Brexit: The Summer of Concession

In the land of Brexit some has been lost while much has been gained in this, the summer of concession.

Thus far, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has passed the EU Withdrawal Bill, held a firm but fair meeting at Chequers where she stopped prevaricating and demanded a ‘For’ or ‘Against’ decision from her Cabinet on her Chequers Brexit plan — which resulted in the day-after resignations of two of her most powerful ministers and four others — and she has since met European officials where she received cool support for her super-diplomatic, uber-polite and overly soft Brexit proposal.


How Very British!

In some ways those recently resigned MP’s (who will now sit as Conservative backbenchers) might as well be sitting on the opposition side because they possess deep knowledge of May’s inner circle and have the inside scoop on how Brexit is to proceed.

Yet, it was a polite affair with Boris Johnson making a gentle resignation speech in the House of Commons while still urging the Prime Minister to pursue the kind of Brexit UK citizens want. Boris Johnson never looked so principled or gentlemanly in his life (struggling to sound almost deferential to May) and good on him for doing so. Of course emotions were high, and no doubt, he was extremely disappointed that (in his mind) the Chequers Brexit plan surrendered some amount of UK sovereignty to the EU politburo. Five stars for Boris.

David Davis, who is more of a moderate Brexiteer than Boris, tried hard to contain his deep disappointment and published a polite and informative resignation letter outlining his position. As Brexit Secretary (but Brexit-lite when compared to Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example) it appears he thought he could convince May to move to a slightly more robust Brexit plan only to have his hopes dashed. If she was going to be swayed by anyone it would’ve been him. We understand his disappointment too, but that’s politics. Well done, David Davis!

The problem with forcing Cabinet members to declare support or non-support of her Chequers Brexit plan is that she has lost some of them who now sit as backbenchers and are free to hold the government to account.

Theresa May imagines herself to be an experienced operator but if they choose to make her look bad, they could. Therefore, she should not be looking for a fight with them nor should the Prime Minister default to her previous ‘slapping-down’ behaviors or she will get tossed around in a 30-month-long-storm completely of her own making. (Approx. 9 months to go until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019 plus the 21-month implementation period, equals 30 months of potential hell for Theresa May if she handles her former Cabinet ministers harshly)

Even with all of that said, it’s better to head into the final Brexit stage with a unified team who are fully committed to her overly soft Brexit plan instead of a team that’s pursuing several different Brexit versions at once.

Now that May has asserted herself she seems to be gathering respect from all sides, resignations notwithstanding. Since Chequers, she’s twice the Prime Minister than when she first took the job. Theresa May marque une victoire!


Notes on Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit Plan

  1. The Prime Minister’s plan suggests a ‘common rule book’ with the EU so that trade in goods and agricultural products won’t be impeded by conflicting sets of rules. ‘Red tape is the eternal productivity killer and the less of it the better’ said every business person ever. Of course, adopting EU standards could make it more difficult to export UK goods to non-EU countries with their different standards, or so the argument goes. Yet, every other country seems to master this, so why not Britain?
  2. The Chequers plan suggests a common rule book on state aid for industry, and harmonized environmental and climate-change standards, social policy parity, and protection for employees and consumers.
  3. Formerly one of the PM’s “red lines” was the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which will end after Brexit although UK courts would consider ECJ rulings and/or even consult with the ECJ in certain cases. Which seems a wise idea for any country to consider.
  4. An FCA (a Facilitated Customs Agreement) where the UK and the EU would operate as a combined customs area — which some might call a customs union of sorts — where the UK would collect tariffs on goods shipped from outside the two countries destined for Europe, and presumably the EU would do the same for Britain.
  5. A mobility framework agreement to formally end the free movement of people between the continent and the UK. Unregulated immigration from the EU caused the number of EU nationals in the UK to rise to 3.8 million in only a few years, which was a significant contributor to the Leave victory. The mobility framework would allow freedom of movement for persons — such as students that are actually enrolled in college, for retired persons that can afford to live in the UK, for workers who have a guaranteed job waiting for them in the UK and streamlined entry for tourists from any non-terrorist country. One would hope the EU would reciprocate on all of this.

