There is nothing to fear from leaving the EU and trading with them under WTO rules

 The List is a grassroots organisation of Leave voters which I founded over a year ago, to represent the voice of the electorate. We are not affiliated to any political party or organisation, but are very active as we continue to campaign for the voice of Leave voters to be heard and are advocating leaving the […]

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 The List is a grassroots organisation of Leave voters which I founded over a year ago, to represent the voice of the electorate. We are not affiliated to any political party or organisation, but are very active as we continue to campaign for the voice of Leave voters to be heard and are advocating leaving the EU under WTO rules.

Members come from different political persuasions but are united in ensuring respect for the democratic result of the 2016 referendum. We firmly believe in leaving the EU in its entirety and also believe that our sovereignty and powers were given away illegally and unconstitutionally.

The List has also found that most of our members extensively researched the issues and knew the applicable treaties, as well as WTO principles, prior to voting in the referendum – and even after all the Project Fear, we still decided to vote Leave.

In view of the current circumstances surrounding Brexit, The List believes that Brexiteers are even more motivated today compared to how they were in the referendum. In March last year, we put together a petition to Theresa May stating the reason why we believed most of the 17.4 million voted Leave, and delivered it direct to her at No. 10 with over 1.2 million signatures.

Now we have decided to write an Open Letter to Parliament which you can view here on our new website. We are asking people to sign the letter online, and to take a copy of it and send in an email to their local MP with a link to the website where they can view people’s comments. This Open Letter demands that we leave the European Union and not be tied to any trade deal. These are two separate issues and should not be combined. By not agreeing to a ‘no deal’ or
trading under WTO rules, those elected MPs are stipulating that they will not support 17.4 million people who voted Leave; the highest vote for anything in British electoral history.

The Open Letter has recently gone live and continues to receive new signatures daily. We are hoping to reach as many of the 17.4 million as possible, and are therefore asking Leave voters and those that voted Remain but support the result, to leave their name on the website and pass the link on.

So what is there to fear from trading under WTO rules, even for an interim period? The answer is, nothing.

The WTO, established in 1995, (preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, established in 1947) is an international organisation aiming to reduce all barriers to trade.

The combined share of international trade of WTO members now exceeds 90% of the global trade. Most countries around the world are members, including the UK and the EU.

In 2016, UK world-wide trade accounted for 52% of goods exported (48% exported to the EU, which continues to decline, and 52% to the rest of the world). As EU members, our trade with various countries outside the EU has been dictated largely by agreements with the EU, and devised to suit them. Under WTO rules, we will be free to make our own trade arrangements with those countries, tailored more to our needs.

The WTO requires member countries to apply tariffs (taxes) on goods and services to other WTO countries equally.

Unlike the EU, the WTO does not tell countries what to do other than to keep their promises. There is no ‘confrontation with WTO officials’ as one Irish Government source reportedly claimed in a newspaper report in respect of arrangements concerning the Irish border. The WTO is a member-driven organisation and there is no WTO rule requiring governments to secure their borders. There are, however, non-discrimination rules, but a ‘waiver’ could be sought for the UK/Ireland border either based on national security, or if the EU are in agreement, the UK and Ireland could act in the interests of the Good Friday Agreement and permit no hard border between the two. These are just some suggestions which Remain-backing MPs seem to refuse to discuss.

Under WTO rules, the UK will not only be able to negotiate our own trade agreements with the world, control our borders and make our own laws, but with no more annual payments to subsidise the EU and our armed forces free of the EU command structures to boot, we will be free to paint our own future on a clean canvas.

If there are problems along the way, then we will deal with them, as we have always done, with a pragmatic and flexible attitude – for you cannot put a price on freedom.

The List believes that we, the electorate who voted Leave, should have our voices heard; about what Brexit means to us and why we voted Leave. We have all heard about “the People’s Vote” so it’s time we were heard, the other side of the story, “the People’s Voice!”

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We should leave without a deal, declare our independence and let the EU then negotiate with us

A few honourable MPs aside, the Labour Party has now dumped its manifesto commitment on Brexit to respect the referendum result. It is now calling for Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union forever – which would effectively mean being locked into the EU forever while having no say at all over how it […]

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A few honourable MPs aside, the Labour Party has now dumped its manifesto commitment on Brexit to respect the referendum result. It is now calling for Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union forever – which would effectively mean being locked into the EU forever while having no say at all over how it works.

Say what you like about Theresa May’s negotiating skills, her task would anyway have been nigh on impossible given the continual attempts at sabotage from politicians and others in Britain.

One example: when May went to Brussels last week, she was told by Donald Tusk that Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals for a permanent customs union represented “a promising way out” of the current impasse on Brexit.

Another form of sabotage is the constant exhortations from the establishment calling for the EU to give no ground to the Government.

Brexit is in danger. A clean Brexit is still the default position, leaving on 29th March to trade on WTO terms. Yet despite the defeat in parliament on 29th January of every binding amendment to block or delay Brexit – including Labour’s permanent customs union – Theresa May’s so-called Withdrawal Agreement is still on the table.

