There is a Brexit Plan B built like a springboard which the UK and EU both ought to embrace

There are undoubtedly many Remainers in the establishment who are determined to stop Brexit outright. Others are trying to create a fiction of Brexit that in reality keeps the UK in the EU in all but name. Many Brexiteers would like to see the UK leave without a deal, on WTO terms – a clean […]

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There are undoubtedly many Remainers in the establishment who are determined to stop Brexit outright. Others are trying to create a fiction of Brexit that in reality keeps the UK in the EU in all but name. Many Brexiteers would like to see the UK leave without a deal, on WTO terms – a clean Brexit. After all, this is what was on the referendum ballot paper: it said Leave, it said nothing about a deal and David Cameron was explicit that there would be no further deals beyond his.

However, there are those in both camps who are prepared to countenance some sort of deal that would smooth the UK’s exit from the EU. What has unified many on both sides, however, is the awfulness of the deal the Prime Minister negotiated. For “alt Remainers” it did not achieve the objective of defeating Brexit outright, nor did it provide a good alternative to a clean Brexit. For Leavers, May’s deal was in many ways worse than staying in the EU. The deal is dead in its original form, quite likely in any form.

So, what should be Plan B?

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” promised the Conservative manifesto, as has the Prime Minister repeatedly in her many statements and speeches. This evokes unnecessary but real alarm amongst most Remainers. For some it is a useful tool to fulfil their Remain ambitions, for others a genuine concern that such an outcome will lead to significant disruption and economic harm. It would not, but perception is as strong as reality and perception has been nurtured and reinforced by the Remain media establishment, who have consistently and persistently framed a clean Brexit – the Brexit people voted for – as a “cliff edge”, as “crashing out” etc. How can this possibly be detoxified? Or made into an acceptable Plan B?

Ten days ago I visited Geneva to see the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to discuss practical aspects of a move to WTO trading terms. Having during my career done business on every continent and been involved in trade and international standards throughout, I was well aware of the efficacy of WTO-based trade terms, after all most trade the UK conducts with the rest of the world is WTO rules-based, as indeed is much of the trade the EU conducts, for example with countries like: the USA, China, India, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand etc. Nonetheless, it was instructive to hear from the “horse’s mouth” an obvious Plan B solution which would smooth the UK exit without recourse to a transition period, or to paying £39 billion, or to any restrictions on our removal of external tariffs and making trade deals around the world.

This solution has a weakness by comparison with just leaving in that it requires both parties, that is the UK and the EU, to agree; but there is a chance of success as it would be in the economic interests of both parties to agree. It is based on the use of Article 24 of the GATT under WTO (as explained in more detail by David Campbell Bannerman MEP on BrexitCentral on Sunday) whereby both parties would agree to operate current terms of trade in relation to, for example, tariffs for a period of time while a free trade agreement (FTA) is being negotiated. Provided both parties commit to an FTA and set out to negotiate one, this period of time can be many years.

This Plan B, which could be agreed quickly, would result in there being no tariffs between the EU and the UK at least until an FTA is completed: the current arrangements would simply continue, thus removing the objections of trade groups. It could be extended to customs arrangements, but would not require the UK to be part of a customs union, nor would it require the UK to be part of any of the EU institutions or constructs. The agreement would be between two sovereign powers under international WTO conventions and the UK would have properly left the EU.

If the EU were to reject this perfectly legitimate approach, it would be proof positive of their malign intent towards the UK – but they have every incentive to agree to it given the alternative of an exit on WTO terms without interim arrangements. It merely requires will to make it happen, there is no other impediment. So, why has the Government not adopted this simple approach as Plan B? It would seem, if they do not, that it is proof positive we have a Remain Government hell bent on remaining locked into the EU.

We have yet to see what the outcome of the days leading to 29th March will bring, but certainly it is open to our Government to seek to resolve this matter with a Brexit Plan B built like a springboard, rather than the mirage of a cliff edge.

