The EU talks are not going anywhere – let’s table a free trade agreement

It’s been good having three days off from Brexit on this blog. Parliament and the UK media need to remember there are many important tasks and debates we need to have about problems in our country that should not be driven out by endless and repetitious arguments about the terms and timing of our departure from the EU. I seek to  make sure my work as an MP is not unbalanced by Brexit which takes up too much Parliamentary time.

Over the last few days there has been little progress with the UK Parliament’s wish to see the Withdrawal Agreement renegotiated. The EU appears to rule out removing the backstop from the Agreement, which in turns seems to rule out Parliament approving it. For some  of us it is far more than the backstop that is wrong with the Agreement anyway. Why would we want to sign a one sided agreement giving the EU all it wants, without anything firm on the future partnership which might contain things we want?  Far from leaving the EU signing the Agreement means delay in taking back control of our money, our laws, and our borders, with genuine issues about whether we would ever be in full control given the backstop and the financial commitments.

The  best approach from here is straightforward. The government has to tell the EU there is no chance of passing the current Withdrawal Agreement, whatever might be offered by side letters, reassurance, clarifications or strengthening of the Political Declaration about a possible future agreement. It is also true many MPs do not want to leave with no agreement, so the government should table a comprehensive free trade agreement. Under GATT rules if the EU agrees to talk about this the UK can then leave the EU on 29 March without needing to impose new tariff and non  tariff barriers on EU exports to us, and the EU would do the same for our exports to them. There is a period of up to 10 years to agree a final text of a replacement Free Trade Agreement. There is now a private sector draft, but the government itself could scissors and paste EU/Japan and EU/Canada as the starting text.

Any kind of Withdrawal Agreement would leave the UK very exposed. There would be endless more months of rows with the EU, and rows in Parliament over how the talks should be handled by the UK. Meanwhile  the EU could legislate any way it wished to damage UK interests as leverage, whilst continuing to charge us large and unspecified sums for the privilege of more talks.



  1. Peter Wood
    February 8, 2019

    Possible way the Backstop discussion could proceed:

    Brexit meeting between Mrs. May and Pres. Juncker:

    Mrs. May: Jean-Claud, you know I cannot get the HoC to agree to the backstop, please help me to remove it, I beg of you…

    J-C: Ma Cherie Theresa, c’est impossible, you are aware we must keep control of our members and the UK must forever be within the acquis of our Divine Union. With your money, er.. I mean the help of the UK, it can last a thousand years!

    Mrs. May: Look J-C, I did my best to hoodwink all my stupid, lazy MP’s, but when they saw the legal opinion the jig was rumbled. There’s simply no way we’ll get them to agree, and that means no deal and no £39 + + Billion….

    J-C: Mrs May, the rules are the rules, we cannot change them just for the UK…


    Moment please May, this is an important call…

    (Replying to caller: Allo’ Ah, my Dearest Frau.….. Yes….Yes.. surely non….Yes..the MONEY… certainment, if you say so…….yes, it will be done. I etc ed .’click’…Fuhr….. Allo..?)

    J-C all smiles & charm : Ma Cherie Theresa…. It seems the EU Council has now decided to allow some small accommodation with your request, provided of course you agree to pay your generous leaving gift…er, I mean legal obligations, we can perhaps agree to remove the backstop…..Fancy a drinky to celebrate….?

    1. Rien Huizer
      February 9, 2019

      @ Peter Wood,

      Amusing but unfortunately based on the misconception that the “money” creates leverage. It does not. In fact, a deficit at the Commision level would not be unwelcome for some member states, including the one currently with Frau Sauer (nee Kasner, once married to Mr Merkel) at the helm. The simple fact is that the UK has very little leverage, and the little there is cannot be used without damaging other interests.

  2. Mark B
    February 8, 2019

    Good morning.

    It’s been good having three days off from Brexit on this blog


    Agreed. Apart from my countdown that is 😉 Oh and the post that was deleted on yesterday’s subject. But never mind, everyone just about covered what I said anyway. 🙂

    We are less that 50 day until we Leave the EU yet, I feel, we are little closer to actually Leaving than we were from day one. This is because both government and parliament have misled the electorate into believing that they will actually carry out the will of the people. They even went as far to reinforce this deception by holding a GE and, as confirmed by certain MP’s later, do not even recognise that !

    There has never been a greater disconnect between parliament and the people. We have never felt so poorly served and, have a PM that is held in contempt by all but the most sycophantic. A PM who has been called a liar here many times without sanction to those by our kind host. A damning indictment of her if ever there was one.

    The things is, are we now too late ? As I understand it the solution our kind host mentions is not as straightforward as he suggests and that it might need agreement from all members of the WTO (164 in total). Article 24 of the WTO has never been used as both the EU and the UK would have to submit a proposed FTA to the WTO. All other WTO can either ask for or veto such a FTA. It seems therefore that the UK will be, hopefully, Leaving the EU without an agreement.

    My concern is, has the government been preparing for such an eventuality ? My guess is, and this is why the PM has been prostrating herself around the EU and UK, that they haven’t. She has bet the farm on the WA. This is typical of the PM and many of her predecessors such as CMD.

    My advice. Hold tight, it looks like we are in for a bit of a rough ride.

    1. Hope
      February 8, 2019

      JR, you still do not appear to get it. Lords King and Lawson made it clear at the outset the UK will not get a good trade deal. This is not about economics it is about the survival of the EU project.

      Note to traitor May: your servitude plan needs to be binned in its entirety. Full stop.

      The EU wants the UK shackled to it as closely as possible and life made as difficult as possible for the UK. The EU will prevent leaving or delay or overturn. The EU will use every means possible. A successful Brexit would be damning indictment to the EU project, every other country would leave. Read Delingpole yesterday, very good article about the mob EU.

      Greece is going to be in debt forever the EU saw to that. The EU behaviour towards Greece was cruel and would not be imposed on a defeated nation after war- Germany ought to remember. The EU put 24% tax on its tourist businesses making Greece uncompetitive with close countries. Massive youth unemployment, destitution and hardship because the Greeks dared to leave the EU. Cameron and the other leaders in the EU stood by and let it happen! In Venezuela everyone rightly calls for the despot to be removed!

      Leave on WTO terms is best way out to negotiate a future trade relationship. This nonsense of May and Parliament must stop. The people have spoken and we expect action on 29/03/2019. If not, leave, close parliament and we will elect others who can deliver.

      I note the next German leader wants an EU army ASAP and not reliant on the US! I think if I were Trump (or May) I would have a word in her tin ear! Germany should never have an army or be allowed to be in control of an EU one. It will lead to further world troubles.

      1. bill quango
        February 8, 2019

        Massive youth unemployment, destitution and hardship because the Greeks dared to leave the EU.

        Now that simply isn’t true.

        The Greeks did not want to leave the EU. They could have. But they chose to remain. They could have left on countless occasions since 2009. Each time, they opted for Renmain. They still opt for Remain.
        They could have dumped the Euro. They didn’t.

        And according to that BBc documentary it was originally Germany who wanted them thrown out for not agreeing terms.
        Not Germany forcing them to stay in.

      2. Anonymous
        February 8, 2019

        Why shouldn’t Germany have an army ? It was the Nazis who were at fault according to the BBC and historians.

      3. margaret howard
        February 8, 2019


        “The EU behaviour towards Greece was cruel and would not be imposed on a defeated nation after war- Germany ought to remember.”

        Oh really?

        “The Civil War (1946-49) left Greece in ruins and in even greater economic distress than it had been following the end of German occupation.

        Additionally, it divided the Greek people for ensuing decades, with both sides vilifying their opponents. Thousands languished in prison for many years or were sent into exile on the islands of Gyaros and Makronisos. Many others sought refuge in communist countries or emigrated to Australia, Germany, the US, the UK, Canada and elsewhere.

        The polarization and instability of Greek politics in the mid-1960s was a direct result of the Civil War and the deep divide between the leftist and rightist sections of Greek society”

        However, if in doubt, blame the Germans.

        1. Edward2
          February 9, 2019

          Greece joined the Euro in 2001 margaret.
          And that is when its real problems started.
          Harking back to the 1940s is a red herring.

          1. jerry
            February 9, 2019

            @Edward2; “Harking back to the 1940s is a red herring.”

            Best you tell that to @Hope!

            The true historical context is all important, the problems that have faced Greece since 2001 did not begin in 2001, with the Euro or otherwise, they have their roots in the 1940s.

            In the same way, many of the problem that have faced the UK since 1st Jan 1973 have their roots in the immediate post WW2 era with all the social and political changes it brought, such as the loss of Empire and the rise of Trade Union militancy (to name just two examples of many), not just simply because we joined the EEC on that date.

            Very few, other than those who want to use political brickbats, would judge either the Thatcher or Blair govts. in isolation to what went before, yet some expect all of us to do so when judging the EEC/EU.

          2. Edward2
            February 10, 2019

            I blame Moses.

        2. Mitchel
          February 9, 2019

          When an independent Greece was carved out of the Ottoman Empire in the mid 19th century it was designed (by the British and French)to be weak and impoverished so that it would not become a powerful proxy for Orthodox Russia and therefore a threat to the ongoing Ottoman realm which shielded India from Russian advances.

          Many wealthy Greeks who made their fortunes in that empire chose not to move to the new Greek state-and indeed half the population of the Ottoman capital and commercial centre,Constantinople,was Greek(or Armenian and Jewish)rather than Turkish until the population transfers(and massacres) that took place after WWI.

          1. Mitchel
            February 9, 2019

            When an independent Greece was carved out of the Ottoman Empire in the mid 19th century it was designed (by the British and French)to be weak and impoverished so that it would not become a powerful proxy for Orthodox Russia and therefore a threat to the ongoing Ottoman realm which shielded India from Russian advances.

            Many wealthy Greeks who made their fortunes in that empire chose not to move to the new Greek state-and indeed half the population of the Ottoman capital and commercial centre,Constantinople,was Greek(or Armenian and Jewish)rather than Turkish until the population transfers(and massacres) that took place after WWI.

            Their first King,Otto, was German(of the Bavarian royal house) who was deposed after trying to rule as an absolute monarch.

      4. jerry
        February 8, 2019

        @Hope; “I note the next German leader wants an EU army ASAP and not reliant on the US! I think if I were Trump”

        President Trump might be quite please by the idea! After all wasn’t he complaining about how much the NATO alliance cost the USA and how unbalanced it was, being so dependant on the USA?

        “Germany should never have an army or be allowed to be in control of an EU one. It will lead to further world troubles.”

        Oh do grow-up, it’s 2019, not 1949!

        Germany has had an army (military) for self defence, and as part of the NATO structure, since at least 1955. In that time the only two countries who have caused “further world troubles” has been the old USSR and the USA…

        1. David Price
          February 9, 2019

          Only the USA and UK? Really?