Even though MPs voted against it on 24th January, May still wants MPs to vote again on it, once again using No Deal as a threat not as an opportunity.

Her current deal with the EU is not a Withdrawal Agreement – it is a Remainer Agreement, in every clause on every one of its 585 pages. It is No Brexit. It would bind us forever into a United States of Europe.

It is meant to be permanent, inescapable. The Attorney General told the Cabinet that there was no legal escape route from the backstop Protocol and that it would “endure indefinitely”.

Her deal would give the EU tariff-free access to our market and control of our trade policy, force us to fund the EU’s defence programme, give EU fishing vessels free access to our waters, give the EU control of our farms, and allow free movement of labour through clauses about “mobility”.  In sum, it would bind us into the EU in perpetuity.

No surprise, then, that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, boasted that the EU got “almost everything” it wanted with the deal.

MPs rejected May’s deal – almost the only thing they can agree on – then voted to tell her to go yet again to Brussels with her faithful lieutenant Oliver Robbins, to beg the EU to drop the Irish backstop.

But the EU will not give up the huge advantages they gain under the backstop. As Robbins observed, renegotiating the backstop with the EU is “for the birds”.

We do not need to beg the EU to change its position – that would be fruitless, as all experience from Harold Macmillan 50 years ago to David Cameron has proven. We do not need to beg the EU for a new deal, as Boris Johnson has suggested. We do not need to pay the EU £39 billion for the privilege of leaving, nor even the £20 billion that Johnson proposed.

We can and should just declare our policies on trade, fishing, the Irish border, immigration and everything else. We do not need to ask the EU’s permission. We declare our independence and then, if we wish, we can negotiate with the EU.

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Statesmanship, not brinkmanship, is now needed to deliver the right Brexit deal for Northern Ireland

This past week has sadly brought further damaging rhetoric in the Brexit process and some who ought to be statesmanlike have been anything but. This is surely a moment for statesmanship and for finding a way through the current impasse. We must calm things down and focus on developing a common sense solution to Brexit […]

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This past week has sadly brought further damaging rhetoric in the Brexit process and some who ought to be statesmanlike have been anything but.

This is surely a moment for statesmanship and for finding a way through the current impasse. We must calm things down and focus on developing a common sense solution to Brexit and the Irish border question in particular. In this context I welcome the visits of both the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to Belfast and the meeting between both leaders in Dublin: this is the kind of engagement and leadership that is needed to help find a sensible way forward.

I recognise that the UK and the Irish Republic do not agree on Brexit itself and that many in Ireland feel hurt by the decision of the UK to leave the EU. Nevertheless, it is important we all respect democratic decisions of this nature, even when we don’t agree with them. Undoubtedly, the last two years have seen damage done to the three sets of relationships that formed the core of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

The absence of the political institutions, including the Assembly and the North-South Ministerial Council, has been to the detriment of all of us. Just think how differently we might have handled this very difficult situation if such institutions had been in place to provide a forum within which Belfast and Dublin could engage and take a more considered view on all of this. Instead, the politics of cooperation has been replaced by the old ways of megaphone diplomacy.

However, we are where we are and leaders on both sides of the border have hitherto shown a remarkable capacity to overcome enormous challenges in the peace process to find our way to the common ground. In the remaining weeks leading up to 29th March, we must do so again. Whilst it is London and Brussels who take the lead in negotiations, I believe that Dublin and Belfast can play a constructive role in helping to find the solutions.

We can begin by recognising that we already occupy significant common ground.

We all agree that the need to protect the peace process and the political and institutional arrangements of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Stormont House Agreements is vital.

Secondly, none of us want a hard border on the island of Ireland or the creation of a new border in the Irish Sea. Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland do a substantial amount of trade with Great Britain as well as with each other. The Common Travel Area ensures the free movement of people across the islands and is accepted by the EU. Now we need to find a sensible solution to ensure a similar approach on the smooth movement of goods. We in the DUP are of the view that a pragmatic approach can deliver an outcome on customs and trade that does not fundamentally undermine the EU single market or the UK single market.

Thirdly, both countries want to avoid a ‘no-deal’ outcome if possible as we recognise this could have significant implications for the short- to medium-term economic stability and prosperity of both parts of the island. Building stability and prosperity goes hand in hand with building peace.

For us, the primary problem with the draft Withdrawal Agreement is the backstop. It is not only the DUP that has concerns about the backstop and our opposition to it has been supported by many from all parties across the House of Commons.

On two occasions now, the House of Commons has voted decisively to reject the backstop in its current form and to call for legally-binding changes to these potentially harmful proposals. Our position on the backstop is also supported by other unionists like Nobel Peace laureate Lord Trimble, who has said that the proposals have the potential to “turn the Belfast Agreement on its head and do serious damage to it.”

