Diary Day 499: a colossal act of economic self harm.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 499: great excitement as Buzzfeed News got hold of a copy of an impact assessment report dated January 2018, entitled “EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing”, prepared by Government civil servants for DExEU. It advised that under all scenarios it examined – a free trade agreement, EEA membership or no deal – the UK’s economic growth would be lower over the next 15 years than current expectations. With no deal, growth would be 8% lower; with a free trade agreement, 5% lower and with EEA membership 2% lower than if the UK stays in the EU.

The calculations did not take into account any short-term hits to the economy from Brexit, such as the cost of adjusting to new customs arrangements.

Buzzfeed News reported that when asked why Theresa May was not making the analysis public, “a DExEU source” replied: “Because it’s embarrassing.”

Eloise Todd, CEO of Best for Britain, commented that it was more than that. “It is a colossal act of economic self harm, written down clearly, in black and white.”

Meanwhile the European Council (leaders of the EU27) adopted supplemental negotiating directives giving details of the EU27 position regarding a transition period. The ministers envisaged full EU acquis to be applied in the UK and no participation in the EU institutions and decision-making. The proposed end date for the transition period is 31st December 2020.

The full details are given on the Council’s website.

Robert Peston reported that Angela Merkel told journalists in Davos that Theresa May had repeatedly asked her to “make me an offer”.

Ms Merkel said that when she replied “but you’re leaving – we don’t have to make you an offer. Come on what do you want?”, Ms May repeated, “Make me an offer.” Thus the two were trapped in a recurring loop of ‘what do you want?’ and ‘make me an offer’, Mr Peston wrote.

How they laughed. It’s not funny, though.

Dr Peter Ammon, the outgoing German ambassador to the UK, told the Guardian that the UK’s decision to leave the EU was “a tragedy” and a depressing moment.

He warned: “If you have illusions about what you can negotiate, then it is very difficult. You end up in a divorce in which you say: ‘It was always your fault,’ and you… start a blame game.”

He attributed some Brexit supporters’ motivations to wanting to preserve a sense of identity based on Britain standing alone in the Second World War. “Well, it is a nice story, but does not solve any problem of today…

“When I tell people in Germany I am confronted by this narrative occasionally in public debates they say: ‘This cannot be true. You are joking. This cannot be true. That is absurd.”

He said that net immigration to the UK had slowed to zero because growth in the rest of the EU had picked up. He did not think the grant of an emergency brake on immigration to David Cameron would have made a difference because “There was so much propaganda in the media – I am sorry, I cannot call it anything else.”

He said Brexit was part of a wider populist revolt. “Populism provides easy and understandable answers to very complex problems. If you say… ‘Let us build a wall to stop these immigrants,’ people say: ‘OK, that will probably help.’ I know it is not a good answer to problems – Germany has not had a good experience with building walls.”

Diary Day 498: shouldn’t the people finish what the people have started?

My #Remainer’s Diary day 498: Jeremy Corbyn said on the BBC’s Marr Show that Labour would not back another referendum. When younger voters get to hear of this, perhaps their infatuation with him will be over. I always thought it rather silly, myself.

Meanwhile, Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Union and former French finance minister, told French media in a joint interview with French TV station C News, Europe 1 radio and newspaper Les Echos, that if the UK held another referendum “the door is open.”

“If the British want to change their mind, that would be very welcome,” he said.

Wera Hobhouse, the Lib Dem MP for Bath, shared a letter she had written to David No-Notes.

“Dear David,

“I am writing following your remarks at today’s Exiting the EU Select Committee evidence session.

“In your reply to Emma Reynolds, concerning your previous support for remaining in the Customs Union, you said “new facts, new opinion”.

“Can you please clarify whether the right to change your mind is a right you reserve just for yourself as the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, or should every citizen have the right to change their mind?

“This is an important question for our democracy. As you have said yourself, if a democracy cannot change its mind it ceases to be a democracy.

“Is it not therefore important that we go to the people to find out what their opinion is on leaving the EU once we have evidence of what a deal will look like which we did not have in June 2016?

“You have been honest about your own openness to change your mind as Secretary of State, once you were faced with new information.

“What role do you see for the British people in determining the future of their relationship with the EU once you and the government have negotiated a deal?

“Should we not recognise that at the time of the referendum in June 2016 a lot less information was available to the public and indeed us politicians?

“None of us could know what the final deal and our future relationship would look like.

“Shouldn’t the people finish what the people have started?”

