POLITICS

Brexit Briefing: No Deal? No Idea? No Problem!

A virtual shrug of the shoulders from David Davis this week

16/03/2017 16:37 GMT | Updated 16/03/2017 21:05 GMT
 
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All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.

1) The Government Won’t Even Guess What ‘No Deal’ Would Do To The Economy As They’ve Been Wrong About So Many Other Things

David Davis has always done things his own way.

During his long career, the former Tory leadership contender triggered a by-election in protest at Labour’s civil liberties policies, voted against his party on tuition fees and even took the Government to court over its surveillance measures.

And he was still given a place in the Cabinet.

It’s good to know the splendour and rigour of Government has done little to curb his maverick ways. Mere mortals placed in charge of negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU would no doubt want to properly investigate the implications of the choices on offer.

Not Davis.

He told the Brexit Select Committee this week his department had not carried out an assessment of what would happen to the UK if it left the EU on World Trade Organisation terms. You remember, those terms that would see a 10% tariff on cars, almost 20% on cigarettes and alcohol and 35% on cheese.

Well, that is the ‘no deal’ which Theresa May refers to when she says ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’

Davis’ justification for not carrying out an assessment is that all the other ones produced by the Government have been wrong.

You have to appreciate the honesty, but jumping out of the plane before checking your parachute is in your rucksack is somewhat risky. In that situation, many might not jump out of the plane at all.

 

2) Liam Fox Doesn’t Seem To Understand What A ‘Private Conversation’ Is 

It wasn’t just David Davis setting pulses racing in parliament this week.

Dr Liam Fox decided to wash the Cabinet’s dirty linen in public when he appeared before the Lords International Relations Committee on Wednesday.

The good Doctor admitted that he was pressuring the Government to remove student numbers from its net migration figures.

According to the most recent Office for National Statistic figures, 134,000 migrants came to the UK study in the 12 months to September 2016, while 62,000 foreign students left our shores.

If students were taken out of the overall figure, net migration would be 201,000 – far below the 273,000 headline figure.

It still wouldn’t hit the Government’s target of getting net migration below 100,000, but it would be a move in the right direction.

According to Fox, “It is an ongoing argument inside Government and I’ve made my views on that clear in private to the Home Secretary.”

“There is a value for those who come stay in the UK. They will be in many cases imbued by the values they experience while they are here, they will go on to establish long term relationships with the UK.”

Why is all this important? Control – and reduction – of immigration was without doubt one of the key motivations for many Leave voters last June.

If the Government is unable to reduce migration in the agricultural and service sectors (and many in those industries have warned it would be a disaster for business if they did), cutting foreign student numbers could be targeted.

And that doesn’t sit well with the notion of post-Brexit Britain being an open and outward looking country.

 

3) The Netherland’s Version Of Trump Didn’t Win The Election So There’s Hope For Humanity Yet

It’s fair to say, it’s been a busy week.

Philip Hammond’s tax hike u-turn, Nicola Sturgeon demanding another Scottish referendum, Jeremy Corbyn forgetting to asks questions in PMQs.

But amid all of that we mustn’t forget that a moment of history occurred today when Royal Assent was given to the Article 50 Bill, meaning Theresa May can now legally trigger the UK’s exit process from the EU.

Rumours that she might fire the starting gun on talks this week were quashed by her spokesman on Monday, who told reporters: “I’ve said ‘end’ [of March] many times but it would seem I didn’t put it in capital letters strongly enough.”

Yet even when May does drop the letter into Brussels telling them that we’re off, the phoney war will continue for a few more months yet.

One reason is the crucial elections coming up in France (May) and Germany (September), which could see a change in leaders of the two most powerful EU countries.

With the far-right Marine Le Pen hovering around 25% in French polls – potentially enough to get her into the two-person run-off – there is a fear in European capitals that the so-called populism of Trump could influence the elections.

Those fears abated slightly today after Geert Wilders anti-immigration Freedom Party did worse than expected in the Dutch election. Freedom won 20 seats out of 150, finishing behind the centre-right VVD, which secured 33. The Dutch will now enter a period of coalition negotiations, but re-election Prime Minister Mark Rutte has ruled out any deal with Wilders.

 

4) You Should Buy Shares In Office Blocks In Dublin

David Davis might be relaxed about life after Brexit, but some in the business sector are taking a more active approach.

TheCityUK – the lobbying group for the financial sector – has helped set up a new committee to develop UK-US relations post-Brexit.

Barclays chairman John McFarlane is one of those reported to be leading the effort, and representatives from JP Morgan are also involved.

While no official trade negotiations can be conducted – we are still in the EU, after all – getting a few nods and winks in early will no doubt help stop banks looking across to Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin for their EU access needs.

Some are already looking across to the Emerald Isle, with Bank of America executive Nikolaus Naerger telling an audience in Frankfurt on Tuesday: “Dublin is a an emergency, default option that we have.”

 

5) Brexit Might Makes Us All Healthier

When both the Financial Times and Cosmopolitan are reporting on an issue, you know it’s serious.

This week brought the disastrous news that chocolate prices could rise by 30% after Brexit, according to Fiona Dawson, global president for Mars.

Speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU, Dawson warned if the UK did not secure a trade deal with Brussels, it would “threaten [the] supply chain and the jobs that come with it.”

Some chocolate makers have already taken action thanks to Brexit, with Toblerone producing bars with bigger gaps between the triangles as a way of off-setting the rising costs caused by a weak pound.

“Sad times” was the view of Cosmopolitan, and this jaded reporter who relies on chocolate for a mid-morning, and mid-afternoon, pick-me-up can’t help but agree.

Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…

At Huffington Post we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send us a blog and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.

Dr Tania Mathias on rebelling on guaranteeing EU citizens rights 

Stella Creasy saying Brexit will be a hammer blow for equality if we let it 

Shaun Bailey says blaming Brexit for London’s housing crisis is desperate 

John Wight says let Scotland be a ‘beacon of hope’ amid Brexit darkness