“The backstop is anti-democratic.” Johnson’s letter about it to Tusk. Full Text.

Dear Donald,

United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union

The date of the United Kingdom’s (UK) exit from the European Union (EU), 31 October, is fast approaching. I very much hope that we will be leaving with a deal. You have my personal commitment that this Government will work with energy and determination to achieve an agreement. That is our highest priority.

With that in mind, I wanted to set out our position on some key aspects of our approach, and in particular on the so-called “backstop” in the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement. Before I do so, let me make three wider points.

First, Ireland is the UK’s closest neighbour, with whom we will continue to share uniquely deep ties, a land border, the Common Travel Area, and much else besides. We remain, as we have always been, committed to working with Ireland on the peace process, and to furthering Northern Ireland’s security and prosperity. We recognise the unique challenges the outcome of the referendum poses for Ireland, and want to find solutions to the border which work for all.

Second, and flowing from the first, I want to re-emphasis the commitment of this Government to peace in Northern Ireland. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, as well as being an agreement between the UK and Ireland, is a historic agreement between two traditions in Northern Ireland, and we are unconditionally committed to the spirit and letter of our obligations under it in all circumstances – whether there is a deal with the EU or not.

Third, and for the avoidance of any doubt, the UK remains committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area, to upholding the rights of the people of Northern Ireland, to ongoing North-South cooperation, and to retaining the benefits of the Single Electricity Market.

The changes we seek relate primarily to the backstop. The problems with the backstop run much deeper than the simple political reality that it has three times been rejected by the House of Commons. The truth is that it is simply unviable, for these three reasons.

First, it is anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state.

The backstop locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland. It places a substantial regulatory border, rooted in that treaty, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The treaty provides no sovereign means of exiting unilaterally and affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation which applies to them.

That is why the backstop is anti-democratic.

Second, it is inconsistent with the UK’s desired final destination for a sustainable long-term relationship with the EU.

When the UK leaves the EU and after any transition period, we will leave the single market and the customs union. Although we will remain committed to world-class environment, product and labour standards, the laws and regulations to deliver them will potentially diverge from those of the EU. That is the point of our exit and our ability to enable this is central to our future democracy.

The backstop is inconsistent with this ambition. By requiring continued membership of the customs union and applying many single market rules in Northern Ireland, it presents the whole of the UK with the choice of remaining in a customs union and aligned with those rules, or of seeing Northern Ireland gradually detached from the UK economy across a very broad ranges of areas. Both of those outcomes are unacceptable to the British Government.

Accordingly, as I said in Parliament on 25 July, we cannot continue to endorse the specific commitment, in paragraph 49 of the December 2017 Joint Report, to ‘full alignment’ with wide areas of the single market and the customs union. That cannot be the basis for the future relationship and it is not a basis for the sound governance of Northern Ireland.

Third, it has become increasingly clear that the backstop risks weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The historic compromise in Northern Ireland is based upon a carefully negotiated balance between both traditions in Northern Ireland, grounded in agreement, consent, and respect for minority rights. While I appreciate the laudable intentions with which the backstop was designed, by removing control of such large areas of the commercial and economic life of Northern Ireland to an external body over which the people of Northern Ireland have no democratic control, this balance risks being undermined.

The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement neither depends upon nor requires a particular customs or regulatory regime.

The broader commitments in the Agreement, including to parity of esteem, partnership, democracy and to peaceful means of resolving differences, can be be met if we explore solutions other than the backstop.

Next Steps

For these three reasons the backstop cannot form part of an agreed Withdrawal Agreement. That is a fact we must both acknowledge. I believe the task before us is to strive to find other solutions, and I believe an agreement is possible.

We must, first, ensure there is no return to a hard border. One of the many dividends of peace in Northern Ireland and the vast reduction of the security threat is the disappearance of a visible border. This is something to be celebrated and preserved. This Government will not put in place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We would be happy to accept a legally binding commitment to this effect and hope that the EU would do likewise.

We must also respect the aim to find “flexible and creative” solutions to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. That means that alternative ways of managing the customs and regulatory differences contingent on Brexit must be explored. The reality is that there are already two separate legal, political, economic and monetary jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. This system is already administered without contention and with an open border.

The UK and the EU have already agreed that “alternative arrangements” can be part of the solution. Accordingly:

– I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship.

– I also recognise that there will need to be a degree of confidence about what would happen if these arrangements were not all fully in place at the end of that period. We are ready to look constructively and flexibly at whatcommitment might help, consistent of course with the principles set out in this letter.

Time is very short. But the UK is ready to move quickly, and given the degree of common ground already, I hope that the EU will be ready to do likewise. I am equally confident that our Parliament would be able to act rapidly if we were able to reach a satisfactory agreement which did not contain the “backstop”: indeed it has already demonstrated that there is a majority for an agreement on these lines.

I believe that a solution on the lines we are proposing will be more stable, more long lasting, and more consistent with the overarching framework of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement which has been decisive for peace in Northern Ireland. I hope that the EU can work energetically in this direction and for my part I am determined to do so.

I am copying this letter to the President of the European Commission and members of the European Council.

Yours ever,

Boris

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Brexit will mean that local government loses an alibi for red tape

When I was a local councillor, the council officers often came up with a cunning ruse to block one of my bright ideas. They would say it was illegal. Often this excuse would unravel. This is because “my” bright idea would be really to copy something that was being done in Wandsworth. Why should something be banned (or compulsory) in Hammersmith and Fulham, but not in Wandsworth? Another response I would come up with, was to ask which law they were referring to – then a bod from the Legal Department would respond to “clarify” that the initial claim of illegality was nonsense.

But at other times the objection was valid. It might well be explained that it was due to a requirement from the European Union. Or perhaps the details went beyond the demands of the EU as a result of being embellished in Whitehall. This is the practice known as “gold-plating”. One begins to see how freedom is unduly constrained. The EU makes a demand, the law that ends up being passed goes further, then local government pretends the law goes further than it does. The ban on using imperial measures is an example. Planning rules are another. Also bin collections.

From time to time a deregulation initiative will be announced but overall the burden grows each year. Apart from the EU, we have all these domestic agencies with a vested interest in widening the scope of regulation. They charge registration and licensing fees and impose fines. The more revenue they gather in, the higher the salaries of their officials.

This is not a new problem. The other day I was rereading The Mad Officials by Christopher Booker, a volume which was first published in 1994. Here is just one of the many examples he included:

“The Abbeyfield Society is a Christian housing association with 1,000 independent houses all over the country, where small groups of people can live together in a homely setting sharing domestic chores. In 1991, Environmental Health Officers began calling on a number of these virtually private homes, announcing that, under the Food Safety Act 1990, they must now be treated as ‘food businesses’ and are therefore subject to all the regulations applying to restaurants and other catering establishments.

“When an EHO from Salford City Council walked into the kitchen of a home in Walkden, run by the Abbeyfield Worsley Society, his first action was to throw a wooden cutting board and rolling pin into the bin saying ‘these aren’t allowed’ – despite protests from the owner that they had been a wedding present many years before. What followed was a battery of statutory Improvement Notices served on the home by the council, including a ruling that residents could not work in the kitchen without special protective clothing…”

So far as I can gather, some of the provisions in the Food Safety Act 1990 were at the behest of the European Union, others were not. It is even possible that some of them may have been of some genuine benefit. But as with so much legislation, we can see that it passed without enough regard to the cost or the unintended consequences. Far from being modified, it has got worse. Subsequent changes have added further layers of complexity.

