Minutes of a conference on how to achieve a friendly and speedy Brexit

Minutes of Brexit Seminar, All Souls College, Oxford 9 September 2016
I am grateful to the College for hosting this event. The College was of course neutral on the issues raised and gave a platform to people of varying views about Brexit to participate.
Ministers and officials who attended kept to stated official public government positions. The minutes draw together the main strands of the discussion and explain where the non government people present found consensus or general agreement.

Main conclusions

The Conference concluded that the government should now act with due speed with sending an Article 50 letter and introducing a Repeal Bill for the 1972 European Communities Act. The country and business wishes to reduce the uncertainties. The Conference was swayed by a survey of larger businesses and by the business debate into seeing the need for speed, and the opportunities that flow from exit.

The Conference was persuaded that leaving the EU is primarily a UK Parliamentary process, repealing the 1972 Act and renewing EU law as UK law to ensure continuity. There was general agreement that this is best done by means of a short general principles and powers Bill, mirroring exactly the short legislation of the 1972 Act to impose the EU legal authority in the first place.

There were mixed opinions on the timing of the Article 50 letter given present court cases, but general agreement that subject to the legal position an early letter is the best approach. There was a general view that the government will win the court case anyway, and that the government could also win a vote in Parliament given the stance of the Leader of the Opposition to put the matter beyond doubt and pre-empt the court proceedings. The best course could be to pass a Commons motion in support of a letter and to send it as soon as possible, whatever the state of the legal proceedings.

The Conference was sympathetic to the view that the trade negotiations can be short and simple. The UK can offer either to carry forward current tariff free trade with service sector passports, or to fall back on the WTO standard tariff trade. The UK would recommend the former, but could live with the latter. Rather than negotiate it is just a question of which the rest of the EU will choose. Whilst the EU Commission is likely to threaten WTO, the member states are likely to opt for the status quo of tariff free trade given business lobbies in their own countries. The balance of trade and tariff rates under WTO rules is more damaging to the rest of the EU than to the UK, given the UK’s bias to services which are all tariff free, and given the devaluation of the pound which has already made rest of the EU products less price competitive without extra tariffs.

The UK government has ruled out belonging to the EEA or copying Norway or Switzerland. The UK government should not negotiate over taking back control of borders, laws and taxes. The UK should not be willing to negotiate its future sovereignty with the rest of the EU.

The referendum said Leave. The government and both campaigns clearly stated this outcome would be implemented. The ballot paper did not suggest a renegotiation or partial membership as options, so the government has rightly ruled these out.

The Conference saw various opportunities for improvement out of the EU. It thought the UK could become the world leader for free trade once it has the right to negotiate its own trade deals. Being an open economy with a high proportion of service business is ideal to pioneer free trade. University representatives thought the UK could do better in various scientific and technological areas like medicine and agriculture when we can set our own regulatory framework, as the EU is often cramping for new ideas. The University also sought reassurance and more work on EU funding schemes and collaborative research.

Overview of the negotiations.

John Redwood led the discussion on the overall picture. He reminded the Conference that Vote Leave had throughout campaigned “to take back control”. It had mainly illustrated this by urging taking back control of the money, but had also talked about taking back control of laws, taxes and borders. It had recommended abolition of VAT on domestic fuel and green products, spending more on the NHS, introducing a work permit based system of controlling migrant numbers from the EU, and negotiating free trade deals with the many countries in the world that the EU does not have special arrangements with. These were clearly not government policy, but are important background to why so many people voted to leave.

He proposed an early launch of a Repeal Bill for the 1972 Act, and a parallel Article 50 letter. He supplied a draft letter, and reminded Conference that Article 50 confers a right on a member state to withdraw from the Treaty using its own constitutional arrangements. In the case of the UK this will be an Act of Parliament.

He argued that the rest of the EU is likely to agree to tariff free trade and to reject the Commission’s wish to punish the UK, given the large commercial interests on the continent in keeping their export trade with us – their largest market. He stressed that as leave means taking back control of our own laws and decisions, this cannot be negotiated or brokered with the rest of the EU. There may need to be negotiations over trade and other arrangements where the EU has a right to a view as do we, but not over the resumption of our control over our own laws, taxes, borders and budgets.

He pointed out that the Article 50 2 year period is a maximum period for negotiations – unless all 28 states want to take longer – but there is no reason why it need take anything that long. It is in both sides’ interest to reach an earlier agreement to reduce business uncertainty. If there is break down or no likelihood of agreement then the UK should withdraw and after the 2 year period the UK will be formally out. Trade will revert to WTO rules.

Some expressed concern about the court case over whether the government has power to send an Article 50 letter without Parliamentary approval. John Redwood pointed out that the Commons probably supports sending the letter by a large majority, as any such vote would be supported by a Conservative 3 line whip and also has the support of the Leader of the Opposition and his followers.
There will be implied consent if the Commons does not demand a vote on the letter – which it could always do – or the government could table a suitable motion. The courts are likely to see the absurdity of their seeking to dictate to Parliament what it debates and votes on, given Parliament’s ability to debate and vote on anything it wishes. The issue could be removed by tabling and passing a suitable motion.


Peter Lilley led the debate on how to conduct trade negotiations with the EU and in due course the rest of the world. He explained that it is much easier than many have argued. There are only two realistic outcomes. Either the UK and the rest of the EU continue with tariff free trade as at present, or they revert to WTO MFN status trade with tariffs averaging about 4% on our exports to the EU.

