Diary Day 325: Vote Leave’s £350m lie officially refuted. Government has a problem about leaving EEA. Top judge asks for clarity on ECJ. Non-food sales struggle. Former DExEU aide urges MPs to reverse Brexit.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 325: after a lot of hunting and some help from a kind colleague, I tracked down the Treasury document which confirms that the true contribution by the UK to the EU is (and was at the time of the referendum) less than half what Vote Leave claimed. 

It is in a spreadsheet on the Gov.uk website called PESA 2017 Annex C Tables. (PESA stands for Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses.) Table C.1, called “Transactions with the institutions of the EU, 2012-13 to 2019-20”, has a column for the year 2016-17, which gives the net payments to EU institutions in the year 2016-17 as just over £8.1bn, or about £156m a week. 

I knew the public was misled, badly, but it’s nice to have confirmation from HM Treasury. I’d like that long overdue apology and some genuine remorse from the Vote Leave cheerleaders now. I’d like to see them put in prison for what they’ve done, too. While they are in there they can reflect on the millions of lives they have thrown into turmoil by their selfish and reckless conduct. 

This £8.1bn figure does not take into account European Commission payments direct to private recipients. They include funding for research and innovation (Horizon 2020), education and training (Erasmus), cultural and creative industries and support for small businesses. If they were taken into account the UK’s 2016-17 net contribution figure would be a billion or so lower. 

Business Insider reported that a letter sent by George Bridges, a former minister for the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) says that the government is considering steps to “formally terminate” Britain’s membership of the European Economic Area. He wrote: “We are considering what steps, if any, might need to be taken to formally terminate the EEA Agreement as a matter of international law.”

In other words the Government is not sure whether separate legislation will be needed to terminate Britain’s membership of the EEA. 

I happen to have a copy of the EEA agreement. Article 127 provides: 

“Each Contracting Party may withdraw from this Agreement provided it gives at least twelve months’ notice in writing to the other Contracting Parties. 

“Immediately after the notification of the intended withdrawal, the other Contracting Parties shall convene a diplomatic conference in order to envisage the necessary modifications to bring to the Agreement.” 

I have never understood how the Government could be so sure that no separate notice to leave the EEA under Article 127 would be needed. Now it turns out that they aren’t sure. It is just bluster. 

They will not get a vote to leave the EEA through Parliament. 

Lord Neuberger, who is stepping down from the Presidency of the UK Supreme Court, criticised clause 6 of the Government’s draft bill designed to drag us all out of the EU. He told the BBC that if the provisions didn’t express clearly what the judges should do about decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit, or indeed any other topic after Brexit, “then the judges will simply have to do their best… If the UK parliament says we should take into account decisions of the ECJ, then we will do so. If it says we shouldn’t, then we won’t. Basically, we will do what the statute says.” 

Clause 6 as it stands (viewable online) is long, opaque and inelegant. 

The ECJ has jurisdiction over matters within the scope of the EU Treaties because in 1972 the UK Parliament passed an Act which agreed that it should have jurisdiction. There is no big issue of principle here about sovereignty. ECJ jurisdiction ensures uniformity of interpretation of EU laws across all the member states. Uniformity is good because then you can have a single set of rules and standards to regulate cross border interactions like civil aviation, trade, consumer rights,  employment rights, extradition and so on, and on. The Brexit zealots are determined to get rid of ECJ jurisdiction but why? What is all the fuss about? The problem is not the ECJ but what is going on in Theresa May’s head.

The British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for July reported that on a total basis (meaning, I think, both in store and online sales), sales rose 1.4% in July, against a growth of 1.9% in July 2016. Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG said: 
“From afar, retail performance appears to have been stable in July… Looking at the figures in more detail though, the food sector continues to perform strongly whilst non-food sales struggle. Food price inflation continues to play a role albeit this pressure is reportedly easing, however it’s also important to note that a major driver behind increased consumption is rising household debt.” 

Not sure what to make of that. I hope it doesn’t mean people are borrowing in order to eat. 

Brexit-watchers greatly enjoyed some tweets from someone who worked as an aide to David Davis until June. He tweeted: “Past time for sensible MPs in all parties to admit Brexit is a catastrophe, come together in new party if need be, and reverse it.”  

He later tweeted it was “well past time for sensible journos on papers that supported Brexit to admit it is going to destroy lives of many of their readers.” 

That could be awkward. But best to admit mistakes promptly while there is time to limit the damage. 

Where are those sensible journos? Come forward please. 


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