“A new dawn has broken, has it not?”

Blair-Boris

Well, has it or has it not? The new UK government has made many promises but will they really give us a proper Brexit, let alone bring about a new dawn?

So said, or asked, Tony Blair when Labour won the 1997 General Election by a landslide; the same ambiguity seems appropriate after the latest overwhelming victory. To our new Prime Minister it would echo Blair’s rhetorical statement (“I’m sure you agree with me”) but to us it is equivocal (“…, has it or has it not?”).

The new administration under Boris Johnson promises to re-energise government and get things done, at last. Success depends on choosing the right objectives and the right approaches to achieving them and we cannot know at this stage how these ‘things’ will turn out. We will only comment on any that relate to Brexit.

Writing into law that the UK must formally leave the EU by the end of next month and complete the Transition by the end of next year is bold. It has already been written off as impossible by the Remainer and EU Eyeores, if we are to have a meaningful trade deal. Trade deals are complex and usually do take a lot longer than a year to complete but two things make it possible in this case (we can’t yet say likely). First, both sides start from complete alignment of tariffs and regulations so changes do not have to be rushed. Second, Most Favoured Nation rules of the WTO (which prevent discrimination against some trading partners in favour of others unless there is a free trade agreement) can be delayed for up to 10 years provided an FTA is in the process of negotiation; both sides need to agree for this (GATT24) to apply and both say they are ready and willing to begin.

Some people are worried that leaving without an agreement a year from now would force us into a hurried US-UK trade agreement on unfavourable terms. Maybe the Americans would play hardball but there are alternative opportunities that might be easier to pursue that either of these. Our pre-Christmas post two years ago [1] outlined the case for a CANZUK agreement with like-minded, traditional partners and cooperation thereafter with other trade groups in Asia, Africa and South America, all of which would probably be keen to create world-wide links. These are some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, especially when compared with most of Europe’s.

We accept that getting things right on a large scale can create problems for some at a local level, this applies to Brexit itself which is why some farmers, car workers and others will need help with the ‘transition’, as the Government appears to recognise. The EU has proved fertile soil for special-interest lobbying and is slow to respond; it could fix the latter issue by taking more control and not seeking national agreement: more qualified majority voting (QMV) [2] or trilogues [3]. This is the path we have known and seems set to continue because genuine EU reform never gets past the first base.

The UK will leave the Common Agricultural Policy but continue supporting farmers for a period; we have reported on how New Zealand agriculture prospered by ending subsidy and encouraging farmers to do what they are best at, which could be the long-term approach [4] (final paragraph). We will also leave the Common Fisheries Policy, which should allow fairer quotas for UK fishermen and (hopefully) more sustainable fishing grounds. Free ports and enterprise zones may assist northern manufacturing areas. We will see how determinedly these and other policies will be followed and how helpful they will prove.

It seems appropriate now to wish us all a prosperous New Year, after we’ve got Christmas done.

[1] Transition, Implementation or What?

[2] Ambition, Distraction, Unification and Division

[3] Law-making in Secret-2: Update

[4] Remains of the Fray

 


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