He argued that the member states influenced by strong business lobbies are likely to opt for a continuation of tariff free trade. German cars, for example, are already 12% less competitive than last year thanks to the devaluation of the pound. They would not want to be another 10% dearer thanks to a 10% tariff. UK cars in contrast are currently 12% more competitive, and would still be 2% more competitive even with a 10% tariff. France and Spain would be very worried about the possible high tariffs that can be imposed on their substantial agricultural exports, whereas the UK’s service exports and aerospace products will continue to be tariff free under WTO rules. He argued that we should reach a decision on trade before the French and German elections to maximise business pressure on their governments.

Peter Lilley argued that once out of the EU, the UK could negotiate the most worthwhile trade deals, which are with the fast growing but protected markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The two largest countries in the world – China and India – are unlikely to reach any agreement with the EU but could with the UK. In addition, the UK could set an example to the world by using trade to promote development by offering better access to our markets to developing country agricultural and manufacturing businesses. And we could become a leader for free trade worldwide.

During a productive discussion world trade experts confirmed there were substantial gains to be had from pursuing a freer trade agenda with developing countries, with the UK as a natural free trade leader. It was also confirmed that the UK remains a member of the WTO, and that we could inherit the existing EU external tariff arrangements registered with the WTO and either apply that to EU trade or continue de facto to trade tariff free with the rest of the EU. What takes time in international trade is negotiating a new deal between two countries with substantial barriers, which is the opposite of the case of the UK/EU where all tariff barriers have been removed.

Migration and benefits

Iain Duncan Smith introduced this topic. He proposed that the UK should say in future no EU migrant (or non EU) to the UK should be eligible for in work or out of work benefits for the first five years of their stay. This is a development of the Cameron government’s wish to have a four year period when the migrant pays National Insurance and taxes before being able to claim. Mr Cameron had not been able to negotiate this right with the EU. Most EU migrants do come here to work, and most benefit considerably from in work benefits and allied social provision.

He also proposed that the government introduce a work permit and cap system to control the numbers of EU migrants coming to the UK in future, just as we have controls on non EU numbers today. With such a system it would be possible to insist that people entering the UK should already have a job to go to. He argued that students, people with their own money, people coming to work for multinationals that already employ them, Scientists and people with highly valued qualifications such as software engineers, should be freer to come, (subject to the existing checks on students and sham marriages).

Other people seeking lower paid and lesser qualified work would not get permits, unless there was a skills or labour shortage where the government judged appropriate migration was the best short term answer. Areas such as farming where there may be a need for seasonal workers will be best covered by the ‘Seasonal Workers Scheme, (SAWS).

He also urged the government to reassure all EU citizens already legally here under current rules that they can stay. He was strongly supported in this request by Peter Lilley and John Redwood. He proposed a cut-off date, probably the date of the Article 50 letter, saying that anyone coming after that date will be subject to new rules.

In the discussion some businesses sought reassurances that skills and labour needs they had will be met under a new system. The University also supported freer movement for students and faculty members, and they made it clear that such a regime would reassure higher education in the UK and abroad. The issue of the border with Ireland was also raised, with reassurance proposed that a work permit and cap system does not require new border controls on the Irish border for enforcement, as Irish passport holders would be entitled to the same rights as UK citizens.

Competition Law

Sir John Vickers led the discussion on cross border competition law. His presentation is attached. He has helped set up and chairs an expert group looking into how the UK out of the EU could best handle the outstanding n cross border issues, which will be reporting next year.

He pointed out that current UK law is derived from and fully compatible with EU law on mergers and unfair trade practises. There will be issues over the adjudication of larger cross border mergers and Europe wide abuses of market position where the UK will need to decide how much it wishes to settle these things for itself, with double jeopardy for the businesses involved, and how far the UK wishes to go in finding some basis for international decision. The UK will need to legislate over any changes to the jurisdiction and criteria for competition which it wishes to introduce.

The UK constitution and the 1972 Act

Sir William Cash set out how he has drafted a short Repeal Bill. A Government Repeal Bill drafted by Parliamentary Counsel will repeal the 1972 Act, and will need to cancel the powers of the ECJ and Commission in the UK, and will carry over into UK law the full body of EU law and decisions that are not already in UK Statute. It will also provide UK appeal and competence where matters are currently subject to the jurisdiction of EU organisations and the Commission.

He explained the official Conservative party’s opposition to the Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties as a whole, on the grounds that they transferred too much power to the EU, and his own similar disagreement with the Single European Act of 1986 and also the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990’s, which split the Conservative party in office.

He advised that the Repeal Bill should be short, based on main principles and introduced early into Parliament. This is because, as Sir William said, it is impossible for us to be outside the single market and to have our own trade policy or to bring in our own immigration laws or any laws relating to EU jurisdiction without the Repeal Bill having been enacted. It should mirror in style the 1972 Act itself, which was also short and general.

He also confirmed his view that Article 50 was a prerogative act for the Government and that it was not for the judges to tell Parliament what to do about invoking or voting on Article 50.

In the discussion it was pointed out the Bill would need to tidy up jurisdictional issues where UK matters are currently referred to EU institutions for decisions.

Higher Education

Professor Ian Walmsley spoke of the importance of universities in the UK, their collaborative work with similar institutions on the continent, and their use of EU money for research. He wanted reassurances that there would continue to be similar levels of funding as today, that they would still be able to attract and recruit continental talent and students, and would not be cold shouldered out of European projects. He reported that there are already some research grant applications and joint projects where the UK is not wanted for fear of it harming access to funds.

