Escape from Brexit

When I asked my son why he had voted Leave, he replied “because the country must be independent and stand on its own two feet”. My son is severely handicapped and the concept of independence is especially important to him. That’s fair enough, but independence is important to everybody, which is why it was so powerful an idea driving Brexit. “Independence day!” was Boris Johnson’s joyous cry as the referendum result was announced, and it resonated with many people.

Independence is fundamental to all of us, inbuilt into our lives from the moment we are born and our bodies must start to fend for themselves. We grow up knowing we must leave the bosom of the family and make our way in the world. We welcome this change because it means freedom.

Britain broke away from its mother continent eons ago, giving its inhabitants freedom to shape their own culture and customs, in which we rightly take pride. America likewise broke free from Britain at the Boston Tea Party, to become a free and independent nation, and in both cases relations between the mother nation and its offspring have remained friendly; particularly so in the case of America, rather more ambivalently in the case of Europe. But then Brexit arrived.

Brexit arose as the culmination of an intense, prolonged and ferocious propaganda campaign against the European Union by Britain’s right wing press.  They painted Europe as the enemy, with vivid metaphors of “throwing off the shackles” and severing the tentacles of an evil oppressive force, often harking back to the Second World War. Brexit would be the Great Escape, not from Stalag Luft lll, but from its modern equivalent, Brussels. Who would not thrill to the glorious saga of the British people claiming independence? Certainly the cohort of elderly Tories now electing the next Prime Minister, though some of them are still fighting the First World War.

At the most recent meeting of my campaign group, Stratford for Europe, I was asked for my suggestions on new initiatives we could pursue. Jokingly I proposed we establish an escape committee, dedicated to getting individuals out of Brexit Britain, along a lifeline that would take them to new opportunities in the free world.

In that idea, ridiculous though it was, there lies a certain truth. As the gloss falls off the promise of sunlit uplands awaiting us, an appreciation may develop of the rights and freedoms we are about to lose. The next referendum, when it comes, will be inspired by the freedom to live, love and work in 27 other countries, not the freedom to be bullied by President Trump. Far from buccaneering merrily round the globe, we may find ourselves confined to an Alcatraz Britain marooned off the coast of a Europe that regards us with pity. 

How can we get our rights and freedoms back? Once they are stripped away, simply moving to an EU country will not restore them. You would have to stay there long enough to fulfil their varied requirements. Alternatively, you could marry someone from the EU. Travel companies advise us that an exodus from the UK has been underway for some time; people who can move are doing so – they have seen the writing on the wall and are getting out. 

But for most of us, such solutions are impractical. In any case it goes against the grain to be forced to leave your own country just because of a flawed and unfair referendum that nobody wanted. Far better to stay and fight Brexit on our home turf. Then we can escape to a better Britain. 

* John King is a retired doctor and Remain campaigner.

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35 Comments

  • Peter Martin 25th Jun '19 - 9:27am

    The European Union would have a viable future if it either moved ‘forwards’ to becoming a fully fledged Federal State like the USA or back to becoming a collection of individual states which trade freely with each other as we had in EEC days. I’d be happy with the latter but I would say it was politically impossible to do that. We’d have to scrap the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties for a start.

    The European Union, as it currently is, is a betwixt and between arrangement which should only have been implemented as a temporary measure for maybe 5 or 10 years at the most. Maybe the powers that be in the EU were planning on that happening but the political union that is necessary to make the system work, particularly the common currency, is just not happening at anywhere near the required pace. They just went ahead hoping for the best but without telling anyone what they had in mind! They certainly didn’t bother to ask anyone if this was what they wanted.

    IMO the political will to get there is just not there – anywhere in the EU. Britain isn’t that much different to anyone else. We like our independence. So do the Germans. They know if they lose it they’ll be the ones picking up the tab to keep Italy afloat. Their government will be in a similar position to the government of New York State. They cough up at the Federal level to support poorer states like Mississippi. That’s the way it has to be to make the USA work. This is nothing to do with socialism – remember this is the USA we are talking about. The question of independence is debatable. The Americans like their independence too. They wouldn’t agree that breaking up the USA into smaller components would give them greater independence.

