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A Mother’s Wisdom

PHOTOGRAPHER: GUY MARTIN FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

What happened to the debate about a Deal? In the hive of activity surrounding Prorogation, what a “good” Brexit deal would look like has seemingly been left by the wayside as politicians argue between ‘No Brexit’ and ‘No-Deal Brexit’. 

While much can be said about the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament, his attempts to outwit the Remainer schemes to quisle the electorate have failed. His Constitutional Chicanery has been struct down by the Supreme Court, despite them admitting there is no evidence to rule against the Prime Minister. It is worthwhile to note than seven of the eleven, who have been referred to as “Tony’s Cronies”, in reference to the creation of the court and their appointment, receive over £175,000 tax-free p.a. from the EU. I am full of respect for the British judiciary, but I fear there were some serious conflicts of interest which may have affected their decision, which they ought to have made public. 

Despite the Surrender Act being passed, the government would appear to have found a loophole, and Johnson maintains firmly that we will leave the EU – come what may on the 31st of October. That is still the end-goal so many of us have worked so hard and for so long for. But what happens then? There is still no trade agreement between the UK and the EU. While there is no need for one, it would make post- Brexit life easier to have a deal. A good deal is better than no deal, but, as May said, no deal is better than a bad deal. 

The Liberal Democrats (who appear to be not particularly liberal or democratic) aim to have No Brexit, and many of the electorate (including Brexit Party MEPs who otherwise excellently parody Greta Thunberg) want a No-Deal Brexit for the simple reason that it is what the Brexit saboteurs hate.

There have been many proposals for trade agreements. Few of them are workable, and even fewer can be described as “good deals”. Chequers is such a one-sided disastrous deal, it did not seem to be much of a surprise, although it could legitimately cause much outrage, when it was suggested to have probably been written originally in German and then translated into English. 

Of all the trade agreements proposed, my favourite is ‘Canada+’, as championed by David C. Bannerman, MEP. This involves expanding the trade agreement between Canada and the EU, CETA and using it as the framework to expand and cover anything of considerable importance which remains, such as ensuring seamless business for the City of London. It would also be simple and effective and there is no reason why either the UK or EU would not accept it. 

It would also ameliorate the Project Fear aspects which Project Yellowhammer brought to the attention of the Cabinet, and somehow got mysteriously leaked to the press: It seems that many of our Civil Servants are as Europhilic as Sir Humphrey, but do not have the same devotion to duty, evenhandedness, privacy and reluctance to get into political issues as he did.

I was in a debate about this recently, before HMQ became the centre of a political debate quite unlike any that I can recall when my mother intervened and asked why one could not simply continue with the relationship between the EU and UK as it is now. 

It was an excellent question and I paused to think why not. Why can’t we keep how things are now? Indisputably, it is in the interest of the EU to inflict punishments on us so that other nations don’t try to leave, but it is hardly in our interest to make ourselves worse off (unless you’re Comrade McDonnell). For sure, they won’t like it, but what if we tried it unilaterally, she asked? What mother proposed was to announce that, although we will not place any restrictions, tariffs or quotas on any EU goods or services, we would respond in kind to any EU attempts to do so. 

As a trade agreement, it is, an excellent solution. The UK has both the moral high ground and the upper hand, as any EU tariff would be met with something more punishing to them, due to the size of the trade imbalance. It requires no extensive treaty or urgent renegotiations. The only thing it requires is having the nerve to play what would likely be decried as a PR game. 

But what about the Irish backstop? Here the numbers are reversed. Northern Ireland is economically more reliant on exports to the Republic than vice versa. But there is no reason for the UK to place export restrictions or controls. It would be Ireland who would be placing such restrictions – which it must be stated are not against the Good Friday Agreement by any means. 

The risk to the UK would be about controlling imports into Northern Ireland, but that is not the hyped subject of Project Fear: The UK could decide how it wishes to process customs checks. Perhaps the government would view the risk of contraband being smuggled to be a large one – in which case firm controls could be placed on, or close behind, the border. If Project Fear/Yellowhammer is concerned about lack of medicine, the government could decide to make the border checks swifter. (And how the inefficiencies of the NHS and the intransigence of the EU Commission are somehow the fault of Brexit beggars belief)

Further, while nearly all borders are “hard” (and whoever heard that the word “soft” is a synonym of “no”?) great advances have been made in surveillance. British counter-terrorism is among the best in the world, and we have the dubious distinction of having one of the largest CCTV networks. Therefore, if MI-5 can be confident to nab terrorists from behind computers and cameras when our lives are at stake, it seems incongruous to suggest that HMRC and the Border Force cannot do the same (with adequate investment) with lorries, when the risks are lower.

After the debate, I asked my mother how she could think of such simple ideas which have eluded a great many in the UK and EU governments for over two years. She replied that she was used to dealing with petulant children.

And that’s the beauty of it: It’s simple and workable. And it would (hopefully) force the Remainers to see that any Brexit chaos is entirely due to the EU. It perfectly describes what we, the Global Brexiteers, truly want; We want to trade with Europe, be friends with Europe and work with Europe and the rest of the world.

But we just don’t want to have Europe building a wall on the Ulster-Ireland border. And we don’t want Europe taxing, ruling and legislating over us. And we certainly don’t want them bankrolling our judges. Even if they are Mr Blair’s judges.

