Breaking into the Brexit echo chamber

Cantillon: Bank of England and European Council call out Boris on deluded thinking

Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson: getting it wrong on what a no-deal Brexit would mean. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga

Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson: getting it wrong on what a no-deal Brexit would mean. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

As the contenders to succeed Theresa May are finally chosen and begin their multiweek battle for the hearts and minds of the Conservative Party faithful, those standing respectfully on the sidelines during the nomination process are starting to speak their minds. Principally, this involves calling out some of the deliberately misleading soundbites that have been a feature of the Brexit campaign from the outset.

As frontrunner Boris Johnson showed in the TV debate on Tuesday, he is no closer to letting the facts get in the way of a good soundbite.

“There will be no tariffs, there will be no quotas,” he proclaimed, saying a government under him would seek a “standstill in our current arrangements under Gatt 24, or whatever it happens to be” until they negotiate a free trade agreement.

On Friday, Bank of England governor Mark Carney did not mince his words in an interview on BBC’s Today show. He said there should be “absolute clarity” about what a no-deal Brexit means.

Small child

“We should be clear that not having an agreement with the European Union would mean that there are tariffs, automatically, because the Europeans have to apply the same rules to us as they apply to everyone else,” he said.

With the patience of someone addressing a small child, Carney explained: “Gatt 24 applies if you have a withdrawal agreement, not if you’ve decided not to have an agreement, or you have been unable to come to an agreement.”

And over in Brussels, even as he demurred from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s stated view that EU leaders had run out of patience with the UK, European Council president Donald Tusk reiterated that, contrary, to UK politicians’ beliefs, “the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation”.

Of course, the real question is whether anyone in the Conservative Party or in the media echo chambers they favour has any interest in some home truths. Business in Britain, and Ireland, might yet pay a very heavy price for their refusal to acknowledge reality.

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