In today’s Brexit column (here) I mentioned that Mr David Frost’s speech deserved a closer look and that certain quotes were significant, quotes which, to me, illustrate not just the thoughts of our Chief Negotiator, our ‘Anti Barnier’, but which give hope that we may indeed get Out on December 31st.
I am quoting at length because many will not have the time to go through this speech with a fine tooth comb, and because our Remain MSM, who did have the transcript, choose some jaw-dropping interpretations in their reports. Here’s a delicious passage from the beginning of the speech:
“Brexit was surely above all a revolt against a system – against as it were, an ‘authorised version’ of European politics, against a system in which there is only one way to do politics and one policy choice to be made in many cases and against a politics in which the key texts are as hard to read for the average citizen as the Latin Bible was at the time of Charles the Bold.” (source)
Ooohh! After giving a brief personal description of why he became a Eurosceptic – Maastricht has a lot to answer for! – he uses Burke’s work on the French Revolution as skeleton over which he drapes his Brexit arguments:
“The state, to Burke, was more of an organic creation, entwined with custom, of tradition and spirit.
I think in Britain, the EU’s institutions to be honest never felt like that. They were more abstract, they were more technocratic, they were more disconnected from or indeed actively hostile to national feeling. So in a country like Britain where institutions just evolved and where governance is pretty deep-rooted in historical precedent, it was always going to feel a bit unnatural to a lot of people to be governed by an organisation whose institutions seemed created by design not than by evolution, and which vested authority outside the country elsewhere. I think that is why the slogan of the Leave campaign in 2016 ‘Take Back Control’ became such a powerful slogan and had such resonance .
Now if I am honest, much of this still does not seem to me to be understood here in Brussels and in large parts of the EU. I think one of the reasons why people here failed to see Brexit coming and often still see it as some kind of horrific, unforeseeable natural disaster is that […] at root, they were unable to take British Euroscepticism seriously, but saw it as some kind of irrational false consciousness and fundamentally wrong way of looking at the world.” (source)
That has indeed been one of the main points raised by comment writers and pundits in the EU MSM. The way Mr Frost follows this up, with more references on what drove the politics behind Brexit is very good but his points on the economics in the Brexit arguments are even more significant, for example:
“The claims that trade drives productivity are often in fact based on the very specific experience of emerging countries opening up to world markets, beginning to trade on global terms after a period of authoritarian or communist government – these are transitions that involve a huge improvement in the institutional framework and which make big productivity improvements almost inevitable. And I think the relevance of such experiences drawn from that for the UK, a high-income economy which has been extremely open for over a century, seems highly limited to me.
I also note that many Brexit studies seem very keen to ignore or minimise any of the upsides, whether these be connected to expanded trade with the rest of the world or regulatory change – often assuming the smallest possible impacts from such changes while insisting on the largest possible effects through changes in our relationship with the EU.” (source)
That’s putting the whole Project fear doom-mongers firmly in place, and the following observation is hopefully an indicator for those forthcoming talks as well:
“Indeed if we have learned anything on economics from the last few years, and in particular from the British economy refusal to behave as people predicted after the referendum, it is that modern advanced economies are hugely complex and adaptive systems, capable of responding in ways which we do not foresee, and finding solutions which we did not expect.” (source)
Mr Frost then ties our claim for Sovereignty to the EU demands on that ‘level playing field’ and ‘standards:
“Some argue that sovereignty is a meaningless construct in the modern world, that what matters is sharing it to gain more influence over others.
So we take the opposite view. We believe sovereignty is meaningful and what it enables us to do is to set our rules for our own benefit.
Sovereignty is about the ability to get your own rules right in a way that suits our own conditions. Much of the debate about will Britain diverge from the EU I think misses this point. We are clear – and the PM was clear in the speech he gave in Greenwich in London that we are not going to be a low-standard economy. That’s clear. But it is perfectly possible to have high standards, and indeed similar or better standards to those prevailing in the EU, without our laws and regulations necessarily doing exactly the same thing.
One obvious example I think is the ability to support our own agriculture to promote environmental goods relevant to our own countryside, and to produce crops that reflect our own climate, rather than being forced to work with rules designed for growing conditions in central France.
I struggle to see why this is so controversial.” (source)
So do we, Mr Frost, so do we! There’s more and this is interesting because it shows that there’s a new mood of optimism in this negotiating team – something which our Remain ‘correspondents’ have overlooked nor paid attention to:
“I think looking forward, we are going to have a huge advantage over the EU – the ability to set regulations for new sectors, the new ideas, and new conditions – quicker than the EU can, and based on sound science not fear of the future. […] There are other broader advantages to running your own affairs. One obvious one is that it is much easier to get people involved in taking decisions. Another, less obvious advantage, is the ability to change those decisions. My experience of the EU is that it has extreme difficulty in reversing bad decisions it takes. […] Course correction is, therefore, an important part of good government. Britain will be able to experiment, correct mistakes and improve. The EU is going to find this much, much more difficult.” (source)
Indeed they will! Past experiences have shown that to all who’re not blinded by EUphilia. Next:
“I am confident that these political economy factors really matter. In an age of huge change, being able to anticipate to adapt, and to encourage really counts. Brexit is about a medium-term belief in that reality that this is true – that even if there is a short-run cost, it will be overwhelmed rapidly by the huge gains of having your own policy regimes in certain areas.” (source)
And now: the original sentence containing the word ‘compromise’ – do check how RemainCentral interpreted here! I cannot for the live of me see how this is an ‘olive branch’ to the EU:
“Finally, that is also why we are not prepared to compromise on some fundamentals of our negotiating position.
One of those fundamentals is that we are negotiating as one country. To return again to Burke, his conception of the state was and is one that allows for differences, for different habits, and for different customs. It is one which means that our own multi-state union in the UK has grown in different ways across the EU – each playing unique roles in its historical development.” (source)
And so to the main point, the take-home message for the EU, for Barnier, for our Remainers:
“A second fundamental is that we bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country. It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us – to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has. So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so-called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing. That isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure – it is the point of the whole project. That’s also why we are not going to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year. At the end of this year, we would recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it? That is the point of Brexit. In short, we only want what other independent countries have.” (source)
Winding down, Mr Frost sticks a pin into the pretensions of the monolithic EU as represented by M Barnier:
“I do believe this needs to be internalised on the EU side. I do think the EU needs to understand, I mean genuinely understand, not just say it, that countries geographically in Europe can, if they choose it, be independent countries. Independence does not mean a limited degree of freedom in return for accepting some of the norms of the central power. It means – independence – just that. I recognise that some in Brussels might be uncomfortable with that – but the EU must, if it is to achieve what it wants in the world, find a way of relating to its neighbours as friends and genuinely sovereign equals.” (source)
The concluding paragraph cannot be bettered:
“And last, [a] source of inspiration once again from Edmund Burke, who gave a famous speech to the electors of Bristol in 1780, and he urged his voters to ‘applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover!’ in 2016 we ran; in 2018, we fell; so cheer us now as we in Britain recover, and go on, I am sure, to great things.” (source)
A great speech, an encouraging speech – but as always: it’s the results which matter. If Mr Frost and his team can indeed negotiate in this way and win, then well and good. It would be a great pity if this speech were to go the way certain speeches by Ms May went when she was told by the Remain Mandarins that ‘it can’t be done’.
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