UK to spend over £100M on ferries in case of no-deal Brexit

Contracts given to British and European companies.

The U.K. will spend more than £107 million on ferries to ease congestion at ports in case of a no-deal Brexit.

The Department of Transport has awarded contracts to French, Danish and British companies to develop additional lorry capacity at the ports of Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Immingham and Felixstowe.

Increased checks after Brexit could “cause delivery of critical goods to be delayed” and significantly disrupt the road network around the port of Dover, the BBC reported, citing documents outlining the agreements.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable described the move as “complete madness” as the government has the power to stop a no-deal Brexit at any time.

“The fact that this money is predominantly going to European companies is nothing short of ironic,” Cable told the BBC.

The Danish company DFDS was awarded a contract worth £47.3 million and British firm Seaborne a £13.8 million deal. France’s Brittany Ferries’ contract is worth £46.6 million.

The additional crossings would amount to about 10 percent of existing traffic across the Strait of Dover and provide up to half a million tonnes a month in extra capacity.

The documents state that an “unforeseeable” situation of “extreme urgency” meant there was no time for the contracts to be put out to tender.

According to the BBC, however, a number of firms were considered and there was a private negotiation process.


Read this next: Theresa May accused of ‘desperate’ move by knighting Brexiteer

A plea to the PM from a Leave-supporting businessperson: Stop the scare stories and embrace a Sovereign Brexit

What follows is an open letter to the Prime Minister written by a businessperson who backed Leave at the referendum but who for professional reasons is currently unable to enter the political fray. Dear Prime Minister, I have watched with a sense of appalled inevitability your recent unsuccessful visit to Brussels, characterised as it was […]

The post A plea to the PM from a Leave-supporting businessperson: Stop the scare stories and embrace a Sovereign Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.

What follows is an open letter to the Prime Minister written by a businessperson who backed Leave at the referendum but who for professional reasons is currently unable to enter the political fray.

Dear Prime Minister,

I have watched with a sense of appalled inevitability your recent unsuccessful visit to Brussels, characterised as it was by a lack of ideas, an absence of combativeness and a reckless and relentless desire to cling on to every rotten element of the vassal state deal that you and your small Remainer clique of advisers in Downing Street have concocted with the EU. Harsh words? Perhaps, but they are words that are endorsed – sometimes in more polite phrases, sometimes in less polite phrases – by the vast majority in our country and even of our Parliament.

Why are you so recklessly clinging to every suspect element of this ‘Brexit in name only’ deal? Many believe the problem all began with your still-secret promises made to Nissan, the car manufacturer in Sunderland, shortly after you took power in 2016. You have never published those promises. Many of us guess that it was partly as a result of those promises that in your talks with the EU you then gave away – whether in ignorance or because you never truly meant to leave the Customs Union – every possible negotiating element that would allow the United Kingdom to pursue its own independent economic and trade policies. Was that so? Can you not come clean with the electorate and tell us what those Nissan promises were, how much they are now constraining you and how much your desire to cling to your secret agreement with one company, Nissan, has led you to all this foolishness? Because if that is the case, then the honourable thing for you to do would be to resign and let someone else – someone not burdened by that promise – create a way forward for our country that is not shackled by that apparently all-constraining Nissan cursed promise.

If there was no such promise, then I am puzzled by your insistence that a WTO-terms deal – what is most truthfully termed a ‘Sovereign Brexit’, the thing that 17.4 million people actually voted for – must be ruled out by you. Your Remainer friends who dominate the media have managed to spin non-facts into a general belief that a Sovereign Deal would be catastrophic. Your grid in Downing Street has, month after month, delivered to a credulous press and public a remorseless stream of doom-laden statements by those rent-seeking members of the business community on whom you have chosen to rely to spin your message. Yet neither you, nor the spinners, nor your business allies, actually ever credibly articulated what the specific negatives of such a deal would be (the contemptible catastrophe forecasts by your discredited Treasury modellers, and by your apparently politically motivated Governor of the Bank of England, are no longer believed by anyone – as I am sure you must know).

What could go wrong, and what would go right, in a Sovereign Brexit? The claims of your Remain-loving enablers as to what might go wrong are economic. They relate first to exports from the EU into this country and second to exports from the United Kingdom into the EU. Once even the briefest analysis is conducted, both sets of claims are quickly seen as hogwash.

Exports from the EU into the UK – no disruption threat there

There have been the most extraordinary and juvenile claims of potential (albeit very short-term) shortages in this country after 29th March 2019. Even you, lamentably, mentioned your diabetes and your desire for being sure of your supply of insulin. Who persuaded you to say that? Did you give the slightest thought to how ridiculous that scare story was? Insulin is sold under a wonderful system we call private enterprise, from one company to another. In the UK’s case, it’s mostly a Danish company selling insulin to companies in Britain. The insulin is put on a plane or a boat and comes over to our country. What, do you assert, would prevent this from happening after a Sovereign Brexit? Come on, what? Are you saying that the EU would somehow seek to prevent insulin being placed on a ship or a boat and exported to us? You aren’t saying that, are you? Such an action would be illegal. Or, OK: let’s even say that, however unlikely, the EU indeed decided on 29th March to start acting entirely illegally (again: for a short period of time only, which is all they could possibly ever do). Then the UK would get its insulin from the US, or the Danish company would sell the insulin to Norway, or some other non-EU country, which would then export it on to the UK. Businesses successfully deal with complications of this sort all the time. All that the EU’s (highly, highly unlikely) illegality would result in is the Danish company losing money, one way or another. But you and I know that the EU wouldn’t shoot itself in the foot like that.

So, were you claiming instead that Britain would somehow put up barriers against Danish insulin coming into the country after 29th March? We wouldn’t, would we? Come on, you know that, don’t you? So why did you raise a false scare story, that would have had tens or hundreds of thousands of diabetics worried that their supply of insulin was suddenly going to dry up, when you know it’s hogwash? Isn’t that the sort of rabble-rousing nonsense that we try not to do in the Conservative Party?

Insulin is just an example of any other product that comes into the UK from the EU. We would not prevent any product from arriving; the EU would have no legal locus (or indeed any physical ability) to prevent any product from being sent; can you please just stop being silly and admit that there would be no supply shortages in the UK? (And please, can we in particular try to keep our Conservative ministers from making fools of themselves, in their eagerness to support you, by escalating the level of ludicrousness of such scare stories from a possibility of momentary disruption of a day or two, through to six-week problems, through to six-month problems? The more outlandish their claims get, the less anyone believes them – though some Remainers tactically pretend to. We will actually need to have a set of ministers who are seen as competent by the UK electorate after all this settles down, if the Conservatives wish to remain in power.)

The UK’s exports to the EU – not credible to assert any long-term or even short-term disruption

Let’s turn to the second set of scare stories running against a Sovereign Brexit. We keep being warned about “lorry parks in Kent”. The idea is that Calais will somehow impose restrictions on us, so that we won’t be able to get our goods speedily into France and through to the rest of the EU. Of course, we send just 6% of the UK’s exports through Calais, and those exports can swiftly be diverted to go through other ports, were Calais were to seek to prevent the easy flow of UK goods into Europe. But we needn’t particularly worry about anything like that happening, because every local official from Calais, and the Pas de Calais region, has said that this will not happen. It would take an edict from President Macron – an edict that would be entirely illegal, whether in EU law or in the WTO agreement – to impose such a blockade (Indeed: if you really were to believe – and I for one don’t think you do – that Macron would truly seek to impose an illegal blockade, then it would be utterly abject of you, and unworthy of the Prime Minister of our sovereign nation, to bow to a perception of a threat of this sort).

