David was a former MEP for the East of England from 2009 to 2019 and stood down on 2nd July 2019. This website remains open for access only, and no further postings will be made.
Category Archives: Featured Stories
Event Horizon – Chopper’s Brexit Podcast
“For some, taking part in the European elections is the point of no return. Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman is one politician who won’t be standing again on principle. He joins Chopper for a no-holds-barred chat about about why he’s packed up his Brussels office – and who he’ll be voting for this time instead.”
Click on the link to go to the podcast page:
BBC host forced to intervene as huge row erupts between MEPs – ‘you said Brits are a mess’
A HUGE row erupted between Labour MEP Seb Dance and Brexiteer MEP David Campbell Bannerman after the Remainer blamed Britain’s Leave supporters for creating a “mess” out of Brexit.
Speaking on David’s last day in Brussels as an MEP (having packed up his flat and office!) he debates a Labour MEP arguing strongly that MEP elections are wrong and shouldn’t be held
You can listen to the BBC Radio 4 clip recording here:
The heated debate began when Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman called for Britain to leave the European Union with no deal and then do a full comprehensive free trade agreement, often referred to as a “Super Canada” deal, with the Brussels bloc. BBC host John Humphrys then pointed out how the Labour MEP was “turning his nose up” and “sneering” at the prospect of a so-called super-Canada deal.
Mr Campbell Bannerman attempted to defend calls for a comprehensive free trade agreement and insisted it was “entirely doable” and “what the EU wants”.
But the Labour MEP hit back and said: “It’s not what businesses are calling for either.”
The Tory MEP blasted: “You want frictionless trade. That’s the problem all along.”
Mr Dance insisted he does was frictionless trade in the same way Britain has it as an EU member. But the Tory Brexiteer fired back and said: “That’s created the political crisis, Seb. You are responsible for it.
“You and Labour, you made that.”
The Labour MEP replied: “Don’t blame us for this mess. This is your programme and not mine.”
Mr Bannerman Campbell blasted: “Sorry but do you think the British people are a mess too? You know that nearly 60 percent of Labour constituencies back Leave. You don’t actually respect that result.”
The pair continued to shout over each other and the BBC host was forced to intervene. Mr Humphrys said: “Hang on a second and let him finish his point.”
Mr Dance added: “The Brexit that was sold in 2016, the prospectus that was sold in 2016 is so markedly different from all of the options that are now on the table, including what you now appear to be advocating, i.e. a no deal.
“The idea that there is somehow a mandate for no deal on the basis of the campaign in 2016 is clearly wrong.
“So, the idea that you shouldn’t check now that what the deliverable options are is what the British people would want is, I think, profoundly democratic.”
The UK has until April 10 to come up with a new Brexit plan – or may face leaving the union without a deal two days later on April 12.
EU leaders are due to meet at a summit on April 10, where Mrs May will be expected to present her new deal. But last week, European Commission president Donald Tusk offered the UK a lengthy delay to Brexit, of up to one year.
There is no such thing as ‘No Deal’
On March 13th, if the meaningful vote on the deal fails again in spite of Geoffrey Cox’s legal acrobatics, there will be an MP vote on something that doesn’t actually exist: the so called ‘no deal’ exit.
It doesn’t exist because even what people call ‘no deal’ involves some negotiated deals. They may be smaller, bilateral, sector specific deals, often termed ‘standstill’ agreements, but are nevertheless important.
As an MEP I have already voted for four such mini deals – an arrangement for British car certifications to continue under ‘no deal’, permission for the EU to sell us their goods as a third country (!), an aviation deal to allow flights to continue to fly and a road haulage deal to allow trucks to continue to roll. The Strasbourg European Parliament next week will see hours of voting on more ‘no deal’ measures under (emergency) ‘simplified procedure’.
The EU’s chart of recommended ‘no deal’ measures runs from reciprocal fishing rights and shipping inspections to nuclear energy to continuing the Northern Ireland PEACE and Erasmus Plus student programmes. The Mayor of Calais is actually offended the U.K. thinks there will be any holdups.
