The week began with another tedious march on London by less than 17 million people. The blasé attitude with which a hard core of Remainers continues to treat the results of the 2016 referendum continues to shock. As Guardian Economics Editor Larry Elliott puts it in the first in a new series of BfB podcasts, “We had a People’s Vote, a second referendum would be an Elites’ Vote.” A Remain victory in referendum 2.0 would leave millions of people feeling betrayed and disenfranchised. It is also highly unlikely that the EU would take Britain back on anything other than worse terms. Can anyone really believe this is a good idea?
We all await the announcement of the Budget on Monday, with Theresa May having postponed plans to announce a Brexit compromise to her cabinet until after Philip Hammond has said his piece. In the absence of developments on the core issues, we have instead had to endure some particularly silly non-stories, including Vince Cable’s (since debunked) concerns that Brexit will affect the quality of professional dancer on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, a move dubbed “Project Fear with tassels”.
Dominic Raab has reiterated the need to prepare for a no-deal scenario, saying that “There certainly is a risk of no-deal, especially if the EU engage in a deliberately intransigent approach.” He particularly warned that the French may be plotting a deliberate ‘go-slow’ at Calais. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan joined those reminding the EU that no-deal would be bad for the EU too, telling Michel Barnier that “a bad Brexit deal or, even worse, no deal whatsoever is bad for London, is bad for our country but is also bad for the EU”. He seems not to have realised that the report that he himself commissioned on the effects of Brexit on London found that all forms of Brexit – including a no-deal – would make Londoners slightly better off.
Twenty countries have raised concerns about the proposed terms for Britain’s post-Brexit membership of the WTO. However, as a spokeswoman for the Department of International Trade pointed out, “The large majority of our trading partners do not have any objections to our proposed goods schedule. A small number have submitted their concerns and would like to discuss further. This was expected and does not impact our ability to trade independently.”
We also recommend to subscribers an article by Chloe Schendel-Wilson on BrexitCentral. Chloe gives the best explanation we have seen for the unfathomable outbreak of youthful enthusiasm for the EU on the day after the referendum. Chloe says she is not sure ‘how I got myself so hysterical… I was not even that clued up on the detailed workings of the political union’. See https://brexitcentral.com/i-devout-remainer-2016-now-enthused-opportunities-brexit/
BfB takeover of Letters pages of The Times and Financial Times
It’s been a busy week for BfB contributors writing to newspapers. Most notably, Tuesday saw a BfB lead letter double-whammy. Our lead letter in The Times, signed by 33 BfB contributors, urged the Cabinet to take control of policy and prevent a drift towards a disastrous deal. Dr Graham Gudgin’s letter on the Irish border was printed as lead letter in the Financial Times.
On Monday, Professor Robert Tombs also contacted The Times, comparing the Remain leaders to Charles James Fox, who cosied up to Napoleon after the French Revolution.
Meanwhile, BfB contributors Sir Richard Dearlove and Professor Gwythian Prins wrote two letter to The Times, criticising civil servants for subverting the democratic decision taken in June 2016.
The full text of all the aforementioned letters can be found on the news pages of our website: https://briefingsforbritain.co.uk/letters-in-the-times-and-financial-times-the-irish-border-second-referendum-and-security
Dr Graham Gudgin at the Commons International Trade Committee
BfB co-editor Dr Graham Gudgin told the Commons International Trade Committee that fears of long hold-ups at Calais are overdone. The government of the Pas de Calais region has made representations to the French Government not to harm trade through Calais. Furthermore, WTO rules prevent the use of customs restrictions for reasons of trade advantage. Gudgin added that technology was available to render the Irish land border invisible – but it was now unlikely to be used.
You can watch Dr Gudgin give evidence here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/d2102bbf-eb12-4b0b-9e01-9870c35e231b?in=11:26:25&out=11:56:33
On the website this week
New Podcast Series: Economist Larry Elliott on predictions of food and medicine shortages
We are delighted to announce the return of the BfB podcast for a second series. Economist Larry Elliott, economics editor at the Guardian, tells BfB why predictions of food and medicine shortages if the UK opts for a no-deal Brexit are part of Project Fear 2.0. He discusses the negotiating process, the chance of no-deal and the elite basis of the movement for a second referendum.
We thank all subscribers who donate to BfB to make these podcasts possible.
“I somewhat doubt that we are going to find ourselves short of food and medicines and the idea that Britain is going to be cut off in the way it was in 1940 and the rest of the continent seems to me to be pretty far-fetched.”
Who are the Populists? By Robert Tombs
Cambridge historian, Professor Robert Tombs argues that the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ campaign is a shameless example of populism. It may even be the most frivolous and irresponsible political campaign seen in this country for more than a hundred years.
“‘Don’t all those young (and not-so-young) marchers know what the EU has done to young people’s lives and prospects across southern Europe? Or is it just that they don’t care?”
Academia and a Second Referendum. By Sophie Jones
Graduate student Sophie Jones discusses the recent vote by the Universities and College Union to endorse the campaign for a second referendum. She links this anti-democratic campaign to historical examples in which the academic profession proved out of touch with the population at large. She begs fellow academics to think carefully before endorsing a campaign which would leave so many feeling betrayed, entrenching bitter political divisions for a generation.
“The stances taken by academics have a symbolic power. It is worrying that so many of us are willing to use that power to endorse an elitist silencing of a popular vote.”
The Quiet Death of Corbyn’s “A Customs Union”
This contribution examines the significance of recent comments by the EU Budget Commissioner. It has been made clear that the EU will not negotiate a customs union with the UK. The UK would be part of the EU’s Customs Union, paying its tariffs to the EU budget, with the EU in full control of UK trade policy. Corbyn and Starmer’s claims that they would negotiate an alternative customs union thus offer little new.
“Gunther Oettinger, the EU’s Budget Commissioner, confirmed that there would be no Customs Union with the United Kingdom other than the Customs Union.”
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome.
We are also on Twitter at https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion continues on Facebook too, with Robert Tombs’s piece on the populism of the people’s vote movement proving particularly popular. As Hugh Willoughby summarised, ‘Wowsers. Clever chap.’
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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