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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Theresa May extends Brexit olive branch to Labour

PM sets out measures clearly designed to win over wavering opposition MPs.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing for fresh talks with Jeremy Corbyn this week after sending the Labour leader a conciliatory letter Sunday night specifying areas for further negotiations between the government and the opposition, and adding the two sides should meet again “as soon as possible.”

The letter came after Corbyn last week set out five conditions for his party’s support for the government’s Brexit deal.

May set out a series of measures clearly designed to win over wavering Labour MPs. In addition to new laws banning the rollback of existing workers’ rights and environmental standards, the PM also promised to legislate for MPs to be given a vote every time the EU strengthens regulations in the years to come — a step towards Labour’s call for “dynamic alignment” with EU rules and regulations, under which British law would automatically keep up with future European standards. May also promised more help for “left-behind communities.”

May’s only real rebuke was to Corbyn’s call for customs union membership, and his suggestion Britain would still get a say over future EU trade deals. “I am not clear why you think it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own,” the PM wrote.

But May sought to reassure Corbyn that her plans for close alignment with the EU’s customs union and single market “provide for the closest relationship possible” outside full membership. And she said she supports Labour’s ambition to keeping participating in many key EU programs, and for a security relationship that’s broadly unchanged. May also noted Corbyn’s concerns about the Irish backstop, urging him to discuss with her the various “alternative arrangements” she hopes to secure.


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Shanker Singham: How British farming can flourish after we leave the EU

At the moment, there are many areas where farmers cannot use new technologies. These will increasingly feed not only our consumers but also the world’s poorest ones.

Shanker A. Singham is CEO of Competere and Director of the International Trade and Competition Unit, Institute of Economic Affairs.

Last week, we have heard from Liam Fox about no-deal planning with regard to food prices. While tariffs on industrial goods are relatively low – so that the UK falling back on the Common External Tariff is less of an economically significant event – this is not true of agriculture.

Since the UK is a major importer of agriculture from the EU (the EU-27 has an approximately £23 billion surplus in agricultural trade with the UK), No Deal would mean falling back on the Common External Tariff.   Some agricultural tariffs are very high (for some products over 70 per cent).  That could mean significant food price inflation.

Right now, the major developed countries generally trade agricultural products using a system of tariff rate quotas; an import quota where there is a lower tariff for a certain volume of imports, and then, if imports exceed that amount, the tariff kicks up to a much higher and usually prohibitive level. This is highly managed trade. At the moment, there are no tariffs or other quota-based restrictions to our imports from the EU-27.  But this will change if we leave without a deal.

There are only two trade policy ways to curb food price inflation in the event of No Deal, hence the Secretary of State’s statements.  Either the UK would apply a zero rate unilaterally to all countries (it must be for all countries – because otherwise we would be violating the WTO’s rule that any tariff reductions should be applied to all members); or else it would have to open up those agricultural quotas to all comers on a first come, first served basis.

There have been reports of increasing worry – that either of these methods would put EU farmers in direct competition with the most efficient farmers in the world, and they would rapidly lose market share.

EU farmers are well aware of this, which is why they are starting to kick up a fuss about the damage that would be caused by No Deal.  They also know that, absent the protectionism afforded by the common external tariff and the regulatory barriers imposed on agriculture from non-EU countries, and they would not be competitive.

They would not only lose market share overnight, but the supply chains which have reoriented to more competitive suppliers would not come back. They would be permanently disadvantaged.

It gets worse for the EU-27.  It so happens that the producers who would lose out the most are in highly political sensitive areas: Bavarian dairy farmers, Northern Italian textiles and dairy, French wine, and beef – critically, Irish beef which accounts for fully 67 per cent of the UK market now.

The impact of the Irish beef industry losing market share overnight to the lucrative UK market (where beef prices are among the highest in the world) cannot be understated. This is the risk that Leo Varadkar is taking in refusing to allow the backstop to be modified.  If the UK puts its counter-offer on the table, and allows the pressure from these producers to build up on member states, then a deal is more likely.  If the UK does not fully exploit this pressure, a deal is less likely.

