Garvan Walshe: Extension. A short one would serve no purpose. A longer one would bring Brexit’s reverse.

Honourable countries face up to the consequences of their actions. They don’t, like dilatory schoolboys late with their essays, simply ask for more time.

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy.

A fresh rumour gathers strength in Brussels. People who had lost hope, in the EU itself and (it is said) some member states, have started to think that Brexit could be defeated. I use the word advisedly: not stopped — defeated. They hope for a long extension, enough for another referendum in which, they imagine, anti-Brexit forces would be successful.

Nothing will have pleased them more than Geoffrey Cox’s legal opinion that any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement the Prime Minister negotiated to the withdrawal agreement were cosmetic. In law, Cox was right. The agreement was not renegotiated. As Gil Scot Heron might have put it:

“You will not be able to amend, brother
You will not be able to seek new alternative arrangements
You will not be able to lose yourself in arbitratino
Skip out below a Unilateral Declaration
Because the agreement will not be reneogiated.”

The reasons the agreement will not be changed provide the honourable case for Brexit. This is an argument stripped of scare stories about straight bananas or unelected bureaucrats who turn out on closer inspection to be elected parliamentarians.

The honourable Brexit cause doesn’t need to drum up fears of a unitary superstate. Even the hybrid form of government into which the EU is evolving is not something it thinks Britain should be part of. We have our own history, looking outward across the seas to the island chain of our formal colonies to which we sent millions of emigrants – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, and from which, research from the Henry Jackson Society has found, the British would be happy to accept increase immigration.

And I’m sure this is the Brexit that my Brexiteer friends wanted when they campaigned to leave. They want a free and independent Britain making its own way in the world again. They didn´t think this country a mean-spirited nation unable to absorb newcomers, whov’ve done so much to make the country what it is. They don’t want to withdraw from the West: Britain’s strong armed forces should be a pillar of the alliance system. These are all honourable goals, and this Brexit is an honourable cause.

Yet if the EU is a political union, and Britain to be outside it, that changes the balance of power on our continent. A single economic superpower about the same size as the United States, with Britain to one side. A single entity capable of defending its interests, and those of its members against countries, like the UK, that have chosen to be on the outside. These are the consequences of leaving. Don’t think, as Remainers often do, that the EU is nice.

Honour knows that actions have consequences, and it’s necessary to bear them. This includes the reversal of the traditional balance of power between Ireland and the UK. This will have effects on Northern Ireland’s future. In finance, technology, and defence procurement, Europe’s rules will be set by the EU’s members and not by Britain. That’s the consequence of leaving — the price of freedom if you will.

Because honourable countries face up to the consequences of their actions. They don’t, like dilatory schoolboys late with their essays, simply ask for more time. A short extension to Article 50 won’t serve any purpose whatsoever; while a long one, which the EU would only grant to hold a referendum, risks Brexit’s defeat.

Parliament however is in dilatory schoolboy mode. It voted today on a motion to propose the oxymoronic “managed no deal”. It voted on a “standstill agreement” that the EU will not accept. It may eventually vote on whether to have a referendum, but only after the withdrawal agreement has been gone through. It may also vote on whether to pursue a Norway-style Soft Brexit, even though that requires the deal that it has just rejected to be approved. It may also vote for an essay extension. What unites them all is that they avoid the choice on offer: this deal, No Deal, or No Brexit.

And Parliament, having voted on Tuesday against the deal a second time, today voted against no deal and against no Brexit too. Having eliminated all other options, we’ll be exactly back to where we started: trying to Brexit without accepting the consequences of Brexit is the only thing that can command a consensus across the Commons.

Parliament seems unable to adjust itself to the central fact of a Brexit deal: it needs to be agreed with the EU, and the EU won’t agree anything that doesn’t involve Britain taking the consequences of its own decision to leave. The fact is that the deal on the table, which allows for a wide variety of outcomes to be negotiated over the next four years, is as good as it’s going to get. If you want to leave the EU, take this deal ,and start shaping Britain’s new phase of independence. Give yourselves a Brexit with honour. If you don´t, you could end up with a long extentsion and another referendum. If that happens, they’ll be cheering in Brussels, not Britain.

Robert Halfon: If you don’t like the backstop and you want a Brexit deal done quickly, there’s only one answer: Common Market 2.0

I voted for the Prime Minister’s deal today. But the Commons didn’t – and we now all need a positive alternative.

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Today, encouraged by the legal reassurances secured by the Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary, I voted for Theresa May’s deal. Although I had not felt able to support it in January, it seemed to me that the risk of the UK getting stuck in the backstop had reduced, and the greater risk was that Brexit would be delayed or, worse, frustrated altogether, if MPs rejected the deal for a second time.

I wish more Conservative colleagues had followed the lead of such long-standing Brexiters as David Davis, Graham Brady, Mike Penning, Bob Blackman, Phillip Davies and Robert Syms. But we are where we are. After a second major defeat, it is clear that the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister is never going to get through the Commons. So now we must move on.

The good news is that there is a Brexit compromise that Leavers and Remainers should feel able to support.  I call it Common Market 2.0. It involves staying in the economic club of the European Economic Area (EEA) but leaving all of the political paraphernalia of the European Union. I’ve lost count of the number of times that people in Harlow have said to me, “I liked it when we were in the Common Market. I just can’t stand all the political stuff.” (Most of them use a rather punchier word than stuff, if truth be told.)

Common Market 2.0 would secure the jobs of British workers and the prosperity of the small businesses which are the backbone of the British economy. How? By keeping us in the Single Market and a customs arrangement which would maintain frictionless trading links with Europe.  But it would take us out of the EU’s common policies on agriculture, fish, justice and foreign affairs. We would escape the clutches of the European Court of Justice, and Parliament’s control of the laws that apply to us would be restored.

On freedom of movement, we would have new powers to restrict European migration in certain circumstances if our government deems it necessary, because the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement gives members the right to unilaterally suspend the freedom of movement if it can show that it is having “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.  If a large new country joined the EU and immigration reached extraordinary levels, like it did in the early 2000s, we would be able to trigger an emergency brake to limit the flow. That’s a power that’s not available to us in the EU.

