If MPs don’t deliver a WTO Brexit, they’ll be allowing Brussels to subvert our economy

The UK is on course to leave the European Union in one of two ways. Either there will be ‘no deal’, the default option for Brexit day: but far from ‘crashing out’, the UK can trade smoothly in the interim under international law and WTO terms, and be free for the future to strike Free Trade Agreements globally and with the EU, follow […]

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The UK is on course to leave the European Union in one of two ways.

Either there will be ‘no deal’, the default option for Brexit day: but far from ‘crashing out’, the UK can trade smoothly in the interim under international law and WTO terms, and be free for the future to strike Free Trade Agreements globally and with the EU, follow its economic star, chart new paths across the world and weather the squalls on the way.

Alternatively, the UK will leave under Mrs May’s deal by being locked into an EU customs union (in all but name), with Britain’s economy bound to EU laws, tariffs and regulations. For even if Brussels agrees to an end date for the backstop, the UK will be obliged to mirror its terms for a permanent deal. 

Make no mistake: a customs union, whatever the name, has been the EU goal from the start. It is the thickest and reddest of EU lines, because on it the Franco-German axis, its founding aims and its future depends. Their joint project, conceived and led by the French to contain German industrial and economic power, gave France security, Germany respectability, and brought economic gain to each. Today this big, interventionist, all-embracing state run from Brussels on French dirigiste lines is poised to subvert Britain’s economy. It will do so through the fair means or foul, deployed ruthlessly in pursuing its own interests.

Over the years, France and Germany moved on from coal and steel to back the winners that now dominate at home and abroad. Carving out a centralised economy, one walled in by tariffs, regulations and EU law, oiled by public support (up front or behind the scenes), the industries that lead the EU’s most powerful sectors, singly or conjoined, emerged. Promoted by chief executives whose minions often bribed their way into global order books, their fight to command markets in the EU and UK has been unceasing, their drive to eliminate competitors through fair means or foul, relentless – Airbus, Siemens, Alstom, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen.

Airbus, the aviation giant, sums up the Franco-German ‘project’. Its two dominant shareholders, the French and German states, directly or indirectly each own around 11 per cent of the shares; the remaining proportions are non-state, except for the Spanish government which owns 4 per cent. Airbus is headquartered in Toulouse, run by a German CEO (the next will be French), with main EU production centres in Germany, France and Spain (the others are in China and the US). Known via the UK airwaves through its campaign of scaremongering and threats against Brexit, its international reputation has been mired by bribery investigations in the US, France and the UK – the ‘bribes for business’ allegations follow an earlier finding (in 2010-11) that it breached government subsidy rules. 

Airbus was the result of a Franco-German marriage between France’s Aerospatiale and Germany’s Daimler Benz in the 1970s, a union that may now be replicated by one for their respective locomotive flagships, France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens: their proposed merger, though blocked by the competition Commissioner earlier this month, looks set to return, despite the warning that it could lead to ‘higher prices, less choice and innovation’. Paris and Berlin, through their economy ministers Bruno Le Maire and Peter Altmaier, quick to respond, contended the rules should be changed. Given the nature of the EU project, they probably will be.

For such industries and their governments, Brexit is an anathema, threatening their profits, their captive UK market and their use of relatively cheap but skilled British labour – all of which can give them the edge over foreign and potential UK rivals in the battle for UK market share for aircraft, trains and cars. They will keep up the fight to protect such interests in the way they know best, by taxing, regulating and controlling their competitors, by fashioning (or breaking) the rules to their own benefit.

This way of doing business does not suit Britain. This island race, as Churchill put it, made its own way in the world, through a political system that protects freedom and a free economy based on market competition and entrepreneurship, both protected by the common law. The sense that people can pursue an idea or a hunch, can ‘give it a go’ and make it work, breaking into new markets at home and the world over, remains strong. The sense that they can rise to the heights is secured by the knowledge that they are free to excel, and that freedom is guaranteed by the law – one independent of politics, respected and which operates from Singapore to New York.