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Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to rule out No Deal and risks keeping Labour out of power for another generation

Jeremy Corbyn has made the fundamental pillar of Labour’s stance on Brexit to rule out ‘No Deal’ as a position of the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union. After the Prime Minister’s catastrophic defeat in the House of Commons and after scraping home in the No Confidence debate, Theresa May finally extended an […]

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Jeremy Corbyn has made the fundamental pillar of Labour’s stance on Brexit to rule out ‘No Deal’ as a position of the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union. After the Prime Minister’s catastrophic defeat in the House of Commons and after scraping home in the No Confidence debate, Theresa May finally extended an offer to opposition parties to meet with her to discuss the way forward. While all opposition parties oppose a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, Jeremy refused to meet with the Prime Minister until she was prepared to rule out No Deal.

Any trade unionist engaged in negotiations will tell you that in order to achieve reasonable concessions in any negotiation, you do not rule out the prospect of no deal at the very start. In a negotiation your opponents, whether they are an employer or a bloc of nations, need to be aware that you are prepared to walk away should expectations not be met. In ruling out the prospect of No Deal, a future Labour Government would risk losing all leverage. One cannot imagine the late Bob Crow or the General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, ruling out ‘No Deal’ when negotiating with employers.

An overwhelming majority of Labour constituencies voted to leave the European Union – around 70%. Estimates of up to 40% of Labour voters in 2017 supported Leave. 78% of the seats Labour has to take from the Tories to win the next general election voted Leave. 72% of Labour’s 25 most vulnerable seats voted Leave. For the Labour Party to ignore these crucial statistics at this critical time is politically ignorant and risks hurling Labour towards a no deal with the British people, namely that we will be out of power for another generation.

No Deal is not something to be scared of. Remainers have been very sophisticated in their presentation of No Deal as a total disaster for the British economy and people. It is a false proposition. Australia has No Deal with the European Union and, believe it or not the, people of that great country on the other side of the world are not living in caves and gnawing on bones to survive. A host of other countries with smaller economies than the United Kingdom have no deal and operate on variations of WTO terms. No Deal is a World Trade deal and the United Kingdom is best placed to take full advantage of those arrangements.

Traction seems to be building in the House of Commons behind the idea that the United Kingdom ought to remain in a Customs Union with the European Union. It makes no sense at all to leave the European Union and then abdicate the ability to determine our own trade policy by ceding that power and responsibility to the European Commission. Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, has previously said such a position would render the United Kingdom a “vassal state.” This, therefore, is surely not a policy Her Majesty’s Opposition should be advocating.

The clock is ticking on the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. With only a matter of weeks before 29th March, the country – while still supportive of Leave – is apprehensive about our Parliament’s inability to secure decent arrangements with the European Union. This is not because Brexit is somehow at fault or that public opinion is turning against the decision to Leave. The reason for our current impasse is because our elected representatives are not delivering on the will of the people. Members of Parliament should remember they are there to serve the people, not to rule the people.

The Labour Party Conference in September last year passed a motion pledging to keep all options on the table. There is a minority view within the Parliamentary Labour Party that we ought to hold another referendum. They are a minority, but a vocal one. Jeremy clearly does not want to hold another referendum, and key Labour figures such as Len McCluskey, and respected Labour MPs such as Caroline Flint and John Mann have all opposed a second referendum. This is because while the metropolitan Labour membership overwhelmingly supports a second referendum, there is no majority for it in the country. Importantly, no demonstrable support exists for it in the 70% of Labour Leave constituencies and no support for it exists in those seats Labour needs to win. But the fundamental reason for not supporting another referendum is because it would totally break the remaining trust that exists between the electors and the elected.

The road ahead will be bumpy and any government, Labour or Conservative, will face challenges in the future. But all parties committed to leaving the European Union by accepting the outcome of the referendum. Labour needs to win back its traditional heartland support that has maintained the party since its inception. We will not do this by supporting a second referendum and we will not do this by accepting any terms offered to us by Brussels. The British people are for Brexit; let Labour be their champion by backing a World Trade Brexit.

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The Government must force the EU back to the negotiating table while preparing for a WTO Brexit

Last night’s votes in the House of Commons sent a clear message to the Government that it must get on with delivering Brexit. Preparing for Brexit by getting the country ready for a departure on WTO terms also presents an opportunity to force the EU back to the negotiating table to get a better deal […]

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Last night’s votes in the House of Commons sent a clear message to the Government that it must get on with delivering Brexit. Preparing for Brexit by getting the country ready for a departure on WTO terms also presents an opportunity to force the EU back to the negotiating table to get a better deal for Britain.

