Category: European-Union

Brexit-Watch: Saturday 15 August 2020

Beware the siren song of Brussels on Defence and Security issues. Like that of the original Sirens of Greek mythology, it is designed to lure us into a trap.  

Note: Updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 13 August 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length piece in response, nevertheless warrant a few paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines. 

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Boxing Clever with the Withdrawal AgreementBriefings for Britain

Last week’s minor furore over the demand made by some Tory MPs for the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to be re-negotiated produced a response which concentrated overwhelmingly on the political fall-out.

The predictably indignant among the ranks of the Continuity-Remainers and Aspiring-Rejoiners chuntered censoriously about the abrogation of an international treaty.  Others noted acidulously that some of those Tory MPs had themselves voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, a criticism which at least had the merit of being valid.  Few bothered to consider whether the aims behind the demand might be achieved without a formal re-negotiation.

However, there’s more than one way to bake a cake, and regular Briefings for Britain contributor “Caroline Bell” has come up with a different method. Instead of provoking what she accurately describes as the ‘Remainer Undead’ into a fresh bout of parliamentary warfare and judicial lawfare, she shows how a combination of smart domestic legislation, leveraging the ambiguities so beloved of EU agreement-drafters, and adopting a strictly third-country approach in all our dealings with the EU, could achieve the same desired result. 

 

Our sovereignty on defence matters will mean nothing if we are drawn in by EU’s siren songDaily Telegraph (£)              

For those inside the UK Government machine, whether politicians in Westminster or officials in Whitehall, who are determined surreptitiously to keep post-Brexit UK within the EU’s ambit as much possible, the inept handling of both the Covid-19 crisis and the surge in cross-Channel illegal immigration provide a useful smokescreen.

The campaign group Veterans for Britain has long been at the forefront of publicising, not only how the EU’s desire to create a military capability independent of (or as a potential rival to?) NATO remains undimmed, but also how elements within the Ministry of Defence, notwithstanding unconvincing ineffectual protests to the contrary by Defence Secretary (and Remainer) Ben Wallace, continue to beaver away below the radar to make it happen.

The warning from Major-General Thompson is thus timely. He shows how accepting the superficially tempting offer of EU participation in the funding of UK Defence projects invariably comes at the heavy price of inextricable entanglement in an interlocking web of ‘in one automatically means in all’ commitments, which have pan-European political integration, not military or defence effectiveness, as their overriding purpose.

 

Italy and France confirm Euroscepticism is a growing threat to EU’s existence BrexitWatch.org

Making Brexit as difficult as possible for Britain must seem almost literally an article of faith to the Europhile member-state leader or Brussels Eurocrat who sees it, not as a friendly country merely opting democratically for a different relationship, but as an irredeemable heretic deserving of punishment for resiling from the supranationalist religion.

Such uncompromising dogma, however, can be counter-productive.  The more harshly the British apostate is treated, the more likely it is that other member-states may start to question whether their best interests are served by remaining part of such a doctrinaire, illiberal and vengeful institution.

Recent polling data reveals signs of this starting to happen, especially in Italy – which perhaps isn’t surprising, given the suffering its population and economy have had to endure under successive Pro-Consuls appointed by the Brussels Imperium over the heads of the leader which Italian voters chose – but also in France, which is more surprising, despite the widespread disillusion with ostentatiously pro-European Macron.

Notwithstanding the continued, albeit softening, reluctance to contemplate leaving the EU or the Euro, the poll finding that over 40 per cent of both French and Italian people believe Britain will actually prosper by leaving the bloc is a potential challenge to their leaders’ ongoing Europhilia.  It could explain why Macron is being so uncooperative and intransigent about curbing the illegal cross-Channel migrant-smuggling.

 

Farage predicts that what Brexit will look like on 1 January 2021 will anger Leave voters – Daily Express

Following the warning to MPs that Britain should not realistically expect to achieve more than 60 per cent of its negotiating objectives in the talks of our future trading relationship with the EU, Farage’s prediction cannot be easily dismissed.

In previous articles in this Brexit-Watch series, I have expressed reservations at Boris Johnson’s stated intention to get more personally involved in the Brexit trade talks, not only because of his notorious lack of attention to detail and justified fears about his desire for a deal at all costs, but also because of his erratic and diminished performance since recovering from his bout of Covid-19.

So the news a few days ago, that David Frost would stay on as Brexit negotiator, in addition to his new role as National Security Adviser, if a satisfactory deal is not agreed by September, was, on the face of it, reassuring. Except that it was Frost who had delivered that ‘no more than 60 per cent of negotiating objectives’ warning to MPs.

Is it possible that Macron is ramping up his intransigence on curbing cross-Channel migrant-smuggling, knowing the extent of public anger that the Johnson Government’s apparent inability or unwillingness to prevent it is creating in Britain, to incentivise the UK into making concessions on fishing rights and continuing EU financial obligations, in return for more French maritime ‘co-operation’?  If so, and the over-eager Johnson falls for it, then Farage may well turn out to have been correct.

Update: on Friday 14 August, the Financial Times hinted strongly that such a stratagem might indeed be on the cards.  This was so predictable.  It isn’t especially hard to see what Johnson’s tactics might be here.

Via deliberate inaction, let the anger about the failure even to reduce, never mind stop, the illegal cross-Channel immigration traffic build up to such a pitch that making concessions on continuing French or EU fishing access to UK territorial waters will seem an acceptable price to pay in return for a French promise to curb the boats.  Which of course would not be kept.

They take us for fools.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Sunday 26 July 2020

Avoiding funding the EU’s ransom payment to Turkey for its blackmail over ‘refugees’, and avoiding the blame for any breakdown in Brexit talks.

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 25 July 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length piece in response, nevertheless warrant a few paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

UK sets October deadline for post-Brexit trade deal as Michel Barnier warns agreement ‘unlikely’ Daily Telegraph

Setting a deadline for a deal and then extending it is seldom a good negotiating tactic.  It signals to the other party that you’re reluctant to walk away and might well be more desperate for a deal than you indicated, and thus encourage them to harden their stance.  Even at the start of this week, the virtual opposite was being trailed, and was being received favourably.

The UK’s negotiators have repeatedly, and rightly, made the point that, until Brussels, epitomised by Barnier, accepts that Britain will agree to nothing which is incompatible with its unshakeable determination to be a fully sovereign and independent country, economically and politically, then a deal will simply not be possible.