MPs now agree that Britain cannot sign up to an indefinite customs union under the backstop with no exit clause. But they should beware that the same plan will return as the backstop would be replaced by more of the same to kick in at a later date. It therefore falls to a Conservative Prime Minister to recognise the truths for which her party has stood surety, and reject the backdoor customs union, now or in the future. Britain’s voters, invariably wiser than their rulers, saw that the EU’s corrupting system not only thwarted democratic freedoms, but held them, their aspirations and their country’s economy back.

MPs and ministers should now give way to their electorate and do their duty by the country to honour the promise made under Britain’s unique democratic system, to leave – ‘just leave’ – and go for WTO trade, and not a deal that would give far less freedom than current membership. They should remember it is not the politicians but the people who have made this country work. The people have brought this country to its triumphs, to being the fifth richest world economy, by believing in their ideas, their enterprises, their hunches, seeing through their plans, from the laboratories of their minds to the order books of the world. Unlike their rulers, they believe in themselves. But more important, they believe in their country.

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The EU remains a protective bloc for German manufacturing and French agriculture that doesn’t serve UK interests

In becoming a clash of caricatures, the Brexit debate loses sight of the main problem. The liberal intellectuals and Euro-enthusiasts who have fought such a long rearguard action to stop Brexit without admitting it, see Brexiteers as out-of-date jingoistic Blimps keen to go back to the days of empire and neo-liberal fanatics anxious to build […]

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In becoming a clash of caricatures, the Brexit debate loses sight of the main problem. The liberal intellectuals and Euro-enthusiasts who have fought such a long rearguard action to stop Brexit without admitting it, see Brexiteers as out-of-date jingoistic Blimps keen to go back to the days of empire and neo-liberal fanatics anxious to build a low-tax, de-regulated, free-trade hell in our green and pleasant land.

Remainers see themselves as progressive modernisers defending liberal principles, environmentalism and the good society all springing from a benign EU which they understand, love and are ever ready to explain and justify – even to the extent of justifying its desire to punish us on the grounds that they can’t do anything else without endangering its wonderful future.

I’ve not met any Blimps, though I’ve met a lot of people who’ve been left behind by globalisation and Europeanisation. I’ve also heard a lot of noise from Euro-enthusiasts for whom the EU is a matter of religion. My conclusion is that both sides are happier fighting symbols than looking at Britain’s economic problems and the effect the EU has on them.

Brexiteers regard the EU as an undemocratic imposition. Remainers see it as a great adventure in international idealism, building a federal union. Neither picture is real. The EU is essentially a protective bloc set up to provide powerful German manufacturing and expensive French agriculture with a wider protected market. The question Britain must face is whether that serves the different interests of a nation with a weaker manufacturing base which imports 80% of its food.

This is made worse by the euro acting as a series of guy ropes keeping the German exchange rate down, making its products even more competitive. The result is huge German surpluses at everyone else’s expense, particularly ours. Added to our growing contributions to belong – and the higher food prices necessitated by the Common Agriculture Policy, this means a steady drain of jobs, money and demand from failing Britain.

This can’t go on. Our annual deficit is around 4% of GDP – one of the biggest in the world. Because we can’t pay our way, we must borrow or sell our companies, property, farms and businesses. This creates a series of vested interests like the German firms BMW and Airbus threatening to withdraw, the car-makers demanding subsidies to stay, the big multinationals lured in by soft deals and low taxes sending their profits abroad, and the importers all tied to the protective bloc. The question now is whether this process of absorption has gone so far that the EU is better able to throw out our government and change it policies than our Parliament and people.

The EU is the problem. It should require Germany to redistribute its surpluses and end the enforced deflation of weaker economies in order to boost the stagnant EU economy. We need the ability to trade with expanding markets, buy food from developing countries and a reduction of contributions – giving us a return and no longer contributing to subsidies given by other members like the £130 million handed by Slovakia to Land Rover. It also requires equalisation of business taxes so countries like Ireland, Luxembourg and Holland can’t syphon off tax due in this country by low tax competition.

