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The UK should be prepared to walk away from Brexit talks and call the EU’s bluff

This article was originally posted yesterday on my personal blog

Throughout the EU Referendum campaign, I said that reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would not be disastrous. Indeed, as the respected economist, Ruth Lea, has pointed out, the UK would thrive under WTO rules.


“The prospects for a bespoke deal are, therefore, reasonably positive. But, if there is no bespoke agreement, then the default position would be that the UK, a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), would trade under WTO rules. The UK would, for example, face the EU Common External Tariff as EU exporters would face the tariffs adopted by the UK. There is, however, convincing evidence that trade can thrive under this regime, given favourable commercial circumstances. Preferential trade deals may oil the wheels of international commerce, but their importance should be kept in perspective. If the commercial circumstances are adverse, trade will not thrive, irrespective of special trade agreements.”

I have also long said that the UK should walk away from Brexit talks if the EU becomes unreasonable and not go through the charade of negotiating our exit. Some, like Tim Farron’s collection of authoritarian misfits and illiberal anti-democrats, will say I am an extremist. Paul Scriven, a Liberal Democrat Peer, described Theresa May’s approach to Brexit as brutal and suicidal in a reply to me on Twitter. But there’s nothing brutal and suicidal trading under WTO rules, something we do very successfully at the moment with the United States of America.

In this week’s SpectatorFraser Nelson’s leading article lists all the reasons why Theresa May should be ready to walk away and also lists the reasons why a majority of voters had had enough of the EU. Here is an extract:

“Rather than being drawn into the briefing wars, she [Mrs. May] ought to start making preparations to walk away. Publishing a contingency plan would show that the ‘no deal’ scenario is far from disastrous: World Trade Organisation rules ban the EU from inflicting punishing tariffs or quotas on British goods. A tariff of about 4.5 per cent would be an irritant, but easily offset by a fall in sterling. WTO rules have governed Britain’s relations with the United States, our biggest single trading partner. If the EU is in no state to agree a deal now, then it makes perfect sense to walk away and revert to WTO default rules for a while, seeking to strike an agreement with the EU when it is finally able to do so.

“It cannot be stressed often enough that we are not leaving Europe — only a cumbersome union of countries with which somehow we will continue to do business. Good relations with our neighbours will outlast our membership of the European Union, and very possibly, given the dissent seen in France and elsewhere, the EU itself.”

During this general election campaign, you are going to hear a lot of claptrap from the Remainers. The Liberal Democrats are going to say anything to get you to vote for them. They are desperate to increase the pitiful amount of seats they have in the House of Commons. They want to find a role for themselves, and have decided that being Remoaners-in-chief is the best possible way of them doing it.

The likes of Jean-Claude Juncker cling on to the hope that they will be able to make the most outrageous demands and that Theresa May will roll over like a puppy – very much in the same way David Cameron did – and give them everything they want in order to achieve Brexit. I don’t for one moment think she will, and nor should she. Call their bluff, Prime Minister. When they finally realise that you are serious, they won’t know what’s hit them.

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