The Tory MP and Brexit fanatic John Redwood has written a ludicrous article for The S*n in which he outlines his argument that Theresa May should address her spectacularly failing Brexit negotiations by escalating her threats to do an extreme “no deal” strop away from the negotiating table.
In this article I’m going to critique Redwood’s article line by line to demonstrate how billionaire propaganda barons like Rupert Murdoch are providing fanatical Brexiteers like Redwood public platforms to peddle an absolute crock of misrepresentations, contradictions, shallow nationalist rhetoric, and outright lies in order to make incredibly reckless brinkmanship look like a good idea.
“Next week there is a big European Council meeting which is likely to tell the UK they are not willing to talk about trade without us paying a shedload of money that we don’t owe.”
The idea that we don’t owe anything to the EU is pure fantasy. Just take the example of all the pensions of the British MEPs and civil servants who have worked for the EU over the last four decades. Of course the UK should cover the cost of these pensions, and all of the other financial obligations the country signed up to, otherwise who on earth would ever sign a trade deal or treaty with the UK again in the knowledge that the British government has a track record of reneging on their financial commitments whenever it suits them?
“Theresa May can and should turn the tables on the unhelpful EU at next week’s meeting. She can tell them the UK is preparing to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with no deal.”
Theresa May has been spewing her reckless “no deal is better than a bad deal” rhetoric for months, but it doesn’t work. The EU27 are unified and they’re not going to budge because her “no deal” threats are completely delusional. It’s like threatening your neighbours that you’ll burn down your own house in the hope that they suffer some disruption and smoke damage.
“She can say this will mean we will trade with them all on World Trade Organisation terms. That will be just fine for the UK. It’s how we do our trade with the rest of the world today.”
This is an outright lie. The UK does the vast majority of its trade with the rest of the world through treaties negotiated though our membership of the EU. A “no deal” cliff edge Brexit would mean Britain doesn’t just end up outside the Single Market and Customs Union, but also outside every single trade deal we’ve entered with the rest of the world over the last four decades too.
“Just leaving brings us lots of advantages. It means we don’t have to pay them another penny once we are out.”
You’d have to be as mad as a bucket of frogs to imagine that the few £billion in net savings from no longer paying our (significantly rebated) EU membership fee is not going to be absolutely dwarfed by the costs of economic meltdown that would be triggered by a ruinous “no deal” strop away from the negotiations.
“We don’t owe them anything beyond our contributions up to the date we go.”
As I pointed out before, we do owe them for the cost of stuff like the pensions of British EU employees, the costs of ongoing infrastructure projects the UK has signed up to, and a range of other things. Just saying we don’t owe it, isn’t the same as not owing it.
“We can spend that money on our priorities. It means we can get rid of VAT on things which the EU makes us charge, where we disagree. That includes insulation, better boiler controls and other energy-saving measures, and female hygiene products.”
Another hazy promise from a Brexiter that isn’t worth the (toilet) paper it’s written on. Even if we believe the absurd fantasy that leaping off the “no deal” Brexit cliff edge would result in a net economic gain for the UK, who on earth would be naive enough to imagine that a Tory government would spend it on stuff like environmental measures and alleviating period poverty, rather than distributing it to their £billionaire backers in tax cuts for corporations and the mega-rich?
“It means we can decide how many people to welcome into our country.”
In 2010 Theresa May (who was Home Secretary at the time) promised to reduce net migration to below 100,000. What she actually did was oversee the biggest migration inflow in UK history peaking at 336,000 in 2015. Even if the UK commits a massive act of economic self-harm by banning all migration from the EU, the rate of non-EU migration is still well over 100,000, and quitting the EU won’t have any effect whatever on that.
“We can police our borders as we wish, to make the country safer.”
This claim is a sick joke from a member of the ruling party who let the Manchester bomber come back through the UK border from hanging out with his terrorist mates in Libya and Syria, then didn’t even bother to keep him under surveillance despite numerous warnings from the Manchester Muslim community and a tip-off from the US intelligence services that he was actively planning a terrorist attack against the EU.
Additionally, a “no deal” Brexit would mean the UK bailing out of all of the policing, security and intelligence sharing agreements with the EU, which would obviously make the UK an awful lot less safe.
“It means we can pass the laws we want.”
The Tories are currently using Brexit as an excuse to launch an audacious anti-democratic power grab that would allow them to rewrite thousands of existing laws with no parliamentary scrutiny. There’s a huge difference between the kind of stuff that Tory politicians might want to write into UK law without any democratic scrutiny, and what “we” the British public, would actually want.
“We can amend and improve the EU laws we are inheriting. It means we do not have to accept any more EU regulations unless we like them.”
You’d have to have a significant level of contempt for the concept of parliamentary democracy to believe that the process of “amending” and “improving” the EU laws we’ve signed up to over the years should be done in secret by Tory ministers with no democratic scrutiny whatever.
“The problem for the EU states is they export a lot of food to us.”
That the UK has a vast trade deficit with the EU is not a problem for the EU, it’s a problem for us.
