Brake: May and Farage’s claim of an easy post-Brexit trade deal left in tatters

So, for long enough, the Brexiteers have been telling us that the EU would be pretty much begging us for a trade deal and we’d easily get one within two years.

Theresa May said last month that the deal could be done in two years , despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary.

Paul Nuttall said that it would all be so easy.

Well, in a sobering reality check, the European Court of Justice, who make the rules on this stuff, said today that all EU governments and national parliaments would have to agree such a deal. Remember how the Canadian EU deal was held up by a regional parliament in Belgium?

Tom Brake said:

Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s claims of an easy trade deal with the EU after Brexit have been left in tatters.

People don’t have to accept a bad Brexit deal that will mean fewer jobs, higher prices and less money for public services.

The Liberal Democrats want you to have your choice over your future.

You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum, and if you don’t like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe.

None of this is a surprise to the Liberal Democrat team. Their competent, credible and authoratitve statements have proven time and time again to be correct and Nick Clegg’s Brexit Challenge papers provide a comprehensive and accurate analysis of the complexities of all aspects of the risky course we are being dragged on by an incompetent government that hasn’t got a clue what it’s doing.

My big worry is that after 8 June, we end up with Theresa May being given a coronation of chaos, untrammelled authority to do what she likes. That would be very dangerous and what we need is competent, fair voices who won’t let the Conservatives have it all their own way. To be honest, government with massive majorities are never a good idea, but when we are facing the biggest risks we have faced in almost a century, the last thing we need is this lot being given a free hand.

This is why every Liberal Democrat needs to get out and about in their nearest target seats to ensure that, come 9th June, the Conservatives have credible, competent opposition to rein them in.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “the European Court of Justice, who make the rules on this stuff”

    In a nutshell – one of the big problems with the EU!

  • @ Caron,

    Can we all please forget about ‘Professor’ Nuttall. He’s got more chance of playing for Tranmere Rovers (if he ever did) than of being a significant player in British politics. He’s busted and didn’t even flush.

    Can we also please find a simple party slogan ? ‘Strong and Stable’ , ‘For the Many Not The Few’ both have a bit of resonance.

    ‘A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That’ doesn’t.

  • Tony Greaves 16th May '17 - 3:24pm

    The European Court is one of the foundations of what is good about the EU. They enforce the rules that the members (countries and elected members) have previously agreed. The alternative is politicians blagging it in the short run for political advantage, and usually to the advantage of the powerful at that time. (ie Tory style stuff).

  • There is one thing that the Lib Dems could do with the rest of the general public to speed up the deal: boycott all EU products (unless specifically manufactured ONLY in the EU) – perhaps exceptions for Ireland, Greece and EFTA. You will see that suddenly they’ll be interested in a trade deal.

  • James solution, start a trade war. What next James a real war? When you see this level of stupidity I fear for the future of my children.

  • “the European Court of Justice, who make the rules on this stuff, said today that all EU governments and national parliaments would have to agree such a deal”

    Really? That’s exactly opposite to how this ruling is being reported:

  • Nicholas Cunningham 16th May '17 - 4:21pm

    Firstly, people should understand what the European Court of Justice does, why it holds the powers it does, before people condemned them as the bogeyman and the instigator of all our troublesp, which of course is just another one of many Brexiteers lines of attack’s base on ignorance. As for this ludicrous idea that some boycott would somehow bring about a trade deal, of course one in our favour, tells us the mentality of some Brexiteers and their increasingly bazaar bubble they inhabit.

  • Why? It’s up to me what and whom I buy from. I refuse to buy EU products apart from Greek, Irish and EFTA unless I have to. Surely that’s a bolstering of other countries? The EU and the LIb Dems are joined at the hip – it’s not a great sight.

  • Alan Depauw 16th May '17 - 4:30pm

    Following removal from the customs union and single market, we will find that the alternative to the ECJ, which currently includes British judges, is the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.

    The DSB is composed of all 164 WTO members who are civil servants appointed by their respective nations. Its Director General is the Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo. He decides on the composition of Dispute Panels to settle trade disputes, on the advice of various parties including the WTO’s secretariat. The secretariat is made up of himself, a Nigerian, a German, an American and a Chinese representative. Appeals are heard by the Appellate Body, which is composed of a representative from America, India, Korea, Mexico, Mauritius, Belgium and China.