Often it is local government that is supposed to enforce all these laws. So it would be useful to know which ones the Government plans to scrap. Councils are also keen to discover the new regime for procurement. The present arrangements imposed by the EU are highly cumbersome and greatly increase costs. What will the new rules be?

What is truth? Defenders of the EU are fond of declaring it to be “myth” that some new directive from Brussels is to blame for some threatened absurdity. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. But often the truth is hard to discover as lawyers and bureaucrats wade through the paperwork as baffled as the rest of us. What of the decision by Cardiff Council to ban the recycling of teabags? The Council claimed it was due to the EU. The EU gave a sort of non-denial denial. It was listed as a myth but the EU said:

“Whilst household catering waste – including teabags – falls within the scope of the EU Animal By-Products Regulation 2002, national rules may still be applied to its composting.”

Leaving the EU should allow some of that fog to clear. It will remove the alibi for poor decision-making, not just in Parliament, but in our Council chambers.

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Operation Yellowhammer: Avoiding no-deal Brexit must be the ‘number one priority’, warns business leader

Avoiding no-deal must be the “number one priority” for the Government, according to Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry.

Ms Fairbairn told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that what Yellowhammer does show is just how incredibly serious for our economy a no-deal outcome would be. It is difficult to predict exactly what the outcome could be but in terms of our conversations with businesses over the years, these feel like plausible outcomes.”

She added: “We would also totally agree with Michael Gove in terms of the importance of preparation. Business does have to prepare but I think, above all else, what this shows is that we must be trying to get a deal. And that must be the number-one priority of Government.”

Ms Fairbairn said that, while the UK has made some preparations, there are things “we can’t be prepared for” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

No-deal preparations

The Yellowhammer documents show what could happen if there's a no-deal Brexit (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/File)
The Yellowhammer documents show what could happen if there’s a no-deal Brexit (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/File)

The Freight Transport Association also reacted with alarm to the idea of fuel shortages, saying these possibilities had not been conveyed to them by the Government.

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Operation Yellowhammer papers warn of food, fuel and medicine shortages if UK goes for no-deal Brexit

“This is the first time the industry is learning of any threat to fuel supplies – a particularly worrying situation, as this would affect the movement of goods across the country, not just to and from Europe, and could put jobs at risk throughout the sector which keeps Britain trading,” a spokeswoman said.

The Brexit Party’s leader, Nigel Farage, said: “I don’t think this [leaked report] is really a Government document at all, I think it’s a civil service document, I call it an Olly Robbins special.”

More on Brexit

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Sharp drop in EU contracts for UK firms as Brexit deadline looms

The value of central EU public procurement contracts secured by UK businesses has plunged by almost a third, a report shows.

Accountancy group UHY Hacker Young found that UK firms could see a further drop in new European Commission contracts as the 31 October Brexit deadline approaches.

EU public procurement is the process by which the EC directly purchases work, goods or services. The total amount of central spending implemented directly by the Commission on public procurement was €3bn (£2.7bn) last year, representing 12 per cent of the total €23bn (£21bn) direct expenditure of the Commission in 2018.

The value of contracts secured by UK firms fell by 30 per cent, to €108m (£99m) in 2018, from €155m (£142m) in 2017. This steep decline in commercial contract awards contrasts with most other EU member states, who have had sharp rises since the 2016 referendum. For example, the Netherlands has had a 47 per cent increase, from €96m (£87.8m) in 2016 to €141m (£129m) in 2018.

Drop in EU contracts

What will change for UK citizens after a no-deal Brexit? (Photo: Getty)

German firms won almost three times as much in contract fees than the UK, with its share rising to €307m (£281m) in 2018, from €294m (£269m) in 2017. Italy also gained, winning €132m (£121m) of contracts in 2018, compared to €124m (£113m) in 2017. Spain’s share of the EU procurement pie rose from €118m (£108m) to €120m (£110m). France was the only other leading European economy to see a decline in contract wins as its share went from €199m (£182m) in 2017 to €197m (£180m) in 2018.

UHY Hacker Young adds that UK businesses could also be in danger of losing further millions of public procurement spending from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

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Operation Yellowhammer papers warn of food, fuel and medicine shortages if UK goes for no-deal Brexit

Public procurement contracts tendered by the European Commission include conservation, telecoms, technology and education.

Without this funding, UK businesses may struggle to finance innovative R&D projects. Andrew Hulse of UHY Hacker Young said: “A drop in direct EU spending is causing some UK businesses scrambling to plug the hole. The EU is clearly not waiting for the Brexit deadline before cutting spending on British businesses. It is fairly obvious what Brexit is going to mean for UK firms trying to win work from the EU.”

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Cutting Air Passenger Duty can give us the flying start to our post Brexit future

If there is one tax cut that would show in totemic fashion that post Brexit Britain is truly ‘Open for Business’, it would be to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD). Since its introduction in 1994 by then Chancellor Ken Clarke, APD has increased by 680% for long haul flights and 160% for short haul at the same time that flight costs overall have fallen by 30% as a result of increased competition
amongst airlines. This has left the UK with the highest aviation taxes in Europe and the developed world, more than double Germany, the next highest in Europe.
 
We are competing in a global market for businesses and investors.  As Brexit approaches the new Chancellor must look with urgency at the impact that APD has on creating a truly global Britain. Put simply, APD is not working. It places an unnecessary cost on passengers and prevents a large number of routes from being economically viable, particularly in our regional economies. 
 
Aviation is crucial to our Brexit future beyond the EU. It is perverse that we are taxing planes and routes ‘out of the sky’ that we need to connect us to future trade opportunities.  Research conducted for Airlines UK last year showed that APD prevented a significant number of routes from being financially viable. APD is causing the UK to miss out on new routes like Bristol to Dubai;
Edinburgh to Delhi; and Birmingham to Tel Aviv. 
 
When my colleagues and I press ministers on this, they will often respond that passenger numbers have increased over the last few years so ‘what’s the problem’. Whilst this is true, it masks the real problem. In trade, ‘connectivity is king’. We lag behind our European neighbours in connectivity terms, with Germany having considerably more direct connectivity to China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil than the UK. This connectivity problem is also exacerbated by our regional airports losing routes, with Edinburgh Airport losing its valuable routes to the USA when Norwegian Airlines pulled the routes citing sky high APD as a key factor.
 
Over the last year, I have met with, and had representations from, airlines from across the world. The clear message from them is that APD is holding back our ability to connect our airports across the UK to the nations that we will need to be connected to for our global trading future.  One international airline made clear to me that they want to add more connections into the UK but are
prevented from doing so by the additional cost of APD to their cost base.
 
The Government’s approach to Air Passenger Duty is motivated by one factor – cash.  Air Passenger Duty brings in over £3 billion each year to the Treasury.  But this approach is simplistic and self-defeating, with research showing that more tax revenue would be raised from other taxes than would be lost from its abolition. It is estimated that there would be a net £570 million in extra tax
receipts in the first fiscal year following abolition, and positive benefits through to 2022 that could add up to as much as £2 billion in additional tax receipts.
 
Aviation is a key driver of economic growth. Take for example the Emirates route from Newcastle to Dubai, which has helped grow trade between North East England and Australasia from £150 million in 2007 to over £360 million for 2015.  Our post Brexit future needs more of these routes and APD is acting as block on airlines adding the routes that we desperately need.
 
APD is an out dated, exorbitant and perverse tax that is preventing us from having the connectivity that we need in a truly global Britain.  The Chancellor has the opportunity to end this and give us the flying start to our post Brexit future by cutting APD by at least 50 per cent, I urge him to do so.