    The question is do we want to be a part of this future Union, if it happens, or part of the future break up of the EU if it doesn’t?

  • The Escape Committee already exists. My son’s friends are already planning their futures in destinations as diverse as Kinsale and Vancouver. Those left behind will be those without the skills and qualification the global job market seeks. This fact will, in itself, hinder attempts to grow the UK economy post Brexit.

  • Dilettante Eye 25th Jun '19 - 9:45am

    Once again, a remain-er inability to understand the real motivations for leaving, begin with their inability to grasp their flawed thinking when using EU and Europe as interchangable text.

    If we had had a referendum on the Maastricht treaty, the public would never have allowed us into this mess
    But of course John Major knew this, which is why he arrogantly signed that treaty, without the common decency to ask first.

  • I’m rather pleased that Europe is being built in this gradual, slow, messy way. Societies are complex and coherent societies evolve rather than being designed. Designing a society is a recipe for disaster: just look at the nations that you get when you try and “nation build”.

    To pick you up on one point:

    “They certainly didn’t bother to ask anyone if this was what they wanted.”

    Yes they did.

    The UK wasn’t asked because our (at that time Labour) government refused to ask us. Other electorates were asked, and proposals either changed to what was wanted (Maastricht and Lisbon) or abandoned altogether (EU Constitution). I’m afraid that the idea that “they” have a plan that “they” impose on “us” against our will doesn’t hold up.

  • Pressed “post” too quick! The above comment is to Peter Martin

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Jun '19 - 10:14am

    “Britain broke away from its mother continent eons ago”

    err – no – an eon can be billions of years
    https://www.thefreedictionary.com/eon

    And for the separation of the British Isles from mainland Europe try
    https://www.qpg.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/englishchannelformation/

  • Peter Martin 25th Jun '19 - 10:29am

    @ Tony Lloyd,

    Your argument might be considered more plausible had not one Jean Claude Juncker felt the need to explain how it was done.

    1999

    “We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”

    2005 On the French Referendum

    “If it’s a Yes, we will say ‘on we go’, and if it’s a No we will say ‘we continue’.”

    2007 On the Lisbon Treaty

    Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?

  • @Peter Martin

    It’s not an “argument” so much as a statement of facts.

    Junker’s words show nothing. Look at the second quote, the French referendum one. The French said “No”, the constitution was abandoned. “They” did not “continue”. Whatever Junker said, whatever he wanted to do, the French were asked to ratify the proposed constitution, declined, and the constitution was abandoned.

    As I stated.

  • “Britain broke away from its mother continent eons ago, giving its inhabitants freedom to shape their own culture and customs, in which we rightly take pride.”

    Wait, we’re supposed to be proud because of a geological process that took place tens of thousands of years ago? How does that in any way reflect on people in the UK today, few if any of whom have ancestors who were on the then-peninsula at that time?

  • Peter Martin 25th Jun '19 - 9:50pm

    @ Tony Lloyd,

    The Lisbon Treaty was effectively the repackaging of the European Constitution.

    So, J-C J and friends had their way after all.

    “If it’s a Yes, we will say ‘on we go’” , with the EU constitution, “and if it’s a No we will say ‘we continue’ ”, with a new Treaty.

    There was no attempt to build the kind of Europe that met with popular approval. Public opinion in France was instead seen as an obstacle to be overcome. If one pathway was blocked then a new route had to be navigated.

  • Personally, I do not see the EU as embodying any kind of freedom. It’s a political club designed to reduce the electorate’s ability to disrupt business with no interest in any kind of popular democratic mandate. Opposition to the EU is not just about independence, but the ability of voters to remove power from elected representatives so that they do not mistake themselves for leaders and to thus to assert a bigger public influence on policy.
    Plus the EU is a sort of grandiose attempt to create an identity based on the notion of Europe as the cradle of civilisation with its roots in the idea and borders of Christendom.

