Brexit progress at the beginning of September

To ensure a successful and permanent separation from the EU, three tasks need to be accomplished. Firstly, Article 50 needs to be invoked, beginning the two-year process (which can be extended subject to mutual agreement)  which will actually take us out of the EU. Secondly, the government needs to have studied the alternatives and come up with a well-researched Brexit strategy that will ensure that we arrive at the exit door with the best possible future ahead of us, our trade with both the EU and the rest of the world in good shape. Thirdly,  remain voters, especially the young, need to be de-programmed and years of indoctrination undone so that the scales of europhilia will fall from their eyes. At the same time our democratic processes need to be renewed to ensure that no politician will ever be able to repeat Edward Heath’s litany of deceit to drag us back in.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain will do what we can to put pressure on HMG to ensure the first of these tasks takes place as soon as practically possible. As far as the second is concerned, we have sought to provide a forum for an exchange of views on the subject. Tackling the third will be a major long-term challenge and one which, no doubt in common with other pro-independence campaign groups, we are only starting to get to grips with. The Harrogate Agenda has gone some way to devising a blueprint for democratic renewal, but more needs to be done, especially in our schools and universities, to provide a counter-weight to years of pro-EU propaganda which young people have been fed and – in many cases – uncritically imbibed.

Another part of the de-indoctrination process is to provide resources. There is a need to disseminate news of post-Brexit developments, including informed comment. The shock of Brexit has left something of a vacuum and there has been no shortage of on-line doom mongers claiming that Brexit will never happen, while disgruntled remainers continue to call for a second referendum and to latch onto any piece of bad economic news.

We are therefore producing pieces like this article both to reassure worried leave voters and to provide them with information to use in their dealings with any remainers among their acquaintences. Once we separate the wood form the trees, the picture is actually pretty encouraging. Early economic indicators suggest that the “do-it-yourself recession” over which George Osborne fretted has not happened and is not going to. Meanwhile Theresa  May has proved much firmer on the issue of Brexit than many leave voters had expected. She intends to trigger Article 50 at some point next year and has ruled out a second referendum or an early general election. Her comments at yesterday’s cabinet meeting at Chequers have been quite unequivocal:-

“We must continue to be very clear that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, that we’re going to make a success of it. That means there’s no second referendum; no attempts to sort of stay in the EU by the back door; that we’re actually going to deliver on this.”

She also added that “quite a lot of work” had already been done over the summer to prepare the way for the Article 50 exit negotiations, although no more details were provided. She has stated that there will be a “red line” on free movement from the EU and thus that we would pursue an unique relationship with the EU rather than adopting an off the shelf solution such as the Norwegian or Swiss models.

Mrs May has also confirmed that there will be no parliamentary vote before Article 50 is triggered. This will spike Owen Smith’s guns, but is perfectly fair. After all, the referendum bill saw Parliament hand over to the electorate the final decision about whether or not to stay in the EU. Even if both Houses of Parliament have strong europhile majorities, it would still be nothing less than immoral to ride roughshod over June 23rd’s vote.

So it does look like Article 50 will be triggered and that we will therefore begin the withdrawal process at some point next year. This is all very positive. It would be good to know a bit more about the likely exit route and how the key issues of restricting migration and access to the single market will be dealt with.  It is no secret that there are disagreements over these issues within Mrs May’s cabinet. However, in view of her tough rhetoric on immigration at last year’s Conservative conference, it is no surprise that she has thrown her weight behind some restriction on freedom of movement – after all, immigration was one of the main factors behind the leave victory and recent statistics have underlined the scale of the task which her government faces if these aspirations are to be met.

Returning to the economy, things look pretty positive.  Last week, we mentioned Anatole Kaletsky, who claimed that over time, public opinion would shift back towards EU membership. In the interest of fairness, it’s only right that we report his “Remainer’s Recantation”  – in other words, his admission that  the post-June 23rd armageddon he predicted hasn’t come to pass:- “Nobody can say at present whether this newfound indifference to Brexit will turn out to be well-founded realism, complacency or wishful thinking, but it is definitely not the attitude that I expected in the panicky hours immediately after the vote.”