    Here’s the exam question: In which body, the ECJ or the WTO, are UK interests the most likely to be fairly represented?

  • “UK Brexit boost as ECJ rules trade deals do not require extra ratification”

  • Craig Brown 16th May '17 - 4:45pm

    Are we sure the Lib Dem press release is right? Everything I’ve seen in the papers is saying the exact opposite… they are reporting that the ruling was that individual countries do NOT need to ratify but that the EU can do the deal on behalf of member states.

  • The is a simple explanation for the confusion.

    A branch of the EU – namely the ECJ, has just issued a ruling unilaterally moving powers from national parliaments to EU, specifically the commission.

    Obviously we were told in the referendum campaign that the EU would never do things like that if we stayed in, so when it happens the extremists literally don’t see it.

  • Richard S wrote:

    “A branch of the EU – namely the ECJ, has just issued a ruling unilaterally moving powers from national parliaments to EU, specifically the commission.”

    The ECJ cannot “unilaterally” do anything. Its powers derive exclusively from the EC Treaty, which all 28 Member States have signed. Its job is to uphold and interpret the various treaties and secondary legislation made under those treaties.

    The ECJ is not, strictly speaking, a branch of the EU. It is a court established by the EC, which is one of the four pillars of the EU.

    Far from moving powers from national Parliaments, the ECJ had ruled that those powers never did exist in relation to the EC Treaty.

  • This is a General Election – not a re-run of tbe EU Referendum. The LibDems must wake up to the fact that they seem as EU obsessives amd may actually lose seats

  • Peter Watson 16th May '17 - 5:48pm

    This seems another very appropriate place in which to “retweet” what Paul Murray posted in a parallel thread ( as it is very relevant to the way that many voters view the Lib Dems on issues such as that being discussed here:

    This from Daniel Hannan might give an indication of an anti-LD strategy that will be deployed by the Conservatives and their media surrogates:

  • Could be embarrassing if the party has misunderstood the ECJ ruling… think what the Tories might do with that!
    What seems clear to me though that regardless of how this all turns out there re some among the LibDems who not only believe that Britain cannot get a good deal from The EU, they actually seem to look forward to the EU giving Britain a damn good kicking, almost an EU first mentality.

  • John Littler 16th May '17 - 6:06pm

    Some newspapers are reporting that the ECJ ruling makes it less possible for national and regional parliaments or assemblies to block any trade deal. However, we saw it happen in Belgium, so clearly it can.

  • YellowSubmarine 16th May '17 - 6:27pm

    The outlook may not be as gloomy as the article above makes out., as the Singapore ruling also offers a relatively easy way for Europe to strike trade deals more quickly and avoid getting bogged down in parliamentary debates across Europe.

    A striking feature of the ECJ ruling is that it sets out only two investment issues over which national parliaments should be granted effective veto power over trade deals.

    Contrary to a non-binding opinion by the court’s advocate general in December, Tuesday’s decision says key areas of modern trade agreements such as transport, intellectual property rights, labor and environmental standards are exclusive EU competencies.

    This meant the lion’s share of Brexit issues could be resolved at the EU level in Brussels, without any looming fear of interference from the 36 national and regional parliaments in the remaining EU27 countries.

  • Someone clarify, the way I read the report it meant the power has been taken away from national parliaments and given to the instituiton?

  • Richard Underhill 16th May '17 - 7:18pm

    Tony Greaves 16th May ’17 – 3:24pm Tony is right. Remember that the UK needed our wins in court to sell beer in Germany and beef everywhere in the EU after the BSE crisis was cleaned up.

  • Nom de Plume 16th May '17 - 7:46pm

    I have read the Daniel Hannen article and would suggest you ignore it. I can not see why anyone would not want a good deal with the EU. The dangers of failure are clear and an opposition is required to point these out. The problem as I see it is quite the opposite – parts of the press and the Tory Party might not accept a deal which is acceptable to the EU. In the case of no deal they must not be allowed to resort to nationalism. It is the LibDems who are patriots.

  • Please can we stop obsessing about Brexit now. It is not a vote winner. I am very much against Brexit, but I also want the Lib Dems to win back some seats. Being against Brexit is not a helpful USP any more. Too many people are resigned to it for it to be a vote winner. Labour put forward a good programme today. Let’s try to outdo that – on health, the environment, skills training, tackling violence, including domestic abuse, promoting wellbeing in schools and at work, complete opposition toe raising tuition fees and the excessive interest charged etc.

