Britain remembered seventy-five years since Victory in Japan this weekend. Alas, hopes that the anniversary would coincide with the announcement of a new age of Anglo-Japanese cooperation represented in a new trade deal proved a little hasty. Reports suggest that preferential terms for British blue cheese have proven a particular sticking point, but negotiations continue, and we can look forward to more announcements on this score.
This week, with all relatively quiet on the Brexit front, we at BfB have turned to some broader questions about the country’s future, and particularly the state of the Union. The British government’s decidedly patchy handling of the Coronavirus pandemic given the SNP government in Holyrood – and the cause of Scottish independence more generally – a boost in the polls. This is an important moment for the Union, and those of us who value it need to start taking the threat seriously.
To this end, we publish two pieces discussing the challenges in Scotland and Ireland. We at BfB have been proud to be part of an alliance of academics and experts making the intellectual case for Brexit. A similar alliance is going to be needed in the coming months to persuade voters in Scotland that they still have much to gain from our historic Union. The UK has a bright post-Brexit future, which will benefit all four nations.
Brexit has also increased fears for the Union and the UK government has been rightly criticised for conceding in the Withdrawal Agreement that a trade border will be established in the Irish Sea between GB and Northern Ireland. However, the details of how HMG seeks to minimise the impact of this are becoming clearer. No customs declarations or checks will be needed from NI to GB. In the other direction, customs declarations and a few checks are required but HMRC will act as a customs broker free of charge, greatly reducing the impact on individual firms. The annual cost to the UK will be around £360 million. Few will notice much difference.
On the website this week
No United Ireland. Not Now. Not Ever, by Graham Gudgin
Brexit and Covid have increased the flow of articles arguing that it is inevitable that Northern Ireland will become part of a united Ireland. This article shows that these predictions are wrong and self-serving.
“The likelihood is that Northern Ireland may be around to celebrate its second centenary in 2021. Brexit has emboldened nationalists, but a reasonable expectation is that a UK:EU free-trade agreement will mean that few will notice much difference.”
Boxing Clever with The Withdrawal Agreement, by Caroline Bell
There has recently been a growing chorus from Conservative backbenchers arguing for the Withdrawal Agreement to be torn up.
“As a sovereign government, not under the EU’s yoke in extended purgatory/backstop, we should audit every single demand, line by line, and challenge every bill.”
Now is the time to combat Scottish Nationalism, by Graham Gudgin
With supporters of Scottish independence riding high in the polls, the UK Government needs to take the task of preserving the union more seriously. Graham Gudgin argues that UK subsidies to Scotland should become more transparent and the anti-English element of Scottish history should be challenged.
“This needs to be a national effort involving historians, economists and many others. If we leave the task to Johnsonian bluster, we can expect the worst.”
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. Dave Ashcroft commented on Caroline Bell’s article on the Withdrawal Agreement, ‘I still believe a clean break would solve so much more and importantly, immediately.’
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