Could the UK leave the European Union in March next year without a deal? For all the talk of ‘no deal being better than a bad deal’, the suggestion seems absurd. No deal would be a disaster for both sides in the negotiations. Britain would crash out of the EU without a transition period, plunging the whole continent into recession. Surely no rational government would go there? Surely sensible people will agree, in the end, to do sensible things, and there will be some great, last minute Euro-compromise?
Well, maybe. But governments do not always behave rationally. Read more
The Daily Telegraph is reporting what has been an open secret for some weeks: senior Cabinet ministers are sabotaging the government’s promise of a “green Brexit”.
Before the EU forced us to act, the UK had a lousy record on many aspects of environmental policy. Remember dirty beaches, polluted rivers, acid rain? It is now essential that institutions and laws are in place when we leave the EU to prevent future governments from turning the clock back to those bad old days. But the chancellor and other senior ministers are blocking such measures. Read more
There was much to admire in the prime minister’s recent speech on housing. Theresa May called homelessness in our rich country “a source of national shame” and she is right. She pledged to increase house building, but to do so without “destroying the country we love”. And she attacked big developers for gaming the system and putting dividends and executive pay before building more homes. As I read the speech, I mentally ticked off many of the arguments I have made in How to build houses and save the countryside. Read more
New Year articles and blogs often predict what is going to happen in the year ahead. But after the political upsets of the past couple years, it seems more appropriate to pose questions than predict outcomes. So here are some of the important questions that need addressing this year, starting, inevitably, with Brexit.
Should we worry that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal and in an atmosphere of acrimony and ill will? That was the question I recently asked Sir Ivan Rogers at his inaugural Henry Plumb Lecture for the National Farmers’ Union. His answer was not reassuring. The risk, he said, was “still quite high”. In January, Sir Ivan was forced to resign as the UK’s permanent representative to the EU for his unwelcome prediction that the Brexit negotiations would prove much more difficult than most people thought. His concerns have been vindicated and he is worth listening to. Read more
One of Mrs Thatcher’s governments’ most enduring achievements was the European single market, steered into existence by the Conservative European Commissioner, Lord Cockfield. In his memoirs, Cockfield recalled the time he had to tell the prime minister that introducing the single market would entail a degree of tax harmonisation to prevent trade barriers.
Following the election, Brexit, hard or soft, looks much more difficult. Among many other complications, the hung parliament will make it harder to agree the Great Repeal Bill. The purpose of the election (for the Daily Mail, at least) was to “crush the saboteurs”, ie anyone raising objections to the hardest of hard Brexits. Now the bill will be subject to intense scrutiny and possible amendment. Party political calculation and intra-party factionalism will have full rein. Read more