Steve Baker MP on BBC Today Programme (13.03.19) explains the Malthouse B option.
Steve Baker MP on BBC Today Programme (13.03.19) explains the Malthouse B option.
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
The current political turmoil and constitutional crisis has so many twists and turns that it makes House of Cards look pedestrian.
Of course the real issue comes down to what happens when – rather than if – the proposed deal is voted down on tomorrow, 11th December (or even dropped).
Here there is a clear gap opening up between media reports and hard legal reality – what the actual effects are of the political manoeuvring of Dominic Grieve, Sir Keir Starmer and their merry conniving bands. There have been desperate media reports that ‘no deal’ is off the table, when it is actually remains the ‘default position’ as Andrea Leadsom told Radio 4 just last week.
Let’s assume Conservative MPs think there is enough turkey on Christmas menus not to be part of the required two-thirds majority needed to vote for a General Election, and that the EU have indeed ruled out any major renegotiation.
The bottom line is that the various options being desperately pushed by those who want ‘anything but a true Brexit’ are just not viable. There is:
But all such amendments to the motion are not legally binding anyway – they can only be advisory. They might bring political pressure, but they do not have legal effect. As the Commons Chief Clerk, Sir David Natzler, confirmed: whatever MPs vote on by way of motion “has no statutory significance”, as they do not constitute “a vote on whether to accept or reject no deal.” That requires new legislation. The actual law – in the EU Withdrawal Act – states clearly that we will leave on 29th March 2019.
Given that reality, and bearing in mind how rash it is to try to indicate a way forward in this maelstrom, this is what I propose now as the best next steps:
1) Assuming the vote fails on 11th December, or is put off, I believe the Government should make a statement immediately saying that preparations for a ‘no deal’ option – better called a ‘Clean Global Brexit’ or ‘World Trade Deal’ – will go into SuperDrive. Sorry, but defer Christmas!
Where there’s a will, there’s a way: in the Falklands War, the Ministry of Defence managed to put together a task force of 100 ships in just 48 hours. We can manage this process, and thousands of civil servants have been on the case for years. Like the Millennium Bug, claims of Armageddon and planes falling out the sky gave way to nothing happening on 1st January 2000.
2) The UK should then go back to Brussels, not to renegotiate this current draft Withdrawal Agreement, but to agree a pared-down, bare bones emergency series of bilateral agreements covering only the essential ‘must haves’: aviation, customs, citizens’ rights, medical products, European Investment Bank assets etc. The beauty of this is that if one agreement falls, then the others are not lost. The DUP’s Arlene Foster has proposed bilaterals. These bilaterals could be agreed by Westminster and the EU by March, and would any sane MP or MEP dare to seek to derail any such vital preparation in these circumstances? They should hold all further Westminster business, such as the Immigration and Trade bills, that may be hijacked.
3) The UK should also formally advise the EU that it wishes to accept the offer made not once but three times by the EU: that of a SuperCanada/CETA+++ Free Trade Agreement with 100% tariff- and quota-free access to the EU Single Market plus comprehensive services (first offered by Donald Tusk on 7th March), and which we could start negotiating from the day we become a ‘third country’ – 30th March next year.
We can build on the three pages on trade in the more appealing draft Political Declaration, but drop all notion of a ‘Single Customs Territory’ – the UK must firmly leave the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market. We are in a unique position to negotiate an FTA fast – as all our laws are convergent at present and we don’t have to spend years wrangling over which tariffs to keep or get rid of, as others do.
4) Having initiated moves to agree a SuperCanada FTA, the UK and EU can now jointly notify the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that in the light of working to agree a comprehensive FTA and future Political Declaration, we are invoking Article 24 of GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).
This is important because Article 24 allows us to maintain the same tariff-free access to both our markets without breaching WTO discriminatory Most Favoured Nation (MFN) laws. Article 24 allows “an interim agreement leading to a formation of a free trade area” and allows “a reasonable length of time” – up to 10 years – to negotiate it.
So, we whilst we will need customs declarations under WTO, we will be able to maintain the same zero tariffs as now with the EU – the free trade area will remain. EU exporters to the UK would save £13 billion in tariffs (and our consumers too) and UK exporters £5 billion. We will also be free to lower tariffs for other trading partners as we wish – something specifically excluded in the Backstop. Nor should there be any Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) either under WTO agreements.
We can also enact the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement which recently came into force that obliges the EU27 to adopt measures like authorised economic operators (trusted traders), which are part of the solution for the Northern Ireland border issue along with electronic declarations and remote checks away from the border.
5) As a sign of Britain’s free trade intent, we can now immediately initiate full and unfettered negotiations with international trade partners such as the USA, China and India, without these deals being torpedoed by being tied into the EU Customs Union, Chequers or the Backstop. The picture would be clear at last, and not be delayed by unending years of transition. Similarly, we will seek to build on current work to ‘roll over’ the benefits and obligations of existing EU trade deals such as that with South Korea.
6) So, on 30th March the UK can be cleanly out of the European Union and back into the world, with an acceptable and managed World Trade Deal option in place, free of years more wrangling over transitional arrangements, cost demands, alternative models and heightened business uncertainty – and with negotiations underway for a closer SuperCanada trade deal. We can reallocate much of the £39 billion payment lost by the EU to compensate UK-based companies legally in terms of R&D, regional aid and transport infrastructure – helping to stimulate our economy.
Like an operation we know needs doing, let us get on with the surgery quickly and speed up the recovery process.
This is indeed a Clean Global Brexit. Brexit could be over in a few months, rather than drag on for years on end.
And, for all our sakes – both Remainer and Brexiteer – let’s just get it done.
You can see David’s piece as it appears at brexitcentral here.
Local MEP David Campbell Bannerman has made a major contribution to the HS2 debate arguing for high speed trains to go up an improved East Coast Main Line through Peterborough instead of via Birmingham.
He said: “The Government is absolutely right to pursue visionary plans for a high speed rail network – I worked personally on Britain’s first high speed network. But if current HS2 plans go ahead our nearest fast trains will be in York and London. The current route is not good news for the economy of the East of England. We’ll be bypassed. We need to ensure we too enjoy the benefits of high speed rail.”
David explained that the paper related to constituency concerns he had previously expressed, is not party political and is nothing to do with the current elections.
The paper is available to download as a pdf here.
“It is a pleasure to have David come back to the Conservative fold, he has given us a great deal of help in fighting UKIP.”
David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council
“I am very pleased that we can welcome David Campbell Bannerman back to the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party is bringing in people who want to work in the national interest to sort out Britain’s problems. I am sure David Campbell Bannerman will be a valuable member of our team in the European Parliament.”
Rt Hon William Hague MP, Foreign Secretary
“As ever, the work you are doing on behalf of the Conservative Party is greatly appreciated, as is your determined promotion of an EU Referendum. Keep up the good work.”
Charles Walker MP, Member of Parliament for Broxbourne
“Thank heavens that we still have folk with backbone, you’re a credit to your country.”
Stephen G, Eastern Counties Constituent