The problem with the common rule book approach is that MP’s of any party may see it as a ‘BRINO’ (Brexit In Name Only) and consequently lower their level of support for Brexit — at least Theresa May’s version of Brexit. And if BRINO fears take root, Conservative MP’s could decide to vote for a different leader should a leadership contest arise.

Parliamentarians have very long memories… so the caution flag is out for Theresa until the UK crosses the Brexit finish line.


Summary

Although progress on Brexit seems agonizingly slow Theresa May is an accomplished bureaucrat who realizes she can move forward only as fast as the other participants in the race, and if she moves too fast her government may lose support in Parliament, in the public space, and in Brussels (where she has precious little support to begin with and doesn’t want to suddenly find she has even less) and if she moves too slow, even worse may happen to Britain and to her political career.

Therefore, the race she’s really in is an OJ Simpson-style slow vehicle police chase to the official Brexit date with every camera rolling and catching every step and misstep.

Not very exciting to be sure, but if she gets a reasonable Brexit all should be forgiven.

At worst, the next British Prime Minister will have a firm foundation upon which to Build a Better Britain. Let us hope!


  • View or download (PDF) the Chequers cabinet meeting Statement from HM Government here.
  • Iain Mansfield: May’s new plan isn’t perfect, but it’s practicable. However, it can only work if treated as her bottom line. (ConservativeHome.com)

Written by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

Theresa May Spurned in Austria After Making Sweetest Brexit Offer Yet

By now, we all know Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister since July of 2016.

‘Articulate deal-seeker who vocalizes well-written speeches on behalf of the UK and a Prime Minister offering the sweetest divorce deal in history.’

And yet in Austria on Friday among the friendliest of European allies, Theresa May couldn’t buy a friend.

It seems the European Union just doesn’t want a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom. (Which is their right, of course)

We should question the logic of such a stance, however. Surely there must be something to negotiate in the way of a Brexit deal so that politicians on both sides of the English Channel aren’t eaten alive by their own corporations after March 29, 2019 for not paving a way forward for industry.

In the absence of a timely Brexit deal, the day after the official Brexit date is likely to result in very heated exchanges with CEO’s landing in European capitals to vent their fury at their own political class. The UK won’t be exempt from this anger, either.

Perhaps this is one reason why Theresa May has gone far out of her way to offer the EU a sweetheart deal (complete with £40 billion to sweeten the pot and to salve hurt feelings) and trekking all over Europe for the past two years so that powerful corporate CEO’s will appreciate all her hard work in this regard and not take their frustrations out on her.

That’s thinking ahead, Theresa! Because in the event of a no-deal Brexit… it will hit the fan like, well, few times in the postwar era.

As usual, Britain will be on the right side of history. And we’ll all thank Theresa May for her monumental efforts to reach a deal before the cutoff date — even as continental CEO’s are pounding their fists on the desks of EU politicians for not accepting that sweetheart deal.

If so, I hope Theresa May is found having a wonderful luncheon in the White House on March 30, 2019 after formalizing a trend-setting trade deal with President Donald Trump! Because the EU politicians certainly won’t be enjoying their day. To put it mildly.


All is Not Lost

One of the smartest and most experienced politicians on the planet is thinking ahead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a meeting with Theresa May at the beginning of September that could kick-start stalled Brexit negotiations into high gear — which until now have been relegated to the British Prime Minister making polite speeches throughout Europe, receiving polite but tepid applause, and hearing the same message countless times, ‘That’s just not something we can do, Theresa.’

The rest of the Prime Minister’s summer seems to be about walking in the Swiss Alps sprinkled with some minor appearances throughout Europe to promote her super-diplomatic, uber-polite and overly soft Brexit proposal based on the Chequers document, that will no doubt continue to be rebuffed by the EU leaders and negotiators she meets. (A disheartening summer for Ms. May)

By September she may be ready for high level meetings with the continent’s most capable and most experienced politician. Let’s hope for Britain’s sake that Theresa May doesn’t feel too ‘beaten down’ on account of her many discouraging summer meetings, or it’s going to go all the EU’s way.


