Got Brexit Done

Let all the bells ring out! It is done, accomplished achieved! We are unleashed! Get the party started: I have woken the neighbours with fireworks, because this is our night.

It is 1,317 days since the referendum, 1,317 days since the evening I stood inspecting the count in our local council office, watching the results from Sunderland and other towns and watching the colour drain from my MP’s face, and after 1,317 days finally we have what we were promised: Britain Unleashed.

There are commentators who look down gravely and say the really this is a process of healing and we need to be calm and understanding and, and, well all that sort of thing. No. Tonight we celebrate, and fill the skies with flags and good cheer. Tomorrow you can be reconciliatory if you like, but do not rob me of this night.

I have no time for being told to keep it calm as if I were somehow sorry or embarrassed at having campaigned to Leave or at having achieved it. I am not. After three and a half years of having Remoaners insult me and all others who voted my way, calling us dupes or idiots or liars (and that without showing any flicker of irony) or hate-filled savages, and abusing their positions to try to overturn our referendum, I am not going quietly as if they had a point. We are the ones who won because we were right. Burst the skies then with Brexit!

Tonight is our night.

Start spreading the news: we’re leaving today

We want to be a part of it, New Opportunities across the globe.

Tonight we celebrate, and fill the skies with flags, fireworks and cheering. I have no time for being told to keep it calm as if I were somehow sorry or embarrassed at having campaigned to Leave or at having achieved it. Tonight is our night. Tomorrow we go for unity but give us this one night.

The main casualty of the last , painful, three and a half years, has been the reputation of political pundits. The predictions made by the sagest of them have proven wildly accurate and through wilful neglect of their duties.

Where are the bread queues, the empty shelves, the daily xenophobic attacks, the social breakdown, the hospitals without drugs?  Nowhere, nor even expected. Everything promised by the Remain side has been false, and the over-optimism by the Leave side has proven an underestimate.

One of the daftest opinions I read in a well respected publication, though American, was that the Brexit vote was a vote against globalism and hat it would mark the end of Britain as a major economic player, all written with such certainty the rest of the article followed that beginning. Where, you might ask, could they have come to such conclusions about our island nation’s being so insular? I might, if lazy, say it was the thoughtless guesswork of an outsider who heard nothing of the campaign nor knew anything of those involved. It familiar from commentary on this side of the pond though. It comes from listening to only one, extreme side of the argument.

I was knocking on doors during the referendum, and I heard not only what the Leave campaign was saying but what was said by voters on the doorstep, and most were looking outward, not inward. A serious columnist would have known that and factored it in. He or she would have looked at who was likely to take back control, amongst them Boris Johnson, and realised that the idea of an inward-looking, autarchic future was never on the cards.

A writer put his reputation on the line with every word, and that reputation is worth nothing now. I pick one single example from an American journal, but many of our columnists were just as daft, in pursuit of their own idea of virtue. Like the mediæval picture of the Day of Judgment, your columns will be held up and weighed in the balance, and your reputations are consigned to the flames.

The vote three and a half years ago and the recent general election have been consistently votes for global Britain. It is not the sort of globalism which would see all our culture squeezed out in favour of a shapeless global nothingness, but a globalism in which Britons stride the world as Britons, embracing the world and not just one corner of it.

Parliament is in the hands of those who look outward and follow that global mindset. The nature of the Commons does not encourage this, huddling all members into a chamber inward-looking and making their careers by parroting lines aimed at that small flat down a close at the back of Dunny-on-the-Wold rather than higher considerations, but speaking to the leading ministers and members, they do get the ‘global’ thing.  We are not isolated. World engagement means a healthy economy, which is why when Europe’s economy is idling, Britain’s is outstripping every one of them. We are not at African levels of growth yet, but we have time to catch up.

Hello World: welcome to Brexit Britain.

See also


Fay’s pop guide to Brexit

The old-time crooner sang in the ECSC in 1951: Elvis, greeted the EEC in 1957 with Jailhouse Rock, and how right he was. That was long before he became bloated and blundering, like the institution he greeted. (The European Coal and Steel Community sounds like a niche woke identity.) Then in 1957 it was the European Economic Community and Euratom (which sounds like a Dutch teen-techno-rock band): if Nat King Cole thought his namesake Too Young in ‘51, the EEC was born with Elvis Presley getting them All Shook Up, and predicting they’d be Paralysed.

