This has been a pivotal week in the war of attrition over leaving the EU Customs Union. The PM’s favoured ‘Customs Partnership’ was rejected in the Brexit Cabinet Committee. Although the PM hopes to salvage something, this idea is probably sunk due to its closeness to existing EU arrangements and its overcomplicated nature requiring new technology to track every consignment entering the UK to its final destination. The UK customs proposal is now likely to be the so called ‘Max Fac’ arrangement using electronics to monitor goods entering and leaving the UK but without the complex tracking of the Customs partnership. Unfortunately, the EU rejects this, as they reject everything short of remaining in their Customs Union. Even worse Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM, has reversed his earlier promise not to use a veto over the Irish Border (‘he was not that sort of politician’ he had said last year). The gap between the UK and EU proposals is however narrowing. Theresa May has reiterated her promise to leave the EU Customs Union and a No. 10 rethink may throw up a compromise that the Irish and EU can live with.
Better news is that the score draw local election result on Thursday has given Leave supporters a significant boost. Mid-term governments usually get a pounding in local elections and the fact that Theresa May’s Government held its own against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour suggests that the negotiations to leave the EU are popular with more voters than might at first have seemed apparent. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted on Friday morning (@BorisJohnson): “PM’s clear Mansion House vision for leaving the single market and customs union a key part of Tory electoral success.” BBC polling expert, John Curtice, commented that the Conservative Party now has “a disproportionately a Leave electorate… 70% of the Conservative vote are people that voted Leave… it has to deliver Brexit.”
This week we have turned our attention to two themes https://briefingsforbritain.co.uk/announcement-new-themes.
One is Britain’s Global Strategy after Brexit which will focus on future policies covering, defence, security, aid and influence. These issues have received less media coverage than trade issues but remain areas of serious disagreement with the EU. We began this week with two articles. Sir Andrew Wood, former ambassador to Russia, analyses our present and future relations with Russia. Sir Richard Dearlove and Professor Gwythian Prins highlight the strategic and commercial importance of satellite systems, and support the PM’s proposal to develop the UK’s own system in preference to trying to cling on to the EU’s GALILEO. The latter article was featured in today’s Times (Friday 3rd May)
The second theme ‘Understanding the Remainer revolt‘ undertakes a serious all-round analysis of one of the most disturbing developments of the last two years: the formation of an intransigent ‘Remainer’ movement, composed of elements from all political parties, some of it highly organized with the support of lavish financial backing from overseas. This movement, which we think it is no exaggeration to call a revolt, calls into question fundamental practices and principles of democratic government:
the equal rights of citizens, national sovereignty, the need willingly to accept majority decisions, and proper restraint on the use of political power. The first articles in the series are by Dr Joanna Williams, who considers ways in which our education systems may be creating conformists rather than independent-minded critical thinkers, and Richard Johnson who looks at Labours traditions of national control.
British Policy and Russia after Brexit by Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood is former UK Ambassador to Yugoslavia and subsequently to Russia, and currently Associate Fellow, on the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House. Andrew Wood argues that: Whatever the outcome of the present negotiations, the UK will need a government seen to pursue a fresh agenda of confident change at home and purposeful ambition abroad. He says: “The Kremlin’s record in understanding what drives other European countries, and the United States, is flawed. Moscow is obsessed with Washington, and tormented by the conviction that the collapse of the USSR was followed by the deliberate humiliation of Russia at the hands of the West, under American direction. This questionable narrative is valuable to the Putinist regime, and feeds into the understandable wish of the bulk of the population not to revisit the Soviet past but to see their 1945 victory as the justification for Russia’s claim to be a Great Power today, on a par with the United States. It follows that Moscow sees NATO as the threat, but sees the EU as being of lesser account…”
He ends by saying: “It is … worth reminding ourselves in the context of our relations with Russia that Britain remains a global power despite having voluntarily leased some of its sovereignty to the EU, and that there is in principle no valid reason why we should not in resuming them on leaving that Union exert them to advantage in future.”
The GALILEO Spat: an Object Lesson for Ministers by Sir Richard Dearlove and Professor Gwythian Prins
The Prime Minister’s reported resolve to authorise an independent British satellite system is of capital importance. It is an exciting and optimistic moment. Britain should pull away from any association with either defence or space collaborations with the EU after Brexit; it should look after British defence, security and industrial interests, write Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 and Professor Gwythian Prins Emeritus Research Professor at the LSE and visiting Professor at the French Military College, St Cyr.