This means that as the dust settles the Government needs to swiftly dismiss those who want to use the defeat as an excuse to stop Brexit and keep the UK under the thumb of Brussels. For too long they have been permitted to carry influence on the Brexit process and decision-making.

Many of those now trying to unpick Brexit voted for the referendum, stood on a manifesto to deliver Brexit, voted in favour of Article 50 and agreed to our departure from the EU on 29th March 2019. The Government must therefore move forward with new purpose and get Britain ready for our freedom from the EU on 29th March.

There are many advantages to leaving the EU on 29th March under WTO terms and with careful preparation there is nothing to fear.

First, doing so gives business and the country certainty to plan for the future as it gets rid of the years of uncertainty caused by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Second, as there will be no financial settlement, the Government will have £39 billion available to invest in the economy to address concerns about volatility and to support economic growth.

Third, we can immediately work on agreeing new trade deals with the rest of the world.

Fourth, we will have taken back control and delivered the outcome of the referendum and kept our promises to the people.

As well as leaving on these terms, we can also extend the hand of friendship to the EU to continue to cooperate in areas of mutual interest and to pursue an advanced free trade deal.

But while it is imperative the Government should fully prepare for departure under WTO terms, it is still preferable that we leave with a deal, so ministers should press for the Withdrawal Agreement to be amended. The Government should put new legal text on the table which changes the worst aspects of the Agreement to make it more acceptable.

This must include replacing the backstop with a better alternative that does not threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom and removing those elements that bind the UK into a single customs territory. With £39 billion at stake, there’s every prospect that the EU will return to the table for what should be seen as modest but important revisions.

Looking to negotiate a better deal while being fully prepared to leave on 29th March is the sensible and right course of action to take with either outcome being orderly and better than the deal that has been rejected.

The Government now has a chance to ensure we leave the EU and deliver on the promises made to the British people.

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Juncker and Tusk’s letter to Theresa May changes nothing: we must vote down the draft Withdrawal Agreement

The letter sent from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk to Theresa May in the last 24 hours shows more clearly than anything else possibly could why the draft Withdrawal Agreement is fundamentally flawed: not only the lack of substance in the letter, which adds nothing new to the sum of human knowledge, but also the […]

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The letter sent from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk to Theresa May in the last 24 hours shows more clearly than anything else possibly could why the draft Withdrawal Agreement is fundamentally flawed: not only the lack of substance in the letter, which adds nothing new to the sum of human knowledge, but also the lack of any form of collegiate kindness or helpfulness to the Prime Minister.

When the Prime Minister addressed the 1922 Committee on 12th December, she assured colleagues that she would secure legally-binding wording to address concerns over the Northern Ireland backstop. Now we learn there will be no end date to the backstop or unilateral exit mechanism for the UK. So, yet again, the EU have let the Prime Minister down.

The lesson is clear: we need to vote down the Withdrawal Agreement by as large a majority as possible. Only then can we move on and either negotiate a new agreement (as David Davis argued at the weekend) or Leave without a deal on World Trade Organisation terms with a view to later negotiating a new relationship.

The Government and the Conservative Party must remain committed to delivering the result of the referendum, as repeated in our 2017 manifesto, which pledged to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, accompanied by the declaration that No Deal was better than a Bad Deal. Otherwise, the credibility of our democracy will be thrown into chaos.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement does not respect the result of the referendum. The Government should be seeking to unlock the negotiations by returning to the Canada-style option offered by President Tusk, using the tried and trusted techniques and procedures so that rules of origin and customs checks are conducted away from the Northern Ireland border, to make unnecessary the hard border that everyone agrees must be avoided.

The backstop means we will be trapped under the thumb of the EU with no date to escape – and unable to strike trade deals. It means we would be trapped indefinitely as a satellite of the EU, obeying its laws without a say, unless the EU and its Member States gave permission for us to leave. The UK will be paying £39 billion – equivalent to £1,443 per household, or £60 million per constituency – and getting nothing in return. We will not take back control of our money, laws and trade. Remaining in the Customs Union is a breach of the 2017 Conservative Manifesto on which I and all my colleagues stood.