Remainers should (but don’t) show their concern by persuading the EU to accept it rather than devoting their efforts to undermining Britain’s case. It will be hard enough to get reform in an EU which prefers hypocrisy and puts its own interests first, yet if nothing is done, it’s surely better to leave the sinking ship.

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24 January 2019 – today’s press releases

Liberal Democrats continue fight for a people’s vote Tory failures result in increase in violent crime Cable: Airbus warning a stark reminder of the livelihoods at risk European Court of Human Rights rules against UK Govt on privacy case Govt must repay £1.95 million to EU citizens Liberal Democrats continue fight for a people’s vote […]

  • Liberal Democrats continue fight for a people’s vote
  • Tory failures result in increase in violent crime
  • Cable: Airbus warning a stark reminder of the livelihoods at risk
  • European Court of Human Rights rules against UK Govt on privacy case
  • Govt must repay £1.95 million to EU citizens

Liberal Democrats continue fight for a people’s vote

The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Government’s Plan B calling on the Government to prepare for a people’s vote with an option to remain in the EU.

The amendment, supported by all Liberal Democrat MPs, also calls on the Conservative Government “to take all necessary steps to rule out a No-Deal scenario”.

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

For over two years the Liberal Democrats have been leading the charge for a people’s vote. We know people are increasingly concerned about the national embarrassment Brexit has become, which is why we have tabled an amendment that would give people the final say on Brexit.

There is still time to act in the national interest. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership must stop dreaming up more and more creative excuses for refusing to support a people’s vote, which their members and supporters want.

No matter who delivers Brexit it will be bad for jobs, the NHS and reduce our standing in the world. That is why the Liberal Democrats are steadfastly committed to a people’s vote, where people have the right to choose to remain in the EU.

Tory failures result in increase in violent crime

Responding to the latest official figures which have revealed a 19% rise in violent crime recorded by police in England and Wales, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

We are facing an epidemic of violent crime. Behind these shocking figures lies hundreds of tragedies of young lives cut short. All Conservative Ministers have done is make things worse.

From severe reductions in the police budget to the weakening of security at our borders, the Prime Minister bears personal responsibility for decisions that have left people and communities in danger.

Conservative Ministers ought to be getting a grip, yet they have farmed out responsibility to Police and Crime Commissioners and asked them to sort it out.

The Liberal Democrats demand better for our communities. We demand more police, more youth services and people working better together to stop the violence epidemic spreading even further.

Cable: Airbus warning a stark reminder of the livelihoods at risk

Responding to Airbus’ latest warning that a no-deal Brexit could force it to pull out of the UK, describing the Brexit process as a “disgrace”, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

The warning from Airbus is a stark reminder that the livelihoods of thousands of British workers are at risk from the UK leaving the EU with no deal.

The longer the Prime Minister runs down the clock and fails to give businesses certainty to plan, the greater the risk to jobs.

An extension of Article 50 is now the only responsible course, and the Government should back a People’s Vote and to give the public the final say with an option to remain in the EU.

European Court of Human Rights rules against UK Govt on privacy case

Responding to today’s European Court of Human Rights judgment that the UK failed to protect the right to privacy in the case of John Catt, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The UK should be championing human rights around the world, not violating the rights of its own citizens.

Keeping an innocent protestor’s personal details on a ‘domestic extremism’ database for years – and refusing to delete them – is a clear breach of his privacy. As today’s judgment states, it is also a breach of the UK’s commitment to uphold human rights.

While the police must have the powers and resources to keep us all safe, there must also be proper safeguards for the privacy of innocent people.

This shaming judgment is a reminder of the crucial role the European Court of Human Rights plays in protecting British rights and freedoms. The Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose any attempts to withdraw the UK from it.

Govt must repay £1.95 million to EU citizens

Today the Conservative Government has confirmed that it may have to return as much as £1.95 million to EU citizens who were forced to pay money to remain living in the country under the ‘settled status’ programme. It is expected some of the money will be returned to NHS staff and other vital public servants.

The Government were forced into an embarrassing U-turn of the policy on the back of pressure from Liberal Democrats and MPs across the political divide.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

Theresa May’s mean spirited charge was always wrong and I’m proud Liberal Democrats led the campaign to get it abolished. These refunds are right and must be issued without delay – including to the public sector bodies that will have paid some of these charges.