They say that “as part of the litany alleging the damage that Brexit will inflict on the country, which is being peddled daily by ‘continuity project fear’, step forward the GALILEO satellite project. First in the Financial Times and then, unchallenged on the ‘Today’ programme, the public has been told that Britain stands to lose vital defence assets and that British companies will be damaged were we to be shut out of the EU’s global positioning satellite project. So, implicitly, these are more reasons to cancel Brexit. But this is entirely untrue and the truth is close to being the exact opposite”.
They argue that the UK does not need access to the EU’s Galileo system, and that Galileo is not viable without UK participation. The EU is seeking to damage UK sovereign interests post-Brexit and must be resisted.
Learning To Love the EU by Dr Joanna Williams
In the first in our ‘Remainers’ Revolt’ series, Dr Joanna Williams suggests that the UK’s education system is failing to produce independent-minded critical thinkers and is instead creating conformist and obedient citizens far too fearful of being labelled racist or nationalist to dare challenge the pro-EU consensus that dominates the graduate professions in which they seek employment.
She argues that “the qualification-remain relationship might be explained not by causation with intelligence but by correlation with time spent in formal educational settings. Schools have long since moved beyond the transmission of subject knowledge to encompass a host of other goals including employability skills, relationships and sex education, healthy eating and environmental awareness. At times it can seem as if the answer to every social problem is to get it covered on the school curriculum. One problem with this approach is that such issues are rarely value-neutral but often politically-contested. Teaching and assessing that children have correctly imbibed particular values closes down the scope for debate.
One value that is particularly dominant in education is global citizenship. Schools became the key site for recruiting people to the cause of global citizenship with the introduction of statutory citizenship classes in 2002. The beauty of the term ‘global citizen’ lies in its ambiguity. It can be understood as nothing more than simply having a ‘global outlook’ or it can go further and pose national citizenship as associated with ignorance and intolerance. Voting to leave the EU has become firmly established as a vote in support of national interest. For the global citizen, publicly backing remain becomes a demonstration of your loathing of nationalism, your cosmopolitanism and tolerance. Of course, a belief in the importance of national sovereignty does not preclude a person from also having a global outlook. But the fear of being associated with nationalism overrides this common sense.
In Supporting Brexit, Labour Rediscovered Its Radical Tory Socialist Tradition by Richard Johnson
In the spasms of defeat following the EU referendum, some self-identified left-of-centre Remain commentators suggested that Brexit was a species of insanity. In the New European, Alastair Campbell described the vote to Leave as an act ‘of national madness’. The Green leader Caroline Lucas described Brexit as a ‘tragic farce’. Polly Toynbee puzzled in the Guardian last month how Brexit could consist of anything ‘beyond rejecting foreigners’….”
Richard Johnson writes: “A core element of British socialism has been a belief in the nation-state, which set it apart from liberalism. In the 2017 general election, Labour embraced Brexit in its manifesto, which stated in plain language: ‘Labour accepts the referendum result’.
He concludes: “Rather than abandon the working class to the Conservatives or patronise them as ill-informed, Labour in the 2017 general election proposed to restore national, democratic control to major areas of the economy. It showed that Labour can be internationalist while not accepting unfettered globalisation. It showed the potential for international co-operation without ceding democratic institutions. It showed support for immigration without giving up the nation-state’s ability to regulate it. In this way, perhaps unwittingly, Labour revived its spirit of ‘Tory socialism’. It would be a grave mistake to turn away from it now.”
Reflections on the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum by Ian Moody
Ian Moody examines how the People’s Vote campaign engages in misleading semantics to appear to be on the side of the ‘people’. He writes: “People’s Vote, a campaign aiming to unite all anti-Brexit groups, was launched on 15 April, 2018. It is calling for a second referendum on the final result of the Brexit negotiations between the UK and Europe, but fearing the potential public backlash against the idea of a second referendum, the group insists that it would be a “vote” and not a “referendum”…”
He concludes: “At the very heart of this complex debate, a searching, and difficult question needs to be addressed: should perceived concerns about the potential economic and social consequences of leaving the EU always take precedence over perceived concerns about the potential loss of sovereignty associated with remaining? Macron’s blueprint for a radical centralization of sovereignty within Europe, and an equally radical reduction of sovereignty for member nation states, makes the need to address this issue ever more urgent, particularly if People’s Vote managed to persuade parliament to call a second referendum.”
We have also been busy on Twitter https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the National News.
We liked and RT this one by Alan Sked, emeritus professor of international history at LSE (and founder of UKIP) – @profsked: “The EU is terrified of an independent competitor off its shores, which will have lower tariffs, lower taxes, greater enterprise, global links, better fintech and the City as well as intangible assets: the rule of law, the English language, political stability and love of liberty.”
And we weren’t alone. This one tweet has had 2.5k Likes and 1.2k RTs.
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