In the discussion several stressed the desirability of the UK government guaranteeing to pay all the money that would otherwise come from EU sources out of the saved contributions we make to the EU. The government has gone some way in making such a promise up to 2020. The government explained that 2020 was the date, both because the EU itself had to make new budget decisions for post 2020 in due course, and because 2020 would see a General election where parties and electors would make new decisions on spending levels and priorities.

Some of the collaborative projects and funding sources that are pan European are not EU specific. Israel also joins in some EU schemes. There was a general welcome for the idea that the UK should be willing to participate in many research projects and funding schemes without being an EU member. The chairman asked the University to produce a schedule of the main sources of European funds, and a commentary on which we might wish to stay in and which the government should fund instead. All agreed that the HE sector is most important and a UK success story which needs to be properly supported and assisted.

Identity and Accountability

The Conference had a break from the detail of Brexit, and heard a very thoughtful talk by Sheila Lawlor on why the UK voters voted for leave and how their decision was in keeping with UK traditions of democracy.

She reminded the audience that the UK came early to giving rights and freedoms to every man. By the early twentieth century these rights has been spread to all women and included the mass franchise.

For a hundred years UK voters have taken pride in their domestic democracy. It was not disrupted by the evil ideologies of Nazism and communism which took over large parts of the continent. The UK eschewed revolution and illegal seizure of office. Electors cut their governments some slack, but dismissed them if they failed or got too far out of line with the popular mood. A realistic people do not expect their governments or politicians to always get thigs right or to behave perfectly, but the people can use their power to fire them when they judge it necessary.

The decision to take back control was a decision that reflected the romantic view of the relative success of UK democratic discourse and supervision of public policy. It should be contrasted with the lack of accountability of the Euro scheme to national electorates, which is now destroying the older large parties on the continent. It is undermining political stability in many countries from Greece to Spain and now spreading into France and Germany with the rise of the AFD and the Front National.

Business opportunities post Brexit

Shanker Singham talked about the details of WTO procedures and the opportunities for more free trade deals once the UK is able to make its own deals.

Business Forum

Mark Gallagher of Pagefield introduced the topic by reporting details of a survey of 400 larger companies conducted recently after the summer break. 80% of the companies had been officially neutral, 15% declared for Remain and 5% for leave. In practice the big majority wanted a Remain outcome. He told us that business has largely got over the initial shock of the vote, where they had not wanted the result. Now a majority wish to get on with implementing the decision. There is a strong feeling that the uncertainties can best be reduced by a faster pace of change to get the UK into a new relationship more quickly. More also now see advantages in exit, eyeing the scope to reduce and improve the substantial regulatory burden the EU has imposed on business. They also want the UK to do more to improve education and infrastructure. They anticipate gains from more free trade deals with the rest of the world. Some are still nervous about market access within the EU and about their future ability to recruit migrant labour.

During the course of a wide ranging debate and discussion, it was argued that EU controls over clinical trials, stem cell research, Genomics and data analytics was holding back UK universities and deterring worldwide investors and researchers attempting these areas within any EU country. The UK could assist its scientific development if it had a more permissive regime, as the USA and others do.

This was echoed by Owen Paterson who pointed out UK farming was held back by EU controls over the use of technology in agriculture. He also reminded us that the UK had lost its vote and voice on many important global regulatory and standards bodies. Once out of the EU the UK will have more influence by being around the table over issues like environmental and food safety standards. Instead of having to try to influence the EU negotiating position, and then accepting the way the EU implements the world decisions, the UK will be able to directly influence world standards and undertake her own implementation. We have a unique opportunity to tailor a new rural policy specifically to our own industry and environment. He saw great potential for a much improved UK fishing industry, again designed for our marine environment without the crude EU discards policies. The UK will need to negotiate new limits, quotas and arrangements with Iceland, Norway and various EU countries, but it should be able to end up with a much better working fishery policy like Norway’s.

The issue of passports was explored again. It was pointed out financial passports are two way – the rest of the EU needs them to get special access to the big London markets, just as London based businesses can use them for access to the continent. Is it likely the rest of the EU will want to lose this benefit?

Others thought the importance of passports was greatly exaggerated. There are few examples of large scale successful passported products. Where there is, as with UCITs, they are almost wholly established in Luxembourg or Dublin for tax reasons, so London is not the place of registration. London does contract work for the funds, which would continue with them as EU entities once we have left. Soon MIFID II will grant passports to companies in jurisdictions with equivalent regulation, which must apply to the UK as we have identical regulation at the moment.

When asked which regulations could most profitably and easily be got rid of once out, the two favourites mentioned were various VAT impositions which the UK could scrap, and the fishing regulations which have done so much damage to a whole industry. John Redwood stressed that the Leave campaign had recommended no dilution of any employment rights offered by EU legislation, and he expected the government to confirm that approach. It was also confirmed that big business is not lobbying to dilute workers’ rights.


The Conference had considered detailed plans for a smooth and speedy Brexit. There was general buy in to the idea that both an Article 50 letter and short Repeal Bill are needed quickly to get the process underway. It was also thought that more work is needed on the changes and opportunities that can follow a speedy exit.


  1. Brexit Facts4EU.org
    October 3, 2016

    It’s interesting that whilst the media world is constantly looking for divisions in the Brexit camp, an important number of senior Brexit thinkers with independent and varied views attended the Oxford Conference and were able to come up with a broad consensus relatively quickly.

    Not only that, but a thoughtful report was produced which all were able to sign up to, prior to it being circulated to the PM and her advisers. Well done to you for organising it and congrats to all participants.