That this needs to be emphasised again and again is shown clearly by Barnier’s intransigent labelling as ‘unacceptable’ the denial of access to UK territorial waters to EU fishing vessels unless by arrangement, and his peremptory demand that any agreement must present ‘no risk’ to the EU fishing industry

These are the remarks, not of a realistic and practical negotiator, but of a blinkered ideological supranationalist. As long-time Brexiteer Sir John Redwood recently put it to talkRADIO: the EU had got used to the UK buckling at every point where the EU objected, and are finding it difficult to adjust to the idea that they can’t boss us around any more.

So while it was somewhat disturbing to see the report of the UK being prepared to offer emergency talks next week if discussions broke down without a deal by his weekend, it was also mildly reassuring to see that the prime purpose of this appeared to be, not to make any further concessions, but to ensure that the blame for any irretrievable breakdown, and thus the ending of Transition without a deal, would be laid squarely at the feet of the EU.    

Frost’s recent statement on the latest semi-extension in the headline-linked article goes a long way towards confirming that the principles intrinsic to the UK’s future as an economically and politically independent country need to be honoured in full in any agreement reached, and that the EU’s proposals so far do not do so.

That is good, but it’s also the bare minimum.  The only reason to pursue this course should be to show beyond doubt that any breakdown of talks leading to a WTO-based Brexit is the fault of the EU’s intransigence, and not the UK’s.  In no way, especially, should it be used as a means of making last-minute damaging concessions just because Johnson wobbles and loses his nerve.

 

UK taxpayer will pay millions after EU increases funding for Turkey Facts4EU

Throughout the years Britain was a full member of the EU, we got used to the occasional revelation of how we were, via various accounting or budgetary tricks,  paying over to Brussels either more cash than the Government wished the voters to know about, or funding schemes and causes which the electorate would undoubtedly have objected to, had they known.  One might have presumed, though, that after we had formally left the bloc and were merely in the Transition phase, such sleight-of-hand might have ceased.

Apparently not.  Because the UK appears to be on the hook for a contribution to the EU’s latest example of paying the Danegeld in the futile hope of getting rid of the Dane, in the shape of a €485 million top-up to the €6 billion already committed to Turkey as bribery for its holding alleged ‘refugees in Turkey instead of allowing them to enter the EU via Greece.

As Facts4EU points out, this liability arises primarily out of the free movement allowed between most EU member-states under the Schengen Agreement, once access to ‘borderless Europe’ has been gained.  But not only have many of those member-states arbitrarily suspended their adherence to Schengen by closing their national borders during the Covid19 crisis; the UK has never been a part of Schengen at all.  So why are we continuing to fund this in effect blackmail at all?  And why does the fact of it appear to be so assiduously obscured?

 

Possibilities for Early Harvest Measures in a UK-US Free Trade Agreement – Global Vision

Although they have somewhat slipped below the radar in comparison to those with the EU, the bilateral UK-US negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal have continued.  As the end of Transition draws closer, and with it the chances of no agreement with the EU being concluded, then the more urgent it becomes to prevent the non-EU UK from potentially being adversely affected by US retaliatory tariffs against the EU for breaches of WTO rules.

Notwithstanding the low likelihood of a comprehensive UK-US FTA being concluded before the November US elections, there does appear to be significant scope for a preliminary agreement, or at least memorandum of understanding, which will exempt the UK from being caught up in a US-EU tariff war harming its aviation-related advanced manufacturing industry and its brand-unique exports like Scotch whisky.

In contrast to continuing to hold out an olive branch to an intractable Brussels by setting a new October deadline, our trade negotiation expertise should be shifted to look westwards across the Atlantic towards our allies, not south-eastwards across the Dover Strait towards our adversaries.

    

This EU summit fiasco is the final proof that we need a clean-break Brexit – Daily Telegraph (£)

Amid all the spin and self-congratulation about the EU’s agreement on its €750 billion’ recovery fund’ emerging from Brussels and its media cheerleaders in the early hours of last Monday morning, too few were focusing on its intrinsic further power-grab away from nation-states and by inference, from their electorates.

For the first time, the EU has acquired the power, via its unelected Commission, to tax member-states’ citizens directly, over the heads of their elected governments. For the first time, it can borrow against the EU budget to raise substantial funds on capital markets and also direct how they are allocated.

In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard rightly describes it asbordering on totalitarian in constitutional terms, mostly unchecked by meaningful parliamentary oversight.  In contrast, the money numbers, once the detail is unpicked, are so relatively small as to render it of limited effectiveness. The devil lies in the detail of who has control of it.

As Liam Halligan shows in the headline-linked article, were it still a member of the EU, or even in extended Transition, the UK as a major net contributor would be liable to pay billions of UK taxpayers’ money into this bottomless pit, on top of the £300 billion we’re already having to borrow to ameliorate the costs of the Johnson Government’s disastrously self-induced Covid19 recession.

We’re getting out just in time, which is why offering an extended October talks deadline for anything other than purely cosmetic purposes would be so potentially dangerous.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 17 July 2020

Beware the resistance of the Whitehall Continuity-Remainer Blob  

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 16 July 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

It’s time to agree to withdraw from the Withdrawal Agreement Centre for Brexit Policy

The relief and praise in equal measure which greeted Boris Johnson’s ‘renegotiation’ of the seemingly renegotiation-immune EU Withdrawal Agreement were justified – but only partly.  Despite the modification he achieved, its numerous flaws which his predecessor Theresa May signed up to out of either dullard ignorance or Remainer perversity persist.

Notwithstanding the current negotiations being conducted on our future trading relationship with the EU, provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to, inter alia, the continued applicability of EU law, customs/border procedures, and Defence/Intelligence/Security issues, will, unless changed, effectively ensure the EU will continue pulling strings in Britain for years to come.

The Centre for Brexit Policy’s comprehensive report, on how various areas will continue to be adversely affected by Brussels’ malign influence, support its conclusion that the Withdrawal Agreement as currently structured cannot be allowed to stand, and must be replaced.

Interestingly, this proposal is being supported by one or two of the former Brexit Party MEPs who defected back to the ‘Conservative’ Party before the last election because they disagreed with the former’s position that the Withdrawal Agreement was fundamentally deficient and needed wholesale renegotiation, not modification. Depressingly, though, it’s difficult if not impossible to imagine Johnson’s inept and struggling government conjuring up the political courage even to address this, let alone do anything about it.

