BrexitCentral: The WTO option could yet be better value than a costly negotiated Brexit

29 November 2017

From the very beginning of the Brexit negotiations with the EU, the UK Government has placed a millstone around its neck by adopting a flawed measure of success. This has been a monumental mistake. The definition adopted has been the achievement of a free trade arrangement (so called “access” to the Single Market and Customs Union) when the measure of success of Brexit was not this at all.

The only meaningful measure, based on the proposition put forward at the referendum, is that we should take back control of our borders, laws and money – and that we should, if possible, be better off economically out of, than we otherwise would have been in, the EU. This has nothing to do with an FTA and can be achieved entirely independently of a deal. The PM allowed herself to become a hostage of the “nay sayers”, perhaps because her instincts were then those of a Remainer, whatever her view is now.

As a consequence we are seeing the culmination of a negotiating strategy conducted by the Government which seems to have taken an inevitable path, a path defined not just since the Florence speech but in fact from the very formation of the post-referendum administration. Albeit predictable, this course has been so utterly defeatist, bad for Britain and most tragically of all, unnecessary. All that being the case, however foreseeable, it has been difficult to countenance it would actually unfold in the way it has, the constant hope being, in the words of Baldrick of Blackadder, that the Government had a cunning plan.

Unfortunately, if there were a cunning plan it was worthy of Baldrick. After all, who in their right minds would pursue a deal that delays leaving the EU by at least two years (and some in Parliament and beyond would have it forever), have the “triumph” of extracting Britain from any say in EU affairs, take all the rules and pay a huge fee in taxpayers’ money for the privilege? It could only be worse if we then agreed to allow the ECJ to have continuing jurisdiction and restrict our freedoms to act for example in respect of tax, regulation, tariffs, fisheries and CAP reforms. Baldrick would truly have gone forth to gain an inch of territory at enormous loss.

To read John Longworth’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.

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