In addition,  we would be able to tell those who, after three months, haven’t found work or got enough money to support themselves to return home.

For Conservatives, Common Market 2.0 has two powerful advantages: because it mostly involves us joining existing structures like the EEA and the European Free Trade Association (Efta), we should be able to implement it well before December 2020. This would mean that the dreaded backstop would never need to be activated, and there would be no risk of different rules applying to Northern Ireland than apply in all other parts of the UK.

The other advantage is this: all we need to do turn the Prime Minister’s deal into Common Market 2.0 is to renegotiate the Political Declaration.  We know that the EU won’t make problems, because they have already told us that they would be happy to agree to a future relationship that would keep us in the Single Market. Going for Common Market 2.0 would minimise the delay in delivering Brexit. It is the only Brexit compromise that really can be agreed and ratified in under 3 months.

The people I represent in Harlow, and working people across the country, want MPs to deliver Brexit without damaging businesses or destroying jobs.  Common Market 2.0 offers us a Brexit that respects the result of the referendum, secures our economy and avoids the backstop. If we get a move on, we can have it done and dusted by the early summer.  Let’s get on with it.

Swinson slams Javid over student visas

Jo Swinson has slammed Home Secretary over his inflexible 3 year student visas for EU nationals in the event of a no-deal Brexit. For a start, Scottish degree courses last four years. From The Herald: The Russell Group of elite universities, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh, urged UK ministers to scrap the European Temporary Leave […]

Jo Swinson has slammed Home Secretary over his inflexible 3 year student visas for EU nationals in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

For a start, Scottish degree courses last four years.

From The Herald:

The Russell Group of elite universities, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh, urged UK ministers to scrap the European Temporary Leave to Remain (ELTR) visa.

The Home Office has proposed that if there is a no-deal Brexit, EU citizens would only be able to stay in the UK for three months before being required to obtain an ELTR.

This would let them to live, work and study in the UK for 36 months but would be “non-extendable”.

Although the Government says a new visa system would be devised by 2021, there are no details, leading to fears the ELTR could act as a deterrent to would-be students.

Jo said:

The Scottish University system is a world leader in part because it attracts students from all over the globe who enrich our culture and help grow our economy, but the Government’s new visa plan risks damaging that reputation.

The Home Secretary is asking students who want to study in Scotland to commit to a four-year course with only a guarantee of a non-extendable three-year visa. He has a degree in economics, so he doesn’t need me to tell him that four into three just doesn’t work.

The Home Secretary likes to talk about building an immigration system that attracts the best and the brightest, but what message does it send to students looking to come here when we won’t even guarantee them a visa long enough to cover their studies?

The Government need to urgently rethink their plans and guarantee these students leave to remain to not just complete their studies, but to potentially stay here and contribute to our economy in the years after they graduate.

Jo wrote to Sajid Javid to set out her concernsThe full text of her letter is below:

Dear Sajid,

I am writing to you regarding Government plans to introduce a new immigration category –  European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR)in the event of ‘no deal’. I am very concerned about the impact this new category will have on Scottish universities’ ability to attract EEA nationals post-Brexit in a no deal scenario.

ETLR is a 36-month non-extendable visa, which will be of little use to EEA students considering university study in Scotland where degrees are generally four years in length. ETLR simply does not provide the leave necessary for EU students starting courses in 2019/20 or 2020/21 to commit to studying in Scotland.

The latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Authority shows that in 2017/18, 21,605 students came from other EU countries to study in Scotland. These students enrich our culture, support our economy and very often put down roots in Scotland and remain here after their studies are over.

Your proposed visa-system asks these students to commit to a four-year course with the promise of only a three-year visa. As a graduate of economics and a former City banker, I am sure you will appreciate that those numbers simply don’t add up.

This is not an issue just for students wishing to study in Scotland. There are a number of degree courses at universities across the UK that are longer than three years, including, for example, medicine, languages and architecture.

With the Government refusing to take no-deal off the table, and now potentially facing a delay to Brexit beyond March 29th, this issue will be at the forefront of the minds of students going through the application process in the next few months for the 2019/2020 academic year.

I understand your department believes that these students will be able to transfer onto a new, as of yet undetermined, visa category in the future, but that is no use to students who need the certainty to apply now. Sadly, ‘Trust us, we’ll look after you’ is not a message that carries much weight when coming from a department that deported British citizens of the Windrush generation and wanted to charge EU citizens £65 for the right to stay in the country they call home.

I know you are a supporter of the Higher Education system and the value that it brings the UK, including Scotland, so I would ask you to reflect on why your new visa system discriminates against Scottish universities, in comparison to other UK universities, in this way.

I would call on the Home Office to offer a guarantee to ensure students starting courses in 2019/20 or 2020/21 are given leave to remain to not only complete their courses in full, but also have the rights to post-study work visas afforded to other students.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Swinson

Europe’s female Muslim comedians take the mic

‘It’s about trying to own the narrative, which is usually out of our hands.’

Headscarves, ISIS, Islam — for Sadia Azmat, the controversy around these words in Europe isn’t something to run from; it’s fodder for her best jokes.

“I’m comfortable covering my hair the same way you’re comfortable covering your tits,” she says in one of her bits. “And it’s not for me to say you’re oppressed by your top and your bra.”

“I do draw the line at covering my face, because I’m a standup comedian and, you know, where would the mic go?”

Her job, Azmat, 29, says in her thick East London accent, “is to entertain.” She’s wearing jeans, a light pink headscarf and subtle make-up. “But if what I say can open up people’s minds, that’s brilliant.”

A growing number of women like Azmat — who performs most nights and hosts a podcast called “No Country for Young Women” — are using humor to confront prejudice and shine a light on what it means to be female and Muslim in Europe.

“I like to do comedy to shake things up” — Ellie Jokar, Iranian-born Danish comedian

And at a time when populist parties and governments are trumpeting Islamophobic or anti-immigrant messages on the Continent, many feel it’s become even more urgent for them to find their voice and tell their own stories.

