This week Britain was treated to all its favourite comedians reprising their greatest hits – Catherine Tate playing apathetic teenager Lauren, Peter Kay with ‘Amarillo’ and Michel Barnier with his classic ‘Negotiations aren’t going fast enough’ routine.
EU talks continue, with 40 teleconference sessions held between officials this week, but Barnier has signaled his frustration at the lack of progress, especially on fishing rights, which he says is essential if a free trade agreement is to be signed. So frustrated, that he has reached for his favorite metaphor – ‘the clock is ticking.’ We at BfB are encouraged that the UK is taking a strong line. Ask not for whom the clock ticks, M. Barnier, it ticks for thee.
Some familiar voices are less impressed with the UK’s stance. Arguments for a negotiating extension in light of Covid-19 have been made with increasing force in some quarters. Last weekend the Sunday Times used one of its editorials to argue that an extension is the only sensible course of action. We think such arguments are mistaken and damaging to the UK’s interests. Extending the transition period will only extend uncertainty. It will also increase the chances that we get caught up in the fallout of the brewing crisis in the Eurozone and prevent us from taking advantage of the legislative flexibility promised by Brexit.
If more time is needed, there are ways in which this can be achieved which do not require a formal extension (with all the ‘regulation without representation’ which that would entail). As we suggested last week, a temporary free trade agreement, involving no customs checks in return for a short-term moratorium on regulatory divergence is one option that would be worth exploring.
Over the coming weeks it is likely that we will see a weaponisation of Covid statistics by the EU and British advocates for an extension, as arguments exploiting the concerns over Covid–19 become a new kind of Project Fear. Briefings for Britain will continue to combat such manipulations with facts and rational analysis.
A wide range of leading academics, former civil servants and representatives of the financial sector signed a letter to The Times this week, stating that an extension to the negotiating period would be an act of ‘reckless self-harm’ on the part of the UK. You can find the full letter here. Signatories included both our co-editors and a number of BfB contributors.
Just as Brexit was used by Irish nationalists to further the case for Irish unity and the breakup of the UK, the Covid epidemic is being held up as an example of poor governance in the UK and hence a further argument for Irish unity. An article by a Queens University professor in the Irish Times last Tuesday argued that the Covid death rate was 50% higher in Northern Ireland than in the Republic of Ireland. BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin replied with a long letter in the Irish Times, explaining that these figures were wrong. In fact, Northern Ireland has a slightly lower death rate than the Republic. Graham’s response can be found on the News page of our website.
On the website this week
Young academic Titus (who prefers to remain anonymous) notes that, despite the shock of Boris Johnson’s election victory, the EU’s ‘future arrangements’ treaty suggests that the bloc still hopes for terms that no country has ever gained without a credible threat of military force. For the UK to submit to an extension will encourage the EU to believe again that we will agree to anything to avoid a ‘no deal’. It must, therefore, be avoided.
“If the United Kingdom wishes to set out its stall that the future relationship will be one of equals… it cannot start by prolonging a period of total subordination.”
Brexit and The Pandemic: How Brussels Uses Covid-19, by Tony Lane
International trade expert Tony Lane explains how Brussels aims to entangle Britain in a neo-colonial trading relationship to prevent the British economy being seen to prosper after Brexit. Brussels and its British allies seek to spin out and complicate the negotiating process. This is the aim of their present campaign to extend the negotiating timetable.
“Those in Britain now arguing that Cov-19 calls for such an extension? Wittingly or not, they are playing Brussels’ game.”
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. Doreen MacLening offered a forthright description of the EU: ‘Devious protectionist racket.’
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