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TCW’s Brexit Watch


Michael St George’s selection from the past week’s Brexit-related headlines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

UK bans PPE exports to countries outside the EU, unless on humanitarian grounds  – Telegraph (£)

The ban is, reportedly, solely because of a rule drawn up in Brussels; so, disregarding the fact that the EU is increasingly in no position to control its member states after so many bypassed it in taking anti-Covid-19 action at individual level, it sheds an interesting light on Brussels’s much-trumpeted ‘European values’. It seems that  ‘humanitarian grounds’ are enough to justify an exemption from its ban on PPE exports outside the EU, while Italy’s earlier requests for face masks and medical gear were met with a stony silence. 

Far from being ‘left with no choice’, the UK government could, and should, be ignoring the ban. After all, France and Germany ignore EU rules on state aid with impunity. What sanctions could the EU bring to bear against a UK which did the same? Become intransigent in trade talks? It already is, and always has been. Abandon those talks and end the Brexit transition early? Bring it on.

Inasmuch as it applies to Britain, this particular Brussels ban feels more symbolic than real. Ever since the 2016 EU Referendum, Brussels has tried to limit, if not veto outright, Britain’s ability to strike non-EU trade deals until it was entirely outside the bloc, and this latest development should be seen as a mere continuation of that process.                

Brussels’s ‘Level Playing Field’: A Strategy of Entanglement – Briefings for Britain 

Despite the Remainer claim that conceding an ongoing close alignment with EU regulations is only a reasonable condition for getting a trade deal, this approach has long been regarded as just a backdoor means of keeping Britain entangled in the EU.

Just how un-separated from Brussels control that would leave the UK is revealed in this concise but comprehensive briefing note from the former Head of International Trade Policy at the Department of Trade and Industry. Far from being restricted to trade, it would cover a swathe of policy areas, from employment law, to mandatory pooling of pension funds, to domestic tax rates.

Writing recently for Global Vision, former Vote Leave campaign director Daniel Hodson suggested that such are the repeated failures of understanding on the part of the EU machine and its UK Establishment cheerleaders that just one more Brussels negotiating blunder could see transition end, on schedule, with a clean, WTO-based, Brexit. The briefing note on how enmeshed in Brussels’ red-tape signing up to the so-called ‘level playing field’ would leave us can only heighten the advantages of that WTO clean-break option.           

Firms in EU tax havens cannot be denied Covid bailouts – EU Observer

Considering how vehemently the EU rails against even those so-called ‘tax havens’ – or more accurately, ‘competitively low-taxed international financial centres’ – lying within its own borders, it has so far sadly proved impossible for your humble scribe to stifle a certain degree of schadenfreude on reading this.

At one level, it provides a good example of the perverse contradictions inherent in much of the EU’s attachment to one-size-fits-all regulation: in this case where the free movement of capital comes up against the prohibition (frequently and openly flouted by individual member-states’ national governments) on state aid.

At a second, it shows why Merkel’s latest initiative, for a Financial Transactions (‘Tobin’) Tax as part of a drive for accelerated pan-EU fiscal harmonisation during Germany’s tenure of the rotating EU Council presidency, is almost certainly doomed to fail, even discounting the innate flaws of the tax itself, which Sweden tried, only to abandon it. 

UK-US trade talks begin, as Covid19 casts its shadow – Global Britain

And not before time, either. Given that Frost and Barnier, after recovering from their own initial bouts of Covid-19, were able to resume and continue UK-EU trade talks via video link, it remains something of a mystery why the UK-US negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal were ever curtailed at all. 

The resumption of UK-US trade talks is essential for two principal reasons. First, the US is Britain’s largest trading partner in terms of export sales, despite the disingenuous practice of anti-Brexiteers trying to pretend otherwise by recording the EU as if it were one country by aggregating our exports to its 27 members.

Secondly, for as long as the UK-EU talks last, it is crucial to demonstrate clearly to Brussels that Britain considers itself an independent sovereign nation with the power to conclude trade deals with whomsoever it chooses across the globe, notwithstanding the EU’s attempt to restrict it in doing so until wholly outside its influence.

Northern Ireland tensions threaten to derail long-term EU-UK deal – Financial Times (£)

On the face of it, just why the staunchly pro-EU and anti-Brexit FT should choose now to revive the spectre of Northern Ireland’s status, once Britain has wholly left the EU, potentially wrecking the UK-EU negotiations isn’t immediately apparent. Until, that is, one remembers that the EU last week not only repeated its demand to retain an official post-Brexit presence in the Province, but also launched what was seen in some quarters as an attempted power grab over the Province’s fishing industry. 

The FT appears to assume that the prospect of Britain exiting transition without an agreement is unthinkable. But, as other links cited elsewhere in this article suggest, the likelihood of a satisfactory deal is receding due primarily to Brussels’s inflexibility and intransigence, while the prospect of a clean-break WTO exit from transition is growing.

Note, incidentally, the FT‘s description of Northern Ireland as ‘British-ruled’, as if it were merely the temporarily occupied territory of another country, instead of that part of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sovereign territory which chose to remain so rather than follow the rest of the island of Ireland in seceding from what was formerly the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Is the Continuity-Remainer FT now so anti-Brexit and pro-EU as to embrace irredentist Irish Nationalist Republicanism, even though the Republic’s claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties was dropped as part of the Good Friday Agreement?        

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Michael St George
Michael St George
Michael St George is a freelance writer arguing for minimal-state, low-tax, free-markets minarchist-libertarianism. He tweets as @A_Liberty_Rebel. He is @LibertarianRebelon Parler.

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