plan on Panorama, telling her critics that it would be her deal or no deal. She must have hoped it would end with a triumphant escape from Salzburg to freedom, in traditional von Trapp style.
Unfortunately, the hills were alive with EU leaders singing from a very different hymn sheet. May’s unexpectedly hostile reception culminated in Donald Tusk’s blunt announcement that the UK’s “suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work”: the final so-long, farewell to her Chequers hopes.
May has since come out fighting, criticising the EU for a failure to offer details of their precise objections to the Chequers proposals, and finally reviving the “no deal is better than a bad deal” rhetoric of the first months of her premiership. In a sign that Salzburg did not go as planned for the EU Commission either, Tusk has since struck a more conciliatory tone.
It is not clear where May will go from here, though we must hope she will take the opportunity to chuck Chequers in favour of a Canada-style free-trade agreement. It is clearer than ever that the question of the Irish border is the main sticking point in negotiations – an absurd situation, resulting from negotiating blunders and misunderstandings on both sides. This week BfB publishes two articles to help subscribers understand how we got into this mess, and what Theresa May needs to do to get out of it. BfB co_editor Graham Gudgin offers a summary of the problem and a possible solution. We strongly recommend everyone with an interest in this most thorny aspect of the negotiations takes time to read his proposals.
Meanwhile, the head of the international outreach programme of Project Fear (the IMF) Christian Lagarde predicted a contraction of the UK economy in the event of no-deal. Regrettably only IMF credibility has been damaged by the wayward predictions of the past couple of years. Woody Johnson, US ambassador to London, talked up the chances of a UK-US trade deal, but warned that “if Britain gets tied up with too many EU mechanisms, you have to look at what’s left”.
In good news, Kopparberg, the Swedish drinks manufacturer, announced its plans to begin production in the UK, whilst a survey by law firm Stephenson Harwood found that 88% of businesses thought that the UK is at least as attractive as an investment destination as before the referendum, and 32% thought it more so. They pointed to the labour force, technology and intellectual property.
On the website this week
A Border Once Again by Dr Graham Gudgin
After the brutal Salzburg rejection of the UK’s Chequers Proposals, the Irish border remains the main impediment to progress on concluding a Withdrawal Agreement, not least because of the EU’s obstructive and high-handed approach. BfB editor and Cambridge economist Graham Gudgin argues that the Prime Minister should move to proposing a free-trade agreement with the EU and should return to earlier ideas about a minimal land border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
“[May] needs to return to the earlier UK option for an invisible land border within the island of Ireland, and to put technological solutions back on the agenda. The UK has been weak in not attempting to demonstrate how this could work but now needs to make up for lost time.”
The Irish Backstop and UK Sovereignty
A lawyer refutes the EU claim that its Backstop will not undermine the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom nor advance Irish unification. The Backstop would force the UK to make diplomatic representations to the EU in matters concerning Northern Ireland, while the Republic would be treated by the EU as if its government represented Northern Ireland, a clearly unacceptable situation.
“The logic of the Backstop is that Ireland will perform the role of representing Northern Ireland in the EU, and that Ireland will be the EU’s judge of the good of Northern Ireland.”
A Narrow Focus on EU Trade restricts Global Opportunities by Robert Bates
Future trade with economies across the globe is being jeopardised by a damaging pre-occupation with EU trade alone, argues Robert Bates, a Senior Research Executive for Get Britain Out. He points to the technological advancements in logistics, and worldwide investment in trading infrastructure which are making long-distance commerce ever more straightforward, in a world whose growing middle classes are ever more capable of and interested in buying British luxury goods.
“It is imperative that the Government, when negotiating the future relationship with Europe, does not construct a customs arrangement under the false pretence that geography is key, as doing so would see us unable to capitalise on the opportunities which are opening.”
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome.
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 continues on Facebook too, with a lively response to Graham Gudgin’s latest article on the Irish border. Roger Merry says, ‘If the EU insists that Ireland installs hard border checks when they have never existed (note never) then they’ll have to justify doing so.”
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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