Deal or No Deal – it’s decision time

Deal or No Deal – it’s decision time

As an elected MEP since 2009, both as a Conservative and with UKIP, I have believed my mission was to make the informed and persuasive case for Britain to leave the European Union to the best of my ability. As a part of that, I sought to learn as much as I could about trade deals through serving on the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee; producing a book, Time to Jump, and publications such as The Ultimate Plan B; producing an information video documentary, Taking the Fear out of Brexit (which anticipated Project Fear); undertaking media and seminar work; and also setting up a number of national information conferences as an MEP through my Group, the European Conservatives and Reformists.

One conference looked at ‘Alternatives to EU Membership’ in 2015 with a range of top cross-party speakers and experts. The second, ‘The Good Life After Brexit’ in May 2016, brought together a major line of speakers to make the positive case for Brexit – where, remarkably, on the same platform were David Davis, Liam Fox, Nigel Farage, John Redwood, Steve Baker, Mathew Elliott, Sir Bill Cash and Ian Paisley (the contributions are on my website). I was then heavily involved in the Referendum, co-chairing Conservatives for Britain with the excellent Steve Baker, now Brexit Minister, and chairing the Contact Group of Eurosceptic groups backing Vote Leave.

But our task today is to facilitate the best deal for the UK and the EU now that we are forging a new relationship – not as an EU member but as a close and friendly partner in matters of trade, economics, foreign affairs, security and justice. I don’t see this as a zero-sum game; it is in all our interests to reach a good deal and I will work with all MEPs to help deliver this.

In light of this I have put together another conference taking place today entitled ‘Deal or No Deal: What are the Options?’.

We are now entering the end game on the Brexit negotiations. The paperwork for the all important December EU Council of the EU’s leaders on 14th December is starting to go out now. Here will be made the decision to move to trade talks or not, judged on the basis of whether ‘sufficient progress’ has been made on cash, EU citizens and the Northern Ireland border, though ‘nothing is agreed until everything agreed’ is still the over-riding mantra.

If trade talks do not start in January then there is a clear choice for Britain to make: to muddle on seeking to change the EU’s mind through more and more cash or to go for a ‘no deal’ scenario with no trade deal and no cash – as Sir James Dyson advocates and former Bank of England Governor, Lord King, anticipates – by embracing the kind of WTO rules arrangement with the EU which the USA, China, India, Japan (now) and Russia has and which does not require a large payout. So it is indeed Deal or No Deal – decision time. I could live with either.

I am delighted to have a stellar line up for today’s conference in Westminster, chaired by the redoubtable Tim Montormerie of UnHerd, The Times and ConservativeHome, with our chief Brexit negotiator and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis himself, topping the bill.

We are joined too by Minister for International Trade, Greg Hands, while the former Brexit Minister, David Jones, will be speaking in favour of this WTO rules option. Helle Hagenau, the head of Norway’s ‘Nei Til EU’ group, which won the Norwegian anti-EU membership referendum of 1993 by 52% to 48%, will also be speaking with authority on the pitfalls of the EEA option.

Comments will be made on some speeches by Lord Duncan of Springbank, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Scotland Office, giving the devolved angle, and my German MEP colleague, Hans-Olaf Henkel, former head of Bundesverbands der Deutschen Industrie (BDI) – Germany’s CBI – who has been very critical of how the EU has handled the negotiations.

I will be speaking on my proposal for a ‘SuperCanada’ deal based on new research and will be putting up the comparison between Canada’s CETA deal with the EU (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) which I use as a handy template based on experience, and SuperCanada, which is wider, deeper and better than CETA with far more on services such as financial services. I believe this is a credible, sensible and valid model for a trade deal.

Delegates include many Ambassadors, MPs, Lords, MEPs, interest and business groups and the whole event will be filmed for those unable to present.

I believe that this latest contribution will help to illustrate and inform the choice we have before us in terms of the next stage. But how wonderful it is to be discussing the detail of leaving the European Union, rather than the mere case for leaving.

For once the model is agreed, and is being enacted, far calmer political waters will follow.