She will publish his reply. I’d like to know Mr Corbyn’s reply to that, too.

Diary Day 497: draw the raised bridge!

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 497: as debate on the EU withdrawal bill moved to the House of Lords, the list of peers intending to speak grew long. With civil war in both main parties over the issue, Vince Cable, leader of the pro-Remain Lib Dems, said: “It is a long war of attrition. There is potentially a capacity to substantially change the legislation in important respects.”

Andrew Adonis, the anti-Brexit Labour peer, said: “There is deep skulduggery going on already.” He complained of the lack of time being allowed for debate.

Dick Newby, Lib Dem leader in the Lords, said: “We are facing a massive volume of legislation, not just the main bills but then 1,000 statutory instruments have to be agreed, which is a massive number. It is very difficult to see how we can possibly get through it all in time.”

The Lib Dem peer and former Liberal Party Leader David Steel said: “Given that the SNP has no representatives in our legislative chamber, I have been in touch with their Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, to say that I shall put forward the complaint about the Bill currently dragging EU powers back to Westminster rather than Edinburgh.”

He added: “We were promised amendments in the Commons which did not materialise, and we should insist in the revising chamber on putting this right. It is especially irritating that the Bill at present does not recognise the separate nature of Scots law, nor the fact that agriculture is wholly devolved to Scotland.”

A new mural appeared on a disused drawbridge in Hull. It showed a boy sitting on top of an old graffiti tag as if on a wall. He was wearing a cape, with a colander as a helmet and was brandishing a wooden sword with a pencil tied to the end. He was yelling something. Next to him was scrawled: “Draw the raised bridge!”

The controversial work was confirmed as a Banksy by a photograph of it on Instagram from the artist. Within hours the version in Hull was obliterated by spray paint.

The punning allusion was taken to be to Hull’s very high Brexit vote (67.6% to 32.4%] and to a siege mentality about immigrants.

Diary Day 496: welcome to Saxnot.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 496: howls of fury from the rabid extremists at reports that Philip Hammond, chancellor of the exchequer, told a meeting in Davos: “Instead of doing what we’re normally doing in the trade negotiations – taking two divergent economies with low levels of trade and trying to bring them closer together to enhance that trade, we are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade between them, and selectively moving them, hopefully very modestly, apart.”

Mark Carney told the BBC that the. UK economy was about 1% smaller than the Bank of England had expected before the referendum. By the end of the year that would probably be 2%. Asked to quantify it, he said: “Tens of billions of pounds lower economic activity; then the question is how we make that up over time by growing above potential.” He added that from the Bank’s perspective what is necessary and what we’ve been doing is to make sure… that we’re in the position in the UK with the huge financial sector that we have, to withstand any outcome and take advantage of any outcome.”

Growing above potential? Challenging.

A new opinion poll of over 5,000 people by ICM for the Guardian found Britain to be more divided than ever. It found that:

  • 58% of those polled, excluding the don’t knows, wanted a vote on the final exit deal and 42% were against: a 16 point lead.
  • 51% wanted to remain and 49% to leave.
  • 43% were concerned the economic effects will be negative.
  • 9% of formerly pro-Brexit Labour voters had switched to remain.
  • Younger voters were 17% more likely than before to vote to remain while over-65s were more committed than before to leaving.
  • Scottish voters were more committed to remaining than before.
  • Tory voters have become more Brexit-friendly.
  • The north of England is now more anti-Brexit than the south.
  • Across most groups, the impact on ‘the British way of life’ is expected to be more negative than positive. Non-white, Scottish and Labour voters feel this most strongly. But Tory and UKIP voters and the elderly believe our ‘way of life’ will be improved.

Designer and artist Scott King told Design Week about his new exhibition in London called “Welcome to Saxnot”, about a post-Brexit Britain reminiscent of a 1970s Butlin’s holiday camp. He said: “To me the main drive is about how nostalgia is used against people… It’s about the people who had the power to evoke this fantasy en masse.”

He added that the exhibition was “really a study of nostalgia and how it is used in politics, and particularly in this case during Brexit. We all love nostalgia and the reason that nostalgia is such a powerful tool in the wrong hands is because it is so incredibly seductive.”

Diary Day 495: there is talk about loss.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 495: it was reported by people present at a private meeting of business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, was asked to quantify lost economic growth since the referendum. He replied, according to reports, that he thought the loss to economic growth was equivalent to between two thirds and three quarters of the £350m a week figure that the Leave campaign had claimed could be spent on the NHS after Brexit. In other words, around £10bn a year.

