A WTO Brexit isn’t really No Deal

With the seemingly inevitable victory of Boris Johnson in this Conservative Leadership race and the scrutiny which is placed upon him, the UK is slowly able to peel back the layers of ‘Project Fear’ to finally get to grips with the opportunities and possibilities presented by a WTO Brexit. Let's go for it

Better than Brussels
Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie
On 5 July 2019 13:05

Throughout the current Conservative Leadership contest discussions surrounding the technicalities of a so-called ‘No Deal World Trade Organisation Brexit’ have become commonplace.

This can only be a good thing. As we get closer to October 31st and negotiations with the EU become more serious, a clear plan about what a WTO Brexit means for the UK and the EU provides an excellent negotiating position.

With the seemingly inevitable victory of Boris Johnson in this Conservative Leadership race and the scrutiny which is placed upon him, the UK is slowly able to peel back the layers of ‘Project Fear’ to finally get to grips with the opportunities and possibilities presented by a WTO Brexit.

Prime amongst the options will be to immediately move forward with the trade deals and arrangements we can have with the hundreds of countries outside of the EU.

This is in stark contrast to any exit from the EU through the terms of May’s Withdrawal Agreement - an entire process which was never mentioned throughout the EU Referendum in 2016 - by either side. Instead, we are now faced with a scenario where we, in effect, have to ‘ask permission’ from the EU in order to Leave the EU.  This is an insult to the British people and our national Sovereignty.

The key to a successful WTO-based Brexit proposed by Boris Johnson is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Article 24. This would permit the UK and the EU to enter into a joint trading arrangement, free of tariffs and on a temporary basis, until a comprehensive trade deal is agreed between these two parties after October 31st 2019.

Yes, this path would require the EU to give consent to following Article 24 - something which is the logical choice in the scenario where it is impossible for Parliament to agree on May’s rubbish Deal, or any substantially changed Withdrawal Agreement.

Such an arrangement would facilitate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU - to mutual advantage and on friendly terms - with a short agreement, instead of some 500 pages of drivel in the EU’s/Theresa May’s deal, which despite what the EU may claim, is not completed or agreed upon.

Neither party has ‘signed’ any agreement or Treaty - nor has it been confirmed by either the EU or the UK’s Parliament.

There should be no need for any Withdrawal Agreement - or a lengthy implementation period (most businesses have already been preparing for No Deal). What is needed now is for the government to allocate more preparatory funding for infrastructure etc., something which was meant to happen during the last 3 years.

However, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has repeatedly held back funding, a move which goes against everything in the manifesto he stood on back in 2017.

It cannot be ignored that under Article 24 there may be some issues and disruption (as has always been expected when leaving such a close economic partnership), but fundamentally, this option would provide the best opportunity for the UK to Leave on time and get on with the opportunities of Brexit – with clear advantages for the EU as well.

At present, PM hopeful Jeremy Hunt, is not advocating the use of Article 24 in the event of a WTO-terms Brexit. Instead he is proposing spending £6 billion on agriculture and fisheries as part of an ‘emergency’ Budget which he would aim to pass in September this year, prior to committing us to No Deal - or any Deal - on September 30th - a month before the current deadline, based on the lie of the land at the time!

However, in reality it is not the EU which is likely to pose the biggest threat to a successful Brexit at the moment. The threat is from the MPs who currently sit on the green benches of the House of Commons who originally voted by 494 to 122 in favour of triggering Article 50 as part of the Notification of Withdrawal Act 2017.

Their decisions and votes confirmed the legal default position within the UK for a WTO Brexit, should there be no agreement reached.

Despite a WTO exit being on the table back in 2017, many MPs have since backtracked on this resolution. Some Conservative MPs have even suggested should the new, democratically elected PM actually follow through with the ‘Law of the Land’ they will cross Party Lines to bring down the government.

Perhaps those MPs should look at resigning from their seats instead, so their constituents can have representatives in Parliament who actually keep their word and stand up for what their constituents voted for.

Instead of constant ‘Project Fear’ projections against a WTO Brexit, and the backtracking by MPs over what they voted for, as a country we need to push forward under a new Prime Minister to Get Britain Out of the EU on No Deal WTO terms.

Such a decision should not pull up the drawbridge from the UK to the EU if they are reasonable, but would open us up to the world and allow us to develop our global future with hundreds of new deals.

Following through with the principles of GATT 24 should allow both parties to look beyond Brexit, whilst removing the issue of the Backstop and the restrictions placed on the UK in the important matters of fishing, defence, security and intelligence services.

This would secure our place within the 5EYES intelligence community; bring back control of our waters to our sovereign Parliament and enable us to have a truly independent and world leading foreign policy on a wide range of issues from Climate Change to combating terrorism and hostile foreign powers.

Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie is Research Executive at the cross-party grassroots Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out


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