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TCW’s Brexit Watch: Keep up the good work, Mr Frost

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BREXIT Watch moves into June, at the end of which we hope to see the ending of any possibility of the EU extracting yet another vastly expensive extension of the crippling and humiliating WA. David Frost has played a blinder in handling the fast bowling, then gradually asserting the UK’s position and moving on to the attack, exposing the outrageous political demands of the EU for what they are. Barnier has been egged on in his inflexible stance by UK Remainer MPs who wrote to him in support of his gaining an extension, then they introduced a Private Member’s Bill to stop a no-deal Brexit – back to the Hilary Benn Act and its vast cost to the nation. 

I rather hope that Barnier will be reinforced in his dogmatic rigidity which is blocking any reasonable deal, even a basic FTA, and so will inadvertently help the cause of no deal. The advantage of no deal is that it delivers more or less what the EU FTA will, but leaves UK sovereignty intact and gives us freedom to implement our own policies, for example on farming and financial services. In this context the news that Nissan is closing its Barcelona factory and shifting production to Sunderland is astonishingly good, and would be more so should Renault/Nissan move its production from France to Sunderland too. It would demonstrate once and for all how very wrong Greg Clark MP, the former Business Secretary, was with his Remainer-driven and anti-British pessimism regarding British car production post Brexit.

Finally, a WTO ‘no deal’Brexit means the EU loses its £80billion trade surplus in goods, making it inevitable that it will treat the UK better. Financial services likewise will be free and able to deal with the EU states fairly and equitably, avoiding VAT and Tobin taxation, the risk of which I detailed in my last post. 

I confess to being nervous about the ‘news’ that Barnier is considering easing his fisheries demands. He has form on dropping an outrageous demand and then requiring a predatory deal as a payback. 

So we must will the valiant Mr Frost to continue his Bradman-like batting against the unlawful Douglas Jardine bodyline bowling!

Another worry is the news that the Prime Minister plans to go to Brussels and negotiate himself. This is not a good idea.

The last time he got directly involved in negotiations he succeeded in splitting off Northern Ireland from the mainland UK; losing his nerve he agreed to a Versailles-type of annexation of part of the UK. He could do so again: he has a genuine tendency to ‘bottle it’ and reveal himself as a balloon of hot air, easily punctured. This really is a danger, especially given the remainer Tory MPs and ministers urging a deal, however bad – in effect a bridge back to rejoin. However some comfort can be taken from the Cabinet Office’s release of a paper outlining its approach to carrying the agreement in the Irish Protocol. Graham Gudgin of Briefings for Britain, an expert on the Northern Ireland trade question, argues that it delivers on what was widely seen to be the impossible promise of Boris Johnson on unfettered trade from NI to GB. It does set up a border for imports into NI from GB, albeit one with limited checks. The essence of the UK position is: ‘No international Border in the Irish Sea, no new customs infrastructure, no customs declarations on exports from Northern Ireland to GB and no tariffs for imports into NI from GB, except for goods passing through to the Republic of Ireland, and no EU office in Belfast. The document stresses that Northern Ireland remains in the UK customs territory and can benefit from any free-trade agreements that the UK negotiates’.

You can read his full analysis of this ‘truly minimalist approach to the protocol’ here. 

An even more encouraging reading of what might happen under a no deal Brexit was given by Ray Bassett, a former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, who said that Britain may even decide to pull the plug on controversial arrangements for the Irish border enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement, with UK arguing the agreement was based on a free trade deal being struck.’ 

As long as our PM does not blow it and seize defeat from the jaws of victory, egged on by the ‘Remainer’ Whitehall contingent, there is reason for us to hope for a good outcome.

We trust that the quixotic and easily deflatable Mr Johnson will be accompanied at all times by David Frost. To cave in to the EU now would mean at the least a colossal bleeding of funds into the EU rescue packages and bond purchases of a kind only before agreed by nations defeated in war. He must not be allowed to undo all the gains won by Frost.

As to the Cummings affair: the PM’s senior aide is adamant that he wants to stay to get Brexit. We hope he will focus firmly on that and leave the lifting of lockdown to Boris Johnson.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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