 

Michel Barnier tells Mark Francois that Brexit is pointlessDaily Telegraph (£) 

‘Resistance is futile’ seems to be the subtext of Barnier’s message.  Now, to be fair, Tory Brexiteer MP Francois is a bit of a buffoon – although one who attracts far more odium from his detractors than does the equally buffoon-ish Euro-fanatic Guy Verhofstadt – but I suspect he’s achieved the essentially mischief-making purpose of his original missive to Barnier, by provoking precisely the kind of haughty, ponderous, humourless response that so typifies the Eurocrat grandee.

Barnier has once again unwittingly revealed firstly, his total inability to understand how any country could possibly not want to remain part of the institutionally anti-democratic pan-European supranational project for which he evinces a near-sacerdotal reverence, and secondly, the EU’s continuing negotiating intransigence that sees him still insisting, even at this stage, that the UK must abide by the cherished ‘level playing field’ on EU (over)-regulation. It’s a bit rich of him to be accusing the UK of a ‘lack of respect’.

He shows why continuing negotiation is in effect a dialogue of the deaf, and why we would be better off cutting our losses, announcing that no further purpose is served by persisting in the charade, and devoting all our resources to preparing for the end of Transition without an agreement in place.

 

UK faces extra €2 billion EU pensions bill – Euractiv

To which demand the first response should surely be the question: why?

When the UK agreed to pay roughly €39 billion in a combination of severance and contribution to future liabilities under the original Withdrawal Agreement, included in that amount was approximately €9.75 billion for future EU staff pension liabilities. However, the EU’s estimate of those specific liabilities has suddenly jumped by about 22 per cent in one year, as a result of which we are being asked to stump up an extra €2 billion.  If that can happen to one element of our severance settlement, it raises the question of whether it could also happen to others, and whether a one-off payment somehow has the potential to morph into a never-ending commitment.

Given that the Withdrawal Agreement, for all its faults, was signed, why are we liable at all, when we have already legally left? And why was the amount not capped in the negotiations at the original €9.75 billion, to prevent us from being gouged for further increases? We should have no hesitation in either refusing, or securing a valuable concession elsewhere as the price of agreeing.

 

Brexiteers be alert – Whitehall is still trying to scupper a real Brexit – Briefings for Britain

Accustomed as we should be by now to the machinations of the irredeemably Europhile Westminster and Whitehall Remainer Blob which, four years on from the 2016 EU Referendum, continues to try and thwart or at least dilute its outcome, the Blob’s capacity to open a new front in its ongoing war against democracy should never be underestimated.

If you can’t stop it, review it” comes straight out Sir Humphrey’s (or perhaps Sir Mark’s before his welcome but overdue departure) playbook.  With the Department of Trade and Industry fully engaged in actually negotiating new, non-EU, trade-deals, the timing of the announcement of a review into the DTI’s modelling of trade deals looks anything but coincidence.  The suspicion of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand is heightened by the appointment, as chairman of the review, of an economist described as ‘close to very vocal Remainers‘.

The membership of the new agricultural commission to advise on food standards and trade policy looks similarly compromised, being stuffed full of the same people who, pre-Referendum, were prominent in scaremongering about produce standards and food imports in the event of leaving the EU.

Additionally, talk has emerged of the DTI joining the Department for International Development (aka Overseas Aid) in being merged into the Foreign Office, long regarded, and with reason, as the epicentre of Whitehall’s Remainer Resistance,  and with a dismal record of achievement when it was responsible for trade prior to the formation of the DTI.  How Sir Humphrey would approve!

Johnson, or at least Cummings, should be all over this like a rash, killing it stone dead. That the former isn’t, given the profound disappointment he is turning out to be as PM, isn’t surprising.  That the latter isn’t is worrying.  Is another Chequers-type BRINO in the making?

 

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Brexit-Watch: Monday 29 June 2020

Brussels still hankers after British fish

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 27 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Frost outlines the areas he won’t sacrifice as he faces BarnierDaily Express

It’s reassuring that our chief Brexit negotiator David Frost is again insisting that, on three specific policy areas which can be grouped under the generic heading of sovereignty – the law, the courts, and fishing – there can and will be no concessions to Brussels.  As always, however, the devil is in the details.

In the context of the article, ‘the law’ means the ‘level playing field’ issue under which Brussels, for its own self-serving protectionist reasons, wants Britain to guarantee to maintain a business-regulatory regime equivalent to the EU’s.  Needless to say, the UK’s Continuity-Remainer big-business lobby has latched on to this and is pushing it, although thankfully with apparently limited success.

An independent legal regime and judicial system is a key manifestation of sovereignty.  Yet the EU has continued to try and bind the post-Brexit UK as closely as possible within the pan-EU corpus juris and thus keep domestic business-regulation germane to our EU exports under the jurisdiction of the integration-biased European Court of Justice.  Again, Frost’s repeated refusal to give ground on this is welcome.

The fishing issue is dealt with below, but the potential fly in the ointment in all this is Johnson’s increasing personal participation in the talks. His making disadvantageous concessions just for the sake of a deal, either out of his habitual distaste for fine detail or a desire to appease opponents of No-Deal purely for domestic political reasons, can’t be ruled out.  Hopefully, though, even he realises his stock has fallen so low because of his Government’s mis-handling of the COVID19 outbreak that he can’t afford to be seen to botch Brexit by fudge as well.

 

Britain still top dog in Europe for financial services investment – City A.M.

Well, that wasn’t in the anti-Brexit fanatics’ Project Fear script, was it?  Britain remaining the European country most attractive for foreign direct investment (FDI), suffering the least decline in inward FDI of all European countries in 2019, and beating the rest of Europe as the most attractive destination for financial services FDI post-COVID19 by a margin of 40% to a mere 8%. 

It isn’t hard to see why. Firstly, there’s the EU’s inherent ideological commitment to imposing regulatory harmonisation rather than accepting regulatory equivalence, and the fact that London is already pre-eminent in financial services, which tends to create a clustering effect.  Secondly, as I’ve previously pointed out, there’s the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax, already tried by Sweden but abandoned because of its innate flaws, distortions and disincentives. Why would any financial services business pick Europe over London?  

 

Recovery: we must embrace this opportunity for systemic trade renewalGlobal Vision

Major exporter Alastair MacMillan is undoubtedly in saying that the urgent need for recovery from the self-inflicted damage caused by the Johnson Government’s panicked shutdown of the economy requires trading flexibility and innovation, not an extension of the Brexit transition period.