A Desultory Summer for Theresa May, Then a Restive Conservative Party Caucus, Followed by Meetings With Europe’s Most Experienced Leader

What could possibly go wrong?


Whatever your summer plans: Enjoy the summer!

And do take the time to thank God, your parents, your favorite high school teacher or whomever is important or profound to you, that you aren’t Theresa May forced to shuttle around Europe all summer only to be told, ‘No, no, no, and more no’ at each stop for offering the most generous and overly soft divorce settlement in history — one that is practically dripping with Rote Grütze and honey — without receiving a single encouraging word from her hosts all summer, and then having to return to a fractious party ready to toss her overboard on account of her overly generous Brexit proposals.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.

Written by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from Letter to Britain

Brexit Committee says ‘Not Enough Time to Execute Brexit’ by Target Date

“The Brexit Committee has warned that even under the most optimistic scenario, there may not be enough time to complete all necessary work before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. The Brexit Committee report also calls for an extension to the exit timetable if a deal has not been finalised.”The Express


What *Have* They Been Doing?

Two years on from the June 2016 Brexit referendum and with almost one more year to go before the stated target date of March 29, 2019 and the Brexit Committee says that “even under the most optimistic scenario, there may not be enough time to complete all the necessary work before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.”

That’s the definition of ‘Low Ambition‘ right there.

Whether the fault lies in Brussels or at 10 Downing, or even because of the infighting that happens within the Conservative Party itself, governments need to remember that the people have spoken (and quite apart from that) sentiment continues to grow among the UK voting public for the government to ‘just get on with it’.

Even people who voted Remain now think the best thing for the country is for a quick and streamlined Brexit agreement — one that is fair to citizens and industry on both sides of the English Channel.

If two years and nine months isn’t enough time to get it done, what is?

Do the politicians in London and Brussels think they have carte blanche to spend the rest of the decade and part of the next to arrange a suitable Brexit deal? If so, that’s very telling… and not in a good way.

Citizens on both sides of Brexit need to know and industry needs to know what to expect so they can prepare for life after Brexit. And they needed to know a year ago.


How Hard Can it Be?

Most of the existing EU laws will simply continue unchanged following Brexit, therefore, more will stay the same than will change.


FISHERIES

It was originally thought that the UK would be leaving The Common Fisheries Agreement by March 29, 2019, or at the latest, by July 2019.

Therefore the UK had been negotiating with the EU in good faith so they could make some basic decisions about how to manage UK fisheries after Brexit. Micheal Gove is surely an able enough minister to easily handle it, yet, the EU indicated that the Common Fisheries Agreement will remain in place until 2020 and there will be no negotiation about it. And that was the end of that.

Read this important article about UK fisheries policy between March 29, 2019 and January 1, 2021. Michael Gove shares fishing industry ‘disappointment’

Actually, the EU might’ve done the UK a favour by sidelining fisheries policy until after Brexit. Imagine that!

As off-putting as that sounds, it dramatically lightens the load of UK government negotiators because it’s one less sector that needs to be debated with EU negotiating teams. All of which should have conspired to put both the UK and EU six months *ahead* of schedule on the Brexit negotiation timeline!

So we can’t blame Brexit delays on Micheal Gove, the Common Fisheries agreement, or the EU for delays to that timeline.


DEFENCE

Both the UK and EU will remain members of NATO post-Brexit and as the UK already operates its own defence infrastructure there isn’t much change expected there.

Apart from arranging the return of any non-NATO-dedicated Royal Air Force jets presently in EU countries, or removing Royal Navy ships from EU waters (unless there by invitation of an EU country or while taking part in a NATO exercise) there isn’t much for Gavin Williamson the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom to handle for this part of Brexit. A few phone calls before the Brexit date should cover it.

