This Article was originally posted on The Commentator
Charles de Gaulle famously said “Non” to Britain joining the EU. Alas, we didn’t take no for an answer. But now that we are leaving, we should emulate de Gaulle and be prepared to say a decisive “Non” to Brussels. Given EU intransigence, preparing for no Brexit deal is now a vital part of our strategy
It was heartening for all Brexiteers to learn from Tory MP and Brexiteer Dominic Raab on the BBC’s Sunday Politics TV show that the Government has apparently begun making preparations for a No Deal scenario.
We were doubly reassured yesterday when the Prime Minister confirmed this during questions after her speech in Parliament. The Customs Bill White Paper released yesterday even set out some plans for Customs, Excise and VAT if we don’t get a deal. Without such preparations, a No Deal situation would be truly chaotic, as Customs systems and legal structures would have to be adapted with no time to spare.
Sure, No Deal with no preparation wouldn’t take years to resolve – we won the Second World War in 6 years! – but it would cause real disruption, unpalatable to a minority Government.
The EU knows this, and they would use fear of No Deal with no preparation to railroad the Government into a bad deal. As such, the fact contingency plans and preparations seem to be being made is good news indeed. It takes a card out of the EU’s hand, and adds one to our own – however much they are stubbornly attempting to resist proper negotiations with us.
Not getting a proper trade deal with us would be extremely harmful for the EU. As well as putting the £302 billion of exports the EU sends us (compared to £242 billion we export to them) at risk, it would harm their access to the vital debt markets of the City of London and so play havoc with their financial sector.
With four Italian banks already bailed out this year, and £1 trillion of bad debt in the European banking sector, the EU private sector could not allow this.
Member States of the EU would be in a scarcely better position than the EU private sector. Although they aren’t putting on as much debt as at the height of the crisis, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy remain dependent on borrowing. With the current chaos in Catalonia sending shockwaves through the Spanish economy, Madrid’s vulnerability is particularly acute.
So, the EU must take us very seriously. But to make the most of our position we must act quickly. We must talk more about preparing for a No Deal situation, and we must show, at the very least, the elements of how.
We must hire new Customs’ employees and showcase investment in upgrading Customs’ systems. Ministers must start planning for air traffic agreements; continuity agreements with those nations the EU already has free trade agreements with; as well as entirely new free trade agreements with powerhouses like the USA and China.
The Government really must indicate the kind of immigration system we would have in the event of No Deal and show it is making serious preparations to implement it. In short, the Government must ‘get real’.
The Civil Service won’t be keen. As head of the Civil Service, Remainer Jeremy Heywood wants us to stay in the EU by the back door and many of those in the unelected senior Civil Service agree with him. If the Government has a spine this will not matter: the Civil Service are there to implement what the elected Government asks of them.
If the Government acts to demonstrate the truth in Theresa May’s words, the EU will take us altogether more seriously in these negotiations as we Get Britain Out of the EU.
They will know they cannot simply wait for the March 2019 deadline to draw nearer and then give us a choice between a terrible deal or No Deal with no preparation.
If, and only if, they know we are really serious about this, will we be able to secure what the UK, and less unhinged elements of the EU want and need — a good deal which would leave the EU a friend of a sovereign United Kingdom.
Alexander Fiuza is a Research Executive for cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out