It’s not quite a second wave, but we have seen a few new Covid ripples across the country this week. August silly season had, alas, fallen victim to 2020 seriousness, with weddings, Eid celebrations and Mancunian dinner parties all abandoned at short notice.
News from negotiations has also been relatively thin on the ground. We are waiting to see what David Frost meant when he said that he expected the British negotiating team to achieve ‘60%’ of its goals. There certainly is scope for Britain to make rational compromises, but not on the issues that really matter.
The agricultural scare stories continue to come thick and fast. It is worth noting how much is at stake for the enthusiasts of the EU. A trade deal with the US will encourage divergence from EU regulations and make it harder for Britain to be pulled back into the EU’s orbit at a later date. These strong underlying motives continue to distort public debate.
Continuing on the topic of distortions of debate, it has been notable that debate in the wake of the ISC’s Russia report has been dominated by the question of whether ‘Russia is to blame for Brexit’. This latest attempted to discredit the referendum smacks of even more desperation than usual and distracts from the serious questions of national security that the report raises. Rather than looking for yet another scapegoat, Remainers should be asking themselves why the arguments for Brexit proved persuasive. Whether people were persuaded to vote Leave while chatting with friends down the pub or by reading the erratically capitalised tweets of a Russian bot is fundamentally immaterial. The arguments were persuasive all the same – and they remain so today.
On the website this week
Beware the Witching Hour! Responses to the ISC’s “Russia Report”, by Gwythian Prins
Gwythian Prins praises aspects of the ISC report but says that listening to the debate one might have thought that undermining the Brexit referendum was the main point of the report.
“It takes a rare self-obsession and idiocy to convince oneself that the only reason some bloke ‘up north’ could possibly vote against the sage advice of some shrill north London geography teacher is because Dmitri in St Petersburg has manipulated him into doing so.”
Are the Russians to Blame for Brexit? By Nick Busvine
Former diplomat Nick Busvine examines the ISC Russia report. He argues that it must be right to ask questions if there are concerns about covert Russian – or indeed any hostile foreign – interference in our democratic process. He worries that Remain assumptions underpinning the ISC inquiry have undermined the report’s impact and will have weakened the chances of some of the report’s sensible recommendations being implemented.
“The lack of faith on the part of the Remainer ‘undead’ in our democratic system is profoundly concerning.”
According to news reports, chief UK negotiator David Frost has told MPs that the UK may achieve ‘60%’ of its objectives in current negotiations with the EU. Is this good news or bad news? The answer depends crucially on how those objectives are defined, and exactly what the 40% Frost is pessimistic about achieving actually is.
“Most of the key prizes are already in the bag and were gained so easily that the EU sees no purpose in giving ground on the outstanding issues.”
Key Points This Week
A Backdoor for ECJ Intervention on UK State Aid, by a Cambridge PhD Student
How far does the Withdrawal Agreement give room for the EU to intervene in the rest of UK via Northern Ireland? A recent piece in the Financial Times on the negotiations over EU state aid mainly discusses the issue’s potential to cause an impasse in negotiations. Yet there is also a danger that the EU might seek to use its continued jurisdiction over Northern Irish state aid as a backdoor to enforce these rules in the rest of the UK, if (say) the Northern Irish subsidiary of a British firm benefited from UK government assistance.
Needless to say, a thin free trade agreement with the EU is hardly worth the sacrifice of key sectors to unfair competition from heavily subsidised EU rivals, especially when even nationwide emergency schemes like furlough might be open to challenge in this fashion by the ECJ. And while highlighting the deleterious effects of the backstop, it also exposes how impractical it is. If the Commission tries to extend its remit to the rest of the UK, the government could simply refuse to answer a summons to the ECJ.
In that event there is nothing much the Commission can do about it, unless they wish to risk imposing tariffs and threatening the cancellation of the withdrawal agreement. There are ancillary concerns that EU state aid rules will be incorporated by default into British law if no new state aid rules are put forward in Parliament. Yet it’s perfectly possible for the Commons to repeal whole swathes of retained EU law, including on state aid, on 31 December – as indeed they should.
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook.
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
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