What’s not to like? A workable, win-win trade agreement – just like Mother used to make!

(Oh, and for the record, I was never petulant)

About Isaac Anderson

Profile photo of Isaac Anderson
Isaac is a British undergrad studying Political Science and Business on the US-Canadian border. Having been an expat since 2010, he's a globetrotter who enjoys visiting different cultures. Describes himself as a Classical Liberal / Conservative, Messianic, history fan, with a passion for the Commonwealth & Anglosphere. He also probably spends too much time on political issues.

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11 comments

  1. Barnier is on record as saying that Canada+ would be acceptable. He even said he preferred it to Chequers and we know that David Davis was aiming at Canada+. I suspect Chequers happened because the Remainers (May. Hammond, Gauke, Clark, Clarke, Rudd) sensed from the mood in Parliament that they might actually get Art 50 revoked if they polarised the debate into an impossible deal, No Deal or revoke.

    • Profile photo of Isaac Anderson

      Yes indeed, I think that is very true. I’ve heard that all the Brexiteers and the EU both were going for Canada+ until May arrived, created chaos and then the allegation developed that the Brexiteers had no plan for a post-Brexit relationship…

      • The problem was not that *all* the Brexit enthusiasts had no plan. This was only the case for some of them.

        Different factions of those not entirely planless, however, had different plans. These plans tender, moreover, to change from time to time.

  2. Your account of your Mother’s suggestion contains a certain ambiguity. Keeping the relationship between the UK and the EU as it was is would be the maintenance of the UK’s membership. The UK and its citizens would continue to enjoy all the benefits of membership, and its Government would continue to be one of the major players, getting its way more often than not. Then you seem to say that she thinks that the UK should in fact leave the EU, implement (unspecified) trade policies and, should the EU see these as harmful to its Member States and take appropriate measures, initiate and prosecute a tariff war until they surrender.

    This is transparently self-contradictory. It needs revision in order to make sense. Please explain (after you’ve consulted your Mother, of course) what it in fact was that you meant.

    • Profile photo of Isaac Anderson

      My dear Mr Neville,

      I believe you misunderstand my point – this is not a proposal for Brexit, but rather for a Trade Deal. Of course Brexit means leaving the EU, and giving up the benefits of membership. We wouldn’t be a major player, precisely because Brexit means we are leaving the EU in all its forms and trappings. There is no contradiction.

      Yes, I suppose one could say that what this proposes is:
      1. Negotiating in good faith.
      2. If we can’t get anywhere, we say to the EU that – in the interest of the people of the EU – we will not initiate any tariffs or quotas.
      3. If they decide to place tarriffs, which you seem to think synonymous with a “trade war”, we would respond.
      4. We are hardly “initiating a trade war” by responding. Such an argument is equivalent to saying that we “Initiated a War” in the Falklands when the Royal Marines in Government house Returned fire at the invading Argentinians who were machine-gunning them (and the civilians inside).
      5. There is no surrender proposed; we will protect ourselves and our farmers and workers until the Commission realises that free trade is beneficial.

      • Non sequuntur.

        If there is no Brexit, there will be no need to form a trade deal. Conversely, if there *is* Brexit, then ex hypothesi the first dictum that you ascribe to your Mother cannot obtain.

        There is, of course, already prescription for tariffs to be incurred by goods and services from what are called third countries. If the UK leaves the EU, it will become a third country. These are the tariffs that its goods and services will incur.

        As you see, these two positions are incompatible. Back to the drawing board on this one!

      • There is another difficulty with this, namely, the idea that the UK would be in any kind of position to force its will on the 27 Member States.

    • I wonder if a misapprehension may have arisen from the notion of ‘keeping things as they are now’. If this is the case, then the answer is plain: because, quite simply, one *can’t*.

      Think back to your schooldays. Your Classics master will doubtless have drawn your attention to Heraclitus’ maxim that it is impossible to step into the same river twice. Everything is in constant change. Consequently, in order to cope with specific changes, it is often necessary to make changes oneself.

      This has certainly been the case with the development of the European Union. The UK has certainly driven much of its development over the past 40-+ years. (Not all of this has been to the good, one must admit.) Within the context of the EU, the UK has been a key player.

      The moment the UK leaves, it will lose that commanding voice. As the EU continues to develop, the UK will have a choice. If it decides to maintain the set of arrangements in force at the moment of departure, it will soon find itself out of step with the developing EU. If, on the other hand, it opts to keep up with the EU, it will have to accept measures in whose formation it has had no voice.

      Consequently, ‘keeping things as they are now’ is by definition not a viable policy.

  3. My concern with any suggestion of maintaining the current arrangement with the EU is that this arrangement loses us £65b a year so is in and of itself a bad arrangement.
    For the time being post Brexit I would like to see us distance ourselves from the EU and it’s protectionist racketeering. I think it can be safely said that when German car manufacturers, French and Italian wine and cheese producers feel the cold wind of change in their balance sheets some sense might ultimately prevail.

    • It *could* be safely said, were there any foundation for it. However, there isn’t: this is wishful thinking.

      Whoever told you this would profit from following some *reliable* information sources (e.g. The Economist, Financial Times, Der Spiegel, New York Times, Sunday Business Post). The other side of the Channel, Brexit is far from the top concern. Most people are sad at seeing s once-major power rendering itself irrelevant, but are giving their real attention to truly important matters.

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