          1957 – France & Spain vs Morocco in Ifni War
          1960 onwards – Congo crises
          1961 – Netherlands vs Indonesia (Trikora)
          1961 – Indian annexation of Goa
          1961 – Portugal and S Africa – Angolan War
          1962 – Sino-Indian War
          1965 – Indo-Pakistan War
          1967 – Six Day War and various conflicts since
          1968 – Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
          1971 – Another Indo-Pakistan War
          1974 – Turkish invasion of Cyprus
          1979 – Soviet-Afghan War
          1980 – Iran-Iraq War
          1991 – Croatia
          1992 – Bosnia

          Conflict is a common state and there were many more where none were caused by USA or UK. I would include the Falklands and Gulf 1 in the list.

          1. jerry
            February 9, 2019

            @ David Price; I take your point, because you make my point somewhat better that I did!

          2. David Price
            February 9, 2019

            @jerry, not really, the point of the abbreviated list is that there have been lots of conflicts since 1955 where the USA, nor Russia nor the UK have been the cause whereas the Europeans and others have been.

            Perhaps Germany hasn’t because they didn’t have any empire left to cause problems … though the EU is certainly busy trying to build a new one, and Germany wields great influence over it’s affairs.

          3. jerry
            February 9, 2019

            @David Price; Well yes, Germany could do what you suggest, but then little green men from Mars could also invade the world!

            On the other hand the FACTS are, unlike so many other countries (as you point out), Germany has not caused war, started war or taken part in a non UN sanctioned conflict since 1945.

            “Perhaps Germany hasn’t because they didn’t have any empire left to cause problems”

            Before throwing stones in glasshouses some people should perhaps remember Great Britons own history when it comes to Empire, the conflicts [1] it caused at the time, since -as you kindly pointed out- such as on the Indian subcontinent and in the middle east…

            [1] and humanitarian issues, such as the salve trade

    2. Richard
      February 8, 2019
      1. Denis Cooper
        February 8, 2019

        Thanks for those links, especially the useful reminders in the first two items, and in return I would like to offer this from last November:

        “WTO says its rules would not force EU or UK to erect hard Irish border”

        “Expert says it is up to London and Brussels to protect their own markets in no deal Brexit scenario”

        “The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has said that there is nothing in its rules that would force either the EU or UK to erect a hard Irish border after Brexit.

        The Geneva-based trade body where countries negotiate the rules of international trade would only intervene in a dispute over trade if one of its 164 member countries made a complaint.

        One expert warned that it would fall either to the UK or EU – not the WTO – to set up border checks in order to protect the integrity of their internal markets from illegal activity and divergent trade rules.”

        “”There is nothing in WTO rules that forces anyone to put up border posts,” said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell on a visit to Dublin last week.

        “Someone has to bring a complaint and say that their interests have been hurt.””

        “The Geneva organisation insisted that it would not impose checks along the Irish border.

        “The WTO will not intervene unless one of its members brought a case,” said Mr Rockwell. “If they [the UK] do not apply any duties or customs procedures against other trading partners and they do not have a trade agreement, some people might not be happy about that and they can bring a dispute settlement case.””

        “Mr Rockwell dismissed any expectation that the Geneva-based trade referee had the enforcement powers to bring about a hard border, saying the “black helicopters of the WTO will not descend”.

        “Will the WTO send its agents here to inspect? We do not have agents; there are 650 people in the WTO secretariat,” he said.

        Edgar Morgenroth, professor of economics at Dublin City University, said the WTO’s position on the Irish Border was “utterly irrelevant” as, in the absence of a deal, the onus would be on the EU and UK to protect their own respective markets against smuggling or divergent rules on the opposite side of a border.

        “The WTO rules are neither here nor there. They don’t require you to protect your border,” said Prof Morgenroth.

        “What does require you to protect your border is protecting the integrity of your single market; it needs to be preserved. Ireland would be required by EU law to do so and it is in Ireland’s interests to do that. Ultimately, it is about protecting jobs.””

        Well, we could offer to help the EU protect the integrity of its Single Market while keeping the Irish land border as open as it is now, we could solemnly promise to use “our best endeavours” to that end; but what be the point of offering that solution when the EU has already made it clear that it would not trust us to do anything that we promised unless we remained under the control of the EU institutions?

        “… we have already been told by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, that we cannot be trusted once we have left the EU.”

    3. Richard
      February 8, 2019

      EU businesses are already loudly demanding tariff-free access to the lucrative UK market.

      The WA takes the pressure off Brussels and is therefore counter-productive to achieving a good UK-EU FTA.

      1. Rien Huizer
        February 10, 2019

        @ Richard

        Of course, why pass on a free lunch?

  3. Len Broughton
    February 8, 2019

    Early 2013. Cameron promises referendum.
    June 2016. Referendum.
    March 2017. UK sends Art 50 letter.
    February 2019. John Redwood suggests a free trade agreement might be drafted.
    Shouldn’t you have done that in 2013? or 2016? Or 2017? But no, like all Brexiters, you merely snipe from the sidelines, you never actually get your hands dirty and do some proper work.

    Reply I proposed it before the referendum. There is now a draft available

    1. Len Broughton
      February 8, 2019

      Where is this draft?

      1. Jagman84
        February 8, 2019

        Like all Remainers, you are too lazy to look for yourself. Too much time being spoon-fed by the EU, I suppose?

      2. Penny
        February 8, 2019

        Manners maker the man, so I was taught.

    2. Dave Andrews
      February 8, 2019

      If you had been following John’s narrative, you would know that he has been advocating the procedure he outlined today since the referendum vote. The problem is the PM hasn’t taken up his sensible approach.
      The JR solution is easily the best way to proceed and always has been. The barriers to it are an EU bent on punishing the UK for breaking free of its control and their determination to prevent other countries from leaving too.

      1. margaret howard
        February 8, 2019

        Rather than the EU wanting to punish us, they have breathed a huge sigh of relief after decades of our politicians pleading for constant ops outs or special treatment (because we are special)

        As the Dutch MEP ( Sophie in t’ Veld – the deputy to the European parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator -) said in not so many words: “For goodness sake, get on with it.”

        1. Rien Huizer
          February 9, 2019

          @ margaret howard

          How come you are one of the few people here who understand this?

          1. Edward2
            February 10, 2019

            I understand it.
            You will be better and happier after the UK leaves the EU.

      2. John Hatfield
        February 8, 2019

        “an EU bent on punishing the UK”
        And the Prime Minister’s determination to stay in the EU.

    3. David in Kent
      February 8, 2019

      Change or Go; the 1000 page draft free trade agreement was published before the referendum, it included advice, which the government ignored, on how to approach the leaving process.

      1. Dennis
        February 8, 2019

        ‘the 1000 page draft free trade agreement was published before the referendum, it included advice, which the government ignored, on how to approach the leaving process.’

        Funny that JR doesn’t mention this.

      2. acorn
        February 8, 2019

        Please tell me where I can find a copy of this 1.000 page missive.

        1. David Price
          February 9, 2019

          Perhaps you should ask your “number crunchers” to instruct you on how to do a simple Google search.

    4. Stred
      February 8, 2019

      A trade deal was well advanced when May stopped it, having fixed her backstop, or Brexstop.
      SJR. Why doesn’t the ERG meet with Barnier and Tusk and table the free trade deals available. Remainers have been going to suggest bad deals. The Commission is now getting rattled with the prospect of Irish, Dutch, Danish, Spanish and French farmers and German car makers being up the creek and may be pleased to see a way out on April Fools day.

      1. Rien Huizer
        February 9, 2019

        @ Stred

        You are overestimating the impact on those Dutch etc farmers. The Russia sanctions were worse and all compensated. You may want to do some research on what BMW is doing (discreetly, they reckon that there will be a deal after all) for the contingency of no deal. For many firms the UK will change from an attractive production site into a difficult and possibly shribking market.

    5. Mike Stallard
      February 8, 2019

      “so the government should table a comprehensive free trade agreement”

      Since everyone we agrees that we are really part of Europe and we want the very best relationship after 30/3/19 – less than two months away now – couldn’t we start a European Free Trade Agreement between the nations of Europe who don’t want to engage with the Franco-German Eurozone?

      We could call it something like EFTA.

      Of course, we would have to make a few minor concessions like a Joint committee between the two parties – the EFTA people and the EU. But we wouldn’t have to pay all those billions, we wouldn’t actually have to accept any Directives and we would be free to make our own world trading relationships too.
      Of course, we would have to discuss stuff like terrorism, Galileo and Erasmus.
      Also we could insist on our Schengen let – out even after Lisbon.

      Ouch! Sorry! It has been already ruled out by Mrs May, she who must be obeyed, in the Lancaster House Speech.

      Now what?

      1. Ed Mahony
        February 8, 2019

        Mike, I agree.

        ALL of Europe – BOTH Brexiters (and their equivalents from other countries) and Europhiles agree on strong trade agreement!

        It makes perfect sense. (As does close security and cultural ties). But nothing more.

        If we could just formulate a better plan and have a bit more patience, we could use Brexit to break up the EU – BUT in an ORDERLY fashion – and then bring about a free trade agreement that’s good for us all.

        If we don’t have a proper plan and are too impatient, things could go the other way in Europe (and for us in the UK whether we’re in the EU or not) – with serious / very serious consequences.

        1. Denis Cooper
          February 8, 2019

          Here is the EEA Agreement:

          and you might find it informative to search for the word “persons”.

      2. Jagman84
        February 8, 2019

        Dr North is wrong and so are you. The EU do not do negotiation. They only demand and take. That s the nature of the beast.
        ps: I hope you enjoy your last holiday in the EU. It may not last much longer if we escape unscathed.

      3. Denis Cooper
        February 8, 2019

        “… we wouldn’t actually have to accept any Directives … “.

        Not true.

    6. Richard1
      February 8, 2019

      I’m afraid it is a valid criticism of Brexit supporters in Parliament that they did not table, collectively and in a coordinated way, a comprehensive proposal for the end result FTA and how to go about getting it, soon after the referendum. Now they are all over the place, with even Mr Gove in favour of an arrangement under which – unless he knows some clever way out which he isn’t letting on – the EU will be able to keep the UK indefinitely in the customs union, and take UK(NI) hostage. Sir John has been consistent, but is in such a minority it’s difficult to see his approach being adopted.

    7. Hope
      February 8, 2019

      In fairness to the EU it did offer a trade deal, twice, May turned to down for her servitude plan! May is now hoping to get enough Labour MPs on board. She has no loyalty to the country or your party. JR Please wake up. You should have ousted her after 8/12/2017, the,writing was clearly written on the wall. We read yesterday Raab saying yesterday that civil servants changed his documents without his knowledge or permission! I presume he meant Robbins. How about a motion of contempt in May failing to act on the Brady amendment to replace and instead asked for changes?

      May has broke another record yesterday: highest taxation, more homelessness, largest defeat in parliament. This one far more serious, the highest murder rate for a decade and highest number of fatal stabbings since records began! How is her policy on cutting police numbers by 20,000 and preventing stop an search going?

      Are you going to oppose Hammond sneaking another death tax upon us by statutory instrument?