In fact, extending the transition period would not merely be unproductive but counter-productive. As our own economy struggles to recover, we would continue to be liable, both for current EU contributions and any additional ones the EU demanded as part of its own COVID19 recovery package, without any input into determining either their scale or qualification criteria.

That the EU much dislikes Britain now negotiating its own trade deals as an independent country, and is institutionally incapable of thinking innovatively on matters such as tariff definitions, is glaringly evident. We should be actively resisting any such obstructionism, and pushing for maximum flexibility at every stage.

 

The EU is attempting to capsize post-Brexit fishingGet Britain Out

There appears to be an attempt by Brussels to effectively retain control over access to UK territorial waters, under the spurious guise of conservation of a species whose rising numbers no longer merit it to anything like its previous extent.  Considering the degree to which the EU’s fishing industry is dependent on such access, this looks like a blatant subterfuge, and should be dismissed out of hand.

The scale of leverage Britain enjoys over that dependence is such that it’s being suggested it should be partly traded away in return for major EU concessions on ‘rules of origin’ trade rules. Given that the EU has a history of either accepting concessions while offering non-equivalent ones in return, or of demanding even more, that too should be approached warily.  Time and time again Brussels has shown that it is neither honest broker nor reliable interlocutor.

Rightly or wrongly, fishing and the sovereignty of its national territorial waters are symbolic issues, by which Johnson will be judged whether he has either succeeded in extricating Britain from the authoritarian, rapacious maw of the EU or capitulated to it, however disingenuously the surrender would be spun.  We would be unwise to bet against the latter outcome.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 19 June 2020

Barmier from Barnier with a jibe at London

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 17 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

London should not be a European financial hub after Brexit, says Michel BarnierTelegraph (£)

This smacks more of either petulant obstructionism or even desperation from Barnier, rather than a credible threat.  However, it’s rather disturbing to see some UK commentators appearing to fall for it, by suggesting we should sacrifice both what’s left of our EU-decimated fishing industry and autonomy over our sovereign territorial waters in return for financial services.

I believe that this is both a false dichotomy, and an empty threat.  Compare the amount of EU-related financial business going through London with that going through, say, Frankfurt, which is the only even possible alternative. There’s no comparison.  And in any event, the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax would act as a massive disincentive for business to move from London to Frankfurt.

On this, Bottler Boris needs to hold his nerve and hold the line. 

 

Any more Brexit delays would be an affront to democracyDaily Express

In focusing on the nuts and bolts details of the negotiation process, it’s easy to overlook the underlying electoral politics.  Arguably, they mattered less while the Tories were continuing to post polling-leads in double digits, despite misgivings about their mishandling of the COVID19 crisis.  Now, however, with Keir Starmer providing more effective opposition to a visibly struggling Johnson, and with widespread reservations over the Tories’ timidity over exiting lockdown, they start to matter more.

Against this background, the Centre for Brexit Policy has released its new paper entitled Do Not Delay Brexit – The View from the Red Wallwhich backs up its Chairman Owen Paterson’s Express article by showing the extent to which the Tories’ December 2019 election landslide was largely due to ex-Labour voters in the Midlands and the North trusting the Conservatives to deliver a genuine Brexit.

The significance of this, of course, is that, with the opinion polls now tighter, and the proponents of an extension to the Brexit transition period trying to leverage the Coronavirus outbreak as justification for it, a failure to complete the implementation of Brexit on time will rebound adversely on the Tories electorally.  They would do well not to rely on the next election being 4½ years away and think they can take their recently acquired new electorate for granted.   

 

The Economic Case Against Extending the Brexit Transition –  Briefings for Britain

The case against extending the Brexit transition period isn’t only political.  As economist Julian Jessop points out, any theoretical adverse impact from the completion of Brexit on time, even based on exiting on WTO terms if a Free Trade Agreement cannot be reached, is dwarfed by the economic impact of COVID19 and the tremendous costs Johnson’s government has incurred in trying to mitigate it.

As Jessop also points out, the global economic downturn from COVID19 has also slashed borrowing costs still further, to the point where some gilts yields are negative.  This means that any additional Government borrowing as a result of completing Brexit on time may actually have been made cheaper by the Coronavirus crisis, apart from becoming relatively less significant when set against the extent of COVID19 borrowing as a whole.  There is simply no convincing case for deferring completion of Brexit on economic grounds.

 

Free trade is the key to Britain’s success. We can’t let our farmers and fishermen hold us backThe Times (£) 

The fact that this article is far more about farming than it is about fishing, which gets a mention only in regard to a possible trade-off against financial services, made me wonder if the Times‘ sub-editors took a small liberty with the headline to garner more clicks, fishing being such a touchstone issue.

Whether the case or not, the premise for that trade-off is questionable; firstly because the EU’s ability to hold the UK and City of London to ransom over financial services is limited, as I explain in the first link commented on in this article, and secondly because Brussels is now reported to be backing down on access rights to British waters anyway.

The validity of an argument linking farming with fishing, as though they were but two sides of the same coin, looks suspect in any event. Even taking into account the self-sufficiency case for, and the anti-protectionism case against, giving farming and agriculture special treatment, the two aren’t the same.  Fishing isn’t just a trade issue; given that it involves the ‘ownership’ of national territorial waters, it’s far more a sovereignty issue that it is merely one of trade and commerce, and if Johnson has succeeded in forcing Brussels to accept that it is ‘off the table’, that can only be a good thing.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 12 June 2020

The EU has reason to fear the implications of Britain’s historic Hong Kong connections in negotiations over future UK-EU trade relations   

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 05 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

EU: Trade with China Trumps Freedom for Hong KongGatestone Institute

It should by now be clear that, having either deliberately released the COVID19 virus or negligently allowed to it escape (the jury is still out on that one, so take your pick), China intends to take advantage of the rest of the world being both distracted by it and intimidated by its dependency on China for PPE, to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s own agenda.

So far, the UK has reacted honourably to the Chinese threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms by suggesting the grant of a 12-month UK visa, as a ‘pathway to citizenship’, for the roughly 3 million Hong Kong residents who qualify for British National (Overseas) status.  The EU, on the other hand, shows no inclination to do anything which might jeopardise its trade links with China.

The UK must resist any moves by the EU in Brexit negotiations to capitalise on a potential future reduction in UK-China trade by being even more intransigent on future UK-EU trade relations.  The EU has more to lose.  Not only would the arrival in Britain of up to 3 million from one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial economies on Earth be a welcome boost to Britain’s post-COVID19 recovery; the prospect of Hong Kong-style low tax, free market, small-state attitudes growing and thriving only 22 miles off the declining, sclerotic EU mainland would put the fear of God into it. 

