Another confusing week. On the one hand UK politicians have been ramping up the pressure on EU negotiators, emphasising the fragility of the EU position. Dominic Raab made the welcome announcement that the UK will withhold part of its Brexit divorce bill if it leaves the EU with no deal. The Brexit Secretary noted that would be ‘peculiar’ for the UK to part with the agreed £40 billion if negotiations failed.
On the other hand, several spokespersons from the English-speaking world have cast doubt on Theresa May’s claim that the Chequers White Paper proposals will allow much scope for future free trade deals outside the EU. We have reproduced one such statement in the blog below.
Both Theresa May and Liam Fox have been on morale-raising trade missions. Liam Fox, on a trip to Singapore, has reminded the EU (and the UK) that there is a ‘global context’ to the negotiations which goes beyond the borders of Europe. Any signs that the EU is not keen to make trade with the UK easy and frictionless will send a damaging message to the rest of the world: that the EU is not open for business.
Theresa May was well received on her highly-publicised trip to sub-Saharan Africa, but we must not get carried away. The total GDP of sub-Saharan Africa is not much larger than that of France. Africa may eventually prove a good source of growth for UK exports, but its current importance is inevitably limited.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the week has been a change in tone from both Michael Barnier (“a partnership without precedent”), and from some of the representatives on the EU Council of Ministers. Barnier is sounding more like a man who wants to do a deal, and President Macron suggests that good relations with the UK are essential. The Polish Foreign Minister reiterates that the EU should accommodate some UK positions (not surprising given the importance to Poland of British defence support, as well as Polish concerns about the EU itself).
Our Blogs this week
The Chequers proposal would prevent the UK regaining an independent trade policy, by Peter F. Allgeier
Peter F. Allegeier, former US Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, argues that those who claim that the UK can conduct an independent trade policy while locking in to the EU’s regulatory rule-book are suffering from, and propagating, a serious delusion.
“If the UK is merely a smaller version of the EU, then it is unlikely to be a particularly interesting trade negotiations partner. It is precisely the UK’s ability to diverge from EU regulation that makes it interesting.”
A Soft Brexit Flouts the Norms of International Relations, by a BfB lawyer
International law is founded on the principles of sovereign equality and reciprocity. The UK-EU relationship after Brexit should be based on these principles. A so-called Soft Brexit would be proof that the EU can do anything and expect no resistance. It would almost inevitably result in the ECJ becoming the future arbiter of what a UK-EU agreement means. If the EU were to maintain such special jurisdiction over the UK, it would be a legal monstrosity, without parallel in modern international relations.
“There is thus a fundamental problem with a Soft Brexit beyond the obvious undemocratic nature of it… The UK will have disavowed the protections of sovereign equality and reciprocity that afford countries protections against larger neighbours.”
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, by D.H. Robinson
Historian Dr Daniel Robinson (Magdalen College, Oxford) discusses Brexit and academic politics. He outlines the soft tyranny of Remain in this country’s universities and its baleful effect of public debate. It is good for both Remainers and society that Brexiteers continue to speak out; public debate is the basis of civilisation.
“I have lost count of the number of times when an attempt to calmly disagree with some interminable Jeremiad has moved seamlessly into being howled at by a desiccated lunatic… But it is actually important that these people are upset. Regularly. It is good for them. It is also good for society.”
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome. This week Robert Lee (former Chief Economist and economic consultant) has written a piece entitled ‘The BRINO “Coup” has Failed’. He argues that the game is up for the Chequers “coup”. He explains why he believes that a Clean Brexit – either through a Canada-style agreement or through a “no-deal” – is the most likely outcome.
“The next few months will be dramatic and turbulent… One thing seems clear: A Clean Brexit – whether achieved in one go or in stages – is now far more likely than a Chequers-based deal.”
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 were pleased to see @UxbEconomist07 using BfB’s work to combat misleading economic estimates: “Replying to @johnness1 @ken_hobbs and 2 others
As I’ve said several times these were ripped apart by @briefing4brexit & @Econs4FreeTrade on inaccuracies & false assumptions. Originally there were allegations that certain economists were ignored & certain economists were encouraged to ‘tow the line’ on Project Fear. #Brexit”
Discussion continues on Facebook too, with a particularly enthusiastic response to Dr Daniel Robinsons’s ‘The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name’. Meanwhile Peter Boxshall provides a pithy summary of our article on the problems of a so-called ‘Soft Brexit’: “No such thing as a Soft Brexit, there is Brexit or Remain”.
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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