The post Cutting Air Passenger Duty can give us the flying start to our post Brexit future appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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WATCH: UK will leave on 31 October “with or without” a deal – Kwarteng

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I’m a GNU. How do you do?

Let’s start by returning to the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  Under its terms, a general election will not automatically follow if Boris Johnson’s Government is defeated in a vote of no confidence,   Instead, there will be a 14 days window in which to form a new administration.  If during these a putative one emerges, it will be subject to a vote of confidence.  Only if that fails will an election take place.

Now let’s look at the current Commons in that light.

It is by no means certain that the Prime Minister would lose a no confidence vote as matters stand.  This is because his opponents cannot be sure that enough Conservative backbenchers and opposition MPs would combine to force him out.  ConservativeHome will look more closely at the numbers later this week.

But if he did, the odds of him then losing a second Commons vote are longer.  To understand why, imagine the following.  Johnson loses a no confidence vote.  The Queen permits him to have a go at forming another government within the 14 day window.  Johnson’s defeat in the vote of confidence that follows would bring about an election, under the terms of the Fixed Terms Act, as described above.  Some MPs willing to oppose Johnson in the original vote of no confidence might therefore be willing to support him in the vote of confidence.  Why?  Because they don’t want to face the voters in a general election.

Of course, the Queen might not allow Johnson to have another go.  But that possibility makes our point in a different way.  The only other plausible Prime Ministerial candidate is Jeremy Corbyn.  And some MPs willing to oppose Johnson in that original vote of no confidence would be unlikely to support Corbyn in a vote of confidence.

In short, they might be willing to turn Johnson out, but not to put Corbyn in.  Again, this site will probe the numbers in detail later this week.

And Corbyn is the only other feasible Prime Ministerial candidate.  Take the talk of Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman as Prime Minister with not so much a pinch as a spoonful of salt.  The J.Alfred Prufrock MPs of the Tory benches aren’t going to back Harman.  And their Labour equivalents won’t support Clarke.  And since Conservative and Labour MPs together form a large majority in the Commons, either outcome lies at the very edge of possibility.

The so-called Government of National Unity or GNU – actually, a Government of National Disunity, since it would exclude all those who want Brexit now – looks like a wildebeest, in the manner of its namesake in the old Flanders and Swann song.  I’m a GNU.  How do you do?

For all these reasons, a no confidence vote will surely be a weapon of the last rather than the first resort for the Prime Minister’s opponents.  They would get a better return by seeking to pass a Bill compelling him to seek a further extension, aided and abetted by the Speaker.  Could anti-No Deal MPs draw up a legally watertight text?  Would Johnson seek an election if such a Bill looked likely to pass?  Would the Commons grant him one?  We may be about to find out.

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Richard Short: Don’t fall for the scare stories. Chlorinated chicken would be good for you. It’s time to tuck in.

Richard Short is the Deputy Director of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists, and was Parliamentary Candidate for Warrington North in 2015.

So you think chlorinated food is going to ruin your health? If you have been to a restaurant and eaten the salad, then it’s too late, I’m afraid.

For EU Food safety rules demand that salads must be disinfected: this almost always means using chlorine and, trust me, even the highest-end restaurants do it. Quite right, too: it’s safe, very effective and it’s cheap. So if the EU is so demanding of our salads, why such a flap about giving the same treatment to chicken?

Chlorinated chicken has become the symbol of everything bad about trade with the United States – or indeed, any other country that treats chicken in this way, the reasons for which are many and varied. The anti-chlorine narrative is centred around food safety, with some commentators claiming the chlorine itself is harmful, which is simply untrue.

A more intelligent argument is that US welfare and abattoir standards for poultry are less strict, allowing higher density flocks which in turn, it is argued, leads to spread of pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella. The EU banned the use of chlorine in 1997, preferring a ‘farm to fork” approach to improve food safety. This approach places regulations on husbandry, feedstuffs, abattoir hygiene and food production – with more and more regulation creeping in over the years.

The US places its reliance on voluntary industry standards for husbandry, but has equally strict regulations for abattoirs. And it has food business standards which eclipse those of the EU – as anyone who has been in cross hairs of a United States Public Health Inspector will testify.

So who is doing better by the consumer? The clear winner is the United States – and we only need to look at the infection rate from one food poisoning bug to understand why. The most common worldwide pathogen present in chicken is the campylobacter bacteria. It exists in, on and around chicken and, while it causes the chicken no harm, it is the single highest cause of bacterial gastro-enteritis in the EU.

In the UK alone there has been a steady 50-60,000 cases annually reported. In the entire United States, by comparison, there were just over 6000 cases reported. In both countries, there are many unreported cases but, as both jurisdictions have well established and highly advanced public surveillance, the officially reported cases are an equivalent benchmark.

The EU’s intransigence on not allowing the chlorination of chicken is economically significant. Not only does it create an impasse in any trade negotiations with the US but, closer to home, it has a direct cost to the British economy in working days lost due to illness, with the associated costs to the NHS and social care.

The narrative of the Brexit debate has led to the chlorination of chicken becoming the antithesis of food safety. The irony is that, as well as the positive impact on food safety, the EU itself has publicly declared there are no food safety grounds to ban the process.

Yet it has been barred since the late twentieth century and, in doing so, the EU has banned the production of a safe, cheap source of meat for EU consumers. The sooner we start using chlorine, the faster we will see infection rates fall – and the sooner we’ll see hard pressed consumers more able to buy high quality, good value protein.

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Boris Johnson to make first trip to Europe three weeks after becoming PM in attempt to break Brexit deadlock

Boris Johnson will travel to Paris and Berlin to meet with EU leaders next week in his first visit to Europe since he became Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson will meet meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin ahead of his trip to the G7 summit in Biarritz.

He will also hold talks with Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, and Donald Tusk, the European council president, by phone, according to The Guardian.

Mr Johnson will be in Paris on Tuesday and Berlin on Wednesday ahead of the G7 next weekend.

G7 ‘reality check’

Leaked documents reveal Mrs Merkel is unlikely to want to renegotiate the backstop. (AP)

Diplomats reportedly expect the Prime Minister to be handed a “reality check” at the conference, amid his continued insistence that Britain will leave on 31 October with or without a deal.

It is believed the whistlestop talks with European leaders have been arranged to lobby leading figures into ditching the backstop from the withdrawal agreement.

Read more:

Ken Clarke offers to take over as Prime Minister to “sort Brexit out”

But leaked documents from the German finance ministry, obtained by newspaper Handelsblatt, suggest Ms Merkel will reject any attempt to renegotiate the backstop.

The documents reportedly say Germany believes a no deal Brexit is “highly unlikely”.

German officials also expect Mr Johnson to use the G7 to create a “big moment”, but warn that EU27 leaders should stick to their pledge not to renegotiate Theresa May’s deal.

“In view of this, it is important from the EU perspective to stick to the previous line,” the documents reportedly say.”

Trump meeting

US National Security Adviser, John Bolton (R), is greeted by the Chancellor of the United Kingdom, Sajid Javid (Getty)

With EU officials looking unlikely to budge on their negotiating stance, Mr Johnson could also be set for a meeting with US President Donald Trump before the G7.

The Times reports that a bi-lateral meeting could be held as a “signal of intent” about a post-Brexit trade deal.

A source told the newspaper that Mr Trump “genuinely believes” no deal is a better option than accepting Mrs May’s terms with Europe.

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Boris Johnson accuses Philip Hammond of conspiring with Brussels to block Brexit

John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, held talks with senior Cabinet ministers on Tuesday this week to discuss a potential trade deal.