“Some people think my parents make me wear the scarf, and that’s not true,” Azmat tells the audience. “No one in my family wears a headscarf, and they don’t even like me wearing it. Like, sometimes when I leave the house they say, ‘Why are you wearing that, people will think you’re going to blow up the bus.’”

When she takes the stage “it’s about trying to own the narrative, which is usually out of our hands,” says Azmat.

* * *

Muslim women living in Europe face a triple threat of discrimination: bias against their ethnicity, religion and gender. In an already hostile environment that targets Muslims for “not belonging, not sharing European values,” women are particularly vulnerable, says Georgina Siklossy, a spokesperson for the European Network Against Racism.

“I draw the line at covering my face,” says Sadia Azmat. “Because I’m a standup comedian and, you know, where would the mic go?” | Photo by Idil Sukan

It’s against this backdrop, odds stacked heavily against them, that female Muslim artists, comedians and activists are speaking up about the complexity of their identities and experiences as women, immigrants, Muslims. And they’re using humor as a way to speak directly to those in power and shed light on the inconsistencies and ironies of their anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“I like to do comedy to shake things up,” says Iranian-born Danish comedian Ellie Jokar, 38, who has thick curly black hair, deep-set green eyes and tattoos on both her wrists.

Her comedy show is the first in the country to be hosted by a Muslim woman, and the most common target of her jokes are extremist, anti-Muslim politicians.

In one of her bits, Jokar impersonates her mother — a deeply religious woman — to speculate that the far-right politician Inger Støjberg backs anti-immigrant policies because she hasn’t found the right man. “Poor Inger, she never got married,” the bit goes. “If she got laid more, she wouldn’t be so mad at the rest of the world.”

“When I moved [to Denmark] in the ’80s, they were taking in refugees with open arms,” says Jokar. That all changed in 2015, when the government entered into coalition with the Danish People’s Party and started to push immigration reforms that painted Muslims as a threat to European values.

Since then, the country has banned the burqa, poured money into heavy campaigns to urge Muslim women to “join Danish society” and “take off [their] veils.” The government has also introduced controversial policies — such as language lessons and tougher sentences for crimes committed in so-called ghetto neighborhoods — to force immigrants to integrate into Danish society.

With her comedy show, Jokar says she wants to steer people away from easy generalizations of immigrants born out of fear, and redefine what it means to be Muslim in Denmark.

“But what really affects people and can make a change is art in general, from music, literature, cinema and — why not — comics too” — Takoua Ben Mohamed, cartoonist

“A lot of people think Muslim girls are not allowed to speak up,” says Jokar. She wants to lead by example as a “strong brown woman,” she adds.

Jokar has been publicly attacked by Italian politicians and was forced to hire a bodyguard when she received death threats from within the Muslim community, who took issue with her depiction of Islam.

But humor, she insists, can break down barriers, and things have already started to shift. “I believe it opened a debate.”

* * *

For Muslim women, one way to do that is to tell their own stories, says Tunisian-born cartoonist Takoua Ben Mohamed, who lives in Italy.

Mohamed’s cartoons draw heavily on her life and poke fun at stereotypes of immigrants. Her goal, she says, is to make people think twice before generalizing about Muslim women.

In one cartoon, her character jokes that dressing in all-black isn’t for everyone: “I look like an ISIS girl.” In another, she draws worried looks on the bus when her phone reminds her it’s time to pray and starts to play the prayer Allahu Akbar (“Praise to God”), a phrase some non-Muslims associate with terrorist attacks. The character rolls her eyes in frustration.

In a polarized society, comedy helps alleviate some of the tension and take the sting out of anti-Muslim attacks in the media or on the streets, says Mohamed.

“Italian politics is what it is,” Mohammed says. “But what really affects people and can make a change is art in general, from music, literature, cinema and — why not — comics too.”

Alice Kantor is a freelance journalist based in London.

EU migration to UK falls to lowest level since 2009

Non-EU migration to Britain rose by the largest amount in 15 years.

Net migration from the European Union to the United Kingdom fell to its lowest point in nearly a decade, while migration from non-EU countries to the U.K. climbed, according to new figures.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that net migration from the bloc to the U.K. dropped to 57,000 people in the year to September 2018, continuing to add to the population but at the lowest level since 2009.

However, net migration of non-EU citizens to the U.K. was at its highest since 2004 and rose to 261,000 people, the ONS said.

Over the year, about 627,000 people moved to the U.K while about 345,000 people left the country.

The figures also showed a net fall in immigration from the eight Central and Eastern European countries that joined the bloc in 2004, more than 1 million of whose citizens had moved to Britain over the past decade.

Jonathan Portes of the UK in a Changing Europe research group said in a statement: “This undoubtedly reflects the impact of Brexit on the attractiveness of the UK to other Europeans.”

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Rachel Wolf: On policy, it’s not the Independent Group that’s driven to the margins. It’s the Conservative Right.

The new group’s platform is not very inspiring – if, like me, you still feel public services could do with improvement. But its biggest problem is it they won’t be very different from the Conservatives’.

Rachel Wolf is a partner in Public First. She was an education and innovation adviser at Number 10 during David Cameron’s premiership, and was founding director of the New Schools Network.

Will the former Conservative and Labour Members of the Independent Group find it easy to come to a consistent policy platform? And will that platform be ‘centre left’ or ‘centre centre’? My answers, in turn, are “yes”, and “there is no longer a meaningful distinction in Westminster between these two”.

To explain why, it’s important to look at the wider policy background.  There’s not been much of policy discussion within the Conservative Party recently. It’s wholly unclear what its domestic agenda would be at the next general election. Brexit dominates.

That will have to change. Anyone who campaigned in the 2017 general election discovered – to their cost – that many voters cared less about Brexit than the Conservative Party did. Doorstep conversations were often focused on the NHS and school funding – where the Conservatives were repeatedly crushed.

People in Westminster are often process, politics, and personality geeks – but the public care more about issues. Miserably, Brexit has whittled the number of domestic policy discussions to almost zero. The environment has become a major policy focus because at least, under Michael Gove, the Conservatives have something – anything – to say (even if that anything now appears to include a strong support for protectionism and tariffs).