 

History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settledGlobal Vision

This Brexit-Watch series has mentioned on several previous occasions how British commercial fishing has a symbolic, almost talismanic, political status as a proxy for Britain’s surrender of economic and territorial sovereignty since joining the then EEC in 1973, even if that status is out of proportion to the industry’s economic significance.

So the article author Hjörtur Guðmundsson is right to warn that the UK must maintain its stance of refusing to lump fishing in with all other aspects of a UK-EU trade deal – assuming one can be reached at all, which looks increasingly doubtful, though not necessarily harmful – and instead continue to insist that it be treated separately.  UK chief negotiator David Frost has so far also been adamant that EU intransigence on access to UK fishing waters will heighten the risk of the UK walking away from a trade deal, and this pressure too should be maintained.  Playing hardball may be paying off.

The greatest danger here, paradoxically, may arise from Johnson’s reported intention to involve himself more closely in the minutiae of negotiation.  Never a details man at the best of times, the risk that, amid some typically Boris bluff’n’bluster, a disadvantageous trade-off or concession might be made purely to achieve a deal for political purposes but whose baleful effects could reverberate, couldn’t be discounted.  In that case, Brexit would indeed be judged on how the fisheries issue was settled, and Johnson would be in the dock. 

 

No-deal Brexit holds fewer fears for a Covid-ravaged economy – Financial Times (£)

Even the irreconcilably Continuity-Remainer FT tacitly, albeit reluctantly, acknowledges what many have been saying ever since COVID19 first appeared on the horizon.  Set against the costs to the UK economy of the pandemic, or more accurately, the costs of the Government –

  1. putting the economy into the deep freeze;
  2. placing millions on the State payroll;
  3. borrowing upwards of £300 billion; and
  4. restricting civil liberties to an extent unprecedented even in wartime,

all of which it was panicked into taking in response, the costs in comparison of a No-Deal Brexit pale into insignificance.

Not only would the likely scale of the inevitable-in-any-event decline in economic output ameliorate any adverse economic consequences of reverting to WTO terms on a No-Deal final exit, but COVID19-induced unemployment might even be lessened by the recruitment of personnel needed to operate new border controls.

The FT of course quotes the usual anti-Brexit Jeremiahs in abundance, but for it to admit it may not be all doom and gloom is quite something. It’s an ill wind. . . .

 

Free trade with America will see our farmers prosper Centre for Brexit Policy

Considering how the iniquities of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the importance of the UK re-acquiring the ability as an independent sovereign nation to conclude trade deals, were among the significant issues aired during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, it’s sometimes surprising how they appear to have receded in the public mind since then.

Yet, as this article by former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson makes clear, the calls to maintain EU-amenable levels of trade protectionism, particularly as regards agricultural products, have not gone away, merely re-surfaced under ‘animal hygiene’ or ‘animal welfare’ labels.

To end being told by countries, into whose legislatures we have no democratic input, what regulations we must apply domestically is one of the reasons we voted to leave the EU.  Paterson is undoubtedly correct to say that free trade, policed by reputable global organisations overseeing regulatory equivalence rather than imposing regulatory harmonisation, offers us a better chance of benefiting from our decision while improving animal welfare than does the alternative of continued trade-protectionism.

 

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If Not Now, Then When?

How many more instances of the out-of-control BBC’s blatant bias does the Johnson Government need to make it finally resolve to tackle it?

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 02 June 2020   

In an excellent article on 21 May at The Conservative Woman, News-Watch’s David Keighley forensically demolished, point by point, the bias-driven inaccuracies and assumptions in the BBC’s now-infamous 27 April edition of Panorama.  He correctly located the programme firmly within the Coronavirus iteration of Project Fear which the Corporation had been running, and still was – or even still is. 

Anyone who watched it will remember how every failure by the NHS, and even by its semi-autonomous linked agencies, in dealing with the COVID19 pandemic was invariably deemed to be exclusively the fault of the Government – even where it had no direct control or even involvement – in what was in effect a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party

Which makes the Government’s over-timid response, understandably touched on only briefly in David Keighley’s article, all the more deserving of criticism.  It could manage little, if anything, more than a half-hearted squeak of protest delivered by Culture and Media Secretary Oliver Dowden, whom I’ve previously criticised as an ineffectual, paleo-Cameroon careerist, and who increasingly comes across as a twerp to rival even his (politically) late and unlamented namesake Oliver Letwin.

MoS headline Sun 03-May-2020 Dowden-BBC

In the light of subsequent events, it’s worth re-visiting and analysing Dowden’s weak, anodyne and platitudinous admonition to the BBC’s Director-General Tony Hall in more detail.

First, there’s the excessive “Dear Tony” familiarity; at the risk of being stuffy, I’d suggest this is singularly inappropriate in the current circumstances, and does nothing to dispel the impression of what ought to be a formal arm’s-length relationship in the public interest being conducted more like a friendly exchange between fellow-members of the same like-minded elite.

Dowden urges Hall to ‘uphold the highest standards in relation to integrity and impartiality‘.  At the risk, this time, of being pedantic, the use of ‘uphold‘’ here implies that those ‘highest standards of integrity and impartiality‘ are in fact the norm from which the Panorama programme was merely an isolated, uncharacteristic, aberration.  That might come as a surprise to the 69 per cent of respondents to the late December 2019 Savanta-ComRes poll who said they trusted the BBC less even than ITV News on impartiality and accuracy.

Dowden concludes by referring to the need to maintain ‘public confidence‘ in ‘the BBC’s long-standing reputation for fair and balanced reporting‘.  That, in turn, might come as a surprise to the 75 per cent of respondents to the (also late-December) Public First poll supporting abolition of the ‘licence fee’ outright, and the 60 per cent favouring the decriminalisation of non-payment.

As for the Mail‘s headline, Dowden’s pleadings represented, not so much a ‘blast’ as a half-hearted pretence at a gentle rap over the knuckles.  They virtually invited a contemptuous response from the BBC.  It has not been long in coming.

The Corporation remains unapologetic about its practice, especially noticeable in that edition of Panorama but by no means restricted to it, of habitually presenting as ‘impartial’ ‘experts’ people who turn out on closer investigation to be fiercely partisan, hard-Left, committed anti-conservatism activists with a distinct political agenda. Even Sky News has been shamed into improving itself a little on this score; but not the BBC. 