He has promised that Britain would be “first in line” for an agreement, potentially on a gradual “sector-by-sector” basis, with the US.

“We see a successful exit as being very much in our interests,” Mr Bolton said this week.

“Britain’s success in exiting the EU is a statement about democratic rule. The fashion in the European Union when the people vote the wrong way from the way the elite wants, you make the peasants vote again and again until they get it right.”

Mr Johnson took heart from the comments, predicting a “tough old haggle” was ahead with the Trump administration, but also insisting that Britain “will get there”.

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Iain Dale: Don’t mention the war, please. Why Johnson was wrong to suggest Hammond and company are collaborators.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘Why can’t we all just get along’.

Last week at the Edinburgh Festival, John McDonnell told me that Labour would insist on Jeremy Corbyn leading any interim government of national unity, following any successful vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s administration.

I told him that this idea was delusional, since the Labour leader wouldn’t be able to command a majority in Parliament in such circumstance.  Yesterday, Corbyn confirmed that this is exactly his intention.  But since there are plenty even of his own MPs who don’t have confidence in him, one wonders how he thinks he could persuade those of other parties to row in behind him.

Jo Swinson has made it clear she wouldn’t. Anna Soubry is p**sed off that she wasn’t even cc’d on his letter. I have never thought a national unity government is a runner, and I think it’s even less likely now. Jeremy Corbyn really believes that defeating No Deal is the be all and end all, he wouldn’t be taking such an uncompromising stance. I wonder if his public aversion to it is as deep as he is making out.

– – – – – – – – – –

Corbyn says that he will call a Vote of Confidence when he thinks he can win it. Well, obviously.  But his rhetoric at the moment leads me to believe that he’s in danger of boxing himself in. The more he talks about it, the more pressure there will be on him to deliver it. And if he doesn’t, he’ll be painted as ‘frit’.

– – – – – – – – – –

The defection of Sarah Wollaston to the Liberal Democrats was among the least surprising news of the week. She will surely not be the last of the original Independent Group of MPs to travel that particular journey. I’d have thought there will be at least a couple more before their conference takes place.

And then, of course, there could well be one or two defections directly from the Conservative benches. Guto Bebb and Phillip Lee are the candidates most often mentioned. Both seem to be going through a bit of public agonising. I suspect if either of them, or indeed anyone else does the dirty deed, it will be at a moment of maximum impact. August is probably not that time.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Prime Minister was unwise to use the word ‘collaboration’ on his Facebook Live session earlier this week. He was rightly complaining that the actions and words of some Conservative MPs – and he clearly had Philip Hammond in mind – were persuading the EU to stick by its guns while they wait and see what havoc Parliament can wreak when it returns in early September.

His sentiment was right – but you can’t go throwing around words which have World War Two connotations and effectively accuse some of your Parliamentary colleagues of being quislings (another word with the same suggestion).

To so so debases the debate. I don’t know if it was a deliberate use of the word, or whether it just slipped out. If the latter, fine; but if it was a deliberate attempt to feed into the ‘People v Parliament’ narrative, well, there are better ways of doing it.

– – – – – – – – – –

On Monday, I returned from my two weeks appearing on the Edinburgh Fringe. In 24 shows, I interviewed Sir Nicholas Soames, Brandon Lewis and Eric Pickles (together), and Johnny Mercer, among many others. We’re releasing all the interviews on a new podcast, Iain Dale All Talk, which you can now subscribe to on whichever platform you get your podcasts from.

– – – – – – – – – –

Today is the first day of my first and only holiday of the year. It will last ten days and I intend to spend it in Norfolk doing precisely nothing. Apart from play golf. And binge-watch box sets. And write next week’s ConHome Diary, of course.

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What is a no-deal Brexit? The consequences of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit remains a real possibility after Boris Johnson was elected the new leader of the Conservative Party.

His accession to the office of the Prime Minister comes after Theresa May stood down over failing to deliver Brexit.

Earlier, EU leaders granted Britain a Brexit delay until 31 October. Mrs May requested to extend Article 50 to give herself more time to get her deal approved by Parliament but the pressure on her to quit intensified before she got the chance.

MPs voted down her Withdrawal Agreement three times.

During the Tory leadership race, Mr Johnson said he would attempt to engage in discussions with the EU but leaders in the bloc have insisted there is no room for further negotiations on the deal.

He has pledged to pull Britain out of the EU even if it means leaving on no deal terms.

In a recent letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, Mr Johnson said while he wants the UK to leave the EU with a deal, he is against the Northern Ireland backstop idea. The Prime Minister called on Brussels to remove it from any deal.

With both the UK and EU refusing to back down on the backstop issue, leaving the bloc without a deal appears to be on the horizon.

Read more:

No-deal Brexit preparations: these are the steps being taken in case the UK leaves without a deal

What is a ‘no deal’ Brexit?

A “no deal” Brexit does what it says on the tin. It means the UK and the EU has been unable to reach a withdrawal agreement.

If this is the case, it means there will be no 21-month transition period.

Consequently consumers, businesses and public bodies would have to respond immediately to changes as result of leaving the EU. 

“The UK would leave the EU and everything associated with that would come to an end,” according to Dr Simon Usherwood, a reader in politics at the University of Surrey. “[A no deal] doesn’t stop the UK leaving but it means there is absolutely no clarity about what happens.”

While it is a possibility, in reality neither the UK nor the EU would favour a no deal because it signals a poor political relationship, he adds.

One of the key issues with a no deal scenario is the uncertainty it would lead to for life and work in Britain.

So what would actually happen with no deal?

These are just some of the consequences: 

Trade

The UK would revert to World Trade Organisation rules on trade. While Britain would no longer be bound by EU rules, it would have to face the EU’s external tariffs. The price of imported goods in shops for Britons could go up as a result.

Some British-made products may be rejected by the EU as new authorisation and certification might be required.

Manufacturers could move their operations to the EU to avoid delays in components coming across the border.

People

The UK would be free to set its own controls on immigration by EU nationals and the bloc could do the same for Britons. There could be long delays at borders if passport and customs checks are heightened. 

Laws

Relevant EU laws would be transferred over so there would be no black holes in Britain’s lawbook.

Britain would no longer have to adhere to the rulings of the European Court of Justice but it would be bound to the European Court of Human Rights, a non-EU body.

Money

The Government would not have to pay the annual £13 billion contribution to the EU budget. However Britain would lose out on some EU subsidies – the Common Agricultural Policy gives £3 billion to farmers.

It is likely that both the EU and the UK will have to honour financial commitments under the 2019 budget.

The Irish border

The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would remain unresolved. While physical infrastructure has been vetoed, the border would become an external frontier for the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. There would be pressure to enforce customs and immigration controls.

But the UK Government has said it would aim to avoid a hard border and, for a temporary period, there would be no new tariffs on goods crossing the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland.

But Britain would be able to broker trade agreements with other countries?

The current deal on the table would allow Britain to start trade negotiations with other countries after it leaves the bloc but any deals would not be implemented until after the transition period of 21 months.

With a no deal, Britain could implement the deals whenever the fine print is ready.

But deals take years, not months or weeks, to broker. Therefore the UK is not gaining anything by having no transition period in this instance.

“It’s worth making the point that trade deals are about agreements with states. If the UK left without a deal showing it was unable to have constructive conversations with close trading partners [the EU], it would not be a great incentive for third parties,” says Dr Usherwood.

Many MPs do not want a no-deal Brexit but there remains conflicting messages about the pros and cons of leaving the EU without a deal. 