But all sides want to have a deal.  And so we turn to what sort of agricultural policy the UK would want to have in the event of one.

It is possible for the UK to have a new and improved policy that works for consumer, farmers and our trading partners if we make changes to our tariff policy, our subsidy policy and our regulatory policy.

First, we should open up our market so we gradually reducing tariffs and open up our import quotas.   Ultimately, consumers will benefit if the protections afforded to producers are slowly lowered.

This change does not have to be done overnight, and it is connected to the second area of reform – which is how we would use WTO-compatible direct payments to help British farmers, not only with the Brexit transition but beyond.  At the moment, our direct payments are based on the size of landholdings.  This is patently unfair. The two biggest beneficiaries of this funding now are English Heritage and the RSPB, worthy entities both, but hardly farmers.

We should instead focus direct payments more on actual farmers, and support their environmental remediation efforts as well as their stewardship of land, fully recognizing that their primary goal is to produce our food.  The beauty of our countryside helps support a £127 billion tourism industry, and farmers play a role in it.

Third, we can improve our regulatory system so we are not needlessly putting compliance burdens on farmers, and depriving them of access to new technologies provided the science shows us that they are safe.  At the moment, there are many areas where farmers cannot use new technologies, such as synthetic biology or gene editing.  These are the technologies that will increasingly feed not only our consumers but most especially the world’s poorest ones.

UK farmers can have a bright future, and the UK and EU can agree a deal with an alternative version of the backstop which works for all parties. In the strange world of Brexit, these two issues are now joined at the hip.

Dutch say hundreds of companies plotting Brexit switch

The Netherlands says it has attracted 1,923 jobs and €291 million in investment, and plans a lot more.

The Dutch government said it helped 42 companies move to the country in 2018 because of Brexit and is in talks with more than 250 others about a switch, according to a report out today.

The companies — including Japanese investment bank Norinchukin and media company TVT — translated into 1,923 jobs and €291 million in investment, the government report said.

The figures also includes the transfer of the EU’s European Medicines Agency from London and the opening of new office space by financial service providers such as MarketAxess and Azimo, in addition to shipping insurer UK P&I Club.

“These [newcomers] are predominantly British companies, but also American and Asian organizations that are reconsidering their current European structure due to uncertainties caused by Brexit,” the Dutch ministry said.

In 2017, only 18 companies transferred operations. The report said both Bloomberg and Discovery were also planning extra investment, according to figures collated by the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, which works under the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

In the race to attract jobs and investment from the U.K., the Dutch did concede they face competition from Germany, France and Ireland in picking over the Brexit spoils.

“Due to the growing international uncertainty surrounding Brexit and changing global trade policies, the importance of a good Dutch business climate for all of us is continually increasing,” said Eric Wiebes, minister of economic affairs and climate policy.


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Britain scraps Brexit ferry deal with company that has no ships

Seaborne Freight’s contract had been controversial from the start.

The British government said today that it has scrapped a contract to provide emergency ferry services across the Channel in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as the company in question has no access to vessels.

Under the deal, Seaborne Freight had committed to providing services between Ramsgate in Kent and the Belgian port of Ostend — reviving a route that has been dormant since 2013 after the last operator went bust.

The aim was to provide emergency ferry capacity should the introduction of custom checks around the Dover-Calais maritime link lead to heavy congestion and delays after Brexit.

But without ships of its own, Seaborne’s contract relied on a previously unconfirmed support arrangement with Ireland’s Arklow Shipping. The company claims to have a fleet of 45 ships suitable for shifting everything from containers to grain, but will no longer back Seaborne’s government contract.

“Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the government,” a spokesperson at the Department for Transport said Saturday.