It participated enthusiastically in, almost to the extent of heading up, the media lynch-mob in its witch-hunt against Dominic Cummings.  Acres have already been written on this, to which I don’t propose to add; except to point TCW readers to former BBC staffer Robin Aitken’s excellent Daily Telegraph article. summarising the underlying background.  Two statements, in particular, stand out, and they explain a great deal:

he is the BBC’s single most dangerous opponent, because he is one of the very few people on the Right who clearly understands that the BBC presents an obstacle to everything that conservatives believe in

and

the BBC hold Cummings and the Prime Minister responsible for Brexit, which for an organisation that led the battle to prevent the referendum result ever taking effect (and very nearly succeeded), is a very bitter charge indeed.’

Which brings us to L’Affaire Maitlis. This has also not lacked for apposite comment.  Like David Sedgwick’s at Comment Central, Charles Moore’s analysis at the Daily Telegraph could leave even the most sceptical reader in no doubt that Maitlis’ partisan monologue at the start of Tuesday 26 May’s Newsnight was a gross breach of BBC impartiality, (and so presumably must also have been a gross breach of her contract of employment?)

As Moore suggested, there was a dual purpose to Maitlis’ diatribe, which incidentally can’t be explained away as spontaneous: it was read from a teleprompter, so must have been pre-scripted, which therefore also means it must have been subject to BBC editorial control.  The first aim was simply to hector the audience, but the second, ancillary aim was to virtue-signal to Maitlis’ like-minded professional and social milieux, to reassure them that she too holds the ‘correct’ metropolitan left-‘liberal’ opinions prevalent in their circle.  

Less remarked on, though, was the hint of deception, or at least complicity in deception, by Maitlis’ colleagues and therefore, by inference, the BBC itself.  Remember, Maitlis had signed off from the Tuesday edition with the promise See you tomorrow‘; but, as speculation over the reason for her non-appearance on the following (Wednesday) evening’s edition grew, her Newsnight friend, colleague and Editor Katie Razzall tweeted thus:

But by 9.32.pm on that Wednesday evening, Razzall as Editor must surely have known what we the audience then didn’t, because it emerged publicly only on the Thursday morning: that the BBC, far from ‘suspending’ Maitlis, had in effect surrendered to her imperious demand to be given a night (in the end, two) off, because she was ‘furious’ at it for having the cheek actually to reprimand her, however gently (and inadequately), for her blatant breach of its impartiality requirement as her employer.  Razzall, therefore, looks to have taken the opportunity to appear supportive and principled, but in reality, was arguably just being disingenuous, if not two-faced.

As might have been predicted (and was probably inevitable), the ineffectiveness of the BBC’s excessively kid-gloves response was shown starkly only a few days later when Maitlis, far from being chastised, doubled-down and offered a repeat performance.       

Taking everything into account, the tweet below is hard to find fault with.

When Number Ten is reportedly ‘incandescent’ over Maitlis’ diatribes,  and 40,000 people went to the trouble of lodging a formal complaint about it with the BBC in a mere two days, it’s hard to imagine just how much more provocation Johnson’s Government actually needs before finally resolving to address the BBC question.  Yet, judging by Dowden’s limp reaction earlier in May, the answer seems to be: ‘quite a lot’.

At least on the timing of any action, a decision to keep the powder dry for the moment, looks sound.  It makes sense to keep the file labelled ‘BBC’ in the pending tray, albeit at the top, until COVID19 and Brexit are safely out of the way.  But then. . . .

Tactics, though, are all-important.  It was both misguided and inept of Dowden to restrict his remarks to the issue of lack of impartiality; the ‘bias’ allegation is by definition inherently subjective, and the Corporation has a range of strategies for deflecting and then smothering it, including enticing its critics into an endless ‘he said, but we said’ squabble, which ultimately gets nowhere.  For the Government to try and upbraid the BBC for its political bias is the non-military equivalent of fighting a battle on ground of the enemy’s choosing.

Had the hapless Dowden been more astute, and even remotely serious, he would have threatened ‘Dear Tony‘ with immediate decriminalisation of non-payment of the ‘licence-fee’, or even an urgent, unscheduled mid-period Charter Review to abolish it.  Instead, his entreaties were all smokescreen and displacement activity.

There is a much better route, and much stronger case, available based on the BBC’s iniquitous compulsory ‘licence-fee’.  It’s true that much of  the UK’s mainstream media, whether broadcast or print, is biased.  But the BBC is uniquely egregious on that score because we are forced on pain of fine or imprisonment to pay for it regardless of whether we want to consume its output or not: unlike, say, Sky News or The Times, where we can simply choose not to purchase their product, or cease subscribing to it.             

The Daily Telegraph‘s Madeleine Grant hit the nail on the head in linking the two, correctly saying that, unless the BBC rapidly both repudiates and eliminates the shamelessly partisan personal editorialising of the type epitomised by Maitlis on Newsnight, it cannot continue receiving any kind of coercive funding.  

Time, though, is running out.  On Monday 25 May, The Times reported the BBC’s proposal that the wealthy may in future be charged more for their TV licence.  This is outrageous, in the sense that no-one should be coercively charged anything for a product they don’t wish to consume, especially the deceitfully mis-labelled ‘TV-licence’ which is, in fact, a regressive poll-tax; but making ‘the wealthy’ pay more for it both reduces its regressivity and plays to class-envy, thus taking some of the sting out of the criticism of it as a concept.

The Maitlis episode as culmination of ever more flagrant BBC bias has given Johnson ample justification for pushing ahead with decriminalising non-payment of the BBC’s iniquitous ‘licence fee’, on the wholly legitimate grounds that people of whatever means should not be forced to pay for this. With trust in the media being significantly lower, rarely can the circumstances have been so propitious.

But so they were, almost as much, over the period of the General Election and then formal exit from the EU in December and January.  Despite all the anti-BBC Boris-bluster then, nothing has actually been done, the ball has been dropped, and it needs to be picked up again. Don’t hold your breath, though. The danger has to be that, once again, the faux-‘Conservatives’ will back down.

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 22 May 2020

No extensions to Brexit transition. The deadline must stay.

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 21 May 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant press articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

The country cannot afford to extend the Brexit deadlineCentre for Brexit Policy

In its full paper to which the headline piece is a summary and introduction, the CfBP shows that extending the Transition period for 2 years would cost the UK economy £380 billion.