Lord Trimble is in the process of taking legal action to challenge the legality of the backstop and his case is supported by leading experts on the Good Friday Agreement such as Professor Lord Bew. For such key architects of the Good Friday Agreement to raise serious concerns about the damaging nature of the proposed backstop must surely encourage the Taoiseach and others to pause and consider other options which are capable of commanding a wider cross-border and cross-community consensus.

If the current impasse between the UK and EU over the backstop results in no-deal then it will further damage relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic and undermine the prospects for restoring the political institutions. The absence of these institutions over the past two years has seen a re-polarisation of attitudes on both sides in Northern Ireland.

In my opinion, securing a deal on Brexit that is broadly acceptable can only improve the prospects for restoring the institutions. It may suit Sinn Fein to have a chaotic situation, but it surely can’t be in the interests of anyone else. Sinn Fein has tried to exploit the uncertainty over Brexit to raise the border poll issue, hoping to force a referendum in the near term. This is, of course, a party that was fiercely opposed to Ireland’s membership of the EU and sought to vote down each successive European Treaty. Clearly, Sinn Fein is self-serving, and its claim to act in the wider interests of the ‘Irish people, north and south’, is bogus.

The consequences of a no-deal outcome will undoubtedly impact on the economies on both sides of the border, with their heavy dependence on the agri-food sector. InterTrade Ireland commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), an Irish think-tank, to conduct an analysis of the impact of Brexit on the Irish border. ESRI looked at several different scenarios, including one where trade between Ireland and the UK would be based on WTO rules. The resulting imposition of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in this scenario could result in Irish trade to Great Britain falling by 12%, British trade to Ireland falling by 6%, Irish trade to Northern Ireland falling by 14%, and Northern Irish trade to Ireland falling by 19% – resulting in a total reduction in cross-border trade of 16%.

Agri-food in particular is a sector that has expressed concerns about no-deal. A study of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the EU’s agri-food industry has claimed that beef and cheese exports from Ireland to the UK could collapse by up to 90% with the loss of over 3,500 jobs. No amount of preparation by any government can nullify the significant economic implications outlined.

Additionally, a further fall in the value of sterling in a no-deal scenario would worsen the outcome for Irish exports to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In this scenario, Irish trade to Great Britain would fall by 20%, British trade to Ireland would remain broadly similar (at +0.3 %), Irish trade to Northern Ireland would fall 21%, and Northern Irish trade to Ireland would fall 11% – so there would be a total fall in cross-border trade of 17%.

Despite these stark statistics, there are some who seem determined to impose the backstop. Yet the Withdrawal Agreement and backstop in their current form have been roundly rejected in the UK Parliament because they could lock us indefinitely into an arrangement that undermines the economic integrity of the UK. The backstop is designed to prevent a hard border but could ultimately result in no-deal and actually compel the EU to impose a hard border in Ireland.

Having been an MP for over 20 years and in frontline politics since the early 1980s, too many times have I seen politicians become wedded to an idea and intent on implementing it, even when they are aware of the dire consequences. Now is not a time for brinkmanship but for leadership.

I am convinced that there are better solutions than this. Whilst I am not going to be prescriptive in this article about what they may be, I am aware of several ideas, including the ‘Malthouse Compromise’, that are surely worthy of serious consideration. If the political will is there on both sides, I firmly believe we can find a solution.

The people of the United Kingdom voted by a majority to Leave the European Union. Despite this, the leadership of the EU and some in the UK have sought to frustrate the will of the people and to make it as difficult as possible for our country to Leave. The indefinite nature of the backstop would harm the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.

The EU leaders have asked Parliament to state clearly what we want. That answer is now clear and the EU must address British concerns about the backstop if a no-deal outcome is to be avoided.

If the EU truly want to avoid harm to the peace process and to protect the political arrangements established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, then they need to take account of unionist concerns as well as those of nationalists, otherwise, as Lord Trimble has said, they violate the core principles of the Agreement.

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Thousands have been signing up to Students For Brexit in the weeks since its launch

It is remarkable to be writing on behalf of the Students For Brexit team; it has been less than a month since we founded Students For Brexit and since launching in mid-January, our campaign has been going from strength to strength. When I initially thought about creating a cross-party platform for young Leavers, never in […]

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It is remarkable to be writing on behalf of the Students For Brexit team; it has been less than a month since we founded Students For Brexit and since launching in mid-January, our campaign has been going from strength to strength.

When I initially thought about creating a cross-party platform for young Leavers, never in my wildest imagination could I have anticipated the amount of support that we would receive so soon after launching the project.

The seeds of Students For Brexit were sown following a university debate: a student audience – when anonymously polled – voted 42% in favour of Brexit, yet when I asked the 42% to raise their hands, hardly anyone proceeded to do so.

That’s when it hit me that pro-Brexit students were either embarrassed, or fearful to admit that they supported Brexit.

This apparent shyness of young Leavers deeply concerned me. With the mobilisation of Remain groups pushing for a second referendum, it was obvious to me that unless young Leavers were galvanised into action, then our opportunity to secure an open and international UK would slip away from our grasp, right into the hands of those who wish to subvert democracy.