So we can’t blame the lack of progress on Gavin Williamson or his EU defence counterparts for agreements not reached in time for Brexit.


CUSTOMS and SINGLE MARKET

Thus far, the EU seemed to be in denial that the UK was actually leaving the bloc, so quite logically from their point of view; Why would they want to entertain UK negotiations allowing the UK to leave the customs agreement and the EU’s single market architectures?

But now that the UK Parliament have voted in favour of the EU Withdrawal Bill you’d think the EU would accept the UK is leaving the bloc and that it is time to begin crafting an agreement setting the dates and terms to allow Britain to leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market.

But since the Withdrawal Bill passed last week, some in the EU suddenly began saying that negotiations with the UK can’t continue because the UK’s ruling Conservative party is ‘deeply divided’ and that ‘the EU can’t be certain who it is dealing with’ — yet, the UK government easily passed the EU Withdrawal Bill which it said it would do all along.

Full marks here to Prime Minister Theresa May for shepherding this bill through and making it look easy. Brilliant!

Read this important article about: How MP’s voted on the EU Withdrawal Bill amendments

Until the Withdrawal Bill was signed into law, any Brexit timeline delays were the fault of UK Conservative Party MP’s and the EU bore no particular blame for its lack of enthusiasm regarding the furtherance of Brexit negotiations.

However, now that the bill has been made into law, negotiations must begin in earnest.


FREE TRADE BETWEEN THE UK and THE EU POST-BREXIT

Almost everything that applies to the delays in the customs and single market negotiations (see above) applies here too.

To reiterate: Until the Withdrawal Bill was signed into UK law, delays to the negotiation timeline are to be blamed on the UK side and not on the EU side for the simple reason that until the UK side got serious about Brexit, why would the EU get serious about it?

Fortunately, and better late than never, PM Theresa May got the job done and now things must advance in the interests of industry and citizens on both sides of the Channel.

Not that the UK can suddenly afford to make Brexit ‘the EU’s emergency’ as the UK pursued the Withdrawal Bill in a most leisurely fashion over the past 32 months.

“A lack of planning on your part doesn’t necessarily constitute an emergency on my part.”

Yet because trading arrangements will benefit business on both sides of the Channel things must now move smartly along or delays will hurt business on both sides.

I wouldn’t want to be the German Chancellor or the British Prime Minister (for example) who failed to get a trade agreement ready in time for Brexit, or the leader who failed to make the necessary modifications to their respective departments to allow trade to continue uninterrupted.


IMMIGRATION and FREE MOVEMENT FOLLOWING BREXIT

It looks like this is a non-negotiable for the UK government. Too many British citizens spoke too loudly and too clearly for any UK Prime Minister to dare overrule their wishes.

Each EU citizen wishing to remain in the UK after Brexit will pay a nominal annual fee (about the price of a passport) and will be required to provide an up-to-date address and telephone number for the Home Office. Simple enough.

EU citizens wanting to move to the UK after Brexit will face the same requirements as EU citizens who’ve elected to stay on in Britain.

Non-EU citizens can probably expect about the same, although emigrating to the UK *after* Brexit will be much easier if you’re an EU citizen or Commonwealth citizen.


Now that the EU Withdrawal Bill Has Finally Passed It’s Time to Lift Those Anchors!

For industry, change is always negative but still doable. But late changes are lethal to business on both sides.

And UK leaders and EU27 leaders must remember that!

Industry needs clear and timely regulations (with a long lead time) that must rank higher than the ideological differences between the heads of European states (including the UK) higher than the (occasional) personality conflicts between politicians, and must always rank above the partisan politics within a country.

From the day the Withdrawal Bill was finally signed into law, every day must now count, be counted, and be accountable — or the UK and the EU27 will be racing with ‘their anchors still in the water’ against every other ‘ship of state’ in the world.

And that’s not how you win races, whether nautical or economic.