No deal: For

Tory Brexiteer Sir John Redwood has said Britain could experience a “big economic boost” by not having to pay into the EU. “There are huge agendas of opportunity, which are being crowded out by endless remain propaganda from people who tell us falsehoods about what might happen if we just left,” he said.

Professor Patrick Minford, a pro-Brexit economist, is in favour of the UK operating on WTO terms. “This will bring us the full gains from Brexit and by bringing them faster with no burdensome transition period,” he said.

No deal: Against

Retailers are warning that shelves in stores could be empty in the event of a no deal because Britain relies on the EU for imports. They also say EU tariffs could drive up the price of products.

The head of Airbus has said no deal could force the company, which employs more than 14,000 people in the UK with around 110,000 more jobs connected in supply chains, to make “potentially very harmful decisions” about its UK operations.

How likely is a ‘no deal’ Brexit?

There was a long-standing impasse between Britain and the EU over certain key Brexit issues, which made a no deal very likely.

Mrs May’s initial Chequers plan – which split the Tory Party – was dismissed by EU leaders, who said it “will not work”. In response, the Prime Minister insisted the EU brings fresh proposals for the Irish border and trade to the table.

Then after months of negotiations, Mrs May announced she had brokered a draft deal that offered a future relationship with “a breadth and depth of co-operation beyond anything the EU has agreed with any other country”.

“We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated,” she said.

However the proposed deal was widely criticised across the parties.

Read more: No-deal Brexit: Can MPs actually stop the UK leaving without a deal?

Although the Government has been ramping up preparations for a no deal, Downing Street has always said the “top priority” was to deliver Brexit under the terms of the deal struck by Mrs May with Brussels.

Mrs May’s proposed Brexit deal has been rejected by Parliament twice. And the Withdrawal Agreement document – which forms part of the deal – has also been rejected.

To avoid a no deal exit on 12 April, Mrs May asked the EU to delay Brexit until 30 June. This was rejected and instead EU leaders granted an extension until the end of October to allow the UK to “find the best possible solution”.

“Please do not waste this time,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.

But the election of Mr Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, as Prime Minister has only complicated the withdrawal process and leaves the possibility of a no deal on the table.

Brexit… in brief

Remind yourself of what all the Brexit jargon means… and click the links to read more.

The single market is the free movement of movement of people, goods and services. A customs union is a bloc’s trade and tax agreement – normally free trade within members with fixed export duties with third parties

soft Brexit would leave the UK closely aligned with the EU, with access to the single market and minimal impact on business. A hard Brexitwould take the UK completely out of all EU agreements.

A“no deal” Brexit does what it says on the tin. It means the UK and the EU would be unable to reach a agreement and there would be no transition period(or ‘implementation period’).

The notorious sticking point is the Irish ‘backstop’– the insurance plan for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. One proposed solution has been a ‘Canada-style’ agreement which removes most EU restrictions but would not totally abolish the need for a hard border. Other suggestions have included the ‘Max fac’ plan which would use technology to electronically track goods crossing the border to prevent the need for border checks.

Got that? Okay, now here is what Mrs May’s Brexit deal contains and the next battle she faces is it being passed through Parliament and the row over what consists of a ‘meaningful vote’ which would give MP’s asay on the final deal. 

Meanwhile she has to contend with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn who is trying to push for his own ‘jobs-first Brexit’ deal AND MPs across all parties who have joined the campaign for a People’s Vote – or second Brexit referendum.

Simple…?

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The post What is a no-deal Brexit? The consequences of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement appeared first on inews.co.uk.

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Welcome to constitutional wonderland

Stopping Brexit is becoming a desperate game. It’s produced a manic inventiveness which is turning out more constitutional crap than thirty years of Liberal Party conferences.

Only the EU can impose “No Deal” by refusing to admit that Theresa May’s deal is as dead as May, so a new government means a new negotiation. Logically therefore Remainers should cart their flags and whinges off to Brussels. They don’t, because their aim is to weaken Britain’s negotiating position, even though that’s the quickest way get the no-deal they deplore.

Which is why they’re trundling every past Prime Minister out of the museum to denounce Brexit as a disaster greater than any they created. It’s also why they’ve begun a desperate search for devices to lock Boris Johnson into a constitutional straightjacket. When they were in power they didn’t mind that Britain has no constitution because it left them free to do what they wanted. Now that Johnson is boss, they’re inventing a constitution to stop him doing what the people want.

This drags the Queen into politics by asking her to use a power she hasn’t got to eject her no-deal government and install an unelected government of National Unity though they can’t say who’ll run it. Can’t be the leader of the opposition. He’s not reliable. How about Margaret Beckett, a reformed ex Brexiteer? Or young Jo Swinson. She wants to be Prime Minister and won’t need parking for her caravan in Downing St, or much accomodation for her MPs.

They call on Parliament to do a job it hasn’t got, by governing instead of the Government. They think Speaker John Bercow will be Euro-daft enough to get Parliament to delay D Day or reverse the vote to implement Article 50. Or both. The Commons can’t do that but our DIY constitutionalists work by Brussels rules not British. So it can.

Then a confidence vote to stop Johnson, though if it’s passed, the Queen would have to ask Jeremy Corbyn. They don’t want that so there would have to be an election. Labour doesn’t really want that because in its present state it would lose. So it’s now calling for a people’s vote, though it can’t say when. Or what on.

To get out of that, Labour’s now written to the Cabinet Secretary to ask him to tell Johnson not to be naughty. When that doesn’t work (as it won’t) Corbyn will be forced to call a vote, which he’ll lose for the same reason that prevents any Government of National Disunity.

Uniting Remainers is as impossible as getting Donald Trump to shut up. The daring Change Party fell apart in weeks. Ms Lucas’s Ladies Against Leaving Cabinet will never untwist its knickers. So bringing senior politicians together cross party would be like packing pit bulls in a sack. The SNP and Labour are deadly enemies in Scotland and (pace John McDonnell) any attempt to conciliate the SNP weakens Scottish Labour, ruling out any possibility of a Labour national majority. So in a vote the few sensible Labour MPs will abstain. Most will hold their noses and vote. The Tories will pull together, desperate to retain power, which is the point at issue in a confidence vote.

McDonnell will then have to cancel the taxi to take Corbyn to the Palace and Johnson will be free to call an election when and if he wants one. He can even win that. Electors tend to prefer a party with clear policies and an impetus. Only Johnson has both.

That’s why people who’ve denounced austerity for years now claim that turning on the money spiggots as Johnson has done is dangerous lunacy, i.e.it might help him win where people should be kept miserable so they’ll blame it on Brexit. Everything Johnson has done or proposed, however useful, must be rubbished and Dominic Cummings denounced as a malevolent Machiavelli controlling Johnson’s brain.

All this is played out just when Johnson and the EU are locked in a high stakes game of bluff. So in undermining Johnson to ensure that Britain fails, Remainers weaken Britain and help the EU they’re so keen on, (Let’s Make Europe Great Again) to inflict as much damage as it can on Britain. Not exactly a popular approach in a nation that voted to come out.

They’re doing it because they’re desperate and that makes them anxious to rewrite a constitution we haven’t got. It’s so crazy that I’m writing a new guide “Creating a Constitution to keep the British People in their Box” – should have an enormous sale in Brussels. Perhaps I’ll even beat Dominic Grieve for the Juncker prize: a model of the Brussels boy pissing on the people.

The post Welcome to constitutional wonderland appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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James Arnell: The conventional wisdom about a trade deal with America is wrong. Trump will want a fair one. Here’s why.

James Arnell is a partner at Charterhouse. He writes in a personal capacity.