EU citizens have been fleeced out of millions and treated appallingly by the Conservatives throughout the mess of their Brexit negotiations and they deserve an apology.

Having u-turned on this it is now time for the Government to change course and give the people the final say on Brexit through a people’s vote.

Those scare-mongering about trading with the EU on WTO terms misunderstand how modern factories operate

There is no cliff edge when we leave the EU. There will be no economic cataclysm as Remain forecast. How many more absurd scare stories are they going to run? They have suggested Airbus will be selling planes without wings as they will not be able use the ones we supply; that planes will be […]

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There is no cliff edge when we leave the EU. There will be no economic cataclysm as Remain forecast. How many more absurd scare stories are they going to run? They have suggested Airbus will be selling planes without wings as they will not be able use the ones we supply; that planes will be grounded on the continent without permits to fly to the UK; and that all factories requiring imported components from the continent will suffer from some unspecified blockade which will stop the parts getting through.

All of these are based on some foolish misunderstandings of how trade functions and how modern factories operate. UK suppliers of Airbus wings are locked in by contract to carry on supplying, and every plane Airbus delivers after March 2019 will need those same UK wings, already certified as good to fly. It was particularly odd to read that they might switch to Chinese ones, as China still has not become a member of the EU – even though they say we have to be in order to sell such products. Continental airlines are busy selling tickets to fly to the UK after March in the knowledge that arrangements will be made to allow them to continue to use UK airspace and to land at UK airports. Their wish to do this ensures the continental countries will make reciprocal arrangements for UK airlines going to France or Germany.

Just-in-time supply chains currently use both EU and non-EU components without special problems if they come from outside the EU. I do not expect the UK authorities to create extra delays at our ports for such imports, but if they did the factory ordering the parts would just require the supplier to send the parts by an earlier truck or train to combat the longer transit time.

It is time the Treasury and the wider government swept aside its stupid gloom about Brexit, and set out just how it will use the new freedoms and the extra money it will have to spend as soon as we leave the EU. If we leave next March without signing the penal Withdrawal Agreement we could give a welcome boost to UK factories. Why not announce zero tariffs on all imported components for assembly, cutting the cost of non-EU items currently taxed? Why not take control of our fish, and more fish in UK ports and build a bigger fish processing industry at home? Why not promote more home-grown food, imposing some tariffs on the continental competition where they pay no such tax at the moment? We could at the same time cut tariffs on non-EU food to limit price rises.

Stopping large contributions to the EU budget will immediately improve our balance of payments account, as all that money has to be sent abroad as if we were paying for imports, though we get nothing for it. It would also release large sums to spend at home. Let’s have tax cuts to boost home ownership, help the car industry, and encourage work and enterprise. Let’s also boost the economy by hiring more teachers, doctors and nurses, and improving our transport systems with new investment.

The overall impact would be to boost national income and output by 1% next year and 1% the year after if we spent the £39 billion over the time period.

Could they blockade our exports? Under WTO rules, as they are and we will be, they are not allowed to charge tariffs on us which they do not impose on others, or impose new non-tariff barriers to trade. I don’t believe the stories that Calais will go slow to damage our exports, as our trade through Calais is crucial to that port’s jobs and success. Were they to do so, Rotterdam, Antwerp and other Dutch and Belgian ports would love to take the business off them.

It is time the Government moved on from seeing Brexit as some problem to be managed, to seeing it as full of opportunity for more jobs, more growth and more prosperity. That is why many of us voted Leave. The Treasury should back us and go for growth based on new freedoms we will win on departure.