  • The arguments about the EU are about the lack of democratic accountability in the U.K. not about the EU. We have a serious democratic deficit in this country. This is clearly illustrated by the arguments which we have seen over the last few years. There is a serious problem over the border in Ireland. This was not created by the EU. The problem was solved by effectively removing the border. The U.K. instead of working on a long term solution to the issues in Ireland engage in more and more unreal arguments about an electronic border.
    The most democratic part of our governance is our membership of the EU. It is time we focussed on making the UK as democratic as the EU. Let us have a written constitution, in the way that the EU is based upon treaties between sovereign countries. Let us remove the unelected elements of the parliament. Let us agree how we use refendums as part of our system .

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jun '19 - 10:26am

    Glenn: Please consider the conditions of entry, only democracies can apply for membership and the pressure on Hungary to maintain democracy.
    Turkey has applied in the past. During the British presidency the FCO minister was Jack Straw (Labour). He announced, on camera, that the British Presidency runs on London time and therefore the Turkish negotiators, who were on their way to an airport, had one more hour to meet the deadline.
    Since then there have been political and constitutional changes in Turkey which would necessitate fresh consideration.
    Historically it has been accepted that Turkey is a European country.
    Another condition is the full acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, as amended in 1967. All the countries which joined in 2004 and 2007 have complied legally, but enforcement of there pledges are another matter. Complying with “events in Europe before 1951” is of limited historical interest now. Israel is not a member.
    What the Faragists said in the 2016 referendum was widely accepted, but should not have been. Because of the secret ballot and the brevity of questions on the ballot paper it is difficult to estimate the number of people affected. A confirmatory referendum is needed, Swiss style.

  • Dilettante Eye 26th Jun '19 - 10:30am

    “The most democratic part of our governance is our membership of the EU”

    I’d like to believe that is satire, but I know Tom Harney really believes that.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that there is little point in leavers and remain ers discussing this anymore. We have to accept that there will be no coming together on this matter.
    We are leaving, and remain ers are just going to have to reconcile that fact.

  • Tom Harney
    How does the electorate remove the EU leadership? In what way do voters dictate the course of policy? The EU is a technocracy with a gloss democracy to provide a rubber stamp. As soon as voters try to exert control over any aspect it, its advocates start wailing about illiberal democracy and claim that the project is being undermined by nebulas ill defined populists. Why is it possible to sell and travel all over the world without deep political integration, but some how it vital for European countries to be in a political union even though they share no common language, no common culture, no common health or political system and the populations in all the countries are more knowledgeable about and connected to American pop culture than each others!

  • Responding to Dilettante Eye. No, reasoned argument is not satire.

    There has been a clear illustration of the lack of democracy in this country over the last three years. We elected MPs. The majority in the Commons voted for a Prime Minister. She then acquired the right to negotiate for the EU. This was successful, although many of those who supported her didn’t it seems agree although some of them had been party to the negotiations. What is being put forward as an alternative is in fact the agreement already agreed.
    It would be funny if the situation were not so serious.
    In the meanwhile the members of the elite who wish to take us out of a trading block say it is now undemocratic to let the people have a say.
    As far as the EU being democratic is concerned, just compare it with other organisations we are members of, NATO, perhaps or the United Nations. And changes to the treaties require the U.K. to give approval, although the structure of the EU ensures they are fully involved anyway. Not being a democracy, the U.K. government does not have a process to put it to the people in a referendum.
    I do not believe that we have to just put up with all of this.

  • Peter Martin 26th Jun '19 - 11:19am

    @ Tom Harney,

    The Greeks probably understand better than any of us how EU “democracy” works. Regardless what we thought of the 2015 dispute they had with their German creditors we might have expected that the supposedly democratic European Parliament would have acted as an intermediary. A Democratic system is also one which is governed by the rule of law. Therefore the dispute should have been legally resolved through the European courts under the democratic supervision of the European Parliament.

    It’s not quite what happened. The EU allowed Angela Merkel and the German govt, whose democratic mandate ends at German borders, free rein to speak for the EU in the dispute. They did nothing to prevent the Greek government being hammered into submission.

  • We can probably enjoy a close relationship with the EU if we leave though it will take time. If migration becomes easy both ways, this will lessen the issues for many. If we gain worthwhile trade advantages from no longer being a member, this might make it palatable though this seems unlikely. At the end of the day, our global influence on the world stage will lessen and much depends how much this matters. Perhaps the world needs us to be a member, more than we need to.

