LeaveHQ, 22/08/2017  

We have made no secret of our opposition to the government's handling of Brexit. There was nothing preordained about Brexit being permanently harmful yet we are in very real danger of it becoming so. Through arrogance, incomprehension and slovenliness, this government is driving Britain off the cliff. This is unforgivable maladministration.

This prompts all the usual questions as to whether this is run of the mill incompetence or if there is a darker agenda in play. Certainly the renewed push for unilateral trade liberalisation might suggest the latter. There are forces at work who would like nothing more than to see Britain suffer from the hardest Brexit possible. 

Unsurprisingly the Institute of Economic Affairs are leading the charge. The latest paper from the IEA represents the very worst of conservative thinking on Brexit. It indicates that statecraft is no longer an instinct within the Conservative Party.

Trade is the art of making careful individual decisions designed to increase wealth and prosperity. Strategic decision making. Each of those decisions must be evaluated for the public good - not just in terms of GDP. There are political, environmental, social and defence concerns - all of which must be considered. Opting for unilateralism is an abdication from good governance.

Though this is not presently government policy, we may yet find it is the default. The latest position papers from the government are so conceptually out of kilter with reality that agreement may not be possible. Completing the process in two years was always a big ask even with the most meticulous planning possible. Now it would seem we have missed the window of opportunity.

The government is asking for the impossible. The land border in Ireland is set to become the EU’s outer frontier – and frictionless trade without major concessions from the EU is undeliverable. We are grateful, however, that the EU recognises the necessity to overcome this obstacle. This will require an agreement separate to any UK trade settlement.

It is not within the gift of the EU to override the rules concerning its outer frontier - and inclusion of exceptions in a wider trade agreement would set a precedent it cannot allow. If the UK is unwilling to accept this then we are at an impasse - and wasting time we do not have.

Arguably we have already crossed the event horizon. By now we should have seen the basic issues reaching some sort of resolution. Instead we are barely out of the starting block. Crashing out without a deal now seems probable. There is insufficient wisdom in government to realise the consequences of allowing it.

Should this happen, we default to WTO rules whereby all formal relations with the EU (and by proxy the rest of the world) come to an abrupt end. As an emergency measure we may very well be forced to unilaterally drop tariffs – not only for the EU but for all countries, as per WTO rules.

This is not “project fear”. This is a matter of observable law. Britain would lose all of its preferential trade agreements and would lose its right to participate in EU single market systems. We’d be hit by a wave of red tape virtually overnight. The EU has very specific protocols for third countries - and those are the rules with which we must comply or no trade happens. It’s that simple.

Since we do not have the people, facilities or software in place, we are looking at a major national humiliation. That likely means a lost decade of trade while we rebuild the basics - but with a permanently tarnished reputation. There is a good chance the UK would never fully recover and lost business will likely not return. It will result on austerity on steroids.

The Leave Alliance has always argued that Brexit it a process, not an event. A bespoke framework was always overambitious and even adapting off the shelf models would present us with some difficult dilemmas. The failure to acknowledge this has set us on course for calamity. Parliament urgently needs to assert itself and up its game. Unchecked, this government will ruin us.

We would urge Brexit campaigners to think carefully about backing initiatives from the Tory right. One of the most compelling reasons to leave the EU was to reignite a debate about the sort of country we want. That debate is already underway but support for Brexit has been made synonymous with support for an ultra-capitalist agenda. It has become a groupthink of its own - yet there are many other possibilities.  

We would be the last to argue against trade liberalisation, or indeed capitalism, but dogmatic A-Level economic theory is a world apart from statecraft. It is entirely consistent to be pro-Brexit while also sceptical of this government's approach - and a vote to leave was not a free licence for government to act without scrutiny. Measured criticism, divorced from the unhinged histrionics of remainers, is more necessary than ever. Leavers cannot give this government a free pass to do as it pleases. This is really no time for shallow, dogmatic right wing scriptures. 

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