      May might also like to look at the ethnicity of offenders and victims? Even with her dull virtual signalling she will not be able to twist the figures and who ought to be stopped more than others.

      Tragic but this is total disaster May for you.

      1. Anonymous
        February 8, 2019

        Ah. The ONS pointed out that these were “The worst knife crime figures since WW2” so that means we were stabbing each other even more in 1946.

        From bitter recent experience the police are super efficient at delivering hefty speeding fines for a momentary lapse in concentration.

        How does this ultra-zero tolerance policy on car drivers who make a mistake and who are simply trying to keep the country going square with the May-ist approach of tolerance (cautions) for people who go out and commit premeditated crime ?

        “Ah. Understanding and second chances works with criminals.”

        “Ah. Understanding and second chances do not work with car drivers.”

        It has to be one or the other. Unfortunately the latter is yet one more thing that set the conservative people against its own political and policing class – especially against a backdrop of total ineffectiveness against crime.

    8. Chris
      February 8, 2019

      LB, the Remainers were in charge and made sure that the plans the Brexiteers had never got any traction. You saw what happened to the David Davis Canada plus draft which he had drawn up in his official capacity in Cabinet – May blocked it and ensured that her WA, which she and Robbins had been working on covertly, became the plan to leave. Thus it is wrong to say the Leavers had no plans. They certainly did but when you have the PM of the country actually blocking the official Leave plan from Ministers in her own Cabinet, and undermining her own Ministers then there is little you can do other than booting her out.

      1. Peter
        February 8, 2019

        Exactly. Meanwhile, in the absence of any real Brexit news the newspapers have gone into nonsense overdrive about May’s ‘body language’. Some daft spad probably put them up to it.

        It’s never been mentioned before. This despite the fact that the PMs stooped posture means she looks like the original model for the ‘old people crossing’ road sign.

        No expert has claimed she looks like a loser, or a pushover in negotiations.

        1. Anonymous
          February 8, 2019

          I pointed it out several years ago.

    9. Know-Dice
      February 8, 2019

      Len, make your point, but adding an insult does nothing to forward the debate.

    10. Alison
      February 8, 2019

      Sir John, tragedy you are not in charge. Foresight.

    11. NigelE
      February 8, 2019

      This link does.

    12. oldtimer
      February 8, 2019

      A FTA was proposed during the referendum campaign. It is evident that Mrs May pursued a different approach which is now on the rocks. I do not underestimate the capacity of some MPs, in their apparent panic, to come up with more proposals to frustrate a clean Brexit on 29 March 2019. I just hope that they do not succeed.

      I have watched recent evidence by Steve Baker MP and Dominic Raab MP given to the EU Scrutiny Select Committee chaired by Sir William Cash. They are scathing about Mrs May’s WA and its implications for the UK.

      If Remainers believe it will be the end of the matter if they frustrate Brexit, they need to think again.

      1. Steve
        February 8, 2019


        “If Remainers believe it will be the end of the matter if they frustrate Brexit, they need to think again.”

        We’ll be going for the throat.

    13. Denis Cooper
      February 8, 2019

      It is not actually part of an MP’s work to draft free trade agreements or any other international treaties, that is done by expert departmental civil servants under the supervision of the Treaty Section of the Foreign Office:

      Even the drafting of Bills for consideration by Parliament, which do fall within the remit of MPs, is done by professional, specialist parliamentary draftsmen:

      “The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is a group of government lawyers who specialise in drafting legislation. We work closely with departments to translate policy into clear, effective and readable law … ”

      I suppose Len would say that MPs are avoiding “proper work” because they usually leave even that task to expert civil servants and instead concentrate on “sniping from the sidelines” when the Bill is going through their House.

    14. Merlin
      February 8, 2019

      Dear John,

      I think the problem with Brexit is now legislative at this point. Apparently there are six major bills which need to be passed before March 29th.

      From what I can understand, all six major bills need to be passed and the accompanying regulatory bodies have to be set up in the next 57 odd days for us to have the existing laws we have today.

      Because we cannot live in a lawless society, Brexit cannot take place until Parliament agrees on a way forward, then a deal can be struck and the bills can be passed.

      As there seems no time left to do all this, I fear all this talk of us leaving on March 29th is utter pie in the sky. Which I regret, as I favour ‘no deal’ over May’s deal on the grounds it will hopefully settle this Brexit argument one way or the other and allow life to return to normal again.

      Reply No need to panic. We will not be short of laws

      1. Enrico
        February 8, 2019

        March 29th at 11pm is law and it’s had royal assent so can’t be changed unless it’s decided to ignore it and carry on regardless which HOC seems to do if it suits them.They have totally ignored the laws of the Magna Carta because lots of the MP’s walk roughshod over them but nobody holds them to account.Why I ask?

        1. eeyore
          February 8, 2019

          If JR will permit: All but two clauses of Magna Carta have long been repealed. One relates to the liberties of the Church, the other is the famous c.39 about justice and right, kept as a sort of pretty mascot on the constitutional keyring.

          This is a pity as c.20, pledging that we can only be fined according to the gravity of our offence, was worth having, as was c.41 guaranteeing safe travel in and out of England “free from all evil taxes”.

          There is a legal argument that when scarcely anything of of a law remains, none remains. By that token the whole of Magna Carta is dead as a dinosaur and we should stop deluding ourselves otherwise (see R. v Haddock).

          1. eeyore
            February 8, 2019

            C.39 should of course be c.40. Sorry.

      2. Steve
        February 8, 2019


        “Because we cannot live in a lawless society”

        We already do. Members of Parliament simply change the law to suit themselves. It therefore follows that laws mean nothing.

      3. roger
        February 8, 2019

        Reply to reply

        Ain’t that the truth!

  4. Peter
    February 8, 2019

    The EU will not budge and they know that May will do anything to avoid a “No Deal” exit.

    Further delay or May colluding with the Labour Party seem to be the most widely touted outcomes.

    1. eeyore
      February 8, 2019

      We learn today that “secret” plans are being made to slash taxes and tariffs in the event of a No Deal Brexit. Why secret? Why not shout them from the rooftops, and from the rooftops of Brussels especially?

      Ladders and megaphones for our negotiators please!

    2. fredH
      February 8, 2019

      Peter- She has little choice- to leave with no deal would be catastrophic for the British economy- there are no new super trade deals out there in the wider world waiting to be signed- even if there were we have not got enough suitable merchant ships to carry goods over such long distances- we would have to rely completely on foreign flag.

      We are an Island nation of 65 million and we absolutely need to continue with frictionless trade with our nearest neighbours the EU bloc countries- we can do it in a CU or we can do it by way of a FTA- but in any case that is how it’ll have to be, so yes, it looks like Corbyn is coming on board to give it a push- on the other side May is meeting with Veradkar this evening and before that Veradkar will have been to Belfast to meet with the NI political party heads, and then to top it all the two Attorney Generals from London and Dublin are also meeting today- so just watch this space.

      1. Peter
        February 8, 2019

        ‘Catastrophic’ in the opinion of Remain supporters and those who talk of the so-called ‘cliff edge’.

        WTO would be fine for reasons outlined many times on these pages.

        ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’.

      2. Bernard Gallivan
        February 8, 2019


        It is nonsense to claim leaving with no deal would be a catastrophe for the U.K. and only a remainer would make such a silly claim. But don’t take my word for it because many eminent economists have already shown why it is nonsense; just as clever legal minds, almost 9 months ago, showed how fatally flawed Chequers and then the WA was. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop or doesn’t stop the sheep still believing remainer rubbish. What is nonsense is for us to continue shoring up a dying E.U. to our own detriment. 17.4 million people like me want to see the back of the E.U. for many and very good reasons and we should never have allowed ourselves to be sucked into this endless round of nugatory talks. We continue throwing away our best negotiating cards and repeatedly turn the other cheek. It is already too late to avoid a seamless exit but for god’s sake, let us show some teeth before we go.

        1. Rien Huizer
          February 9, 2019

          @ Bernard Gallivants

          Glad to see that you have discivered “many eminent economists” who have already shown its is nonsense (I assume the catastrophe). I would be very interested to know more about that because I have not seen that many reports that deny that the UK will suffer damage from its decision to leave the EU single market etc. To what extent that will be catastrophic remains to be seen. In essence, the UK will be at the mercy of those you and others antagonize. Not very smart diplomacy for what was once a Great Power. But I understand many UK diplomats find this the least worthy cause they ever had to promote. Note: my many diplomats against your many economists..

      3. Denis Cooper
        February 8, 2019

        Only enough the German government does not agree with our government that leaving without a deal would be catastrophic for our economy.

        “If you asked me to explain why a German government study should predict only a minor erosion of the UK’s long term economic growth, less than 2%, if we were to default to the WTO treaties for our trade with the EU, while the UK government keeps insisting that it would a disastrous 8% loss of GDP, then I would have to repeat my view that the UK government is dominated by liars who have no scruples about pulling the wool over the eyes of the people they are supposed to be serving and who are paying for their maintenance.”

    3. Kevin
      February 8, 2019

      It seems as if Mrs. May’s hope is that if she keeps presenting her Withdrawal Agreement to Parliament, thereby running out the clock, Labour will eventually buckle and vote for it. This would be on the assumption that Labour does not want us to be, like Japan, a democratic island nation that makes a success of itself while not being in the Single Market or the Customs Union. The same Japan upon whom “EU Britain” appears to depend for investment.

  5. Ian wragg
    February 8, 2019

    May wants the Withdrawal Agreement and Backstop to weld us in the EU for ever. She must be impeached for her traitorous behaviour.
    As Trimble says that it’s probably illegal.

    Another perfectly good coal fired power station being closed due to the insanely stupid government policies.

    1. Stred
      February 8, 2019

      Southern Australia has just been suffering black and brown outs for the same reason. Stupid politicians.

    2. MickN
      February 8, 2019

      “Another perfectly good coal fired power station being closed due to the insanely stupid government policies.”

      Yes indeed. I wonder if the parts that are stripped out will be sold as in the past to Germany for them to use in the coal fired power stations that they are currently building. We should stop this lunacy now until we have replaced our power sources.

    3. Martyn G
      February 8, 2019

      “…coal fired power station being closed due to the insanely stupid government policies”. How true – the insanity of annually burning 6-7 million tons of US timber pellets that are shipped to the UK by crude-oil burning diesel powered vessels is madness and now Drax is claiming that they are now capturing their CO2 and selling it to industry and thus carbon-nuetral! Really?
      If the UK ceased overnight to produce CO2 and we all went back to cave-dwelling, it would have zero impact on the world as a whole. That is not to say that we shouldn’t work to reduce harmful particulates and the like but here is a totally mad thought – since we all exhale CO2, maybe it won’t be long before we are each allocated a CO2 footprint and have to engage in carbon credit purchase if, for example, one wishes to go running and breath more deeply and rapidly…..

      1. Kevin Lohse
        February 8, 2019

        Don’t give Spreadsheet Phil tax-raising ideas. The air we breathe is just about all that is essential to life left untaxed.