  • Responding to Peter Martin.
    I fully understand the argument. If a democratic institution does not agree with what I believe then it is not democratic. I understand it but do not believe it.
    The reasons that I question democracy in the U.K. is not because of the decisions made, but the lack of a clear structure. Examples are the lack of clarity about how and when there are referendums. The lack of clarity about the powers of the House of Commons – as exemplified by the behaviour of the Speaker in his interpretations of rules which are not clearly set out.
    We need to introduce a clarity into the system.
    Then we can lecture others.

  • Peter Martin

    I agree with most of what you say in your first comment; the EU is a curious hybrid. It started as an intergovernmental arrangement, designed to promote trade and integrate national industries with the aim of making a rerun of WW2 impossible. Arguably, that is what it primarily remains.

    Onto this has been grafted the EU Parliament in, IMO, a somewhat Frankenstein manner – that is with poorly-stitched joins between the various bits. The Parliament’s powers have increased over time but many of the joins remain uncomfortably rough.

    From the outset it has necessarily had a central bureaucracy answerable to the member countries and, just like any other bureaucracy, this has a tendency to bloat and get above itself. As always, the cure for this is effective – meaning clear-sighted and purposeful – oversight and control. Either the Council of Ministers or the EU Parliament (ideally both) might provide that – but neither has.

    Among other things, that failure of democratic control allowed the horror show that is the euro to go ahead. Sad to say, the Lib Dem establishment was highly culpable in this, apparently seeing its role as cheerleader for whatever nonsense the Brussels bureaucrats came up with while blanking objections from members and ignoring the powerful message from voters as MEPs dwindled to one (and that by the skin of her teeth). One of Clegg’s first acts as party leader was to rescue the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ (aka Constitution with a quick re-tread) from oblivion (the LDs had enough Westminster MPs to make a critical difference at the time). The other parties weren’t much better.

    So, my first conclusion is that the ‘problem with Europe’ lies primarily in Westminster (and other EU capitals) and not in Brussels. Juncker et al would do as they were told – if they were told.

    Secondly, the euro cannot survive. I don’t know how or when it will fail but when it does it will be such a seismic event that the EU will have to be completely reconfigured (assuming it survives at all) and that gives us the opportunity to come up with a better plan. If that sounds impossibly difficult that’s only because no-one has tried – and that’s a political failure in Europe’s capitals.

  • Glenn (comment 26th @ 8;08am)

    “Personally, I do not see the EU as embodying any kind of freedom. It’s a political club designed to reduce the electorate’s ability to disrupt business with no interest in any kind of popular democratic mandate.”

    The principle architects of Brexit are neoliberals of the hard right, closely identified with industrial and banking practices of the worst kinds and an intense aversion to any sort of regulation that gets in the way of short-term profits whatever bad consequences that might have for workers, the sick, the environment or whatever.

    Take, for example, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that was being negotiated between the EU and US until the newly elected Trump stopped it. Without going into too much detail, the EU should never, IMO, have given this the time of day but to pass it required the agreement of all 28 member countries so how can we blame Brussels? Labour (typically!) wasn’t sure, but Tories and Lib Dems were all for it – at least officially – with yours truly and many other Lib Dems dissenting.

    I was against it for several reasons. For one, because the public and civil society organisations were excluded from the negotiations while industry lobbyists were present and contributing and, for another, because the drafts contained Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses whereby big businesses can sue government if public policies cause any loss of profits.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html

    The leading Brexiteers had no problem with TTIP but it can only be an attempt to make an end run around any sort of democratic accountability. I would bet real money that any ‘Free Trade’ deal with the US post-Brexit will include ISDS clauses – Trump’s objection was only to negotiating with equals that he can’t push around.

    So, how sure are you that Brexiting isn’t just jumping out of the (lukewarm) frying pan into the (raging) fire?

    As for Boris, anyone that thinks he is dedicated to delivering freedom or accountability in any shape or form (other than as rhetorical garnish to his campaign) lives on a different plant than most of us.