Paul Johnson of the Institute For Fiscal Studies, who was also in Davos, told Business Insider that Brexit “is essentially about is making trade more difficult with our nearest, biggest and richest neighbour… and that just has to make us worse off.”

Cumbria joined the areas which, having voted strongly for Brexit, now sought to ensure that they did not feel the effects of Brexit. Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, and George Beveridge, chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, jointly wrote to several Government ministers seeking assurances that funding streams that would have included EU Structural Fund money would be continued.

Mr Young said Brexit was going to affect three key areas in Cumbria: agriculture, the tourist industry and the nuclear industry. “Places like Cumbria are very vulnerable to the impact of Brexit, so we need to understand what’s happening.”

Indeed.

Diary Day 494: the NHS ‘Brexit dividend’ does not exist.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 494: David No-Notes gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Brexit, chaired by the able Hilary Benn. Mr Davis’s vagueness, evasion and irritating mannerisms, spectacles-twiddling for example, are too much for me these days, so I just read the summary of 12 awkward moments from Martin Belam in the Guardian. The whole thing is available in Parliament TV for those who can bear to watch.

Basically, Mr Davis does not know what he is talking about and never did. This is why he has painted himself into a corner, and sits at these sessions contradicting himself and looking silly. And he’s a Cabinet minister.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, tweeted: “New piece on the NHS Brexit dividend. It does not exist. In fact we would need to spend £1bn a year more just to compensate NHS staff for the higher prices already seen since the referendum.”

He referred to an article called “A ‘Brexit dividend’ to spend on the NHS?” by Peter Levell and George Stoye, published as part of King’s College London’s UK in a Changing Europe project. A good read and a firm slapdown to the latest posturing from another Johnson – the irresponsible buffoon who now occupies the great office of state, Foreign Secretary.

If this key piece of work was mentioned on the craven BBC, it was very quietly.

Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, told the New Statesman that the British economy was “weak and stable, rather than strong and stable”. While refusing to say how he had voted in the referendum, he said the work of most trade economists showed that the costs of leaving the single market and the customs union are greater than the benefits. He also said that a permanent reduction in immigration would increase the national debt because “inward migrants are generally more likely to be of working age than the native population.”

We who are following the Brexit saga have heard and know this. Britain’s best and wisest brains keep telling us. Yet the only reaction is “fury” according to the Daily Mail and its noisy allies. A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Yes, that’s the case for Brexit.

Diary Day 493: the EU quietly gets on with writing the UK out of the story.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 493: the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee voted in favour of a plan to reduce the number of seats in the European Parliament from 751 to 705 after the UK’s departure, and to redistribute the remaining 27 currently British seats to compensate other member states for disparities in representation. France’s MEPs each have an electorate of 900,000, while the figure for some other member states, such as Slovakia, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland and Denmark, is less than half that.

The compromise proposal is for France and Spain each to gain five additional seats, Italy and the Netherlands three, Ireland two, and Estonia, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Austria, Denmark and Sweden one.

The proposals went forward for further consideration and votes by the forthcoming plenary parliamentary session and the European Council.

Thus the EU is quietly getting on with writing the UK out of the story. What else can it do while the UK is run by the Brexit fanatics, the dog is wagged by the tail?

Ben Chu, economics editor of the Independent, explained why the CBI’s exporter members were losing patience. As he put it, the UK-EU goods trade is predominantly corporate supply chain trade. He referred to a recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which found that more than half of the UK’s imports from the EU are “intermediate” goods and services, i.e. not for immediate consumption but used in the production processes of British firms. The intermediates share of UK exports to the EU is almost 70%.

Thus the risk CBI members fear is of “disruptive new inspections and the effective severing of vital corporate supply chains” because the UK is not any more in the, or any, customs union with the EU. There would have to be checks for compliance with standards and checks that all the applicable levies have been paid, or that the relevant tariff waivers were in place.

This applies to the manufacture of vehicles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and electronics, and to the huge looming headache of the Irish border.

Andreas Whittam Smith, also in the Independent, wrote that in relation to Theresa May’s standing, “something important has happened in the past fortnight. For despite her well-known deficiencies, the Brexit wing of the Conservative Party had preferred her to any alternative they could contemplate. Now they are less sure of her Brexit credentials.”

He made it clear he thought little of her leadership qualities: he thinks her too secretive, unable to handle pressure and indecisive. He thinks the men in grey suits (the 1922 Committee) could soon turn up and tell her to go.

And then what?