Vote Leave, of course, recognised all this. Their arguments focused on the concrete: NHS funding, immigration control. Ideas that would have a direct impact on voters.

So if the Independent Group are to survive – and grow – they will need to make a differentiated case to the electorate on issues that they care about. One of their challenges, in my view, is that the space open for them is not as wide as many think.

While Theresa May talks like a traditional Conservative, domestically her government is increasingly indivisible from one that would be run by a Soft Left (not even necessarily Blairite) Prime Minister. She may have talked about citizens of nowhere, and Gavin Williamson may engage in occasional sabre-rattling, but all the substance points in the opposite direction.

The Conservative Government has become increasingly paternalist (with bans created or looming on public health issues such as sugar; on environmental issues like plastic and ivory; and on activities like social media). Ministers no longer focus on market-based reforms of public services in health or education (many of the interventions made by, for example, Justine Greening on education were completely indistinguishable from those that Gordon Brown and Ed Balls might have made back in their day). The Tories’ commitment to fiscal conservatism remains greater than Labour, but the dividing line is increasingly narrow.

Policies that were once derided when floated by Ed Miliband – such as the energy price cap – are now pushed by the Conservatives. The toughest area of government reductions that can be felt by voters – welfare – is being softened by Amber Rudd and the toughest area of government restriction – immigration – is being softened by Sajid Javid. It is only because Jeremy Corbyn is so extreme (and because all we ever discuss is Brexit) that there remains much distance between the Government and the Opposition. Between TIG and the government? It’s not very obvious.

Let’s take an article written by Chuka Umunna in 2011 in which he makes an appeal for “One Nation Labour” and which includes the two following passages:

“there is no disagreement on the need to address the deficit – despite coalition claims to the contrary. Where the disputed terrain lies is around the speed and depth of reduction and what that means for growth and jobs. “

“What I call “bad capitalism” – unrestrained capital, highly speculative, obsessed with the short term, dismissive of the ties that bind – acts as a barrier to this notion of the good society; whereas “good capitalism” – one that is entrepreneurial and productive with good democratic corporate governance – can smooth the path to a better tomorrow.”

Both of these reflect current government policy.

Now let’s take the Conservative defectors. They themselves sit on the soft left, One Nation wing of the Conservative Party.  All three of the Conservative leavers are critical of grammar schools, and are likely to support a liberal immigration policy. Allen has been a long standing critic of the rollout of welfare reforms. Sarah Wollaston has argued for a long time for much more NHS funding. Soubry is the one who may be most uncomfortable in a centre-left party – she is clearly a supporter of almost everything the Coalition government did, including “austerity”, and she has been an active Conservative for a very long time.

Fundamentally, I don’t think that merging with former Labour members will be a challenge. They will all agree that more money should be spent by the state (including redistribution). They will share a widescale support for state interventionism. There will be mutual antagonism towards some traditional ‘Tory’ policies.

This isn’t a terrible platform for public support (other than on immigration). It’s certainly not very inspiring if, like me, you still feel public services could do with quite a lot of improvement. But its biggest problem is that it won’t be very different from the Conservatives’.

I began this article saying that policy matters. It does – to peoples’ lives and therefore what voters want to know about. The irony seems to me that, actually, the TIG won’t have much new and different to say from the current government (though they might say it in a better way with different sounding people). It is the traditional right, now criticised for driving out Conservatives over Brexit, that has no place in the current domestic policy debate.

Iain Mansfield: We have nothing to fear from No Deal

It would bring with it many compensations, including regulatory freedom, tariff income and £39 billion of cold, hard cash.

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

One constant on our journey to leave the EU is that the predictions of Project Fear have repeatedly failed to come true. Despite the predictions of the Treasury, there was no immediate recession, “immediate and profound economic shock”, ten per cent drop in house prices or ‘’Punishment Budget’ as a consequence of the vote to Leave. Instead we’ve seen a growing economy, the highest ever level of employment, growing wages, falling inflation and an £11.8bn increase in exports in 2018.

The new bogeyman is No Deal. The summer of 2018 saw repeated stories of planes being grounded in the event of No Deal, only for, entirely predictably, the EU to make provision in December for flights to continue for twelve months to allow alternative measures to be put in place. More recently, claims that our trade to other countries would grind to a halt are being refuted by the regular drumbeat of mutual recognition agreements signed by the Department of International Trade, including one last week with our largest non-EU trade partner, the USA. I do not say that there will be no short-term impact in the event of No Deal, but it will be vastly less than is being suggested.

In my 2014 prize-winning paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs, I explicitly considered the possibility of No Deal. No Deal was not the preferred outcome – I would have preferred a Free Trade Agreement, outside both the Single Market and Customs Union, similar to the position set out by Vote Leave in June 2016. It was, however, always a potential outcome, and it was important to consider how to put in place policies to make a success of it. In this article, I set out a high-level set of policies for making a success of No Deal, drawing on that paper and ongoing developments in the four years since.

Making a success of a Managed No Deal

Citizen’s RightsThe welfare of both UK and EU citizens is of the highest priority. As the Prime Minister has already announced, all EU citizens living in the UK should continue to be able to do so, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. Many EU countries have already put in place equivalent arrangements for UK citizens and similar commitments should be sought from those that have yet to do so.

Visas and Migration: The UK should put in place visa-free arrangements for short-term tourist and business travel, covering up to 90 days in any 180 day period, mirroring the scheme already announced by the EU. Immigration rules for EU nationals should be brought in to line with those for non-EU nationals, ending the current discriminatory arrangements. There should be no cap on the number of EU students, but students arriving after March 2019 should not receive government-funded loans and should pay fees at international rates.

‘Divorce bill’: In the event of No Deal, it is self-evident that no money should be paid to the EU.

Trade and tariffsThe UK should abide by WTO rules and impose the same tariffs on EU importe that are currently faced by imports from outside the EU. Notwithstanding the theoretical positive economic case for unilaterally removing tariff barriers, it is important that shutting the UK out of EU markets is not a cost-free decision for continental business, in order to build the environment for a future deal once the political climate has altered.

