Telling the truth about Brexit

The so-called Brexit debate has descended into a verbal fisticuffs based on lies, smears and down-right untruths. We now need to get back and have debates based on evidence and not wind-baggery!

Are you fed up with the debate on Brexit? Well I am! The biggest problem we have with it is that it will not stop if we do Brexit. Some people think that an Oct 31st Brexit will mean that we don’t have to talk about it again ever. Regrettably, this is just not true. If we did leave then there are 700+ trade agreements which will need to be sorted out and the 450 pages of the withdrawal agreement are packed with decisions that will need to be taken.

Expect BREXIT and the consequences of it to go on for years then unless of course we decide not to BREXIT when there will be no need for the withdrawal agreement and all the trade and other rules will stay as they are now.

What really encouraged me to take up my metaphorical pen again is hearing the Head of Wetherspoons, who is I believe called Tim Martin, telling the most outrageous untruths about BREXIT. He claimed that only 7% of the world trade exists on a tariffed basis! This is so far from the truth that I cannot decide whether the man is lying or just plain stupid.

Just look at the economic news which is dominating the news throughout the past few weeks – the trade war between China and the USA. This is being ratcheted up by continually increasing the tariffs between the two countries. Note the word increasing. There have always been tariffs between the two biggest economies in the World so even if they were the only two Countries that used tariffs, they account for a huge proportion of world trade, world GDP and the world population.

The 7% falls on that basis alone. Almost all trade is conducted using tariffs some of which are entirely marginal and are really designed to force proper standards of goods and trade. Others like those now between China and the USA are punitive and are designed to create level playing fields where one partner is seen to be abusing their power.

Economic trade zones like the EU exist globally. There’s one in South East Asia; there’s one in North America; there’s one in the Caribbean. All created to smooth trade between adjacent countries which necessarily makes trade outside the bloc more difficult. Adjacency is the key factor here. By and large we trade most with countries that are closest to us. There are obvious reasons for this relating to the cost and time of transport and the perishability of some goods.

It’s also interesting to hear people talk about the World Trade Organisation as if there are no tariffs which it controls. That would mean you have an organisation that would do nothing! In fact, the WTO polices a whole range of tariffs which we would fall back on if we leave the EU. One really sticks in my mind having been to Brecon last month. At present the Welsh Hill Farmers export much of their produce to Europe. They do so because we only have limited storage for meat. At present we export to Europe on a zero tariff. Under WTO rules they will be subject to a 35% tariff. That will kill the trade and will kill the way of life of sheep farmers.

Even if we were able to continue to export on a zero-tariff basis into the EU from outside then there would still be paper work to be filled and increased checks to be made as we would outside that market.

As I look back to the referendum debate more than 3 years ago, I can see that everything that the Remain campaign said at the time is being proven true but still being denied by the Leavers;

I said that there would be huge problems for the car industry and pointed to nearby Ellesmere Port. That plant will close if we Brexit, especially without a deal. That’s not what I say but what their management say.

I said that there would be a hard border for Ireland which would start in Birkenhead where the ferries come in from Belfast and Dublin. That hard border will be there because rules exist which UK governments have insisted upon for 40 years. We wanted a hard border between the EU and the rest of the World. In fact, we demanded it. Now when it is applied to us, we don’t like it and expect the other 27 Countries to change those rules which apply to all the external borders of the EU.

Perhaps the most ludicrous arguments relate to democracy. I recently heard a Brexit MEP says that there was no democracy in the Parliament. This was someone who had just won an election to become an MEP. Had he bothered to turn up he would have known that the European Parliament actually votes on who will be the Chairs of Committees which in many ways is the equivalent of the Cabinet.

They voted to accept a new Head of the Civil Service recommended to them by the 28 elected heads of Europe. They could have rejected that person. In the House of Commons, the Head of the Civil Service is appointed by the Prime Minister as is the Cabinet. So, there’s actually more democracy in the EU than in our own Parliament which still operates as a 19th century Gentlemen’s Club.

What do we do now? There are two options:

  1. Have a second referendum which this time is a binding referendum based on the binary choice of May’s deal or Remain. Remember the first Referendum was only an advisory one which was not binding on Parliament. That was on the face of the Bill and part of the Act. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
  2. Just revoke Article 50.

My original preference was the first option. Now I am not so sure. The debate that has been conducted is so farcical that it has debilitated trade and investment. It has meant that other vital areas such as social care; education and the environment have been largely ignored.

Perhaps we should now just say that we will revoke Article 50 and try to rebuild the shattered alliances and agreements which the UK has so recklessly endangered with our crass and boorish behaviour.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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