The CBI’s latest quarterly survey also shows that business and professional services firms – which include accountancy, legal and marketing firms – reported that business volumes were unchanged on the quarter, after rising in May. Meanwhile, consumer services companies – which include hotels, bars, restaurants, travel, leisure – saw further moderate growth in business volumes. The report highlighted a decline in optimism, but given that the CBI was a staunch supporter of remain, this isn’t really a great surprise. With business performing better than expected, it is likely that this lack of optimism will prove a short-term issue, which will dissipate once a clear timetable for Article 50 and details of the withdrawal strategy are spelt out.

This article from the oil and gas industry’s magazine expresses some concern about the possible effects of Brexit on a very unstable EU, claiming that it could trigger a fall in demand, but the article goes on to say that “things rarely turn out as bad as we feared or as well as we hoped.”  Meanwhile, consumer spending has rebounded, with strong high street sales figures reported for July.

All in all, a pretty upbeat picture of our economy. In fact, in view of the data, it is highly questionable whether the Bank of England should have re-started its Quantitative Easing. The economist Tim Congdon called the move “crazy”.

For all that, we did the right thing on June 23rd and if anyone is in any doubt, the recent behaviour of the European Commission should put their minds at rest. Less than two months after  the decision by one of the biggest EU member states to leave this project, the Commission President, the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker showed just what a different world he lives in compared with the average UK voter. “Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians”, he recently said in a recent meeting to discuss the future of the EU following the Brexit vote.  Our Prime Minister replied that people of the United Kingdom consider the control over their country’s borders to be important.  Indeed, the desire to regain a greater degree of control of our borders was a big factor in the Leave vote.

But we are not alone in our concerns. The migration crisis is causing borders to be reinstated in many frontiers across Europe, even between countries who signed the Schengen accord. Mr Juncker’s desire to see national borders sompletely abolished is increasingly out of step with the wishes of many EU “citizens”.

Meanwhile, his colleagues at the Commission have seriously upset the Irish.  Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, ordered Apple to pay €13 billion in tax to the Irish government, claiming that its arrangement with the Irish government is illegal under state aid rules. Not only is Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive, annoyed by this decision, calling it “maddening” and “political”, but reaction in Ireland has been very hostile. The Irish cabinet is contemplating an appeal against the decision, while Michael O’Leary of Ryanair, one of Ireland’s most well-known businessman, used somewhat stronger language to register his disapproval.

While such resentment is unlikely to build up a sifficient head of steam to lead to calls for Irexit, there is no doubt that the European Commission could prove one of the withdrawal movement’s key allies in our longer term campaign to ensure we never re-join the EU.  Its behaviour makes our end-game a lot more achievable – namely when we reach the same point as Switzerland where, to quote  Thomas Minder, a counsellor for Schaffhausen state, only ‘a few lunatics’ want to join the EU,

June’s result must be respected

The result we achieved on 23rd June 2016 was a key victory but it is clear that this was not the end of the war. There are still key obstacles to be overcome before we find ourselves fully disengaged from EU membership.

The first issue is to ensure that we all agree, at least broadly, on what our negotiating strategy should be. Here, a broad consensus has emerged. Starting with trade, unless there are massive and permanent –  and thus very unlikely – derogations, we will have to be outside the Single Market, if we are going to secure control of our own borders, to reduce very substantially our payments to the EU and to be outside the jurisdiction of the EU’s Luxembourg Court. Ideally, we should then combine this with a Free Trade deal with the rest of the EU, which would keep our existing trade relations in place more or less as they are at the moment.

There is a school of thought which says that we would be better to be outside the Single Market but in the European Economic Area (EEA). This might be easier to negotiate but it could still leave us with obligations on free movement of labour, payments and jurisdiction which nearly everyone who voted Leave would like to avoid. Being outside the EEA – but in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) – would therefore be a better bet, but this could be more difficult to negotiate. To secure a deal along these preferred lines, therefore, we may well need to be willing to walk away altogether from free trade with the EU, falling back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariff levels which are actually quite low – averaging around 3%. UK willingness to do this, however, if push comes to shove, may concentrate minds on achieving a free trade deal, which would make much more sense for everyone, within the two year period stipulated by Article 50 in the Lisbon Treaty.

