I was tweeting away on Brexit using the #bbcqt hashtag as usual on Thursday nights, when Will Harris, a freelance journalist making radio at @BBC5live, tweeted me asking for a DM. So I did… and not long after midnight, I was on BBC Radio Five live, giving whoever’s up after midnight five minutes of my views on Brexit. (If you want to listen to me, for the next 28 days you can find me on BBC iPlayer, Question Time Extra Time on Radio 5 Live, the 19/10/2017 show, 2 hours 26 minutes in.)
What I’d been asked to respond to was a question on the Dimbleby programme itself: is no deal better than a bad deal?
A bad deal Brexit, especially one negotiated by David Davis, could be pretty bad: he’s not much of a negotiator, and worse yet, the UK doesn’t have much of a hand to negotiate.
As both Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, and Philip Hammond, the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, have each pointed out, no deal means planes grounded: when the UK leaves the EU, it then leaves EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency. No deal means the sudden imposition of WTO tariffs on all of our imports and exports. (And that is in itself more difficult than Chris Grayling and other Brexiteers seem to think.)
No deal means the end of the Good Friday Agreement – slamming down a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, ending a hard-won fiercely-negotiated and still fragile peace deal for the sake of – what?
This is what Peter North, a Leave campaigner and Brexit supporter, realistically envisages as the consequences of no-deal Brexit in the first year:
we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. Virtually all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year. Initially we will see food prices plummet but this won’t last. Domestic agriculture won’t be able to compete and we’ll see a gradual decline of UK production. UK meats will be premium produce and no longer affordable to most.
Once food importers have crushed all UK competition they will gradually raise their prices, simply because they can. Meanwhile wages will stay depressed and because of the collapse of disposable income and availability of staff, we can probably expect the service sector to take a big hit thus eliminating all the jobs that might provide a supplementary income.
Across the board we will see prices rising. There will be some serendipitous benefits but nothing that offsets the mass job losses. We will see a lot of foreign investment dry up and banking services will move to the EU. Dublin and Frankfurt. I expect that house prices will start to fall, but that’s not going to do anyone any favours in the short to mid term.
But it’s not only trade:
What Lisa Nandy didn’t have time to point out: there are over 30 EU agencies, and the transportation agencies don’t only cover aviation: the EU agencies we would be leaving also cover maritime transport and road and railways transport.
(Ever travel by Chunnel? Look forward to changing from a UK train to a EU train at the border: and of course showing your passport with the required visa for entrance. There will be a queue. Hope you don’t miss your EU train.)
Also covered by EU agencies, all of which we would leave if we crashed out of the EU with no deal: electronic communications (BEREC), banking (EBA), disease prevention and control (ECDC), food safety (EFSA), medicines for humans and veterinary medicines (EMA), monitoring drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA)… and many more. If the government’s plan is simply to replicate all of these agencies within the UK, the Tories need to be funding and recruiting a massive new intake of civil servants. (They’re not. Nor is there any sign they plan to. Nor is it clear, given the recession that will be caused by no-deal Brexit, that the UK government could afford to re-create all 31 EU agencies within the UK.)
The argument Chris Grayling on Question Time, and other Leavers elsewhere have put forward, that we can just recreate free trade relationships with the EU countries and with the rest of the world is nonsense. Three-quarters of the UK’s overseas trade is either with the EU or via trade deals negotiated by the EU. All of which we lose with Brexit, and which will take years to replace. [I said three-quarters, but that was over-estimating: the actual figure is 56%.]
The argument that Adrian says one of their texters sent to them, is that the German car manufacturers will never permit their government to lose access to the UK’s car market: I’ve heard that touted too, but German manufacturers have shown an unremarkable loyalty to their own government and to the EU, rather than any interest in offering a bandaid after the UK shoots itself in the foot.
For each of the EU-27 nations, the UK crashing out with no deal will affect their overseas trade by anything from 5 to 10%. Damaging, and entirely the UK’s fault, but they will all be able to survive that, and the EU economy, one of the biggest in the world, will not, as a whole, be significantly damaged.
The UK will lose three-quarters of its overseas trade with no-deal Brexit. For the Tories to present this as a “negotiating position”, as a threat to scare the EU, is like a six-year-old kid negotiating with their parents with the argument “If you make me eat my spinach I’ll hold my breath til I die and then you’ll be sorry!”
If the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal, all of the UK’s just-in-time manufacturing industries will be killed stone dead. This includes car manufacturers such as Toyota which based themselves in the UK because the UK offered access to the EU market. Economic devastation. Mass unemployment.
All the “best deal for Britain” talk is about trying to fix up a deal that will he as close to the UK actually being in the EU as possible, after the UK has left the EU.
Well, if David Davis and Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn all know that the best deal for Britain is one that’s as close to EU membership as a non-EU member can get, why not accept that the very best deal for Britain is for the UK not to leave the EU?
If a majority of MPs in the House of Commons vote to revoke the Article 50 decision, the UK stays in the EU. There’s a House of Commons debate coming up on a second referendum for Brexit, on 11th December. That would be a face-saving way out for MPs who know that Brexit is economic disaster.
Just eat the damn spinach.