Government gets stuck into Brexit plans
The Express reports that the government — or at least the “Brexit Department” under David Davies — is starting serious discussions with industry figures about the form that Brexit should take. So far, the assumption has been that we need to stay in the EU’s “Single Market”, (I have argued elsewhere that the Single Market is no more than an old-fashioned, protectionist Customs Union overlaid by a mountain of red tape) and one of the strongest arguments for doing so has been the question of “passporting” for the banking industry. Passporting enables a bank registered in one member state to operate in other member-states as of right.
The assumption has been that without the Single Market and passporting, a significant part of the City of London’s financial services industry could move to the continent. But the debate has moved on to more measured and balanced territory, with a recognition that an independent Britain could scarcely sustain a global financial services business if subject to foreign banking regulation.
The same article also reports a survey from ConHome, where 69% of (admittedly self-selecting) respondents reject a “Norway-lite” option, which would provide market access but leave us subject to free movement and Brussels regulation. A clear majority believes we need independent border controls, not some kind of fudged “emergency brake” within the EU’s free movement system.
The Telegraph reports that the Treasury is looking seriously at the implications of leaving the Single Market.
IDS says NO to Brussels Budget Contributions
Ian Duncan Smith has insisted (rightly, in my view) that Britain must not contemplate any settlement with Brussels that leaves us contributing to the EU budget (and see below on the issue of Eurocrat pensions).
Patrick Minford urges “Cut EU ties now”
Distinguished economist Professor Patrick Minford, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has urged the UK to cut ties with the EU immediately, rather than becoming engaged in endless bickering over details. He insists that Britain would be better off with a global free trade model rather than seeking to pick up the pieces of a post-Brexit relationship with Brussels. He makes good sense — there is a risk that at this rate we shall still be engaged in pre-Article 50 discussions for months or years.
Jane Collins MEP: “No free movement”
UKIP MEP Jane Collins (Yorkshire) has slammed down a hint from Boris Johnson that some concessions of free movement might be a price worth paying for EU market access. She’s right — as all UKIP members and most Leave voters will agree. If we voted for anything, it was for an end to EU budget contributions, an end to EU laws — and an end to free movement. We cannot and must not compromise on any of those points. Theresa May says “Brexit means Brexit”. UKIP says “Independence means Independence”.
Opinion polls in major EU countries say “punish Britain”
A series of opinion polls in major EU countries show majorities of the public agreeing that Britain should be “punished” for leaving the EU, and offered “unfavourable terms”. I wonder if those respondents understand that Britain cannot be offered less than WTO terms — and that any attempts to restrict trade will cost jobs on the continent.
Juncker’s right-hand man leads anti-British campaign
In a related story, the Express reports that a close colleague of Juncker, German lawyer Martin Selmayr, is leading an anti-British campaign in Brussels. He believes that the UK has been an obstruction to further EU integration. In that, at least, he’s probably right.
“Regrexit”? It ain’t so
Disgruntled Remain campaigners are trying to build a narrative that says that many who voted Leave on June 23rd now look at the short-term effects and wish they’d voted Remain. Hence the inelegant term “Regrexit”. Sadly for them, however, opinion polls show the opposite.
As I have noted previously, most of the post-Brexit “bad news” tends to consist of gloomy forecasts — reflecting the legacy of Project Fear. Meantime the actual data remain positive. Now the Guardian reports that consumer spending held up well in July, despite the Brexit vote. On the downside, the Telegraph reports some negative impact in London and the South East.
Turkey to reinstate death penalty
Turkish President Erdogan has insisted that he will reintroduce the Death Penalty in Turkey following the recent coup . Brussels officials have repeatedly insisted that reintroduction of the death penalty would put an end to Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU. It also calls into question the EU’s immigration deal with Turkey. The EU will not be able to return asylum seekers to Turkey if they may face the death penalty (could this be a factor in Erdogan’s thinking, I wonder?).
Retrospective from August 3rd: Two stories I perhaps should have covered:
Who pays Eurocrat pensions after Brexit?
The Telegraph ran a story on August 3rd claiming that Brussels is demanding that the UK take over responsibility for UK Eurocrats after Brexit. This is a preposterous and wholly unacceptable demand. It’s as if someone retired from a company pension scheme, and the company said “Now you’ve left we’re no longer responsible for paying your pension”.
While Britain has been in the EU (or its predecessors) from 1973, the UK has paid handsomely into the budgets of the EU institutions, covering inter alia the accrual of pension rights for all EU employees. The EU was in fact the employer of these staffers, and has exactly the same responsibility to each and every one of them to make good the pension promises it made. Those pension commitments were made by the institutions to the individuals, and are completely independent of the subsequent relationship between the UK and the EU. The Brussels demand is as absurd as if the UK were now to demand a rebate equal to the share of its contributions to the pensions of all EU employees when we cease to be a member.
Brussels claims a precedent with regard to the League of Nations, which was dissolved in 1946. The member states of the League of Nations took over pension responsibilities for their own nationals. But that is appropriate for an international organisation which ceases to exist — not for an international organisation where one party leaves. Morally (and I suspect legally) the EU has exactly the same pension responsibilities and liabilities to former employees as any other employer would have.
Rural Grants on hold after the Brexit vote
The Telegraph reports that farmers, rural businesses and charities are “in limbo” as the Rural Payments Agency has frozen EU-funded projects in the wake of the Brexit vote. Just to clarify: as I understand it, this does not affect the primary CAP funding line for agriculture, but rather the “Leader” programme to support the rural economy.
We on the Leave side have always argued that since we put roughly £6 billion into the EU’s CAP pot, and get around £3 billion out, then after Brexit the government will be well placed to support farming at least as well as the CAP did, and maybe better. That remains the case. I suspect that the Rural Payments Agency is simply awaiting government decisions on future funding arrangements for any EU-funded programmes that might run on beyond the possible Brexit date. Clearly the uncertainty is bad for our farmers, and the government needs to give high priority to clarifying the position. Maybe that will come in the Autumn Statement.
Some will wonder whether this delay is a device by Whitehall to spread alarm and despondency amongst key groups of decision-makers in the aftermath of Brexit. Is it? Maybe. I couldn’t possibly comment.