  • Nom de Plume 16th May '17 - 8:27pm

    Unfortunately Judy, all the things you mention will be affected by the outcome of Brexit. It is quite abstract, which is part of the problem with Brexit. By all means, campaign on the issues mentioned, but it needs to be understood in context. It is also clearly distinguishes us from the Tories and Labour.

  • To quote from the actual court ruling:

    “The Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Singapore falls within the exclusive competence of the European Union, with the exception of the following provisions, which fall within a competence shared between the European Union and the Member States:


    And the “with the exception of” provisions cover almost a dozen provisions that the 38 parliaments will have to approve either when approving the deal as a single package or with those in a “sub-document” that would need to be handled separately from the trade agreement.

    So Caron is correct as either way the 38 parliaments are going to be involved in ratifying the Singapore trade agreement.

  • Graham Evans 16th May '17 - 8:53pm

    @ Judy Abel On the contrary Labour put forward a programme which will benefit rich graduate students but do little to solve our current welfare problems. They also put forward nationalisation proposals which which can only be paid for by doubling or more the current budget deficit with no tangible benefit in terms of increased investment. Their Shadow Home Affairs minister and Chancellor have both demonstrated an inability to get to grips with numbers, while even the proposal to increase police numbers is unproven in terms of reducing crime, popular though it may seem at a superficial level. Their proposals on taxing UK based companies to pay for some of their election promises will lead to less investment, and encourage companies to offshore activity, while doing nothing to deal with the tax avoidance activities of the likes of Google or Amazon. Yes, there are some nice thoughts on subjects like the skills agenda but governments and parties of all political persuasions have paid lip service to this subject without coming up with genuinely radical proposals for fear of upsetting existing educational interest lobbies. The irony is if if T! achieves a big majority she might actually be able to do something really radical on all these subjects. The problem is that the economic downsides to Brexit will constrain finance even further, while on policy issues her intention is to steal, at least in terms of rhetoric, Labour’s popularist clothes.

  • Graham Evans 16th May '17 - 8:56pm

    The T! should of course read TM.

  • Agree with Judy Abel that the Labour manifesto put forward a good programme today, which, whether one likes it or not, will appeal to many people because it attempts to remedy many of the widely perceived injustices in modern society. It also effectively ignores Brexit as old news….. which I think many people now do.

    Hillaire Belloc (one time Liberal MP) in his ‘Cautionary Tales for Children’ writes of Jim who ‘Ran away and was eaten by a Lion’. Jim’s Dad advises ‘Hang on to nurse for fear of something worse’. It may well be much of the population sees St Theresa May as Nurse post Brexit.

    We have yet to develop a clear narrative beyond being anti-Brexit and it’s high time we did. Corbyn may well poll more strongly than some think…. and the rest will hang on to nurse.

  • @Hywel re: “the European Court of Justice, who make the rules on this stuff”
    In a nutshell – one of the big problems with the EU!

    I missed this sentence in Caron’s article, but thanks for picking it up!
    Firstly, the ECJ doesn’t make the rules, as Tony Greaves noted it interprets and enforces “the rules that the members (countries and elected members) have previously agreed.”
    However, one of the problems is that the ‘rules’ as agreed by the members have tended to be very broadbrush and thus leaving much room for ‘interpretation’, hence Caron is right to some extent the ECJ does make the rules, just like the UK’s Supreme Court.

    Unfortunately, the EU is not alone in this approach, it is something we have increasingly seen at Westminster, with Acts being passed that have also given the courts much room for interpretation and clarification, and where this has been deemed insufficient we have seen the prolific and questionable usage of Statutory Instruments and Ministerial Directives.

    Thus it is against this background that I assess your comment and conclude that we are in agreement, namely, that our political representatives in the EU and in Westminster have not been doing the job we appointed them to do, passing the task on to the unelected courts.

  • @james
    “There is one thing that the Lib Dems could do with the rest of the general public to speed up the deal: boycott all EU products (unless specifically manufactured ONLY in the EU)”

    “Why? It’s up to me what and whom I buy from. I refuse to buy EU products apart from Greek, Irish and EFTA unless I have to.”

