No-deal papers fail to highlight EU’s weakness

No-deal papers fail to highlight EU’s weakness

Dominic Raab has said we’ll still be able to enjoy a BLT sandwich if we fail to strike an exit deal with the EU and the army won’t be deployed to deliver food. He also said there will be a swifter end to our financial contributions to the EU.

The new Brexit Secretary was making a speech after the release of the first 25 technical papers advising business on how to make plans for a no-deal Brexit. They cover everything from the transfer of nuclear waste to the export of goods used for capital punishment.

Although it’s welcome on one level that the Government has begun to push back on some of the scare stories that have been allowed to develop, this is no longer business as usual.

If the Government sticks to its proposals agreed at Chequers, the UK will move towards a situation whereby the UK is locked into the regulatory regime in Brussels, making it difficult to imagine a situation whereby the EU would not agree to a deal.

Had these papers been released before the agreement was struck at Chequers, the release of specific information demonstrating the Government’s preparedness would have been reassuring to the public that trading with the EU on WTO terms would not spell disaster; but after Chequers it has become far less effective.

The papers will be a useful guide to British industry on making plans, but the Government has failed to capitalise on the impact they could have had on the EU.

Highlighting the dangers of a no-deal Brexit for the EU would surely have meant top exporters across the continent putting pressure on their national leaders. But absent from the documents today is evidence of any of the downsides of such a scenario for EU businesses.

Chancellor Philip Hammond once said that the UK could change its economic model if the EU wouldn’t cooperate. This elicited pained howls from the EU, clearly terrified of a powerful competitor to the north. However, in the no-deal papers, the Government has said, for example, that there will be no change to the VAT rate, putting the minds of regulators and eurocrats in Brussels at ease.

The Government has also failed to elaborate on what would happen to the Northern Irish border. In his speech, the Brexit Secretary reiterated that there would be no hard border but the technical papers say businesses should consult the Irish Government if they plan to export across the border. There is no mention of the controversial ‘backstop’ to which the UK had previously agreed.

In short, publishing contingency plans for no deal would have been far more effective if the UK had opted to seek a simple free trade agreement. And by failing to highlight the danger of no deal for the EU and by committing to Chequers, the Government has failed to capitalise on what should have been a strong hand.