I disagree with most commentators who believe that the UK will get a raw deal in any US-UK trade negotiations after Brexit.

I do not underestimate the fickleness of Trump, nor the Irish-American lobby in Congress. I recognise the overwhelming weight of the US relative to the UK.  I know that the US looks after its interests and does no one any favours.

But I don’t think any of that will stop us agreeing a decent trade deal. I believe that the US has major strategic interests in a trade deal with the UK, and that it will decide not to use all the undeniable leverage it has to strike the toughest possible terms.  It will want to strike a fair deal.

The US is in “America First” mode.  Contrary to what most people seem to believe, I believe that means Trump, and the American people, wish to see a global trading system which it sees as fair from its perspective.  There are many senior American business people who believe that the renegotiation of NAFTA was long overdue, and who are throughly fed up with the uneven playing field between the US and China.

Yes, they worry about the effects of the US-China trade war on the US economy, but many of them believe that some fights just have to be had.  There is more patriotism in American business and much more business support for Trump’s China line than the media presents.

The opportunity to strike a trade deal with a long-term ally like the UK is timely.  Agreeing an even-handed trade deal sends a strong message: this is about fairness, not American economic bullying.  I am optimistic that the US, across the political spectrum, will support a fair deal with the UK, because I think that it has a very strong interest in sending that message.

And that is not all.

 

A thriving UK, in a comprehensive free trade relationship with the US, right on the periphery of the EU, will put massive pressure on it.  Other EU countries, fed up with the federal agenda of the EU, will look at the UK and wonder whether they too might be better free and able to strike their own trade relationships.  This threat to the EU will be eyed by the US as great leverage to force the EU into what the US would see as a fair trade deal.  They will want the UK to succeed in its deal with the US.  They won’t want to screw us – because that would make it far too easy for the EU to keep its trade barriers up.

The US’ leverage is greater if any UK-US trade deal is designed to be as close as possible to something the EU could, should and, ultimately, would accept.  There is no leverage in agreeing a deal which does not work for the UK and which certainly would not work for the EU, and the smart money in the US will know it.

Aside from its desire to show an openness to trade with partners who do not play the US for fools, and its desire to pressurise the EU, the US will also welcome a committed ally in the global struggle for a new trade order, binding the three big blocs (US, China, Europe) into a more open, more level world trade regime or, at least, binding the rest of the world into a trading system around an unreformed China.  That is the best chance of America remaining “First”.

At present, we are in the phase of pulling down the old system, which the US sees as rotten and against its own interests.  We should not confuse that with isolationism.  My firm belief is that the US will relish the opportunity to show the world what its new order should look like, by agreeing a sensible deal with the UK.

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A UK-US trade deal. Never mind the economics (at least for a moment). Feel the politics.

“While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit,” Dominic Walsh of Open Europe wrote recently on this site, “their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise.” This is the place to start when considering a possible UK-US agreement on trade.  Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for one is as much political as economic: a successful deal would show Britain, as it moves a bit further from the EU, also moving a bit closer to America.

Such a rebalancing is a strategic consequence of Brexit, at least in the eyes of many backers of leaving the EU.  Future trade deals were a Vote Leave EU referendum priority – though it may be significant that the United States was not one of the headline countries named.  Perhaps the reason was a wariness of anti-American sentiment among a section of the voting public.  None the less, the prospect of a trade agreement with the United States was mooted during the 2016 campaign: hence Barack Obama’s line, written for him by Team Cameron, of Britain being “at the back of the queue” for such a deal.

The obstacles to one are formidable.  For while the Prime Minister is bound to view it through the lens of politics, Donald Trump is more likely to do through that of economics – though the one admittedly tends to blur into the other.  America’s approach to such matters as food safety and animal welfare, environmental protection and intellectual property rights is different from ours in any event.  Never mind the red herring of chlorinated chickens – so to speak – or autopilot claims from Corbynistas about NHS selloffs. The real action is elsewhere.  The United States has long had a protectionist streak, and is resistant to opening up its financial services markets, for example.

The conventional view is that Trump is the biggest America Firster of all; that he would drive a hard bargain, that he has the muscle to do so – and that he wouldn’t be in control of an agreement anyway.  Congress could block one if it wished, and might well do so in the event of No Deal, since the Irish-American lobby is as well-entrenched as ever.  It has been a headache for British governments over Ireland-linked matters before: remember the McBride principles.  A different take is that politics may win out in the end, because both Trump and Congress will want a UK trade deal in order to put economic and political pressure on the EU: we will publish more about that later this week.

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, is visiting Britain.  He said yesterday that the UK will be “first in line” for a trade agreement post-Brexit – a deliberate counter to Obama’s line.  Bolton will be dangling the prospect as an inducement.  He will want Johnson to take a more resistant line to Huawei than Theresa May did, and for the UK to move closer to America’s position on Iran.  But the possibility of early sector deals – or at least the exclusion of Britain from new pro-protection moves – seems to be real enough.  As with the NHS, policing, immigration and stop and search, so with trade.  Johnson wants progress towards a quick win as a possible election looms.

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Geoffrey van Orden: Why Tory MEPs voted for von der Leyen, an advocate of an EU army, for Commission President

Geoffrey van Orden is an MEP for the East of England and Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament. He is a former senior British Army officer.

Twice again in recent weeks the call for a “true European Army” has rung out – first from President Macron on Bastille Day and then from Ursula Von der Leyen, the EU Commission’s new President, in her pitch to MEPs in Strasbourg.

These were reminders, should we need them, that this ambition is one we must beware of both within the EU and long after we leave.

The UK has world-renowned security and intelligence agencies. It is also the pre-eminent military power in Europe with full-spectrum armed forces and global reach, Europe’s largest defence budget, and its biggest defence research capability.

The first of two new aircraft-carriers for the Royal Navy will soon enter operational service.The UK is a key member of the NATO alliance that provides credible deterrence and the ultimate defence guarantee for Europe. This is all well and good, but demonstrably not good enough in today’s increasingly dangerous world.

Given the paltry state of most armed forces across Europe, we should take little comfort from our marginal superiority to European allies. The true comparison is with our potential enemies, both high and low intensity, and our ability to generate and wield military power effectively to protect our interests and achieve our policy objectives.

Military capabilities take time to develop but are quickly lost. Aware how drastically our armed forces have been cut over the past 30 years, many of us have persistently called for a significant increase in real defence spending and for upgrading NATO. At the same time we have opposed EU defence policy, not through any shallow motive, but because we see it for what it is.

The objections to EU defence policy, the fabled ‘EU Army’, rest on many levels. It is primarily a political project to accelerate the political integration of Europe into a federal state.

Rather than seeking to create a more capable military partner to the United States, it is based on the opposite principle of “strategic autonomy”. The EU wants to create a separate power base, with decision-making and command structures deliberately outside that vital NATO alliance that binds the US to the security of the European nations.

Recent statements by the President of the European Council as well the French President bizarrely see the US as as big a threat to European security as Russia or China.

The desire to remove US influence and develop an essentially French vision of European defence and foreign policy runs long and deep in the corridors of the Élysée Palace and Quai d’Orsay. The European strategic priority should instead have been the opposite, to ensure the continued commitment of the US to the security of Europe, as the ultimate guarantor of peace.

European allies should be spending more on their national defence capabilities and revitalising NATO, instead they went along with the idea of alternative EU structures. This approach is sapping both material and political resources.

Far from strengthening the alliance of the democracies at this time of unprecedented challenge, the EU army idea leads to division and a widening of transatlantic difference. Moscow and Teheran can only be delighted.

