Expert View

Redwood gets trade facts wrong. No deal is not ‘just fine’

by David Hannay | 05.01.2019

David Hannay is a member of the House of Lords and former UK ambassador to the EU and UN.

The Brexiters’ line in the 2016 referendum campaign was full of misleading arguments about how great it would be to leave the EU. Two and a half years later, the same Brexiters are still at it.

One of their favourite topics over which to sow disinformation is the deeply complex issue of world trade. Just look at John Redwood’s interview on the BBC Today programme this morning (listen from 40 mins), in which he was pushing the case that crashing out with a no-deal Brexit and trading on WTO rules “will work just fine”.

Below are corrections to two of Redwood’s errors of fact.


“The WTO… is the system we use for our trade with the rest of the world… a majority of our trade”

This is simply wrong, since it ignores the fact we use the EU’s preferential deals to trade with over 60 other countries – soon to include Japan. When these preferential deals are included, that boosts the 44% figure for our trade with the EU alone to roughly 60% of our trade that is with the both EU and its trading partners. The UK will no longer benefit from these agreements if we crash out with no deal.

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  1. “EU tariffs are far too high and rather penal, and we should lower our tariffs”
  2. “I want us to grow more of our own food, and if we had the right tariff structure we would be able to do that.”

Redwood suggested we might lower our tariffs unilaterally. He ignored the WTO’s “most favoured nation” rule which requires us to treat all WTO members (including 136 non-EU countries) the same unless we have a free trade or customs union arrangements with them. I have explained this in more detail for InFacts here.

That would be disastrous for our farmers, suddenly forced to compete with cheap imports from across the globe. And it certainly wouldn’t lead to growing more of our own food. In classic Brexiter fashion, Redwood is selling several incompatible versions of Brexit.

As the prospect of a new referendum on our EU membership grows, we can expect this campaign of misinformation to step up a gear. Media outlets such as the BBC should be prepared for this too. They have a public duty to ensure Brexiters like Redwood aren’t allowed to once again hoodwink voters into believing Brexit is a painless process which will benefit their lives.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

13 Responses to “Redwood gets trade facts wrong. No deal is not ‘just fine’”

  • Is ‘Sir’ whatsit Redwood just plain crass and ill-informed, or in criminal bad faith by pushing the less well-informed UK citizens into an irreversible disaster, except for those who – like Redwood – have their interests outside the UK?

  • To be fair to the BBC and the Today programme, Redwood’s ill-informed (oy maybe deliberately misleading) comments this morning were followed by a lengthy interview with the ever sensible and clear-thinking Ken Clarke which politely and unconfrontationally demolished his fellow Tory. I do feel that Infacts too often unfairly belabours the BBC, and especially Today, for perceived pro-Brexit bias when in fact its interviewers are simply playing devil’s advocate, a normal journalistic tactic. By and large, and across all platforms and programmes, for me Auntie is doing a great job in showing just how cretinous much of the Brexiteer argument is.

  • Look at JR’s website, David. There are people on there complaining their dividends have gone down and asking him what they should do. I left an inquiry asking him what he had done to get his ‘knighthood’ and the ‘moderatiors’ removed it . Any teacher working against the odds to help kids in an inner city state school is more worthy of a gong than this individual.

  • People like Redwood and his ilk only have a chance of success when the populace they mesmerize with fairytales is unable or unwilling to educate themselves sufficiently to see through the lies dished up to make them do particular things or fall for ideologies or religions. I gave up on the UK, but are happy to see the fight back against similar developments in the US. The UK will simply have to crash first before brains are started up again.

  • John Humphrys was at it again this morning. John Redwood was allowed to make all his crass remarks without interruption or correction, whereas Ken Clarke was constantly interrupted. For example, as soon as he mentioned Euratom, he was interrupted and prevented from completing his comment. (I presume he was about to say that Euratom is something the referendum did not address at all as it is not an EU institution, and Mrs May had no popular mandate for exiting from it.) Ken Clarke, being who he is, got a good many points over even so, but he had to battle to do it. The BBC really cannot assert it is keeping the balance when Humphrys consistently behaves like this.

    Swift and excellent response.
    He’s driven, dishonest and desperate.
    Remember the bus. We must establish clear lines of engagement with the media where charlatanism will be challenged.

  • Yes, I agree with this. Humphrys likes to listen, but mostly to his own voice. I find him very overrated….it is his stamina not technique that is admirable.

  • Even Patrick Minford, leader of Economists for Brexit, agrees that reduced tariffs ‘will eliminate UK most agriculture and manufacturing’. He thinks this is a price worth paying, though whether workers and companies in those industries agree is another matter. Redwood hides all this, either through ignorance or dishonesty.

    The other thing is: how much will we save on EU tariffs when we have to pay for imports with devalued currency? Anyone who buys food will be aware that many prices have already increased. GBP is already 15% down since the referendum. After Brexit it will almost certainly further, conceivably at least as much again. Maximum EU tariffs are 20%. More expensive transport, delays and less efficient import costs will be passed on to the consumer too. There is no way this will work out to mean lower prices.

    Most Remainers would have resigned themselves to Brexit had there been any sort of competent, rational plan. After 40 years to think about strategy, there is still nothing except hot air. I hope the Brexit liars recognise that this is all going to blow back on them with extreme prejudice. 3 days of empty supermarket shelves will be all it takes to see what Brexit has really ‘won’.

  • Absolutely right. Humphrys is a total disgrace to the BBC. I only heard his interview with Ken Clarke this morning, and was appalled as he tried to speak over what Ken Clarke was saying. Fortunately, Ken is well able to look after himself and managed to overcome him with the persistance of his message.

    But It is time that the BBC hauled in Humphrys who continues to propogate a hard Brexit line in all his interviews. Not the smallest attempt at balance.

  • They have descended to easily disproven lies ! IDS was peddling the same line today ! ” Most world trade is under WTO rules. We trade with the USA under WTO rules “. This is a LIE ! Not a single nation in the world trades under basic WTO rules because they’re brutal. Every one is in some trade deal or other to escape WTO rules. We trade with the USA under a plethora of trade arrangements negotiated by the EU !
    They are LYING !

  • I attended a talk given by Humphrys last year. Confirmed he was just out of touch. The BBC need to pension him off. JR needs to be taken to task. The honours system is so discredited it ought to be scrapped with immediate effect. JR and his ilk will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

  • John Redwood discredited himself some time ago advising investors to put money into other economies as he believed Brexit will be a ‘Car Crash’. He and many other hard Brexit advcotes seem to be channelling Patrick Minford. Maybe the BBC could do a documentary to allow him to air his opinions? With questions from experts , not Mr Humpheys of course. I simply cannot listen to the bigot. I usually don’t bother with BBC news at all at the moment, but was apalled at lunchtime today when Anna Soubry was being interviewed against a cries of ‘Nazi’ and ‘Liar’ in the background. Why couldn’t they have relocated the interview under the circumstances? Brexit supporting MPS and Aaron Banks have the comfort of a BBC studio, but someone who says that people should be allowed to think again is Nazi? The BBC is seriously failing us.

  • John Redwood gives every impression of being one of those ideologically driven MPs who want Brexit whatever the cost. Wasn’t his advice to foreign investors that they withdraw funds from the UK and invest in the Eurozone economies? The perfect proof that he is not concerned about the economic impact of Brexit.