The contract with Seaborne Freight was worth £13.8 million and part of a trio of arrangements that included larger deals with DFDS and Brittany Ferries. Transport Minister Chris Grayling has been under pressure over the contracts but the spokesperson said the department was in “advanced talks” with multiple companies about replacement services via Ramsgate, where preparatory dredging work has already begun.


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Here’s why it would be madness to stay in a customs union with the EU

Many suggest that, despite it being made very clear at the time of the referendum that a vote to Leave the EU meant leaving the Customs Union, we should Leave the EU but remain a member of the – or a – Customs Union. This would very much mirror the situation in which Turkey finds […]

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Many suggest that, despite it being made very clear at the time of the referendum that a vote to Leave the EU meant leaving the Customs Union, we should Leave the EU but remain a member of the – or a – Customs Union.

This would very much mirror the situation in which Turkey finds itself – and that itself should be a lesson as to why this is a bad idea and why going WTO on 29th March would be infinitely preferable by comparison.

A customs union with the EU means that the UK would not have its own trade policy. Therefore we would not be able to strike preferential agreements affecting trade in goods or services with other countries; we would not be able to set our own tariffs to suit the UK economy; and we would not be a full member of the World Trade Organisation. It seems extraordinary that any MPs and others can seriously believe that restricting the UK’s options in this way to be a good idea.

The second aspect of a customs union with the EU that I don’t think many MPs and others realise is that any goods exported to the EU or imported from there would still need to be covered by a movement certificate. This is detailed in the proposed Withdrawal Agreement on pages 342 to 353. The proposed A.UK document would appear to mirror the A.TR used for trade with Turkey. This document has to be completed by the exporter and then stamped by HMRC before being sent to the customer.

For businesses like mine which despatch large numbers of small consignments, we would need to employ an extra person just to complete these documents – which would be far more expensive than the cost of paying the applicable tariff. It could also potentially lead to delays in despatching urgent orders where – as is the case with Turkey – it is required that the stamped document accompanies the order.

Shipping under WTO rules, as we do to most of the more than 120 countries in which we have customers, requires no movement certificate, no pre-stamping, just invoices produced here. This means that orders are despatched on the day of receipt and in Europe and North America delivered next day customs cleared.

Ironically, this means that if the UK were in a customs union with the EU, our competitors in the United States would be able to supply our customers in the EU quicker than us. Their goods would have arrived with our customers whilst we would still be waiting for HMRC to stamp the A.UK movement certificate!

I think it is important to note that neither Norway nor Switzerland as members of the European Economic Area have shown any desire to be members of the EU customs union and have instead preferred to define their own trade policy, with great success. As one of the largest economies in the world, it seems extraordinary that we should even consider tying our hands in this way.

To me, as someone trading all over the globe, it would be madness being in any sort of customs union with the EU and we should maximise trade through simplicity and have no hesitation going WTO on 29th March.

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Donald Tusk’s ‘hell’ comment not ‘brilliant diplomacy,’ says UK minister

David Lidington said European Council president was ‘venting’ when he criticized Brexiteers.

Donald Tusk’s comment about a “special place in hell” was not “the most brilliant diplomacy,” David Lidington, the U.K.’s de facto deputy prime minister, said Thursday.

Lidington was asked on the BBC’s Today program if the European Council president should apologize to Theresa May when he meets the prime minister in Brussels later Thursday. On Wednesday, Tusk said in a press conference and a tweet: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

Some U.K. newspapers and Brexiteers have cast the comments as an insult to the U.K.

“I don’t think that Donald Tusk was criticizing the prime minister at all,” said Lidington, who is on the pro-EU wing of the Cabinet. But he added that politicians should choose their words carefully. “If he were to ask me I’d say it probably wasn’t the most brilliant diplomacy.”

He added that he thought Tusk was “venting” and that anyone listening to MPs in the House of Commons knows that “intemperate and exaggerated language doesn’t only come out of Brussels.”