I have always believed that in time of crisis, the democracies are best served by sitting around the same table to decide on a response. NATO is designed for precisely that. In spite of the fact that 22 EU countries are also NATO members, the EU wants to meet separately, keeping the Americans out.

This is a dangerous approach, it will bifurcate the transatlantic alliance and be exploited by our rivals and enemies. And besides seeking to give itself more global profile, the EU is unsure why it is developing a defence arm.

On the one hand, it insists it just wants to offer helpful civil assistance and deal with low-intensity threats while paying lip-service to NATO; on the other, it wants to assume responsibility for the defence of Europe and has even inserted a mutual-defence clause in the EU Treaty.

With Britain out of the way, the ayatollahs of European integration see the defence realm as key to their political objectives and want to go full steam ahead, harmonising defence planning, introducing a European Defence Fund for defence research and development, and removing the national vetoes in the realms of foreign and security policy, although its ill-defined Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) has already run into problems given the differing defence vision of the French and the Germans.

Hand in hand with the EU Army idea is the creation of an EU defence industrial development programme with common procurement rules that would effectively keep the Americans, and in due course the British, out of the EU internal defence market.

I have led the charge against EU defence policy for the last two decades. While we want our European allies to contribute more to defence, through NATO or coalitions of the willing, the EU Army is not the way. It will further dilute what limited capabilities exist, blur responsibility, and send the wrong signals to our adversaries.

Given all this, you might well ask why Conservatives voted in favour of such a strong advocate of an EU army as von der Leyen for President of the European Commission? Simple really. Any of the alternatives would have been worse. And we should respect the nominee of national governments in Council rather than of the federalist Parliament.

We did not want to unleash political chaos in Brussels and Berlin just when we need stable interlocutors to finalise Brexit. And given her focus on placating the Left and her performance in looking after the Bundeswehr, the EU army project would surely be doomed on her watch.

Our new Prime Minister will face many immediate and enormous challenges.  High among these will be our national defence and security. Enhanced defence capabilities are not only essential for our national security, they are also central to whatever ambitions we might have to play a leading role in future hi-tech industries and to project ourselves globally.

We must once more become the indispensable ally that others need, rather than us being the needy ones.

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Dominic Walsh: What would No Deal mean for trade beyond the EU?

Dominic Walsh is a policy analyst for Open Europe.

At present, the UK and the EU are on course for a No Deal Brexit. Yesterday morning, EU negotiators said there was no basis for any “meaningful discussions” about a potential deal. Meanwhile, in Westminster, it is far from clear that Parliament will be able to stop No Deal, which remains the legal default on October 31.

There has rightly been a lot of focus on what No Deal would mean for the UK’s trade with the EU. However, No Deal also has significant implications for the UK’s trade with the rest of the world – bringing both threats (some trade deals the UK enjoys through the EU will be lost and haven’t been replaced), and potential opportunities (the UK will be able to exercise an independent trade policy from day one).

The UK will set its own tariffs on all imports

In the immediate event of a No Deal exit, the UK’s ability to unilaterally set its own tariff regime on imports is likely to be a more significant plank of UK trade policy than trade deals. The Government’s current approach, which removes tariffs on 87 per cent of goods imports to the UK, has advantages and disadvantages, but correctly errs towards the interests of the UK consumer, while protecting some sensitive producers such as in the farming sector. At present, this regime is only due to last for a year – with uncertainty over what comes next.

The Government has several options for the long-term and, as ever with Brexit, there are trade-offs to confront. Continuing with a liberal approach to tariffs could have benefits for consumers and would increase competition in the UK economy.

However, there is an argument that unilateral liberalisation undermines the UK’s leverage with potential trade partners (who may think there is little point in doing a deal if they are already getting zero-tariff access for free). Raising tariffs, on the other hand, could restore some of this leverage, but at the cost of increasing trade barriers and imposing a regressive tax on consumers. The Government will need to decide swiftly after No Deal which approach is the best way forward.

Preserving EU trade deals 

As an EU member, the UK benefits from around 40 trade deals the EU has negotiated with around 70 third countries. The importance of these deals to the UK economy varies considerably. While trade with these 70 countries makes up approximately 15 per cent of the UK’s total trade, two thirds of this is with just six countries – Canada, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Switzerland, and Norway. Many of the other countries covered by EU agreements make up less than 0.05 per cent of UK trade. When it comes to rolling over trade deals, quality beats quantity.

Under Liam Fox, the Department of International Trade made better progress in “rolling over” existing EU agreements than some have given it credit, though significant gaps remain. Of the six major partners above, it has secured continuity agreements with Switzerland, Norway, and South Korea.

However, Japan has refused to roll over its existing deal with the EU, as it thinks it can get better terms through a bespoke bilateral deal. The UK’s current trading arrangements with Turkey rely on the latter’s customs union with the EU, and therefore cannot be preserved in a No Deal context. And negotiations with Canada have stalled because the UK’s low No Deal tariffs give competitor countries without a trade deal the same levels of access as Canada (known as “preference erosion”).

In addition, the “rollovers” that the UK has secured do not all provide full trade continuity. For example, the deals with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland provide for tariff-free trade in goods, but do not cover services or regulatory alignment in product standards.

The consequences of failing to preserve EU trade deals in a No Deal will affect exporters more than importers, thanks to the UK’s relatively liberal No Deal tariff regime. For example, businesses exporting cheese to Canada face eye-watering tariffs of 245 per cent, whereas Canadian pearls and precious stones (73 per cent of UK imports from Canada) would continue to enter the UK tariff-free.

New avenues for global trade

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, it makes sense for the UK to diversify its trade beyond the EU. Brexiteers are right to point out that the EU’s portion of the UK’s trade has already been gradually declining for the last 20 years; the question is how best to harness this. A No Deal outcome would be likely to accelerate this trend, and open up the UK to non-EU trade much more quickly.

However, a sharp change will not be an easy or painless transition for sectors highly integrated into EU supply chains. Geography still matters to many traders – particularly those involved in perishable or time-sensitive goods, such as fresh food.

Both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are committed to pursuing new trade deals after Brexit. However, expectations of dozens of ‘quick wins’ in a No Deal scenario should be tempered. Some countries may adopt the “wait and see” strategy adopted by Canada and Japan – partly due to the ongoing lack of certainty over the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and partly because it is unclear that any deal negotiated by the UK would be ratified by this Parliament.

Just like the EU, potential trading partners have their own interests which will not always be aligned with those of the UK. The primary example is the US, which Truss has said she wants to deliver “as soon as possible.”

Yet there are a number of obstacles to a UK-US trade deal, which will take time to overcome – such as food standards (think chlorinated chicken), drug procurement, and digital services. There are also political obstacles to ratification on both sides. In the Commons, a deal with Trump’s US would be just as controversial as a deal with the EU, while the Democrat-controlled Congress cannot be relied upon either.

While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit, their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise. As Fox found on the job, there are many ways to promote UK trade interests other than trade deals, such as exploiting soft power assets and prioritising services trade (where the UK is a world leader).

The trade debate in the UK is still beset by simplistic soundbites. While this might be expected after 40 years of outsourcing trade policy to Brussels, the UK needs to grapple with the realities of global trade quickly in order to make a success of Brexit.

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Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead.

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s visit to Edinburgh last week, I polled Scots to measure support for a second independence referendum and to gauge opinion on independence itself. I found a small majority in favour of a new vote – and the first lead for an independent Scotland for more than two years.

I found 47 per cent agreeing that there should be another referendum on Scottish independence within the next two years (Nicola Sturgeon has demanded a new vote by 2021), with 45 per cent disagreeing.

