Michael St George’s update of the latest Brexit key story headlines.
NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall
Global Vision’s Shanker Singham on how, having originally offered Britain a Canada-style free trade deal with add-ons, the EU has backtracked to the extent of demanding a provision which it doesn’t insist on even in its FTAs with China and the USA: namely a guarantee that whenever the EU changed its laws, the UK would follow suit, in perpetuity. This would in effect subordinate our own trade’s legal architecture to EU state aid rules and European Court of Justice oversight.
Brussels also demands what it calls ‘dynamic regulatory alignment’, meaning in effect that in order to secure a FTA the UK would need to become a rule-taker from Brussels with no say in how those rules were set. Both moves are perfect examples of the intransigence which caused us to vote to leave in the first place. Johnson will need to be watched to ensure there is no backsliding or dilution of our refusal to capitulate to this.
The EU isn’t interested in free trade with the UK, just political domination – Briefings for Britain (formerly Briefings for Brexit)
An argument whose first premise has been amply borne out this week by Brussels’s attempts to move the goalposts, firstly, by trying to hedge a Canada-style deal about with onerous conditions in what looks like a naked attempt to hobble Britain’s ability to compete against an over-regulated, sclerotic EU. Secondly, by Barnier’s ill-tempered refusal of a Canada-style trade deal on transparently spurious grounds of geographical proximity. And thirdly, by even demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece as part of any trade deal.
With the growing presence of nation-state populists in both member-state and European parliaments making Brussels desperate to make life outside the bloc as difficult as possible for Britain, the argument’s second premise is no less valid.
Post‑Brexit funding row breaks out in Brussels – Times (£)
Very much in the forefront of Eurocrats’ minds, in the sense of trying to show the remaining 27 member-states just how difficult they will make life outside the bloc for any other country which decides to emulate Britain and leave, taking its contributions with it. Brexit leaves a €75billion-sized hole in the next seven-year budget.
The implications for member-states’ internal politics are significant. Germany’s extra payments are six times France’s, and Merkel’s CDU is under electoral pressure from the Eurosceptic AfD. France’s low-level gilets jaunes insurrection each weekend shows no sign of abating, and the Marion Maréchal (Le Pen) led Rassemblement National expects to make big gains in this year’s French municipal elections. Just to make life more difficult for Macron, the Dutch, with an economy only one-third the size of France’s, are objecting to paying EU contributions 70 per cent higher than France’s.
To which headline must of course be added the caveat: if he becomes Labour leader. Admittedly, it looks unlikely that he won’t, but Rebecca Long Bailey has the endorsement of Len McCluskey’s Unite union and, as far as I can establish, no candidate has ever won the Labour leadership without that.
In the short term, Starmer as leader will impact more on Labour’s internal politics than on the course of Britain’s exit. Johnson has a compliant Parliamentary party with an unassailable majority, so Starmer won’t be forcing any change of policy. He will however be far more soft-Brexit and even Rejoin-inclined than Corbyn, so could arouse some disquiet among Labour MPs in Brexit-voting seats who narrowly survived December’s massacre and could be the next bricks in Labour’s Red Wall to tumble.
What he will bring to the table, however, is a lawyer’s far greater ability than Corbyn possessed to absorb the fine detail of any agreements, and subject the Prime Minister to forensic questioning. Johnson is a blusterer, not a details man, so he could well under-perform when put under pressure. Coupled with growing resentment about his eco-policies, his popularity could dip. So Starmer could impact internal Tory politics as well.