Due to the UK’s trade deficit with the EU, estimates suggest we stand to collect up to an extra £13 billion a year from tariffs, while the EU would gain only £5 billion. Some of these funds should be used to help industries most impacted by EU trade barriers adjust and find new markets, in a strictly time-limited and tapering way to prevent them fostering inefficiency and rent-seeking behaviour. The rest should be reinvested into infrastructure and other competitiveness-enhancing investments.

Within six months of leaving, the UK should draw up a list of goods on which the EU has imposed unnecessarily high tariffs. This should prioritise consumer goods that the UK produces little of itself – from oranges to textiles – to directly reduce the cost of living without harming jobs.

Industrial StrategyIn contrast to Project Fear’s claims, EY’s 2018 UK Attractiveness Survey – an annual examination of the performance and perceptions of the UK as an investment destination – confirmed that the UK remains the number one destination for inward investment in Europe, with the number of investment projects up six per cent from the year before. Though Brexit has had an impact, it is small: 79 per cent of businesses say that they’ve increased or not changed their plans to invest since the Brexit vote, with only eight per cent saying they are likely to relocate assets within the next three years.

The UK should capitalise on this investor confidence. With full freedom to set our own regulatory affairs, the UK should rapidly seek to reform business regulation in areas where the EU has imposed unnecessary bureaucracy, particularly in sectors where this has directly targeted UK competitiveness. Existing labour rights and environmental standards should be maintained.

Broader measures to promote business investment should also be brought forward. A step-wise lowering of corporation tax to 15 per cent by 2022, an enhancement of R&D tax credits, the creation of special export zones and increased transport infrastructure, particularly in the Midlands and North, are all ideas that should be considered for fast-track implementation.            

UK-Ireland land border: No physical barriers should be erected on the Irish border. Importers bringing goods across the border should be required to register and pay tariffs on any imports using an online portal, with compliance enforced via spot-checks on industrial and commercial facilities and an enhancement of the existing cross-border arrangements used to combat smuggling. The success of this system should be reviewed 12 months after exit, ideally in partnership with the Republic of Ireland, and limited border checks introduced only if both parties agree it is necessary.

Individuals should be allowed to move freely across the island of Ireland, with eligibility for work, residency and benefits checked only when a person applied for such. A generous allowance for transport of goods for personal consumption should be put in place.

Existing controls would remain in place at airports and ports to monitor travel between the island of Ireland and Great Britain.

If the Republic of Ireland chooses to erect physical barriers on the border, that would be its decision, not the UK’s.

Future EU Relations: The UK should not seek to immediately negotiate a trade deal with the  EU. After the acrimony of the current negotiations, this would be unlikely to lead to a positive outcome. Instead, the UK should increase business certainty by clearly pursuing an economic path that lies outside the EU.

The year immediately following exit should be used to regularise agreements in essential areas, such as air travel, which will initially be covered by emergency arrangements. These should largely be technical affairs modelled on the EU’s and UK’s arrangements with third parties. It may also be possible to negotiate entry into stand-alone, uncontroversial, programmes such as those on scientific cooperation.

It is likely that in three to five years’ time the political situation may have calmed sufficiently to seek to negotiate a stand-alone trade agreement. This should be modelled on the Canada Free Trade Agreement and would take as its status quo the No Deal arrangements, in order to avoid unreasonable expectations on either side.

We have nothing to fear from No Deal

I am not a No Deal fanatic. Last year on this site I advocated support for Chequers, and I still believe that, if the backstop is removed from the Withdrawal Agreement, the deal would be worth signing. We must not, however, accept a deal at any cost. To succeed in any negotiation, one must be prepared to walk away – and the actions of MPs who have effectively announced that they will take any deal, however bad, have undoubtedly hamstrung our negotiations.

The Conservative Manifesto set it out clearly: No Deal is better than a bad deal. I continue to hope that a compromise will be found, and that the EU will agree to remove or place a time-limit on the backstop. However, rather than accept a deal which yokes us indefinitely to the EU, we should embrace a future outside. No Deal would bring with it many compensations, including regulatory freedom, tariff income and £39 billion of cold, hard cash. Britain’s fundamental economic strengths, competitiveness and international relationships, supported by an appropriate set of domestic policies, mean it is abundantly clear that we can have a positive economic future in this scenario.

Roger Roberts writes…Massive changes needed at the Home Office

I quote from one not of my own party, David Lammy, who, in a speech last week in the House of Commons, stated: “Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at […]

I quote from one not of my own party, David Lammy, who, in a speech last week in the House of Commons, stated:

“Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at the border by our own Government. Eleven of those who were wrongly deported have died. You have announced three more today. Every single one of those cases is a shocking indictment of your Government’s pandering to far right racism, sham immigration targets and the dog whistle of the right-wing press”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/2/18; cols. 170-71.]

In addition, I received a letter earlier this week from one who said:

“I am a Portuguese citizen from Lisbon, came here in 1993 on a full scholarship paid for by the Royal Academy of Music to study, when I was just 19 years old. I stayed and have been working as a performer and teacher ever since.

I came here legally, settled with no issues and have had a national insurance number since 1993. I have paid tax since 1997 … When I applied for settled status I wasn’t given a reason for being refused”.

Nor was she asked to provide evidence. She continues:

“It made me both frightened and angry. I’ve been here continuously for nearly 26 years and couldn’t think of any reason why I wouldn’t be immediately put through … I was promised and reassured by this government that the ridiculous process of having to apply for a status I already have (!) was simple, easy and that bar criminal conviction everyone would get through straight away.

I was lied to.

The app doesn’t work for the self-employed.

The app doesn’t come with a helpline number or email to write to, it also doesn’t tell you that if you’re self-employed you’re not likely to get through.

It doesn’t offer help in any way.

What I want to know is why on earth the Home Office cannot just look at my 25 continuous years of NI and understand it is me!

I have lost sleep, been hugely stressed over this, and none of this is of my choice and making.