In any event, let us assume that the worst happens and that Macron does indeed seek some way of blocking British exports into the EU. The French did that once before, when they for a while diverted Japanese VCRs to Poitiers, so that EU manufacturers could win in the VCR market. They were very swiftly brought to court by the WTO and made to stop. Japanese VCRs continued to dominate the world (and the EU) market. France have never tried that trick again. And what would be the result for the French, were they to try it on us? Well, within a couple of weeks, as their just-in-time-systems were affected, thousands of French and German auto workers – possibly tens of thousands, in the unlikely event that the French were successful for more than a few days – would be thrown out of work, as French and German car manufacturing plants had to shut down. Do you really think, Prime Minister, that this would be allowed to happen? Or is your assertion, that somehow the EU would inflict such a monstrous act of self-harm upon itself, just a stance that you are pretending to believe in, so as to insist on this foolish deal that you and the EU are trying to impose upon the British people?

In either case – exports or imports – the very wildest claims are of a possible disruption that would last for, even your wildest claims allege, only a few months. Why, then, should this be the dispositive consideration, when we are talking about Britain’s future for many decades to come? Why would you shackle the country permanently to a lordly EU, in order to avoid a very temporary (and, if you read my above arguments, not going to happen anyway) disruption? Why would you abandon even the threat of a WTO terms deal – and in so abandoning it, allow us to become the hapless prey of what everyone now knows are entirely ruthless EU negotiators?

The Irish Border and the Backstop – a Hoax

On the Backstop, and its claimed urgency and importance, the trick is to look at your language, where one finds your people always using the passive mood – a classic giveaway. You say you are worried about a hard border “being imposed” (passive mood). You do not offer a noun in front of the verb, to show who it is, exactly, that is predicted to be going to do this “imposing”. That’s because, in fact, nobody wants to, nor do they intend to, impose such a border. You have said that Britain will never impose a hard border. The EU has said that it will never impose a hard border. The Irish have said that they will never impose a hard border. The Revenue of the UK has said that imposing a hard border will in all circumstances be entirely unnecessary. Talk of a hard border is nonsense, and you know it. Plan after plan has been published showing how the Irish border question can easily be dealt with, away from the border. To assert that this issue might bring back the IRA, that there will be one disaster or another if we don’t have the Backstop, is irresponsible. Which brings us back to what many aver, that the Backstop is just a cover for implementing some promise you made to the auto industry in 2016, that we would be in some form of Customs Union with the EU – precisely the thing that 17.4 million people voted against.

(And by the way, could you please get your people to stop briefing the credulous media as to how the EU don’t like the Backstop? To believe that – if indeed you do – would be a colossal, monumental piece of self-delusion. The EU love this Backstop, created as it is without an exit clause, with the EU entirely in control as to when – if ever – the backstop is removed. And Leo Varadkar is of course – and rightly – terrified of a Sovereign Brexit because the Irish economy would, unlike the UK’s economy, drastically contract as soon as we stopped buying Irish agricultural products and started buying cheaper, alternative produce from New Zealand and Argentina, were the EU to fail immediately to agree a free trade deal with the UK.)

As constituted in your proposed deal, the Backstop turns Britain into a permanent, shackled vassal state of the EU, subject to all its laws, on which we’d have no say; gradually reduced to a pathetic vestigial outcropping of the EU, with German goods and French produce increasingly defined under EU laws as the only sources that we will be allowed to accept. If the EU wishes – and why should they not? – that Backstop would be for good. Our manufacturing, already half destroyed by our membership of the EU, would continue to shrink, and our farmers and fishers would continue to be at a disadvantage – forever.

The positives of a Sovereign Brexit

So much for the specious arguments that a Sovereign Brexit would be problematic, and that your surrender deal is therefore necessary. But what about the positives for a Sovereign Brexit? I sometimes wonder what Downing Street’s grasp of numbers is like. Do you have any true feel for what £39 billion, so insouciantly promised to the EU in return for illusory favours, could do for this country were we to spend it on ourselves, as we could if we opted for a Sovereign Brexit, rather than giving it away?

For a start, were there any sector (including your much-loved auto sector), but let us say, for example, the agricultural or the fisheries sector, that indeed for some (unlikely) reason suffered during any years of further negotiations, then just a small fraction of this £39bn would be enough to keep those industries whole, for the (in the scheme of things) short period it took to get a free trade deal with the EU. We do not owe this £39bn to the EU. It’s possible that the EU could make an argument for us paying over a small fraction of that amount as one or another obligation, that we might eventually agree, but we certainly wouldn’t pay it any time soon, were the EU to keep on playing the sort of hardball with us that they have adopted so far as their negotiating posture; it would take them years, possibly decades, to establish legally that we owed the money.

Regardless, there is no way that the UK would ever have to pay anything but a small fraction of the full sum. Don’t you think, Prime Minister, that the EU are rather keen to have that money? Do you not see that by ruling out a Sovereign Brexit, and by promising to pay the money before you have agreed a trade deal with the EU, you have taken two enormous bargaining chips off the table? Wouldn’t keeping that money in a Sovereign Brexit scenario make a huge positive impact for the UK?

So, for a start, we’ll have that £39 billion (a sum that in your deal, as we pay it to the EU, will massively and worryingly increase this country’s debt – for no clear return). But a Sovereign Brexit will give us so much more than just that money; we’ll retain our ability to do free trade deals with that part of the global economy from which 90% of future global growth will be coming (you may know this as the ‘not the EU’ world. I hope you sometimes think about it?); we’ll keep our ability to unshackle our entrepreneurs from EU regulation (so that, as just one random example, we can regain the 12% of the global clinical trials industry that we used to have, until EU regulations in 2002 suddenly collapsed our share to around 2%); and above all, the clothing, food and other essentials that the people of the United Kingdom buy in the future being far cheaper as we move outside the protectionist barriers of the EU’s Customs Union and Internal Market.

You know very well, Prime Minister, how all of your allegedly neutral and objective advisers have ostentatiously ignored all of these benefits. You know they have failed to seriously review the many analyses that show that far from a Sovereign Brexit being negative for the British economy, it is likely instead to have a significant positive effect. You know that the insistence of your Treasury officials on publishing neither their models, nor the assumptions they put into those models, make an absolute nonsense of the credibility of those models and a mockery of the alleged impartiality of those officials. Please, Prime Minister: you are juggling with the future of this country. At the very least, you should be honest with the people of this country – both in acknowledging the above points, and in forcing your officials to own up to the way they have jammed their thumb onto one side of the scales of public opinion.

Prime Minister, you are offering us a deal where you propose to break up the Union and hand Northern Ireland over to the EU. You intend to hand over money ahead of any trade deal, thus assuring that whatever is agreed in that deal will be even more horrendous than what you have come up with so far – Gibraltar threatened, our fisheries destroyed, our people deprived of their chance for the benefits of free trade and subjected to semi-permanent, quite likely perpetual, enshacklement to the EU. You have gone back on every single promise you made when the Conservative Party made you their leader, when you gave your Lancaster House speech, when you said “Brexit means Brexit”.

The sorry band around you are desperate for your deal to go through because if we went for a Sovereign Brexit instead, they, and their enablers in the media and big businesses, would be exposed as the complete charlatans that they are, when a WTO terms Leave is implemented (the Leave that those 17.4 million voters expected to happen). This is why your myrmidons are fighting so hard, because all of them – your advisers, the civil servants involved, the Treasury forecasters, your small clique of Remain ministers, The Economist, the FT, the BBC, and on and on – would have no choice but permanently to disappear from public life once we implemented a Sovereign Brexit and all their egregious negative spinning and outrageous scare stories were proved as false as their original 2016 Project Fear was.

