Brexit: May just doesn’t get it
“Brexit means Brexit”, says Theresa May. But does she actually know what Brexit means? A story in today’s Express suggests not. May says she will make control of immigration her top demand in her Brexit negotiations with the EU. But Theresa, Brexit means we’ll be an independent country again. We don’t have to go cap-in-hand to Brussels to request permission (Please Sir can we have our ball back?) to control immigration. As an independent nation, we just do it. That’s what independence – and Brexit – mean.
And Philip Hammond doesn’t get it either. Here is our Foreign Secretary (and Remain supporter) saying that a Brexit deal will take longer than World War 2 – until 2022, indeed. Why? Because it’s such a complicated issue. He appears to think that Brexit is just a super-charged version of Cameron’s failed “renegotiation”. In other words, he’s planning to negotiate new conditions of EU membership, or associate membership, or Norway-lite, with free movement (perhaps with cosmetic adjustments), EU budget contributions, and controlled by EU law.
So let me spell it out, for Theresa and Philip. We invoke Article 50 as soon as possible – say in September. And on October 2018, we’re out. We’re a free and independent nation (like most other nations in the world – how scary can that be?). During those two years, we seek a free trade agreement with the rump-EU. We shall get it. Why? Because Article 50 requires the EU to create favourable trade terms with neighbouring countries. Because politicians and leading business figures in the EU are already calling for “a mutually beneficial relationship”. And above all, because we have a huge trade deficit with the Continent, and therefore have a very strong negotiating hand.
There are those who believe that as the months tick by without agreement, and we approach the two year deadline, we will have a weaker and weaker position. But on the contrary, the EU has more to lose by failing to get a deal. Does Angela Merkel want to see thousands of unemployed German auto workers in Munich and Stuttgart? She does not. In fact the closer we get to the end of the period, the strongerour hand gets.
I firmly believe this will happen in the Two-Year Article 50 period. But is it a risk? What if we fail? Then we fall back on WTO rules – exactly the same basis on which dozens of countries (including the USA, China and Russia) trade with the EU – yes – and get access to the Single Market. And the total annual duty on our exports to the EU would be less than half our current net EU budget contributions. Even failure to achieve a free trade deal leaves us with a win-win situation.
What about the City? The doubters and the Remainers say “You may get a Free Trade Deal on goods, but that will leave the City of London – our vital financial services industry – out in the cold”. But it doesn’t have to. Given the huge trade imbalance, we should negotiate to include services in our free trade deal, to give a more balanced and proportionate result. In any case it’s arguable that the City will do better in global markets outside the remit of damaging EU financial regulation.
Let’s bury Project Fear
Now that the succession of Theresa May has been decided, and a big element of uncertainty removed, we’re seeing the economy bouncing back. The FTSE 100 is in Bull Market territory. The Pound has recovered sharply against the €uro and the dollar. Siemens, previously opposed to Brexit, has done a smart U-Turn, and committed to further UK investment. And consumer spending is buoyant, with John Lewis reporting strong sales.
Meantime a host of foreign countries have indicated their willingness to enter bilateral trade talks with a newly-liberated Great Britain. It’s a well-worn cliché, but it has rarely been more apposite: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Yet the publicly-funded BBC is still desperately trawling for negative stories on Brexit, seeking to vindicate the discredited Project Fear.
For a more measured critique of the post-Brexit economic situation, but from a Remainer’s perspective, try Ben Wright in the Telegraph.
Many of the papers speculate about Theresa May’s Cabinet. Will she include Brexiteers, and which ones? Will there be a job for George Osborne? Or Boris Johnson? Some report that she is keen to achieve gender balance in the Cabinet. That’s a fine aspiration, and there are some very capable women to choose from (not least Andrea Leadsom. And Priti Patel). Perhaps Theresa was inspired by Marks & Spencer, which is setting up an all-women panel to advise it on fashion.
But because there are fewer women than men in Westminster, there is clearly a smaller talent pool there. Some names being mentioned cause concern. Amber Rudd, who as Secretary of State for Energy seems blissfully unaware of the generating capacity crunch that the UK is facing – or of the damage that current climate policies are doing to the UK(and the EU). And Justine Greening, whose main skill seems to be hosing public money at corrupt régimes and kleptocrats around the world. Not a prospect that fills me with confidence.
Cameron begs May to preserve the aid budget: As he leaves Downing Street, David Cameron has appealed to his successor to maintain the UK’s extraordinarily profligate and wasteful Foreign Aid budget, which he says is his finest achievement. Few in UKIP will agree.
Keeping the UK together: the Scottish Daily Mail leads with Ruth Davidson’s warning to May that she must make strenuous efforts to appeal to Scottish voters, and strive to keep the UK united. . Where does UKIP stand on this issue? The clue is in the name: the United Kingdom Independence party.
Labour’s travails continue: The Labour National Executive’s decision to allow Corbyn’s name on the ballot paper in the coming leadership challenge seems guaranteed to ensure that Labour’s civil war continues – and makes a complete split in the party more likely.
Merkel refuses special border deal for Ireland
The Express reports that Merkel has refused to give Irish leader Enda Kenny any assurances of a special deal regarding the border with Northern Ireland. Kenny was hoping for a “soft border” arrangement that would allow easy passage either way, but Merkel is insisting that it be treated like any other EU border. Of course after Brexit, Merkel must have no say in how the UK deals with its own borders, but Brussels can make and enforce rules for the Republic. Perhaps Mr. Kenny should reflect on the benefits of independence.
Greece: Migrants break out of camp and attack police
Greece is having massive problems in dealing with its migrant in-flow. In this latest incident, hundreds of migrants broke out of a camp on the Isle of Leros and started creating mayhem. . Locals claim that migrant problems are damaging tourism, while charity workers have left following threats from far-right activists. It’s worth bearing in mind that Europe’s migrant crisis has not gone away.