“Food is the only area under World Trade Organisation rules where tariffs are high, designed to keep out imports. Danish bacon, French dairy products, Dutch flowers and vegetables, Irish beef will all be subject to tax penalties if they go for a no trade deal. It is massively in the EU’s interest to keep their tariff-free access to the UK. They sell us much more than we sell them across the board.”
This summer I have been making sure I can buy non-EU food and drink at my local supermarket. The English tomatoes and vegetables have been good so I didn’t need the Dutch ones. English, Australian and New Zealand wines are great, so no need to buy French or Spanish. Scottish beef and English lamb are tasty, UK dairy products fine and English fruit touches the right parts. When Europe is in winter we can buy from the southern hemisphere or from our farmers’ heated greenhouses.”
An estimated 70% of the UK’s food imports come from EU countries, and the vast majority of the rest comes from countries with which the UK has trade deals that have been negotiated through the EU. A ruinous “no deal” Brexit would mean new or increased tariffs on 97% of the food we import.
The idea that trade with the rest of the world wouldn’t be disrupted by tearing up all of our EU negotiated trade agreements is utterly delusional, and you’d have to be a total idiot to be placated by a fluffy personal anecdote about how John bloody Redwood has been “buying British at the supermarket”!
“Some say we could not do this. After all, it will be our customers who have to pay the higher prices of EU food with tariffs on while we wait for UK farmers to increase their output to serve more of our needs.”
Just like his fellow Brexit fantasist Chris Grayling, Redwood completely fails to explain how UK farmers are going to dramatically increase their output when Brexit drives away the EU seasonal migrant workers that the British agricultural sector relies on so heavily. Who is going to do the backbreaking agricultural work? Pensioners? Disabled people? unpaid Workfare slaves?
“They don’t understand the cards in our hands as the EU’s main customer.”
Back to the shit Brexiteer poker analogies.
Everyone in the world can see that Theresa May has got a handful of duff cards and she’s resorted to bluffing. There’s no other way to explain her lunatic “give us what we want or we’ll blow up a massive economic bomb under ourselves in the hope that you get injured by the shockwaves” approach to the negotiations.
“The Government will be able to give us all a tax cut out of the tariff revenue it collects, so we need not be worse off.”
Ah ha ha ha. We’ll all have to pay the cost of tariffs on our supermarket shopping, and we’re to trust the Tories to redistribute that wealth back to us, rather than distribute it to their billionaire backers in tax cuts for corporations and the mega-rich.
If you believe that, you’ll believe anything!
“We can also cut the tariffs we have to impose on food from outside the EU to balance things up a bit. Why should we put a tariff on South African oranges to help the Spanish industry when we grow none for ourselves?”
This is just delusional. We’ll have to put WTO tariffs on produce from all over the world because we’ll be bailing out of all of our trade agreements if we do a “no deal” tantrum. Maybe we could sign up to new low-tariff trade agreements with minor trade partners like South Africa eventually, but there are several things to consider.
1. Trade deals take years to negotiate, and we don’t have anything like the civil service capacity to negotiate scores of replacement trade deals all at once, so the WTO tariffs on non-EU produce will be in effect for years, if not decades.
2. Countries like South Africa will understand that we need trade deals with them an awful lot more than they need trade deals with us. They will be in the driving seat with the power to demand all kinds of favours and concessions from our massively over-stretched, inexperienced, and time-pressurised negotiators.
3. If we do a “no deal” strop, why would anyone want to sign trade deals with us anyway? If you witnessed someone rip off their business partner by unilaterally abandoning the deal they had together, would you rush to sign a business deal with them, or would you keep well away?
“Your shopping basket may change a bit but there is no need to worry. Our farmers will boost their output.”
Again. How? How do they boost their output when Brexit has chased away a huge chunk of their labour force?
“The EU negotiators do not seem concerned about the damage they could do to EU exporters. Their overwhelming concern is losing all that cash we pay them each year.”
Outright lies. The EU have outlined their three main concerns over and again: Protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK, a resolution to the Irish border problem, and a financial settlement to cover the UK’s ongoing commitments.
Until these three issues are resolved they’re not going to get into trade talks over how much the UK might pay for preferential access to the Single Market. Everyone knows this. David Davis agreed to this sequencing of events in June.
“They have jeopardised an agreement about a good trading relationship in the future to try to wring more money out of the UK after we have left.”
No. The agreement over future trading relationships comes after the rights of EU citizens and the Irish border situation are resolved. The ones who are guilty of jeopardising the future trading relationship are the Tories for trying to use the rights of EU citizens as bargaining chips, and failing to make any meaningful progress on the Irish border problem.
“The PM needs to remind them we owe them nothing under the law and their treaty. Why would we pay extra when there is no benefit for us?”
In one paragraph he’s accusing the EU of jeopardising the future trading relationship, and in the very next he’s demanding that the PM lies to the EU negotiators about the UK not having an obligation to honour the costs of the laws and treaties we signed up to. as if they’ll just say “yes, abandon your financial obligations, here have a trade deal that’s better than the deal that we give to actual members of our club”.