    So either you aren’t actually boycotting EU products or food shopping is challenging…

  • Let’s just get out of the EU as quickly as possible if this means no trade deal so be it, it also means they get no cash. An ultra hard diamond brexit.

  • Thank you @David Raw. I only argue my point because I want the Lib Dems to do well! The devil is in the detail on Brexit, and beyond saying things about remaining in the Single Market – which I totally understand is vital – it’s quite complex to get across the finer points of the Brexit strategy in a Manifesto. I thought Labour did well today. Rail fares are extortionate and the railways have been milked for profit. People earning above £80,000 should pay more tax – that’s a decent salary! Tuition fee debt is very high. We cannot really deny these things. I’m not so sure about renationalising the water companies – that sounds potentially a step too far for now. But it was a vision. We need a vision.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th May '17 - 10:58pm

    I have to say that unlike David Raw who is now unfortunately only capable of sarcasm and antagonism towards me , I can see when he talks sense, which he actually does sometimes, like here , on this thread, ably joined by Judy, pardoning the pun I am sure !

    This article is either completely mistaken, or we are completely confused , as colleagues show the press have the absolute opposite and no amount of attempted effort at valiant pro EU explanation from Martin says otherwise really !

    I do not like a lot of the proposals in the Labour manifesto, mainly on economic grounds that they are unable to convince they would , with the likes of John Marxdonell, do anything but bankrupt us as a country !

    Yet they have concentrated on a post Brexit vision with some vote grabbing headline inducing proposals!

    The media is approaching this as the Democrats vs Republicans, ie US style, and we think we are in French style multi party , there is no second round !

    Tim was asked about Labour, we got an answer about ……..Brexit ??????!!!!!!!!

  • @Sesenco “Far from moving powers from national Parliaments, the ECJ had ruled that those powers never did exist in relation to the EC Treaty.”

    Except that until yesterday everyone thought they did exist and acted as such; governments blocking trade deals was an actual thing in the past – Tom Brake even had his press release ready – so the effect is the same as a transfer of power.

  • Peter Martin 17th May '17 - 9:54am

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,

    “I do not like a lot of the proposals in the Labour manifesto, mainly on economic grounds that they are unable to convince they would , with the likes of John Marxdonell, do anything but bankrupt us as a country”

    You are entitled to not like any policies of course, there’s no possibility of any government, of any political persuasion, bankrupting the country.

    If government mismanages the economy they can, on the one hand, throw it into deep recession or even depression, or on the other, create the conditions of very high inflation. So if you have doubts about Labour’s economic policies you might come to the conclusion that they’ll create one or the other. Which one would you choose?

    There’s one proviso. That the UK continues to have control over its own currency. If we had chosen the euro some 15 years ago, bankruptcy would be a possibility. Economically if not politically.

  • John Littler 21st May '17 - 8:45pm

    The Clegg Farrage debate had Clegg arguing that leaving the EU would take a decade and cost a fortune in Commercial Lawyers because 35 years of UK laws are bound together into EU law. Farrage said leaving the EU would be quick and simple and would need just the repeal of a single act.

    Who wonder was correct? The government has hundreds of lawyers on £3000 a day each, as well as many Trade consultants on similar money and there are not enough of them. Whitehall also needs 30,000 additional civil servants to carry this through, but they cannot be recruited. Also more customs and immigration staff will certainly be needed for inevitably more complicated procedures.

    100,000 finance jobs will go, the car plants and other Just In Time manufacturers will go and even some agricultural growers will go. Many firms will struggle for staff, will struggle with worse market access into Europe and all for a lower tax take, more borrowing, increased cuts and no trade benefits in the next few years whatsoever.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st May '17 - 10:52pm

    Well said, John Littler. Time we had a response to the ‘For god’s sake don’t keep banging on about Brexit’ brigade! We need to keep on pointing out the mounting ills of Brexit, or there would be no sense in repeating as we do that we want to stay in the EU, for its internal market and many other benefits. As for the gloom shown in other threads about polls showing many remain-voters now think Brexit is inevitable, that’s no reason to cease reiterating the fact that it may not be so, and that we will keep on opposing the government’s Hobson’s choice between the two evils of ‘hard’ Brexit or no agreement. Unlike the two large parties, we remain consistent.

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