  • Gordon 26th Jun ’19 – 5:31pm
    The leading Brexiteers had no problem with TTIP…

    “Bexiteers” weren’t around in 2014, but UKIP were…

    ‘Vince Cable Mocks Ukip’s ‘Weakness’ For Opposing TTIP Trade Deal’ [October 2014]:
    https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/10/02/ttip-vince-cable-ukip_n_5914040.html

    Vince Cable has hit out at UKIP for opposing a controversial EU-US trade deal that the party fears would lead to “widespread privatisation” of the NHS.
    […]
    In response, UKIP’s health spokeswoman Louise Bours MEP told the HuffPostUK: “Mr Cable says it is not about USA interfering with the NHS, but it is interesting that he doesn’t say it couldn’t happen.”

    “We have listened to the trades unions representing health workers, and agree with them that TTIP is a very grave risk to the NHS.”

    “Personally I am more inclined to believe health professionals on this issue than the former Chief Economist of a huge multi-national corporation, who is used to putting profit before health.”

    “We are not anti-free market, but we are anti-NHS privatisation, and TTIP risks widespread privatisation under our very noses. As an independent nation we would be in a much better position to negotiate international trade agreements. Many non-EU countries manage it.”

    “Of course, Vince Cable might not be able to do it, but that says more about him than it does about the UK. It seems ridiculous to say the NHS needs to be included so that health providers can trade with the US, what exactly is he expecting us to export to the biggest private healthcare providers on the globe?”

  • Gordon
    It’s relatively unimportant who the principle callers for Brexit are. The point being that they are accountable to a national electorate which can easily boot them out of office. Where as the EU could sign something like TTIP without anything like the same level of electoral accountability. Also I’m fed up of hearing people talk like Trump will be president for life, when it is entirely possible he will not even be president by the end of next year. Even if he is , he can only do another four year term.
    I think that the the political classes have got so used to acting as technocrats and thinking they are indispensable they have forgotten voters are not just a rubber stamping mechanism, but the driving force of any functioning national democracy who can and will sack representatives they are displeased with via the ballot box.

  • @Glenn
    If it’s so easy to “boot them (the Brexiters) out of office”, they’d have been booted out months if not years ago. As it is, they – not the electorate – get to decide when we have our next GE (and when it happens it will take place with the nice rigged FPTP system which will guarantees many MPs of them a job for life).

  • Tom Harney 26th Jun ’19 – 11:04am
    We elected MPs. The majority in the Commons voted for a Prime Minister. She then acquired the right to negotiate for the EU.

    She was supposed to be negotiating for the UK.

    ‘A German Brexit? A scandal of subversive statecraft’ [March 2019]:
    https://independencedaily.co.uk/a-german-brexit-a-scandal-of-subversive-statecraft/

    If this account of the meeting is true, the Withdrawal Agreement was written within the German administration, and our ministers and MPs are being bullied and cajoled into passing this into law by a Prime Minister who seems far more interested in pleasing Chancellor Merkel than the 17,410,742 voters who delivered their verdict on the EU in June 2016.

  • Jeff – I wholly agree with UKIP’s reservations about TTIP What a shame those reservations didn’t transfer to Tory Brexiteers. Vince Cable has a rose-tinted view of Free Trade in general and the TTIP in particular that I cannot support.

    Glenn – but the EU is accountable to all 28 member states. Any one of them could have called a halt to TTIP or any other initiative. That none of them did speaks to me of a failure primarily located in those member states. As you say, the political classes have got so used to a technocratic view of their role that they have lost touch with the electorates they are supposed to represent.

  • Gordon
    By not being attached to the EU you don’t have to be worried about the other 27 countries. I make no bones about it I do not support the idea of a politically integrated Europe. I’m not a pan-Europeanist at all. I don’t believe in all that shared destiny and history stuff. I see a lot of countries with different languages, histories and cultures that just happen to be on the same continent. To me politically uniting Europe is as flawed a concept as thinking Japan and China should unite or that Mexico, Canada, the Various South American Countries and the USA should form a political Union with a big pointless parliament just because they happen to be geographically close.