That didn’t bother the best of the world though:  even Europe was just trying to enjoy La Dolce Vita. Britain didn’t join at first and in 1961 De Gaulle, still high on Presley turned his Wooden Heart to say ‘non’, but MacMillan was still hopeful as he heard Shirelles playing Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

The EEC got on through the rest of the sixties screaming in minskirts and hurling itself at the Beatles. The Empire was gone but we’d never had it so good, but Elvis was warning us There Goes My Everything

With Europe locking itself away, we needed to look after ourselves: even Michael Caine was in The Self-Preservation Society.

Edward Heath wanted in but complaint that I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: then with De Gaulle gone in 1969 he went crazy to Let The Sun Shine In.

The mood was changing: in our troubles, by 1971 the Common Market was Killing Me Softly With His Song. Labour were divided:  the most eloquent MP opposing membership was Peter Shore, who warned that Britain would be Like a Puppet on a String, as his namesake Sandie said at the time. Watch out for the Ch-ch-changes, just as The Who were telling us they Won’t Be Fooled Again, Britain was; joining the EEC at the end of 1972.

Well, Mama Weer All Crazee Now.  The EEC knocked out the tariffs placed on the trade from one coast, while the Stranglers were put on Liverpool’s business with America and Australia.  European integration was a distant nightmare; we should have seen it coming but maybe Heath as he took us into the EEC thought It’s Only Make Believe.

Labour wanted out of a ‘capitalist club’, and the reds got into power in 1974 on a manifesto to leave, but in office changed their mind, so there was only one thing to do:  look at the electorate and sing with the Osmonds that I’m Leaving It All Up To You.  The voters were tired.  Bowie was singing Rebel Rebel, but they did not; not for them to Rock the Boat with Karl Russell and the Hues; and the EEC sat back and opened the draw with their future plans, whispering You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

It didn’t help. Britain became a basket-case thanks to socialism and Heath, who was hardly different, and the EEC paid no heed to the Sage of Kirkcaldy said (that’s Adam Smith; not Gordon Brown) strangling outside trade with customs duties, and Wilson hit the rest with supertax, until eventually the voters finally noticed that This town, is becoming like a ghost town and sent Margaret Thatcher to sort it out in 1979.

The European Economic Community was doing well, if you ignore the way it starved the farmers of Africa. It had some trade with Argentina; sending French mechanics there to service the aircraft and missiles they used to sink ship of the Royal Navy. This is how peace and brotherhood in Europe work, apparently.

War, what is it good for?  Winning the 1983 election apparently. Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This.

The big Thatcher legacy – the 1980s pop scene, as there was suddenly money in pockets, new Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money), and East End lads could go out looking for West End Girls,

Soon Britain was roaring ahead while Europe looked suddenly stuck. They did their best, but even Nina’s 99 Luftballons could not lift them. The cracks were starting to show.

In 1984, as Frankie went to Hollywood, Maggie went to Brussels to sing I Want My Money Back (a line Meat Loaf shamelessly copied ten years later) and got it. She was always guided by TINA (there is no alternative) and Tina returned the favour the next year, singing of her We Don’t Need Another Hero.

1987 – You Win Again, and Maggie did, famously, and the next year gave her Bruges Speech, to show she was Hangin’ Tough. This awoke Eurosceptic MPs: Let’s Get It Started, sang M C Hammer and Lord Harris, and within months the Bruges Group was formed, but Europe knew what was happening, which may be why Europvision was won by a song  “Ne partez pas sans moi“, performed by Céline Dion; the original “Canada Plus”.

In 1990 was a era began. Maggie seemed irreplaceable, and the Cabinet assured her Nothing Compares to U, but the voters insisted Justify My Love, and soon she was gone. An empty car arrived at Downing Street and John Major stepped out. The voters said we’re Gonna Make You Sweat.

Europe was the bane of the Major ministry . The end of the Cold War also removed the threat that had kept the Tories in power. He survived an election, greatly reduced, and the BBC hated him for it, for defying the narrative they had laid down.

In 1993, D:Ream had sung that Things Can Only Get Better, but the song hit the charts in 1997 and sung Tony Blair into Number 10. Things, with Europe, would only get worse.

The rush to integration accelerated with every Tuscan villa Tony stayed in. Slow Down Baby! It meant though that the Conservatives could be legitimately anti-European: that would Get the Party Started. Yes: Tony Blair woke us up to the Bad Romance, and helped to get us to Brexit.

Is it back now to the Sixties, when the Moody Blues told us to Go Now? And we will.

The next eleven months

The clock has started. The deal is signed, the MEPs have come home and negotiation starts even before the clock strikes 11 on Friday.