    4. Richard
      February 8, 2019

      “A 2011 opinion by the European Environment Agency described a “serious error” in greenhouse gas accounting. The carbon neutral assumption doesn’t account for CO2 absorbed by vegetation that grows naturally on land not used for biofuel production. In addition, forests cut down to provide wood chips for power plants immediately release large quantities of carbon dioxide, but decades of tree regrowth are required to reabsorb released CO2. Substitution of wood for coal in electrical power plants is actually increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
      As a result, the emissions numbers reported by Europe are wrong.”

  6. Fedupsoutherner
    February 8, 2019

    Very sensible John as usual. Now let’s just do it and don’t hand over £39b. We’re fed up with all the grovelling and fed up with MPs trying to overturn Brexit. This country will succeed if we all get behind it and that includes businesses and MPs.

    1. DaveM
      February 8, 2019

      Summed up perfectly.

    2. Lifelogic
      February 8, 2019

      Indeed but not how the dire wet Tory MPs (about 80% of them) see it.

  7. Mick
    February 8, 2019

    I think you had better get ready for a General Election, now with Corbyns proposals of a custom union and staying in the single market it’s obvious what he and stammer are about its for the collapse of government with the DUP withdrawing there confidence-and-supply agreement, but Corbyn and stammer are overlooking the fact that they would have to come clean in there new manifesto that they want to stay in a custom union and a single market which would wipe them out north of the Watford gap, the people I hope will not be taken in with all the lies and promises again, the labour front bench and other remoaner mps really do not understand the resentment of being in the Eu

  8. Dougal Hamer
    February 8, 2019

    Japan does not have a land border with the UK. Canada does not have a land border with the UK. Until you have a solution to keep the Irish border invisible, you are wasting your time and everyone’s else by bleating about cutting and pasting from the Japan and Canada free trade deals. Please try to be realistic (I know that is not easy for you)

    Reply An FTA deals with the alleged Irish border issues!

    1. Adam
      February 8, 2019

      Dougal Hamer:

      If you have a realistic solution instead of a gripe, please state it.

      1. Steve
        February 8, 2019


        “If you have a realistic solution instead of a gripe, please state it.”

        I have; just build a hard border facing Southern Ireland. Thus robbing the EU and it’s little sidekick Varadkar of the means to hold us to ransom.

    2. David Ferguson
      February 8, 2019

      Why is the Irish border such a problem when, with the EU’s full support, the customs border for the port of Trieste (Italy) is to be in Fürnitz (Austria), some 200km away? Yes, that’s right. Trieste customs will be based in Austria.

      1. Helena
        February 8, 2019

        Italy and Austria are both in the EU. Didn’t you know? Or didn’t you know the UK is leaving?

        1. ian wragg
          February 8, 2019

          Yes but Trieste is a busy seaport and goods from outside the EU are landed there.
          The Irish non border problem is only there because Brussels and May want it so.

      2. Bellboy
        February 8, 2019

        In the old days of the Austro Hungarian Empire Trieste was the main sea port of that has a very long association with maybe nearer to Vienna than to Rome, for administration purposes. All to do with the EU and better efficiency.

        On the other hand the problem of the WA Backstop could be sorted if we took a similiar view of customs on the Irish would it be if Dublin was designated as being the EU centre for administration and checks for goods going into NI..goods bound for NI could be landed in Dublin and taken up the road over the then no need for further checks if they come south again?

    3. L Jones
      February 8, 2019

      Hamer – remainer, obviously. Never a comment without an insult. Don’t these people realise how silly-sounding insults add nothing to their ‘argument’ (weak as it usually is)?
      They probably get applauded for it on Facebook.

    4. Denis Cooper
      February 8, 2019

      But I don’t think it would necessarily do that, JR, because an FTA like CETA does not completely eliminate the EU’s rather paranoid perceived need for goods from any “third country” to be intercepted and examined as they enter the EU.

      So even if most goods from Canada may be landed in the port at Dublin tariff-free, and quota-free as well, they will not be completely inspection-free; the same would have to apply to UK goods even if we had agreed a similar FTA with the EU.

      Which surely means, in principle, that in the absence of a more highly developed agreement with the UK than CETA offers the EU would still compel Irish customs to routinely intercept and check at least samples of goods entering the EU across the land border with Northern Ireland, however emphatic Theresa May may be in her foolish promise to never allow that to happen:

      “Really? So what is she going to do if the EU starts putting up barriers and customs houses? Lead raiding parties across at night to dismantle them?”

  9. Lifelogic
    February 8, 2019

    You make very good points as usual. This is the approach to take. Just leave on time and negotiate from this far stronger position rather than from May’s absurd deal that would put the UK in the straight jacket for any negotiations.

    Indeed it is good to look at other matters than Brexit. This as May and Hammond are making a complete fist of nearly everything else to0. Yet anther tax increase (the rip off probate tax) has just been pushed through (pretending it is not another inheritance II tax but a “fee”). No one is fooled and Hammond has not even honoured the £1 million IHT threshold each promise made by Osborne so many years back. Is it any wonder May and Hammond types are held in such contempt. If politicians lied and cheated this much in business they would surely be put in jail for fraud.

    Then we have the absurd Nanny State Chief Medical Officer telling us when to use our phones and computers and absurdly adding to project fear over the NHS drugs. No dear it is not because you are a “woman” as you suggested. We would say it of a man with your pathetic and absurd nannying agenda too. Why not do something about the 7 hour wait for a woman on the floor with a broken hip in Devon instead of this silly nannying.

    Carney yet again yesterday doing project fear. Low growth is hardly surprising when Hammond has given us the highest taxes for 40 years, endless more red tape. an incompetent Brexit approach and May clearly wants to destroy the Conservatives and give us an appalling deal and Corbyn/SNP to boot!

    1. Stred
      February 8, 2019

      The Stiff Tax is probably as illegal as the capitulation.

    2. Hope
      February 8, 2019

      Life logic, The probate tax will force the poorest to sale their homes to pay for the funeral and probate tax. What justification is there for it?

      1. hefner
        February 8, 2019

        Estate below £50k, no probate fee, that’s 58% of the UK population. Above that, it is:
        £50k-£300k, £250, 23%
        £300k-£500k, £750, 11%
        £500k-£1M, £2500, 6%
        £1M-£1.6M, £4000, 1%.
        £1.6M-£2M, £5000, 0.3%
        >£2M, £6000, 0.5%

      2. hefner
        February 8, 2019

        So for estate below £325k, that is £750 probate fee and no inheritance tax. And if instead of spending most of the day on this site writing vacuous comments, people were looking at, say, various funeral plans, they might realize it is possible to find some independent funeral directors who can arrange the full gamut of a funeral for about £3k.
        £3k, is it really so much that the house has to be sold?

        1. Edward2
          February 9, 2019

          Like the Insurance premium tax these are just introductory rates.
          VAT started at a single firgure rate now it is 20%.
          Yet another tax.

  10. eeyore
    February 8, 2019

    We are often told the House will not accept No Deal but the Spelman amendment vote last week on rejecting it was 318-310. Only four MPs need change their mind for a clean WTO Brexit to become the House’s preferred option (the Speaker’s casting vote being for the status quo).

    Given the catastrophic and irreversible flaws of WA, voters and constituency parties should redouble their efforts to remind Members that the country’s interest and their own are identical, and that backing WTO serves both.

    1. Roy Grainger
      February 8, 2019

      That would be an entertaining outcome, Bercow being forced to vote for WTO. But what makes you think he would follow precedent on this ?

      Reply The Speaker does not vote!

    2. Adam
      February 8, 2019

      No Deal is a clean choice preventing the EU from remote controlling our actions.

      As a free independent nation we shall proceed to act in our best interests. What the EU does is a matter for them. If they want our business, they can attempt to satisfy our needs by competing for it against the best in the world. We choose what we buy & reject what does not meet our preferences.

      Life is easier immediately you regain control.

      1. Rien Huizer
        February 9, 2019

        @ Adam,

        It would be very interesting to see how “nodeal” would work out. From a safe distance.

        1. Adam
          February 9, 2019

          We’ll be at a safe distance on 29 Mar. The EU remote control won’t work without charging. We’ll use our own money to empower our capability from home.

          The EU claims Rome wasn’t built within a day. From their ruins, it looks as if a cowboy builder tried, & dodgy EU work may never be remedied.

          1. Rien Huizer
            February 10, 2019

            @ Adam

            Allright then, you are too clever for me.

    3. Cerberus
      February 8, 2019

      Leaving on WTO-terms is still the default option that was voted through by Parliament. MPs will have to introduce new legislation or delay A50 to overturn it. Don’t think the remainers are that brave.

  11. Dominic
    February 8, 2019

    I for one appreciate your efforts. It can’t be easy belonging to a political party led by people whose only raison d’etre is damaging the democratic, constitutional and economic interests of the nation they were elected to serve.

    British politics is on the cusp of seismic change

    1. Anonymous
      February 8, 2019

      Indeed it is on the cusp of seismic change – a total and complete takeover by the Blairists.

      A million more young people living at home with mum and dad since – you guessed it – 1998 ! The start of the Blair years.

      We predicted this would happen and it didn’t happen because people get old (as they always have done in Britain.) Something else changed dramatically. Now what was it ?

      BTW I meant to challenge Lifelogic about his altruistic aims re providing a rental service. He forgot to mention about his costs being diminished once his mortgages are paid off by tenants – then it’s Kerching ! all the way. The best thing he could do for young people is release properties to market simultaneously with other landlords.

      1. Anonymous
        February 8, 2019

        For every smug, Conservative voting landlord there is a frustrated portfolio of frustrated (now) Liberal minded tenants.

        The landlording craze took off because it was a way for mediocrities to make great riches and often at the expense of younger people more talented and educated than them.

        1. Jagman84
          February 8, 2019

          I disagree. It was the attack on private pensions by Gordon Brown and his successors, in an attempt to bail-out the public sector pensions. When buy-to-let (using you pension pot) is better than staying with your under-performing retirement investment, that’s what people will do.

        2. rose
          February 8, 2019

          The landlording craze took off because old people weren’t getting proper interest on their hard earned life savings. These were in effect being transferred to borrowers, usually young ones, almost interest free, to make capital gains.

          1. Anonymous
            February 8, 2019

            It’s not old people in the landlording craze. It’s mainly generation X and younger.

    2. Lynn Atkinson
      February 8, 2019

      Not before time! No church is broad enough to include heretics!

    3. Merlin
      February 8, 2019

      It make me unhappy when I read people saying the government doesn’t serve their interests.

      The government, be it labour or conservative, is there to serve the people and generally tries to serve the people as best it can – for which it is usually rewarded with scorn and outrage.

      I would advice you become a local councillor and experience with the rank contempt of your residents when you try to help them as best you can. It might change your opinion a little.

      1. Merlin
        February 8, 2019

        Oops … meant ‘makes’ not ‘make’, and ‘advise’ not ‘advice’. Please excuse typos.