  • Peter Martin 27th Jun '19 - 8:46am

    I think we can all agree that the UK system of democracy isn’t what we’d like it to be even though we would all have different opinions on how it should be reformed. It’s easy enough, for both sides, to resort to a “whatabout” argument when comparing the EU with the UK.

    However, it isn’t really about whether the EU or the UK is the least worse. One fundamental point of disagreement between Leavers and Remainers is over the role of the Nation state in the 21st century. Pan Europeanists often argue that international co-operation is required to protect ourselves from the power of the multinationals. An alternative view is that this is what the powerful multinational corporations want us to think. This way they can limit the power of the Nation state, who progressively lose their power as they sign up to to the various European Treaties. Nation States can’t then control their own economies as they used to be able to. Their powers of nationalisation and state intervention become limited by Treaty obligation.

    In other words the Left have been conned! Bill Mitchell and Thomas Fazi make this very argument in their recent book “Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision for Sovereignty in a Post Neoliberal World”

    https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745337326/reclaiming-the-state/

  • Richard Underhill
    Please consider I never said a thing about Turkey. I don’t care about Turkey. It isn’t an issue for me. I’m not interested in who joins the EU. I’m interested in removing Britain from it. What other countries do is up to their electorates.

  • Glenn,

    “By not being attached to the EU you don’t have to be worried about the other 27 countries.”

    But you do. Not in the narrow political sense of course, but simply because living next to an economic superpower means that big parts of the UK economy will inevitably ‘orbit’ theirs as we discover we have to dance to their tune and be rule-takers if we want to trade rather than rule-makers as we often are now.

    We’ve recently seen how this can work with Trump. He threw US weight around and tore up the NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico demanding better terms. And then, unhappy about migrants crossing the Mexican border, he threatened to tear up his own new agreement until he got his way.

    I’m sure the EU27 would be far more subtle and understated than Trump but, outside the EU, there will nothing to stop them dumping their problems on us. Macron is already courting key manufacturers who might be persuaded to move and so boost France’s flagging economy.

    More generally, the EU27 have already made it clear that we will have worse terms of trade than now for manufacturing and essentially no access for the services that comprise 80% of our economy. Crucially, that 80% includes the City whose taxes pay for over 60% of NHS costs so the inevitable downsizing of the City is going to hit government tax revenues hard (an uncomfortable reality that Johnson & Hunt are cheerfully ignoring).

    It’s going to be really tough to make up those lost tax revenues because, IMO, our economy is much weaker than the politicians understand or admit. The UK is a high-cost manufacturing base and will lose vital economies of scale plus UK firms don’t get the financial support their overseas competitors do (nothing to do with the EU – it’s a purely domestic failing) nor does the UK have an adequately-trained workforce (another domestic failing and the reason we’re always being told we simply must import doctors, nurses, plumbers etc).

    So, I think the most likely outcome is that within a year or two we will be on our knees begging for inward investment and which will only come on others’ terms – with sovereignty a distant dream.

  • Gordon
    I note none of them want to be in a political union with eachother to protect NAFTA. I would argue that being part of the EU commits you to being a rule taker by its very nature which is part of the attraction for those who prefer the rule of Pan-European supranational law over British law. I don’t. We will never agree on the alleged merits of the EU. So We’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • Peter Martin 27th Jun '19 - 6:29pm

    @ Gordon,

    “……..no access for the services that comprise 80% of our economy”

    Firstly, we could argue that we need to get this figure, if true, down a bit! But it does include many industries, including finance and business services, consumer-focused industries, such as retail, sport, food and beverage, and entertainment. So what are you suggesting? That our well known singing stars like Adele and Ed Sheeran will have “no access” to the European market? That English Premier league football will be banned from the TV screens of EU countries? There’ll be no more Harry Potter films to be shown there etc etc.

    I suppose the EU could indeed put the shutters up if they were determined enough. If they are going to be that petty and vindictive then all the more reason for us to want to get away.

