Sir William Jaffray
Vice Chairman, Brexit Global
The recent row between the PM and the DUP has thrown much light on the present internal difficulties of the Government, which threaten a successful Brexit despite this morning’s news of a questionable agreement to proceed to trade talks. It is bad enough that Theresa May is currently prepared to offer the EU a king’s ransom of £50 billion in exchange for a one-sided trade agreement whereby the UK may still end up subject to an EU regulatory regime. But to keep the DUP out of the picture by seemingly keeping secret draft settlement proposals on the Irish border question raises serious questions for the Government to answer.
Why is a trade agreement with the EU so dubious, you may ask? It should be obvious that a country does not need an agreement in order to trade, although, to use the new buzzword, ‘alignment’, it can either help or hinder free trade. For example, the USA, India, and China trade with the EU but do not subject themselves to EU regulations. They don’t need to unless they choose to do so. Goods are bought and sold: demand and supply. Simple, really, or at least should be.
The UK also has a huge trade deficit with the EU, so it should be clear that the EU needs us much more than we need them–the idea that 27 countries would throw up barriers to trade with us is ludicrous. If you doubt that, just count the number of German and Italian cars parked on our streets.
But to return to recent events, one begins to suspect that the various Remainers in the cabinet (i.e most of them!) are continuing to push for a so-called ‘soft Brexit’, which is really no Brexit at all. When we are obliged to witness Theresa May contradicting Hammond in public when the latter said we would pay the divorce bill regardless of any trade deal, then we know the government as presently constituted is in a precarious position.
It is a critical time for us as a country, and one does wonder whether a National Government would not be the best way to drive through our historic decision. Then reality sets in as we remind ourselves of the Labour party’s inability to formulate a coherent policy on Brexit (they didn’t even discuss it at their Conference), and of course the ongoing split in Conservative ranks. Still, one can imagine the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Frank Field and Kate Hoey serving on a Brexit Grand Committee.
The UK’s reputation is at stake, and the likes of Mr Juncker and Mr Barnier look on in (sadly, deserved) contempt. I would strongly urge Theresa May to follow the example of Arlene Foster, show clear leadership and rise above the squabbles in her cabinet to bring Brexit safely to shore.