While more than nine in ten Conservatives oppose a referendum, a return to the polls is favoured by more than one third of 2017 Labour voters, more than half of EU Remain voters, and by more than one in five of those who voted No to independence in 2014.

Asked how they would vote in such a contest, 46 per cent said they would vote Yes to independence, and 43 per cent No. Excluding those who say they don’t know or wouldn’t vote, this amounts to a lead of 52 per cent to 48 per cent for an independent Scotland. This is the first lead for independence in a published poll since an Ipsos MORI survey in March 2017, and the biggest lead since a spate of polls in June 2016, shortly after the UK voted to leave the EU.

One third of Labour voters, a majority of EU Remain voters and 18 per cent of those who voted No to independence last time round said they would vote Yes. Again, more than nine in ten Tories said they would vote No, as did just over one in ten of those who backed independence in 2014. A majority of voters up to the age of 49 said they would vote Yes, including 62 per cent of those aged 18 to 24.

Overall, a majority of Scots thought that if a second referendum were to be held, the result this time would be an independent Scotland. Only three in ten – including just two thirds of Conservatives and fewer than half of 2014 No voters – thought Scotland would vote to remain part of the UK. A further 18 per cent said they didn’t know.

More than six in ten Scots – including 38 per cent of 2017 Conservatives and two thirds of Labour voters – said they think Brexit makes it more likely that Scotland will become independent in the foreseeable future. Indeed, more than half of 2014 No voters think this is the case, with 32 per cent of them saying it makes independence much more likely.

Just over half – including a majority of Labour voters, nearly one in five Tories and two thirds of EU remain voters – say Brexit strengthens the case for Scotland to become independent.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of all Scots agree with Sturgeon’s claim that a No Deal Brexit would be disastrous for Scotland, including half of Labour voters and nearly one in five Tories. A further three in ten (including most Conservatives) think the risks have been exaggerated but there would be some difficulties.

Asked what their preferred Brexit outcome would be, most 2017 Conservative voters backed Boris Johnson’s position that the UK should leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal – though one in five said they would be prepared to wait longer than October for a better deal, and nearly a quarter said they wanted to remain in the EU. Remaining is the most popular outcome, though favoured by only half of all Scots.

Scottish voters are closely divided as to whether – if it were not possible to do both – it would be more important for Scotland to remain part of the UK, or to remain in the EU. While 43 per cent would prioritise the Union, 45 per cent would prioritise the EU. While Conservatives and SNP voters were leaned heavily as one would expect, Labour voters were split: 46 per cent would choose the UK, 40 per cent would choose the EU, and 14 per cent say they don’t know.

More than half of Scots said there should be a second referendum on EU membership, including 69 per cent of SNP voters, more than half of Labour voters and one in five Conservatives. Should this take place, 67 per cent of those giving an opinion said they would vote to remain.

As for Boris Johnson’s first week as Prime Minister, while nearly half of Scots said they expected him to do badly, a quarter of those said he had done better than they had anticipated.

While only just over one third of 2017 Conservatives they expected him to do well and he had, a further one in four said they had had low expectations but been pleasantly surprised.

Compared to other politicians, Boris Johnson ranks relatively low among Scottish voters – though still above Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. He scores well below Ruth Davidson, both among Scots as a whole and, to a lesser degree, 2017 Conservatives.

Asked which of the two most likely candidate would make the better Prime Minister, 29 per vent of Scots named Johnson, 23 per cent said Corbyn, and nearly half said they didn’t know. Fewer than four in ten 2017 Labour voters said they thought Corbyn would make the best Prime Minister.

Despite this, when forced to choose, Scots said they would prefer a Labour government with Corbyn as Prime Minister to a Johnson-led Conservative government by 57 per cent to 43 per cent. A quarter of Labour voters said they would prefer the latter, as did the same proportion of SNP voters – perhaps calculating that this circumstance held out the best prospect of independence for Scotland.

3Those who voted SNP in 2017 are the most likely to say they will stick with their party in a new general election. They put their mean likelihood of turning out for the party at 88/100, compared to Conservatives’ 71/100 chance of voting Tory again; 2017 Labour voters put their chance of voting the same way in a new election at just 56/100. Some Tories were tempted by the Brexit Party (their mean likelihood of voting this way being 35/100), and some by the Lib Dems (26/100). The SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all held some appeal for Labour voters. In terms of overall mean likelihood to vote for the party, both Labour and the Tories ranked behind the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Greens, whose score was boosted by an average likelihood of 55/100 among 18-24 year-olds.

Full data tables for the survey are available at LordAshcroftPolls.com.

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Is Johnson aiming for a snap election?

Version one is that, as soon as Parliament returns in September, Boris Johnson will seek, and obtain, a general election.  He will thereby seize the initiative, commit again to leaving the EU by October 31, squeeze the Brexit Party’s vote, and exploit an opposition vote divided elsewhere, in England and Wales, between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  Although the Conservatives will lose seats in London and Scotland these will perhaps be offset by gains in the Midlands and North.  The sum of this case is that the new Prime Minister must move early before Parliament proves him powerless, now that he has next to no working majority.

Version two is that Johnson hasn’t the credibility, under such a scenario, to squeeze the Brexit Party as much as he needs to.  Instead, he must prove his commitment to that October 31 date.  And he can only do that by going for it, deal or no deal.  Which he must do until or unless the Commons votes that it has no confidence in his Government, or the Philip Hammond/Oliver Letwin/Dominic Grieve/Yvette Cooper continuum, aided and abetted by the Speaker, finds a means of preventing Brexit by the end of October.  At which point, the Prime Minister seeks and obtains an election, as above, and tries to utilise the differences between his opponents.

Which version you believe may depend on, inter alia: how quickly CCHQ can get election-ready; whether you think voters would treat any poll as a referendum on Brexit (as in 2016) or a vote on wider domestic policy (as in the snap election of 2017); what the EU does next; what any Johnson manifesto might say – would it unambiguously commit to scrapping the Withdrawal Agreement? – and, above all, whether it would be too late for an election to stop Britain leaving the EU by October 31 in any event.  A poll by which date Brexit had already happened would obviously be different from one by which it had not – especially if squeezing Nigel Farage’s party is the name of the game.

The political story of this August, unexpected foreign affairs or other crises aside, will be about these alternatives – an election that Johnson either forces himself or is forced on him.  There will be a mass of conjecture and a shortage of facts.  This will be intensified by claims about what Dominic Cummings does and doesn’t think, and he is a man who likes to throw his opponents off balance.  So for what it’s worth, our advice is to stay cool, hang loose, enjoy the summer – and rule almost nothing out.  If you do the last, you may well be imitating Johnson and Cummings themselves, hunkered down as they will be with policy wonks and constitutional lawyers.

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More than 70 per cent of Conservative Party members believe the UK will leave the EU by 31st October

The third and final finding from this month’s ConservativeHome survey of Party members is not very surprising, but important nonetheless.

Over 72 per cent of respondents answered “Yes” to the question “Do you believe that the UK will leave the EU by 31st October 2019?”

We knew that the majority of Tory members voted Leave, that around six in ten voted for the Brexit Party in the EU elections, and that a clear majority voted for Boris Johnson as Conservative leader. We also know that they are feeling fairly optimistic about the next election, since the change of Prime Minister, and newly positive about his Cabinet.

On that basis, you’d expect a high degree of belief in and agreement with Boris’s pledge to deliver Brexit by the end of October among Tory members. The challenge, of course, comes in ensuring the promise – and thereby this weight of expectation – is fulfilled. Fail that test, and every other positive number will tumble with it.

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