Asked about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s letter setting out five conditions for backing a Brexit deal, Lidington gave a lukewarm response. “What is it that you don’t like about what’s in the Political Declaration at the moment,” he asked, saying that the document already envisages a partial customs union with the EU.

Corbyn wants the government to negotiate a full customs union with a say for the U.K. over EU trade deals. “That’s not something that’s allowed under the European treaties,” said Lidington, “That seems to be me wishful thinking.”

And asked about how many of the EU trade deals that the U.K. currently benefits from will be rolled over in time for a no-deal Brexit, Lidington said: “In that case one would need to try to have bilateral relationships … That work is still going on.”


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Alex Morton: If Brexit is impossible, what is the point of politics?

The idea that leaving the EU simply cannot be done has emerged since the referendum – if true, it would shatter our political system.

Alex Morton is Director of Policy at the Centre for Policy Studies, and was a member of David Cameron’s Downing Street Policy Unit.

The current debate raging about Brexit has occasionally thrown up a view – expressed more by columnists than politicians – that Brexit is so difficult that, for practical purposes, it might as well be impossible. We simply are incapable of leaving.

This argument is distinct from the argument for or against the compromises of May’s deal, or even the argument put forward by Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin around EEA membership.

The Boles and Letwin view is that while a harder Brexit is possible, the economic and political disruption of a complete split is too great, particularly given Northern Ireland. They suggest instead a compromise version, which trades off retaining economic integration and some loss of control for exiting the political drive toward ‘ever closer union’.

This is in some sense an acknowledgement that Brexit must happen in some form, although it may be one that too few Conservative MPs and voters support to make viable. The ‘Brexit is impossible’ position is even more hardline and instead argues that Brexit in any form is just too big for politics to cope with. That the question should never have even been asked. That it was an impossible task you could not achieve and so it was dishonest even to debate it – and, of course, that David Cameron was utterly wrong to call the referendum.

Indeed, they argue that the whole premise of the referendum was a sham, because the little people who voted Leave, for whatever reason, did not understand that it is simply not possible for us to do so. That is why, if the EU will not give ground, the only real option is to cancel Brexit and put this whole sorry mess behind us. Not because there has been inadequate preparation for No Deal, but because Brexit is somehow impossible in a very fundamental sense.

If we cannot leave the EU now, we cannot remain a sovereign nation

But if we cannot leave the European Union now – when it consists of a trading bloc with a partially formed political super state above it – surely we can never, in the long run, retain any national sovereignty, and once inside the EU we will never be able to resist further erosion of sovereignty.

If we are too weak to be able to leave, and must go crawling back to the Commission, what trajectory does that put us on? Towards a slightly slower dismantling of the UK as a nation state in favour of a European federal super state? In which case, why not simply just dissolve Britain as a realistic entity and run us by email from the EU Commission?

It’s often said that the Brexit referendum showed that Britain was split down the middle. In fact, polls showed that the overwhelming majority of people wanted either to leave the EU or reduce its powers. For every true believer in integration on the Remain side, there were many more who were sceptical of the EU but worried about how we would or could actually get out. After the vote a staggering 75 per cent of people either wanted to leave the EU or reduce its powers, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey.

Now, some federalists see a chance, through the high-stakes game of poker we are in, to undo that decision. But the logic of having to abandon our attempt to Leave is that any attempt to reverse the one-way federal ratchet is doomed. Even when we were a member in good standing, the best we could do was to slow the flow of powers to Brussels rather than halt it, let alone reverse it. What leverage will we have as a defeated, humbled nation whose threats to Leave have been exposed, in the EU’s eyes, as hollow?

If Brexit is impossible, what is the point of politics?

There is a deeper point here. If Brexit is impossible, what hope is there for other difficult tasks in politics, such as reforming public services, controlling immigration, increasing living standards? Will it all be parked in the ‘too difficult’ box? Or will the lesson that our elites learn be that we should never trust the people to make their own decisions?