So that’s when I had the idea for Students For Brexit: a campaign that would not only aim to create a supportive cross-party community for young Leavers and re-Leavers to network and build friendships, but also to create campaign groups in universities across the UK that would host a range of events from talks and socials to street stalls and petitions as part of our #GlobalFuture initiative – our positive campaign to secure an open, international and truly global UK following Brexit.

Whilst we knew that a platform for young Leavers had been desperately needed for some time, it would be a lie to say that we were not surprised by the dramatic surge in support following our inception.

Within a day of launching we were bombarded with hundreds of subscribers, supportive messages, blog submissions and emails from people desperately asking how they could get involved.

Within the first 12 hours of launching we had gained over one thousand followers on Twitter – remarkable stuff for something that was thought up by a group of students in their university bedrooms.

Whilst we were in awe at the astonishing support, reality quickly hit home that our campaign was quickly transforming into something far greater than anyone had ever envisaged. Being a student-run campaign, we did not have the resources, or time, to keep up with the sky-rocketing support. Luckily, despite common belief, there is little shortage of young Leavers, so we started to decentralise our campaign to voluntary university coordinators who would more effectively take our positive Brexit message onto campuses across the UK.

Our message is simple: we, as young Leavers, are tired of the narrative that all young people support remaining locked into the EU. An economic union with youth unemployment rates as high as 43.3% is no place for a bold and ambitious economy like the UK; the idea that young people would be better off within the EU is just an absurdity.

Our slogan “standing up for our global future” perfectly captures the motivation behind our campaign. We believe that the UK should be a truly international and outward-looking country after Brexit, not a country that has turned its back on our allies and simply sets its sights no further than the outer borders of Europe.

Despite much support, our campaign has not gone without criticism. The most common being that we are “late to the party”. I profoundly disagree; whilst we are set to leave the EU on 29th March, nothing is certain in politics anymore. Furthermore, whilst Students For Brexit has an important campaigning function until Brexit, I do not believe that the debates around Brexit will just cease on the day that we eventually leave.

Remain campaigners will continue to seek to hold us suffocatingly close to the EU. This platform will be needed to continue to stand up for the arguments that secured Brexit, provide support for pro-Brexit students and speak on behalf of millions of young Leavers who have been too often claimed as the possession of the “People’s Vote”.

Brexit will affect my generation the most, therefore, young Leavers must have their rightful place in the forefront of national debate – our voice must be heard. The young generation of today will become the older generation of tomorrow. Ultimately, Brexit gives us the precious opportunity to change the direction of our country forever. The choice is clear: do we stand up for to an open, ambitious international future which Brexit will deliver? Or do we choose to stand back and allow anti-democrats to overturn the 2016 referendum and keep us shackled to a failing political project?

It is now the responsibility of young Leavers up and down the country to stand up, not just for our bright global future post-Brexit, but to defend the very essence of democracy in the UK for generations to come.

The Remain campaign are mobilising to water down Brexit, or even subvert democracy altogether by holding a second referendum. It is now incumbent on ourselves as young Leavers to mobilise too, and be ready to take the positive, global vision of an open, international post-Brexit Britain throughout universities across the country.

Stand up for your global future by getting involved today at studentsforbrexit.com.

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We have a precious choice between democracy or permanent second-class statehood

Let’s make no mistake – with the clock ticking down to 29th March, we have finally arrived at an existential turning point for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Talk of compromises and cross-party consensus and some kind of semantic fudge that will make the Brexit-negating Withdrawal Agreement pass the Commons at the […]

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Let’s make no mistake – with the clock ticking down to 29th March, we have finally arrived at an existential turning point for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Talk of compromises and cross-party consensus and some kind of semantic fudge that will make the Brexit-negating Withdrawal Agreement pass the Commons at the third attempt is a painful distraction from harsh political and historic realities.

Both the UK and the EU still face a stark binary choice, whether all parties acknowledge it or not. Leave or Remain. Double or quits. In or out. Sitting on the Brexit fence while making the right noises to the right people, in the hope that this decision can be delayed or permanently taken off the political agenda, is an abdication of responsibility that will soon no longer be an option.

For the UK, the choice can be summarised as one between democracy and permanent second-class statehood; freedom to hire and fire the people who make the laws we have to obey and pay for, or the triumph of pessimism due to the mistaken and craven belief that we aren’t mature and sensible enough to run our own affairs, and must cleave to a supranational body with minimal democratic legitimacy because we are too insignificant to defend our right to democratic self-government.

Remainers trying to subvert the referendum result by locking the UK into the EU, even as we are supposedly leaving it, have completely missed the point of the Leave vote. It was a vote of confidence in Great Britain and its institutions, flawed or otherwise. It was a vote by optimists, by people who believe in the regenerative, sometimes messy but always liberating, principle of democracy – which is that you make your own mistakes, and if you don’t like the way the ship of state is run, you chuck out the government and give someone else a turn at the wheel. There are ups and downs, but you always have a choice. And that choice is precious.

