Good job the cricketers and tennis players have been keeping us in dramatic, close-run finals, because the Tory leadership contest remains as dull and predictable as ever. The good news is that this is the last week of limbo, before we finally see the coronation of Boris Johnson, who looks certain to have taken over from Theresa May by Wednesday.
This week at BfB, we focus on the questions which the new Prime Minister will need to answer immediately. We continue to emphasise the merits of abandoning any plans to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. The new PM will be better off focussing on the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement and, failing that, preparations for an exit on WTO terms.
Following this path will not be without its challenges, and the new PM will need to persuade a divided Tory party. The rebellion of Tory MPs and ministers via an unrelated amendment to a Northern Ireland Bill last Thursday showed that around 40 Tories will attempt to block ‘No Deal’. They may not get much chance to do so if PM Johnson provides few opportunities for future amendments. If Theresa May wished, she could also nullify this week’s difficulty by withdrawing the NI bill (one withdrawal we might applaud) but we are not holding our breath.
The key question is how many Tory MP’s would be willing to administer a bee-sting fatal to both their party and their careers, by voting no confidence in their own government. Some no doubt would go this far, but equally, some pro-Brexit Labour MP’s would prefer a No deal Brexit to a general election.
Meanwhile, Liam Fox, the Trade Secretary told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on Monday that “We can’t negotiate anything with the US until after we have left the European Union … It would be in breach of European law for us to do that”. It makes one wonder precisely what Dr Fox’s Department for International Trade has been doing all these months.
Finally, just as Mrs Merkel leaves for her (much needed) summer holiday, she said that as soon as alternative technologies were identified the Irish backstop could be replaced. The good news is that the Greg Hands-Nicky Morgan Alternative Arrangements Group has done just that in its 273 page final report and protocols published this week. The EU is of course not rushing to consider this detailed and convincing evidence, but it is now available to the new UK PM and we will hear much more about this.
BfB co-editor Robert Tombs spoke to one of the major Japanese newspapers, the Mainichi Shimbun, about Brexit, in a wide-ranging interview touching on the Euro, EU democracy and the historical consciousness of the UK population:
“If you go to France, which I know well, or other European countries, the rest of the world seems to be a threat and the EU is seen as a kind of protection against the world. That’s not something you hear very much here (the U.K.). And it’s partly because I don’t think we think of the rest of the world as being such an alien place.”
Our other co-editor, Graham Gudgin, this week attended the second meeting of DEXEU’s Alternative Arrangements Commission chaired by Stephen Barclay. This is a parallel inquiry to the Hands-Morgan Commission mentioned above (of which Graham is also a member). This DEXEU inquiry will advise the Minister and is due to report in early Autumn.
On the website this week
Professor David Blake, of Cass Business School, discusses the bullying tactics which the EU is trying to use to bring Switzerland to heel. This should be a warning to the UK as we fight off the Withdrawal Agreement, which seeks to put is in a similar position of inferiority. We should seize the opportunity to join forces with the Swiss.
“In July 2019, the UK and Switzerland signed an agreement allowing their citizens to work in each other’s country in the event of a no-deal Brexit. There need to be many more deals like this.”
A Legal Challenge to BBC bias against Brexit, by David Keighley
David Keighley, who has worked in broadcast news for four decades, and is managing director of the media monitoring organisation News-watch, is mounting judicial review proceedings against the BBC for their failure to be properly impartial. Here, he explains why.
“In 274 hours of monitored BBC EU coverage between 2002 and 2017, only 14 speakers (0.2 per cent of the total) were left-wing advocates of the UK leaving the EU, despite the existence throughout of a strong Eurosceptic movement within Labour and the Trade Unions.”
The Proposal of a Temporary WTO Agreement Can Reshape the Brexit Debate, by Michael Burrage
Michael Burrage, a member of Economists for Free Trade and a Senior Research Fellow at Civitas, proposes that the new Prime Minister should announce that due to the defeat of Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement in Parliament, and the EU’s repeated refusal to amend it, the UK government has decided that the only solution is to submit a joint UK-EU application to the WTO for a temporary zero-tariff and quota trade agreement. This could be a game changer.
“Disruption of UK-EU trade after October 31st would be a deliberate choice by the 27 members of the European Council.”
Philip Hammond and the OBR yet again push a discredited ‘Project Fear’, by Briefings for Brexit
Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have, over the last couple of days, both warned of negative economic consequences of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. Both of their analyses are deeply flawed, being re-heated versions of economic analyses that are skewed and methodologically unsound.
“The OBR’s claims are based on an IMF analysis which assumes away most upsides, features extremely pessimistic assumptions including trade barriers and trade elasticities that are as much as five times too high, and includes financial sector effects that have no proper basis in quantitative work at all.”
The SNP’s attempt to exploit Brexit is floundering, by Will Podmore
The Scottish National Party’s minority administration in Edinburgh is trying to contribute to the attempt to foil Brexit and the struggle to achieve sovereignty and independence for the whole of Britain. But as Will Podmore, librarian and member of the University and College Union, explains, it’s not going well.
“The Labour Party in Scotland has now adopted a policy of demanding another Brexit referendum and campaigning to remain in the EU. But who do they speak for?”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Over on Facebook. Antony Marques concurred with our analysis of the latest efforts of Project Fear: “The IMF as well as the OBR is making an awful lot of assumptions about tariffs and exports from the UK.”
How you can help
We urge our supporters to ‘take back control’ in our present confusion. There are thousands of you. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Write to your MPs. Perhaps send them copies of some of our articles (or links to them), especially when they are relevant to your local conditions – for example, in rural areas, on the threat to British agriculture. Better still, make an appointment to see them at their next surgery: they will take notice when people are lining up at their doors. Make you views known where MPs might be wavering, or where they are working to sabotage Brexit, especially in Leave-voting and marginal constituencies, which Richard Johnson listed in his recent article.
Do also keep reading our posts, and to tell others about us. Share links to our quality content so that others can understand how leaving the EU can 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.
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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