Brexit – yet another letter to my MP…

Yet another Brexit letter to my MP – an ERG member…  He has referred me to DExEU for a “fuller answer”.  Despite being unable to answer my questions himself, he continues to push for a “hard Brexit”.  His support for Brexit went against the wishes of his constituency in 2016 and is even more virulently against them now.

Ireland border – Thank you for your reassurances re: maintaining the integrity of the GFA.  Some Brexit supporters seem to be claiming this is a “red herring” issue and that we can both strengthen our borders with the EU and not have a border between Ireland / NI at the same time.  I’m glad you take a different view and see this issue as important.  There is, of course, some uncertainty about how negotiations will progress.  In my view, the only realistic way to avoid a border will be to stay in the single market and customs union.  The Chequers proposal seems to be moving in that direction – but will need to go much further.  I’d prefer a softer Brexit to a harder one – but I’m against a soft Brexit too, in that, although having a lesser impact on the UK, it would leave us with much less influence in the EU and the wider world.  The customs partnership / max fac suggestions made to date rely on technology that does not yet exist (a decade to implement + billions of taxpayer money?) and add phenomenal levels of red tape, friction and cost to trading with our largest and closest partners.

Gibraltar – Thank you again for your reassurances and your aspirations for a good resolution.  Unfortunately, this seems to be another instance where Brexit supporters want to have a harder EU border, but not between the EU and Gibraltar.  Only the softest of Brexits (what would be the point?) or remaining in the EU will resolve this issue without damaging Gibraltar.

Citizens’ Rights – Progress has been made on this issue, but considerable uncertainty still hangs over the millions of UK citizens in non-UK EU countries and non-UK EU country citizens here.  The settled status process has no value and causes uncertainty to many – including my French mother in law who has lived here since the ‘70s.  Other issues, including the ability of UK citizens to move between and work across EU countries – remain open.  We are already seeing the impact of the UK’s post-Brexit attitude in our struggles to staff the NHS and other industries that have relied on great people from across the EU as employees, innovators and leaders.

Customs arrangements + trade – leaving the SM and CU will require a border in Ireland per above.  No realistic alternative has been put forward.  The customs partnership / max fac suggestions made to date rely on technology that does not yet exist (a decade to implement + billions of taxpayer money?) and add phenomenal levels of red tape, friction and cost to trading with our largest and closest partners.  The purpose of all that, as I understand it, is to enable us to grow non-EU trade faster than we could staying in the EU.  No analysis I have seen suggests it’s worth it.

More broadly re: trade, I am interested in why you think the incremental deals we can’t now do from within the EU will more than offset the degrading of our relationship with the EU and the 3rd party EU deals we make use of (65% of current trade).  I just don’t see how they can compensate – so would be interested in any analysis you have seen to support your view.  The government’s own analysis does show a small incremental benefit from non-EU / EU trade deal partners – but that is swamped by the damage caused through deliberately adding friction to our EU / EU trade deal flows.  This is already starting to translate into impact on growth and jobs (Airbus, BWM, Unipart, CBI, TUC…) – and will subsequently hit tax revenues, our ability to fund the NHS, deal with homelessness etc.

I would also be interested in how long you think the process of negotiating / re-negotiating will take, given individual trade deals can take from 2-10+ years and given our very small expert capacity in trade. My view is that it would take decades even to replace what we have now (EU + EU deals) – and those deals are likely to be on worse terms given we’re much smaller than the EU.

I did find your article in Politics First interesting re: Israel as I think it is more generally instructive.  My interpretation of your article is:

  • We’re already growing our trade with Israel rapidly from within the EU – it is not a significant constraint (as Germany shows with China etc.) 
  • The EU already has a trade deal with Israel that we’re taking advantage of
  • Once outside the EU we’ll have to re-negotiate a new deal with Israel or hope they agree to copy the EU one across
  • There’s a risk Israel negotiates tougher terms given the UK is approximately 1/10th of the population of the EU – so a much smaller market
  • Part of the attraction for Israeli firms is the UKs close alignment with the EU – which we are now jeopardising (“Those Israeli and international companies attracted by the UK seek continued smooth access to the EU market for goods and services as well as a solution that allows for continued regulatory alignment with the EU in a Brexit deal.” – BICOM ).

I do appreciate that you have been a lifelong EU sceptic and that you would like the UK to operate more independently re: borders, laws, migration.  However, in this global world, our success depends substantially on our ability to trade effectively.  Whoever we trade with will require us to agree common regulations and standards and some freedom of movement – whether that’s the US / India or Israel.  If we do want to be truly independent – we need to accept a major economic hit.  If we want to continue to benefit from trade – we’ll have to agree which trading partners are most important and who we are willing to align with re: regs / standards / movement – we can’t be completely independent – we have to pool our sovereignty with someone.  It’s not a coherent position to claim, as some do, that we can be completely independent yet a success on the global trading stage – particularly given our relative size vs. US, India, China and the EU.

In that context, my view is that we should remain in the EU, our largest and closest trading partner.  We should continue to benefit from the deals EU has struck around the world (including Israel / Canada) and push for more.  We should use the ability we already have within the EU to manage our migration as we see fit.  We should invest to fix our productivity challenge and be more assertive re: non-EU global trade, as Germany and the Netherlands have done successfully from within the EU.  We should also work to improve the EU’s democratic structures – building more direct connections with our people and improving transparency, accountability and control.

Democracy – Most leave supporters I speak to now acknowledge that Brexit will damage the UK in some way.  Those that still support leaving do so either because a) it’s worth the pain to take back control or because b) it’s the will of the people to leave so we have to.  On the latter point, despite the illegality / Russian interference / Cambridge Analytica + Facebook / funding questions re: Banks + Farage + Vote.Leave + Leave.EU – I’m not yet questioning the validity of the 2016 result – the UK voted to leave.  However, the referendum was sold a vague Brexit that would be fast, easy, have no downsides and only benefits.  It’s becoming clear to all that that Brexit just does not exist.  Public opinion is already shifting as we learn more (~6% more now think Brexit wrong than right).  Once we have a specific Brexit deal on the table we should give the people a chance to express their views again via a PeoplesVote.  If people accept the deal – we leave on that deal.  If not, we should remain in the EU and help improve it.  I am yet to hear a convincing argument why we should freeze democracy as of 2016 given, even 2 years later, we still don’t have a specific Brexit deal to evaluate.  I would appreciate your views on this front too.


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