You, however, Prime Minister, have a glorious chance to escape their fate, by doing one thing: you can still, now, and energised by Juncker’s utterly disrespectful behaviour to you in this past week, turn around to the European Union and say, finally:

“Fine. I understand you don’t want to do a deal. We’re now going to go full bore for a Sovereign-terms Brexit. Let’s sort out some administrative things like us allowing you to fly your planes over the UK, but other than that, let’s see each other in Geneva at the WTO. Do come back to us if you want to discuss some kind of Canada-plus deal, but otherwise, let’s all spend our time constructively in the next three months preparing for Britain’s Sovereign Exit from the EU.”

For the sake of our country Prime Minister, please take this chance. Now.

The post A plea to the PM from a Leave-supporting businessperson: Stop the scare stories and embrace a Sovereign Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.

WATCH: What is Fox’s medical verdict on May’s deal? “It’s recovering.”

“They’re not going to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement…but how do you operate it in a way that’s acceptable to both sides?”

We must intensify plans for trading on WTO terms and then negotiate a UK-EU trade deal on those sure foundations

Pulling the vote on its Withdrawal Agreement at the eleventh hour, the Government acknowledged what we already knew: the Backstop proposal is completely unacceptable and the Agreement stood no chance of winning the support of Parliament. But rather than simply seeking “reassurances” on this issue – which, though a central objective, is but one of […]

The post We must intensify plans for trading on WTO terms and then negotiate a UK-EU trade deal on those sure foundations appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Pulling the vote on its Withdrawal Agreement at the eleventh hour, the Government acknowledged what we already knew: the Backstop proposal is completely unacceptable and the Agreement stood no chance of winning the support of Parliament.

But rather than simply seeking “reassurances” on this issue – which, though a central objective, is but one of many – the Government needs to consider more boldly the possible alternative arrangements which might command Parliament’s support. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, offered just such an alternative in March: a wide-ranging, zero-tariff trade agreement.

That deal foundered on the question of the Northern Ireland border, but existing techniques and processes can resolve this.

This view is endorsed by the professional customs body, CLECAT. They recommend we acknowledge the present state of customs technology, using procedures based on intelligence and risk management available in current EU law. These are currently used to manage the border which already exists – for VAT, tax, currency, excise and security – and can form the foundation for continued seamless trade.

From my October meeting with Michel Barnier and senior officials, I know that a willingness exists on the EU side to explore these possibilities more fully. The meeting also confirmed that Tusk’s offer is still on the table.

Rather than cling hopelessly to the Withdrawal Agreement, the Government must return to that offer. By resolving the border question with existing techniques, we can immediately start negotiating an optimal, wide-ranging Free Trade Agreement. I have already presented the Government with a Trade Facilitation Chapter and new Border Protocol to catalyse this process.

In parallel, we must intensify our preparations for trading on WTO terms. This is no cause for alarm, and those doubting this should look to the UK’s booming exports – up by nearly £100bn since before the referendum. The latest ONS figures put exports to non-EU countries at £342bn, compared to exports to EU countries of £274bn.

Much of that boom is through expansion into new markets. Since 1998, UK goods exports to non-EU countries have grown 16 times faster than its exports to the EU.

Yet scaremongering has clouded our perception of WTO rules. We are told that just-in-time supply chains will be unable to continue across customs borders. But in reality the operation of these chains is as dependent upon non-EU goods as on those from the EU. 21% of UK automotive manufacturers’ bought-in supply chain comes from outside the EU – compared to 36% from the EU and 43% from the UK – yet the customs procedures required for that sizeable proportion do not pose an insurmountable problem.

We are told that even minor customs delays will cause unprecedented queues on the M20 and economic disaster. But Operation Stack – limiting access to the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Dover – was activated for seven months in total between 1998 and 2015, without any of the “catastrophes” now imagined.

Responding to these Project Fear claims, we must always ask: why? Why would a rules-based organisation like the EU suddenly start behaving illegally, to the detriment of its people and in defiance of international agreements? As Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France region, has said in dismissing fears of major disruption between Dover and Calais: “Who could believe such a thing? We have to do everything to guarantee fluidity.”

It is true that the EU has trade deals with around 70 countries, which the UK will have to novate. This process has already begun and no country has signalled an unwillingness to co-operate. But remember that many of these agreements are very small. Switzerland alone accounts for half of UK exports to these 70 countries and it, Norway, Turkey and South Korea account for over 75%. Renegotiating a small number of agreements to cover the vast majority of this trade should not be a prohibitive task.

Though not an optimal arrangement, there is thus nothing to fear from WTO rules. Its 164 members represent 98% of world trade. We must be ready to trade on those terms to smooth the transition and demonstrate that we are serious.

That way, we shall be negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the EU on sure foundations. Realistically, of course, a full agreement will not be reached by March, but this need not pose a problem. So long as progress has been made towards an agreement by then, the EU and the UK can jointly notify the WTO as soon as possible after our exit date of our intent to negotiate an FTA. Under Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, after notification of a sufficiently detailed FTA with an appropriate plan and schedule, we could maintain zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions for a “reasonable length of time” (exceeding “10 years only in exceptional cases”) without violating the bar on discriminating against other nations under WTO rules.

So, rather than the Withdrawal Agreement’s choice of a transition period ending in “20XX” or a potentially permanent and definitely intolerable backstop, this proposal would provide stability and clarity for the time-limited negotiating period, delivering a zero-tariff, mutually beneficial trade agreement. That would surely command a majority in Parliament. That is the alternative. That is the way ahead.

This is an extended version of an article originally which appeared in the Daily Telegraph

The post We must intensify plans for trading on WTO terms and then negotiate a UK-EU trade deal on those sure foundations appeared first on BrexitCentral.

The UK’s unnoticed export boom underlines why a no-deal Brexit is nothing to fear

A true economic miracle is happening. An extraordinary leap in the UK’s global export trade has occurred – a complete reverse of the ‘Doomsday’ predictions of the Treasury, Bank of England and Department for Business in London both before after the Brexit vote. According to figures published by the UK Office of National Statistics in […]

The post The UK’s unnoticed export boom underlines why a no-deal Brexit is nothing to fear appeared first on BrexitCentral.

A true economic miracle is happening. An extraordinary leap in the UK’s global export trade has occurred – a complete reverse of the ‘Doomsday’ predictions of the Treasury, Bank of England and Department for Business in London both before after the Brexit vote.

According to figures published by the UK Office of National Statistics in November – in the second calendar year following the EU referendum – exports to non-EU countries were £342 billion while exports to EU countries were £274 billion.

In the same period, the growth in exports continued to outstrip the growth in imports, almost halving the UK’s trade deficit from £23.4 billion to £15.8 billion. Most exceptionally, since the referendum, exports have increased by £111 billion to £610 billion.

Doubters will say it is a temporary blip caused by the falling pound. Not true. The boom is in new markets, and largely in new products and services, too. UK exports not just increased but doubled in hitherto obscure countries such as Oman and Macedonia. Exports to distant Kazakhstan climbed to $2 billion, only slightly less than the UK’s exports to Austria, worth $2.43 billion in 2017, which like many EU nations buys very little from the UK.

In the 12 months to September, the value of UK exports grew by some 4.4%, including strong growth in the manufacturing sector. Indeed, HMRC stated that exports of goods had shown “robust growth in every single region of the UK”. The number of Welsh SMEs which export doubled during the last two years to 52%.

Curiously, none of this has been spotted by any of the UK’s headline media – the BBC, Sky News or the FT. Not a peep from the new editor of the Daily Mail. Even The Economist was asleep on the job. Meanwhile, various government departments are spending much of their time issuing ‘Death in Brexit’ forecasts in a co-ordinated campaign with the Bank of England and other allies – and rarely champion our achievements.

Four years ago I was interviewed by Richard Cockett, The Economist’s UK business editor. I told him the UK was experiencing an unparalleled SME boom. How did I know, he asked? Since leaving the FT as a technology correspondent and columnist in 2003, my small team in central London has maintained a uniquely comprehensive database of more than 70,000 UK smaller companies.

