Weekly news roundup – Transition trap, customs union capitulation and regulatory divergence deceit

Brexit is descending into a quagmire of EU jargon, legal complexity and meaningless political rhetoric. There is no black or white, but millions of shades of grey. This suits the Remain side. The government’s spin doctors can always salvage a sentence or two from a position paper, legal text or agreement and claim the people’s will is being delivered when it is most definitely not.


 This week was no exception, dominated as it was by a leaked response to the EU terms for transition, later published, and yesterday’s eight-hour inner-Cabinet meeting intended to thrash out a starting position for the Phase II talks with Brussels on trade, starting in April.
The Transition document hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, and in more ways than one. The headline itself was of course deeply disappointing for Brexiteers. Whitehall intends for transition to be open-ended – see Leave.EU’s blog.

The longer transition lasts, the more we pay in. If Britain were to stay tethered to the EU in 2021 when the EU’s new budget cycle starts, as appears likely, the size of the payments will increase. According to Eurosceptic stalwart Sir Bill cash, it will increase by about £5 billion.

Downing Street was able to shrug off the outrage. “There will be an end-date included in the agreement,” promised a spokesperson, who did nothing to deny the possibility of an extension clause in the final transition agreement.

But the blowout over open-ended transition masked a greater evil: the absence of a stand on EU citizens’ rights. The prime minister has insisted only those Europeans moving to the UK up until March 2019 will be guaranteed permanent residency. The EU wants those arriving during transition to enjoy the same privilege, a position that was not countered in the leaked document. It is reported the government is disgracefully planning to use residency as a bargaining chip.

Meanwhile at the NFU’s agricultural conference this week, Environment Secretary Michael Gove promised farmers continued access to cheap foreign labour. There are also whispers the City will get the elevated access to European financial markets in return for migration concessions.

These three kicks to the solar plexus arrived in the same week the ONS posted rampant EU immigration figures yet again. Contrary to Remainer claims, they are still coming in droves – 220,000 in the year ending September 2017. Only a fraction are leaving. 154,000 National Insurance numbers were issued to Romanians alone, out of the 500,000 issued to EU citizens in total. How many times does it need to be said: immigration in all its forms is a red line. No concessions.

On the positive side, the UK does intend to be at the table when the EU negotiates fishing quotas post-Brexit. A surprisingly sympathetic FT article published at the beginning of the week gave a frightening vision of British fishing waters being completely overrun by French vessels as a consequence of the UK having absolutely no say over how quotas are apportioned during the interminable transition phase. The government’s vision, for the time being at least, is reassuringly assertive (see bottom of page 7).

Separately, the government is reported to be planning to put the EU’s no deal and no transition threat on its head by preparing contingencies for withholding the astronomical sums promised in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. Hardly earth-shattering, but a wise move nonetheless.

Economists found the underlying assumptions in Whitehall’s doomsday forecast to be shamefully pessimistic.
The second event of the week was the meeting at Chequers where, we are told, “divergence won the day” – except it clearly did not.

The details will not be sketched out until Theresa May’s Brexit speech next week. As far as we know the government intends to shadow the EU’s regulatory machine, only beginning to diverge at a later date and only for some sectors. As for how much, judging by David Davis’s repeated promises of EU-level standards at a speech in Vienna on Tuesday, we cannot expect anything revolutionary.

Behind the scenes Brussels has been piling on pressure for Britain to not transform into Singapore-on-Thames. Philip Hammond proposed a treaty pledge to not sign trade deals that would lead to a lowering of standards. Fortunately, it seems Brexiteers in the Cabinet headed off that stupid idea, but there is no guarantee it will make its way into the final deal.

US Congressman George Holding, who chairs the Britain American Parliamentary Group, chose the right week to warn the establishment that for Britain to lock itself into EU standards would be a “poison pill” for the prospect of a trade deal with Washington.

A letter signed by Jacob Rees-Mogg and sixty-one other Tory Leavers calling for complete repatriation of British sovereignty was a valiant effort to keep the government onside. Who knows, without that added pressure the meeting at Chequers could have proved to be even more disastrous.

And while the Tories continue to flirt with bad ideas, Labour are doing their utmost to obstruct the popular will. The Eurofanatic faction of the Labour front bench, led by Emily Thornberry, is hell-bent on taking Britain into “a” customs union, which is no different from “the” customs. No checks on UK-EU trade prohibits a prosperity-driving independent trade policy. The man responsible for bringing this idiotic idea to the public’s attention? Philip Hammond of course.

Thornberry and her crew appear to have won over their leader, a supposedly lifelong Eurosceptic.

“We have to have access to European markets, we have to have a customs union that makes sure we can continue that trade,” said Jeremy Corbyn, on stage at the EEF manufacturers conference on Tuesday.

He will be laying out Labour’s Brexit position in a speech early next week, after the Labour version of the Brexit “war Cabinet” finalized the party’s position on the future relationship with the EU. A customs union is likely to feature, but it may not take a new Labour government for that nightmare to materialize. Labour are already scheming with Tory traitors Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry to stick a customs union amendment into the Taxation (Cross-border) Bill, a follow-up to the Withdrawal Bill.

With both Corbyn and May finally adding flesh the bare bones sketched out so far, a momentous week lies ahead. The spin doctors will be in overdrive, as will Leave.EU’s enigma machine. Stay tuned.

Speaking of tuning in – if you haven’t already, ensure to check out Westmonster Uncensored, broadcast Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays over Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Editor Michael Heaver and his colleague Patrick Christys plough through the injustices of the day. Needless to say, they rarely have little to discuss.

In economic news: this week saw an increase in employment, reflecting the UK economy’s increasing strength. The deficit is declining by a whopping £5bn. With fears the referendum result has negatively affected British prosperity eliminated, a group of economists have estimated Brexit will pay out a dividend of between 2 and 4 percent. And while the news on this side of the Channel becomes ever more positive, it is revealed Paris has officially failed to lure business from Britain and the rest of Europe has given up on divvying up London’s mighty clearing infrastructure between other lesser hubs across the continent.

Kind regards,
The Leave.EU Team