At any time, this represents a penalty which no democratic government should impose on its people unnecessarily and in effect in defiance of the mandate given to it by the people when asked. 

But this is not ‘any time’.  We are starting to emerge, painfully and hesitantly, from a Government-imposed COVID-19 lockdown of the economy which may not even have been necessary, which has seen the State intervene in the economy to a massive degree, and which will already burden the taxpayers with the costs of servicing and repaying at least £300 billion of additional borrowing.

On both economic and democratic grounds, there is scant, if any, justification for extending Transition and thus delaying full Brexit still further, even if that means, in the light of the EU’s continuing intransigence over a future trade deal, exiting to WTO terms.

 

Shameless arch-Remainers launch shock Brexit plot and urge Barnier to actExpress

It comes no surprise that the instigators of the latest plea to Barnier and the Brussels Eurocrats, intended to delay or preferably stop Brexit using COVID-19 as a transparently disingenuous excuse, comprise the usual suspects from the arch-Remainer, anti-democratic, minority parties of the ‘Liberal’, State-Socialist and Green Left.

Davey, Blackford, Savile Roberts, Lucas comp

The plotters’ claims of ‘significant opposition to the UK Government’s refusal to consider extending the timetable’ are tenuous at best.  Recent polling shows a majority in favour of ending Transition by 31 December or even earlier, particularly in the blue-collar electorate Red Wall constituencies which deserted Labour at last December’s election. Nowhere other than London is an extension favoured.

Moreover, the supplicants’ reference to the alleged backing for an extension from the (both Remainer and Socialist) Scottish and Welsh governments is irrelevant.  As both Brexit and trade negotiations are competences reserved to the UK’s national government, and thus indisputably outside the scope of devolved matters, the regional administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff have no political equivalent of locus standi in them.  They, and their Westminster MP mouthpieces, should be ignored.

 

UK tells EU it will take ‘any measures necessary’ to protect fishing watersTelegraph (£)

This welcome, if long overdue, pledge was included in the negotiating documents released by the Government last Tuesday, 19 May.  Given the considerable political significance notwithstanding the fishing industry’s marginal economic importance, of the UK regaining ultimate control of fishing rights applying in its own territorial waters as part of any trade talks, any retreat from such a robust promise should carry dire political consequences.

What ‘any measures necessary’ means, however, is left vague; the phrase will carry weight in negotiations only if it is made clear from the outset that it excludes undesirable concessions as a trade-off in other areas which are less politically visible.

Also welcome is the news of impending tariff reductions on up to 60 per cent of global imports, holding out the possibility of both food and household appliances being cheaper to consumers under new trade arrangements.

Finally, the opportunity appears to have at last been taken to reject the EU’s persistent negotiating intransigence, in which it has shamefully been supported by the die-hard Continuity-Remainer rump in the Whitehall, Westminster and media Establishments. Frost’s letter to Barnier embedded below is the letter which should have been written and sent 3 years ago.

 

In a crisis EU centralisation accelerates; Britain must not get left with the billGlobal Vision

Former Director of Special Projects for the successful Vote Leave campaign, Dr Lee Rotherham, locates the current drive for pan-European strategies on healthcare, ‘climate-change’ and taxation in response to COVID-19, being promoted assiduously by the Merkel-Macron, Franco-German axis, firmly within the EU’s history of exploiting international crises to increase integration and accrete unaccountable centralised power to itself at the expense of sovereign democratic nation-states.

Notwithstanding the setback handed to both the EU’s latest power-grab and the ECB bond-buying programme by the German Constitutional Court, the latest drives towards integration carry the inevitable connotation of higher contributions from member-states. The UK is already exposed through its European Investment Bank liabilities, and any extension to the Transition period would involve fresh UK contributions into the next multi-annual budgetary planning system.

Another reason – as if one were even needed – for refusing any extension and exiting Transition on time.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 09 May 2020

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 07 May 2020

Choosing five recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

UK bans PPE exports to countries outside the EU, unless on humanitarian grounds – Daily Telegraph (£)

The ban is, reportedly, solely because of rule drawn up in Brussels.  So, disregarding the fact that the EU is increasingly in no position to control what its member-states do anyway, after so many of them have by-passed it in unilaterally taking anti-COVID19 action at individual nation-state level, it sheds an interesting light on Brussels’ much-trumpeted ‘European values’ that ‘humanitarian grounds’ are apparently enough to justify an exemption from its ban on PPE exports outside the EU, while Italy’s earlier requests for face marks and medical gear were met with a stony silence.

Far from being ‘left with no choice’, the UK government could, and should, be ignoring it.  After all, France and Germany ignore EU rules on state aid with impunity, so what sanctions could the EU bring to bear against a UK which did the same?  Become intransigent in trade talks?  It already is, and always has been.  Abandon those talks and end the Brexit Transition early?  Bring it on.

Inasmuch as it applies to Britain, this particular Brussels ban feels more symbolic than real. Ever since the 2016 EU Referendum, Brussels has tried to limit, if not veto outright, Britain’s ability to strike non-EU trade deals until it was entirely outside the bloc, and this latest development should be seen as a mere continuation of that process. 

 

Brussels’ ‘Level Playing Field’: A Strategy of EntanglementBriefings for Britain

Despite the Continuity-Remainer claim, that conceding an ongoing close alignment with EU regulations is only a reasonable condition for getting a trade deal, this approach has long been regarded as just a backdoor means of keeping Britain entangled in the EU.

Just how un-separated from Brussels control that would leave the UK is revealed in this concise but comprehensive briefing note from the former Head of International Trade Policy at the Department of Trade and Industry.  Far from being restricted to trade,  it would cover a swathe of policy areas, from employment law, to mandatory pooling of pension funds, to domestic tax rates.

Writing recently for Global Vision, former Vote Leave campaign director Daniel Hodson suggested that, such are the repeated failures of understanding on the part of the EU machine and its UK Establishment cheerleaders that just one more Brussels negotiating blunder could see Transition end, on schedule, with a clean, WTO-based, Brexit.  The briefing note on how enmeshed in Brussels’ red-tape signing up to the so-called ‘level playing field’ would leave us can only heighten the advantages of that WTO clean-break option. 

 

Firms in EU tax havens cannot be denied Covid bailoutsEU Observer

Considering how vehemently the EU rails against even those so-called ‘tax havens’ – or more accurately, ‘competitively low-taxed international financial centres’ – lying within its own borders, it has so far sadly proved impossible for your humble scribe to stifle a certain degree of schadenfreude on reading this.