As a result, daily we receive an avalanche of success stories. In the food and drink sector alone, if you want whisky marmalade or beetroot ketchup, or 500 new gin varieties or more than 1,000 new craft beers launched since 2011, our very brave, risk-adoring micro-SMEs will deliver.

If a New York cathedral needs a new, hand-made organ that £3 million contract comes to Britain. We sell sand to Saudi Arabia, china to China, and Turkish delight to Turkey. In the ultra-competitive auto components sector, UK exports are up 20%. Luxury goods, consumer goods, clever instrumentation for NASA and crucial cerebral input into US defence projects are all avidly listed in our dataset.

And yet, in our view the true importance of the export boom is as much political as economic. It proves that a No-Deal exit from the EU – or what I much prefer to call ‘Our Own Deal’ – is by far the best option, and far less damaging and disruptive than the ‘experts’ at the Bank of England, IoD, CBI, OECD and World Bank have forecast.

Far from being the ‘poverty and isolation’ scenario predicted by the chin tremblers who endlessly appear on Radio 4, the UK will be far much dependent on the EU in as little as five years.

Fears about UK-made cars from Japanese firms such as Nissan and Toyota being cut off from Europe are groundless. First, the UK could retaliate against BMW and VW – something no post-Merkel German politician would tolerate. Any anti-Japanese actions by the French would result in the rapid diminution of the £4 billion annual exports of French cosmetics to Japan. And the French know it, no matter what Macron might bluster.

But the export explosion is not the only piece of recent great news for the UK – there is more. First, in October 2018 Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, invited the UK to become part of the Pacific free trade pact – although this is dependent on the UK leaving the EU’s Customs Union. It would make the UK the sole geographically-distant member of the grouping, helping the country to rebuild trading links around the Pacific Ocean that stretch back more than two centuries.

Next, BP’s huge Claire Ridge oilfield, west of the Shetlands, just came on stream, providing no less than £42 billion in revenues over the next 25 years. It is a development much envied across energy-starved Europe – and there are more oilfields to come.

At this critical moment in the Brexit saga, it is vital the UK now wakes up to the much brighter future it has outside of the EU, and vital that Mrs May copies the bravery of our SME exporters. The so-called ‘No-Deal’, a term that needlessly frightens ordinary citizens, should indeed be re-named ‘Our Own Deal’, in which we invite all nations to trade with us on fair trade, low or no tariff, basis.

The UK economy will soon be in a solidly secure position to refuse any damaging ‘deal’ from the European Commission. Perhaps it was always the height of imbecility to think we could ever get a good deal from the Commission.

Finally, the tide of history is in our favour, even in Europe. The current, sub-optimal generation of European politicians – Cameron, Merkel, Juncker – will soon ‘be history’. Merkel goes next year – and every EU Commissioner will be replaced, too.

As Brexit talks limp from one embarrassment to the next, a No-Deal option will not be the doomsday Theresa May, the financial and property elites, and the heads of the UK’s top organisations and PLCs have long predicted. In fact the UK should never have negotiated with the Commission – from whom no fair deal was ever possible. The UK should introduce its own deal, ‘Our Deal Now’, in which we offer all nations fair trade agreements with no or low tariffs.
For hundreds of thousands of small UK companies, a complete split from the EU can’t come soon enough.

The post The UK’s unnoticed export boom underlines why a no-deal Brexit is nothing to fear appeared first on BrexitCentral.

“We have had some tough choices to make.” Fox’s speech at Royal Portbury Dock. Full text.

“The divisions of the referendum need to be consigned to the past. Now is the time to…lead our country to a future of freedom, success, and prosperity.”

Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, gave the following speech today at the Royal Portbury Dock.

It’s a pleasure to be here this morning at the Royal Portbury Dock.

As MP for North Somerset, as well as Secretary of State for International Trade, it’s fair to say I have a significant interest in the success of a venture that supports more than 500 jobs in my constituency.

And I can’t help but notice that business is booming.

At the time of the referendum, we were told that just voting to leave the EU would cause such an economic shock that we’d lose half a million jobs, our investors would desert us, and we would require an emergency budget to deal with the ensuing fiscal imbalance.

What’s happened since? We’ve added over 700,000 jobs to the economy, with more people finding work than at any time in the past 40 years.

This upward trajectory shows no signs of slowing. Indeed, the OBR has calculated that we can add another 800,000 jobs without creating inflationary pressure, because there’s still slack in the economy.

In 2017 we saw total UK exports rise by 10.9% compared with 2016.

And what did we sell? We sold almost £50 billion worth of mechanical machinery, £41 billion worth of motor vehicles, £16 billion worth of aircraft and £14 billion worth of medical equipment.

And, as I have to mention on St Andrew’s Day, some £4.3 billion of Scotch Whisky.

So much for Britain not making anything anymore. And that’s before we even consider our world-leading services sector.

Clearly, the vote to leave the European Union has not had the catastrophic effect on our economy that was predicted. Quite the reverse.

Now is the time to raise our sights, and acknowledge that there is a world beyond Europe, and a time Beyond Brexit.

My Department for International Trade exists to look to this world, and plan for that time. Perhaps more than any other part of government, we are mandated to look beyond the process of leaving the EU and to prepare for the open, global future that lies ahead.

The referendum settled the question of our departure from the European Union and our manifesto made clear that we will leave the Customs Union and the Single Market as we do so.

The IMF has predicted that 90% of global growth in the next 5 years will originate outside the EU. So the question is, where do we, as a nation, position ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities that this growth will produce.

Future relationship with the EU

The government has made clear that we want to take a balanced approach to the question of our future trading prospects. We need to maximise our access to the EU market but without damaging our potential to benefit from emerging trade opportunities in other parts of the world.

The 27 nations of the European Union constitute some of our largest trading partners. As a whole, some 44% of this country’s exports of goods and services still go to the EU, although that proportion has been declining over the past decade or so.

The withdrawal agreement, and the political declaration on the future relationship, have put us on the verge of securing a deal with the European Union.

It is a deal that delivers on the result of the referendum, ending vast payments to Brussels, and giving the UK control over our own borders for the first time in a generation.

Of course, the end of free movement does not mean the end of immigration. The UK is always open to those who want to work hard and build a life here. But now, we can offer a level playing field, ensuring that we can admit the people we need to meet business demand, wherever they come from – so it won’t matter if you were born in Marseilles, Memphis or Mumbai. The key difference is that we will set the rules according to what we believe is best for our own country.

Above all else, the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration provide the stability and certainty that businesses crave, as well as a firm foundation on which to continue to operate across the EU.

The political declaration proposes the creation of a free trade area for goods, combining deep regulatory and customs co-operation with no tariffs, no fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all goods sectors.

This would be the first such agreement between an advanced economy and the EU, a recognition of the unique position of the UK and our economy to those of our European partners.

Ambitious arrangements have been made in the political declaration for services and investment, arrangements that go well beyond WTO commitments and build on recent EU FTAs.

And an arrangement on financial services, grounded in the economic partnership, provides greater cooperation and consultation than is possible under existing third country frameworks.

But we have also been clear that our future relationship with the EU would recognise the development of an independent UK trade policy and not tie our hands when it comes to global opportunities.

We have set out an approach which means the UK would be able to set its own trade policy with the rest of the world, including setting our own tariffs, implementing our own trade remedies, and taking up our independent seat at the World Trade Organization.

FTA Consultations

Perhaps most importantly, during the implementation period, my department will have the freedom to negotiate, sign and ratify new trade agreements. . The Withdrawal Agreement means that, from the 29th of March next year, we can begun to build closer commercial relationships with our closest allies, such as the US, New Zealand and Australia, as well as laying the groundwork for improved market access for UK companies to key global growth economies.

