Weekly news roundup – weak May blown aside by phony forecasts

his week started as usual: early promise quickly dampened by events on both sides of the Channel, which then served to fuel the week’s news cycle.

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Theresa May’s special Brexit Cabinet committee met on Monday, but pro-independence ministers were soon disappointed by the omission of the Irish question from the agenda, the only topic they had been looking forward to grappling with. They left the meeting no clearer as to what kind of Brexit we’re heading for. Later in the week the Prime Minister repeatedly stated she has been very clear on what kind of Brexit she wants as it was reported plans are afoot to remain in the protectionist customs union, which she then denied.

Due to its uneventfulness, the inner Cabinet’s meeting quickly dropped off the radar. The EU happily ushering it off stage with its outrageous terms for the wretched transition deal. The coup de grace, occurring on the same day, was the leaking of a highly dubious economic study estimating unspeakable doom for British bank accounts.

The leak came courtesy of BuzzFeed, revealing government experts had estimated an 8% hit to economic growth over 15 years in the event of a resort to WTO rules. An off the shelf trade deal – i.e. not including provisions for services – would pinch growth by 5%, while staying in the single market would have a 2% negative effect.

In a follow-up article it was claimed that a marginally controlled immigration policy would cancel out the economic benefits of a US trade deal, which the same study believes will only add 0.2% to the British economy.

The Sun and the Times later reported Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood fast-tracked the dodgy dossier to the top after discovering its anti-Brexit content. He then flashed it to Buzzfeed before David Davis had even heard of it.

Labour predictably demanded to see the study; the Government immediately gave in. The misleading numbers will be out in the public domain in no time. Before Labour get too hasty, they should first consider that the government is notoriously bad at forecasts, and even worse at doctored ones. Secondly, that an estimated 0.5% drag on growth per year in the event of a no-deal is in fact an advertisement for independence – forecasts for 2017 were recently revised upwards by 0.3%, and no-one batted an eyelid. Thirdly, MPs have a duty to help implement the people’s will. Using fake forecasts to deny it is plain wrong.

As expected, the EU’s transition terms call for the status quo in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s exit from the EU, running all the way to December 2020. The stated purpose of the transition is to avoid a cliff edge for British businesses – instead the cliff is being moved further into the distance creating more of the uncertainty Remainers love to complain about, not less.

Britain will continue to be subject to EU laws new and old, the EU judiciary, budget payments, and free movement. The EU27 even had the temerity push the cut-off date for permanent residency applications by EU citizens from March 2019 to the end of the decade. Both sides had agreed in the withdrawal deal that any EU citizens arriving from April 2019 onward would not be guaranteed the permanent right to remain. Read Leave.EU full analysis here.

Mrs May reacted, not with the fire and fury the EU’s actions merited, and not quickly either. She responded a whole three days later. The British people “did not vote for nothing to change when we come out of the EU” she told reporters at her trade mission in Beijing. But anyone wishing to give the PM the benefit of the doubt will have been sorely disappointed.

“This is a matter for negotiation for the implementation period,” she added. The message is loud and clear, the EU’s tortuous terms are as good as agreed.

Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister did not get through this difficult week unscathed. The temperature was already high following last week’s rumour that the Conservatives’ 1922 committee was one dissenting letter away from holding a no-confidence vote. Robert Halfon MP then unfavourably compared May to a tortoise before his Tory colleague Marcus Fysh called for a purge of not just she, but all Remainers from the Cabinet. Most strikingly of all, the Spectator’s front page piece this week calls for Mrs May to “lead or go”. Hard to argue with that.

Indeed, not many do. A survey by Conservative Home discovered the three most popular candidates for Theresa May’s job are all Brexiteers. It is clearer now than ever before that a true patriot needs to be at the helm.

In other news, the EU Withdrawal Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords, but not without typically heated exchanges. Top marks go to Viscount Ridley for describing the chamber as, “a gilded, crimson echo chamber of Remain, a hold-out for the Euro-king across the water.”

Jean-Claude Juncker admitted Phase II of the Brexit talks would be more challenging, “because the economic industries, the multinationals, will try to convince their respective governments to say yes to this or that British proposal.”

The FT reports Brussels is wary that Britain is too dominant and close a trading partner to be treated like any other and is looking to hold onto a range of “controls”, fines and restrictions to stop Britain from cutting regulations and taxes once it is finally emancipated from the meddlesome bloc. The EU will have to get these penalties into whatever new treaty arrangement is agreed with the UK. Under WTO rules it cannot unilaterally seek to punish another member at every turn. Watch this space.

In economic news: Booming consumer confidence has snapped the British economy out of winter slumber as a survey by Lloyds finds optimism at a nine-month high. Bucking another trend for this time of year is Brexiteer publican Tim Martin, founder of JD Wetherspoons where it has been far from a dry January. British services exports are up a staggering 15.8%, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox reveals Britain is the place to be for international tech while the CEO of one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders eats humble pie over his Brexit doom predictions.

Kind regards,
The Leave.EU Team