We’ve mentioned in yesterday’s “Brexit Betrayal’ column that, should the Johnson deal go through the HoC without amendments and without an extension, we’d then be free to negotiate starting on the 1st of November. We had a quote showing that the EU negotiators for such trade deal would be M BArnier and Ms Weyand, the architects of the May WA.

Here is an article by Lord Nash, an entrepreneur who later became Schools Minister. It was published in the DT on the 16th of October – a day before “That Deal” was made public amongst loud fanfares.  It’s title speaks for itself: “How amateur negotiators have pulled the Brexit rug from under Boris Johnson” (paywalled link) and is the more important when we read Ambrose Evans-Pritchard today:

“The Political Declaration is clear: we will have to agree to these clauses anyway in order to secure a free trade deal. That is how the EU will try to keep us in the cage. We will again be faced with the choice of submitting to these demands or retreating to WTO trading terms – made harsher by the punitive loss of fast-track procedures for customs clearance and rules of origin. We will again hear warnings of “crashing out” with no trade deal. Stories of 15-mile lorry jams across Kent will be recycled. Vested interests will re-stoke hysteria.     

We will be vulnerable to the same diplomatic and economic blackmail. In the words of Sir Ivan Rogers, the former UK Brexit negotiator, the EU’s aim has always been to “maximise leverage during the withdrawal process and tee up a trade negotiation after our exit where the clock and the cliff edge can again be used to maximise concessions from London –  so that they have the UK against the wall again in 2020”.” (paywalled link)

This then is what Lord Nash said, and doesn’t mince his words:

“Britain’s Brexit negotiations have been an unmitigated disaster from day one more than three years ago.

Indeed, if we have a few more deadline extensions, our attempt to get out of the EU – which I favour – will wind up lasting longer than the Great War.

We have made every mistake in the book: caving in immediately to Brussels’s sequencing of the talks which meant we agreed to hand over the cash (£39 billion) without knowing what we were getting in return; agreeing to downgrade a potential free-trade deal to the end of the talks, rather than the beginning; running cap in hand to Brussels every week in the idiotic belief that playing Mr Nice Guy would get them to respond in kind.

Letting EU bosses leak and brief against us without any counter-attack; allowing the EU to weaponise the Irish border (a sideshow economically) into a classic case of a very small tail, wagging a very big dog; and blurring every negotiating red line we ever chalked down.” (paywalled link)

Chewing over what was the May disaster, Lord Nash gives his background – it’s quite impressive- which permits him to write this merciless assessment:

“I have spent over 40 years working in business. I have been involved in importing several billion dollars of investment into this country, and creating tens of thousands of new jobs. I must have struck literally hundreds of multi-million pound business deals involving the buying and selling of companies. Working in private equity, it was my job to identify commercial value in the marketplace, make acquisitions, build up the firms concerned, boosting their value, with all that meant for profits and jobs, and then sell them to new owners or their senior managers.

But 10 years ago I turned to education, setting up a chain of academy schools along with my wife. I then rather unexpectedly became a schools minister for five years. So after 40 years in the wealth-creating sector, I know a bit about the public sector as well. And I know that too many politicians and civil servants could not sell a beer in the desert.

The penny finally dropped when I heard a former cabinet minister say on the floor of the Commons recently that, because no deal is worse for Europe than it is for us, we can take no deal off the table. This shows a total lack of commerciality and any understanding of the basics of negotiation. As my friend who works to get young people out of gangs said, “Even our local drug dealers know that you have to be prepared to walk away!” (paywalled link)

Lord Nash sticks the boot in right where it hurts – bu he is, sadly, correct:

“My years as a schools minister leading major delivery projects made me only too aware of how uncommercial civil servants are.

I have also been only too aware through my time taking legislation through the Lords how unrepresented the wealth and job creating sector is there. Most fellow peers seem to have spent their life in the political or public sectors on the public payroll, which after all is funded entirely by the wealth and employment creating sectors. […]

The essential problem is that we have entrusted the most important commercial negotiation in our country’s history to the two least commercial classes of people in our society – politicians and civil servants.

Most public servants are highly intelligent, committed, well educated, charming and in many ways a delight to work with, but fail any streetwise test. Daily, as a minister, I was confronted with commercial naivety. Because the civil service has no competitive pressure it is stuck in an old time warp with an overly hierarchical structure and uncommercial people.” (paywalled link)

Lord Nash concludes:

“But once Brexit is behind us one lesson to be learned is that more appointments to both Houses of Parliament should be from the commercial sector rather than the broken model of career politicians. And we might even learn enough from the experience to bring about long overdue reform of the civil service.” (paywalled link)

Indeed – and a severe culling of the HoL as well as a reduction in MPs in the HoC are also long overdue! In the immortal words of Ms Merkel: “Wir schaffen das!” – we can do it! 

Meanwhile, let some proper trade negotiators with track records of successful negotiations go and lock horns with the EU civil servants Hogan, Barnier and Weyand!


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