Written by John Brian Shannon

Streamlining Towards Brexit

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain

Time is running down on the Brexit clock (395 days and counting!) and the default path seems the only way that will allow a smooth and orderly Brexit in any sort of timeframe that could be construed as reasonable to British voters. (See how many more days until Brexit here)

If the UK government chooses to simply photocopy existing EU trade regulations and then change those laws incrementally over a period of years, the UK should rightly expect to be invited by the European Union to continue their mutually beneficial trade relationship.

After all, how could the EU possibly be upset that the UK will voluntarily continue to follow European Union trade regulations in the pre-Brexit period?

However, this implies that until Brexit actually occurs, the UK will be obligated to consult with the EU on every incremental change made on those photocopied laws and regulations from now until the UK officially leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019. It’s not about polite diplomatic behavior, it’s about pragmatic self-interest.

The UK must begin today to re-prove that it intends — in all cases — to be a fair and reliable trading partner with the EU, and other countries are sure to be watching as this process unfolds. No amount of effort can be spared in this regard, because as so goes the UK trading relationship with the EU, so it will go between Britain and every other country in the world, after Brexit.


Trade After Brexit

Once March 29, 2019 has passed and the UK has officially left the European Union there will be no longer be any requirement for lengthy consultations with the EU on changes to British trade laws or regulations far in advance of them coming into effect.

That doesn’t mean that the UK shouldn’t continue to consult with the EU, it means that it doesn’t need to consult with the EU during the entire policy formation period. But once UK policy has been decided, the EU should continue to be the first to know about pending changes due to the bloc’s importance to the British economy.

As above, no effort should be spared in showing the EU every possible courtesy on even the most incremental of trade policy adjustments under consideration in the pre-Brexit timeframe.

And in the post-Brexit timeframe, a high level of communication and consultation must continue to define the relationship between the two sides.


Customs Law After Brexit

Unlike trade, the present customs union will end the day after Brexit which will be a very positive thing for the UK. After Brexit, the UK alone will be fully in charge of who can and can’t enter the country, and it should mount a Herculean effort now to identify and locate every single foreigner in the country, matching them to their home and workplace (or school) address.

Every non-British born resident in the country should be required to pay 100 pounds sterling per year, and also be required to provide their updated home and work/school address as often as it changes, no matter which country they originally hailed from. It’s the 21st century(!) all of this can be done on a UK.gov webform in less than 10 minutes per year.

Especially for those foreigners living in the United Kingdom anytime prior to Brexit day, the UK government should make the entire process as streamlined as possible.


Commonwealth Nations in the post-Brexit Timeframe

As the UK returns to its Commonwealth roots, immigration to the UK should thenceforth be sourced from Commonwealth nations.

Of course, there will always be a number of immigrants from the EU, America, and other countries. But as much as possible, the focus should be on the ‘all for one and one for all’ approach of Commonwealth nations — and one great way to keep that viable is by sourcing 2/3rds of the UK’s immigration requirements from the Commonwealth.


In addition, the UK should continue to spend .7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid — but spend it in Commonwealth nations exclusively.

This means that the British government must find other nations to take over its existing foreign aid commitments in non-Commonwealth nations so that Britain can concentrate on building a better Commonwealth.

Done right, every pound sterling spent in Commonwealth foreign aid should return a minimum of two pounds sterling to the UK, as a rising tide in a finite environment like the Commonwealth will lift all boats, which is quite unlike spending that same amount of foreign aid in the wider world.

One example of how Britain could benefit in the post-Brexit timeframe with a policy that favours Commonwealth nations is that UK universities, colleges and trade schools should see a vast increase in enrollment from the 2 billion citizens of Commonwealth nations.


Time is Tight

Although Brexit once seemed far-off, time is getting a little tight. Much needs to be accomplished in the remaining 395 days until Brexit.

The best way to do that is to harmonize UK trade law with EU trade law and then make incremental changes over time. That’s how not to lose.

How to win is to engage with Commonwealth nations as never before in ways that work to benefit both the United Kingdom and every Commonwealth member nation.

