Now that we’ve voted to leave, the question arises of what sort of new relationship we want – and can get – with the EU, and indeed who is to negotiate it. On that last point, Lord Heseltine has suggested that Nigel Farage should be involved – one of the very few points on which I can agree with him.
UKIP’s position on the new relationship is simple. We want to be an independent country. We want a free trade deal with Brussels – which economic imperatives will force them to accept. But we don’t want budget contributions or EU laws or free movement. But there are hints that others on the Brexit side – Johnson and Hannan have been cited – would accept an EEA, Norway-style solution, largely (I believe) because they think it would be easier to make that stick in the face of the massive black propaganda campaign which the Brexit vote has elicited.
It would leave us with “free movement” (though they may seek to tighten it up by restricting it to migrants with jobs), and some level of budget contributions and EU regulation. This is not what we voted for, and sits uncomfortably with promises of a £350-a-week Brexit dividend and control of immigration. It would however be easier to sell to the City, and to any voters who may be getting cold feet.
Jeremy Hunt is the first cabinet minister to come out for the Norway option and a second referendum. Like Heseltine, he seems to have missed the point that if Brussels negotiates knowing that the result will go to a second referendum, they will have a powerful incentive to offer nothing at all – so that the voters reject what they see as a bad deal. And if voters reject the deal in a second referendum, have they merely rejected one option – or have they, by default, elected to Remain?
A particular problem with a free trade deal is that it might not include the “passporting” of financial services, which enables London-based banks to offer services across the EU. This would remain with the EEA solution, but maybe not with a simple free trade agreement. We could seek agreement to keep passporting as a price of access to the UK market (remember we buy much more from them than vice versa). But many commentators are pointing out that in the future, competition from New York and Hong Kong will matter more than Frankfurt and Paris, and while passporting would help in Europe, EU regulation could be very damaging to the City’s global competitiveness. Swings and roundabouts.
When do we invoke Article 50?
Cameron had promised to invoke Article 50, to give notice of the UK leaving the EU, immediately following a Brexit vote. He hasn’t done so. Now we expect to wait at least until a new Prime Minister is in place. Both Boris, and Matthew Elliott of Vote Leave, seem extraordinarily relaxed about it. Some in Brussels are insisting we get on with it: Merkel seems less keen. But the achievement of the referendum will feel much more secure (in the face of the howls of protest) when we have formally announced our intention to Brussels. We cannot delay indefinitely. We want to be out by Christmas – even if that’s Christmas 2018.
The race for Tory leader
George Osborne has pulled out of the race, seeing that he faces only humiliation if he puts his hat in the ring. Boris Johnson is widely regarded as the leading candidate. The Express says Boris has 80% support. Meantime Theresa May, who has been keeping her powder dry, is expected to enter the race as the “Stop Boris candidate”. The party has introduced an accelerated time-table for the contest which should see a result as early as September.
Labour challenge to Corbyn is pro-EU
It may be amusing to watch the discomfiture of Jeremy Corbyn (as Jeremy Clarkson Tweeted, “All Jeremys get fired eventually”) but we should not forget that the challenge to Corbyn is primarily a pro-Brussels challenge, by Labour MPs angry that he didn’t do enough for Remain in the referendum campaign.
Cameron to meet EU leaders today
I don’t envy him the job. Meantime in the European parliament we have an emergency debate on the British Brexit decision this morning. Expect fireworks.
Civil service team to handle Brexit
At last the government has recognised the reality of Brexit and put together a “crack team” of civil servants, under go-getter Oliver Letwin, to handle the issue. You’ve done the right thing, Dave. But you should have done it six months ago.
Surge in hate crimes
The great majority of Brexit voters simply have proper and rational concerns about overall levels of immigration and the effect on social infrastructure and social cohesion. But we have to recognise, however reluctantly, that some individuals with utterly vile and reprehensible views will also have voted for Brexit. We in UKIP utterly repudiate and condemn such attitudes. In particular, we recognise the enormous contribution which Polish people have made to our country over the years, from the airmen who fought alongside us in the Second World War to the Polish workers who contribute to our economy today.
Roger Helmer MEP