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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Government no-deal Brexit papers expose our vulnerabilities

Today's publication of UK Government plans for a no deal Brexit was meant to reassure us, but as the Independent's Economics Editor, Ben Chu comments here, the reality is that they have exposed how isolated and vulnerable we are outside of the European Union.

The reality, he says, is that so much would be entirely out of ministers’ hands, leaving us at the mercy of decisions taken in Europe.

Mr Chu argues that the major issues for the UK economy, and the ones that ought to be front and centre of all this, are the movement of goods, keeping planes flying and the Irish border. But all of that is dependent on the EU co-operating and waiving some of their own rules, in some cases putting the integrity of the sacrosanct single market at risk:

For as [Dominic] Raab also admitted today that there’s no guarantee the EU would reciprocate on fast-tracking UK exports through their own ports without checks. Where would these new delays leave UK exporters? British farmers? Multinationals with cross-border supply chains?

“Who is credibly suggesting, in a no deal scenario, that the EU would not want to continue to sell food to UK consumers?” asks Raab, addressing the fact that sandwich makers have warned about major disruption to supplies in the event of no deal.

But is he suggesting that the EU would be willing to open up a giant hole in its customs union and single market just to benefit Continental sandwich ingredient exporters?

And bear in mind that UK Brexit fanatics have been demanding a total repudiation of the authority of the legal and regulatory institutions of the EU and calling for the unilateral dropping of existing product safety standards.

What basis would the EU have for trusting that the UK would stick to the EU regulatory rulebook after a no deal rupture, especially one that has created rivers of bad blood?

Raab talks of the “smooth, continued, functioning of business, transport, infrastructure, research, air programmes and funding streams that have previously come from the EU”.

But the reality is that so much would be entirely out of ministers’ hands, leaving us at the mercy of decisions taken in Europe.

For all their detail, these documents only serve to highlight that gaping void – and catastrophic loss of control.

I have seen comments from Liberal Democrats spokespeople that these documents are being put out there to make the Chequers deal seem more palatable. The reality though is that both scenarios would spell a major short term disaster for the UK economy. In the case of a no deal it is almost as if we are being put on a war-footing.

But what is increasingly becoming clearer is that it is a no deal that is a far more likely outcome than Theresa May securing an agreement based on the Chequers accord. What a mess.
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