Those who incline to the ‘Brexit is impossible’ view are, after all, usually those who tend to idealise the rule of technocrats. They get particularly angry that voters think they are doing a much less effective job than they themselves think they are doing.

The Twittersphere, much of the academic and legal professions, the bureaucratic class – all think they will be able to manage governing quite well enough with no real involvement from the plebs. The last thing they want is an engaged population.

Of course, the paradox here is that the UK political system is bearing up better than many. The USA since 2000 has been in near-permanent gridlock, with only a few years of effective government here and there. Italy, Spain, France, Germany – almost all have undergone or are undergoing serious political (and often economic) dislocation.

In terms of the future, all of the focus recently has been on the effects of No Deal. While the mayor of Calais, the Irish, and the Dutch all claim No Deal will not lead to delays, relying on this is a high-risk strategy. If No Deal is seriously disruptive there would be serious consequences for the economy.

Yet if the UK cannot manage to deliver Brexit, then it may shatter the political system as we know it. It certainly may well shatter the Conservatives.

Before Christmas, YouGov ran a poll which found that if Brexit was cancelled, 63 per cent of Conservatives would feel angry, betrayed or disappointed, with betrayal by far the largest response at 42 per cent. That was over twice as many as would feel relieved, pleased or delighted (21 per cent for all three combined). The political establishment is unlikely to survive such a shock. Certainly the Conservative Party could not.

Brexit is not impossible. But if we abandon the idea, and declare it impossible for our political system to deliver, then we are effectively declaring to the voters that the political system itself is not fit for purpose.

Jeremy Corbyn sets Labour’s terms for Brexit deal support

The prime minister’s strategy is not ‘credible or sufficient,’ writes UK Labour leader.

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn set out five conditions for his party’s support for the government’s Brexit deal, which amount to a close alignment with the EU on regulations and trade policy.

In a letter to Theresa May, Corbyn demanded the prime minister adjust her red lines and abandon her attempt to secure legally binding changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, which is despised by Brexiteers in her party, in order to secure a deal.

“Without changes to your negotiating red lines, we do not believe that simply seeking modifications to the existing backstop terms is a credible or sufficient response either to the scale of your defeat last month in parliament,” wrote Corbyn, “or the need for a deal with the EU that can bring the country together and protect jobs.”

May’s Brexit deal was defeated by a historic margin of 230 votes last month when she asked MPs to ratify it. Last week, the House of Commons voted narrowly to send her back to Brussels in order to reopen negotiations on the backstop. But in recent days, the government has been sounding out Labour MPs for their support.

While Corbyn appears content to leave the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement untouched, the changes he is demanding to the Political Declaration would amount to a significant shift in the prime minister’s position. They would preclude an independent trade policy for the U.K. post-Brexit, and mean that London would still be subject to many rules set in Brussels without a say in drafting them. They would also likely mean the U.K. having to accept freedom of movement, something May has vowed to end.

Corbyn’s five conditions are:

— A permanent and comprehensive U.K.-wide customs union with the EU. He argues that would “deliver the frictionless trade that our businesses, workers and consumers need, and is the only viable way to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.”

— Close alignment with the EU single market with “shared institutions and obligations.”

— Dynamic alignments on rights and protections so that the U.K. cannot undercut Brussels rules.

— “Clear commitments” on participation in EU agencies and funding programs.

— “Unambiguous agreements” that cover the detail of future security arrangements, for example shared databases used to solve and prevent crime, plus the European Arrest Warrant.

“We believe these negotiating objectives need to be enshrined in law before the U.K. leaves the EU to provide certainty for businesses and a clear framework for our future relationship,” Corbyn added.

There is no mention of one of Labour’s previous “six tests” — to ensure the “exact same benefits” of EU membership — which the party leadership had given as its price for supporting a Brexit deal. Officials and diplomats in Brussels have said consistently that no departing member can benefit from the same terms of membership.

Theresa May will travel to Brussels Thursday for talks with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk.