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Iain Mansfield: Brexit by October 31. Stop using the Left’s language. And stand for skilled workers. Essentials for our next Prime Minister

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

Our next Prime Minister will take office at the most challenging time since the 1970s. Not only is there Brexit – an issue of fundamental national importance, that has destroyed the last two Prime Ministers and poses an existential challenge to the future of the Conservative Party – but the old political assumptions are changing. Across the West, traditional voter coalitions are shifting, as citizens reject centrist compromises. Flatlining productivity, unaffordable houses and millions of voters feeling abandoned, either culturally or economically, are just some of the challenges they will face.

Many of those who voted for David Cameron in 2010 are lost to the party, alienated by Brexit. In Britain today, age and education level are better predictors of a person’s vote than class. To win a general election, our next Prime Minister must forge a new coalition of voters that unites the traditional Tory shires with the left-behind Leave voters in the Midlands and North. Even more importantly, they must deliver authentic right-wing policies that address the causes of ordinary working people’s dissatisfaction. People want change and, if the Conservative Party does not deliver it, they are likely to seek answers in the flawed blandishments of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism.

In that context, there are three essentials that our next Prime Minister must prioritise for the good of the people, the nation and the party:

  • Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed.
  • Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left.
  • Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes.

Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed

Not only is delivering on the outcome of the referendum a democratic imperative, it is vital for the continued existence of the party. Recent polling shows that, if we have not left the EU, the Conservatives are likely to suffer devastating losses in a general election; these figures could be even worse if large numbers of members, councillors or even entire associations defect to the Brexit Party. Many members have held on over the last few months purely out of hope that the next Prime Minister would deliver where May failed: another betrayal in October would see these members permanently lost.

Leaving with a deal is preferable, if some changes to the backstop can be agreed and Parliament will pass it. If not, as I have argued previously on this site, we have nothing to fear from No Deal. Preparations for such should be put into top gear on the first day in office. The Prime Minister must make clear that they will under no circumstances ask for an extension; and that they are, if needed, prepared to systematically veto any measure put forward by the EU on regular business if the UK is for some reason kept in. While every effort should be made to secure a deal, if it cannot be reached, Parliament must be faced with the simple choice of permitting a WTO exit or voting no confidence in the Prime Minister – a gamble, admittedly, but one that is preferable to another disastrous extension.

Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left

In recent years too many Conservative politicians have allowed our opponents to define the playing field. We cannot beat the socialists by adopting the language and assumptions of socialism. Our next Prime Minister must stop feeding the narrative of identity, grievance and division, with its assumption that an individual’s potential is defined by their characteristics, that so-called ‘burning injustices’ are solely the responsibility of the state to address, and that the government always no best.

Changing the narrative will be a long endeavour. The systematic appointment of those with conservative values into key ministerially appointed positions; an authentically right-wing approach to policy making in Whitehall; and the withdrawal of state funding from the network of organisations that maintain the left’s grip on the policy narrative are essential. But over and above this, the Prime Minister must be willing to personally stand up and champion individual liberties and freedoms; to condemn progressive authoritarianism and to be visibly proud of Britain, our culture and the rich global heritage of our citizens.

Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes

Young, metropolitan graduates may once have been natural Conservatives, but no longer. There is little hope of reversing this in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Instead of squandering our effort here, our new Prime Minister should instead make the party the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes, particularly in the midlands and north.

Such voters have a natural affinity to the traditional conservative values of low tax and individual liberty, but also greatly value and rely day-to-day onn strong public services. This places the Conservatives in a difficult position after a decade of austerity: Labour made hay campaigning on cuts to police numbers and falls in per pupil spending in 2017. But how to fund significant increases in core services without raising taxes or alienating core Conservative voters, such as via the disastrous proposals on social care in the 2017 manifesto?

To find the funding the next Prime Minister must be bold enough to slay the progressive sacred cows that soak up billions annually in public funding. Three immediately spring to mind:

With the additional £15 billion plus a year, the Prime Minister could at a stroke increase police funding by 25 per cent (£3 billion), boost school funding per pupil by 20 per cent (£8 billion) and increase spending on social care by 20 per cent (£4 billion). And then split the proceeds of further growth between public services and tax cuts.

As well as this, we should champion the interests of the high street, enterprise and small businesses and oppose crony corporatism. Multinational companies that make use of aggressive tax avoidance, abuse their market position or actively work against UK sovereignty should not enjoy government grants, procurement or time in No. 10. Fundamentally, our next Prime Minister should spend more time listening to the Federation of Small Businesses and less time listening to the CBI.

Conclusion

As members, we have two candidates set before us. Both are able politicians and tested leaders who represent the best the Parliamentary party has to offer. As we assess who should be not just our next leader, but our Prime Minister, we should do so against their ability to deliver these vital elements.

Both have committed to delivering Brexit by October 31 – but which one has the ability, the genuine will and the courage to do so by any means necessary? Both are true-blue Conservatives – but which one will truly champion our values, taking the battle to our adversaries with the eloquence and conviction of a Thatcher or a Churchill? Both recognise the importance of reaching out to new voters – but which one can devise and push through the policies needed to unite the Tory shires with the Leave voters of the north? Consider carefully and cast your vote.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Graham Gudgin: If the EU delivers No Deal after all, there will be little to fear – and much to gain

Dr Graham Gudgin is Policy Exchange’s Chief Economic Adviser. He is a visiting Professor at the University of Ulster and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

Many like to claim that No Deal is off the table, but it remains the legal default position on April 12 – and the EU may not be bluffing in suggesting that it is now the most likely endgame. It has of course been decisively rejected in the Commons – but so has almost everything else. Decisive parliamentary rejection has hardly been a bar to reclaiming options from the dead.

What is certainly true is that there has been little cool consideration of what no deal involves. The Cabinet Secretary’s letter to last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting claimed that No Deal would lead to recession and currency depreciation. One could almost hear the laughter in the aisles as the civil service once more tried its hand at economic prediction.

Historians are likely to judge the demonisation of No Deal as one on the great triumphs of the Remain campaign. With impressive discipline, Remainers ubiquitously link the phrase No Deal to the adjectives ‘catastrophic’ or ‘disastrous’. In this, they have been greatly helped by the BBC and other media which invariably allow such descriptions to pass with no attempt to elicit any evidence.

The idea that No Deal would greatly damage the UK economy started early with detailed studies by the Treasury and other economics groups during the EU referendum campaign of 2016. Their absurdly mistaken short-term forecasts damaged the department’s credibility, but the its equally flawed long-term impact estimates live on, and were cited recently by John McDonnell as the key evidence for Labour’s aversion to No Deal. Nor has the Bank of England been much better, with its estimates for No Deal jumping all over the place.

CBI assessments of No Deal

All of this has muddied the water for what should have been a serious national debate, but this has not taken place. The CBI’s assessment of its opposition to no deal is unfocused and vague. The CBI website’s comments from individual businesses are limited to say the least. Most fear delays at ports, and appear to ignore positive statements from HMRC, Calais and other ports. They seem to be reacting to alarmist press reports rather than to up to date information. Ford views a no deal Brexit as ‘catastrophic’ (that word again) but much of its reasoning (‘border friction, a deteriorating economic outlook, further sterling devaluation and tariffs’) is speculative and outside its direct expertise.

Tariffs

The potential dangers from no deal come largely from high tariffs facing and the threat of border delays. Tariffs of 10 per cent or more would affect car and food producers but account for only four per cent of UK exports. Since firms have already benefitted from a 15 per cent depreciation of Sterling, even a 10 per cent tariff on car exports into the EU would not be decisive. The UK’s own published tariff regime would be one of the most liberal in the advanced world. Many tariffs which only protect continental producers but raise prices for UK consumers would be abolished. The average tariff on imports would fall to an estimated 0.7 per cent versus 7.7 per cent for the EU now. This would make the UK an attractive place for international firms to invest because the vast bulk of imported components (including car parts, electronics and machinery) will be tariff-free.

Non-Tariff barriers

Much of the concern over a ‘WTO exit’ has revolved around ‘non-tariff barriers’ to trade. Here again, preparations and agreements over recent months mean that the picture is much brighter than usually claimed. The UK has agreed rollovers of ‘mutual recognition’ agreements with key non-EU trade partners, and many UK firms have acted to transfer product registration and safety certification to EU approved bodies. A range of contingency measures and memoranda of understanding have secured the future of finance at least until a free-trade agreement can be negotiated.

Dangers for food and agriculture

The CBI and others rightly point up the dangers to agriculture which has important exports to the EU facing tariffs of 20-40 per cent or more, enough to make some trade in food completely uneconomic. However, this affects under two per cent of UK exports and the CBI makes no mention of the authoritative AFBI study which concluded that UK prices and output would rise for most farming commodities.

The reason is that UK food producers would replace imports from the EU which face high tariffs into the UK. Proposed UK tariffs steer a sensible middle ground between higher prices for UK consumers and higher incomes for UK farmers. The main exception is UK lamb production, where the large EU market could be devastated by high EU tariffs. Much of sheep farming is however already heavily subsidised, and can be further subsidised to maintain farm incomes.

On sensitive agricultural products, there are worries that the entry of animals and goods would be prohibited unless the UK is “listed” as meeting EU sanitary standards. However, the EU has announced that it will “swiftly” list the UK to allow the entry of live animals and animal products from the UK. The French authorities have arranged for any food safety checks to be undertaken inland from Calais to avoid congestion.

Customs Delays

The risk of major delays at ports is now remote even for food products. Calais port says that there will be no more checks than today. On the UK side, HMRC says it will prioritise a free flow of goods. Eurotunnel has made it quite clear that its services and business model remain unaffected by Brexit. Government claims that large numbers of firms with EU markets have not signed up to HMRC’s new customs procedures are irrelevant. Firms will do so as they need to.

Air travel and Safety Concerns

Air transport was another supposed danger area. But the EU, despite previous threats, has now agreed to allow British planes to fly over, land in and return from the EU27. Meanwhile, the UK has 111 bilateral agreements in our own right which continue unchanged. Of the 17 negotiated via the EU, virtually all – covering 98 per cent of the passengers carried – have been successfully renegotiated. The Government has also said that there will be no implications from the UK leaving Euratom including on the flow of radioactive isotopes for the NHS.

Other safety regulation concerns have evaporated. Car manufacturers have swapped their approvals over to the recognised Swedish body, with other industries taking similar steps. The EU has also agreed to extend EASA design, production and maintenance approvals for aerospace firms temporarily, with a permanent solution to follow.

Conclusions

Fears of a ‘no deal’ Brexit are hugely exaggerated, not least because ‘no deal’ is not what will happen under any circumstances. A series of mini-deals between the UK, the EU and non-EU countries, plus unilateral preparations by the UK, means that most of the building blocks for a managed ‘no deal’ Brexit are already in place.

Moreover, the assumption that leaving without a deal means we will never have a free trade deal with the EU is not true either. In reality, “no deal” would not last very long, since both sides have strong mutual interests in quickly agreeing at the very least a basic free-trade agreement with no tariffs or quantitative restrictions.

It would even be possible to avoid new tariffs altogether using GATT’s Article 24, as long as a mutual intention was announced to begin free-trade negotiations. Temporary side deals would need to be made permanent, but since these are mutually advantageous no issue of principle should be involved. All of this seems manageable as a means to securing an independent trade policy.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com