As some of you may know, we recently carried out extensive public consultations on our future FTAs with those three nations, as well as on the UK’s potential accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – known as CPTPP.

Leaders across these nations have been clear in their endorsement of future trade agreements with the UK.

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan put it, we would “be welcomed with open arms”. Far from being isolated, Britain will be an ‘in-demand’ trading partner.

Over 14 weeks, we asked businesses, organisations and individuals to tell us what they needed from these FTAs, and how the Department for International Trade can help them to thrive internationally.

The response rate was phenomenal, far exceeding all expectations.

Above all, the exercise demonstrated the interest that exists in the shape of the UK’s future trade policy, right across the country.

How do we take advantage of this groundswell of interest and engagement from businesses and individuals?

The answer is to harness that enthusiasm to boost exports and attract investment to this country. Clearly, businesses the length and breadth of Britain are eager to move into new markets overseas.

If we want Britain to become a global exporting superpower, all we have to do is unlock that potential.

Even before we get to new trade opportunities afforded by new trade agreements there are still considerable export opportunities for British businesses to exploit in existing markets. We still have ground to make up on our international competitors in many of these countries.

Export Strategy

Our new Export Strategy, published in August, is an important first step to doing just that.

I won’t exhaust you with the detail. But suffice to say that the Export Strategy represents one of the most comprehensive export packages offered to businesses anywhere in the world, designed to inform, connect, encourage and finance exporting opportunities for businesses of all sizes.

There are currently over 24,000 live export and investment opportunities on our website. Put simply, the world wants what Britain is selling. Businesses large and small can find these real-time opportunities at great.gov.uk.

Royal Portbury Dock

And the Royal Portbury Dock where we now stand is a perfect example of the dynamic, global outlook that hundreds of thousands of British businesses have already embraced.

In 1991 the dock was owned and managed by Bristol Council, and it was regarded as a ‘white elephant’.

Since the port was privatised almost 30 years ago and reborn as the Bristol Port Company, over £500 million has been invested to turn this into one of the most capable and advanced ports in the United Kingdom.

Each year, the Bristol Port Company handles some 750,000 motor vehicles, 27% of UK aviation fuel imports, 10% of coal imports, and more than 6 million tons of bulk dry goods.

In all, the work done here at Portbury, and at Avonmouth, contributes over £1 billion to the British economy. Now that is something to be proud of.

Integrated imports and exports

This port, and dozens like it across the UK, shows that the UK’s global commercial footprint is not just about what we sell overseas, but also what we import into this country.

It is crucial in ensuring that competition provides consumers with greater choice and at affordable prices.

But in a highly integrated economy it would also be wrong to ignore the huge and necessary role that imports play in the production of goods and services for export – some 23% of all UK exports have some added value or component that originated as an import.

Less than half of this value added originates in EU countries. And it shows how the United Kingdom is already closely linked to global value chains, that extend far beyond the boundaries of Europe.

In the long-term, a global future for an economy as large, diverse and interconnected as ours was inevitable. Our departure from the EU, combining an open, comprehensive trade relationship there, with the possibility of creating new trading relationships elsewhere is the next phase of that journey.

WTO/The changing world of trade

Internationally, of course, a wholesale revolution in the patterns of trade has already arrived. The tectonic plates of global commerce are shifting under our feet. Our future FTAs are hugely important – not least because they are strategic as well as economic tools – but in the long run, it is not what we do unilaterally, or even bilaterally, that will make the biggest difference.

Instead, it is working to update and improve the rules-based international system that governs global trade.

How the multilateral trading environment develops will almost certainly be the most crucial determinant of the degree of trade liberalisation that will occur and consequently the scale of future opportunities.

This is an area in which the UK will play a pivotal role. The world’s fifth-largest economy taking its seat at the WTO, as a powerful and unabashed defender of free trade, will be a key moment for the United Kingdom. It is one of the most important, if seldom mentioned, aspects of Brexit.

With 164 full members, the WTO is the home of the rules-based international system, and the crucible of free and fair global trade.

Yet even they will admit that their current rules are in need of updating.

The fundamental framework of the WTO’s rules has not changed substantially since 1995. A time before the widespread use of business email. A time before internet banking. A time before data became a valuable traded commodity, like cars and steel.

Consider this: back in 1995, if I asked you whether the digital code that I have sold you on the internet to make something on your 3D printer counts as a good or a service, you wouldn’t even begin to understand the question, let alone be able to answer it!

This is an example of how the real economy has moved and outgrown the rules and regulations that still attempt to govern it.

It’s not just the architecture of the WTO itself that needs reform, but also the regulatory framework, which must be flexible enough to move with the new realities of the global economy, updating itself in real time.

The Prime Minister acknowledged this recently in a speech at the Guildhall when she observed that goods as a proportion of UK and global commerce are declining.

This will be a priority as she attends the G20 in Argentina, where she will hold trade talks with world leaders including Argentinian President Macri. The leaders are expected to agree the first ever UK Trade Envoy for the country.

And as the proportion of trade in goods declines, the digital and knowledge economy are racing ahead, as new products and services emerge from the disruption that technology has left in its wake.

The future of world trade has already arrived, and the United Kingdom is ideally prepared to realise all the opportunities of the digital age and embrace the possibilities of communications technology as a commercial tool.

To take just one example, a higher proportion of retail spending takes place online in the UK than anywhere else on earth. More than China or the USA. More than South Korea. More than Japan.

Recent research by PayPal found that in the 12 months to July, 1 in 7 online shoppers globally had bought goods from the UK – more than any other European country.

In fact., overall, they found that the UK was the third most popular country in the world from which to buy goods online, behind only the US and China.

There are few countries that are as prepared for the coming digital economic revolution as the United Kingdom.

The world’s investors already know this – last year, the UK tech sector attracted more venture capital investment than Sweden, France and Germany combined.

The simple fact is that this country is already a genuine world-leader in fields from artificial intelligence, to digital and data trade, to e-commerce and FinTech.

In the knowledge economy, Britain’s shelves are already stacked with what the world wants to buy.

This is not to say that we are falling behind in goods. On the contrary, those same factors that have made us a global powerhouse of the digital economy have enabled us to retain the cutting-edge of advanced manufacturing.

For example, 17% of all the aerospace products sold in the entire world come from the United Kingdom.

Nearly half of the world’s planes are flying on wings that have been designed, engineered or assembled within just a few miles of where we are today, either in Filton or across the water in Wales.

And how do these wings reach their customers in every corner of the world? They are shipped on specialised ferries from right here in the Royal Portbury Dock.

The world beyond Europe, and the future beyond Brexit, starts right here.

And if you want to know if the world has confidence in this new Global Britain, then look at our investment record and see where global investors are choosing to put their money.

According to UNCTAD, in the first 6 months of 2018 the UK was second only to China in terms of FDI, ahead of the United States and data published by Ernst and Young showed that all parts of the UK and all England regions are benefiting with around 50,000 jobs created as a result.

In the 19th Century, Britain became the world’s first free-trading nation. In the 20th century, we helped to design and create the architecture of global trade.

And in the 21st, we will help reshape the rules-based international system through our independent trade policy.

Today I can announce that in April, when we become an independent trading nation once more, I will push for three key things:

Firstly, the UK will aim to revolutionise the rulebook on digital trade. The existing framework of international trade is vitally important to the functioning of the global economy. Yet, as we have seen, all too often its rules are outdated and unfit for purpose, acting as a brake on the digital economy.

There are too many innovative, rapidly growing companies who find it too difficult to operate overseas because of ridiculous barriers like unjustified server localisation requirements.

Our ambition is to negotiate agreements that go further on digital trade than ever before.

To join those agreements, such as the CPTPP, which take digital seriously.

And to work in coalition with other like-minded countries to drive reform on digital services at the WTO.