      2. Den
        February 8, 2019

        So we are expected to say nothing when our decision to Leave the EU is being ignored? It is OUR future at stake here and we voted for the Conservatives in the last GE because we believed their manifesto promises. Mrs May has turned them on their head and all but rejected the package. We have been conned yet you suggest we should learn to live with it?
        Whatever this wretched Government is doing it is NOT Serving our interests and that is why there is such an outcry.
        Mrs May has proven herself unfit for the purpose of Prime Minister. She is no leader she is more the led. Unfortunately for us, it is not her electorate who are giving the directions but all those with vested interests in the EU.

      3. mancunius
        February 8, 2019

        “The government, be it labour or conservative, is there to serve the people and generally tries to serve the people as best it can”

        Bless! You are Dr Peter Pangloss, and I claim my £5 reward.

      4. Original Richard
        February 8, 2019

        Merlin, I presume you’re being sarcastic.

        We all know, Remainers and Leavers, that we have a pro-EU Parliament trying to find ways to delay or overturn the EU referendum result despite Leave winning 64:36 by constituency.

        Mrs. May “negotiating” our exit from the EU is like asking the Opposition to implement the Government’s manifesto pledges after a GE.

        If this Parliament does not allow us to fully exit the EU then this will be seen as a coup against the people of this country.

  12. Richard1
    February 8, 2019

    Yes we are clearly at the point where we need to leave, make temporary arrangements as best as possible and use GATT article 24 to ensure continued tariff free trade. If this happens it’s essential to replace Mrs May immediately, otherwise the Conservatives will own the failure to get a ‘deal’. Withdrawal from the ERM in 1992 was a good thing but it wasn’t govt policy so the Tories never recovered electorally. Had Major been replaced they might have done.

    If on the other hand, as seems more likely, we sign a WA on the back of Labour votes which sees the UK locked in the customs union that means no independent trade policy, one of the main benefits of brexit. The EU will of course never let us out except with a new arrangement which gives them even more control. In such circs, it would better to remain in the EU as a member, albeit a reluctant one.

  13. Michael Keating
    February 8, 2019

    Matters to be dealt with remain the same.

    We need a new PM.

    The Tory Party needs a manifesto it can agree on.

    The Party needs to win a General Election

    Until those three things happen the present political shambles, incompetence and total lack of respect from the EU will continue.

  14. jerry
    February 8, 2019

    Totally agree Sir John. The EU keep saying that the UK needs to tell them what we want, by tabling such a FTA based around GATT rules it would leave little to no doubt what we want, the EC would then have to step up and actually start acting like grown-ups rather than the scolded children they have been acting like!

  15. agricola
    February 8, 2019

    I take the statement of Barnier,”I will have done my job if inthe end theUK chooses to remain in the EU.” as a true reflection of what has driven the negotiations from day one. To add sauce,take the mutterings of Tusk as a true reflection of feelings within the Eu at our temerity in wishing to leave. It goes against everything plotted by the movers and shakers at Bilderberg, Davos, the UK establishment, and the EU. For reasons best known to yourself you shy away from condemning Tusk in the strongest terms.

    Iam pleased that you have come round to a plan for exiting the EU via a free trade treaty , using WTO rules and GATT Art 24 to continue with current trade arrangements until the final trade treaty is established.

    The only missing element is to table what is acceptable in the WA and declare our intention to enact those elements.

    It all hangs on the resolve of May, so I am not holding my breath.

  16. Nig l
    February 8, 2019

    Her aim as evidenced by the back stop is to keep us tied to a customs union. Lidington’s tortuous display at the dispatch box confirmed as much.

    1. Den
      February 8, 2019

      I agree but why? Such an arrangement would kill of all chances to make our own Trade Deals with the Rest of the World. So why have all of the special meetings with other Nations for such a purpose when it would never happen? Subterfuge?

      1. Denis Cooper
        February 8, 2019

        It’s what the CBI and similar business groups want, they see it as their best option short of actually staying in the EU.

  17. A.Sedgwick
    February 8, 2019

    Whilst we have this appalling PM and comic opposition any outcome , bar a WTO exit, is possible.

  18. Bryan Harris
    February 8, 2019

    Agreed – but in a response from my MP about tariffs, he quotes Ivan Rogers as the expert on the futility of this approach:

    JR – Please comment on this – We need to dispel these arguments in a constructive manner…. and you are certainly more of an expert than most.

    Reply I have set out why this Spectator article is wrong in what I have written about the WTO option.

    1. Bryan Harris
      February 8, 2019

      OK thanks

  19. JoolsB
    February 8, 2019

    It’s sickening how May has ‘handled’ these negotiations. She is totally out of her depth and threw away a golden opportunity when we held all the cards and has now left us in this humiliating and vulnerable position. What is worrying John is that not only if she could, she would still push through her pathetic Brino surrender document and insult us by presenting it as Brexit but what is even more worrying now is that Labour in their desperation for us not to have a ‘no deal’ might just vote for it next time around.

    1. Iain Moore
      February 8, 2019

      It makes you want to weep at the number of time May and Robbins have squandered a negotiating position that gave us leverage.

  20. The Prangwizard
    February 8, 2019

    Yes, do something. Do something. What is taking you so long? We are all faced with an intransigent and etc ed PM whose mental state is such that she is incapable of being honest and truthful, at best, who suffers defeat after defeat in parliament and carries on as if nothing has happened treating it and the people with breathtaking contempt. The personal vote of confidence was seen by her as a ringing endorsement. She is determined to get her surrender document through no matter what. She is an agent of the EU.

    That she continues to be treated with respect and reverence by most of her MPs is an indictment of the Tory party when the country is so obviously being betrayed.

    1. Anonymous
      February 8, 2019

      Corbyn the useful fool.

      He is being kept alive so that “The others must be kept out.” Otherwise May would have been toast.

  21. ChrisS
    February 8, 2019

    Just as throughout the whole of the 31 months since the referendum, the forces of Remain are redoubling their efforts to thwart Brexit at any cost.

    Corbyn’s latest “offer” is no more than a cynical attempt, no doubt designed by McDonnell, to hold onto the Labour leadership by offering a form of Brexit the country did not vote for.

    Brussels will never allow a permanent Customs Union that would leave us as anything more than a subservient Country, taking all their rules and regulations without any say. No doubt the final arbiter of any dispute would remain the ECJ. Labour’s idea that Brussels would allow us a seat at the table to contribute to any negotiations on future trade deals is laughable.

    Close alignment with the Single Market would demand more of the same plus a thinly-disguised form of Free Movement. They would never grant any of this without substantial budget Contributions.

    In short, it would be a form of Brexit we would not recognise as being anything of the sort.

    Leaving on WTO terms and immediately tabling a free trade deal is now the only avenue open for us to return to being a properly independent country.

  22. Lynn Atkinson
    February 8, 2019

    The fact that we were leaving on WTO terms (out of th Single Market and Customs Union specifically) was settled in June 2016 by the People who are the real Sovereigns. What has Mrs May been doing since? All without authority? Does she think that business and the country are sitting on their hands wondering what she will ‘deliver’ on 28th March and then spring into action with hours to play with and arrange their affairs?
    This is literally Malfeasance of Office.
    She had better stop messing about and take your safe road through the mire – it’s the ONLY one!

  23. Lorna
    February 8, 2019

    This is undoubtedly the only way forward .It is not NO Deal the catastrophe that is being discussed but it is a clean break from Brussels .Negotiating a future FTA is best done without being exposed to the constraints and bullying of the EU
    It should at the very least stop uncertainty for businesses and provide a clean break that Leavers want so,passionately
    What are your views on the FTA presented by DD this week? I think many people feel we must have a Withdrawal Agreement in order to leave
    Thank you again for a rational solution! The next step is to get other Brexiteer ministers to,support this .The public already do !

  24. Sir Joe Soap
    February 8, 2019

    Let it be said here and now that this government can no more claim to be responsible for any successful no-deal Brexit than John Major’s can take credit for the great recovery 1992-1999.
    If this one stumbles along until 2022 it will be in the same mould, a fag-end administration where any other solution is better than the present incumbents.

    This time, though, the Tory Party in this Majorite/Blairite/Cameronite/Mayite mould will be dead and buried.

  25. ian
    February 8, 2019

    Can’t afford to mess about with the EU at this time or hand over any large sums of money.
    The gov will be needing all the money it can raise for the bailout that is coming to save the UK from a recession that is on its way.
    Taxes cuts will be needed and so on and it won’t be cheap.
    Last chance saloon coming up.

  26. Alan Joyce
    February 8, 2019

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    The Final Solution

    The Prime Minister will present a last minute My Deal or No Deal but with sections of points 1, 2 and 3 and point 4 below.

    1. Dynamic alignment on workers rights and protections so that UK standards match those of Europe.

    2. Participation in EU agencies and funding programmes including in the environment, education, and industrial regulation.

    3. Agreements on future security arrangements including access to the European Arrest Warrant and other shared databases.

    4. A little tinkering around with the backstop and the future political agreement which is all the EU will allow her.

    1,2 & 3 are, of course, from Corbyn’s letter to her and will ensure that she peels off enough Labour MP’s to vote for her deal.

    No. 4 will help her pick off those Conservative MP’s, including ERG members, who are not so committed to a clean break or a WTO deal.

    She will risk the wrath of a few ERG Tory MP’s and rely on the weak and nervous from all parties to baulk at the prospect of voting for No Deal.

    This is almost BRINO and it will involve substantial ongoing annual contributions.

    In the future, the drip, drip, drip of legislation from 1,2 and 3 will drag us back into the EU and, of course, we can expect to hear the usual lies from politicians such as this is merely a tidying-up exercise (Peter Hain on the EU Draft Constitution) or it will have no more binding effect than the Beano (Keith Vaz on the Charter of Fundamental Rights).

    It looks like Leave won the Referendum battle but will lose the Brexit war.

    Now where’s my gillet jaune?

  27. Brian Tomkinson
    February 8, 2019

    I agree with your proposal. Is anyone in government listening to you or are they just determined to deliver BRINO as they, like so many MPs, would appear to have no confidence in their own ability to govern without direction and control from Brussels? I smell the stench of betrayal getting stronger as 29th March approaches.

  28. William Long
    February 8, 2019

    What you are, and have for some time been suggesting makes eminent sense. It would however mean we actually left the EU which is something that Mrs May and her henchpeople, and now Mr Corbyn, seem keen to avoid at any price. That is the impasse we are in.

  29. Tony Henry
    February 8, 2019

    May works for the EU’s interests. We know this from Steve Baker’s evidence to the select committee.

    How tragic at this most crucial moment in our history, we are led by a liar and a traitor and that she commands the support of a decent slice of the nation.

    I almost despair. Happily there is a larger number who see through it all and now that the genie is out of the bottle, I am sure we will eventually win our independence.

  30. Know-Dice
    February 8, 2019

    I keep on hearing “Mrs May must MOVE her Red lines” & “when you negotiate you HAVE to compromise”.