At one level, it provides a good example of the perverse contradictions inherent in much of the EU’s attachment to one-size-fits-all regulation: in this case where the free movement of capital comes up against the prohibition (frequently and openly flouted by individual member-states’ national governments) on state-aid.

At a second, it shows why Merkel’s latest initiative, for a Financial Transactions (‘Tobin’) Tax as part of a drive for accelerated pan-EU fiscal harmonisation during Germany’s tenure of the rotating EU Council presidency, is almost certainly doomed to fail, even discounting the innate flaws of the tax itself, which Sweden tried, only to abandon it.

 

UK-US trade talks begin, as COVID19 casts its shadowGlobal Britain

And not before time, either.  Given that Frost and Barnier, after recovering from their own initial bouts of COVID19, were able to resume and continue UK-EU trade-talks via video-link, it remains something of a mystery why the UK-US negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal were ever curtailed at all.

The resumption of UK-US trade talks  is essential for two principal reasons.  First, the USA is Britain’s largest trading partner in terms of export sales, despite the disingenuous practice of anti-Brexiteers trying to pretend otherwise by recording the EU as if it were one country by aggregating our exports to its 27 members.

Secondly, for as long as the UK-EU talks last, it is crucial to demonstrate clearly to Brussels that Britain considers itself an independent sovereign nation with the power to conclude trade deals with whomsoever it chooses across the globe, notwithstanding the EU’s attempt to restrict it in doing so until wholly outside its influence.

 

Northern Ireland tensions threaten to derail long-term EU-UK dealFinancial Times (£)

On the face of it, just why the staunchly pro-EU and anti-Brexit FT should choose now to revive the spectre of Northern Ireland’s status, once Britain has wholly left the EU, potentially wrecking the UK-EU negotiations isn’t immediately apparent.  Until, that is, one remembers that the EU last week not only repeated its demand to retain an official post-Brexit presence in the Province, but also launched what was seen in some quarters as an attempted power grab over the Province’s fishing industry.

The FT appears to assume that the prospect of Britain exiting Transition without an agreement is unthinkable.  But, as other links cited elsewhere in this article suggest, the likelihood of a satisfactory deal is receding, due primarily to Brussels’ inflexibility and intransigence, while the prospect of a clean-break WTO exit from Transition is growing.

Note, incidentally, the FT‘s description of Northern Ireland as ‘British-ruled‘’, as if it was merely the temporarily occupied territory of another country, instead of that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sovereign territory which chose to remain so rather than follow the rest of the island of Ireland in seceding from what was formerly the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  Is the Continuity-Remainer FT now so anti-Brexit and pro-EU as to embrace irredentist Irish Nationalist Republicanism, even though the Republic’s claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties was dropped as part of the Good Friday Agreement?

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Brexit Watch: Thursday 30 April 2020

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 29 April 2020

Choosing four recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Facing New Crises, Macron Repackages Old, Bad IdeasNational Review

Never slow to perceive, in the comfort-blanket of pan-European integration where his assumption of French joint-‘leadership’ is more wishful thinking than reality, a distraction from France’s economic sclerosis and ongoing political crisis, Macron sees in COVID-19 yet another opportunity to deepen the former, via financial aid funded by mutualised debt.

Not for the first time, however, he overlooks the same fundamental flaw which plagues the euro: that a currency union not backed by a fiscal union contains, not only an inherent structural design flaw, but even the seeds of its own potential failure.  Predictably, Macron’s idea is being resisted by the same quartet of Germany, Austria, Finland and The Netherlands who fear being saddled with the lion’s share of contributions.

After weeks of ineffectual dithering, the EU is finally moving towards some kind of aid package.  Delaying Brexit for an extension to Transition could see Britain on the hook for a substantial contribution, so should be avoided.

 

The future will be won by nimble, innovative nation-statesGlobal Vision

As several earlier TCW articles in our Brexit-Watch series have noted, in the early stages of the COVID19 pandemic, the EU was paralysed by a combination of institutional atrophy and indecision.  That led to individual member-states’ democratically elected governments, even within the Franco-German alliance, moving swiftly to take whatever decisions, including abandoning Schengen and closing borders, they deemed to be in their best national interests, by-passing and not even bothering to consult Brussels in the process.

Not only is this a genie which won’t easily be put back in its bottle; it will have consequential effects on member-states’ post-COVID19 recovery strategies.  A reversion to centralised, Brussels-dictated, one-size-fits-all regulation of everything from business practices to product specifications would deprive the weaker EU economies of the flexibility they are going to need, particularly after their differing exposure to the economic and fiscal costs of coping with coronavirus.

From Britain’s perspective, that must strengthen our case for rejecting the EU’s demands for equivalence or any ‘level playing field’ in our post-Brexit trade relationship with the bloc.

 

The Brexit Fight goes onGet Britain Out

One under-reported feature of the Brexit trade talks resuming by video-conferencing is that, with the Department of International Trade seemingly having curtailed its activities considerably with the COVID19 pandemic, the UK-USA trade talks which were previously running in parallel with the UK-EU trade negotiations apparently remained suspended.

Given the obvious advantages of not only keeping trade talks with the USA going but also of publicly demonstrating that continuance to the Brussels negotiators, it’s regrettable that they did not resume at the same time, and they should be benefiting from equal emphasis.

 

EU leaders ‘must intervene to break Brexit trade talks impasse’ – Telegraph (£)

In contrast to Barnier’s recent typically petulant and disingenuous outburst of frustration towards Britain for insisting that it will neither request an extension to the Brexit Transition period nor accede to the EU’s demands for close regulatory alignment and continued access to UK fishing waters, this latest intervention from the Prime Minister of Latvia is intriguing.

What Mr Karins appears to be doing is suggesting that EU member-state heads of government in effect take over the direction of negotiations from Barnier and reach a deal with the UK that is satisfactory to both parties, in contrast to Barnier’s intemperate supranationalist intransigence.  He seems to be recognising, in a way which apparently eludes the more ideological Barnier, that in responding to COVID19 the EU has a bigger problem on its plate than Brexit.

The UK spokesman’s reported remark about EU negotiators being simply not used to this dynamic of the UK standing up for itself‘ certainly rings true.  If the reading of the Latvian PM’s intervention is correct, then our UK negotiators should have no hesitation in fomenting and exploiting a potential division between Brussels and EU member-states to further Britain’s interests.

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