Sorting out our trade relationships with the EU would very probably be the most difficult part of our Brexit negotiations, but it would leave a large number of other areas where co-operating with other countries in Europe on the right terms would make sense. Here our objective should be to ensure that there is maximum continuity but on the basis of inter-governmental co-operation rather than the UK being part of the EU’s federal project. As co-operation in all these areas is in everyone’s mutual interest, hopefully, reaching agreement will not be too difficult.

Having set the scene on where we would like to be, how are we going to make sure that we get there? There are significant obstacles in the way.  There is a large majority – probably between 75% and 80% – of MPs who were not Leave supporters. Some of them – ignoring the clear referendum result – are threatening to derail negotiations by opposing them on principle rather than in detail, either by calling for a second referendum or by having reversing Brexit as part of their manifestos for the next general election.  Others are preparing to oppose details of negotiations in such a way that the effect will be the same.

These are dangerous tactics, however, for those who want to win elections.  The outcome of the recent EU referendum was a decisive vote for Brexit. Those who feel they have the right to overturn the biggest vote ever in the UK for any proposition put before the electorate do so at their peril. A recent poll showed that 69% of those questioned thought that the decision taken on the referendum should be respected whether or not they agreed with it and only 22% were against.  Voters are not likely to be happy with either political parties or individuals who fail to support the electorate’s clearly expressed view. Eurosceptics should make sure that those standing for election know this.

Meet the whingers!

As we reported last week, at grassroots level,  most people, whatever position they took in the referendum debate, have been sufficiently grown-up to accept the result and get on with life.  A You Gov poll published on Friday provides some hard statistics to back this up:-  69% of people believe the result of the EU referendum should be respected, with only 22% thinking it should be overturned. Similarly, only 34% of people thought a second EU referendum would be acceptable while 56% said it would not.

There remain, regrettably, a few outposts of childishness – sulky remainers who still cannot bring themselves to accept the result.  Lloyd Evans, writing in the Spectator, came across some of them at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Apparently support for remain among the arts world stood at 96%. Only one comedian cracked a pro-Brexit joke. Other comedians did their best to lighten their spirits with a bit of humour, such as  Andy Zaltzman, who claimed that  ‘Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for Remain with all the ferocity of a cornered blancmange’ but then went on to talk about who was to “blame” for the result.

As the article points out, one reason for the anger of these arty-types is that they have been heavily reliant on the EU for their funding. “Quitting the union means withdrawing from a little-known body, Creative Europe, which has astronomical sums to splurge around. Between 2014 and 2020 it intends to disburse a total of €1.46 billion to successful applicants“.

One has to ask, what has got into these people, moaning about not being able to go over to a foreign country with a begging bowl to demand the crumbs that fall from their table. Surely citizens of our great nation should have a bit more self-respect?

And it’s not just a few throughly spoilt arty types. The left of centre blogger Jon Worth who calls himself “an EU policy specialist by background” refuses to “Embrace it, make a success of it and shut up and move on.” Instead he writes, “If the Conservatives got into power and starting privatising something I didn’t like, what would I do? I’d come up with every possible way to stop it happening – using parliamentary means, legal means, protest means, trying to get press coverage. Until the law is passed, the thing actually happens, you do not give up. I see no reason why it should not be the same with the EU referendum.” he further states that he does not believe that Brexit will happen.

“Keep making your case and don’t apologise” he adds. “Find legal routes, use political parties and parliamentary means to oppose Brexit.” in other words, don’t accept the democratic will of the people  – an historical result achieved against overwhelming odds.  What a contrast to the attitude of the losing side after the 1975 referendum, which was simply “The people have spoken” .

Dear Reader, I expect by now your blood must be boiling, but before I sign off, let me introduce one more whinger for the collection: the Russian-born economist Anatole Kaletsky. Writing in the Guardian, he claims that “over time, with help from Brussels, public opinion will shift”.  His reasoning is simple – the referendum vote cannot hold back the tide of globalisation.  There are major flaws in his arguments, however. Increasing grobal trade is not causing other nations in other continents to construct federal superstates and pool their sovereignty.   ASEAN, NAFTA and, yes, EFTA  are trading blocs, nothing more.