17.5% of all EU citizens here are self-employed and they are all having the same issue. Half a million people! To me this is a human rights issue, we’re being lied to, the app system is immature, bugged and biased against the self-employed … Every time an EU citizen gets rejected and is asked to submit evidence of their lives here, it creates a huge amount of confusion and stress.

It seems that this whole sorry process is unethical, biased, and unlawful. The government is scrambling to put together anything that may be seen to make sense but has no actual substance.

People’s lives matter, and they are playing with our future!

I worked very hard all my life, this government is happy to take my money and work but won’t give me a voice or a choice in my future”.

She concludes:

“I have a British husband and two small children”.

This instance and many others clearly show that the whole situation is not fit for purpose. Nothing proves that better than the results of appeals against Home Office immigration decisions and how those appeals have increased in number over the years. In 2005, 17% of appeals were approved by the tribunal or the higher court. In 2009 that was up to 29%; in 2014, it was 28%; in 2015, 35%; and in 2016, 40%. We are assured that the Government are attempting to improve the situation, but nothing changes.

This results in a destruction of confidence in the whole system. When people cannot trust government decisions, we are in grave danger. When people feel, as David Lammy asserted, that one section of the community is discriminated against, that danger is even more threatening. I do not lay the blame on the officers or decision-makers; they try to fulfil this part of their Home Office responsibility. But there must be great stress in the job they are undertaking. I can immediately suggest two changes. First, every interview should be audio recorded so that there is no uncertainty over responses or the ability of those interviewed to understand a language foreign to them. Secondly, I suggest we should have not one decision-maker in every interview, but two.

I refer to a film directed by Professor Sue Clayton of Goldsmiths university. The main character of her film is ZS—let us call him that. He is a vulnerable Afghan boy with bullet wounds from the Taliban and a record of repeated suicide attempts in France. The Home Office refused to accept him and the other 36 children in the film, who, Sue suggests, were eligible under the Dubs amendment.

Professor Clayton continues “we became increasingly concerned that the procedures they had in place for assessing our kids and others were flawed and profoundly inadequate; that the criteria for acceptance were being constantly changed; and these changes not relayed to the applicants, so that many were not able to apply, or their applications discounted. It was also clear that the Home Office were not meeting the Dubs quota of 480 lone children from Europe. In February 2018, the Home Office were sued in the High Court on behalf of our client ZS and the others, for their failure to lawfully implement the Dubs Amendment”.

The result was, Professor Clayton continued, first, that the Home Office was judged not to have provided,

“the Calais children with written decisions or any reason for their refusal. This meant they were unable to appeal (and cases such as this are generally won on appeal)”.

Secondly, she says, the result was:

“That the Home Office acted unlawfully by failing in its ‘duty of candour’ by not making its policy and procedures available to those who needed to know”.

She says that her film shows that the Home Office,

“changed its policy no less than 8 times in 18 months, so that the young people, their lawyers, carers and even the French government were all unaware of the procedures for applying to Dubs. Latterly it’s only through the French government that kids in France can apply”.

Professor Sue Clayton also says:

“So we did succeed in getting condemnation for the unlawful practices of the Home Office—one small further step on the way to dismantling the Hostile Environment”— what a terrible word “hostile” is. She ends:

“Shockingly, after nearly 3 years, only … half of the 480 Dubs places have been filled, even though the Amendment stressed the agreed number shall be brought ‘as soon as possible’. So, the fight goes on”.

It could well be that immigration matters should no longer be a Home Office responsibility but in a department of their own. There are so many other changes that we want. We want no indefinite detention, the right to work much sooner than after the present 12 months and far better legal advice and protection for young refugees when they reach 18 years of age. I have a Bill that I hope will reach the statute book this year. All these measures would give hope and huge self-respect to those who have had the most devastating experiences. I do not want to be part of a society that dehumanises people. We should not treat them as citizens of nowhere; I prefer Socrates’ claim:

“I’m not a citizen of Athens or a citizen of Greece, but a citizen of the world”.

The last private rescue ship, the “Aquarius”, was forced to halt its operations in December. More than 29,000 people are estimated to have been rescued by the ship, which was not allowed to dock in Italy last June. But how can we criticise such moves when we ourselves have a questionable record on immigration? We can be a country that restores and builds, or we can be otherwise. In the 17th century, the Dutch of Amsterdam welcomed immigrants and said:

“We are seekers after truth and are richer in having you among us”.

Are we also not richer because of others who have contributed and are contributing to our lives? Remember: we were all immigrants once.

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

How the Treasury, Bank of England and Civil Service have let us down over Brexit

Soon after graduate school I joined the Treasury as an economic adviser and worked alongside economists from the Bank of England and the rest of the Civil Service. We were proud to be bringing economics into the public service. Many years later in 1992 I served on the Treasury’s Panel of Outside Forecasters (‘The 6 […]

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Soon after graduate school I joined the Treasury as an economic adviser and worked alongside economists from the Bank of England and the rest of the Civil Service. We were proud to be bringing economics into the public service. Many years later in 1992 I served on the Treasury’s Panel of Outside Forecasters (‘The 6 Wise Men’) to help guide monetary policy in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’ when we were driven out of the EU Exchange Rate Mechanism. The Treasury chief economist then was Alan, now Sir Alan, Budd, and the Bank’s was Mervyn, now Lord, King.

I am appalled that our equivalents today in the government have spent their time issuing antiBrexit propaganda – still hoping to reverse the referendum decision – instead of dutifully planning post-Brexit policy, so necessary with Brexit only weeks away.


A few weeks ago, we had the latest Treasury and ‘Cross-Whitehall’ report, arguing that any Brexit at all, including the government’s proposed deal, would be worse than Remaining. Then the Bank weighed in with a ‘Brexit crisis scenario’, an implied forecast of how bad No Deal would be, concealed as a ‘stress test’ of whether the economy could survive it – it could! Latterly, the Bank has reiterated its forecast that No Deal would be bad, causing a likely recession, and using it as an excuse for delaying raising interest rates.