In the UK meanwhile the port of Dover says it is ‘prepared’ for ‘no deal’. Eurotunnel say “with or without a deal, traffic flow through the Tunnel will be maintained”. The City of London is ready too – Lord Mayor Mr Estlin says Brexit has been a “pain in the backside” but “businesses have prepared already”.
The Bank of England and the European Securities and Markets Authority have signed baffling Memorandums of Understanding on things like the Central Securities Depository, and EU regulators continue to recognise U.K. clearing houses.
Brexit Minister Chris Heaton Harris lists what is ready from citizens’ rights, such as the welcome Spanish deal for U.K. residents, to chemicals to food labelling to holidays to archives. BMW is moving its summer shutdown to April and Toyota stockpiling parts. The U.K. car industry managed to survive 211 days over 20 years of ‘Operation Stack’ where lorries couldn’t get to/from Europe.
There is even an outbreak of naughty bilateral deals behind the EU’s back such as Italy’s bid to stabilise financial services and trade.
All of this is being done by professionals with no sign of the hysterics of extreme politicised Remainers in the U.K. The relentless ‘no deal’ silly stories from the BBC are a case in point, from food shortages being like “walking off a cliff in the dark without a torch” (we do actually import food from outside the EU) and Eurostar’s ‘one mile queues’, when passport checks exist now.
There is further confusion over what the deal in ‘no deal’ is. It isn’t a ‘no trade deal’ or ‘a no Future Relationship deal’ – we haven’t even started negotiating those yet. It is a ‘no Withdrawal Agreement deal’.
Let’s be clear. Up until now we have been dancing to the EU’s tune. The Withdrawal Agreement is specified under EU law – Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – and went wrong from the start. Without one, all the EU treaties stop applying as of 29th March.
But trade deals are done under the global trade rules of the 164 member World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the U.K. helped establish.
The WTO gives us a way out of the EU under Article XXIV/24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which preceded it. A GATT Article 24 compliant standstill trading arrangement forms one of the three ‘safety nets’ within the Malthouse Compromise Plan B, along with continuing to offer Plan A (a changed WA deal) and seeking to purchase the Implementation Period (IP) via funding.
GATT Article 24 means the EU and U.K. agree a very basic free trade agreement (FTA) that allows us to keep tariffs at zero whilst negotiating a comprehensive U.K.-wide Free Trade Agreement, the sort of ‘SuperCanada’ FTA I have long advocated (bigger, better and wider than the EU-Canada CETA deal), and which the EU has offered to us three times starting a year ago (7th March).
Article 24 is just a bridge – an alternative transition. It only needs literally a one page Free Trade Agreement to be signed. The neutral Cambridge law expert Dr Lorand Bartels has helpfully written one.
This protects you from discrimination claims by other WTO members. Even if there were legal challenges, these would take at least two years, and the FTA would in place before any verdict was reached.
Yes it will need other small deals such as interim regulatory recognition of goods and services, but the core remains Article 24. Its feasibility has been confirmed to me by top WTO and EU trade experts.
Article 24 also takes away the hassle of businesses having to calculate nearly 20,000 tariffs. Tariff rates are very complex and vary enormously even within one category such as lamb meat.
OK so businesses will have to fill in customs declaration forms, as they do for non-EU suppliers, but no tariffs mean the processes are simple. HMRC have helpfully enacted Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) for the 145,000 VAT-registered businesses who trade with EU (only 7% of U.K. businesses and 12% U.K. economy do) to remove need for full customs declarations at Borders and import duty payments.
The objection that the EU would refuse to agree Article 24 if the WA deal fails because of a lack of goodwill is patently absurd. The Eurozone is again implementing emergency measures as it falls into serious recession, whilst it would save the EU £13 billion in tariffs with their largest single customer. The U.K. would agree to pay a contribution too as per Malthouse (for 2019 budget, maybe 2020 too, but not the £39 billion).
The objection it does not address ‘non tariff barriers’ is equally silly. It’s not its job – the comprehensive FTA will address non tariff barriers, services and the whole shooting match.
So my earnest request to Government is this: if the favoured deal is not passed on 12th March, then please let’s have a meaningful vote on something that does exist and is deliverable.
