The latest plan from the Brexiteers for the UK’s future trading relationship with the world is a farce.
The Brexit campaign did its best to deride all experts, from scientists to economists, so it is little surprise that Patrick Minford was the sole “economist” present for launch party of the latest publication from the so-called Economists for Free Trade, ‘A World Trade Deal: The Complete Guide‘. There were few serious people in attendance at all, but Brexit’s big guns of Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Jacob Rees-Mogg were all there to push the latest report of mathematical magic designed to give the public hope that leaving the European Union will not be the complete and utter failure the majority of Britons now believe it will be.
The central tenet of the “report” is that leaving the EU without a deal will not be a catastrophic act of self-harm, but instead boost the economy by £1.1tn over the next 15 years with GDP growth of seven percent per annum. This “fact” may be completely false, with every single other piece of economic analysis showing Brexit will harm the UK’s finances by tens of billions, but reality has never stopped the Brexiteers.
Rees-Mogg, whose own financial firm recently opened a new fund in Ireland to avoid the risks of Brexit, has long complained that the negative predictions about Brexit from the Treasury, banks, and financial analysts around the world could not be correct because ‘no-one predicted the 2008 financial crisis’. Now, after making up his own figures to support his faith in Brexit, he feels predictions should be believed – a position derided as “desperate stuff” by Labour MP Owen Jones.
The proposals, backed by many of Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG), do little to explain how trading on WTO rules without a free-trade agreement with the EU will not inflict huge damage on UK businesses, with the FAQ provided to journalists in attendance offering no details or explanation at all. They also do not offer any new options for how to deal with the issue of the border in Ireland – the only land border between the UK and EU. Both the UK and the EU have said they want to avoid a return to physical checks at the Northern Ireland border, but no-one has offered a workable plan for how this could be achieved without the UK staying within some form of customs arrangement with the EU.
The aim of the Brexiteers appears to be to force Theresa May to accept their plans for a hard Brexit or they will bring down her leadership, but it remains unclear whether the 80 or so members of the ERG would follow through with their threats and risk a Labour government. Boris Johnson may be right that May’s Chequers plan would leave the UK in a worse position than the status quo, but the his problem is it has become abundantly clear that his plan for a hard Brexit would be a catastrophe.