People across the world have died in countless wars to be able to have such a choice. It is sad indeed that many of the guardians of this ancient, disruptive, rambunctious democracy of ours are so afraid of it that they dare not stand up for it. Indeed, they would rather abolish it and have us ruled by an unelected European Commission, which continues to assume with Ancien Régime arrogance that the British people can be made to vote as many times as necessary until they sign up to the European Project. One might say when hell freezes over, but one hates to employ such clichés. Except when they are true.

Staying in a customs union with the EU, accepting close regulatory alignment with the EU, joining an EU army with imperial ambitions (as outlined recently by the French), allowing the EU to decide on vast areas of policy-making – as the Withdrawal Agreement does – is not only not Brexit and a failure to deliver on the referendum result. It is to collude in the death of functioning, open, plural democracy, which is the only safeguard against dictatorship.

So the choice is clear: a Brexit that restores supreme law-making powers to the UK, or the triumph of technocracy and the enforcement by a foreign court of perpetual protectionist mediocrity, to ensure that no member state of the EU is ever independent enough to question the power exercised by an unelected Politburo in Brussels, whose mission is to create the United States of Europe, by fair means or foul.

One country’s upsurge of democracy, of course, can be another’s constitutional catastrophe. For the EU, Brexit is no less of an existential issue. That the second largest financial contributor and the oldest democracy in the EU voted to leave is a damning indictment of the political failure that has marked the European Project in the last twenty years. The fury and insults heaped upon Britain after the referendum testify to the total incomprehension of the EU’s political class when confronted with legitimate dissent.

And that nothing has changed since 23rd June 2016 is evidenced by the ludicrous stories peddled by Project Fear in recent days… Apparently the Queen is to be evacuated if we leave the EU on WTO terms. Given that Her Majesty produces much of her own food on her own land, one wonders where she might go to avoid “the cliff-edge” if the Roquefort doesn’t show up in time for the cheese course.

We hear that a third of UK businesses are thinking of relocating to the EU, only to see that the poll conducted by the IoD was of a tiny percentage of its members. Another headline claims that a majority of Chief Finance Officers believe that the UK will be worse off after Brexit – a majority of just one hundred CFOs surveyed by Deloitte. None of these surveys takes into account that a sovereign Britain can take whatever legislative and fiscal measures it deems fit to ensure that goods flow into this country unfettered and that our economy continues not only to function normally, but to thrive.

This acceleration of Project Fear in the media strengthens the belief that there will be no meaningful concessions on the Withdrawal Agreement before the next debate in the Commons. Indeed, EU leaders have repeatedly said that they will not reopen the legal text. Michel Barnier therefore has no mandate other than to listen politely to the Prime Minister and say no.

The EU will try until the bitter end to ram its appalling deal down our throats, because the slightest sign that it is willing to agree a pragmatic, mutually beneficial trade relationship with a former member state will be seen as a green light for other eurosceptic members to flex their muscles and stand up to the Franco-German juggernaut that intends to sweep them up in its imperial embrace.

The ‘Malthouse Compromise’ recently floated by a group of Tory MPs is likely to be shot down in flames – if indeed it is even tabled for discussion by Theresa May. Whatever she may propose to break the impasse, negotiators in Brussels must cling to their position – that a centralised technocratic EU superstate is the ineluctable future.

It is, of course, the past: an attempt to create by red tape and judicial takeover what has not been possible to achieve through centuries of warfare. But it is hard-wired into the EU’s DNA, and it is a question of survival. For them a no-deal Brexit will be preferable to any ‘deal’ that fails to put Britain on the naughty step and keep it there until it begs to be let back into the nursery.

To EU or not to EU, that remains the question.

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I’m a Brexit-backing Liberal who rejects the remote politicians’ project that is the EU

Liberal Brexiteers? Yes, we do exist! While the Lib Dem leadership may be fanatical supporters of the EU, they do not speak for all Liberals. According to YouGov, 32% of Lib Dem supporters voted for Brexit; then there was the “Liberal Leave” campaign run by Lib Dems, and the pro-Brexit Liberal Party; finally there are […]

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Liberal Brexiteers? Yes, we do exist!

While the Lib Dem leadership may be fanatical supporters of the EU, they do not speak for all Liberals. According to YouGov, 32% of Lib Dem supporters voted for Brexit; then there was the “Liberal Leave” campaign run by Lib Dems, and the pro-Brexit Liberal Party; finally there are individual liberal Brexiteer campaigns of which www.liberalbrexiteers.com is one.

Any Liberal should be concerned by the European Union as currently constituted; the customs union that is Fortress Europe frustrates free trade, the EU is a politicians’ rather than a people’s project, its political structures are not human in scale and it doesn’t make sense to wire all the key functions of the government of every member state into one massive European fusebox. Above all, the EU fails to make the crucial distinction between unity and uniformity, hence the Brussels obsession with “one size fits all”.

