My reading of the Brexit White Paper suggests the Government doesn’t really get what is at stake

My reading of the Brexit White Paper suggests the Government doesn’t really get what is at stake

The White Paper on Brexit which caused Boris Johnson and David Davis to resign from the Cabinet is a dismal warning that Downing Street is headed for a Brexit train crash.

This is not because the hundred pages of text is too much to manage; it is because it is unintelligible, incoherent and includes matters which do not warrant attention but, most importantly, lays out no platform which any government could use in undertaking something as significant as withdrawal from the EU.

Clearly those who oversaw preparation of the paper had no basic understanding of the fundamental issues or how to address them. This will be evident to anyone who goes to the trouble to try to comprehend the whole: the authors and editors of this document had no idea of what the key issues were that had to be addressed and how to do it.

The document was obviously regarded as workable by the majority of the two dozen people in Cabinet because most had no idea of the opportunities at stake.

The UK Government had a relatively short period of time to grasp the fundamentals of dealing with an unnecessarily complex (i.e. typically EU) organisation, so the team of officials mustered in David Davis’ new department actually did extraordinarily well to set out the basic propositions to inform the UK’s negotiating position.

But the fact that much of the department’s work was not drawn on indicates that there was another purpose to the meeting. The document DExEU created was sidelined by another, which was a pot pourri of commentary and analysis with no blend of direction or priority, and came from a melange of government officials. It was then tabled for Cabinet effectively on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.

This illustrates the real problem in 10 Downing Street: what is at stake and how to advance UK interests is simply not understood.

If the current document were adopted (and it can’t be – even for the European Commission whose quality of analysis and expression of fundamental issues itself is regularly compromised because of difference among its 28 members), it would present no coherent guide about how to manage Brexit with the European Commission.

What is the sense in surrendering future control over any changes to an organisation from which the British people have decided to separate?

Who said something like this is the only way the complications such as the Irish border could be addressed? This was just plain laziness.

Why is at least one third of the paper related to vague discussions of issues instead of concrete propositions which realise the decision of Brexit? Those who made that contribution patently had no understanding of what is at stake.

The EU agencies would tie the UK to continuing association at a cost to the British taxpayer; the UK would find itself bound to EU regulations over which, as a partial outsider, it would have no control. Does the UK want to be in a position like Switzerland or Norway, where the cost of association with the EU is that they must adopt EU regulations over which they have no say?

The UK can implement Brexit in a way which, in time, will facilitate a cordial and commercially effective relationship with the EU. Other economies like Canada and now Australia are forging such relationships with Free Trade Agreements.

And a proper, separated relationship will enable the UK to prosper even more than it does as a global leader in supply of high quality services.

It is puzzling to economies outside the EU why more has not been done to secure the benefits from open services markets. The EU committed in the Maastricht Treaty to open services markets among all EU parties. But systems to facilitate this have not been developed.

As the second largest exporter of services (after the US), the UK – independent of the EU – has the opportunity not only to assist other economies outside the EU to create regulatory systems which promote services and foster growth, but also to reap the benefit.

Significant opportunities exist in Asia-Pacific economies to supply services. The signatories to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which engages key economies in the Asia-Pacific region (which collectively now accounts for 60 percent of global GDP) have committed to opening services markets.

While tariffs on goods are generally low, aside from established industrial economies, Asia-Pacific economies, including even China, recognise the gains to growth that are attainable from opening services sectors.

This is just part of what actual separation from the EU offers the United Kingdom. The reality is that the EU is now decaying. Heavy debt and regulated currencies have stalled growth. There is no clear signal on the horizon that this will change. Unregulated migration has created significant social problems. While not a member of the Eurozone, the UK still faces the economic consequences of its current financial problems.

Establishing the UK as a wholly independent economy from the EU still allows the UK to service EU markets, but at the same time offers opportunities to trade and invest in other, more productive, regions in the global economy, such as the Asia-Pacific region.

None of these considerations were apparent in the document put in front of Cabinet.

A substitute plan demonstrating how the UK can forge an economic agreement with the rest of the EU and reach out into the rest of the global economy with other open market agreements is what the UK now needs if its citizens are to prosper.