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.

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.

The Complexities of Brexit

The government is recruiting experts to work out how best we will leave the EU.

It is going to be a complicated process if there is to be no major disruption to trade. These papers, written by Richard North and published under the auspices of the Leave Alliance, of which CIB Is a member, look at some of the issues which will need to be addressed.

Squaring the Circle looks at how the two seemingly conflicting demands for access to the single market and a restriction on migration from the EU can be reconciled.

WTO Option analysed looks at what would happen if we did not end up with any agreement on trade with the EU and had to rely purely on so-called “WTO rules”

EU Payments addresses the knotty subject of what financial contribution an independent UK would be likely to make to the EU. It isn’t going to be zero!

Article 50 and Brexit addresses the issue of whether any other alternative exit route from the EU is available.

Trade Barriers and Brexit debunks the suggestion that the EU would offer us a good trading deal by default and also considers the issue of non-tariff barriers, which are a big potential problem for exporters if there is no access to the single market.

With not a lot of Brexit news on which to comment at the moment, we would thoroughly recommend these very thoroughly-researched papers.





The Left of centre case for leaving the EU – new Video

Following on from Brexit the Movie and Flexcit the Movie, we can now announce the Lexit the Move – making the Left of Centre case for leaving the EU.

It lasts just over an hour and can be watched here. It features archive footage of the late Tony Benn and  more recent interviews with Kate Hoey and George Galloway. It highlights the long-standing tradition of left-of-centre withdrawalism and mentions that some trade unions, including the Bakers’ Union and the RMT, support Brexit. Helle Hagenau (pictured above), a long-standing friend of CIB, points out that in Nordic countries, EU-scepticism is very much a centre-left phenomenon.

It is good that we are hearing a strong left-of-centre pro-withdrawal voice in this debate. This video has come at an ideal time, with John Cryer announcing his decision to back “leave” only yesterday. It is ideal to show to any left-leaning voters who support remain or are still undecided. It has a long way to go to catch up with “Brexit the Movie”, which has been downloaded over 1,200,000 times already, but the more views it receives, the greater likelihood that we will see a decent “leave” vote next week.

Brexit’s business supporters speak out as the Clunking Fist hits the road

Recent polling is looking encouraging for the “leave” campaign and one significant boost is that some people, although concerned about the economic impact of of Brexit,  still want us to leave.

However, three significant businessmen have expressed their support for Brexit. Sir James Dyson put it bluntly:- “When the Remain campaign tells us no one will trade with us if we leave the EU, sorry, it’s absolute cobblers. Our trade imbalance with Europe is running at nine billion a month and rising. If this trend continues, that is £100bn a year.”

Equally forthright is Lord Bamford of JCB. He sent the letter below to all his staff. “Do I wish to remain in an EU of diminishing importance as it moves towards ever-closer union? Or do I want us to pull out of the EU, reclaim our sovereignty and regain control of how we trade with Europe and the world?” he asks.

 A more unusual way of showing support for Brexit has come from Jeremy Hosking of Marathon Asset Management.  Mr Hosking, who has donated £500,000 to the leave campaign, owns 13 steam locomotives, 10 of which either already are or will eventually be registered to run on our main lines. Tomorrow,  the Referendum Express, hauled by No 46100 Royal Scot, owned by Mr Hosking, will run from Crewe to York. On board will be a number of well-known Brexit campaigners and if you want to wave them on their way, the timings for tomorrow’s run, which is routed via Warrington, Accrington and Hebden Bridge, can be found here.

It is unfortunate that the aptly-named Britannia (seen departing Salisbury in 2011 in the image above)  is currently under repair, but we can be confident that Royal Scot will not be emblazoned with any figures about how much we pay to the EU every week on the side of its boiler!

Talking of Scots, Gordon Brown has been invited by David Cameron to “relaunch” the remain campaign  – an admission of his failure to sell “Project Fear” to voters. Will the great Clunking Fist deliver the goods for Remain, just as he as credited with turning the Scottish independence referendum campaign round 18 months ago? He has never enjoyed much popularity south of the border and with good reason. After all, this was the man who raided our pension funds, wrecked our economy and was too ashamed to join in the public signing of the Lisbon Treaty after having refused to grant the electorate a referendum.  Thankfully, with such as CV, it is hard to imagine that he will prove any better an ambassador for the EU than his successor.