    If your readers need a moment of light relief after reading your article above, may we suggest they take our “How do you take your Brexit?” weekend quiz? 🙂
    (Below it are several articles about your conference which your readers also might enjoy.)

    Best wishes, the Facts4EU.Org Team

  2. Iain gill
    October 3, 2016

    The problem being that software engineers are not in short supply. And the model of multinationals employing cheap staff in India and Bulgaria to name 2 cheaper non EU and e u countries and bring them here to undercut locals is already being abused. So just sounds like out of touch politicians who have listened to big business lobby without knowing the reality.

    1. Freeborn John
      October 5, 2016

      As someone who works in the technology industry I completely agree with you. It is a long time since technology companies recruited software engineers in the U.K. Because they were cheaper than in the US. For at least 15 years now software engineering jobs moved to India because they ar cheaper by far than either in the US or U.K. The only tech job in the U.K. are now customer facing ones. Politicians still talk about visas for Indian programmers to come to the UK but that is not a real world scenario any more with the Uk-based programmer long-ago laid off and his job moved to India.

      1. Iain gill
        October 5, 2016

        Not only have all our big companies outsourced their IT to the Indian outsourcing movement both offshore in India and onshore here with massive use of Indian nationals imported here… The government has destroyed the British workforce by taxing the imported workforce less and giving many of them indefinite to remain and British passports simply for working here a while, so they permanently deprived locals of work. Worse once they have ILR or British passports they are counted in government statistics as local workers themselves masking the size of the influx.

  3. Mark B
    October 3, 2016

    Good morning.

    Again, too much focus on trade, immigration and markets that the real detail of regulatory framework, standards and laws. We dismiss these at our peril.

    I now understand why our kind host concentrates on anything to do with the EU other than the regulatory framework etc. It is simply because he either feels it unnecessary and / or, he simply does not understand it. I too do not understand it, but at least I am honest about it. But there are people who do, and what they are saying does not look good if we continue to bury our heads in the sand.

  4. Prigger
    October 3, 2016

    Duff arguments. These have hampered proceeding to Brexit.
    One example on TV yesterday. “If I had a factory in my constituency employing 2000 workers, mainly migrants, what will happen if Free Movement is stopped? How will this benefit the economy? Another stereotypical example is the farmer who decides to plant a labour-intensive crop but his field is miles from any workforce at all : ” How am I to harvest my crop if Free Movement is stopped?

    Are our Local Authorities, farming communities, and capitalists so naff at their jobs that they allow to come into existence potential productive resources without even considering for one moment if there is a suitable number of workers in the area?
    The soon to be sovereign UK Parliament needs to legislate so our business people and farmers are given basic training in forward planning before they are allowed to engage in general business activity and farming. We really cannot afford amateurs ploughing into our economic base who do not know their thingamajigs from their whatchamacallits.
    As for Local Authorities. One should think no amount of training could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    1. Iain Gill
      October 4, 2016

      The seasonal farm jobs which are hard manual labour were once done by people from other parts of the country, pretty much before the welfare state though. These jobs could suck up people for a short while. That model is broken now because of the way the benefits, social housing, nhs waiting lists, and school systems work. For a single person living on benefits on a big social housing estate in the North, say, to take a job for a few months on a farm down South is more hassle than its worth. They would lose any place in an NHS queue, they would likely have lots of hassle signing off and back on, and if they have a social housing flat questions will be asked if they leave it empty for a while to go elsewhere to work. Even worse for a family with kids. So the whole way the state organises the things it rations needs fixing (healthcare, schools, housing, benefits).

      I don’t think businesses which rely on very low wages en masse should have a lot of sympathy. Too many top up benefits and out of control immigration are already supporting these otherwise unsustainable businesses. Indeed businesses which bring in higher wage workers who are undercutting the local workforce at higher wages levels don’t deserve any sympathy either. We need to encourage people to hire and train Brits, and we need to encourage British potential students to study subjects which are only unpopular because everyone can see the Government is printing work visas like confetti for workers from abroad to come into.

    2. The Prangwizard
      October 4, 2016

      Imagine a steel manufacturer in the 19thc saying ‘I’ve built my smelting plant near norwich – what am i to do now with the coal ore being so many miles away and just farm labourers living around here?

  5. Sam Stoner
    October 3, 2016

    O Lordy, what a shame your Conference didn’t have a lawyer on hand. The UK cannot offer to carry forward current tariff free trade with the EU unless it makes the same offer to all other WTO members. Your ‘plan’ would immediately be slaughtered by a queue of countries, with the United States at its head, demanding the same tariff free treatment, and they would be legally entitled to it, and could and would enforce it through the WTO

    1. S Matthews
      October 4, 2016

      Why can we not offer the EU a tariff free trade deal? Nothing to do with WTO tariffs.
      And of course we can offer similar deals to other countries. Nothing to stop us doing deals at all, the WTO option only applies if there is no deal in place.

      1. Sam Stoner
        October 5, 2016

        You don’t understand the law. Non-discrimination rules under WTO law mean that if the UK offers tariff free access to the EU, it has to do the same t0 all WTO members. The only exception would be if the EU and the UK negotiated a special free trade agreement – it is exactly this that Mr Redwood has ruled out (and even if he ruled it in, would take years to complete)

        Reply I have not ruled it out! My proposal is we keep our current arrangements as just such a registerable trade agreement!

  6. Sean
    October 3, 2016

    Two and a half years isn’t a speedy exit at all.
    We will still be stuck inside the money pit EU.

  7. Javelin
    October 3, 2016

    It is not sufficient that a person has a job to come to. Did you think that you could slip this by the British public?