Finally, the EU may have a parliament but it is not a democracy; while it is possible in a British election to vote out a government and replace it with an alternative, the hybrid governance of the European Parliament, Commission and Council does not allow for this. It’s all labyrinthine, unresponsive and remote. Democracy loses traction under such circumstances, as few can name their MEPs and declining turnouts (43% in 2014) evidence increasing voter disenchantment with the European project.

In short, the EU fails to measure up to any liberal yardstick. If, God forbid, we are saddled with another neverendum, the liberal credo of individualism, localism and community should easily outgun the distant corporate globalism of the EU, provided other Brexiteers give it campaign space.

Meanwhile, the ultimate EU objective remains the creation of a federated Union of European states, with one economy, one currency, one army, one law and one president. But is a United States of Europe still relevant or desirable? Thanks to the internet and the Jumbo Jet, the world is a much smaller place than it was in 1950. A union of countries having nothing much in common apart from their borders might have had something going for it in the 19th Century but does European exclusivity and identity still make sense? Why a union with Germany but not Japan, with Austria but not Australia?

My website liberalbrexiteers.com attempts to address these issues and tries forecasting what the global situation will be in 2050. Our world is changing at bewildering speed, as millions of people in a host of developing nations demand a standard of living that we have taken for granted for decades. If we are to survive, let alone prosper, in this challenging environment of shrinking resources, burgeoning populations and highly competitive markets, we need to reach out and make common cause with those nations – European or not – who think as we do. In this context, the EU will be an international irrelevance, thanks to a declining GDP, shrinking market share and a reducing EU population which currently represents only 7% of the world total and will be a mere 5% by 2050.

Certainly, Brexit has stress tested the main parties to their limits and all will emerge damaged by this process. British Liberalism has not escaped, thanks to those who describe themselves as Liberals and Democrats, but nevertheless resolved to “resist” the result of a public ballot and to denigrate those who voted Leave as uneducated oiks who didn’t understand the issues. In particular, the 65+ age group has been singled out by Lib Dems because they voted by nearly 2 to 1 to Leave the EU and stand accused of “shafting the young” who voted by over 2 to 1 to Remain. Leaving aside that these oldies were the very same voters who as youngsters had voted by nearly 2 to 1 to remain part of the European project in 1975 and that maybe the political class should ask why they changed their minds, the intolerant stance of the Lib Dem leadership post-2016 has been a disgrace to the British liberal tradition.

Moreover, their demands for another neverendum are wrong-headed. The last referendum cost £137 million, lasted four months and was highly divisive. A second referendum and/or a third general election in the space of four years would achieve nothing other than accentuate these divisions.

The will of the people may seem dubious at times (indeed, we Liberals reckon the electorate has been making ghastly mistakes since 1906!) but the democratic process is logical. Another referendum would subvert the democratic rule that we vote in the light of our experience, on the understanding that we may vote differently in a following ballot if things do not work out. We have to experience Brexit first before we can make a judgement. We can always decide to renew our membership of the EU in the future if our experience of Brexit indicates that our leaving was a mistake, but the proof of the Brexit pudding is in the eating, not in endless speculation about how palatable it will be.

So we don’t need another ballot; we just need Parliament to do what we told them to do after they decided to ask us what we wanted. Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative and other MPs – including Tim Farron, David Lammy, Dominic Grieve and Caroline Lucas – started this hare running in 2015 when they united to vote for a referendum. They must now unite to deliver the clean-break Brexit that we voted for, as described in the Government’s referendum pamphlet as the undesirable alternative to remaining in the EU.

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Donald Tusk not only unfairly attacked Brexiteers yesterday, but reminded us the EU is anti-democratic

What an extraordinary day it was in Brussels yesterday. Leading most of the papers today are the incendiary remarks made by European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday at a press conference alongside Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. At the end of a relatively short statement, Tusk opined: “By the way, I’ve been wondering what that special […]

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What an extraordinary day it was in Brussels yesterday. Leading most of the papers today are the incendiary remarks made by European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday at a press conference alongside Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. At the end of a relatively short statement, Tusk opined:

“By the way, I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

Never mind the deeply undiplomatic nature of the comment which unsurprisingly drew much criticism, it was also totally untrue.

While David Cameron and George Osborne may have irresponsibly refused to allow the civil service to prepare for the eventuality of a Leave vote in advance of the referendum, plans were drawn up by others. As Dr Lee Rotherham reminded us here on BrexitCentral in 2016, there was Change, or go – the seminal publication from Business for Britain which ran to more than 1,000 pages. Its subtitle, “How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU”, provides the clue to it being exactly what Tusk claims did not exist.

Or there was the 2014 publication, Cutting the Gordian knot: A road map for British exit from the European Union, written by Rory Broomfield and Iain Murray. There were many others too.

There’s no way that this was an off the cuff intervention from Tusk. It was clearly planned. If you watch him making the remarks on our video, you can see him referring to written notes while he said it. And he then happily tweeted the words out afterwards – prompting an equally inappropriate response from MEP Guy Verhofstadt.

And then to rub salt into the wound, at the end of the press conference, Varadkar is caught saying: “They’ll give you terrible trouble in the British press for that”, to which Tusk replies: “Yes, I know” and laughs.