Let’s amend the so called ‘no deal’ vote on 13th March to incorporate GATT Article 24, and Plan B of Malthouse, as this is a sensible alternative basic deal. Also, if necessary, let’s allow a strictly temporary extension of Article 50 of three months to 29th June, appealing to those who would favour an extension in a possible third vote. This extension will not be to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, but to prepare to enact Article 24 and its happy band of mini deals.
With only an 8 MP majority for the Spelman amendment, just 5 MPs need persuading.
It might just pass.
David Campbell Bannerman MEP
Conservative MEP for the East England and Joint UK Spokesman on the International Trade Committee.
You can also read David’s article above, as it appears online at thetelegraph.co.uk
A ‘Managed No Deal’ WTO option using Article 24 of GATT can avoid raising tariffs or quotas
In the aftermath of Parliament’s rejection of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, there is a way forward for the Government which allows a smooth transition into a No Deal scenario after 29th March, if found necessary, and then allows the UK to negotiate its desired comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU without having to impose tariffs or quotas in the interim. There is a mechanism to ‘manage’ a No Deal scenario; one that works within existing WTO rules, and that is not widely known about.
This is essentially an alternate transition or interim period, but within WTO rules without having to levy tariffs or (arguably) pay membership fees to the EU, but requiring some customs forms levied on the 7% of UK businesses (400,000 out of 5.7 million UK private registered businesses) that actually trade with the EU. This is the deal with the EU used by China, the USA, India, Australia and New Zealand for example.
These recommendations are based on my nearly ten years of experience as a member of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, working on EU trade deals such as those with Canada, New Zealand, India, South Korea, Japan and Columbia/Peru, and drawing on high level discussions I have had with senior trade representatives for the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
In the event of No Deal, there is a strong case to maintain preferential tariff and quota rates at zero between the UK and the EU for a limited period – thought to be around two years. There are a number of arguments for exemptions to what are termed ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) rules, which require the same treatment in terms of tariff rates and treatment between WTO members to avoid discrimination. They are:
1) It is to the advantage of fellow WTO members to minimise disruption between our two large markets, which would reduce knock-on impacts to their imports/exports to the UK or EU markets. WTO members have to show financial harm to justify objections to practices (or tariff schedules). Civitas calculate that £13 billion of tariffs would have to be levied on EU goods entering the UK and £5 billion on UK goods entering the EU Single Market if standard tariffs are levied under No Deal. This is one justification for keeping preferential rates of tariffs for a period whilst a full trade deal is finalised.
2) There are exemptions under National Security grounds such as over the issue of Northern Ireland, which the IEA have argued as a case for an exemption, but this is less appealing given its association with US and Russian cases for exemptions, such as over US tariffs on Chinese steel.
3) Exemptions to ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) rules under Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1947. This appears to be the most substantive argument. WTO rules state that preferential benefits, such as tariffs and quotas for goods which are more favourable than MFN treatment, may only be extended to another country if it is part of a customs union or a free trade area. The ultimate legal authority to grant such preferences is Article 24 of GATT , incorporated into the WTO regime when that body commenced operations in 1995.
Article 24 is helpfully the ultimate basis in international law for the existence of the EU itself as a preferential trading bloc, which grants preferential treatment to its members within the Customs Union.
If the UK accepts Donald Tusk’s offer of a free trade agreement along the lines of CETA+++ or what I propose as ‘SuperCanada’, then the UK and EU will be in the process of moving towards creating a free trade area – Tusk has offered a tariff and quota free deal plus services (whilst leaving the EU Customs Union) – so qualifies under this criterion.
There are two under-appreciated aspects of Article 24 which have direct relevance to our situation, and which provide reassurance.
Firstly, Article 24, para 3 states:
The provisions of this Agreement [i.e. the requirement to extend MFN treatment equally to all] shall not be construed to prevent:
(a) Advantages accorded by any contracting party to adjacent countries in order to facilitate frontier traffic
- This has direct relevance to the position of Northern Ireland, and our adjacent country of Ireland. Some commentators have claimed that a sensitive and appropriate management of trade which respects and upholds both the letter and the spirit of, for example, the Good Friday Agreement would be in some form an unauthorised infringement of MFN treatment. That claim is clearly untrue.