    It is also necessary for the employer to prove that they advertised the job publically in a easily and widely available public place for a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable salary.

    If not employers will simply recruit cheap labour from abroad and undermine workers salaries.

  8. formula57
    October 3, 2016

    I scoured these Minutes in the hope of reading words to the effect “Mrs May, joined by Messrs. Davis, Johnson and Fox, warmly welcomed the proposals put forward by Messrs. Redwood, Lilley et al and undertook to get a move on”. I very much hope those words are present elsewhere in the Seminar documents.

    The last point, that ” more work is needed on the changes and opportunities that can follow a speedy exit” is very sound and the fear must be that the UK is and will be missing many opportunities open to it by reason of neglect. By way of example, the universities’ research efforts (and UK laboratories etc.) would be aided materially by a much more relaxed and speedy work permit regime for those institutions, likely including spouses of researchers.

  9. agricola
    October 3, 2016

    Sounds like the thinking is going in the right direction. I leave it to Ken Clarke to act as devil’s advocate. I would only add, lets crack on with it as delay could be debilitating for business.

  10. alan jutson
    October 3, 2016

    An excellent report, makes you wonder why so many MP’s are still trying to fight the Remain battle.

    Perhaps each MP should be given a copy.

    I agree with the report, whilst we do not want to leave with undue and excessive haste, a speedy programme with a firm resolution is the key to success.

    We should also be prepared to walk away if the EU wants to uncooperative and play hardball.

  11. Anonymous
    October 3, 2016

    “John Redwood stressed that the Leave campaign had recommended no dilution of any employment rights offered by EU legislation, and he expected the government to confirm that approach.”

    We can pick and choose which laws we like now.

    If employment laws go too far either way then electors can make this known at the ballot box. We should also be firm but not too hard on the unions – they are an important part of the democratic checks and balances. Those who are un-unionised have seen their wages fail to keep up with house price inflation – ‘keeping a roof under one’s head’ being such a clich’e because shelter is the most basic human requirement.

    Those who are unionised are not overpaid as some would claim – though perhaps relative to others they would appear to be.

    Of course, the mass importation of unskilled and willing workers crushes expectations, pay and conditions which must be compensated for with welfarism unless the government of the day is seen to be the one that allowed the standard of living to drop below acceptable standards.

    In reality it has already and slavery has made its return to Britain.

    There are huge racial and equality struggles ahead for Britain, I’m afraid.

    1. Anonymous
      October 3, 2016

      ‘over’ one’s head, obviously !

  12. a-tracy
    October 3, 2016

    Professor Ian Walmsley “reported that there are already some research grant applications and joint projects where the UK is not wanted for fear of it harming access to funds.”

    How can this happen whilst we are still a fully paid up member and will be paying membership fees the second biggest provider of funds? What dates do these research projects the UK “is not wanted” expire? How many research projects have the UK proposed since June and are we getting our funding passed for these? Can’t we agree in advance on these projects to pay our contribution to these specific projects after the date we leave? Surely the academic community can sort this out with PM May?

  13. Antisthenes
    October 3, 2016

    The underlying truth of Brexit laid bare. A truth that many are going to find unpalatable and already are. All the Brexit myths and pessimistic pronouncements dealt with and shown to be just that. Brexit is not the Gordian knot we all believed it to be. The only reservation has to be over passports for the financial sector as that is one area that the UK is vulnerable. This approach is going expose the over complexity of the Brussels governing apparatus and the ease at which exit of the EU can be achieved. If Brexit is achieved as is intended by this conference and apparently by Theresa as well then I expect others will soon follow the same path.

  14. Anonymous
    October 3, 2016

    Students from overseas:

    My child – who achieved 4A* and 1A grade A levels in sciences – struggled to get interviews at all but one university for his STEM course (admittedly a highly competitive subject.)

    Thankfully he was offered a place at a RG university in the end, but couldn’t be further away from home.

    Clearly the other universities will have taken foreign students on those courses. Surely they are provided for our own children first – especially where the high grades achieved were the ones predicted. Or have A levels really become so debased ?

  15. oldtimer
    October 3, 2016

    Very helpful. Thank you for posting thgis.

  16. Bert Young
    October 3, 2016

    A comprehensive and much valued forum – I’m sorry I was unable to attend . The detail in all of the points discussed will be of substantial value to the Government ; these objectives I believe they should now adopt .

    I am pleased that the question of the jurisdiction of law making was raised ; the media have highlighted the threat of the courts over-ruling the result of the referendum – a threat most of believed would be nothing more than a delaying aspect . Parliament is the only place to decide .

  17. Chris
    October 3, 2016

    Slightly O/T, but in The Times is an article about Craig Oliver’s claims that Cameron used the BBC Charter Renewal negotiations to put pressure on the BBC to employ a pro EU bias in its reporting. He obviously succeeded, in my view.

    David Cameron used a private discussion with the director-general of the BBC about its future to put pressure on the corporation over its coverage of the EU referendum.

    The former prime minister complained about the BBC’s business and economic unit during a conversation about controversial plans to change the way the corporation is governed.

    He used the charter renewal process to interfere with the BBC’s editorial approach and press it into delivering more pro-Remain coverage.

    The revelation is contained in Unleashing Demons, the Inside Story of Brexit, a book by Sir Craig Oliver, Mr Cameron’s former director of communication.

  18. Chris
    October 3, 2016

    I recommend an excellent daily newsletter from Jonathan Isaby of Brexit Central. Quite the best round up of Brexit news I have seen so far. Link

  19. margaret
    October 3, 2016

    is there a video of this event.

