Brexit and the Border
A chara, – A letter writer (July 19th) asks why the EU has not offered the UK a similar free trade agreement (FTA) to the one it has just concluded with Japan. In fact, this was the EU’s opening offer. The UK rejected it, as it meant an unacceptable downgrade in single market access.
While Japan’s FTA does not require it to cross any of the endless Brexiteer red lines, it receives in return economic access that is vastly inferior to that of a single market member. Even worse for Britain, the FTA hardly touches services, which represent 80 per cent of the UK’s exports to Europe. The restrictions of a Japan-style FTA would throw the UK’s economy, which is deeply entwined with the rest of the single market, into utter chaos.
Unfortunately, the gulf between an FTA and single market membership is completely unappreciated by British public opinion, which interprets every reminder of the legal reality as an attempt by Europe to “punish” Britain. It is, of course, nothing of the sort, but rather the sad and inevitable consequence of the UK refusing to accept the responsibilities of single market membership. After all, Brexit means Brexit. – Is mise,
RUAIRÍ Ó CRUALAOICH,
Sir, – Boris Johnson’s determination to downplay the importance of “the question of the Northern Irish border” to Brexit is, characteristically, based upon a flawed understanding of how the UK/EU negotiations actually work (“Boris Johnson reminds May that his ambition is undimmed”, Analysis, July 18th). In his resignation statement to the House of Commons, he claimed that Britain still has “fully 2½ years” to prepare for a free-trade deal or to trade with the EU on WTO rules. As Denis Staunton says, this presumes “that Britain secures a transition agreement with the EU that would keep customs union and single-market access unchanged until December 2020”. However, the EU has made it clear that there will be no transition arrangement without a withdrawal agreement; and there can no withdrawal agreement without an Irish Border backstop.
The reason the Border issue is “so politically charged as to dominate the debate” is because it has rightly always been one of the EU’s key red lines – no amount of Brexiteer bluster will change that fact.
The former British foreign secretary is a talented populist politician. We may be lucky and have already passed peak-Boris, but that can by no means be taken for granted. His large fan-base among adoring Tory party activists is either ignorant of the logical gaps in his arguments as regards Ireland or more likely simply does not care. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Peter Geoghegan rightly criticises two MPs for responding to the UK Electoral Commission’s report that Vote Leave breached electoral laws by simply accusing the commission of being “biased” and “jaundiced Remainers” (“Why is Britain turning blind eye to Leave side’s lawbreaking?” Opinion & Analysis, July 18th). However, in an otherwise excellent article, it seems to go a little awry by taking aim at “the media,” suggesting there is a “marked reluctance to pose awkward questions about how the referendum was won”. However, it should be remembered that it was Channel 4 News and the Observer that reported the BeLeave whistleblower’s claims, it was the Observer that published the allegations of the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, and it was the Sunday Times that reported the Arron Banks leaked emails. The British media is playing its part in scrutinising the Brexit referendum process, and it is difficult to square this reporting with claims of media reluctance. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In his criticism of the much-feared but yet unrealised federal Europe and European super-state, Vincent Hearne (July 18th) comments unfavourably on the “unelected people who run Europe and who cannot be voted out”. I fear that he may have forgotten that the European Parliament shares power to legislate with the European Council, it exercises democratic supervision over the European Commission and it shares authority with the European Council over the EU budget. The European Parliament will also vote on the final withdrawal agreement with the UK. Indeed, next May we will all have the chance to exercise our vote at the European elections, at a crucial time in the history of this most important European institution. – Yours, etc,