Response to impact studies claiming that the UK will be substantially worse off as a result of Brexit

An in-depth report about studies claiming the UK will suffer as a result of Brexit has been produced by Independent MEP Jonathan Arnott.

The document responds to the majority of studies into the economic impact of the UK leaving the EU predict that our economy will be negatively affected. Mr Arnott, Independent MEP for the North East, points out that the same modelling techniques when tested against real economic data between the date of the EU referendum and now show that there have been profound inaccuracies:

“This leads to the question – Is there any reason to suppose that such projections will be any more accurate when referring to after Brexit? I believe that there is every reason to suppose they’ll be just as bad, because the same factors causing previous projections to be wrong still apply today.”

Mr Arnott claims that there are five main areas in which impact assessments lean heavily against Brexit:

1. That underlying assumptions fail to fully take into account anticipated changes in EU policy

2. That current modelling techniques underestimate ‘added value’ arising from Brexit

3. That headline claims are often misleading and ‘gold-plate’ the content of reports

4. That ‘groupthink’ or circular reasoning leads to confirmation bias

5. That modelling does not (or can not) fully consider extra policy options afforded by Brexit

Mr Arnott said:

“As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union, it’s important that claims are critically examined. I’ve seen politicians of all sides either praise or deny the results of Brexit impact assessments, often without even having read them. Of course, some documents aren’t even available for us to read – but I thought it was important to study the available research. Having done so, it’s become clear to me that some of the biggest positives of a clean Brexit aren’t really modelled (though they would be difficult to model). I am not seeking to carry out a detailed analysis of my own – merely to put others in context.”

Response to Theresa May’s Brexit speech

Whilst Theresa May’s speech did strike some positive notes, overall her approach fails to inspire confidence. It was a more detailed speech than most, and detail demands a careful and nuanced response.

Theresa May has taken changes to EU state aid rules off the table. Those same state aid rules prevented meaningful and timely action being taken over SSI in Redcar; this concession is a serious error of judgement from the Prime Minister.

If the UK is pushing keeping EU and UK regulatory standards too closely aligned for the long term, this must surely have a negative impact upon our ability to negotiate good free trade deals with other nations. Does May’s approach not reduce some of the ‘added value’ of regaining that freedom to negotiate independently with third countries?

May’s proposal for associate membership of European Union agencies, and the financial contributions (albeit relatively small) which that would entail, is a dangerous one. It is one which could set a very negative precedent.

Fundamentally, our Prime Minister is taking an approach which is dangerous, and likely to fail. In this speech, just as in others,she comes across as terrified of upsetting the EU. The danger of such an approach is that it can be perceived as weakness. The European Union’s approach in negotiation is to ask for things it knows it won’t get, and force the UK to push back. Theresa May, though, keeps telling us what she ‘won’t’ ask for because the EU won’t want to give. If she does not ask for more, where is the wriggle-room, the room for manoeuvre and compromise? The danger must surely be that the UK will end up compromising on issues which are important to her.

Theresa May used to say that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, but by taking off the table the possibility of walking away from talks, she has effectively done a U-turn on that too. It will be perceived by the European Union side as evidence of weakness.

Nevertheless, there are four points in May’s speech which are worth praising:

1. She is absolutely correct to state that  “the ultimate arbiter of the future UK-EU agreement cannot be the court of either side”. This is vital; we can not – and must not – permit EU courts to overrule our own. This was the most pernicious detail of the EU’s draft Withdrawal Agreement released this week, and it is good that Theresa May has picked up on it.

2. She is correct, also, to insist that the European Union’s approach to trade agreements is misleading: it is right to say that we will not ‘accept the rights of Canada and the obligations of Norway’. It is right to point out that a Canada-style deal would be incompatible with any current proposal for Northern Ireland, and indeed it is right to suggest that the Commission’s inflexible approach is unnecessary.

3. It is correct to put forward constructive suggestions regarding Northern Ireland and the avoidance of a hard border. Such issues can, if the political will exists on both sides, be overcome. The fear is that the European Union wants to create this hurdle rather than to resolve the issue.

4. Finally she is correct to hit back at EU accusations of ‘cherry-picking’. Like snowflakes, no two free trade agreements are alike. If this is cherry-picking, then every free trade agreement in history is cherry-picking.
It is, perhaps, a sign of the ineptitude which this government has shown in recent months that I can say this speech was not quite as bad as might have been expected. When expectations are so low, even a poor speech like this one seems almost reasonable by comparison.