  20. Chris
    October 3, 2016

    I wondered if, Mr Redwood, you could deal with one, or a few, of the arguments that R North raises in his article today on Theresa May’s speech. I realise that you have made clear that you do not agree with his arguments in the past. This latest contribution from RN focuses on the minutiae, the inuendos and the things not said, but maybe hinted at. I feel thoroughly confused and disillusioned by him – would Theresa May really go back on what she has given the electorate to understand by Brexit? North seems to suggest that the soft Brexit will very much be on the cards as things develop.

  21. Oggy
    October 3, 2016

    John – It’s all going in the right direction but there are quite a few hurdles still to overcome. Getting HoC approval to overturn the 1972 act, then getting it through the Lords which will be nigh on impossible and will probably mean invoking the Parliament act. Then we have the Scots vowing to vote it down in Holyrood although they don’t have, and won’t get a veto as was confirmed in TM’s speech yesterday.
    Mrs Sturgeon will be apoplectic and going through the ‘Treaty of Union 1707’ looking for any way out. Good luck with that.

  22. Iain Gill
    October 3, 2016

    Re “The issue of the border with Ireland was also raised, with reassurance proposed that a work permit and cap system does not require new border controls on the Irish border for enforcement, as Irish passport holders would be entitled to the same rights as UK citizens” so what is to stop a, say, Bulgarian EU national flying into Dublin? crossing the land border? and crossing to England on the ferry (no requirement to show a passport)? I am not that bothered about Irish passport holders, I am worried about Southern Ireland continuing to be lunar orbit from which allsorts of unregulated lunar landers can launch at the UK mainland… Again the story being spun here is inadequate.

  23. stred
    October 3, 2016

    It was reassuring to read that the 3 ex-ministers called for reassurances that those EU citizens already here can stay. Unfortunately, the current PM and Chancellor appear to not realize the damage done when they chose to ignore the written assurances given by Leave and UKIP during and before the campaign. Many people who voted Leave would not have been willing to do so had they believed that these promises would immediately be broken by Remainer ministers who think they can take control of the process and ignore the Leave manifesto. It is hard to understand that, having lost the argument, they think it is acceptable to arrogantly discard the policies of the winning side.It was not in any way necessary to threaten retaliation before any proposal to deport Brits living abroad had even been discussed.

    To illustrate the damage they have done I can explain the thoughts of my Polish lodger and friend who has now left the UK to live in Germany, after working hard here for 15 years. This also applies to other Polish and French people who were trying hard to buy a premises to start their own business after being here for 10 years and are now left in the lurch with no assurance that they will be able to stay.

    The damage started with the Project Smear run by the BBC and Ch 4 during the campaign and the Hate label spat out by politicians such as Mr Khan in debates. They made the vandalism of the Polish Centre in London headline news and no culprit was named or found. They went out to towns where many Polish people lived and tried to found British people who were anti-Polish, but found no-one. When a Polish person was murdered by British low life this was highlighted as national news, while similar British victims were only regional news items. This has lead to my friends thinking that they are living in an unfriendly environment. When I told them that 99% of British liked the Poles and regarded them as wartime allies they said that Mrs may had said reassuring thing when visiting Poland but they noticed that her words in the UK were different. They do not trust her.

    Added to this they say that immigration lawyers are now advising EU citizens to apply for a British passport in order to be certain of retaining a right to stay. but when they looked at the Home Office website they found that they require a payment of £1200 to apply. Who slid this through? Not surprisingly at this stage by best lodger, who has worked hard, paid taxes here and kept the property in perfect condition, decided to work nearer home and pay tax in Germany, as the employer has offices there and pays staff in Euros.

    Meanwhile, illegal immigration continues with the Border Force unable to monitor small boats, and they are building a wall in Calais at a cost of £2m which a pensioner with a small ladder could get over in a minute.

    Who is responsible for such stupid policies and is unable to foresee the obvious?

  24. Denis Cooper
    October 3, 2016

    Sorry, I posted this on the wrong thread.

    “The best course could be to pass a Commons motion in support of a letter and to send it as soon as possible, whatever the state of the legal proceedings.”

    A very bad idea, I suggest.

    The claimants insist that there must be a full Act passed by both Houses and with Royal Assent, not just a Commons motion, and would no doubt ask the court for an emergency injunction to prevent the government sending in the Article 50 notice on the basis of just a single vote taken among just MPs.

    Moreover just the action of asking MPs to vote on it would undermine the government’s case that it can use prerogative powers to serve the notice without any further process in Parliament, and would more or less hand the judgement to the claimants.

  25. Denis Cooper
    October 3, 2016

    “He … reminded Conference that Article 50 confers a right on a member state to withdraw from the Treaty using its own constitutional arrangements. In the case of the UK this will be an Act of Parliament.”

    Personally I don’t accept that rather unexpected interpretation of the first paragraph of Article 50, and nor does the government. Point 8(3) on page 5 here:


    “Rather, Article 50(1) … recognises that this is an area in which a Member State may determine its own requirements, free from interference by EU law.”

    In other words, a decision to withdraw from the EU is a purely national decision, it does need not any kind of approval from the EU or from other EU member states.

    Unfortunately one of the defects of Article 50 is that the ECJ is not excluded from having any jurisdiction over its operation. It could easily have been – there is at least one instance in the EU treaties where it is expressly stated that the ECJ shall have no jurisdiction over a particular provision – but it is not. Hence the thought of the part of some bad losers that they might be able to involve the ECJ in obstructing our withdrawal.