JCB Bamford letter

A winnable referendum

I have received a number of e-mails from people who say that in their opinion, the “leave” side is not putting up a particularly good show and that far too many people are being frightened into voting for “remain”, even if they don’t really like the EU.

Obviously, the Campaign for an Independent Britain is only one part of the “leave” campaign so we can’t speak for every group fighting for withdrawal. What we can assure our supporters, however, is that we are working flat out  – supplying literally hundreds of thousands of leaflets, dealing with all manner of phone calls and e-mails, speaking at meetings, keeping this website up to date and so on. The list is endless.

Furtherore, we are convinced that this is a winnable referendum. Opinion polls have yet to indicate a significant move in our direction, but activists up and down the country do paint a more positive picture than the headline numbers suggest.

One interesting assessment comes from the EU observer on-line newspaper. In a piece called Stumbling towards Brexit,  Gareth Harding says that “the remain camp is in trouble, big trouble.”  His reasoning is that we are doing so well in a campaign which is loaded strongly against us. “Given the heavyweight opposition ranged against it, you would think the Leave campaign would be on the canvas facing the count. Instead, it appears to have weathered most of the punches landed on it and is still standing strong with the final bell still to be rung” he writes.

The main reason why he expects us to vote to leave is that our hearts will overrule our heads. “Rightly or wrongly they will cast their ballots based as much on laments for imperial greatness, anxieties about immigration, tabloid horror stories about barmy Brussels bureaucrats, stubbornness at the idea of being pushed around by a PM or a US president, and a deep-seated desire for Britain to keep control of its destiny as on any rational arguments about the economy or the country’s place in the world put forward by mainstream politicians.”

We may not agree with this assessment, but the article provides statistical evidence that voters are distinctly unimpressed with David Cameron’s claims that our leaving the EU could result in a war.  Apparently, 35% of voters think that EU membership makes it more likely we will go to war as opposed to a mere 19% who think it less likely.

It is encouraging that the deluge of dire economic consequences have not had as great an impact as the “remain” side had hoped. Part of it is that like the well-known story of the boy who cried “wolf”,  the sheer intensity of the barrage has led to considerable cynicism. There are good reasons to be sceptical, as Tim Martin of J D Wetherspoon points out. After all, many of the claims about economic meltdown do not come from neutral sourcies. The IMF, the OECD and George Osborne all want us to stay in. We have already shown on this blog that previous “divorces” with parallels to Brexit have not had a negative economic effect.

Furthermore, the idea that business is united in supporting “remain” is a myth. We have exposed this in our “5 Mistaken assumptions” leaflet and further evidence for this has come in the shape of a letter to the Daily Telegraph signed by more than 300 business leaders whose companies range from hospitality,  retailing and aviation to finance and insurance.

After all, we are only looking to re-join the rest of the world in managing our own affairs. The hypocrisy of President Obama and others in urging us to stay in the EU when their countries would neve contemplate joining such an organisation has also cut very little ice with the electorate. At least a few figures from the Commonwealth have  been more supportive, including Winston Peters, New Zealand’s former foreign minister and the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said  that if he was a UK voter, he would support Brexit.

Nonetheless, the economy remains our achilles heel. Sovereignty and immigration are issues which favour us but fears of job losses worry a sizeable number of voters and could decide the outcome of the referendum.  We have a new leaflet in the pipeline which will assure people that their jobs are safe – watch this space!

Access to the Single Market is a big worry for some companies. Of course, the desire of all supporters of withdrawal is that we can end up with a trade-only relationship with the EU, but this won’t happen at once. The move towards global bodies driving regional trade agreements is gathering pace. This, essentially, will eventually result in a redundancy notice as far as the EU’s role in our trade is concerned, but – to repeat – we are looking several years into the future.

As for the immediate future after Brexit, the worldwide reduction in tariffs does not mean their elimination, not to mention the non-tariff barriers we would face outside the Single Market. Relying on World Trade Organisation rules for our trade leaves some big holes in our arguments and big worries for many company directors.

It would be a tragedy if fear was the real victor in this referendum and the electorate voted to stay in project they really don’t like, with the basic issues unresolved. There are convincing arguments that will address the economic worries and if they can be heard, it will leave very little ammunition left in the Remain camp’s arsenal, so the goal to which many of us have aspired – in some cases for many years – could finally be within our grasp.