The backstop drives a regulatory barrier down the Irish Sea, severely damaging the Union and moving Great Britain and Northern Ireland further apart. This deal keeps the supremacy of the European Court over our own law and sells out the UK fishing industry, excluding them from any trade deal, and envisaging a deal where the Prime Minister trades away our fish in return for market access.

We remain effectively in the EU for an extendable ‘transition’ period, paying and accepting new laws over which we will have had no say. Unrestricted immigration of EU nationals will still be continuing for years after we leave. This commitment comes with no guarantee of a future trade agreement. Worryingly, this deal will deny the UK an independent trade policy while potentially keeping us out of existing EU trade policy. We would be cut off from the world with our trade and economy regulated from Brussels without any say.

So, let us be honest: the Withdrawal Agreement is a terrible deal – worse than Chequers, less popular than the Poll Tax and only one in five voters think it honours the referendum result. The only way to get a better deal for the UK is for Parliament to reject it and force the Government to renegotiate with the EU.

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Leaving the EU on WTO terms will make our businesses more competitive and innovative

At the end of last year, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked the UK as the eighth most competitive country in the world, praising its ‘very well-functioning markets, a top innovation ecosystem and vibrant business dynamism’. However, the top-performing countries in the 2018 study by the World Economic Forum were dominated by non-EU countries including the […]

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At the end of last year, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked the UK as the eighth most competitive country in the world, praising its ‘very well-functioning markets, a top innovation ecosystem and vibrant business dynamism’.

However, the top-performing countries in the 2018 study by the World Economic Forum were dominated by non-EU countries including the United States, Singapore, Switzerland and Japan.

Despite this, politicians, businesses and the media appear to cling on to our ties to Europe. Leaving without a deal with Europe has been brandished as the height of irresponsibility, falling off the cliff edge and other such fearsome but conjectural words. Yet in reality 98 per cent of world trade occurs within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The UK is a member of this global platform.

For my companies the horizons have always stretched far beyond continental Europe. Corrocoat, for instance, exports 68% of its anti-corrosion products globally and less than 10% of that goes to Europe, whilst Glassflake exports over 80% of its output with only circa 7% to Europe. We have operations in some of the most exciting, fastest-growing places in the world such as South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, China and the United States.

The EU has stifled growth with its rules and regulations, reduced appetite for competition and hindered the sort of innovation and entrepreneurship that has made both our sister companies Corrocoat and Glassflake success stories.

Companies do need to prepare for a WTO exit, but the myths around a no-deal scenario and fear of the unknown have wrongly led us to believe that vital sectors in our economy are at risk.

In actual fact, departing on WTO terms will act as a catalyst for businesses to become more competitive and more innovative. Gerard Lyons, a leading British economist, has argued that stifling EU regulation has made UK exporters less competitive and less productive in global markets whilst also doing little to increase wages. Only once the UK is open to trade with the world can we reverse this trend.

The IMF estimates that 90 per cent of global growth in the next 10 to 15 years is likely to come from outside the EU. If the UK goes back to bulldog Britain instead of the pussycat Britain it has become under the EU, it can be part of this global success story. We should embrace such an opportunity instead of listening to the hearsay and doom-mongering.

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When it comes to the EU, the Treasury has never been impartial and its predictions cannot be trusted

Fear of leaving the EU without a deal, and of trading with the EU thenceforth under WTO terms, has been created primarily by the much-cited series of predictions of severe adverse economic consequences by HM Treasury. It is therefore of some importance to decide whether their predictions are credible. One set of their pre-referendum predictions […]

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Fear of leaving the EU without a deal, and of trading with the EU thenceforth under WTO terms, has been created primarily by the much-cited series of predictions of severe adverse economic consequences by HM Treasury. It is therefore of some importance to decide whether their predictions are credible.

