With the events in the House of Commons on Tuesday not having achieved anything of great significance and MPs scheduled to go through it all again in a fortnight, there is an opportunity for Leave campaigns to take the initiative. There is no shortage of leave campaigns, but what has been missing is a common strategy around which they can unite. Fortunately that is now available. I call it GATT24.
David Campbell Bannerman MEP has proposed a way forward that should be attractive to all leavers – see BrexitCentral. He has identified a procedure that is available within the existing WTO rules as set out in Schedule 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
The strategy would be to leave the EU on 29th March 2019 having reached an interim agreement with the EU to pursue negotiations towards a comprehensive free trade deal. Both sides would be permitted under WTO rules to continue with the present zero tariff and zero quota trading arrangements. And the Irish border arrangements can continue as they are: no need for a backstop.
Thereafter there is space for negotiations for reaching a “Super Canada” deal which has been offered by the EU and pursued by David Davis before he had the rug pulled out from under him.
Although not specifically mentioned, my reading is that there would be no payment of £39B and freedom to agree trade deals with others, such as the USA and Commonwealth countries.
While this approach does require the EU to agree to it, and from what has been said they will not like it, the question for them becomes what better outcome is possible. For if the UK leaves without a deal they will be worse off. And if the GATT24 deal is seen by all reasonable people to be a fair compromise of all interests then the EU will be seen as the party that torpedoed the best possible way forward.
Campbell Bannerman has years of experience working on international trade within the European Parliament and has written impressively on the matter for the EFD Group. His proposal has been endorsed by John Longworth, Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave – see here. Although every member of the Cabinet has been sent a copy of the proposal there is no sign of it being taken up. But the Government does not have a viable proposal of its own. Which is an opportunity for Leave groups to take the initiative.
If Leave Means Leave promote GATT24 then the case will be greatly strengthen if all other BREXIT groups throw their weight behind them. Some BREXIT groups, such as Lawyers for BREXIT and Economists for Free Trade are generally in support of Leaving the EU. Some, such as Fishing for Leave, want BREXIT for reason much closer to their specific interests.
No matter what the standpoint of any group, all can unite behind support for a strategy that gives them what they want without losing the ability to champion their own particular priorities. GATT24 is that strategy. Unlike MPs who are all over the place as to what they do not want, GATT24 is what all Leavers do want.
Come on John Longworth, you have a fortnight to get the show on the road, create a groundswell of opinion in favour of GATT24 and pressure MPs to take it up. What is not to like?
Well, the morning after the night before response from the EU clearly shows they are not prepared to consider change to the Withdrawal Agreement. This works well for GATT24. If the EU are not prepared to countenance any such change then there is no point trying to negotiate. Better to abandon the Withdrawal Agreement and to start again with something different, and for it to be seen that this has been brought about by the EU, not the UK.
So, restate that the UK is leaving on 29th March and the deal being offered to the EU is GATT24. We are going to leave, and if they want a deal then we are more than happy to continue trading with them as currently allowed for under WTO terms. As trade is free there is no need to change anything on the Irish border. All the EU regulations that the UK currently enforces as being a member will be rolled over into UK law, so no change there either. No need for an Implementation/Transition period. Lots of time to agree the details of the future trading relationship. As for collaboration agreements, these can be made if there is a willingness to do so rather than see them as bargaining chips. For instance, fears in the UK at not being in the EUROPE loop are going to be a minor consideration compared with EU fears at being further away from the “Five-Eyes” relationship. Or concerns about not being able to fly into the EU can be set against concerns about not being able to fly through UK air space. And so on.
The UK should have been firm from the outset. David Campbell Bannerman has shown the way to be firm and fair now.