Secondly, we will put services at the heart of our trade policy.

The mass liberalisation that has reduced barriers on global goods trade, has never been mirrored for services. Yet the UK is an 80% services economy and has huge comparative advantage across the service sectors, from accountancy and legal, to science, research and development.

Services are a huge part of our present, and will be a larger part of our future, and we must play to our strengths, creating partnerships with countries around the world who want what we have to offer.

This is our commitment to the British SMEs of today, so that they can become the digital giants of the future.

And thirdly, we will continue to fight trade protectionism and improve international economic co-operation.

This is not something that Britain will be doing alone. As the political declaration with the EU says, our unique relationship with the EU 27 will ensure that we can work together to improve global trade, while continuing to develop and operate our own independent trade policy.

But our steadfast commitment to the philosophy and practice of free trade is an irreducible element of what we believe and who we are.

The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration will not please everyone, and we have had some tough choices to make. Choices which many in Parliament, on both sides of the House, are yet to face up to.

But the deal we’ve reached will give us a firm and stable base on which to leave the EU and build this country’s global future, a future that still encompasses Europe, of course, but also the wide fast-growing markets beyond, with all the opportunity that entails.

We will maximise our post-Brexit opportunities by helping British businesses take advantage of the considerable untapped potential of existing markets.

We will use our independent trade policy to negotiate new trade agreements and we will use our ability to act independently at the WTO to shape the global trade environment of the future, defending the open, free and fair trade that is crucial to the elimination of poverty, the nurturing of stability and the building block of our collective security.

We are well prepared for the future of world trade. We are embracing all the possibilities of the digital economy.

No other country has the same combination of fundamental strengths that will allow us to thrive in an age where knowledge and expertise are the instigators of success. Our recent export and investment performance show that sceptics have been wrong. Britain is flourishing.

The divisions of the referendum need to be consigned to the past. Now is the time to set aside our differences, and lead our country to a future of freedom, success, and prosperity.

In politics we cannot always have the luxury of doing what we want for ourselves, but we have an abiding duty to do what is right for our country.

The processes exist for life outside the EU’s Customs Union – we just need to prepare for them

I was pleased to attend the publication of Lord Lilley’s Fact – NOT Friction in London this week; an excellent, informative paper published jointly by the European Research Group and Global Britain explaining how there are widespread misconceptions about the costs and implications of not being in a customs union with the EU. I agree with him: […]

The post The processes exist for life outside the EU’s Customs Union – we just need to prepare for them appeared first on BrexitCentral.

I was pleased to attend the publication of Lord Lilley’s Fact – NOT Friction in London this week; an excellent, informative paper published jointly by the European Research Group and Global Britain explaining how there are widespread misconceptions about the costs and implications of not being in a customs union with the EU. I agree with him: these misconceptions have led the Government into the wrong negotiating strategy for Brexit.

In Rotterdam the week before last, I saw how transit documents procured in advance and lodged electronically allow veterinary goods from third countries all over the world outside the EU to move predictably and rapidly into the EU, and be cleared by their import declaration and any other checks necessary in commercial premises 40km behind the border. 

The three essential documents to make this run are the export declaration; the transit document to get the goods through and behind the frontier; and the import declaration that can then clear the goods once inland.

Non-veterinary goods go deep into Europe under such documents and are cleared when the import declarations are made on arrival at customer warehouses or kept in bond for future clearance.

The cost of this whole customs process is around €25 per document or between 0.1 to 0.4 per cent of value for the average consignment value of €25k depending on whether a company gets a customs broker to procure some or all of the documents, (plus up to another 1 per cent for the veterinary inspections on veterinary goods, around a third of which could be subsidised by our government if it chose to do so, being the government vet fee).

The export declaration is fairly easy for companies to do themselves, but the transit document and import declarations take a bit more customs expertise. Specific border inspections for veterinary goods can take place in authorised commercial premises well away from the frontier itself, and from the perspective of their authorisation they just need access to adequate space and facilities, government vet availability, and reasonable off-site access to professional sample testing facilities.

These processes do not require the exporting country’s domestic regulations to be aligned with the EU. EU standards need to be met for imports in the same way that goods exported to the US need to meet US standards.

What they do require for borders to remain efficient is for the documents to be prepared in advance so that lorries do not need to be stopped before leaving because they can’t be guaranteed to get through the other side.

The costs involved were corroborated by a major Japanese car company operating in the UK which told us in our International Trade Committee a few weeks ago that they can run these documentary procedures in-house for about £30 per shipment of equivalent salary cost. Multinational firms such as these are already well used to the data and documentary requirements for sourcing components globally.

I also met roll-on roll-off ferry operators in Rotterdam who have Nissan’s UK operation as a major client, who are expanding capacity to meet demand for regular just-in-time shipments and are most focused on getting their customers, who are often the freight forwarders, geared up to ensure all arriving trailers have the right pre-cleared documents. They need them an hour in advance to be able to match up their port traffic management systems with the documents of the lorries they expect to arrive.

There is no reason why similar processes could not also be effected behind the border at Calais to keep the frontier flowing freely and shipments being cleared with predictable timing as in Rotterdam, and if the authorities there want to keep their business that is what they will end up doing. 

We need to get our exporters and our exporting ports and service providers geared up to have their export and import declarations and the transit documents ready in the same wayThat way just-in-time supply chains are not threatened.

Businesses need to be ready with processes for generating the data to lodge electronically. Dover, Folkestone and Calais need to adjust their port inventory management so as to reconcile their traffic bookings and manifests with the documents matching the shippers’ documents. At first this might have to be somewhat rudimentary because the authorities have left preparation so late, perhaps being done by hand and needing more advance notice; however more efficient modern systems could be introduced fairly quickly.

Investing in these logistics processes will be equally useful for trade, whether, as is my preferred option, we end up with a regular free trade agreement as offered by the EU in March (and the processes can be adapted to ensure no hard border in the island of Ireland too); whether we leave the EU at the end of next March without agreeing a Withdrawal Agreement; or whether we have an “orderly no deal” with side agreements in key areas like transport and licensing which can help the logistics industry, as the “no-deal” preparation the EU has set out suggests they want. The basic requirements for borders are the same, and are what businesses all around the world manage successfully with standard processes every day. 

If we prepare in this way, we will be prepared, whether we are able to arrange zero tariff and zero quantitative restriction trade with the EU before or after the end of March next year.

It is worth considering the costs of these processes in the context of the rest of the transport supply chain. They are a very minor part of the cost of the overall shipping cost, which is often many hundreds of pounds for each of the inland transport legs, from premise to port, port to premise, and the ferry or rail crossing carrier cost.

At 0.3 to 1.4 per cent of average shipment value they are also only a tiny fraction of the 12 to 24 per cent non-tariff barrier costs that were assumed in the “Cross-Whitehall Briefing” leaked in February, which were the major factor in the Government’s negative economic forecasting of World Trade and FTA scenarios for our trade with the EU

The Government has ill-advisedly been using these hugely over-negative estimates as the reason for its negotiating strategy of high regulatory alignment and “frictionless” trade with the EU, and this has landed it in its current mess. Ironically the outcome of that mess is the idea of the customs union “backstop”, which when you read the small print contains the more costly and completely antiquated requirement for physical paper forms inspected and stamped by customs officers, for every commercial shipment between the EU and Great Britain, and every shipment across the Irish Sea.

While there may be a few teething troubles with the above processes being implemented from the second quarter of next year, with the right application by authorities and businesses costs of such high scale shouldn’t eventuate, and in any event won’t persist for 15 years as Government assumes. 

In particular the car industry should be able to adapt relatively easily, and rather than prejudice our independence by worrying about overestimated costs, we should focus on getting small- and medium-sized businesses ready, and improving general business conditions. Whatever the size of business, most just want certainty as to what they need to do, and that is of far more value right now than indefinite transition, more political argument and risk.