One set of their pre-referendum predictions referred to the adverse consequences within two years of a vote to Leave the EU rather than leaving itself. Since we have now lived through the period they covered, we now know that apart from one minor point, the fall in the value of sterling, they were all false.  Every other prediction they made, on GDP, (which was predicted to fall rapidly by between 3.6% and 6.0%) on employment, house prices, wages, inflation, FDI and public finances, was wrong, often by risibly large margins, and always in the same direction. This suggests they were deliberately manipulated to give a politically helpful result for the then Government-backed Remain campaign.  They naturally raise questions about the Treasury’s other three sets of predictions about the long-term consequences of Brexit itself.

These cannot be tested by reality until 2030 or beyond, but since they rely on a number of highly improbable assumptions and estimates, they are no less contrived than their short-term predictions, and no more credible. These assumptions and estimates cannot all be examined here, but we can identify the most improbable and incredible, the ones that have contributed most to the Treasury’s characterisation of trading under WTO terms as the worst possible post-Brexit option.

Their first set of long-term predictions was published in April 2016, and depended to a large extent on the assumption that future UK intra-EU trade in goods would increase at the same rate as that of all other members. This was followed by the estimate that by 2030, if it remained a member then, UK trade in goods would have grown by 115%.  If, by contrast, the UK left to trade under WTO rules, it would not enjoy any of that 115% growth, and primarily for this reason, its GDP in 2030 would be 7.5% smaller than it would have been if it had remained a member.

This seems to have prompted Remain supporters to describe the transition to a no-deal exit as a cliff edge, a car crash, or a leap in the dark, and trading under WTO rules as chaos, catastrophe and Armageddon. Since most of world trade, and much of UK trade, is routinely conducted under these self-same WTO rules, the aptness of these metaphors is questionable, but what matters here are the assumptions on which the Treasury prediction was based.

Questions about it might first have been raised with the Treasury itself since a rare piece of in-house classified research conducted in 2005 had shown, like more recent studies, that the rate of growth of the UK’s intra-EU trade during the Single Market has differed greatly from that of other members, most especially from those in Eastern Europe. This HMT research also showed that over the 31 years from 1973 to 2004 it had grown by only 16%, while later IMF/DOTS figures showed that over the 22 years from 1993 to 2015 UK exports to the EU 14 had grown by 25%. To then ‘estimate’, as the Treasury authors do, that over a mere 15 years to 2030 UK-EU trade in goods would suddenly increase by 115%, may be reasonably called absurd, or even a deliberate manipulation to produce a highly misleading prediction. A recent re-examination of the same evidence, using the same gravity approach as the Treasury, but referring to the UK alone, estimated the likely increase of trade in goods with the EU by 2030 to be ‘in the range 20-25%’.

The Treasury was a contributor to the second set of predictions, the EU Exit Analysis Cross Whitehall Briefing of July 2018.  Its wildest assumption was that UK goods trading with the EU under WTO rules would immediately incur tariff, non-tariff and customs charges with a total tariff equivalent value of 30%. It qualifies as wild because the total tariff equivalent value of the goods exports of United States and Japan to the EU have been reliably estimated to be just 20%, or only two thirds as much as those the Treasury predicts for UK exports after a no-deal Brexit, even though its product standards are identical to those of the EU.

Patrick Minford analysed these non-tariff and customs charges in considerable detail, and pointed out that some of the barriers conjured up by the authors of these predictions would be discriminatory and therefore illegal under WTO rules, which the EU generally respects. Why UK civil servants should assume that their EU counterparts would deliberately ignore them post-Brexit is unclear. However, with the help of the 30% total tariff equivalent value, leaving with no EU deal and trading under WTO rules again emerges as the worst post-Brexit option, resulting in a shortfall in UK GDP by 2030 of about 7.7% versus what it would have been had the UK remained an EU member.

The third set of predictions was published in November 2018 specifically to inform Members of Parliament about the long-term economic consequences of various future relationships with the EU in advance of their fateful ‘meaningful vote’ on the agreement negotiated by Mrs May. It contrives, as Andrew Lilico observed, to show the ill-effects of trade under WTO rules by the simple ploy of exaggerating all the future gains of EU membership and minimising all the possible gains that might follow the UK taking back control of immigration, regulation and trade policy.