These interventions are designed to undermine our efforts to persuade the EU to modify the Government’s proposed deal by strengthening popular and MP concerns over No Deal. They aim also to persuade Parliament to back amendments delaying Article 50 and seeking another referendum. The sought-for prize in both cases is the status quo, ultimately Remain. It should be unthinkable for our Civil Service to play politics and conspire against the people’s 2016 decision so nakedly, as demonstrated in Brussels last week by the Civil Service’s chief negotiator.

This deceitfulness is bad enough but worse is that their propaganda efforts would lead to terrible economics. My message to Brits is: unlike these self-styled experts, you got this issue right. Yes, you were right to ask for your democracy back, and yes, this is also good for the British economy, contrary to all that Project Fear.

Let us remind ourselves about what Brexit means for economic policy:

  • Free trade with the non-EU world, bringing down prices, boosting competition, and increasing productivity
  • Setting our own regulations across the economy, to ensure the best approach to new technology, energy, and financial services – all areas central to our future growth prospects. This is in contrast to the EU’s highly interventionist, bureaucratic, protectionist approach
  • Ensuring that unskilled immigration is no longer subsidised by the taxpayer at great cost to lower-income communities (£3,500 per annum for each unskilled worker) and that it stops depressing wages to the detriment of UK unskilled workers, whom businesses then have no incentive to train
  • Ending paying large amounts into the EU budget

Taken together, we calculate these policies will add about 0.5% a year to our growth rate over the next decade and a half, cumulatively adding 7% to GDP by 2035.

As part of the EU, we have been unable to adopt these policies because we have lost democratic control. Reasserting it through Brexit means we can move into a post-Brexit world of better policies that will promote UK prosperity.


How has the Treasury managed to argue precisely the opposite; that post-Brexit our economy will decline by 7% or more of GDP? Answer: by making absurd assumptions.

No Gains from Free Trade with the Non-EU World

First, the Treasury alleges that free trade with non-EU countries brings in trivial gains because we would reduce our own trade barriers by only a little and other countries similarly would do little to reduce theirs.

Aside from this refuting the most widely agreed principle in economics, we have practical evidence from Australia to disprove this claim. Australia too had high protection against the rest of the world but thirty years ago they did remove it and did strike free trade deals with all and sundry. Their government now estimates that free trade boosted Australian GDP by over 5%. If Australia can do it, so can we.

In fact, if we assume we get rid of the current EU protection of about 20% on both food and manufactures, the gain to UK GDP is 4%. – calculated by using the same World Trade Model now used by the Treasury. Moreover, we have further calculated that virtually all this gain could be obtained by agreeing just one key free trade agreement – i.e. with the US. This is because the huge US economy can supply virtually all of our current imports and almost all at the lowest world price.

‘War at the Border’ with the EU

Second, the Treasury assumes that we would become engaged in a sort of ‘border war’ with the EU. The Treasury alleges the EU would increase inspections and slow traffic down, that they would query whether our exports comply with their standards. And, vice versa, we would do the same to them. The Treasury assumes that such actions would be the equivalent of imposing 25% tariffs each way.

This is fantasy. Besides being against our own and their own interests, these actions are illegal under WTO Rules. This does not just mean that there could be legal action in WTO Appellate Bodies. More to the point, injured businesses in the thousands would take the offending port authorities to EU and UK courts that enforce acceptable and legal commercial practice – as defined by WTO law.

Practically speaking, such actions would represent economic suicide to European port operators. Not surprisingly these authorities, including Calais, have declared roundly they will not take any such illegal actions and inspection regimes will remain the same as they are today. And HMRC has declared a policy of prioritising flow over checks – i.e. waving through imports and worrying about any customs aspects subsequently.

No Gains from Post-Brexit Tariffs

Under No Deal initially there probably would be tariffs both ways. Until a free trade deal is agreed, each side would be forced by WTO rules either to impose tariffs on all countries, or to abolish them entirely for all. For political reasons, the UK is not likely to abolish tariffs universally in the short term.

Importantly, the Treasury has failed to acknowledge that tariffs would favour the UK – we would receive £13 billion in tariff revenue from EU exporters versus the EU Commission receiving £5 billion from EU importers (thus, a net loss to the EU).

As soon as we have agreed trade deals with non-EU countries – especially soon with the US – our home market would be dominated by lower world prices. EU exporters would not be able to ‘pass on’ the increased costs of any UK import tariffs because UK consumers would not pay the higher EU price. Similarly, EU importers could not ‘pass back’ to our exporters the EU tariffs they are paying, as UK producers would switch to selling at home. In practice, our export sales to the EU would not suffer because EU prices are raised by EU protection to the same levels as UK export prices plus these tariffs.

This means that, under No Deal, we gain at the EU’s expense. This should encourage the EU to do a free trade deal with us after Brexit – which we of course would welcome.

So in short the Treasury has it all wrong on trade.

No Gains from UK-Based Regulations

The Treasury attributes virtually no gains to us retrieving control of our economic regulations, contrary to all the evidence of damage from EU regulations. How ridiculous is that? Our own UK government saying it could not do a better job of regulation than a foreign power with an expressed aim of reducing our competitiveness!

A Mad Immigration Policy, Keeping Out Skilled Workers

To cap it all, the Treasury assumes we will pursue a self-harming immigration policy of stopping skilled immigration, which all agree we need. Again, a bad own goal.

To sum up, our own Treasury and civil service see no benefits from free trade with the rest of the world while lamenting the loss of free trade with the EU, imagines standard trade procedures as practiced all over the world will be impossible with our EU neighbours, believes we are incapable of implementing better home regulation, and thinks we will adopt an irrational immigration policy. If this is truly what they believe, we will need another civil service post-Brexit.


Turn now from these crazy long term Treasury estimates to the short term threats of recession made by the Bank, backed by regular remarks from the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

As we saw during the referendum campaign, the Bank has form in predicting ‘Brexarmageddon’. Then, the short term forecast was that the uncertainty triggered by only a Leave vote would destroy consumer and investor confidence and so kill off spending, creating a recession.

