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{6c073e6ddc991e32b987c2976a0494c1ef7e7c4976e02d56946b9937f4a8f0f4} of U.K. businesses and 12{6c073e6ddc991e32b987c2976a0494c1ef7e7c4976e02d56946b9937f4a8f0f4} 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

Chequers is burying Theresa May. Only Canada can save her from further humiliation

So the Prime Minister would rather have a “no deal” scenario for our country than a “Canada-style” deal, claiming that it would break up the UK, whilst shooting off to New York to talk to President Trump about doing a US free trade deal.

This has become utterly absurd and embarrassing – ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ without the laughs. The Prime Minister is setting herself up for yet another Salzburg-type slap at our party conference, and conceivably from President Trump too. Number 10 has descended into bunker mode and has ceased to act or react rationally. Many of the advisers and ministers responsible are not doing the Prime Minister any favours, they are burying her, just for the sake of saving their own political skins. She does not deserve to be left so exposed.

The clear reality is that Chequers is dead. Only what I call a ‘SuperCanada’ deal will work – a deal based on Canada’s 99{6c073e6ddc991e32b987c2976a0494c1ef7e7c4976e02d56946b9937f4a8f0f4} access to the Single Market, with no free movement or access fees, but bigger, better and wider, drawing too on the Japan deal. Like Jacob Rees Mogg, who referred to SuperCanada this week, I don’t mind if you call it “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” Canada – but please just use Canada!

For a start, as the trade lawyer and author of the IEA’s PlanA+ alternative report this week Shanker Singham made clear: Chequers effectively takes Britain’s ability to do proper international trade deals off the table. He went on to say the Americans he met there just last week are laughing at Chequers, and that it is even a legal requirement from Congress that goods are included in US free trade agreements – how can we do this when our hands are tied under EU goods regulatory slavery (the so-called ‘EU common rulebook’)? What is the point of discussing a US trade deal that is either half destroyed by Chequers or illegal under US federal law?

I know full well from nearly ten years of working on EU trade deals, including Canada, India, New Zealand, South Korea and Colombia/Peru, that international trading partners regard goods as the core of their free trade deals, and they will not give ground in other areas that we covet, such as services, without those goods basics being on the negotiating table. Chequers blows up half the benefits of every single trade deal we want to negotiate. Goods tariffs are still very real in the world and these unhelpful trade wars are adding to them, not subtracting from them.

Also, if Britain is applying to become a customs assessment and duty collection agent for the EU under this clumsy Facilitated Customs Arrangement (FCA) proposal in Chequers, the omens are not good. The EU is about to demand legally that the UK pays £3 billion in what it claims is incorrectly assessed customs duties by UK customs on Chinese goods. They think we are unable to handle customs duties now let alone when we become independent again.

Let’s be direct, the EU is not actually negotiating when Mr Juncker warned in his State of the Union speech “you cannot be in part of the Single Market” – it is setting out its core, inconvertible principles and beliefs, and they will not change during the negotiations. They will not accept Chequers. The misreading of the EU position by close advisers and diplomatic teams was gross negligence, and they are truly to blame for the terrible way Mrs May was treated.

What has happened since the Prime Minister so effectively achieved her red lines and Lancaster House aims on 7th March this year? After meeting her in Number 10, the EU’s President Tusk graciously accepted those red lines and offered us a great trade deal, the best the EU has ever offered, saying: “I propose that we aim for a trade agreement covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods (this is CETA+) Like other free trade agreements, it should address services (that takes it to CETA++, only one extra + short).”

The EU’s negotiator Mr Barnier reiterated this offer and went further as recently as 2nd August saying: “It is possible to respect EU principles and create a new and ambitious partnership… the EU has offered a Free Trade Agreement with zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions for goods. It proposed close customs and regulatory cooperation and access to public procurements, to name but a few examples.” The EU wants a Canada style deal. It is after all very familiar to them.

So, we were home and dry. Our red lines met, the excellent guidelines laid down in Theresa May’s speeches such as at Lancaster House and Mansion House met. The Government White Paper reflected a Canadian style deal – certainly to Version 9, and the Brexit Department ministers were all content with the general direction.

But just a few months later, we get the disastrous Chequers proposal, leading directly to the resignation of David Davis and Boris Johnson and a succession of other ministers, an approval rating amongst Conservative voters of 17 per cent, turmoil in the party, a bounce from 2 per cent to 7 per cent in the polls for Ukip, and the prospect of a disastrous 1970s Communist tribute government under Mr Corbyn escalated immeasurably. How could this have gone so wrong so quickly?

The reality is that it is UK ‘business’ interests who have caused this chaos, the villains being the Remain Treasury, the Business department and the appallingly contemptuous enemies of democracy and the people, the CBI. They argued strongly for Remain in the Referendum and are doing everything possible now to undermine the result – regardless of the price for democracy. They have conspired with the EU to shamelessly exploit, exaggerate and twist the Irish border issue for their own selfish purposes, seeking to keep the UK entrapped within the Eurosphere of red tape and cosy corporate laws.

It is a giveaway when major corporate business concerns claim to be fighting like saints for trade worth less than £2 billion a year. But ironically now the EU is actively promoting a free trade agreement solution, as Brexiteers like myself are, it is business interests in the UK who threaten a no deal outcome through their own idiocy. They would rather hang on lazily to the business they have now with the EU than lift their eyes to a reality where 90 per cent of the growth in the world in the next 10 to 15 years will come from outside Europe – so says their friends at the IMF.

They and the Number 10 bunker are not interested in finding an actual solution for the Northern Ireland border. Indeed, a reported private briefing by an adviser suggested they weren’t interested in finding a solution. I have helped on four separate papers now on this issue, one of which was presented to the Brexit select committee, and the ERG paper “The Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland post Brexit”, was written by one former Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, and supported by another Theresa Villiers, by our former Brexit negotiator David Davis, Lord Trimble, Sammy Wilson of the DUP and many others. How much support does the Chequers cabal want to see demonstrated?

Now even the EU are talking openly of such technological solutions and checks away from the border – Mr Barnier himself – whilst Mr Varadkar has revealed that the EU has told Ireland there is no need for a hard border, which the UK has made clear too. So, what exactly is the problem needing to be solved?

With a border free of any need for tariff and quota checks, with goods checked now in Ireland running at a mere 1 per cent, animal welfare checks in existence anyway, with successful borders in existence for excise duty, VAT, corporate taxes and currency, then a few more checks away from the border, the use of existing technology, and a bit of creativity will do the job. This is hardly the same challenge as the Irish peace process – which I had the privilege of being part of.

There is only a problem if you are determined not to find a solution.

You can read the article as it appeared at the telegraph.co.uk here

David Campbell Bannerman is a Conservative MEP, spokesman for the ECR group on international trade and author of the ‘SuperCanada’ trade deal proposal.