The outstanding example of the latter is the 0.2% gain to GDP that it estimates would result from FTAs that the UK might conclude with the US, Australia, Canada, India, China and 12 other non-members. It qualifies as an absurdity because the European Commission had previously estimated that the gain to EU GDP of concluding agreements with a similar set of countries would be 1.9%, almost ten times as much therefore as agreements negotiated by the UK alone which would, one imagines, be better tailored to British exporters.

By repeatedly making other estimates in a similar manner, the report arrives at the desired prediction. Indeed, the final prediction that made the headlines, a 9.3% shortfall in UK GDP by 2035-36, was reached simply by assuming that there would be zero immigration from EEA countries until 2035-36, a proposal that no one has ever made. The recently published White Paper suggests it is far removed from any likely future government policy.

The remarkable thing is that any of these Treasury predictions have been given any credibility whatever and were not dismissed with a laugh, just as the predicted immediate consequences of a vote to Leave have often been. Part of the explanation must be that specialist publications like The Economist and the Financial Times, and specialist correspondents of other media such as the BBC, Sky, The Guardian and The Times did not check and flag these and other questionable assumptions and estimates on which these predictions depend.

Perhaps they did not have the time or maybe they welcomed Treasury support for the Remain cause, but a further reason one suspects, is that, like the rest of us, they wanted to trust Treasury mandarins. They saw them as honest, upright, non-partisan experts performing their duties by providing entirely trustworthy and reliable evidence to inform ministers and public debate.

Unfortunately, on European issues at least, this image is woefully mistaken. The Treasury has never regularly and dutifully conducted impartial research on the impact of EEC/EU membership on the UK economy. And it has never been asked to do so by any government since 1973, probably because ministers were usually engaged in persuading the ever-sceptical British public of the merits of European integration and doubted that empirical research would be an altogether reliable ally.

Since 2000, the Treasury has, like other departments, been obliged to conduct impact assessments of proposed legislation derived from EU regulations and directives, but it never sought to translate them into a meaningful national cost/benefit analysis. In 2003, at the time of the debate on joining the euro, Treasury mandarins searched the world for experts on optimal currency areas and debated and published their differing views shortly before the Chancellor announced his decision. The research conducted in 2005 and mentioned above was a one-off, and remained classified until an FOI request in 2010.

When they were asked to make the case for Remain, Treasury mandarins therefore had no historical analyses to draw on, apart from the 2005 one they wanted to forget. And they did not instantly assume a quasi-judicial impartiality. Apart from the one month purdah periods before the 1975 and 2016 referendums, they had never been asked to be impartial on this issue, and they evidently felt under no obligation to be impartial with respect to the division of opinion in the country at large. Hence, they immediately showed themselves to be fervent, unabashed advocates for continued EU membership and produced predictions to delight their all those who shared their view.

All of us have paid, and are still paying, a high price for the Treasury’s failure to conduct and publish impartial analyses of the impact of EU membership on the UK economy over the preceding forty-plus years in accordance with our image of them, and with their own core values and rule books. Had they done so, the referendum debate would have been rather more informed and enlightening than it was. Instead of constructing Project Fear for the Remain side, they might have tried to match Business for Britain’s superbly documented case for Leave in Change or Go.

In the course of such research, they would necessarily have had to understand and explain why the exports of countries trading with the EU under WTO rules, like the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore and a host of emerging societies have been growing so much faster than the supposedly frictionless ones of the UK over the life of the Single Market. American exports to the EU, for example, grew by 68% from 1993 to 2015, and the smaller British exports by just 25%. If trading with the EU under WTO rules has proved so successful for others, why would it be the worst possible option for the UK after Brexit?

They might also have been able to explain why it is that UK exports to 111 countries around the rest of the world under WTO rules have also grown so much faster than its exports since 1993 to the EU itself, and to those countries with which the EU has negotiated trade agreements from which the UK was supposed to benefit. These are questions that the Treasury mandarins have preferred not to address.

Much relevant evidence to determine whether or not trading under WTO rules is the worst post-Brexit option could be obtained from UK companies which currently trade with the EU from a member country and with the rest of the world under these rules, since they are able to make direct comparisons. The Treasury is well-placed to conduct such research via HMRC but this is more evidence that it has decided it, or the government, or the country does not need. Some companies have, however, spontaneously testified about their experience of trading under both systems. It directly contradicts the sharp contrast between them which the Treasury has sought, with some success, to make the centrepiece of the debate about the UK’s post-Brexit options.

Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, the UK’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, for instance, recently felt ‘compelled to say this about a no-deal Brexit: there is nothing to fear from trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms… Trading with Australia on WTO terms is as natural to us as trading with Austria on EU single-market terms. John Mills, founder of JML, which sells to ‘80 countries at the last count’, said that ‘about 80 percent of all our international trade is on WTO terms, so we know what the paperwork’s like. Once you’ve done it half a dozen times, you’ve got it all on the computer, it just isn’t that difficult.’

Even more emphatically, Alastair MacMillan, whose company exports to 120 countries in the world including every EU member, points out that ‘there is little difference in the way we handle freight going to the EU compared to the rest of the world. The United States is our biggest market and we compete directly against US companies in their own market, in part, because we deliver next day to anywhere in the United States by 1pm their time, customs cleared. That, to me, is frictionless trade and it is at a cost that is not dissimilar to the same service to customers in the EU’.

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Trading on WTO rules will be a liberation for the UK – and the Labour leadership needs to embrace it

Brendan Chilton is co-author with Lord Lilley of 30 Truths about leaving on WTO terms: Why WTO offers a safer haven than the Backstop, which is published today by Global Britain and Labour Leave.  The tone of the language we so often hear and the words we frequently read associated with trading on World Trade Organisation […]

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Brendan Chilton is co-author with Lord Lilley of 30 Truths about leaving on WTO terms: Why WTO offers a safer haven than the Backstop, which is published today by Global Britain and Labour Leave. 

The tone of the language we so often hear and the words we frequently read associated with trading on World Trade Organisation terms is negative and promotes images of chaos and disorder. All of this is based on deliberate fear.

Phrases such as ‘crashing out on WTO terms’ and ‘no-deal Brexit’ and ‘being forced to revert to the WTO option’ conjure up an image of a future in which the United Kingdom loses out and becomes an economic basket case. The terms are frequently and loudly spouted by those campaigning for a second referendum and are supported by biased voices within the media. Their objective is to determine that the United Kingdom must Remain in some shape or form entangled within the European Union even after the democratic decision of the people to Leave is implemented.

The reality of the situation, however, is that a United Kingdom operating under World Trade Organisation rules will be one of the greatest liberating experiences to achieved by this country in modern times. The United Kingdom always was a global free-trading nation – and now it will be once again, participating in every corner of the world. Far from being a perilous course, World Trade terms are a golden opportunity to reignite the industrial and commercial might of this country and it is a course that the Labour Party should completely support.

The Labour Party is not primarily a liberation movement. It is not primarily a social movement or a movement for emancipation. The Labour Party’s primary and fundamental nature and purpose can be understood by examining the title and description of the party – Labour. The Labour Party has been, is, and always will be a party of labour. Of work.

Its root and brain are an element of economy and its purpose is the representation of labour within the political institutions and a democratic framework of the nation state. Its motivation is the betterment of the lot of labour within the country and the world. Its purpose is to protect the advancement of labour and secure more for labour. This is achieved through an economy that is wealth-generating.

At its heart, Labour is a party of industry and commerce and, yes, of finance too. In the modern world, those factors are units of the economy not restricted solely to Europe but are the norm the world over. Labour’s standard should therefore be world trade and not an obsession with a Single Market serving the most developed, most privileged, most advanced part of the world shielded and protected by a great wall called a Customs Union.

The language of the Labour Party must turn from fear and concern to optimism and hope: the optimism that once again Labour can truly be the party of labour by embracing trading terms outlined under the World Trade Organisation to revitalise sectors of our economy, to embrace new markets, spread the protections and securities our workers enjoy to the rest of the world and ensure a wealth-generating economy improves the lives of people in this country and others.

Labour’s radical economic programme outlined in the 2017 manifesto is one that would restore industry, spread commerce and excite finance. In order for the manifesto to be delivered in the most productive way that manufactures growth, the Labour Party cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister and it cannot support an ongoing relationship with the European Union that grants economic jurisdiction to Brussels. The next Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer must be in a position to exercise all the levers of the state and tools as his disposal to ensure our economic programme can deliver for the many in this country and inspire others across the world in a true act of solidarity.