    Which is strange as neither the EU or the Republic of Ireland seemed to have moved or compromised one iota…

  31. Peter D Gardner
    February 8, 2019

    I don’t understand why MPs and journalists continue to believe Mrs May is trying to deliver Brexit. It is clear as daylight to me that her aim is to position the UK to re-join the EU under its new treaties replacing the Lisbon treaties in 2025. To achieve this her deal needs only three essential features:
    1) A transition period to ensure the future relationship will be negotiated in the context of the new treaties.
    2) Keeping UK closely aligned with EU law during the transition period to enable an easy accession as a ‘pre-qualified’ applicant. 
    3) It must be irreversible by a future government.
    The rest of the deal is of secondary importance, from May’s perspective. If in the meantime UK relinquishes sovereignty over Northern Ireland, it is a minor consideration as they will be reconnected as equal regions under the EU in due course.
    The problem she has, apart from disguising her intentions, is that her deal must be ratified now in order to capture this narrow window of opportunity. there is no other rationale for her determination.
    She has used the backstop as her weapon of choice to dismiss every alternative to her own proposals since September 2017. She is still doing it. In London: yes MPs I will remove the backstop. In Ireland: the backstop will be changed but I will never remove that insurance policy.
    Now we will just have sit waiting until the last week of March when Brussels and Mrs May will come up with some further concession – like a UK-wide customs union – that will persuade MPs petrified of No Deal to surrender. These have been her tactics, in conjunction with Project Fear and blocking or delaying preparations for WTO exit, throughout the negotiations. As Sabine Weyand said, the negotiations are in Westminster, not in Brussels. Mrs May is the EU’s governor.

  32. Know-Dice
    February 8, 2019

    Sir JR,
    As highlighted yesterday by Hope & Ian please make sure that the change to Probate fees is debated in Parliament, not just swept under the carpet because other matters have MP’s attention at the moment.

    1. hefner
      February 8, 2019

      It should not be debated as it is a fee, not a tax.

      1. Edward2
        February 9, 2019

        You sound like Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister.

        1. hefner
          February 9, 2019

          Maybe, but that’s how Parliament will (not) deal with it.

          (And indeed Yes Minister is/was a brilliant series, years ago it opened my eyes on how most of politicians/MPs are empty shells).

  33. Denis Cooper
    February 8, 2019

    Theresa May is going over to Dublin to dine with Leo Varadkar, but Irish government sources are at pains to say that they will only have “discussions”, and not “negotiations”; however my concern is that their real purpose may well be “collusion” on how best to achieve their shared objective of keeping us under the thumb of the EU to the greatest possible degree.

    Meanwhile Sky News reports that 60% of Irish people think the Irish government has done a good job in the negotiations, while only 6% think the UK government has done a good job; they are right on both counts, but perhaps without understanding that a lot of the time the UK government has been working on the side of the EU.

  34. Bob
    February 8, 2019

    It sounds like Mrs May has a cunning plan to double cross Tory Brexiteera by bribing Labour members to support her Surrender Treaty. She is really determined to Remain in.

  35. Sakara Gold
    February 8, 2019

    There is a lot more about the WA negotiated by the PM that is worrying me. Obviously the backstop is unacceptable to Parliament, but I was curious why the EU are so intransigent about re-negotiation of other areas. So I had a look at it, the following bits might be of interest –

    1) The “transitional period” clearly means we do not leave the EU on 29 March 2019 as promised. Instead, the PM proposes to ask Parliament to give many powers back to the EU on another vote

    2) The proposed settlement on people means we live with a new version of freedom of movement, it delays taking back control of our borders, fishing grounds and agriculture, it leaves us accepting large swathes of EU law in perpetuity, in return for the privilege of being able to import their goods and food

    3) It enslaves us to making payments to the EU for many years distant – not just for the final two years of our departure, when there is no legal requirement for us to pay anything after March 29 next year when we leave.

    4) The WA also enforces restrictions on the UK’s freedom to run its own benefits policy after March 2019.

    5) The WA is wide ranging, seeking to bind us in to elements of the common home and defence policies, trade and goods regulation, public contracts and various regulatory bodies

    6) It offers comprehensive immunities and exemption from UK taxes to a wide range of senior EU officials, and provides for secrecy over various (unspecified) EU matters

    7) The financial provisions are particularly detailed and onerous, providing for continuing budget contributions and pension payments long after we have left, with prolonged exposure to the European Investment Bank risks – but without access to any new loans

    8) There is no mention of a refund for the over £1b contributions we have made to the Galileo project, the French insist we must be excluded

    The public voted to leave intimidating legal restrictions and agreements like this one, not to volunteer for another.

    1. Know-Dice
      February 8, 2019

      From The Spectator –

      Certainly the “backstop” is only a small part of why it [the Withdrawal Agreement] MUST be rejected.

      1. Lifelogic
        February 8, 2019

        Indeed it is appalling even without the back stop.

  36. acorn
    February 8, 2019

    “There is now a private sector draft, but the government itself could scissors and paste EU/Japan and EU/Canada as the starting text.” JR says.

    The EU – Canada CETA type agreement has 1,057 pages and took ten years to gestate. The EU – Japan Economic Partnership type agreement is 897 pages and took six years to gestate.

    Call me naive but that is a lot of scissors and paste. I am guessing it would be equivalent to attempting a 700,000 piece Jigsaw puzzle! Imagine the upfront payment the lawyers would want before they even started on the job!

    Reply The private sector has done it for free. The govt has the resource to do it again if they wish

    1. acorn
      February 8, 2019

      “The private sector has done it for free. ” Please tell me under which pile of ERG62 bullshit, I might find my free copy.

  37. Anonymous
    February 8, 2019

    Plug me back into the Matrix.

    Ignorance and delusion that the UK Parliament meant anything was bliss.

    No. We are where we are. We left the EU (as was) the day the referendum date was set. There is no going back to Remain. It’s now either out (with a battle) or full-on integration (with punishment.)

    I expect we’ve stuffed our chances in Eurovision too.

  38. Ronald Olden
    February 8, 2019

    There’s is NO PROSPECT of the EU agreeing a Free Trade Agreement until we’ve agreed the Withdrawal Agreement. And we won’t be leaving the EU until Parliament’s agreed it.

    So it would be at best pointless, and at worst a negotiating disaster to ‘table’ one before we’ve left.

    But it’s interesting to hear that John Redwood thinks he now knows how the talks are going without being at them.

    For presentational and political reasons participants in negotiations always leave gullible and naive outsiders to fool themselves.

    In the real world it’s likely that even some participants in these talks don’t know how the talks involving other participants in them are going.

    In any case the Withdrawal Agreement is NOT being ‘re-negotiated’. The House of Commons has already voted in favour of the Brady Amendment and passed the final motion, to accept the Deal subject to changes to the terms of the backstop.

    It also voted for the Spelman/Dromey NOT to Leave the EU without an agreement.

    John Redwood failed to vote against the Brady Amendment, nor against the final motion incorporating the Spelman/Dromey No Deal Amendment.

    ‘Alternative’ arrangements to the terms of the backstop, do NOT in any event require any changes to the agreement itself. There WILL be an alternative separate arrangement on the ‘backstop’, most likely in the form of a ‘Joint Interpretative Instrument’ or (similar).

    1. Chris
      February 8, 2019

      Although I do not agree with all you say I believe you are right in highlighting the huge mistake the Brexiter MPs made in backing the Brady amendment, and the inevitable consequences of them doing that i.e. May goes to Brussels claiming that she has her MPs’ support for the WA (just a minor tweak to the backstop, but nothing else to change).

  39. ChumleyWarner
    February 8, 2019

    May will destroy the Tory party to remain in the EU and the party is doing nothing to get rid of her.

  40. Steven Dowds
    February 8, 2019

    Looking at the situation we find ourselves in, it’s almost as though the Prime Minister is on the other side.

  41. BOF
    February 8, 2019

    Yet another very good submission Sir John, but it seems to me that no matter how good an idea is, if it comes from the back benches, it will never be considered.

    Meanwhile how I agree that there are many other important issues needing the attention of Parliament while Mrs May and our Government have now wasted over two and a half years in the life of the country in so called negotiations where the intended outcome was always to keep us tied to the EU.

    One issue is housing. I hear on the dreaded radio 4 this morning that the intention is to build 300,000 houses p a with the current rate being 127,000. Had the Government kept its promise of reducing immigration to tens of thousands, the current rate would be sufficient. We do not have a housing crisis, we have an immigration and population crisis.

    1. Captain Peacock
      February 8, 2019

      Correct there is no housing crisis only a population crisis. If you flood the country with an extra 1 million people every 2 or 3 years all resources will be scarce.

    February 8, 2019

    I am hearing that Article 24 of WTO rules allows a country to trade without tarrifs for up to 10 years. And the current trading arrangements, when the WTO rules begin to apply, continue. Why is there no discussion on this perfect solution?

    1. Helena
      February 8, 2019

      It is not a solution. Art 24 applies only to parties who are in the process of negotiating a free trade deal. That might possibly apply if Parliament agrees to Mrs May’s deal. But if we leave without a deal, then obviously there are no ongoing negotiations, and so Art 24 is not relevant. Anyway, Art 24 can only apply if both parties agree, and the EU will certainly not agree unless the UK pays up on its existing liabilities and finds a solution to keep the Irish border invisible

      1. Richard1
        February 8, 2019

        That is a very odd view of the EU. Of course they will wish to negotiate an FTA, whyever wouldn’t they?! The UK will of course pay what is due under the treaties, but that isn’t the same as paying whatever the EU asks. Nor is £39bn relevant as that is part of the WA which will have never come into force. So the money will have to be a new discussion and perhaps it will go to arbitration. With a £100bn trade surplus and being supposedly in favour of free trade I find it inconceivable the EU will wish to start a trade war with the UK. If it does that will be a sure vindication of the vote to leave.

  43. Kenneth
    February 8, 2019

    I wonder, since Mrs May has burned her bridges with the Conservative Party, including rebelling against the manifesto and People’s Vote 2016, could she be a prime mover in the new Blairite “centralist” Remain party?

    I can see her in a plumb role alongside with Phillip Hammond

  44. Original Richard
    February 8, 2019

    For a Parliament to say that we would not be leaving without a deal means either executing a coup against the people of this country and over-turning the referendum result or accepting any rotten deal put forward by the EU.

    A permanent unconditional surrender deal is worse than the possible short-term “chaos” of no-deal.

    The existing WA would consign us to be eternally exposed to damaging regulations including ones which were not applicable to the EU itself.

    he subsequent “future relationship” negotiations would be never-ending with each and every rEU country making unreasonable demands in order to give us their OK to leave.

    How can the EU say that the backstop will only be temporary when they are also saying there is no solution, technological or otherwise ?

    I can see Mrs. May pushing through this awful deal at the very last minute, with the assistance of her pro-EU supporters.

    Followed by calling a GE (if not as a result of a vote of no-confidence) and resigning to ensure that she and the current Parliament are not left with dealing with the explosive and toxic position in which they have left the country as the EU begins to use its new powers over the UK and over which we have no veto or say.