Keeping our EU friendships healthy on the one hand while updating our Commonwealth friendships for the 21st century on the other hand, is irrevocably in Britain’s best interests, thereby creating a new paradigm that will allow the UK to work to its strengths over the next 100 years.

‘No-Deal’ Brexit scenario would cost both UK and EU billions

Reposted from Letter to Britain | by John Brian Shannon

A new report by a prestigious polling firm says that a so-called ‘No-Deal’ WTO-style Brexit will cost one EU country €5.5 billion over the next two years, as opposed to a Brexit with a trade agreement where losses for that country would likely total €1.5 billion over the next two years.

That country is the Republic of Ireland.

“A hard Brexit could cost the Irish economy more than €5.5 billion over the next two years, a government-commissioned report has said.

A “soft” Brexit including a transition arrangement would cost less than €1.5 billion over the period, highlighting the importance to Ireland of the UK’s withdrawal talks with the EU.

The study by Copenhagen Economics, which examined four possible scenarios, also warns that the UK will probably take at least five years to implement new trade agreements, complicating Irish efforts at contingency planning.

[Ireland’s ‘Taoiseach’ which is the official title of the Irish Prime Minister] Leo Varadkar said last night that a comprehensive free-trade deal with the UK would be the best way to avoid a hard border. After a meeting with Theresa May, the UK prime minister, he said: “We both prefer [the option] by which we can avoid a hard border in Ireland, and that is through a comprehensive free trade and customs arrangement.

“That is the best way we can avoid any new barriers — north and south, and also east and west.”” — The Times


Other EU Nations Take a Hit in the ‘No-Deal’ Scenario

We can extrapolate that other EU countries would also take an economic hit in a ‘No-Deal’ scenario, but due to their much larger economies when compared to Ireland, such losses would amount to tens or even hundreds of billions over the same two-year period. Just think of all those German cars that wouldn’t be sold in the UK due to the higher tariffs that would automatically be imposed on EU countries in a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit!

Almost every country in the world uses WTO rules as the foundation of their trading relationship with other countries (but important to note) those same countries also diligently pursue bilateral trade deals with their important trading partners that allow both sides to legally sidestep the more costly WTO tariff ruleset in favour of something that works better for both partners. (And that trading relationship/tariff structure can be anything the two sides want in regards to any trade that happens between them)

So if country A and country B decide they want to trade, they’re completely free to build a better tariff structure than the comparatively expensive WTO ruleset, and that agreement will thenceforth supercede the WTO tariff structure. However, it only applies on trade between those two countries — the rest of their trade with the world would still be conducted under the auspices of the WTO.


It’s a pretty basic thing. Countries that do anything more than a smattering of trade between them negotiate bilateral free trade agreements to bypass the more onerous WTO trade rules and tariff regime.


Still Time to Negotiate a Trade Deal with the EU

How many days until Brexit?
How many days until Brexit? Image courtesy of HowManyDaysStill.com

As of this writing there are 409 days remaining until Brexit and either we will have a trade agreement with the EU, or we won’t. If not, it will be costly for both sides, but more costly for the EU by one order of magnitude!

However, saying that there are 409 days remaining ’til Brexit — isn’t the same as saying there are 409 days left to negotiate a free trade agreement. Far from it!

The two sides have 258 days to arrange a free trade agreement. Let’s hope our politicians (and theirs) are up to the job (and if not, why are we paying them?) otherwise almost everything that citizens and businesses purchase will become much more expensive on both sides of the English Channel in the post-Brexit timeframe.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said repeatedly that October 29, 2018 is the latest both sides can agree a trade and customs deal before they must begin to get ready to implement WTO trade rules. And on that point both sides agree. In fact, even a preparation time of five months (during the period from October 29, 2018 to March 29, 2019) would barely suffice to put in place the necessary measures and standards to allow industry to prepare for life after Brexit.

Both UK and EU voters should remember who did, and who didn’t, get a free trade agreement signed when they head to the polling booth at the next election.


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