It is right that the Labour leadership is resisting calls for a second referendum on our membership of the European Union. It is now very unlikely that a second referendum will take place and this is, in part, due to the battle against one being fought by the leadership of the Labour Party. Now victory on that front is in sight, it is the time for the leadership to focus its attention on the next battle in this great struggle for the revival of our economy and the prospects of this nation in the long term.

The Labour leadership now needs to fully embrace with heart and hand a Brexit that enables the United Kingdom to be free from the shackles of Brussels and which allows our country to walk onto the platform of World Trade. By doing this, Labour will set the course for the future, it will demonstrate its ambition and ideals and will ensure that the next Labour government can embark upon a radical national economic agenda that transforms this country from a nation secluded in Europe to a nation manufactured and secured in global trade in the modern world.

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The Remainers’ shocking litany of lies

In their annoyance at the people for rejecting their beloved EU, yesterday’s men claimed that the people had been bamboozled by lies, Russian propaganda and their stupidity in not understanding the huge benefits of the EU. Particularly to our establishment. Their real concern was that their own lies and manufactured fears were rejected by the […]

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In their annoyance at the people for rejecting their beloved EU, yesterday’s men claimed that the people had been bamboozled by lies, Russian propaganda and their stupidity in not understanding the huge benefits of the EU. Particularly to our establishment. Their real concern was that their own lies and manufactured fears were rejected by the people after forty years’ experience of the rambling shambles that is the EU.

Defeated, they’ve now launched an even bigger programme of lies to put the people back into their box and con them to stay in it and the EU. They’re top grade lies, mostly propagated by the author of the Iraq Dossier as Tony Blair’s representative on earth, one A Campbell. Here are the lies:

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES THE PEOPLE TO VOTE AGAIN

This is really a confidence trick based on the assumption that apathy and fed-upness at being buggered about will reduce the Brexit vote to allow some of the people to reverse the vote of more of them. It can’t be a vote on Mrs May’s solution because Parliament won’t pass it and the politicians can’t agree on any alternative. So the ballot will be “Stay in? Yes or Yes”. The EU will reject any alternative, as it did with Greece’s referendum.

BRITAIN BELONGS AT THE HEART OF EUROPE

Although it’s already relegated to the periphery. Unless it accepts the euro, Schengen, the EU army and the dominance of Germany, it must stay there and unlike most members we won’t get any aid. Only our own money back with their costs taken out.

THE EU IS OUR BEST MARKET

In fact it’s a protective bloc set up to protect French agriculture and German manufacturing. Its share of world trade is declining, the euro wont work and has led to deflation and unemployment. We run a £95 billion deficit which means the export of jobs, money and demand. Membership is a drain not a boost.

LEAVING WOULD BE TO CRASH OVER THE CLIFF EDGE INTO DISASTER

Oddly the rest of the world trades with the EU on WTO terms more successfully than we do as members. They can hardly punish us without damaging themselves and the scare stories of the Treasury and the Bank of England both assume that Brexit would mean deflation. In fact it would compel a Keynesian expansion, the opening of new markets and cheaper food.

WE’D BE ALONE AND IGNORED

Yet small nations are the most successful; independent nations are growing faster because they can manage their economies to suit their own purposes. Outside a bloc designed to suit France and Germany, so can we.

BREXIT WOULD BE DISASTROUS FOR BUSINESS

Small business doesn’t trade with the EU. The assumption is that British business has no guts, no resilience, can’t compete in other markets and is totally dependent on trade agreements negotiated by the EU in its interest not ours. British complacency might benefit from a shock, as Australia and New Zealand did when Britain betrayed them to join the EU.

There is however one element of truth – though it’s one they don’t tell. Our leaders love the EU because it gives them a bigger stage to strut on, an excuse for their failures and the illusion that they’re still important – the only satisfaction left to them, after screwing up Britain.

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

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

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

Dear Prime Minister,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Irish Border and the Backstop – a Hoax

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

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

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

The positives of a Sovereign Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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