The first rule for a time-sensitive negotiation: do not wait for the other side to move, but make the first move before he has settled into preconceptions from which he will be unwilling to move. That is not hostile, but practical. The first rule for a favourable negotiation is the same: move first.

We saw, painfully, a year and a half ago that British negotiators were doing nothing active, and being entirely reactive waiting for the European Commission’s negotiator to chose the timing and to impose their own terms. The reasons for that approach were never fully explained. Mrs May was blamed as she was instructing their actions, or inactions, but it may have been simple timid idiocy, or just that bureaucrats are used to waiting upon Brussels. Alternative, dark suggestions have been made, suggesting willing capitulation, and candid minutes have found their way into the light of day, but one hopes that no British official would stoop to treachery.

Those days though are past. There is no power vacuum now and there is a definite direction.

A challenge will be to keep the Commission to the words of the Political Declaration. There are sounds of straying already, of “full alignment”, of empowering the ECJ: unless positive action is taken now to shape the future deal, it will settle back into EU norms, which are the very reason for getting out.

A negotiation proceeds from a text, the terms of which are discussed and amended as it goes. Whoever puts the text down first shapes the discussion. Therefore Britain’s officials must place their text on the table as soon as possible. The Commission has every motive for delay, and we have seen them do it. There must be none. In fact, the text should have been on the table already, and every day’s delay is harmful.

Be ambitious then. However, Wallonia is a warning: Wallonia, as readers may recall, sank the EU-Canada CETA deal first time round. We do not want that happening this time. A deal will only need the approval of nation states and the wayward assemblées nationaux if is strays beyond the Union’s exclusive competence. If it possible therefore to settle a deal, even a halfway deal, exclusively within that exclusive competence then it can be signed with little bureaucracy, or at least as little as it is possible to get with Brussels. That may mean missing valuable elements out, but we can come back for them later.

That’s the business of Europe at least, which is a minor element of Parliament’s work in the forthcoming months.

The Commons should get busy with fixing all the things which were left to rot during the Zombie Parliament. When I began this post it was with that domestic agenda in mind, but Brexit dominates this week, rightly so. Next week maybe the work for the next eleven months will become clearer.

See also


Where the Remainers were right

Now the Withdrawal Agreement is signed by both sides and nothing is in the way between now and Brexit on Friday, we can say openly that Remainers did have a point sometimes. Not in the conclusion, but in several important issues that must be addressed in the trade negotiations that are to come.

The deal must be done in eleven months. The guideline is the Political Declaration, as mightily improved by Boris Johnson. The issues flagged up by the Remain side in the referendum campaign and ever since still have to be dealt with, and they can be.

The most important issues, specifically tariffs, are to be dealt with according to the Political Declaration. There is detail though, and issues not fully covered.

To take a few random examples:

Value added tax

VAT is an odd but working system, not always understood by the man in the street if he des not run a business. We all pay VAT on purchases, including businesses. A VAT-registered business charges VAT on its sales, and sends the tax to HM Revenue and Customs at the end of the quarter, but it also reclaims from HM Revenue and Customs all the VAT it has paid in that quarter on its purchases: this ensures that although the tax have been paid at every sale, the burden falls only on the final sale to the customer.

It is the same system across the European Union, so a business may reclaim for tax paid on a purchase from abroad in the EU too, and a European business may reclaim from its own tax authorities the VAT paid to a British supplier. If after Brexit there is no continuing VAT co-ordination then businesses lose out. Either sales abroad would have to be VAT-free, which puts import at an unfair advantage over those purchases in the home market, or sales would continue to have VAT added and there could be no reclaim, putting importers at a disadvantage. In addition, there wou7ld be no adjustment between tax authorities for money collected across borders.

Getting round this will require continued co-operation and sharing of data between tax authorities. An upcoming problem may be where VAT standards begin to diverge between Britain and the continent, specifically as to what is VATable and what is not. It should not be problematic, as there are differences already, but this must be flagged up.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is trademarks, patents, copyright etc: it is owned and is a valuable asset but is intangible and exists only because the law recognises it. This is vital to continued commercial relationships. Britain has long led in the field and this was recognised when the European Intellectual Property Office was to be established in London. (It is now finding a new home.)

At present, most patents and trademarks are registered nationally, but there are Europe-wide registrations, which is very convenient, and saves money for IP-owners. If patents valid across the EU are suddenly not recognised in Britain, or vice versa, innovators are open to predatory exploitation, and a valuable asset have been stripped from them without compensation. The Political Declaration recognises this field, and the Withdrawal Act automatically validates Europe-wide patent and trademarks as if they were British – and they must be maintained by continued registration as British patents and trademarks are.