- There is also no obligation under WTO rules to erect a so-called “hard border” on 29th March. Government may continue discussions with our counterparts in Dublin to arrive at adequate and effective technological measures for the management of trade with minimal friction. You will have noticed the encouraging signs that the Irish Government already appreciates this fact. (See, for example, “Ireland has no plans for hard border after Brexit, says Varadkar”, from The Guardian of 21st December 2018)
- We can expect that there will be considerable international sympathy for measures which support the situation in Northern Ireland, and hence a reluctance on the part of third countries to lodge objections. Although given the sensitivities this should not be stressed too heavily, such an exemption falls into ‘National Security’ related actions.
Secondly, Article 24 not only authorises member states to operate lower/zero tariff free trade agreements, it also permits them to offer lower/zero tariffs pre-emptively during the course of negotiations. The relevant provision, Article 24 para 5, is worth quoting at length, with emphasis added to the critical wording:
Accordingly, the provisions of this Agreement shall not prevent, as between the territories of contracting parties, the formation of… a free-trade area or the adoption of an interim agreement necessary for the formation of… a free-trade area; Provided that:…
(b) with respect to a free-trade area, or an interim agreement leading to the formation of a free-trade area, the duties and other regulations of commerce maintained in each of the constituent territories and applicable at the formation of such free–trade area or the adoption of such interim agreement to the trade of contracting parties not included in such area or not parties to such agreement shall not be higher or more restrictive than the corresponding duties and other regulations of commerce existing in the same constituent territories prior to the formation of the free-trade area, or interim agreement as the case may be; and
(c) any interim agreement referred to in subparagraph… (b) shall include a plan and schedule for the formation of such… a free-trade area within a reasonable length of time.
(A WTO declaration, the Understanding on the Interpretation of Article 24, 1994, clarifies that the ‘reasonable period of time’ in para 5(c) will generally taken to be no more than 10 years.) I estimate based on EU trade deals to date, that a UK-EU comprehensive Free Trade Agreement could take around two years, especially given the unique reality that the UK is starting from a convergent position with the EU, with zero tariffs and quotas and with our laws and standards currently harmonised.
- If, before 29 March, the UK has reached an ‘interim agreement’ with the EU to pursue negotiations towards a comprehensive free trade deal, both sides would be permitted under WTO rules to continue with the present zero tariff/zero quota trading arrangements. There would be no disruption to the man or woman on the high street. No Deal would mean No Change, as the cost of goods would not go up.
- In the present situation the ‘interim agreement’ would not have to be an extensive document running to hundreds of pages. The schedule of items covered by the negotiations would be all goods, as already envisaged in our discussions with the EU. The plan which the document sets out would have to amount to little more than a timetable for regular meetings and an ultimate deadline, some years hence, by which point negotiations will have to be concluded.
- An ‘interim agreement’, then, need be little more than an agreement to continue talks – while also continuing zero-tariff and zero-quota trade on both sides – plus a deadline no later than 29th March 2029. I accept that the EU has so far declined to agree any deadlines (other than 29th March) but since the absence of a final cut-off point has been a major contributing reason for Parliament’s rejection of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement, perhaps the EU will now reassess that stance.
- Whilst legal challenges at WTO level might be expected from an unhelpful member, the reality is that any such challenge is unlikely to get to the WTO ‘court’ – its appellate body – for at least two years and possibly longer, and only if that body finds the UK non-compliant would any compensating actions be authorised such as tariffs. This is within WTO rules, and if any challenges arise a fully compliant Free Trade Agreement should already be in place by the time any appellate body were to meet. The EU is now under extreme pressure from EU27 industry and commerce who enjoy a £96 billion surplus with the UK.
- You will recall that the draft Political Declaration indicates the EU want to reach a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the UK on the basis of zero tariffs and quotas (see paras 17, page 5, and para 23, page 6) and extending to services (para 29, page 7). Those provisions are fully in line with numerous public statements made since the 2016 referendum by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Michel Barnier, European Chief Negotiator – offering a CETA+++, or what I term a ‘SuperCanada’ trade deal, on 7th March 2018, 30th August and 6th October 2018.
