£4 billion plus

Thats what the UK has spent to date preparing for Brexit. Not my figure – its the National Audit Office. See https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-51762243

and we haven’t even started recruiting the extra 50,000 customs officials we need to handle all the extra paperwork “taking back control” involves. See https://www.ft.com/content/6cf7bba6-598f-11ea-abe5-8e03987b7b20. assume the total cost of each one is £30000 that’s then £1.5 billion a year!

still – we get blue passports (which we could have had anyway)

Level Playing Field (part 2)

Media reports today quote Boris Johnsons “official spokesman” (whoever that is) as saying “Level playing field is an EU construct, not a piece of terminology which we use”.

Not really true. Actually not true at all. In fact a complete untruth. A lie. not the first and for sure not the last. And not simply a mistake or ignorance. If you have any interest or knowledge in these talks you have to know that a “level playing field” is a key concept. And an assertion the EU have just made the term up, which you must know is untrue (see below) is just absolute total fabrication – a lie. Why would anyone trust the UK if we simply lie about what is happening? And we have not even started the talks yet.

Let me help the anonymous spokesman to understand why his (or her) statement is untrue. Its not difficult.

Simply read the Political Declaration the UK Government signed up to with the EU which accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement – paragraph 77

“77 Given the Union and the United Kingdom’s geographic proximity and economic interdependence, the future relationship must ensure open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field”. 

See my earlier post for a more detailed analysis of the level playing field issue. An interesting question is what is the point of the lie? Its not going to fool the EU who know what is in the Political Agreement. It is presumably designed for domestic consumption so when things come off the rails because the UK tries to renege on the commitment given in paragraph 77 we can (untruly) blame the EU for something they made up which is nothing to do with us. I see trouble ahead!

Level Playing Field anyone?

The government is talking tough about being able to set its own laws and appears to be moving away from any agreement on a “level playing field” – i.e. common rules and standards with the EU. For example here is our chief Brexit negotiator David Frost speaking in Brussels this week :

“It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us – to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has.

“So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so-called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing.”

Its not surprising that the EU is looking worried about whether the UK can be trusted. Our current position appears to simply igore what we signed up to in the political declaration that accompanied Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement – here is paragraph 77 of that document –

“77 Given the Union and the United Kingdom’s geographic proximity and economic interdependence, the future relationship must ensure open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field. The precise nature of commitments should be commensurate with the scope and depth of the future relationship and the economic connectedness of the Parties. These commitments should prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages. To that end, the Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters. The Parties should in particular maintain a robust and comprehensive framework for competition and state aid control that prevents undue distortion of trade and competition; commit to the principles of good governance in the area of taxation and to the curbing of harmful tax practices; and maintain environmental, social and employment standards at the current high levels provided by the existing common standards. In so doing, they should rely on appropriate and relevant Union and international standards, and include appropriate mechanisms to ensure effective implementation domestically, enforcement and dispute settlement. The future relationship should also promote adherence to and effective implementation of relevant internationally agreed principles and rules in these domains, including the Paris Agreement”.

Where will all the workers come from post Brexit?

As the Government announces its new “points based ” immigration system its clear the door is closing on low paid unskilled immigrants. So who is going to replace all thiose care workers, fruit pickers, labourers, waiting staff etc ?

Our charmless Home Secretary Priti Patel has the answer – ‘Economically inactive’ Britons could do jobs in sectors where there are shortages under new system, she says.

We have over 8.45 million people in the UK aged between 16 and 64 who are economically inactive,” she said.

That figure seems correct according to ONS data. But who are they?

The biggest category is students, who account for 27% of the inactive.

Another 26% of the inactive population count as sick – almost all of whom are long-term sick. 

Next up, 22% of the inactive are those who are looking after their homes or caring for family members. 

The fourth most common reason for economic inactivity is people who have retired before the age of 65 – that’s 13% of the total.

that leaves around 11% unaccounted for – or approximately 900,000 people. Good luck with that! No wonder just about every industry sector you can think of which uses unskilled labour is screaming.

Cabinet Reshuffle

So Johnson reshuffles the Cabinet to find people Dominic Cummings approves of. Apart from the rather surprising fact that Sajid Javid has apparently dug deep and found some integrity and and hence resigned, by and large I couldn’t care less. Most of those fired seem to me to be people with the charisma and intellectual ability of a jellyfish (e.g. Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and the misleadingly named James Cleverly). It does however seem to me extraordinary that Julian Smith as Northern Ireland Secretary got the boot. He’s done a good job there after an endless succession of utterly useless non entities (including Karen Bradley who spectacularly confessed to not knowing before her appointment that voters there tend to vote on sectarian lines). Smith has unblocked Stormont, got things moving, and is respected by all sides and his own civil servants. At a time when Johnson’s Brexit plans arguably throws Northern Ireland under a bus and there must be some risk of a return to violence, its very depressing.

A fair question

Set out below is a pefectly fair question from the EU’s Michel Barnier today. Its significant to my mind that we apparently cannot answer it. But sooner or later the time for cheap soundbites and trite slogans will run out and we will have to decide what type of deal we want. What the EU will not do is allow the UK easy/unrestricted access to its market if we are not prepred to abide by its standards and rules. Its very simple really. If for example EU countries have to abide by laws regarding say maternity and paternity rights, which impose an overhead on business, why should they allow unrestricted access from a non member country if its not prepared to sign up to the same standards (or better). The same principle applies to a huge raft of provisons that are intertwined throughout our economy. To allow us to drop them is just an invitation to allow the UK to start unfair undercutting. If you want to drop the standards thats fine and part no doubt of “taking back control” but don’t expect the EU to then allow unrestricted market access. The UK government has yet to acknowledge this basisc issue has to be addressed. When it does Johnson’s famous “having our cake and eating it too” will be exposed for the nonsense it alway was.

Michel Banier today “The prime minister, Boris Johnson, whom we respect, said that in leaving the European Union the UK was not leaving Europe. We welcome that resolve. The question that arises, for which we have no reply up until now, is this; it’s a fairly simple, but a rather serious question: the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, the single market and the customs union – does it also wish to leave, or move away, from our economic and social model, from the European regulatory model it’s very familiar with because we got it up with the United Kingdom over a period of 47 years? That is the question on which we are awaiting a reply.

Australia (again)

Unsurprisingly the EU has spotted that Johnson’s suggestion that an Australia type free trade deal might be an option is nonsense: “Australia without any doubt is a strong and a like-minded partner,” EU Commission head Ursula Von der Leyen told MEPs. “But the European Union does not have a trade agreement with Australia. We are currently trading on WTO terms. And if this is the British choice, well, we are fine with that without any question. But, in fact, we just are in the moment where we are agreeing with Australia that we must end this situation and we work in a trade deal with them”

Unleashing Potential?

“When I look at the potential of this country waiting to be unleashed I know that we can turn this opportunity into a stunning success” – Boris Johnson 31/1/2020 

It would be interesting to know, given the Tories have been in power for the last 9 years, in what way the EU was up until now preventing them from unleashing the potential of this great country?