It would be more convenient for a degree of co-operation to continue between the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office and the European Union Intellectual Property Office to enable entrepreneurs to register across both territories with minimal duplication.

Home enforcement of standards

Product standards will diverge between Britain and Europe pretty quickly, which is one advantage of Brexit. However, that means that British authorities will no longer be able to certify compliance, with the familiar “E” mark. There may be stopgap ways round this, but ideally some system is needed whereby British authorities can certify compliance before the goods in question cross the Channel (or indeed the border). Such a certification system would be under the control of the EU and the ECJ as it is their rules.

If such a system, as sort of EU-licensed certification and enforcement system were introduced, it opens the possibility of having the same arrangements with other major markets.

Farm subsidies and consequent tariffs

It is generally accepted on this side of the Channel that the EU farm subsidy system is a form of lunacy. However, the consequences of dropping it entirely are interesting. If, for example, French beef is subsidised but British beef is not, will that mean that French beef imports must be taxed to remove the price advantage? On the other hand it has been argued that we should not stand in the way of another country’s government paying to make our food cheaper.

On the other hand, we may ask where the subsidy actually goes: does it feed the farmer’s family or does it simply allow the big supermarkets to drive the farm-gate price down, so the subsidy is actually ending up in the supermarkets’ pockets?

There are serious concepts to be considered, and no one right answer.

If subsidies exist on both sides of the Channel, to balance each other, if they are calculated on a different basis, this opens a question of genuine equivalence. They will diverge, and it must be considered that the subsidy system was largely invented to benefit inefficient French farms – albeit that they may not be as inefficient these days as when the system was devised. Britain always had a bad deal from the subsidy system, which was the justification for Mrs Thatcher’s Budget Rebate.

Financial services

This was always a difficult one given the importance of financial services to the British economy and lack of consideration of them in the negotiation. The intangibility of the services is a problem for those considering the field, and the lack of understanding of the enormous scope that comes under this label.

However, financial services out of London are also of vital importance to the European economy: if a German company wishes to raise finance, he could look to the Frankfurt Börse, but the world’s top market is London. If European regulators cut London off, they could bankrupt their own companies. Having said that, they may not appreciate this, until their pensions stop being paid.

The access of British companies, and British-based companies, to the European financial market should be uppermost in the minds of negotiators.

Movement in academia

One of the big moments early in the referendum campaign was an open letter by 200 academics arguing that Brexit would be disastrous because it would end the ability of academics to move between institutions. It was one of the most ridiculous arguments in the campaign: it only takes a line in the immigration rules to allow such movement, without the need for panoply of EU bureaucracy.

That said, it is a good point that academia should flow freely and so we do need that rule. It might say “Send your brightest intelligences to our universities to shine their wisdom in those halls – because on the current showing there is none there now.”


Aeroplanes will not stop at borders as we were told, but do not forget to put the standard international agreements in place.

In addition, our airspace is minutes from European airspace, mere seconds in the case of the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, so co-ordination is required, as indeed we should co-operate with all neighbouring states, not just in Europe.

Fish stocks

The current position is that British seas will stay British. Some agreements might be possible, but nothing is on the horizon.

However, it is not just about who can fish in what waters: also we have to think about fishing stocks. Fish do not carry passports, and if Spaniards scoop up all the fish in European waters before they have reached the our waters, those stocks will not recover then next year.

Quotas are unpopular with fishermen, but their children’s livelihoods depend on those fish being there in the next generation. It will be easier if only British boats are allowed about as they can do less damage than if half a dozen nations are emptying the same seas. They will have to accept quotas though.

The Brussels Regulation on civil disputes and judgments

This is less of a niche area than one might think. When a commercial or consumer dispute heads to court, the Brussels system decides which country’s courts should deal with it. The mutual enforcement of judgments is another matter covered. Barristers have been particularly vocal in this area, or at least those who deal with international disputes.

The issues could be handled simply by the wider international conventions which exist already; specifically the Hague Convention. An extension of the Brussels system in some way is possible, but this has the objection that the EU’s European Court of Justice would put itself in charge. It may be better to agree a “Hague +”, or just stick with the Hague Convention.

And also…

There is far more than these random ideas have brought to the surface. Al are eminently solvable, but that does not man ignoring them. No such issue should be forgotten,, and if it was a point urged by the Remain side, it may be a good point – they had their reasons for arguing for Remain, so do them the courtesy of listening to the reasons and dealing with their legitimate points.

See also