John Redwood’s How to Take Back Control: Trading Globally Through the WTO is published today by Politeia

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In so many areas the EU’s negotiating stance is sadly defined by the politics of punishment, rather than economics

The news that Boeing has just opened a £40 million manufacturing facility in Sheffield to make parts for their latest 737 and 767 aircraft, which are assembled in the United States, serves to remind us that our world-class aerospace business is global and to torpedo the claims of Airbus – and some car manufacturers – […]

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The news that Boeing has just opened a £40 million manufacturing facility in Sheffield to make parts for their latest 737 and 767 aircraft, which are assembled in the United States, serves to remind us that our world-class aerospace business is global and to torpedo the claims of Airbus – and some car manufacturers – that Brexit will threaten jobs in the UK because it will cause havoc to the just-in-time manufacturing process. Boeing’s plans call for the production of 52 aircraft a month with thousands of parts being shipped every month to Portland, Oregon, so timely delivery will be just as critical to Boeing as it is to Airbus.

So, the question arises: if Boeing can operate a slick production process using parts made in Britain, shipped six times the distance to their assembly line compared to shipping Airbus parts from Bristol or North Wales to Hamburg or Toulouse (and BAE ship 15% of every single F35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Lockheed Martin plant in Dallas), what is Airbus’s problem? The answer lies not in economics but in politics.

As is increasingly clear, despite protestations to the contrary, elements of the EU really do want to punish the UK for having had the insolence to Leave and to deter other countries from following our lead. France seems to be the most determined to press for punishment, partly to try to seize the City of London’s business and partly to promote President Macron as the new EU leader as Angela Merkel’s grip weakens.

Recently there were reports, subsequently denied, that President Macron intended to require UK visitors to France to obtain visas whilst those Brits with homes in France would immediately upon Brexit become illegal visitors. Apparently, the word ‘not’ was omitted in translation and the proposed new law designed to prevent such action. However, Dominic Raab subsequently spoke about the possibility of France ‘deliberately’ delaying lorries entering the port of Calais.

Earlier this year, the EU announced the creation of a fund to develop new defence equipment, a programme from which the UK, home to Europe’s largest defence contractor and with the largest defence budget in Europe, was to be excluded. Furthermore, the UK is to be ejected from key parts of the EU satellite navigation programme, Galileo, despite having contributed £1.2 billion and constituting, through Airbus subsidiary Surrey Satellites, a key portion of the technology. Any reasonable person would ask where was the commercial, let alone defence, interest in excluding such a major European player. Again, the answer lies not in economics but in politics: the UK has to be punished even if it means damaging the defence interests of the continent.

As we approach the sombre commemorations of the centenary of the 1918 armistice which ended The Great War, it is worth pausing to reflect on the role of some of those nations who, in the famous words of Margaret Thatcher, ‘we either rescued or defeated’.  The British people have voted freely but decisively to Leave the EU, yet face punitive measures by some on the continent for whose liberation in two world wars this country and its Empire shed 1,300,000 lives. Whilst falling over themselves to secure favourable trade deals with the rest of the world, the EU’s leaders have adopted the reverse policy with their closest neighbour, refusing to discuss trade arrangements before sorting out an artificial problem of their creation by weaponising the Irish border, a clear solution to which has been proposed by the ERG and others.

In another example of the pathetic approach in Brussels, I understand that the EU’s aviation safety agency, EASA, is debarred from discussing with our CAA how we manage air travel post Brexit.  Given the UK’s prominence in air transport, with Heathrow being the most important transatlantic gateway airport in Europe, why is EASA not engaged in constructive debate? Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are members of EASA even though they are not EU members, so why remove the UK? Again, the answer lies in politics, not economics. They want to cause inconvenience, if not chaos, to rub home to the others the cost of recovering national sovereignty.

All this illustrates the fundamental naivety exhibited by the UK at the outset of the negotiations, namely that if we conceded and acted in a friendly fashion the EU would respond in similar vein, leading many Leave voters to question the motives of those in charge. We never acknowledged the determination of the Commission to protect The Project (to create the United States of Europe) and we failed to recognise the strength of the cards in our hands.

So we threw away the security card, offering unconditional support to the 27, only to be rewarded by exclusion from EU defence programmes. The Prime Minister offered to pay a staggering £39 billion of our money in return for – nothing. Well, if she thinks British taxpayers will tolerate that, I fear she is mistaken. I can no longer withhold my vote in Parliament, but I can withhold my taxes unless I see a fair trade deal is secured.

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