    As for using an Act of Parliament to withdraw from the EU, I don’t know how many times I have to repeat that we are not in the EU by virtue of any domestic legislation, but by virtue of instruments of ratification of the EU treaties on the international plane.

    If the ECA72 had been passed, but the government then had a change of mind and decided not to deposit the instruments of ratification with the Italian government, then we would not have joined the EEC. It could not take that final step with ECA72 having been passed, but it was the final step of ratification which actually took us into the EEC.

    As the government points out, this is because the UK is a “dualist” state.

    Reply At a certain point international law becomes international politics. Taking a narrow legalistic – and very dubious view – of this vague treaty is silly. We are going to leave and the international community will understand and respect that.

    1. Denis Cooper
      October 4, 2016

      We won’t leave if the courts accept the narrow legalistic and very dubious arguments of those who want to keep us in and the decision is handed back to Parliament.

    2. Sam
      October 4, 2016

      The international community will take a very clear view ofa State that passes a domestic statute and thinks that allows it to ignore its international obligations. Art 50 is not a right to leave. It is an obligation to follow a treaty-defined process.

  26. Denis Cooper
    October 3, 2016

    Some people are concerned that the repeal Act would leave all existing EU law in force as UK law even after we have left the EU, but as with such a mass of laws it will take a long time to debate and decide what needs to be changed and what should be retained that seems the only way to proceed. I wouldn’t be surprised if in twenty years’ time there were still some very minor laws left over from when we were in the EU and still in force by default because they had never been assessed and revised. However I would suggest that when the time comes the government should ask for suggestions about which EU-derived laws should be dealt with first, and then repeat that call from time to time.

  27. They Work for Us?
    October 3, 2016

    Much has been made by “Remainers” that EU countries would impose non tariff barriers to our trade. Other than “don’t buy British” this presumably refers to procedural barriers and delays in which our goods would have to be inspected e.g at the ports to certify that they met EU standards. We should have a trade reciprocity law leaving no doubt that we would introduce similar procedures and delays to their exports.

    1. Roy Twing
      October 4, 2016

      Non tarriff barriers are more important than tariffs in fact Mrs T recognised this and that is why she pushed for a market without either so hard back in the day.

      If you wish to avoid NTBs then we stay in the single market, simple

  28. miami.mode
    October 3, 2016

    Carney, and now Hammond, are great at talking down the pound, but as they found out in 1992 it is impossible to talk it up.

    1. Jacq
      October 10, 2016

      It’s not about currency devaluation by the back door to boost exports, perchance? Something Germany effectively did through adopting the euro, and something that G20 summit participants recently undertook NOT to do.

  29. The Prangwizard
    October 3, 2016

    I hope that when we start rebuilding our fishing fleet we build the boats here. We must not buy from abroad. If private capital is in short supply the government must provide grants and incentives.

    It’s all about taking back control.

  30. Denis Cooper
    October 3, 2016

    Oh look, a supposedly “eurosceptic” Tory MP shows his true colours:


    and get this:

    “… also poked fun at Ms May’s Great Repeal Act, pointing out its name resembled the 1832 Great Reform Act, which “didn’t do us a huge amount of good”.”

    1. Chris
      October 5, 2016

      I understand that “no other current MPs attended” the meeting that this MP chaired.

  31. fedupsoutherner
    October 3, 2016

    Hearing that the pound has fallen against the dollar and the euro once again I would advocate a swift exit instead of all the faffing about. Business needs to know what is going on and we need to smooth everything out asap. All this hanging around is not doing any good at all.

    1. graham1946
      October 4, 2016

      Exactly. By the time the PM gets around to it next March 9 months will have passed since the referendum and by the time of exit, 3 years and 30 billion quid will have been donated to the EU, whilst we cannot afford to build our own power stations or fund our NHS. This is all thought to be quite ok in the Westminster bubble. Politicians are stark, staring mad.

  32. sm
    October 3, 2016

    Thank you for these minutes, John – they are very helpful, and it is interesting to see that the PM has now proposed the Great Repeal Bill…will it be laid before Parliament in the very near future?

  33. Chris
    October 3, 2016

    I am very concerned to read this from Daniel Hannan in ibtimes. I did not vote for some form of associate membership. I voted for a clean break.


    “…At the same time, we should talk to our European allies about getting a looser deal that benefits both sides. We are plainly not going to relate to the EU 27 simply as a benign third country like, say, South Korea. Some of our existing institutional and structural links will remain in place. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament negotiator, has called for a form of “associate membership” for Britain that might also be offered to the EFTA countries. The German Europe Minister, Michael Roth, has mentioned something similar. Such an outcome is, in truth, the only fair-minded way to interpret a 52-48 vote. Britain voted to recover powers from Brussels, not to sever all ties. Whatever the eventual deal, though, the chief grievance of Eurosceptics has been addressed. The UK will be, once again, a fully independent country. Brexit means Brexit.”

    1. Roy Twing
      October 4, 2016

      No such thing a ‘clean break’, only degrees of separation.

      This dictated by geography for those of us in the business of stuff rather than the business of knowledge. Whatever happens we will still trade with the single market and we will still choose to obey those rules to enable this trade to happen.

  34. acorn
    October 3, 2016

    Evenin’ all, Jean-Claude here. So Article 50 next March understood. Unfortunately, most of my staff are tied up with other matters; refugees; EU Banks; Club Med insolvency etc etc. I can’t see us being available much to discuss your resignation from the EU Club in the next two years after March. We may just have to let the Article 50 clock run out and you would just er… leave.