“When we entered the EU — then the EEC — for the first time we inherited a lot of payments the others had agreed to without us. No one said we did not have to pay for things agreed before we got there. So why does anyone think we need to go on paying for things after we leave?”
This is a nonsense argument. It doesn’t even make sense. If you sign up to a club, you abide by the membership rules, whether you’re a founder member of the club or not. If during your membership you sign up to agreements to cover the cost of certain things, then you can’t just quit and refuse to pay what you’d agreed to. Otherwise you end up massively pissing everyone off, and making yourself look like a fundamentally dishonest and unreliable chancer who doesn’t stick to their word.
“The EU is not planning on paying us anything after March 2019, so they save what they used to give us back from the money we send them.”
Such backwards logic! Why would the EU pay the UK anything? The UK is causing disruption by quitting the EU, not the other way around.
“Out of the EU we will end the uncertainty.”
A “no deal” strop out of the EU would cause massive uncertainty for millions of workers, businesses, investors, and government agencies. Dressing such a drastic move up as “ending the uncertainty” is a stunning example of “black is white” Orwellian propaganda.
“We will be able to sign trade treaties with countries elsewhere in the world, which we cannot do as a member of the EU.”
Yes. But this process will obviously take a lot of time, and the UK’s reputation as reliable trading partners would be absolutely devastated by a “no deal” flounce away from our trade agreements with Europe over a refusal to cover the cost of ongoing commitments.
“We will get our fishing grounds back and put in a fishing policy that works for us.”
The fishing industry accounts for a tiny fraction of the UK economy, but the subject is a reliable touch-stone for Brexit fanatics, so it’s no surprise to see Redwood randomly lobbing it into his article.
It would take a spectacular amount of optimism to think that a Tory government that is massively over-stretched by their own Brexit mess would somehow make a better job of regulating the UK fishing industry than the status quo.
What’s actually highly likely to happen is that the Tories will use access to UK fishing territories as a bargaining chip in order to win favours for the UK financial services industry (over half of Tory party donations come from the financial sector, virtually none come from fishermen or fleet owners).
“If Theresa May sounds positive about no deal, she greatly increases the chances that they will want to offer a trade deal for their own sakes.”
Even if we’re delusional enough to accept the idea that Theresa May suddenly sounding more positive about the insane “no deal is better than a bad deal” threat she’s been making since January will cause the EU27 negotiation team to suddenly fold and give the UK a wonderful deal, this completely contradicts Redwood’s previous attempts to argue that “no deal” is a great idea in its own right.
Which is it? Is “no deal” a ludicrous and futile we’re holding the gun to our own heads so do as we say threat, or is it actually Redwood’s preferred endgame? He is trying to have it both ways in the same damned article!
“If she accepts the advice of the Treasury and looks worried about leaving without a deal, she should expect a larger bill and more delay in settling anything.”
You’d have to be a unbelievably reckless and sociopathic ideologue to have no worries about the social and economic destruction a “no deal” strop would wreak on the UK, or about the extreme damage to the UK’s reputation as a reliable trading partner.
Additionally we’ve already established that the delays are stemming from the Tory refusal/inability to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and resolve the Irish border problem, not from the EU.
“The best few hundred millions the Treasury will spend this year and next is the money to ensure we are fine without a deal.”
The idea that the estimated £250 million the Tories are spending on planning for a “no deal” strop away from the Brexit negotiations would be enough to mitigate even the tiniest fraction of the social and economic fallout of such a reckless act of national self-harm is utterly delusional.
“That will save us billions that some want us to give to the EU to end up with something like the single market bureaucracy we voted to leave.”
A “no deal” tantrum wouldn’t “save us billions”, it would plunge the economy into chaos and trash what remains of our national reputation.
Additionally, it’s an outright lie to say that “we voted to leave” the Single Market because the Single Market wasn’t even mentioned in the referendum question, in fact a load of high profile Brexiters like Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan, Owen Paterson and Arron Banks argued that we should stay in the Single Market after we quit the EU during the referendum debate.
“It is also money well spent if we do get a deal, because we still need borders and customs that work.”
This is an utterly bizarre conclusion. We should waste hundreds of millions planning for a “no deal” tantrum in the vain hope that openly planning to try and screw the EU over by exploding an economic bomb under ourselves will cause them to suddenly offer us a wonderful deal!
If we spend our money buying a big gun so we can point it at our own heads, Redwood is arguing, they’ll back down because they won’t want to get blood splatters on their clothes!
Essentially what John Redwood seems to be arguing (in a shockingly dishonest manner) is that Theresa May should “turn the tables” on the EU by … errm … doubling down on her delusional policy of making the reckless threat to do a “no deal” strop the centrepiece of her spectacularly failing negotiating strategy.
As a result we’re now in the extraordinary situation where the 27 remaining members of the EU are far more united than the UK governing party, which is catastrophically split.
Theresa May is being pulled in opposite directions by one bunch of Tories who actually want to negotiate sensibly in order to avoid an economically ruinous “no deal” national meltdown, and other Tories like John Redwood who insist that the best approach to the most complex and risky set of negotiations the UK has faced in decades is to play an increasingly hysterical game of brinkmanship.