POLITICS

Brexit Briefing: Michael Fish, Apologetic Experts and Jenga

No cherry picking!

12/01/2017 17:40 | Updated 12 January 2017
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All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.

1) The Experts Are Saying They Were Wrong, But Seeing As Experts Are Stupid How We Can Trust Them?

PA/PA Wire
Really didn't expect to be using this picture this week

Poor Michael Fish. The veteran weatherman was bizarrely dragged into the Brexit debate this week when the Bank of England’s chief economist took his name in vain when talking about financial forecasts.

Andy Haldane referenced Fish’s infamous failure to spot a hurricane when he was talking about his and other economists failure to predict the 2008 financial collapse, but accepted it was a “fair cop” to extend that apology to predictions of gloom after June 23.

I’m not sure what was in the coffee at the Bank of England this week, but the apology bug even infected the smoothest banker in town – Mark Carney.

Last May, the Bank’s Governor told the Treasury Select Committee that a vote for Brexit would have “a negative impact in the short term”, and it would “increase the risk of recession.”

Appearing before the same Committee on Wednesday, Carney seemed a lot more chilled about the whole thing, admitting the Bank was likely to be upgrading its growth forecasts.

Indeed, according to Carney, it is now the EU that faces choppy waters.

“I’m not saying there are not financial stability risks to the UK ... but there are greater financial stability risks on the continent in the short term, for the transition, than there are for the UK,” said Carney.

Maybe Michael Gove was right about experts after all.

It is always worth pointing out the obvious fact that we haven’t actually left the EU yet, and there could be a major economic hit when that happens, but it is also true that many of the predictions of doom and gloom for immediately after June 23 have proven to be false.

But that could of course be because Carney slashed interest rates to 0.25% and propped up the economy with billions of pounds in the summer.

So maybe Michael Gove was wrong about experts. That’s probably more likely.

2) Parliament Asked Loads Of People About Brexit And We Actually Got Some Information 

Peter Dazeley via Getty Images
A piggy bank on a Jenga tower, which sums it all up nicely

Mark Carney wasn’t the only banker before MPs this week. On Tuesday, the chairman of HSBC, Douglas Flint, gave evidence to the Treasure committee about plans he and others were making for the City.

Flint said Brexit had the potential to collapse the financial sector like a Jenga Tower, while Xavier Rolet – chief executive of the London Stock Exchange – said 232,000 jobs could disappear if the hardest of hard Brexits occurs.

Today, financial sector lobbying body TheCityUK set out its “key priorities” for any post-Brexit deal. Its report didn’t mention “passporting”, but called for a “mutual recognition arrangement” between the EU and the UK to allow business as usual.

The French and German governments might not be keen on this, and as s I said last week, Paris is already looking to woo bankers through a series of meetings next month.

One Brexit-backing Tory told me this week that the UK leaving the EU might actually make the continent less attractive to banks. The UK has been one of the strongest hands on the leash of the EU regulation hound, and with us gone, Brussels might be able to push through reforms which make Paris and Frankfurt not such great places to do business.

Parliament’s select committees were busy with Brexit this week, with 12 sessions in the Commons and Lords dealing with the subject.

Some specks of detail on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration arrangement came thanks to Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill’s appearance before the Lords on Wednesday.

He confirmed there would not be a regional immigration system, but did float the idea of charging companies £1,000 a year per skilled EU migrant they employ. Downing Street shot this down within hours. But at least we know what we’re not going to get.

In the same session, Brexit minister David Jones confirmed the UK would not be “geographically” leaving Europe. And yet people still say there is no plan….

3) Labour Could Have Put Some Real Pressure On The Tories Over Workers’ Rights, But Corbyn Went Full Corbyn Instead

John Stillwell/PA Wire

I could have spent most of this briefing going through Labour’s various positions on Brexit, but we’ve all got lives to lead.

Let’s just say, it was a strange move by Jeremy Corbyn not to talk about a Private Members Bill coming before the House on Friday aimed at protecting workers’ rights.

It is being put forward by rising star Melanie Onn, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, and has won support from not only her colleagues but many SNP MPs as well.

The Bill is essentially a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ dare to Theresa May, David Davies and other Brexit-backing Tories. The mantra from those on the blue side of the House is that all workers’ rights currently protected by our EU membership will remain after Brexit. The Bill puts that down on paper.

It would have been an easy hit for Corbyn to talk up this bill in his Brexit speech on Tuesday, and dare May et al to defeat it.

But then there was a maximum wage policy to announce and Corbyn can’t be expected to cover everything, I suppose.

4) Angela Merkel Doesn’t Want Any Cherry Picking Going On While She’s Around

Neyya via Getty Images
This woman picking cherries is literally everything Angela Merkel hates

Over on the continent, Angela Merkel repeated the EU mantra that membership of the Single Market depends on “respecting” all four freedoms – which of course includes freedom of movement.

In a speech in Cologne on Monday, the German Chancellor said there could be no “cherry picking” in the negotiations of what membership of the Single Market entailed.

She said the EU must “also make clear on the other hand that access to the single market can only be possible on the condition of respecting the four basic freedoms. Otherwise one has to talk about limits.”

It’s hard to see how she can row back from this - although you can perhaps read into “respecting” as giving a bit of leeway. Any hope Theresa May has that it might not be Merkel she is negotiating with after the German elections later this year seem faint – an opinion poll published on Wednesday gave Merkel’s CDU party a 17 point lead of the her SPD rivals.

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