The perfectly normal customs processes I saw, available now, without new technology and under current EU law, should be the focus. Preparing them is a far better strategy than tilting at the windmills of a never-to-be practical “Facilitated Customs Arrangement”, suffering under the illusion that economic Armageddon is the alternative, and waking up to the reality of the EU being in control of our destiny.

The post The processes exist for life outside the EU’s Customs Union – we just need to prepare for them appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Dutch plant-growers don’t dig Brexit

The UK’s departure will mean orders take ‘substantially longer’ and cost more, horticulturalists predict.

DEURNE, The Netherlands — In the village of Deurne in the south of the Netherlands, Henk Raaijmakers is not looking forward to Brexit day.

“I am expecting complete chaos at the border,” said the 60-year-old owner of a large plant and tree nursery, “Brexit will be disruptive for my business and the Dutch horticultural sector as a whole.”

At his nursery, big wooden boxes filled to the brim with small blueberry plants in black plastic pots are being made ready for transport. This particular batch will go to Poland but inside the greenhouses tiny shoots of a wide variety of plants are growing until they are big enough to be shipped to the U.K.

Sweet berry honeysuckle, white beam berries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries: Raaijmakers’ superfood collection is enough to make any tabloid lifestyle editors’ eyes light up. His nursery is also packed with fig trees, azaleas, camelias and much more besides.

Raaijmakers’ company, which he started from scratch in 1982, consists of 2 hectares of greenhouses and 4 hectares of outdoor growing space. He exports nearly three-quarters of his total production to other countries. A quarter goes to the U.K., largely from online sales.

What all this means for gardening-mad Brits is not clear.

Normally a British customer waits three to four days for the plants to arrive. “Right now, fast delivery combined with good quality products is why the British import from the Netherlands,” said Raaijmakers, who is also vice president of the European Nurserystock Association, which represents growers across Europe.

He fears Brexit will change all that — meaning “substantially longer” waits and a significant price hike. “Forms, import fees and a longer list of phytosanitary obligations — which I think will also be used as a political tool after Brexit — will cost a lot,” said Raaijmakers. “Combined with the exchange rate of the British pound, this could mean that our products will cost up to 50 percent more.”

The business is typical of the Dutch horticultural sector as a whole, with Germany the biggest export destination and U.K. second. Growers have since October begun the production and planning process for next year. Not an easy task in the face of uncertainty, said Raaijmakers. As far as possible he will try to export plants and trees to the U.K. before Brexit day so local companies he works with can stock up. “But it is impossible to do this for online sales which is a substantial part of our business,” he added.

What all this means for gardening-mad Brits is not clear. Raaijmakers does not think the U.K. will be able to increase its domestic horticulture production. “Historically the U.K. is a garden-loving country, it is part of their culture. But production-wise it has never been able to match the demand,” he said. “About 90 percent of their shoots come from overseas. In addition, creating stricter rules for labor immigrants from Eastern Europe won’t help in scaling up the domestic production.” That will inevitably mean higher prices, he expects.

Raaijmakers intends to compensate for lost U.K. sales by branching out into new markets, but he sees wider consequences of Brexit for the sector.

“It is still sad this is happening. With Brexit, the Netherlands has lost a strong partner within the EU on innovation. Other countries, like France, are much more conservative when it comes to approving selection techniques. This could seriously put the quality of plants and trees all around Europe in danger in the long term,” he predicts.

George Freeman: There was much to cheer in the Budget. But now we need an inspiring programme for growth.

At the moment, we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Corbyn, to keep us in office.

George Freeman MP is Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum and The Big Tent Ideas Festival, and is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

On Monday, the Chancellor announced that “austerity is coming to an end”. Politically, there was a lot to cheer in this Budget – some good news and headlines for struggling high streets, our crucial Universal Credit reform, NHS workers and the vast majority of constituents who rely on public services. Furthermore, there were many helpful retail pledges for colleagues in marginal seats. Given the Brexit divisions and infighting, we badly needed some good news.

But if we are going to end the biggest squeeze on disposable incomes since the war, the central question for our future is this: how can we get back to the 2.5-3 per cent growth that we enjoyed pre-Brexit? Before the EU Referendum, we were one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and the G7. Now we’re one of the slowest-growing.

The Budget invites the public to judge us on different metrics – no longer on our commitment to balance the books (abandoned) or reduce the debt (still growing), but on our ability to “end austerity”. People will now need to feel tangible improvements and see how Brexit can be a catalyst for much higher growth and prosperity.

Because this Budget won’t be decided on the comment pages of broadsheets. It will be decided on the ground.  By parents chatting at the school gates. Families looking after their ageing relatives in care homes. Commuters stuck in traffic jams because the housing has come, but the infrastructure hasn’t. Or the millions standing on trains every morning who’ve shelled out £2,000 for a season ticket and feel ripped off.

I no longer advise the Prime Minister, but here’s what I’d say if I still did. We need to remind people that every public sector pound has to be earned before it is spent, and that we need a more inspiring programme of business-led growth to drive prosperity and opportunity.  This means some big changes.

First, accelerating our transition from a service economy to an innovation nation.  Innovation is key to our driving up productivity, prosperity, inward investment and exports. We won’t escape debt with growth at 1.5 per cent and low productivity.  We need a renaissance of enterprise and innovation.  Such buccaneers as James Dyson and Richard Branson have done more to transform this country’s prospects than any government department ever will.  We need to stop the business-bashing and promote entrepreneurship and innovation. While the UK is still a crucible of start-up entrepreneurship, the engine is not yet humming: we have too many start-ups that are never scaled up, too little of our innovation funded by the City and too little that is taken global by British companies. We need a new national mission. We must be the innovation nation.

Second, tangible access to new markets for our innovation.We can’t just do research.  We need to innovate, manufacture and trade.  If Brexit means anything, it surely means an opportunity to go global. But that can’t mean importing cheap food and cheap clothes from sweatshops. We need to be exporting our innovation. The UK should be using every tool possible to unlock access to the fastest emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

For 40 years our whole economy has been geared to our being a European services economy. Why don’t we make Brexit the moment to embrace a new global strategy for higher growth through exporting technology and innovation into emerging markets? If the opportunity is properly seized, we could use our Industrial Strategy and public sector innovation to make Britain a crucible of new technology scale up and financing through the City.

We could then use our aid budget and global soft power in emerging markets to grow our exports and trade links with the fastest growing economies. Why don’t we offer some of the fastest emerging countries where we have a strong historic links a deeper Aid, Trade and Security Development Partnership?

Third, harnessing the public sector as a test bed of innovation. We’ll never export our innovation if we’re not using it ourselves. Innovation can’t be just about making a lucky few in the City rich beyond their wildest dreams. In order for us to be a test bed for new technology, we need to put enterprise and innovation at the heart of the public sector.  If we want to lead the world in digital health, we won’t do it unless the NHS is already a pioneer. You can have as many digital health clusters in Shoreditch as you like. But if the NHS isn’t testing and buying it, we will never become the innovation nation we need to be. Building, financing and growing these little start-ups into serious businesses of scale. The problem of the austerity era was thinking that our problems could be solved by cutting things. Actually, the only way our problems can be solved is by growing things.

Fourth, empowering local leaders to innovate more. Innovation can’t be ordered from on high. It comes from people having the power to make decisions themselves. That’s why we need to embrace bolder economic localism. Let’s remember that our national economic performance is made up of hundreds of local economies, all of which need to be growing faster. Another five years of ever-tighter spending controls from the Treasury risks undermining local growth and innovation.  Instead of delaying essential local infrastructure holding our growth hubs back, why not let them raise infrastructure bonds in the international capital markets and embrace bold ideas like integrated track and train mutuals which invests users money into better services?