What on earth was he thinking???

Moreover, many of us had already been offended by some of the earlier contents of Tusk’s short statement. Aside from the contradiction of declaring the Withdrawal Agreement “not open for re-negotiation” while demanding that Theresa May offer a “suggestion on how to end the impasse”, the former Polish Prime Minister also reminded us of the EU’s arrogant attitude to referendums which deliver the “wrong” answer.

Having claimed that “a very great number of people in the UK… wish for a reversal of this decision” to leave the EU, he lamented:

“The pro-Brexit stance of the UK Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition rules out this question… Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for Remain”.

Some might say that the definitive result of the 2016 referendum rules out a reversal of the said decision. Call me old-fashioned, but when a parliament organises a referendum to ask the people a question, is it not duty bound to implement the answer it is given?

But of course, that’s not the EU’s way of doing things. When Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty in a 1992 referendum, they had to vote again in order to approve it. It was the same with Ireland and their Nice Treaty referendum in 2001. And when the French and Dutch electorates rejected the European Constitution in 2005, it was merely cosmetically repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty. And when the Irish rejected that in 2008, they had to vote again in order to give Brussels the answer it required.

All a salutary reminder that the EU is not so much undemocratic as anti-democratic.

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In numerous areas, the solutions are already there to cope with a no-deal scenario

‘No-deal’ may be coming. That’s been the view of a great many commentators since at least the publishing of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in November, and especially since the Government’s defeat on the meaningful vote last month. Last week it was the turn of Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, to state the possibility: […]

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‘No-deal’ may be coming.

That’s been the view of a great many commentators since at least the publishing of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in November, and especially since the Government’s defeat on the meaningful vote last month.

Last week it was the turn of Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, to state the possibility: “There is a very high risk of a crash out not by design, but by accident.”

Given that risk, what do we actually know about no-deal?

There’s been a lot of waffle on the subject. Predictions have ranged from a 1920s-style recession and civil unrest at the one end, to an equally specious vision of ‘sunlit uplands’ and painless transition under Article 24 of the GATT at the other. Fortunately, my colleagues at the IEA have looked at key claims focused on the delays at ports, aviation and the availability of medicines, as well on other issues such as the Irish Single Electricity Market and the return of mobile roaming charges. Today, they’re tackling fears around food supply.

The above briefings may not cover every aspect of Brexit, nor the broader macroeconomic picture as painted by Whitehall forecasts, but a clear pattern does emerge. Although there are genuine issues associated with ‘no-deal’, when looked at in detail, many of the issues are less intractable than they might seem.

Take the risks around ports and ‘just-in-time’ supply chains. The fear here is that delays at ports, arising from either checks on regulatory compliance or additional customs paperwork, cause sufficient delays to shut down the Dover-Calais crossing. Dover handles roughly 17% of UK goods trade, processing 10,000 vehicles a day. 99% of these originate in the EU (including the UK) and are processed in around two minutes each. Checks on lorries from outside the EU take an average of 20 minutes. The Freight Transport Association stated in 2017 that an additional 2-minute delay per lorry could cause a 17-mile queue on either side of the Channel.

However, there are several reasons to believe that this scenario need not occur. The key is that none of those with a stake in what goes on in Dover-Calais want it. The worst-case scenario is what occurs in the absence of any anticipation or mitigatory action.

But these problems have been anticipated and action is being taken.

See the multiple statements by Xavier Bertrand, the President of the Hauts-de-France region. For a 2-minute delay to occur on average, roughly 10% of lorries would need to be subject to 20 minutes of extra-EU checks. However, the UK only checks 4% of extra-EU shipments and the Republic of Ireland only 1%. Incidentally, this 1% check rate is what officials at Calais have suggested for UK traffic.

The normal riposte to these claims is that the EU still requires ‘SPS’ checks on 100% of consignments of food products for human consumption, as well as checks on animal feed and other animal produce. But these checks do not take place at the border. In the case of Calais, the inspection point is 12 km from the port and so vehicles exit the port to be checked without causing additional delays.

This scenario is illustrative of many of the risks of ‘no-deal’. Big problems like the continued availability of medicines break down into smaller problems such as agreement on conformity assessment and obtaining Marketing Authorisations. These can often be solved by unilateral action on the UK’s part (we have already committed to recognise EEA approved medication) and sensible steps by firms.

Many of these steps have already been taken. Often players on the EU side face similar incentives to make reasonable arrangements (e.g. the EU extending existing road haulage arrangements in the event of ‘no-deal’). Even the seemingly intractable ‘Irish border question’ is, in reality, a selection of smaller technical issues which on their own are far from insoluble.

Unfortunately, forecasters predicting doom and gloom are unable to accurately account for firms and officials adjusting. Their models are insufficiently ‘granular’ as they simply don’t have the necessary information. Often, neither does government. But the small firms that have to cope with these problems, those with real ‘skin in the game’, do. Make no mistake, adjusting is still costly, both for firms and ultimately consumers, but these costs are lower than the disaster headlines would suggest. Just as importantly, they can be spread out over time.