    You understand that one member could veto your “going away” present if it strays outside of a purely trade matter, that is, if it becomes a “mixed agreement”; which it will undoubted be.

    Frankly, as Brexit means Brexit means “leave”, as in totally disconnect, I can see no obligation on me to give you a “going away” present. I am prepared to give you an appropriate share of EU quotas as negotiated for the whole of the EU with the WTO, but that is about it.

    The EU does appreciate the UK importing loads of stuff from the other 27 members, particularly Belgium; Germany and Spain; reducing what would otherwise be a higher level of unemployment in those countries. The UK seems to think the rest of the EU is beholden to the UK for such! Particularly, you think Germany, having a net £25 billion export to the UK.

    But, Brits love those German cars and washing machines and even those big gas turbine electricity generators you desperately need for your under-invested energy infrastructure. Imagine the reaction of UK voters if their own Conservative government stopped them from having those German, French and Spanish goodies to play with; or, made them too expensive to buy with tariffs and your depreciating currency!

  35. forthurst
    October 3, 2016

    If businesses find they are unable to fill vacancies, then it means that either they are not offering sufficient remuneration or the economy is overheating or that the government has failed to ensure sufficient training places for skills in demand; leaving the EU should mean an end to businesses having any right to recruit from abroad. Businesses do not care what the social cost of their recruitment activities is, so it up to the government to act on the nation’s behalf.

    “Owen Paterson who pointed out UK farming was held back by EU controls over the use of technology in agriculture.”

    This is code for GMOs. The Brussels regime is responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of commercial varieties of seeds; when we leave the EU, this means that the government needs to ensure that there’re sufficient indigenous resources for proving the safety and efficacy of all commercial varieties of seeds and other biological and chemical entities, not to take the word of foreign chemical companies whose claims may
    not be substantiable in practice. It is quite clear that the chemical companies are trying to engineer a situation whereby they control all the commercial varieties of seeds so that they can sell new seeds to farmers each year and that normal varieties of non-GMOs will disappear. This would be a potentially dangerous and extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs as anyone with a knowledge of Irish history would understand.

    Far more emphasis post-Bexit should be to ensure that farmers have right support package to encourage productive efforts.

  36. JR fan54
    October 3, 2016

    Liked the summary.
    Exactly. Get out and work the rest out idc.
    Don’t be afraid of the media. Challenge it.
    Don’t be afraid full stop.
    The public ( we ) aren’t so stupid any more.
    Especially the young.

    1. Mitchel
      October 4, 2016

      As Karl Marx wrote :”The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways.The point,however,is to change it.”

      Quite.Particularly as many of the “philosophers” are charging by the hour!

  37. Denis Cooper
    October 3, 2016

    Rather off-topic, Hague seems to think that our national immigration policy choices should still be subject to the agreement of the EU even after we have left the EU:


    I disagree. We need to regain COMPLETE control over our immigration policy, and if we allow anybody else to have their say and set limits on our choices then that will not be the case. And we know very well how the EU proceeds if it is granted even partial control over anything, it always ends up gradually moving to become total control by the EU.

    1. Mark Watson
      October 4, 2016

      Quite right. William Hague would have us agree an inferior deal to the South Korea-eu trade deal.

  38. Freeborn John
    October 3, 2016

    It seems some good work was done in Oxford. I am however concerned by elements of the Prime ministers speech in Birmingham as follows:

    – she states that she wants the new agreement with the EU “to include cooperation on law enforcement”. Would you be able to press her that the EU Arrest Warrant must end.
    – she makes no mention at all of UK contributions to the EU budget. I hope you and your Oxford set colleagues will press her that the UK must make no contribution to the EU budget after Brexit.
    – the issue of a “sunset clause” on EU law transposed into national legislation was raised in Birmingham by John Longworth. I feel this is essential to ensure the gradual dismnataling of the “acquis communitaire” and hope you and your Oxford colleagues will push the Prime Minister very hard to include a general sunset clause in the “Great Repeal Bill”.

    1. Roy Twing
      October 4, 2016

      Nonsense we may choose to contribute to the EU. Why wouldn’t we wish to stay a part of the European Medicines Agency for example, assuming we can demonstrate it provides value.

      It would seem stupid to spend even more of my hard earned money replicating this work just for ideological reasons.

      1. Freeborn John
        October 5, 2016

        The EU already announced the European Medicine Agency is relocating to the Continent. Indeed I believe it is the only organisation to announce this since the referendum result.

        The real-madness would be the continue to pay into the EU budget to support a regulator that is leaving the U.K., and which we will have no influence over in the future. The EU is showing marked ill-will towards the UK post-brexit and it will be folly in the extreme to allow it to continue to have regulatory powers over U.K. Business when there is the likelihood it will use regulation to favour Continental producers and harm British ones.

  39. Ian Russell
    October 4, 2016

    Two points.

    1. Freedom of movement
    All the UK will doing when introducing immigration controls is to implement the provisions the last clause in TFEU 46d. This was in the Treaty of Rome for good reason but the EU has ignored it ever since. While this does matter within the context of taking back control it would do no harm to point out all absolutist interpretations of the freedom have no basis in EU law.

    2. Tariffs
    Businesses do not want tariffs. However they might not mind them so much if they were settled at government level on the basis of Intrastat figures, etc. The mechanisms are already in place. It would be an equitable way for the EU and UK to pay for access to each other’s markets. Businesses on both sides could continue as before. I have no idea how the mechanisms accord with WTO rules but that could be agreed. Meanwhile we could all continue as now.

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