Sunday, December 02, 2018

Crying "Wolf" too early is most dangerous when there really is a wolf.

Tim Montgomerie and Michael Gove both argued strongly for Leave during the EU referendum. Neither thinks that the May deal, and the backstop in particular are ideal (neither do I.)

But both think that the deal should be accepted now to get the process of Brexit underway and deliver a major part of what the "Leave" side campaigned for.

Tim Montgomerie has an article explaining his position on the CAPX site here.

Michael Gove has written in the Mail here.

I think the most important point he makes is that, as perhaps the foremost critic of those on the "Remain" side who cried wolf by predicting disaster if there was a leave vote in what he thought at the time was Project Fear, he thinks that the warnings of disruption and dislocation if there is a "No Deal" Brexit are genuine: this time the wolf is there.

Don't forget, as some of the "true believers" on the Brexit side have, that the Leave campaign never sought a mandate for e "No Deal" or as the hardliners now disingenuously call it, a "WTO" Brexit. They said they were confident Britain would, while not remaining part of the single market, be able to strike a deal which gave us access to it.

Until a few months ago hardly anyone was seriously suggesting that Britain leaving the EU without a deal was a serious possibility. (David Davis as Brexit secretary said it was most unlikely.) 

This is what Michael Gove has to say about what happens if the May deal is not agreed,

"If we don’t accept this deal, I believe we enter dangerous waters. 

We risk a softer Brexit, no Brexit at all, or no deal. 

Compared to the PM’s deal, a softer Brexit — such as the Norway option which some of my colleagues advocate — would mean less freedom to decide our laws, less control over our borders and we would still be sending significant sums to Brussels every year. It’s better than EU membership, but worse than this deal. 

I also know some of my colleagues would prefer a clean break — that we should walk away from the negotiating table and move towards a relationship based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. I respect their position but I can’t share it. 

Lying behind their view is a fair point — the economy could adjust to WTO rules and succeed over time. Many other countries around the world trade with the EU on this basis, so there is no reason the UK couldn’t as well. While higher tariffs aren’t desirable, they needn’t be catastrophic. 

This is all true, but tariffs aren’t the whole story. 

Over the past 40 years of membership, the EU has extended its reach into the functioning of our economy and society in countless ways — indeed, this is one of the strongest arguments for getting out. 

From how we regulate chemicals to how we track movements of animals and animal products; from licences that let hauliers operate to arrangements which allow organic food to be sold — these are just a handful of the ways in which we rely on EU systems and processes. While we may want to unwind all these arrangements, it is simply not possible do so overnight in an orderly fashion without ructions and repercussions. 

So it is undeniable that no deal would cause considerable dislocation and disruption in the short term.

I know some of my colleagues think these warnings are Project Fear Mark Two. 

Well, during the referendum campaign, there was no greater opponent of Project Fear than me. I called out those economists — ‘experts’ if you will — who tell us they know best but get it consistently wrong. 

My comments were misquoted and criticised at the time and have continued to attract ire since. But the central point was proven right — after the leave vote, the sky did not fall in, the economy did not shrink, jobs were not lost. Quite the opposite. 

However, if those who orchestrated Project Fear last time round were the boys who cried wolf, let’s not forget how that story ended. Too many false warnings meant that when the real threat came it wasn’t heeded."

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