A No-Deal Brexit. Our Best Hope by John Longworth
Briefings For Brexit
John Longworth argues that no deal on trade remains better than a bad deal
The slogan “No deal is better than a bad deal” was a refrain briefly taken up by the Prime Minister but then dropped. The way things are going, no deal – which means reverting to trading under World Trade Organisation rules governing the vast majority of countries in the world – is our best and last hope.
The need for us to be ready to walk away from the table and abandon our supine efforts to secure a deal with the EU – a deal at any cost – is becoming daily more apparent. The revelation that we are now apparently prepared to remain in the customs after 2021 and until we can find an alternative to a hard border in Ireland is just the latest example of how our defeatist establishment, working hand in glove with Brussels, is humiliating the British people for their temerity in voting for Brexit.
Unbelievably, at this rate it will take longer to leave the EU than it took to defeat the Continental powers in World War II, if indeed we really leave at all.
Week after week, since referendum day, our Sir Humphries in Whitehall and our leaders in Parliament have abjectly capitulated to every demand an arrogant and overweening EU has put forward, while the Eurocrats and some of their willing proxies, like the Irish Taoiseach, poke fun and twist the lion’s tail.
First, they insisted we talk money and the Irish border before any discussions could take place on trade relations. We rolled over.
We never set credible deadlines. We never even tried to pretend that we would walk away to a WTO-type future.
Lacking vision, we gave the EU all the negotiating leverage by insisting that we must have a trade deal with it at any price – a trade deal with an entity that represents exports of just 13 per cent of our GDP, to the detriment of the other 87 per cent.
Even though there is a border now in Ireland for currency, excise duties and VAT, we let the EU make a soft border on the island of Ireland become a huge “problem”. Legged over again.
Last autumn, in Florence, the Prime Minister gave away the border and agreed to pay up, asking nothing in return. They say “_Non_”, we concede again and again. She gave away security without setting out any demands or achieving “give” from the other side. In the words of the aptly named rock band, Dire Straits, “money for nothing”, and the only “chicks for free” are those coming home to roost…
On defence, they say we cannot participate in the Galileo satellite project even though the UK is the brains behind it and substantially funded it. More humiliation. We should take our our money and develop our own system. How exciting would that be for UK innovation and technical expertise.
The same tactics are being pursued in science and other projects.
Tantamount to extortion.
In negotiations, they have got us wrangling among ourselves, while the Eurocrats are backed by their masters in Berlin and Paris and egged on by our fifth column at home. We, for our part, are too frightened to say boo to a goose. The mantra in Whitehall is that we cannot upset Brussels.
Our politicians argue about the minutiae of an obvious attempt to fudge a customs union with a last-minute Brexit in name only on the cards, like school children on a sixth form project.
Where is the leadership? How much of a laughing stock are our leaders prepared to be?
There has been no talk on trade after two years. There is no clarity we are leaving, still hobbled by the siren customs union.
The EU has offered a solution, a Canada-style deal, but we refuse to talk about it, wanting instead a deep and special relationship, wanting instead not to leave at all.
Now is the time that we must earnestly and openly prepare for a tariff-free, WTO-based future, irrespective of what the EU does and in parallel with any negotiations. A Brexit Minister within the DExEU department should be given the power to demand fortnightly updates on the progress of preparations in each government department for WTO-style arrangements which, if implemented, would lead to no more payments to Brussels after March 2019. The current “strategy” involves being too scared to talk about it, for fear of upsetting the EU.
Most importantly, the UK Government should now declare a concrete stop date for negotiations, after which, if there is no agreement on trade and other arrangements, the UK would adopt WTO rules as its preferred outcome, to be implemented in March 2019.
If WTO is our destination, we would leave the border in Ireland as it is now, soft and sensible. If the Republic of Ireland is fool enough to put a hard border on its side, that is its choice and it bears the consequences. Under WTO, Irish beef will have to compete at world prices. The Irish economy would be the loser, sadly and totally unnecessarily.
By selective and unilateral removal of tariffs we can boost our economy, improve standards of living – especially for the poorest – and reduce production costs, thus increasing productivity. It would give us complete freedom to strike trade deals and to control our borders. A competitive currency would ensure our exports to the EU would continue and import substitution at home would boost UK growth.
Only by this means might the EU realise we are serious. It would get no money, zero. It would go bust.
The chances are that the EU would come running for a quick Canada-style trade deal. And even if it didn’t, it would still constitute a better outcome than the one we are currently heading for. There would be some short-term disruption but after that there would be a massive gain. Far better that, than perpetual servitude.
It is time our leaders got off their knees and time that the establishment put the British people first, rather than pursuing its narrow self interest. It is time to stop this national humiliation of our people.
Leave means Leave.
Member of the Advisory Board of Economists for Free Trade and the Advisory Council of the IEA