IT was not the first nor the last of the BBC’s ‘No Deal nightmare’ broadcasts of the weekend, but the Week in Westminster, presented on Saturday by the economist Ann McElvoy, particularly stuck in my craw.
There was after all plenty of time for this ‘considered’ programme to digest Philip Hammond’s dramatic signalling of his determination to stop a No Deal at all costs – even the cost of that ultimate disloyalty and siding with the opposition benches. Tuesday July 2 was his final front-bench outing, a perfect opportunity for another dramatic No Deal fear ramp-up: £90billion he warned it’ll cost. It was also a chance to show how matey he was with his new parliamentary friend Red John McDonnell who, he’d clearly have us know, he rather prefers to Boris.
Now the Week in Westminster is recorded on a Friday, giving the team three days to explore the validity of any argument, its counterpoint and choose those best able to express the contrary view. But they didn’t so choose. The programme opened with a full dramatic repetition of Hammond’s alarms and excursions but no proper analysis of the Treasury forecasts on which they were based followed – though they are known not to include the major short- and long-term gains that a WTO exit offers.
It is not as though the WinW researchers had far to look to find this differing opinion. The Brexit Party MEP and leading economist and trade expert John Longworth has detailed in TCW why such an Armageddon picture is misplaced. They had only to check the Briefings for Brexit website to find that no one has risen to Sir Richard Aikens and others’ counter-challenge (Letters to the Telegraph, June 25) or refute their assertion that there is no impediment to immediate application of Gatt Article 24 after we leave the EU on October 31. A short search of the site would have revealed a detailed rebuttal of Hammond’s latest exercise in fearmongering.
True, they might not have been in time to read Robert Tombs’s magisterial put-down of the former EU Ambassador, Sir Ivan Rogers, and his establishment viewpoint that Hammond shares. It features in the latest Spectator and can be read by subscribers online here. The BBC should buy a copy to keep on record.
Tombs does three things.
First he refutes the ‘fatalism’ about Britain, past and present, that underlines the establishment’s negativity, pointing out that:
Britain been one of the most successful European countries economically since the 1980s;
It remains so, despite the bungling of Brexit;
Our trading relations with the EU have been shifting; that a constantly diminishing proportion of our exports and investments go to the slowly growing EU, and we trade less within the EU than any other large member country;
Our trade deficit with the EU shows that the system works badly for us;
Our trade with the non-EU, mostly on WTO terms, has been rising three times faster.
He concludes this section with:
‘On present trends (even without Brexit) our trade with the EU is heading back to the proportion it was before we joined’ and that whether Sir Ivan likes it or not ‘by the myriad everyday transactions of our economy, we are nevertheless moving away from the EU’.
Second, he challenges Sir Ivan on his briefest of reference to – and his side skating round – ‘the eurozone’s major challenges’ given that:
The eurozone is a dangerous failure, to which no solution has emerged;
Neither of the two choices the EU has for the future work for Britain: the Macron dream of becoming more centralised, taking control of its members’ taxation, finances, defence and welfare systems; or doing nothing and suffering an uncontrolled dilapidation of the whole system.
Tombs writes: ‘It is hard to see why Britain’s destiny must or should consist of being kept as close to the EU as diplomatic ingenuity can contrive.’ Indeed.
Third, he shows up the paradox at the heart of Sir Ivan’s unremittingly negative reasoning. The political helplessness and economic dependence on the EU which will inevitably be the result of an EU inevitably playing ‘hard ball’ are precisely what would be created by May’s ‘deal’, he says, adding: ‘So the dreaded No Deal as imagined by Sir Ivan is no worse than May’s deal, which he approves.’
A discussion such as this you would be lucky to hear on our oh-so-wonderfully ‘opinion polled’ impartial BBC.