    1. Chris
      February 8, 2019

      If we have a No Deal i.e. leaving on WTO terms, then we need a competent PM and government, utterly committed to Leaving. We a monumentally incompetent and untrustworthy government and I suggest they will make an utter mess of it. Maybe some in government will use the chaos to push for re entry into the EU. We have to have proper leadership of this country and urgently.

  45. Wessexboy
    February 8, 2019

    Thanks for reminding us of how simple it can be. Why aren’t more of your colleagues aware of this? Or is the EUphoria so prevalent they still will not accept leaving/

  46. David L
    February 8, 2019

    Could you re-assure doubters that you will be available to advise and assist any of your constituents whose jobs and businesses may be adversely affected by leaving the EU? Personally, I am confused by “Project Fear” and “Project Complacency”. With so much of our land, infrastructure and industry in foreign hands I find the nationalist sentiments expressed by some on this blog a little hollow.

  47. john stewart corrigan
    February 8, 2019

    Parliament seems to have forgotten the people. the vote was for OUT. not for tiny minds in parliament to kick it around for their own little selfish ends. “don’t rock the boat , old boy.” we voted OUT. and that is what we want. OUT. Jaycee.

    1. Nigl
      February 8, 2019

      ‘If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it’ Mark Twain

  48. Den
    February 8, 2019

    Why not go down JR’s proposed route? What is the problem with it? Has it ever be put to Brussels?
    I very much doubt it as Mrs May has a single track mind on this subject. Her way is the only way, as far as she is concerned. No matter that scarce few agree with her outside of her own band of sycophants, her way is the only way. I say, prove it.
    Has she ever stood up in Parliament or anywhere and explained why she thinks her WA satisfies the decision of the British electorate to Leave the EU? She believes it does. The French know it does not as do the Americans, the Australians and most of the Rest of the World along with the Brussels cabal, especially their Mr Selmayr who has already declared “We have won”.
    It is clear, we should question her sanity because Einstein’s definition applies here in spades.

    1. Chris
      February 8, 2019

      Den, Theresa May knows exactly what she is doing, which is to ensure that we are locked into being a vassal state of the EU. In this she is supported by her civil servants and the majority of her Tory MPs. It is quite staggering. They make no effort to hide their treachery having become dangerously arrogant.

  49. JPM
    February 8, 2019

    I was never more proud of my country than I was upon hearing the referendum result the next day. Standing alone for democracy as we did in 1940.

    Theresa May’s proposed deal, with or without the backstop, is an abomination, from the point of view of our constitution, respect for democracy, and any sense of integrity.

    Keep up the good work, Sir, your efforts are appreciated far beyond the extents of your constituency.

  50. mika
    February 8, 2019

    If the Withdrawal Agreement is so defective independently of the backstop, why didn’t John Redwood vote against the Brady Amendment

    And if it’s such a good idea to leave without one why didn’t he demand a vote on the final motion which included the Spelman Amendment, opposing leaving without an agreement?

    Had he done so, the January 29th motion would have been lost heavily because it would have united leavers and Remainers in the same lobby.

    Reply. 1 I agreed with the main point of Brady that the Irish backstop has to go, but not with the idea that was the only problem with the WA
    2 The motion as amended was the same as the amendment where we had already lost so no point in re running it.

  51. HK1
    February 8, 2019

    Some aspects of this debate remind me of the 70’s film, Logan’s Run, or, more recently, the 2005 one, The Island, where people were told the world outside is contaminated and that they will die if they leave the compound.

    Of course there are issues to deal with – which could and should have been far better prepared for – but the EU and Remainers are terrified that, come April, a WTO Brexit Britain will demonstrate that the air outside is not toxic.

    At that point their credibility will be absolutely destroyed – which is one reason they will become more and more frantic that no-deal Brexit must not happen.

  52. Denis Cooper
    February 8, 2019

    Long before the EU referendum I was saying on here that in most cases there seems to be little overall economic value left to extract through new trade deals, presumably because over recent decades there has been so much trade liberalisation and facilitation that we have now got to the point of rapidly diminishing returns.

    And by the same token we have gained little from the EU Single Market, and at added regulatory costs which may well exceed the gross benefits several-fold leading to a net, albeit slight, disbenefit, and so we have little or nothing to lose and maybe something to gain by leaving the EU without any special or preferential trade deal.

    Simply defaulting to the WTO treaties, which have already been negotiated, agreed and ratified and so are already in legal force, binding the EU collectively and each of the EU member states, including the UK, individually.

    So even if Theresa May had not supinely agreed with the EU’s nonsensical claim that it could not agree any trade deal with the UK until we had already left I would in any case argue, as I did here on November 26th 2017:

    “So we should now say that rather than kowtow to the stupid destructive intransigence of the EU we will fall back on WTO trade rules and only seek agreements on the practical or technical aspects of continuing trade.”

    This is not to say that I object to the private initiative of drafting a free trade deal, on the contrary I think it may help the public to understand just how stupid and destructive the EU is being, with the treacherous acquiescence of our own Remainer-led government, and stiffen our national resolve to see Brexit through despite it all.

  53. Chewy
    February 8, 2019

    Brace yourself John for 200+ responses including multiple efforts by the Eurotrolls!
    The EU hasn’t budged predictably and are salivating at the prospect Jeremy Corbyn is offering. No doubt our Brexiteer wing will be threatened that if they don’t vote for the appalling WA then they’ll get something worse as TM has to seek a cross party concensus. Let her. Corbyn had to offer something realistic but let’s imagine him whipping his MPs to joining the government in voting for a deal that will brass off both his younger Remain supporting voters as well as his Midland and Northern Leave voters. Let TM who quite honestly stated she’ll do anything to get a deal, begin the long march towards Corbyn’s terms finding him intransigent as it’s against his interests to support her, shedding more ministers and support on the way. In the worst case and there’s a sell out TM and Corbyn will be finished opening the way for a Eurosceptic led Conservative government to start trying to repair the damage. If MPs do extend the deadline then it should just harden a public who are a lot less servile than their Remain supporting government.

  54. Ian Pennell
    February 8, 2019

    Dear Sir John Redwood,

    I agree that Theresa May should cut her losses and realise that the EU will never amend the Withdrawal Agreement to an extent that a Majority of MPs in the House of Commons will accept it (as far as the EU is concerned has already been agreed, they are not willing to re-negotiate). Theresa May should indeed propose a draft Free Trade Agreement for when we leave the EU on the 29th March. This would be much more like the Brexit most people voted for in June 2016.

    There are, however, two major practical issues against the reality of this happening:

    1) Theresa May does not really believe in leaving the EU without a proper deal in place. She is not willing to prorogue Parliament to stop the Remainers (with the help of John Bercow, the Speaker) from de-railing Brexit!
    2) Most MPs (who are against leaving the EU properly) will not allow such a situation to unfold. Yvette Cooper and Nick Boles already plan a re-run of the vote to ensure Parliament takes control of Brexit and prevents “No Deal” by getting the Leave Date extended. About half Theresa May’s Cabinet are also anti “No Deal” and a number of them have promised to resign- so as to vote against a WTO “No Deal” Brexit.

    With a WTO “No Deal” Brexit eliminated and a Remainer Parliament in control of Brexit there will be no chance of Britain leaving the EU on 29th March to pursue any Canada- type Free Trade Deal. Brexit is, infact, now in peril!

  55. Iain Moore
    February 8, 2019

    Unfortunately we have a very duplicitous PM whose word cannot be trusted, the Backstop I gather was her proposal and from reports its something she hasn’t asked the EU to drop, and even when she votes to drop it as in the Brady amendment , we later get her saying in Northern Ireland that she is seeking to change it, not drop it. What can we believe? When a top law firm HerbertSmithFreehills, and lawyer who was the head of the European Commission’s legal services saying the Backstop was illegal under A50 rules, you might have thought May would use Lord Trimble’s Judicial Review on the Backstop as a get out a jail free card, but no, its just groundhog day all over again. Banging your head against a brick wall would be more productive, as such I don’t think any sensible solution , as proposed here, will get any interest from Mrs May.

    If we ever get past the WA, is there any Conservative MP who believes Mrs May and Olly Robbins are the people to lead our trade deal negotiation?

  56. Bob
    February 8, 2019

    So the Tory Govt have slipped a new death tax through describing it as a “fee” in order to escape Parliamentary scrutiny.

    1. hefner
      February 8, 2019

      Some people have not kept their eyes on the ball. A similar probate had already been announced in March 2017 with levels up to £20k (for estates over £2M). It was “cancelled” and is now reappearing from May’19 but at somewhat lower rates, only £6k for estates over £2M. What is not to be liked?
      And that is independent of any potential inheritance tax.

    2. Sir Joe Soap
      February 8, 2019

      Yep they neither want you to live in the UK nor to die there if you have skills and assets. Brexit party it is then.

  57. ukretired123
    February 8, 2019

    The EU has painted itself into a Hell of a corner, as acknowledged by Tusk by playing hardball with the UK wasting 2.5 years on futile talks to deter others like a show trial.
    They recognised that if other mainland EU countries wanted Exit it could mean hard borders in mainland Europe itself a nightmare domino scenario, the end of the EU integration plan.
    Ireland have been happy to help EU’s diversion tactics focussing only on the Ireland Backstop deterrent when European borders are the real existential threat to EU’s very immediate future. Especially with the populist threat in the May EU elections so close.
    The heat is now on the EU and pressure is on them even more now the German economy is slowing.
    After nearly 3 years of voting to leave and the EU showing its true feelings on the UK we should play hardball and JR’s ideas for the Full Trade Agreement are just practical common sense.

  58. Monza 71
    February 8, 2019

    Our problem is that most MPs are cowardly Remainers at heart and have no confidence in their own country. It’s just as well none of them were in Parliament in 1939 !

    As a result, I doubt whether a WTO exit can get a majority in the House but it’s the only way we can escape and regain full independence from the EU. By full independence, I mean not being beholden to Brussels for anything.

    In other words, in the same position as, say, the USA or Australia. As the fifth largest economy in the World, why should we be prepared to settle for anything less ?

  59. Ignoramus
    February 8, 2019

    I have been asked, and can not answer, how the Swiss can have a frontier with France crossed by over 2 million people a day and over 20,000 lorries while not being in any customs union and having digital customs procedures and no visible controls on the borders (apart from a few places to watch whether foreign cars have the transit tax disc).

    It is alleged that the Swiss offered to discuss this with Brexit officials but were rebuffed.

    1. John Barleycorn
      February 8, 2019

      I’m recently back from working in Switzerland for a couple of months. There are only limited permitted freight crossings (mainly on the motorways) with occasional crack-downs on other crossing points. There are quite long freight tailbacks at the crossing points. A crack-down was done near the office I was working in and, boy, did it cause tailbacks on the local roads. On top of that, there’s video surveillance on most of the crossings. If you look suspicious, expect to be pulled over fairly near the border.