    “….we discover we have to dance to their tune”

    In 2017, UK exports to the EU were £274 billion (44% of all UK exports). UK imports from the EU were £341 billion (53% of all UK imports). These figures alone should indicate that the EU is not a good market for UK exports. Which is perhaps not surprising considering the EU consists of countries which are either in severe recession of are highly mercantilistic.

    So it looks like we’ve already been ‘dancing to their tune’ for a long time now. Our trade with the ROW is looking more healthier, it is growing as a percentage of total trade and is in slight surplus. Maybe the ROW has slightly better tunes in any case? I used to quite like Ode to Joy but that was before the EU hijacked it!

    More seriously, I do hope and expect that we will negotiate a new trading arrangement with the EU. It was never going to happen as part of the exit talks though. The intention of the EU has simply been to offer us such a bad deal that we’ll remain. Michel Barnier has recently been quoted as saying:

    “I’ll have done my job if, in the end, the deal is so tough on the British that they’d prefer to stay in the EU.”

    Again, if this is the thinking of the EU, all the more reason for wanting out.

  • Thanks for these comments. I may mention that my son, who voted Leave, changed his mind not long afterwards. Whether he will get a chance to express his revised opinion in a new vote, remains to be seen.

  • Peter Martin,

    You’re right that the service sector is too big and diverse to be summarised in any simple way but if you read on a couple of lines it should be clear that I was particularly thinking of the City and you don’t address my substantive point that some – probably substantial – downsizing is inevitable after Brexit with a corresponding loss of tax revenue.

    To be clear: I’m no fan of the City as it now is and believe it needs major changes but in the meantime I can’t see the NHS (or possibly some weighty equivalent) surviving in anything like its present form more than, say, five years after Brexit. Some of those behind Brexit are no fans of the NHS so they may well see a budget crisis as an ‘opportunity’.

    Regarding trade statistics – I learnt years ago that such data must be interpreted with care. There are several issues here.

    Firstly, how much of our exports are from overseas firms that invested here because the UK has been a good base within the EU to supply European markets – and then some third country ones? I don’t have any data on this, but my sense is that it’s significant. Do you really see Nissan et al staying here long after Brexit? If they don’t our third country car exports will soon flag.

    Secondly, many UK manufacturers that buy in components from the EU27 simply may not have alternative UK suppliers available to them so will have to import. In contrast, EU27 manufacturers will have a much larger, deeper supply base to buy from so will more easily exclude UK firms from their supply chain.

    Thirdly, where certification is crucial (particularly aerospace), there will be a strong incentive to keep production of all components within single regulatory jurisdiction. Hence, I would not be at all surprised if Airbus told their UK suppliers that they had, say, five years to relocate of lose the business.

    How trade evolves post-Brexit is speculation at this stage, but I certainly wouldn’t bank on surging exports to third countries to make up for what we propose to walk away from.

    As for Barnier, what would you expect him to say? Brexit will do real harm to the EU27 but he holds all the picture cards so he will naturally use them to minimise that. As anyone would in his shoes.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jun '19 - 6:50am

    @ Gordon,

    You might agree that the UK side of the negotiations was handled badly right from the start. Michel Barnier was quite right to say that the UK side didn’t appear to know what they wanted. So we’ve spent the last three years negotiating a Withdrawal non-Agreement that hardly anyone wants. It can be argued that Mrs May has at least found a way for Leavers and Remainers to agree on something.

    I remember the Tories saying they wanted parallel trade talks to run alongside the WA talks. Wasn’t that in their 2017 manifesto? Donald Tusk ruled that out very early on and as far as I can make out the UK govt rolled over and gave in without protest.

    If parallel trade talks had occurred we’d know much better by now how the Irish border was going to operate and there would have been less problem with getting the WA through Parliament. That, maybe, was what Leavers would want but it isn’t what Remainers want! So it’s perhaps not surprising that we are now where we are.

    It looks like the choice is now to revoke Art 50, and remain, or Leave with no deal. Leaving with no deal isn’t ideal, for many of the reasons you highlight. I would argue that the leaving talks have essentially been sabotaged by remainers. If we count the EU negotiating team as remainers too. It’s game theory in reality. The prisoner’s dilemma. Why settle for a compromise when you think you can win outright?

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