Brexit Britain from Abroad: Cabinet Agrees on Hard Brexit but Is It Worth It
Is it Worth it?
A bus emblazoned with the alleged economic cost of quitting the bloc began a tour of the country on Wednesday. The crowd-funded bus cites a leaked government estimate of a 5 percent hit to GDP over 15 years to arrive at a figure of 2,000 million pounds ($2.8 billion) a week.
“There is so much new information that has come out about the costs of Brexit,” said Virginia Beardshaw, an organizer of the “Is it Worth It?” bus campaign. “We need to present people with the facts and let them make up their own minds.”
Buses have a surprisingly central place in the Brexit story. During the 2016 EU membership referendum, “leave” campaigners emblazoned a red bus with the claim that the U.K. pays the bloc 350 million pounds a week, money that could instead be spent on the National Health Service.
The figure was inflated — Britain’s net contribution to the bloc is about half that — but it stuck, and many believe it helped swing the referendum in favor of “leave.”
It has been more than 18 months since Britain voted by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU after more than 40 years of membership. The government triggered the two-year countdown to departure almost a year ago, and will quit the bloc on March 29, 2019.
But details of the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU remain unclear. How much access will Britain have to the bloc’s single market? Will there be customs checks and tariffs on goods?
Negotiations on future relations are due to start next month, with the goal of reaching broad agreement by the fall, so that EU countries can approve the deal before March 2019.
Tory MPs Demand Hard Brexit
More than 60 British Conservative MPs have sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, in which they make suggestions about the Brexit and ask that the United Kingdom can freely negotiate trade agreements.
The letter, which is reported on Wednesday (21.02.2018) by the British media, was sent by parliamentary "Tories" that form the so-called European Research Group, which includes eurosceptic politicians from the Conservative Party the governing party.
The MPs say that the United Kingdom should be free to negotiate and sign trade agreements with other countries outside the European Union (EU) as soon as it leaves the bloc in March 2019. As a member of the EU, the United Kingdom can not negotiate pacts commercial with countries outside the block.
The MPs stress that they are in favor of the UK having "regulatory autonomy" as of that date, something that has not yet been resolved because London and Brussels have yet to negotiate the terms of the transition period that will be after March 2019.
"The United Kingdom must be free to start its own trade negotiations immediately," they insisted.
Brexit War Cabinet Agrees (For Now)
Britain’s health minister has said the cabinet has agreed on a Brexit policy which will see Britain matching European Union rules in certain industries while having "the right to choose to diverge" from them in others.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who did not attend a meeting of the Brexit "war cabinet" at Chequers yesterday, told BBC Radio: "What I've been able to glean, as you say I wasn't there, is that it was a very positive discussion and I think we have made good progress.
"I think the central understanding - you have divergent views on a big issue like Brexit as you would expect - but the central common understanding is that there will be areas and sectors of industry where we agree to align our regulations with European regulations: the automotive industry is perhaps an obvious example because of supply chains that are integrated.
"But it will be on a voluntary basis, we will as a sovereign power have the right to choose to diverge and what we won't be doing is accepting changes in rules because the EU unilaterally chooses to make those changes."
Mr Hunt also rejected calls to remain in a customs union with the EU and claimed "frictionless" trade was still possible without one.
He said: "If we were a part of the customs union we wouldn't be able to negotiate trade deals independently with other countries and we wouldn't have full sovereign control of our destiny as a nation.
Hard Brexit and Magical Thinking
May made Johnson her Foreign Secretary, partly to keep him out of the country much of the time, but his influence on her government and its magical thinking about Brexit remains strong. In a column for the Daily Telegraph written three days after the vote, Johnson sketched a gleaming future for Britain outside the E.U., in which the U.K. would maintain all the best parts of being in the bloc (the freedoms and economic integration) while shedding the worst (the onerous rules and regulations). “This will bring not threats, but golden opportunities for this country,” he wrote. This was later condensed into a Johnsonian quip. “Our policy is having our cake and eating it,” he told the Sun, in September of 2016. Everywhere except London, where it is obvious that the rules of the E.U. are precisely what allow for its freedoms—that you can’t, in the German version of the phrase, “dance at two weddings”—this has become a joke. Last fall, as Britain made a series of concessions in the first round of Brexit negotiations, the European Council President, Donald Tusk, said, “This shows that the philosophy of having cake and eating it is finally coming to an end. At least I hope so.”
But Boris is—as the old boys’ phrase goes—good value. He enjoys writing speeches and giving them. He has favorite words, such as “glutinous,” which he uses wherever possible. Ahead of this week’s speech, morsels were carefully shared with the press. We were told that this would be a hopeful, inclusive, liberal vision for Brexit. It would also cheer everybody up. “If pessimism was a disease, Boris Johnson would be immune,” Conor Burns, the Foreign Secretary’s parliamentary aide, told the BBC.
The departure of the United Kingdom raises a debate in the EU on its future, and the 27 have already planned to meet again in May 2019 in Sibiu (Romania), to prepare their future "strategic agenda" for the future. period 2019-2024. The Sibiu summit, under the Romanian presidency, will be held just before the election of a new European Parliament and the formation of a new Commission, whose president, successor of the emblematic Jean-Claude Juncker, will be appointed by the Council with the approval of MEPs. This agenda will be our contribution to the next Commission, so we will have to see who is the best person to implement it, and who can also get the support of the majority of Parliament, "said another European source.
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