      There’s an entertaining parliamentary select committee hearing which includes interviews with both the Norwegian and Swiss customs. A soft border can work, but needs good organisation and infrastructure – neither of which the UK is famous for. The Swiss certainly are.

    2. Sir Joe Soap
      February 8, 2019

      Frankly we should have been able to negotiate a Swiss ++ deal simply because we’re a net customer and CH is a net supplier to EU. The ++ need only have been some control on immigration, instead of the stupid Irish border question which May has hung herself out to dry on. The sheer stupidity and incompetence of this woman will stun historians as did the bravery of Wellington and Churchill.

  60. Ian
    February 8, 2019

    Hi everyone,
    Well what a fantastic amount of letters today, and most of them all about the only think that matters, getting out with WTO, we can hardly contemplate the alternative.
    Good luck to all Brexiteers

  61. Prigger
    February 8, 2019

    I was and am drained of immense amounts of energy delving deeper than deep when writing but one word or line of the last scene as it were, of my book.
    I have a huge many roaded council housing estate in my cranium.

  62. Denis Cooper
    February 8, 2019

    I have just sent this letter to our local paper, the Maidenhead Advertiser:

    “Dear Sir

    The President of the EU’s European Council, Donald Tusk, has aroused indignation with his suggestion that opponents of EU membership will go to hell.

    However after many years of being gratuitously insulted by fanatical EU supporters I myself found Mr Tusk’s comment quite amusing.

    Less amusing was something else he included in his remarks:

    “Give us a believable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland, and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend.”

    The first reality is that nobody can offer an absolute guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland.

    The second reality is that we have already been told by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, that we cannot be trusted once we have left the EU.

    It may be recalled that last summer Prime Minister Theresa May proposed a daft scheme under which the UK would continue to collect customs duties on behalf of the EU, even after we have left.

    Which proposal M Barnier rejected on the grounds that he could not trust us to do it properly, once we were no longer “subject to the EU governance structures”.

    As pointed out at the time, that raised a serious question about whether the EU would trust us to keep to any agreement, unless we accepted continued supervision by the EU institutions.

    (Viewpoint, August 2 2018, “Will EU trust UK to faithfully perform any deal about anything?”)

    If not, what is the point of Theresa May humiliating herself, and by extension the rest of us, with her increasing pathetic attempts to finalise a deal which might get through the Commons?

    Yours etc”

    1. Tabulazero
      February 9, 2019

      The EU had lost all trust in the UK after having watched it unravel for two years.

      1. Denis Cooper
        February 9, 2019

        No point in making a deal with us then.

        1. Tabulazero
          February 9, 2019


          Did you think Tusk’s outburst was an unfortunate mistake ? I will bet with you that he knew exactly what he was doing and did it on purpose.

          It’s basically the first step in the EU’s plan to deflect the blame from itself when no deal happens by firmly pointing the finger at the Brexiters.

          This means that the EU thinks no deal is likely.

  63. S J Matthews
    February 8, 2019

    Mr Redwood

    IANAL but my lay reading of Article 50 requires the withdrawal agreement to take into account the future relationship framework. Where is the future relationship framework to be found?

  64. Alan Rogers
    February 8, 2019

    Surely this is something that Crawford Falconer should have drafted 2 years ago, in readiness.

  65. Andy
    February 8, 2019

    Brexit is the biggest decision this country has made since WW2.

    For good, or for ill, it will affect our country for generations.

    Brexit’s proponents in Parliament are mostly elderly – and will not have to live with the consequences.

    Its critics are mostly younger and have to clear up any mess.

    The majority of MPs are deeply, deeply sceptical. The Brexiteers, As Donald Tusk pointed out, have never had a plan.

    The idea that Parliament has spent too long on this is fanciful.

    This is the most important moment of your career Mr Redwood.

    If you and your Europhobe colleagues get it right and you’re the new Churchills. Get it wrong and you’re the new Guy Fawkes.

    History will give the definitive judgement – though I don’t fancy your chances.

    1. Anonymous
      February 8, 2019

      Your generation voted leave.

    2. Steve
      February 8, 2019

      “History will give the definitive judgement – though I don’t fancy your chances.”

      Careful what you wish for sonny.

    3. Original Richard
      February 8, 2019

      If our current pro-EU Parliament effects a coup against the people of this country by reversing Brexit – despite Leave winning 64:36 by constituency – then one day our young people will wake up to the realisation that their country has been stolen from them and they no longer have any way through the ballot box to influence the policies of those who govern them.

  66. Mike Wilson
    February 8, 2019

    Mr Redwood
    Could one assume you know May well, given you are MPs for neighbouring constituencies?
    Is she really, slowly but surely, leading us to no deal?
    I can’t help wondering if she is a secret Leaver and has very cleverly led u somewhere we would never have got to if she was on overt Leaver.

    1. Mike Wilson
      February 8, 2019

      Apologies for spelling errors. The joys of predictive text.

    2. Chris
      February 8, 2019

      She will have her plans laid bare soon enough, and these will be countered by Nigel Farage and the newly approved Brexit Party if May’s plans confirm the betrayal that so many of us have long suspected and feared.

    3. Steve
      February 8, 2019

      Mike Wilson

      “Is she really, slowly but surely, leading us to no deal?”

      I sincerely hope so.

  67. Tabulazero
    February 8, 2019

    Wait…. didn’t you say that the UK held all the cards in the withdrawal negotiations ?

    It’s funny that you would now propose such a last ditch offer.

    Did something not go according to your cunning plan, your Lordship ?

    1. Steve
      February 9, 2019


      We did hold all the cards, but the remain traitors made sure they couldn’t be used.

      John Redwood is not a Lord.

  68. John O'Leary
    February 8, 2019

    JR wrote:

    “..It is also true many MPs do not want to leave with no agreement, so the government should table a comprehensive free trade agreement. Under GATT rules if the EU agrees to talk about this the UK can then leave the EU on 29 March without needing to impose new tariff and non tariff barriers on EU exports to us, and the EU would do the same for our exports to them.

    OK, Sound good JR, but the EU’s record shows that Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (CFTAs) take years to negotiate and quite often fail to ever be agreed (e.g TTIP). What are those businesses dependent, directly or indirectly, on trade with the EU supposed to do for revenue in the meantime?

    You keep going on about tariffs, but you surely must know that most of these are now so low as to be irrelevant and can be discounted altogether by currency rates? The problem is, and always has been about conformity to EU regulations and the UK’s loss of self-certification once we leave with no deal.

    1. John O'Leary
      February 8, 2019

      I forgot the punch line! Non-tariff barriers are not covered by Article xxiv of GATT.

  69. Prigger
    February 8, 2019

    I thought we had in fact tabled a Free Trade Agreement? Perhaps I heard Raab and Davis wrong. Wasn’t it sabotaged by Mrs May? Didn’t Tusk meet with it favourably at first sight?
    Also,why do Remainers coupled up with Mark Carney and the Bank of England speak so down on our economy? Why does he pronounce glum dumb talk like the smiling Chancellor Hammond?
    In Canada business circles they speak of such things not as catastrophes but a “natural downward correction”. Big difference!
    Remainers’ analysis is unnatural. Our negotiations attempt staying in the EU and flannelling we voters into believing we are leaving. Brexit in Name Only(BRINO)

    1. Tabulazero
      February 9, 2019

      The Black Death was also a natural downward correction of the European population in the middle-age brought by a previous population boom.

  70. Helen Smith
    February 8, 2019

    Let’s face it, we are stuffed.

    May won’t hold a vote on her WA until after the HoC has ‘forced’ her to extent Article 50 and accept Corbyn’s stay in SM and CU plan, which the EU professed to love yesterday having previously said we couldn’t cherry pick.

    On the plus side it will be the end of this wretched party which masquerades under the name Conservative.

  71. margaret howard
    February 8, 2019


    “Any kind of Withdrawal Agreement would leave the UK very exposed. There would be endless more months of rows with the EU, and rows in Parliament over how the talks should be handled by the UK. Meanwhile the EU could legislate any way it wished to damage UK interests as leverage, whilst continuing to charge us large and unspecified sums for the privilege of more talks.”

    And whose fault is that?

  72. acorn
    February 8, 2019

    BTW. You can get some understanding of how the UK tax system has been massaged, for the benefit of Spiv City land barons, by Spiv City tethered Westminster politicians.

    Have a read of “Why is the tax on a London mansion a tiny fraction of that in New York?” by Simon Jenkins (Google it).

    A hedge fund Spiv pays the equivalent of £200 million for a New York penthouse and has to pay £217,000 a year in property tax to New York City. On the two prime Westminster London pads he bought for £195 million, he only pays £2,842 in Council Tax.

    The IMF promotion of the free movement of capital (globalisation), caused the Asian currency crisis of 1997. Uncontrolled Capital movement, is a much much bigger danger to a sovereign country economy than the free movement of people. Brexit will soon demonstrate such danger for the Sterling currency.

    1. a-tracy
      February 11, 2019

      Doesn’t he have to pay stamp duty in London?

  73. Andy
    February 8, 2019

    Christopher Chope. My oh my oh my.

    There really are no words.

  74. Steve
    February 8, 2019

    Off topic I know, but;

    Why has nobody gone to Tusk’s place to drag him outside so he can apologise ?

    650 representatives of our great nation, and not a man amongst them. Pathetic.

    1. Tabulazero
      February 9, 2019

      Given Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson track records when it comes to insulting the EU, that would be the pot calling the kettle back, no ?

  75. Alex
    February 8, 2019

    John Redwood had better get used to this.

    We will not be leaving the EU until there’s a Withdrawal Agreement in place, so these proceedings in Parliament could go on for months or years yet.

    I notice that the latest IPSOS MORI Poll shows that the public supports a postponement in leaving by majority of 50% to 37%.

    Given that John Redwood sees his duties as an MP as limited to obeying the ‘instructions’ of the public (including ‘instructions’ in referenda and even, in opinion polls), I presume he’ll be voting for the delay.

    Reply I will be voting to keep my promises made in the election and to implement the referendum.

  76. Original Richard
    February 8, 2019

    The existing WA is such a bad deal for the UK, effectively making us permanently a vassal state of the EU, that it should never, ever be signed whatever happens next.

    BTW, if the EU and the UK agree to “no-deal” does this constitute a deal ?

    1. Tabulazero
      February 9, 2019

      No. There will be no managed no deal. There is only no deal.

      Macron, Merkel and Junker will simply decide how bad things will get.

    February 8, 2019

    No-one seems wishing for negotiations and a deal at that side of the Channel.We should increase our preparedness and make sure we do not get half rotten EU fresh produce dumped on us at firesale prices in April. We should check sell-by-dates and return late ones promptly so they can be composted by French farmers. Anything to help

  78. Cis
    February 8, 2019

    There is no “Withdrawal Agreement”

    There is a draft text which satisfied TMay, but was rejected by Parliament. So there is no “Agreement”.

  79. margaret
    February 9, 2019

    Most of the comments have been said again and again. How long have we been talking about free trade agreements and tariffs.John I simply don’t know how you have the patience to go over and over the same thing !

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