May urged by leading economists, businesspeople and politicians to step up ‘no deal’ preparations

May urged by leading economists, businesspeople and politicians to step up ‘no deal’ preparations

Ahead of her attendance at next week’s European Council meeting, Theresa May is being urged to accelerate preparations for the possibility of Britain reverting to trading with the EU under WTO rules if Brussels refuses a free trade deal.

The message has been delivered to the Prime Minister in a letter co-ordinated by Economists for Free Trade and signed by 60 economists, politicians and businesspeople, including former Cabinet Ministers Lord Lawson, Owen Paterson and David Jones; leading pro-Brexit business figures like Tim Martin, Sir Rocco Forte, John Mills; and eminent economists such as Patrick Minford, Ruth Lea and Roger Bootle.

They call upon her to take an “assertive” approach at the Thursday’s meeting in Brussels and to reaffirm that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The signatories accuse EU negotiators of intransigence in the Brexit talks and their call for the British Government to hasten preparations for trading on WTO terms is made in order that ministers would be ready to walk away from the table if the EU continues to frustrate efforts to secure a free trade agreement.

Reserving the right to walk away from the EU without a trade deal is necessary in order to have “real leverage in the Brexit endgame,” they assert, while the much-discussed £39 billion financial settlement “must be contingent on our securing a satisfactory free trade deal”.

The full text of the letter and its signatories is as follows:


Dear Prime Minister,

We wish you well at the summit of European leaders at the end of the month. We are writing to you on behalf of a large body of Brexit supporters to urge you to take an assertive approach at the summit and to remind your fellow heads of government that your view remains that no deal with the EU is better than a bad deal.

We urge you to make clear to your counterparts that they have no prospect of either delaying or blocking Brexit. The settled will of the British people, as made clear in the referendum and later endorsed by the UK Parliament, is that the UK will leave the EU at the end of March next year. The intransigent and punitive stance of the EU negotiators will not succeed in frustrating democracy in the UK.

We believe you could also make clear that your preferred outcome is a free trade deal between Britain and the EU, an arrangement that is to the mutual benefit of both parties. Britain is a great champion of free trade and looks forward to striking free trade deals with countries beyond the shores of the Continent once Brexit has taken effect. 

However, in light of the reluctance of the EU swiftly to secure a free trade deal – eminently possible since we have been trading freely with the EU for more than 40 years – we suggest you make clear your belief that the UK has now to prepare urgently for the possibility that no agreement is forthcoming.

Accordingly, we believe now is the time to issue instructions to UK authorities to accelerate their preparations for “no deal” and a move to a World Trade Deal under WTO rules that, after all, govern the vast majority of global trading arrangements today.

As you will appreciate, to have any real leverage in the Brexit endgame, the UK must reserve the right to walk away without a trade deal and take with it the £39 billion it has offered to pay as part of a divorce settlement. This money covering the final years of the EU budget settlement must be contingent on our securing a satisfactory free trade deal. No trade deal, no money.

In addition to the £39 billion that the EU desperately needs to fill the hole in its budget, you have many things going for you. In spite of the doom-mongers, the UK economy is in rude health. The world is desperate for the UK to once again take up leadership for global free trade and free trade deals are on offer from our major trading partners.

Britain will flourish after Brexit, even without a free trade deal. Our analysis, in contrast to the gloomy and erroneous forecasts produced by the Civil Service Cross-Whitehall report, is that the UK would be £140 billion better off over the next 15 years under a World Trade Deal governed by WTO rules. The gains stem from a fall in prices after scrapping the EU tariff barriers against the rest of the world, higher exports, an end to our annual £10 billion net subscription to the EU, reduced red tape and an end to taxpayer subsidies to unskilled migrants from the EU. And, as the report we sent you last weekend demonstrates, we can be ready to leave without a trade deal by next March.

This would give the Chancellor ample scope to increase spending on priority public services such as the NHS while reducing the too high UK tax burden.

In economic terms, Brexit represents a huge opportunity for Britain. But the gains will only be realised if we make a clean break with what is obviously a failing institution.

Given the public interest in this matter, we will be releasing this letter to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Patrick Minford CBE, Chairman of Economists for Free Trade
Roger Bootle, Economists for Free Trade
Edgar Miller, Convener of Economists for Free Trade
Professor Vudayagi Balasubramanyam, Economists for Free Trade
Professor David Blake, Economists for Free Trade
Michael Burrage, Economists for Free Trade
Professor Tim Congdon, Economists for Free Trade
Professor Kevin Dowd, Economists for Free Trade
John Greenwood, Economists for Free Trade
Liam Halligan, Economists for Free Trade
Andrea Hossó, Economists for Free Trade
Ruth Lea CBE, Economic Adviser, Arbuthnot Banking Group PLC
Professor Graeme Leach, Economists for Free Trade
Warwick Lightfoot, Economists for Free Trade
Neil MacKinnon, Economists for Free Trade
Professor Kent Matthews, Economists for Free Trade
Paul Ormerod
Professor David Paton, Economists for Free Trade
Dr John Whittaker, Economists for Free Trade

Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, former Cabinet Minister
Rt Hon John Redwood MP, former Cabinet Minister
Rt Hon David Jones MP, former Minister of State for Exiting the European Union
Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP
Sir Gerald Howarth, former Defence Minister
Rt Hon the Lord Lawson of Blaby, former Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rt Hon the Viscount Ridley
Rt Hon the Lord Hamilton of Epsom
Rt Hon the Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Rt Hon the Lord Shinkwin of Balham
The Lord Cavendish of Furness DL
The Lord True CBE
The Lord Vinson LVO DL
The Lord Howard of Rising
Peter Bone MP
Sir Christopher Chope MP
Philip Davies MP
Richard Drax MP
Philip Hollobone MP
Andrea Jenkyns MP
Anne Main MP
Nigel Mills MP
Henry Smith MP
William Wragg MP

Richard Tice, CEO of Quidnet Capital Partners LLP, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave
John Longworth, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave, entrepreneur and former Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce
Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon plc
John Mills, Chair of Labour Leave
Sir Rocco Forte, Chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels
Sir John Craven, Former Board Member of Deutsche Bank
Sir David Ord, Co-Owner of Bristol Ports
Daniel Hodson, Former CEO of LIFFE
Judith Donovan CBE, Yorkshire Businesswoman
Lance Forman, Owner of H.Forman & Son
Johnnie and Arabella Arkwright, Owners of Hatton Adventure World
Peter MacSwiney, Co-Chair of the Joint Consultative Customs Committee – Customs Brexit Group
Alastair MacMillan, Director White House Products Ltd
Christopher Nieper, Managing Director David Nieper Ltd

Sir Richard Aikens, former Court of Appeal Lord Justice
Martin Howe QC, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain
Clive D. Thorne FCIArb, Solicitor and Arbitrator and Board Member of Lawyers for Britain

Professor Andrew Roberts
Professor Michael Loretto