It is significant that Heiko Maas, Foreign Minister of Germany, has already indicated a willingness to continue talks (see “Germany says EU ready to talk if UK rejects Brexit deal” on Reuters, 15th January).
This approach would continue the pre-29th March status quo in trading arrangements and patterns without interruption, justified by an explicit provision of the WTO regime. The possible grounds on which any third country could lodge an objection to this are extremely slight (unlike for schedule changes).
An ‘interim agreement’ would therefore be an important component of a ‘Managed No Deal’ outcome from 29th March. It permits trade between us and the EU to continue without tariffs or quotas under No Deal while creating a space for negotiations to be reset and recommenced on the basis of reaching a SuperCanada or CETA+++ trade treaty.
I urge the Government to now adopt this course of action, as it will mitigate the main impacts of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and eliminate the task of having to assess and charge tariff rates on 19,753 MFN tariffs under the EU Customs Union, thereby substantially reducing friction at borders.
You can read this piece by David as it originally appears on brexitcentral.com here
The ‘SuperCanada’ trade model proposal LATEST
With the EU negotiations now close to a resolution on whether to start trade talks or not, DCB’s national conference ‘Deal or No Deal: What are the options?‘ saw David present the detail of his ‘SuperCanada’ trade model proposal.
You can download this specially produced comparison table ‘SuperCanada / CETA’ here:
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David Campbell Bannerman’s speech at the ‘Deal or No Deal’ conference
You can also download a copy of David’s recent speech at his ‘Deal or No Deal: What are the options’ conference in Westminster.
Click the link for David’s speech HERE. (PDF)
The Technological Solution to the Irish Border Customs issue
The supposed “problem” of the post-Brexit border between the UK and Ireland has become a much-debated topic. It is alleged that, unless the UK (or at least Northern Ireland) remains within the EU customs union or, as sometimes claimed, inside the single market, the resulting bureaucracy will lead to massive tailbacks at the UK/Irish border while paperwork is checked, and that this will lead to a breakdown of the better community relations of recent years and even a return to terrorism.
This paper explains why these assumptions are not only unfounded, but grossly exaggerated. It explains the issues involved, sets out some practical measures which have the endorsement of leading authorities in the field and outlines a proposal for how UK/Irish trade could be conducted after Brexit to achieve a frictionless border.
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A Firm Solution to the Hard Border
An independent thinkpiece by David Campbell Bannerman MEP
The “problem” of the border between the UK and Ireland after Brexit has become a much-debated topic. It is alleged that, unless the UK (or at least Northern Ireland) remains within the EU Customs Union (or, sometimes, inside the Single Market), the resulting bureaucracy will lead to massive tailbacks at the UK/Irish border while paperwork is checked, and that this will lead to a breakdown of the better community relations of recent years.
This note explains why these allegations are unfounded. It explains the issues involved, sets out some practical measures which have the endorsement of leading authorities in the field and outlines a proposal for how UK/Irish trade could be conducted after Brexit to achieve a friction-free border.
Download the full document here:
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‘Deal or No Deal’ Conference in London
With the EU negotiations now close to a resolution on whether to start trade talks or not, DCB’s national conference ‘Deal or No Deal: What are the options?’ saw David present the detail of his ‘SuperCanada’ trade model proposal’
You can download this specially produced comparison table ‘SuperCanada / CETA’ by clicking there:
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You can also download a PDF version of David’s speech by clicking HERE.
Eastern Counties MEP Urges Tough Measures Against British Jihadists
Interviewed on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire show ‘The Big Conversation’ on the 5th of June 2017, Eastern Counties MEP David Campbell Bannerman said that he wanted to see tough measures introduced against the thousands of Jihadi extremists in the UK. The MEP said that the UK is now in a war situation and emergency powers should be adopted to deal with the jihadists. He noted that the UK security services are monitoring some 500 active plots at any one time with 3,000 people considered to pose a real terrorist threat. A further 20,000 have been investigated by the security services and are said to pose a ‘residual risk’.