It doesn’t matter whether you are an arch-Brexiteer, a firm Remainer, still uncertain, or just bored with the whole Brexit thing, I am – and you ought to be – really very concerned about the UK’s future.
Whatever your views of the issues, the harsh reality is that ‘we are now where we are’, and that is certainly a more informed and accurate statement than the fatuous ‘Brexit means Brexit’. This means that we have a Prime Minister and a government which seems determined to pursue a ‘No deal’ option. In truth, there is no such thing as a ‘No deal Brexit’; the current one deal with the EU – which brings with it settled trading arrangements with most countries in the world – will have to be replaced with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new deals, yet to be negotiated, on trade, migration, finance etc.
Let’s forget for a moment that Boris Johnson fronted all those bus-promises on the NHS (and more) which could never, and will never, be kept.
Let’s put to one side his casual relationship with the truth and the facts. His former boss – the Conservative Max Hastings – said that “Johnson would not recognise truth… if confronted by it in an identity parade”, describing him as interested only in “fame and gratification… a scoundrel or a mere rogue”.
Even, when under the severest self- and external- constraints on his behaviour in the last month, he was simply unable to stop himself dissembling. In the Tory leadership hustings, he produced a kipper from under the podium. Waving it in the air, he said that the kipper’s producer – from the Isle of Man – was “utterly furious” with EU regulations. “After decades of sending kippers like this through the post he has had his costs massively increased by Brussels bureaucrats who have insisted that each kipper must be accompanied by this: a plastic ice pillow.” He went on to say that once the UK leaves the European Union, the country would be able to “take back control of our regulatory framework“.
However, it was just another of those stupid and untrue ‘EU straight banana’ stories:
- the Isle of Man isn’t in the UK nor in the EU
- there are no EU rules on the transport of smoked products, such as kippers, and
- food safety regulations in the UK are set by the UK Food Standards Agency.
I have listened to, and talked with, thousands of constituents since the Referendum. Overwhelmingly, those who supported Brexit have told me that the two things that determined their votes were ‘taking back control from the EU’ and ‘cutting migration’.
I have to say that I’ve never understood the ‘taking back control’ argument. How does coming out of the EU, in which, as a member, we have a major influence and say (and often a veto) and representation in the decision-making process, but replacing it with the rules of the World Trade Organisation, in which we are but a bit-part player with little influence, constitute ‘taking back control’?
As for ‘cutting migration’, has no-one noticed that as soon as Johnson became Prime Minister, he immediately dropped Theresa May’s ‘tens of thousands’ target and the manifesto promise to get annual net migration below 100,000? As many of the countries (like India) with which the new government has promised early trade agreements require an increase in migration as a condition of a deal, Brexit voters look as though they will be disappointed on this issue as well.
It has become absolutely clear that Boris Johnson and his supporters have no alternative plan for a deal with the EU, nor do they have appropriate contingency plans for a no-deal scenario.
A whole succession of the new government ministers have told us that ‘when the EU recognises we are serious about the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal, it will be prepared to make big changes to the withdrawal agreement so that a deal can be reached’. Abject nonsense.
The EU position isn’t being decided by EU bureaucrats; it is being determined by the 28 heads of government who will act in what they see as the best interests of their countries, and they’re not budging. As the Irish Chancellor told the UK Chancellor Sajid Javid yesterday, Ireland has no intention of removing the backstop from the Brexit agreement. They are not being intransigent. They have consistently told us that, if there is a credible alternative, they will consider it, but Johnson hasn’t got one to produce.
Then, last week, Johnson’s No 10 spin-doctors highlighted Donald Trump’s welcome to Boris Johnson and his assertion that an early USA/UK trade deal is entirely possible. As Trump has asserted time and time again, in his trade wars with Canada, Mexico, China and others, that he is determined to ensure that the USA gets what it wants from the negotiations and couldn’t care less about the other parties, we ought to be wary about what the price of a deal may be.
So, for the realists, today’s statement by Larry Summers, who was Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council, is no surprise. Summers said that Brexiteers “…are delusional if they believe that a “desperate” Britain can strike an advantageous trade deal with the USA”.
He said that Britain had “no leverage” in any trade negotiations and was absolutely scornful about the idea that Trump would, or could, produce a favourable trade deal for Britain. “I’m not sure what Britain wants from the United States that it can plausibly imagine the United States will give,” he said.
“Look at it from America’s point of view: Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions. You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man. Second, Britain has no leverage. Britain is desperate. Britain has nothing else. It needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain. The last thing you do is quit a job before you look for your new one.”
After saying it was “close to inconceivable” that any agreement could get close to making up for the UK’s loss of trade with the EU, he added “If Britain thinks that the American financial regulators are going to come together to give greater permissions and less regulation of UK firms, I would call that belief close to delusional.”
It is this set of circumstances that has led to a 25% devaluation of the £ since the referendum, with every prospect of another 10% devaluation before the end of this year. The only people who will gain from this are the currency speculators. It is no surprise that they have been Boris’s biggest backers.
Concerned about your future, and the future of your children and grandchildren? You ought to be.