Fifth, a new model of Treasury incentives. Too often, Whitehall’s funding orthodoxy rewards failure.  If you deliver more for less in the public sector we give you…less!   And give more to those failing.  If you ran a business like that it would be bust.  And depressing to work in. It’s no wonder that public sector leaders are so dispirited.  Many are leaving.  We need them to stay.  So why don’t we send a signal to encourage them, be bold and embrace a new model of incentives-based funding which rewards successful local service leaders for delivering efficiency and productivity? We need a new approach based on a radical idea: if an area reduces the deficit quicker than Whitehall’s average we should let them keep 50 per cent of the savings to re-invest.  Why not the same on growth? If councils grow their tax base, why not let them keep 50 per cent for local services?

Our choice as a nation is clear. Do we timidly manage our decline? Or do we set out a bold plan a brighter future? At the moment we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Jeremy Corbyn, to keep us in office.

For a majority of voters, keeping Corbyn out and delivering Brexit are not good enough answers.  We need to show voters that this is the path to something more inspiring.  We need to start setting out a bold vision for Conservatism in the twenty-first century.

Why the UK economy should grow faster in the short term if there is no Brexit deal

Much of the current narrative regarding the Brexit negotiations goes something like this: “Brexit is likely to damage the economy in the short term. Even its advocates accept that. They said that even if there is a good free trade deal with the EU we should expect the economy to take a few years to […]

The post Why the UK economy should grow faster in the short term if there is no Brexit deal appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Much of the current narrative regarding the Brexit negotiations goes something like this:

“Brexit is likely to damage the economy in the short term. Even its advocates accept that. They said that even if there is a good free trade deal with the EU we should expect the economy to take a few years to adjust, sacrificing perhaps two or three percent of GDP growth in the process. Now, they hope to get that back over the medium to longer term — Gerard Lyons talked during the Referendum campaign of a ‘Nike tick’ effect. But only a small set of economists, even amongst those that favoured Brexit, denied there would be short-term losses even if we do a good free trade deal with the EU.

“Well, then, if even a deal leads to short-term losses, how much worse must it be going to be in the short-term if there is no deal? That surely must be very bad indeed! Perhaps it could be so bad that it would undermine the Conservatives’ reputation for macroeconomic management, ushering in a Corbyn government in 2022?”

I think it is fair to say that some version of this narrative is near-universal. Even those keenest on no-deal are largely arguing that although no-deal is worse than the best sort of free trade agreement, at least in the short-term, that is worth doing through some combination of political gains and not sending the EU £40-odd billion we don’t owe them.

I think everyone’s wrong here, and I want to explain to you why. A good free trade agreement (something like a Canada+ deal) would be the best outcome for the UK economy over the longer-term — indeed, I cannot believe anything other than a Canada+ type Free Trade Agreement is sustainable for more than a few years. And if we do do a Canada+ deal, then I agree with those that say they expect the short-term impacts on GDP to be negative — we’ll sacrifice 2 percent or so of GDP growth by around 2022.

So, a deal is better than no-deal over the longer-term, and a deal will mean a short-term loss of GDP growth. But where the discussion goes wrong is in assuming that no-deal means bigger losses of GDP in the short-term. What would actually happen is (after we got through the first few weeks, say one quarter, of disruption, which might well include a non-trivial dip in GDP), GDP would grow faster in the short-term (say, the following 12-18 months) than if there had been a deal. Just because no-deal is undesirable for the economy in the longer term, it does not follow that that means we make bigger short-term losses.

Let me explain why. Let’s step through some of what will happen in the economy, once we leave the EU, and compare how that plays out in the event of a deal versus no-deal. First, let’s list some of the effects there will be, as per the following table.

We can see various ways UK imports will be affected, but it should be pretty uncontroversial that increased barriers to imports from the EU post-Brexit will mean fewer imports into the UK, at least in the short-term, as more of UK demand will be met by UK firms and less by EU-based firms exporting into the UK. Over the longer term, perhaps we will do more trade deals with non-EU countries or unilaterally strip away barriers to non-EU trade, and imports will end up unchanged or even higher. But in the short-term, it’s pretty clear we should expect imports to drop. It should also be pretty clear that in the event of no-deal, we’d expect imports to drop by more than if there is a deal.

Again, it should be pretty uncontroversial that Brexit will mean fewer exports to the EU, and probably fewer exports overall in the short-term, and that the impact will be larger if there is no deal than if there is a deal.

So, fewer imports and fewer exports, in the short term. Which effect will be bigger? Well, the UK is a larger net importer from the EU. We import about €4 worth of goods and services for every €3 we export. So if barriers to exporting and importing are fairly similar (as UK policy-makers would surely ensure they would be in most areas), the expected net impact will surely be a larger drop in imports than exports. So from this source, we’d expect a short-term boost to GDP, as net imports fell and the UK’s trade deficit improved.

Next, let’s consider capital flows. There is a great deal of press discussion of UK finance firms or car manufacturers relocating some activity into the EU to avoid barriers to trade. Perhaps there will be some of that (though so far it seems to be mainly talk), but even so, that is part of that €3 of exports going out. What we do not hear about are all the EU-based firms that would relocate activities into the UK to avoid barriers. Since there are €4 of those for every €3 coming in, we should expect that more EU-based activity has an incentive to relocate into the UK than in the opposite direction.

This is not quite so unambiguous as the imports/exports effect. Some firms exporting to the UK will also export to other EU markets and may face economies of scale losses in relocating into the UK, and it is arguable that economies of scale impacts may more often tend to affect EU-based than UK-based producers’ relocation decisions. So there is some interplay between inward flows, reduced imports and domestic investment. But the difference between €4 of exports and €3 of imports is so large that we should probably expect the effect to be positive nonetheless. And we should expect net inflows to be bigger if there is no deal than otherwise.

Next, effects on consumption. These depend upon whether consumers expect the long-term impacts to be positive or negative for GDP, and the extent to which they react to that in the short term. This one is difficult to call. I would guess there would be little change in the event of a deal and a slight drop in the event of a no-deal.

Last, domestic investment. This includes firms whose investment plans have depended upon our relationship with the EU that will do less investment or even liquidate investment. It also includes firms whose plans depend upon expansions in UK or non-EU activity. I believe it is natural to imagine that, even if the net impact on domestic investment is fairly balanced over the medium term, that will consist of a drop in domestic investment initially, as EU-dependent projects are cut back or liquidated, and the capital then only later being re-allocated to new UK-based or non-EU projects.

That drop in EU-dependent domestic investment is the main reason I expect there to be slower GDP growth in the event of a deal being done. If there is a deal, I’d expect fairly modest impacts on imports and exports in the short-term, and relatively modest short-term changes to capital flows, so the drop-off in domestic investment will probably be the dominant short-term impact, meaning slower GDP growth.

But if there is no deal, these other short-term impacts will be larger. Net imports will fall much more and there will be much larger inward and outward capital flows. So if there is no deal, I would expect those effects to dominate, outweighing the drop in domestic investment in the short run.

Overall, what does that mean? It means that, even though we should expect slower GDP growth in the event of a deal, and even though a deal is better for the economy over the medium term than no deal, if there is no deal then in the short-term we should expect GDP to grow faster, not slower.

I emphasise again that this would be after the first few weeks of drop-off in GDP associated with no-deal disruption. But it would be more than simple catch-up from disruption. It is a reflection of the basic dilemma that net importing countries always face. Free trade is good for economies over the medium to long term, but if a country is a net importer then it tends to gain output, in the short-term, in protectionist scenarios with greater trade barriers. There is no good reason to believe that this long-established basic economic truth should not be expected to apply to the UK in the case of Brexit as well.

The post Why the UK economy should grow faster in the short term if there is no Brexit deal appeared first on BrexitCentral.