The idea that the UK can secure “additional reforms” and then we’ll all be happy with EU membership is absolute rot.  Kaletsky’s proposal is essentially for the EU to play hardball  – offering no special deal. This will force the UK back to the negotiating table and, in exchange for a few minor concessions, the electorate would somehow see that EU membership is a good thing.

This argument falls down primarily because the referendum  was won by the Leavers in spite of considerable confusion about the bext exit strategy.  The only reform acceptable to most leavers would involve the complete dismantling of the EU institutions, the end of its political ambitions and its shrinkage to a mere free trade organisation. Some hope!

In addition, Kaletsky indulges in consderable speculation regarding which exit routes the Government has chosen. We know that much time is being spent behind the scenes evaluating the various options. Mrs May, to her credit, seems to be keen to ensure that a thorough plan is devised before  Article 50 is invoked.

In summary, for all the pitiful whinging of these incorrigible remainers, we are confident that the UK WILL exit the EU and that process will begin with Article 50 being invoked during 2017. Last Friday, Bloomberg suggested that Mrs May was going to set things moving by April at the latest. The waiting is frustrating, but there is nothing we can about it, except remain vigilant. Remainers cannot and will not be allowed to snatch defeat from the jaws of our great victory.

 

Photo by antigallery

Labour Leave will campaign for a fair exit

With the Labour Party currently occupied with choosing its leader, reporting of Brexit developments has largely focussed on the Government  – in particular Prime Minister Theresa May and the three ministers apointed to oversee the process – Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.

However, the Labour Leave campaign, like CIB, is still very much in existence and will continue working hard to ensure that Brexit will mean Brexit and that there will be no second referendum. Its website has recently been updated to highlight its intentions to hold both the Government and the Labour Party to account. “Labour Leave will demand that the government leads us out of the EU” it states.

Labour Leave’s five principles are:

  1. Return all law-making powers to the UK Parliament, renewing our democracy.
  2. Ensure complete control over immigration policy and visas.
  3. Secure free trade in goods and services with Europe.
  4. Pursue global trade deals which protect our public services.
  5. Rebalance our economy, helping firms to achieve higher productivity, with rising wages and investing in the infrastructure to support export-led growth.

The website also features an interview with John Mills (depicted above) who, besides his involvement with Labour Leave, is a Committee Member of the Campaign for an Independent Britain. His upbeat assessment of the state of the UK  economy is well worth a listen.

Brexit – the mood at grassroots level eight weeks on

Away from the debate between politicians, businessmen and campaigners  about the best exit route, eight weeks after the memorable result of June’s referendum, life for ordinary people has settled down remarkably quickly.

In fact, it soon became apparent within a matter of days after June 23rd that life was carrying on as normal for much of the country. I recall a trip to London during the final week of June.  Walking down the south bank of the Thames, it struck me how little effect the referendum result  was having on day to day life. A long queue of people of all nationalities were waiting to buy tickets to the London Eye and the restaurants were full – in fact, my train home was even fuller! In short, you wouldn’t have thought we had just taken a major political decision only a few days ago.

Initial statistics suggest that life did indeed carry on much as normal during the first full month after the Brexit vote.  The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits fell by 8,600 in July. It had been expected to rise by around 9,000. The fall was the first since February this year. Other data showed that the employment rate in the UK reached a record high of 74.5% between April and June this year. Retail sales also grew by 1.4% during the month. The vote to leave the EU has not deterred people from spending money.  Furthermore, for all the uncertainly generated by David Cameron’s decision to call the referendum, London attracted more venture capital for start-ups than other major European cities. According to an article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, it attracted €1.5bn in the first half of the year, well ahead of its nearest rivals Stockholm (€1bn), Paris (€674m), and Berlin (€520m).

