Sunday 13 December 2020

National Sovereignty

Why does Boris Johnson expect Britain to worship his golden calf of national sovereignty? In the past, when considering entering into international agreements, British Governments have weighed up the balance between the benefits that the agreement confers and the loss of sovereignty that is part of any such agreement. The sovereignty lost by a number of the UK’s current agreements is far greater than that which would be incurred by the free trade deal available to Britain with the EU. Take NATO. Should one of our fellow members be attacked, we must go to war in their defence; our sovereign right to take that decision ourselves is overridden. Consider the International Energy Agency. If there were to be another emergency affecting oil supplies, we must share available oil, including our own domestic production, with the other members according to IEA rules. We are also members of the World Trade Organisation. That requires us to have given up the right to subsidise exports. If our national sovereignty is so vital, then the Prime Minister should tell us whether than means that the UK must also withdraw from membership of NATO, the IEA and the WTO and, if not, why.

Leaving the EU without a free trade agreement risks damage to 45% of UK exports and the 26% of UK food consumption imported from the EU. A free trade deal is available. We should accept the EU’s proposal that we continue to abide by current EU rules and that, should these be changed (because we have deliberately given up our rights to participate in discussions on such changes) then there will be negotiations on the effect of the changes at the time.

The UK’s fishing industry contributes 0.02% of the British economy, so even if Brexit enabled us to increase that contribution ten times (hardly likely) it would still only be a fifth of one percent. Even by his standards, blundering Boris’ decision to send gunboats to protect it seems as bizarre as it is dangerous. Of course he is cheered by the support from such intellectually serious papers as the Mail and the Express, but what thought has been given to the retaliatory consequences should they be seriously used, for example but cutting the French boats’ nets? And surely it is unreasonable for the UK to expect French fishermen to give up a vital part of the income they have enjoyed for years, because of a decision taken by a foreign government without the slightest consolation with them.

The only conclusion that I can draw from these events is that Johnson actually wants a no deal Brexit, as he has said “I think it will be wonderful for the UK, we’ll be able to do exactly what we want from January 1st.” Of course there will be problems, some already foreseen and others still unforeseen. But what is far more important is that it will boost Johnson’s popularity with pro-Brexit voters. The question that Boris has clearly not thought about is, for how long?

Robin Baker

Friday 11 September 2020

Support for the UK Internal Market Bill?

Being a former association officer in the Conservative Party I am still on their e-mail distribution list. Yesterday I received a message from Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, asking me to confirm my support for the new law that has been put to Parliament and saying:

“I have introduced our UK Internal Market Bill in Parliament to guarantee free and fair trade spreading economic development across the whole of the UK.

Without this vital piece of legislation businesses across the UK would face unprecedented barriers and costs.

A Welsh lamb farmer would be unable to easily (sic) sell lamb in Scotland as they can do now. A Scotch whisky producer could lose total access to English barley. And a car built in England would be more expensive to buy in Northern Ireland.”

I replied to his e-mail saying that, before I could confirm my support, I needed to understand why, if this was to be the result, the Government had proposed such a measure to the EU and campaigned at the last general election on its merits.

I am not holding my breath until I receive a reply but, should I receive one, to be fair to the Government I will publish it here.

Robin Baker

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Conservatives and the ECHR: Lord Finkelstein OBE in conversation with Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC

The Rt Hon Sir David Lidington KCB CBE, the newly elected CGE Chair, former Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, chairs the launch of the CGE paper - Conservatives and the European Convention on Human Rights

Lord Finkelstein OBE, The Times Columnist and Conservative Peer, is in conversation with The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC, CGE Vice President & former Attorney General, to discuss the paper.