Instead we have seen the UK economy continue growing fairly steadily, reaching extreme lows in unemployment and record employment. Wages are now growing faster than prices. Also the economy has absorbed a large devaluation that has had a tonic effect in improving our balance of payments. It did this with a minimal effect on inflation. Nothing here to worry about at all.

For their latest scary Brexit No Deal scenario, the Bank has again invoked a crisis based on uncertainty and plunging confidence – heavily focused on what happens with the Dover-Calais ferry route.

But No Deal – as we have explained – will not disturb the border, as that would be illegal and there are alternative ferry routes available. As for shortages of vital foods, medicines, or vital components, they depend on the same story, now discredited by the EU port authorities who are worried about losing market share to competing ports.

With border procedures changing, there will be some short run hiccups, as some firms may fail to adapt quickly. But firms will soon learn, and will get extra support and credit to tide them over.

Has investment been hit? I show below the chart of UK total business investment up to the most recent available figures.

What the chart shows – following the Financial Crisis – is the usual irregular behaviour of most economic series around a rather smoothly moving upward trend. It is true that the latest data points to a weak and declining growth of investment as shown below in more detail from the latest ONS release. This is not surprising, given the long deferral of positive Brexit prospects due to the Government’s failure to provide a clear route to Brexit and to explain its benefits.

Therefore, it is likely that some investment is being delayed until Brexit has happened; but it then will be implemented. This is the essential point about investment; that it is delayed, not lost.

One can see from these two charts that, although investment growth is weak, its contribution to the economy is fluctuating around a stable trend. Meanwhile we can see that the economy is fully employed so that demand growth overall is continuing to create jobs; growth is fluctuating as the latest GDP figures show, but this is quite normal. The fourth quarter was slower after an unusually strong third quarter – and subsequent revisions often are higher. So from the point of view of demand, the weak investment is not preventing full employment, with an economy well at the limits of productive capacity.

Of course, EU countries would love to have our results – Germany’s just announced Q4 GDP growth is half of ours, while Italy has been in recession for six months.


The truth is that ‘uncertainty’ as a factor is much overdone by commentators. Change is a continuous feature of any economy. The ‘uncertainty’ argument depends on a belief that rational market participants will somehow not be able to cope with future change thereby freezing their activities.

In reality, businesses need to make money quickly as markets are constantly changing; households need to pay bills over the foreseeable future, and having a job is the best guarantee of being able to do so. So the ‘here and now’ situation, especially with employment, dominates their actions. As for future shocks, there are many; and predicting them a fool’s game. Of course, we can insure the obvious things.

So it is the UK’s flexible labour market that has kept the economy fully employed, full of short term confidence therefore, and growing steadily – Brexit has made little difference. It is a good lesson in the importance of market flexibility.

Whatever the short-run effects of Brexit uncertainty, they soon will give way to post-Brexit reality. It is here that official forecasts fail most seriously because they do not factor in the gains explained above. The economy, particularly investment, will respond to the prospects of these gains. That is how rational expectations of the future stimulate entrepreneurs to take advantage of unfolding new opportunities. Officials do not understand this process and, consequently, do not include such effects in their forecasts. Add in some uncertainty nonsense and out pop their doom and gloom forecasts – particularly if such forecasts support a biased perspective.

What we need now is for Brexit to occur and usher in the new opportunities from free trade and better regulation.


We see here an astonishing catalogue of bad economics coming from a determination to reverse the people’s referendum decision. This from our own Ministers and Civil Service who are supposed to support policies the people have voted for. Our civil servants must now get behind Brexit and reflect its opportunities in their forecasts. 

It is time that the Bank and the Treasury stopped making arbitrary assumptions that our flexible firms and households will suddenly behave like headless chickens. Instead they should assume rational expectations, by now a widely supported assumption in economic forecasting.

My advice to the British people is: make it known to MPs that you will not stand for their bad economics, stick to your previous thinking, ignore the ongoing Project Fear as you got it right and these ‘servants’ of yours got it all wrong.

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For richer, for poorer

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, […]

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, and we’re proud that Lib Dem policy is to oppose it. If you’re married to a British person, you should be allowed to live with them. No means-testing. For richer, for poorer. 🐾

Lina is a Dachshund from Munich, Germany; Jamie is an English Bulldog from Croydon. Jamie worries about whether Brexit will mean Lina can’t come and live with him.

Kuniko is a Shiba Inu from Kyoto, Japan. Gary is a Jack Russell Terrier from Bolton. Gary’s income is just enough for Kuniko to be allowed here — but not enough for their puppies too. They don’t know what they should do.

Malcolm is an Old English Sheepdog from Hexham; Brigitte is a Bichon Frise from Toulouse, France. Brigitte is looking forward to the country life, but first she needs to find out what paperwork she’ll need, and the Home Office isn’t answering her questions.

Maryam is a Persian cat from Isfahan, Iran. Tom is a Yorkshire Terrier from Leeds. Maryam expects to get a good job in the UK — but the Home Office won’t count that as income while she’s still in Iran. The stress is affecting both of them.

Rick is an English Bulldog from Solihull; Ernesto is a chihuahua from Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico. Unfortunately Rick lost his job as a security guard, and his benefits don’t come to enough for Ernesto to join him.

Rachel is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from Southampton; Dietrich is a Bernese Mountain Dog from Bern, Switzerland. Dietrich is trying to sort out Settled Status but that needs an Android smartphone and his big paws aren’t good with phones.

Shirley is a Bearded Collie from Durham; Jane is a Shih Tzu from Shenzhen, China. Same-sex marriages aren’t recognized in China; Shirley and Jane wonder if this will affect their rights in the UK.

Morag is a West Highland Terrier from Ardnamurchan, and Paweł is a Pomeranian from Gdańsk in Pomerania, Poland. Morag hopes that Paweł won’t experience the abuse that many Poles in the UK have had.

Rhys is a Collie from near Aberystwyth; no-one is quite sure where Ziggy is from, but Rhys loves them anyway.

* Liberal Democrat Immigrants exists to represent those members of the Liberal Democrats who have chosen to come to live in the UK from elsewhere. It also seeks to represent the interests of immigrants to the UK in general and to highlight those issues that disproportionately affect immigrants.