The truth is that ‘no deal’ is broad and wide ranging enough that no-one knows precisely what will happen, including us. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a disaster. If firms and local officials know what they’re facing, they can be flexible and use their ingenuity to find solutions. Politicians would be well served to trust credentialed experts less, and our economy’s real problem solvers more.

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I’m young, metropolitan, educated and multilingual – but proud to have backed Brexit

Leave voters were ignorant, disgruntled, poor and backward-looking 70-year-olds in dilapidated mining towns in the North – so Remainers tell me. So, as a Leave voter in 2016 I clearly didn’t fit the bill: under-30, multi-lingual and having lived, studied and worked abroad – and now in London working for a multinational company. It’s true […]

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Leave voters were ignorant, disgruntled, poor and backward-looking 70-year-olds in dilapidated mining towns in the North – so Remainers tell me. So, as a Leave voter in 2016 I clearly didn’t fit the bill: under-30, multi-lingual and having lived, studied and worked abroad – and now in London working for a multinational company.

It’s true that voters in the 18-35 age bracket were broadly more likely to have voted Remain. The tipping point came around the age of 35, after which the older you were, the more likely you were to vote to Leave. So it was much to the surprise of Jon Snow when he hosted Channel 4’s recent Brexit Inbetweeners debate that the majority of the panel (18-20 year olds at the time of the referendum) were in favour of Brexit.

I knew that, although unusual, I was not alone. So to understand why young, metropolitan professionals might have voted to Leave the EU, I spoke to a number of fellow young Leave voters who ticked many of the same boxes: a civil servant, a state secondary school teacher and two professionals at City firms.

The most common reason, which was a factor for us all, concerned democracy. We were all, to varying degrees of formality, students of history and had read how our country was governed long before our lifetimes. It seems that the broader the understanding of our country’s history, the greater our dissatisfaction with the status quo. “It’s fundamentally about being able to change the lawmakers if you don’t like what they’re doing,” said the lawyer. “I’ve done my research – I studied EU law,” said the (multilingual) civil servant, “it was simply about who gets to make the decisions.”

None of us started off as convinced Brexiteers. I was certainly ambivalent about EU membership until I met a few MEPs, who told me about the degree of control that the European Parliament had over law-making. At first, I’m not sure I really believed them. But the more I read up, the more I disliked the implications of what I was learning. By the time of the referendum, I had volunteered to help the Leave campaign.

Along with the classic arguments about international trade and control of our borders, we were also all motivated by the view that the UK was on a fundamentally different path to the rest of the EU. “The UK is a decreasingly good fit for a protectionist bloc,” a negotiator at a large international firm told me. The teacher told me he “no longer felt comfortable being part of this club. The UK was always the ugly duckling.” The lawyer added that the EU’s approach to negotiations, and in particular its rhetoric about punishment, removed any lingering doubts about whether Leave was the right choice.

As I looked back at the Remain campaign’s advertising targeted at younger voters, I began to notice a discrepancy between their themes and what I was hearing from these young, educated Leave voters. The Remain campaign’s messages focused on physical losses that we should expect from leaving the EU. They warned that we would no longer be able to take cheap holidays across Europe, that we wouldn’t be able to study abroad or that we would have to pay mobile roaming charges. But we were all thinking about more intangible ideas: of democracy, sovereignty and justice.

So, did the Remain campaign patronise younger voters? I never found their arguments convincing; if it was to come down to me having to pay £1.50 more to use my phone abroad or my country getting back the ability to make its own laws, that’s a pretty easy trade-off. The civil servant compared it to being offered either book tokens or access to the British Library. One is easily understandable; the other is more complex, but if properly used, almost certainly worth more in the longer term. Many of us resented the assumption that all we cared about was material objects, as well as the not-so-subtle attempts to pit the generations against each other.

We all felt that we were somewhat unusual as Leave voters within our organisations. In my industry, I would estimate that 70% voted Remain – unsurprising, as we were fed a steady diet of how damaging Brexit would be for our clients. In other multi-national firms, there was less concern, as their clients are truly global and the EU matters far less in where and how they conduct their business. One told me that their Middle Eastern clients will continue to do business in the UK come what may, as they come here for the reliable justice system, which isn’t going to change. We additionally felt there was a clear pro-Remain ethos within our organisations, as a result of which there were likely to have been many more shy Leave voters who didn’t want to admit it at work. The teacher told me that it would certainly have raised eyebrows in his staff room.

So, did we really vote against our own self-interest? In a narrow sense, we may have done. Our organisations’ planning may have become cautious and pay increases and promotions supressed as a result. But we all felt that we had voted to make ourselves and our country better off – not just financially but also democratically – in the long term.

Far from being backward-looking or xenophobic, we are all internationalists who see Brexit as the greatest political opportunity of our lifetimes. It now remains to be seen whether the political class will grasp this opportunity and deliver the benefits that Brexit really could bring.

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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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