Significantly. although the rate of UK consumer price inflation jumped to 0.6% in the year to July followin the Brexit vote, it was only slightly up on the 0.5% recorded in March and still well below the 1% threshold which triggers a letter from the governor of the Bank of England to the Chancellor explaining why inflation is so far below the 2% target!

BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interesting programme on Wednesday Evening where two groups of people from the most pro-leave and the most pro-remain areas of the UK met in separate rooms to discuss their feelings following the Brexit vote. Two Rooms, hosted by Fi Glover,  was another fascinating insight into how quickly life has settled down. The leavers, from Boston, Lincolnshire, were the more optimistic of the two groups, expressing great hopes especially for the UK’s trade prospects. The remainers, from Brixton in South London, talked of their shock when the result was announced. They were concerned about possible loss of access to the single market and expected an economic downturn.

Both groups,  however, accepted the result. Indeed, one person used the phrase “now we’ve left”, even though we haven’t even invoked Article 50 let alone come out the other end! Interestingly, both groups saw Brexit as a long overdue opportunity to re-boot our democracy and to decentralise power to a local level. For all the initial horror of some Brixtonian remainers, there were no calls for a second referendum. They may not have wanted a leave vote, but Brexit as far as they were concrned means Brexit.

Such attitudes at the grassroots level should not come as a shock. For four month’s David Cameron’s decison to call the referendum  thrust the issue of EU membership into a prominence it had never previously enjoyed.  A year ago, just before the General election, a survey by YouGov placed “Europe” as far down as 7th in its list of voters’ priority issues, well behind housing, welfare and health. Anyone who has ever stood as a UKIP candidate will have known the frustration that in general elections, the EU was never widely viewed as the most important factor in determining how people would vote.  After its moment in the spotlight, it is therefore unsurpisingly again receding into the background.

But not totally. News that over a million Eastern European migrants are now working in the UK will have served as a reminder to some people why they voted to leave, while the Daily Express has unearthed another story which will raise plenty of hackles:- a German-based agency called medaltracker.eu whose data is used by offical EU websites, has published a chart showing that the greatest number of medals in the Rio Olympics has been won by the EU! Nowhere is the UK to  be seen, which is  particularly galling considering the tremendous performances by Team GB. It seems that the Brexit vote has done nothing to change the mindset of the EU élite who opened a museum four years ago costing £44 million and called the “House of European History” which calls the Second World War a “civil war“, in spite of quite a bit of the action taking place in North Africa and the Far East

While it seems impossible to change this very selective and bizarre interpretation of history, hopefully, if our government and Civil Service can get their act together, by the time the 2020 Olympics begin in Tokyo, “now we’ve left” really will mean “now we’ve left” and the likes of Medaltracker will not be able to repeat their insult to our heroic athletes.

 

 

The case for the interim solution

Whatever your thoughts on how best to exit the EU, this helpful paper is well worth reading. Although published by the Adam Smith Institute, it is a collaborative effort, also involving Dr Kristian Niemitz, poverty reserach fellow at the Institute for Economic Affairs, the country’s oldest free-market think tank, and Roland Smith, who is a widely-read blogger as well as a fellow at the ASI.

The principal argument of the paper can be summarised as follows:-

  • Re-joining EFTA to access the EEA is only a short-term compromise
  • It does, however, allow us to make a quicker departure from the EU than a bespoke arrangement
  • We would immediately be outside the political EU project, with a relationship based on trade only
  • We would not be required to join the Schengen area (a myth which I had to counter a couple of times in referendum debates)
  • It would keep business happy – some of whom voted to stay in the EU because they wanted access to the Single Market but who may not have supported the political aspects of the EU project
  • We would have power to reduce migration from the EU
  • Parliament would regain power over, among other things, agriculture, fisheries, foreign policy, law & order and VAT
  • We could conclude our own trade deals with non-EU countries
  • We would regain our seat on those global bodies which increasingly determine the rules for world trade
  • We could choose to participate in EU projects which may be of benefit, such as the Erasmus student exchange system, but not in those which were not in our interest
  • We could move on and leave the EEA at any future point of our own choosing

Above all, as the authors point out, it would help heal the wounds  caused by the Brexit vote. It won’t satisfy everyone but would help the country move forward together.