Threat of EU crash out is merely delayed, not removed

by David Hannay | 13.11.2019

No one, and no political party, doubts that the December election will have decisive implications for Brexit. That indeed is the thrust of the speech being made today by Boris Johnson.

In that case, why is it that so many of the contributions on the subject in the first week of campaigning have been so trite, so misleading and even downright untrue?

Take, for example, the interview given by Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the BBC’s economics editor on November 11. Javid told Faisal Islam that ratifying the Johnson deal would end the risk of a no-deal Brexit. That is simply not true. It merely delays the evil day.

Both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have ruled out any possibility of extending the transitional period beyond the end of 2020. Yet no one with any knowledge of EU and other trade talks believes that the sort of future partnership deal sketched out in the Political Declaration, which goes far beyond matters of trade policy, can be negotiated and ratified in the eleven months between the end of January and the end of December 2020. So the risk of a no-deal Brexit is merely postponed until the end of 2020, not ended. 

That is certainly the view of David Gauke, former justice secretary, and he was sitting at the cabinet table until four months ago. Now he is running to be elected as an independent, against the Conservative party which expelled him for voting to block a no-deal Brexit.

Back in his BBC interview, Javid does admit that there will be “some changes” to customs procedures for British businesses trading with the EU as a result of any trade deal. He could have added there would inevitably be new rules and red tape for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of the new checks down the Irish Sea. Yet Johnson himself seems unclear about having accepted that in the deal he struck in October.

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There is no hope of the frictionless trade we currently have with the EU, thanks to the single market; no mention of the position of services, which make up four-fifths of our economy; and no clear picture for Britain’s businesses of the likely cost to them and to the wider economy of these changes. 

Why not? Because Javid refused to allow the Treasury to produce an impact assessment of Johnson’s deal when it was struck in October and before it was put to Parliament.

Is there any silver lining? Javid did give a rub or two to the jewel in the crown of Brexiter rhetoric – the prospect of free trade agreements around the world. But all the economic analyses carried out have made it clear that such agreements take a long time to negotiate and cannot possibly compensate fully for the loss of our frictionless trade with the EU, which accounts for 45 per cent of our global business. The biggest prize, an agreement with the US, does not look particularly promising. That is not just because of the terms the US would be likely to demand for access to agricultural and other exports. It is also because the greatest Brexit champion in the US, Donald Trump, recently cast doubt on whether any agreement at all could be reached if the UK went ahead with its current deal with the EU.

There really does need to be a lot more plain speaking and honest analysis about Johnson’s deal, which the electorate is, in effect, being asked to endorse in the election. Not least, every aspect of it needs to be compared with the deal we already have as a member of the EU.

Edited by Quentin Peel

2 Responses to “Threat of EU crash out is merely delayed, not removed”

  • Trite is hardly the word for Javid’s behaviour. From recycling the lie that Labour was to blame for the global financial crisis, to blanking the fact that all the ills the Tories apparently will cure will start be put right as soon as Brexit is cooked – despite ten years of not curing them – the man has shown himself to be Johnson’s ultimate lickspittle.

  • Plain speaking, honest analysis. That is impossible to ask from present day Tories. Anyone knows that, so why even mention it?