Response to European Union Draft Withdrawal Agreement

Much has been made politically today about the European Union’s attempted power-grab over Northern Ireland through the Draft Withdrawal Agreement.

This is all valid, but in focusing on this so-called ‘dead cat strategy’ it would be easy to miss much of the rest which is contained within the text of the draft Agreement.

The biggest threat to UK sovereignty is that this Agreement would give EU courts sweeping power over the UK forever; the 8-year ‘sunset clause’ is written in such a way that it would not apply to huge swathes of the Agreement. For such an Agreement to be policed by the Courts of one side rather than the other is politically unacceptable.

The points below have generally not yet been picked up on by the press or  most politicians, but it is vital that Theresa May does not allow them to go unchallenged:

1. The Draft Withdrawal Agreement is a document written by one side, designed to protect the interests of only the EU side.

2. Throughout the text, references are made to UK obligations to follow European Union law.

3. The absence of provision of specific rights to the United Kingdom across various areas is glaring.

4. In certain areas, obligations are on both sides.

5. Article 161 makes the Agreement exclusive, to prevent the UK relying upon international law or anything external to the Agreement itself.

6. Article 162 provides for a resolution for the settlement of disputes, which will at first instance be resolved by the Joint Committee established in Article 157.

7. Decisions of the Joint Committee will be binding under Article 159(2).

8. Where any dispute is irreconcilable by the Joint Committee (and this is likely to occur frequently in practice, given that the Committee will be comprised of representatives of the EU and of the UK), the final arbiter of a dispute will be the European Union’s own courts under Article 163(1).

9. The UK will therefore be subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice, with no clear sunset clause.

10. The European Court of Justice will have the power under Article 163(2) to fine the United Kingdom.

11. Either the UK or the EU can suspend parts of the agreement under Article 163(3)(a). However, such a decision can be reversed by the European Court of Justice – meaning that, in practice, only the European Union would have the power to suspend parts of the agreement.

12. Worse still, this Agreement claims jurisdiction over any other Agreement between the European Union and the UK. Consequently, the Agreement permits the European Court of Justice to judicially review a decision for the United Kingdom to withdraw from any other Agreement which it might have with the European Union under Article 163(3)(b).

13. Article 165 provides for a one-sided ability for the European Union to suspend UK access to the Single Market during the transitional period.

14. Article 151 introduces an 8-year sunset clause for the European Court of Justice’s ability to rule on matters affecting the UK. However, that sunset clause appears to be limited in scope to Part II of the Agreement. The sunset clause does not apply to Part VI of the Agreement, and therefore to the situations referred to in Articles 161 through 165.

15. Consequently, the European Court of Justice could continue to overrule the United Kingdom in perpetuity.

16. The European Union will calculate (Article 133) the amounts of money it wants the UK to pay in the ‘divorce bill’. Likewise, in Articles 135(3), 136(2), 136(3),136(5), 136(6), 136(8), 137(4), 140 and 141(2), it is clear that the EU will make the calculations.

17. In some areas where the EU is liable to the UK (the EIF and the Coal and Steel Community in Articles 138 and 139) the Agreement does not make clear who is making the calculations.

18. In the case of the investment portion of the EDF (Article 145), the method of determining how much money the UK receives is said to be ‘the same as’ that of Article 137, which presumably means calculated by the EU.

19. The only recourse available to the UK if it disputes the EU’s calculations appears to be to the Committee on the financial provisions (Article 158(1)(a)) and/or the Joint Committee. Ultimately, the arbiter of this would be the European Court of Justice – the EU’s own court.

20. Article 122 appears, by omission, to seek to prevent the UK from negotiating trade deals with third countries during the transitional period: Article 122(1) states that all Union law shall be applicable during the transitional period, except for any variations later.

21. The doctrine of ‘sincere co-operation’, used by the European Union to justify a ban on the UK negotiating such deals, is not listed amongst the exceptions.

22. The Citizens’ Rights section of the draft Agreement (Title II Chapter 1) almost exclusively deals with legislation it wishes to still apply to the UK post-Brexit.

23. This method should be unacceptable to the UK; one party to an agreement should not be able to frame that agreement in terms of legislation.

24. The draft Agreement regularly places burdens upon the UK with no equivalent burden being placed upon the European Union, for example in data protection (Article 7) and information sharing (Articles 40 and 41).

25. Article 148 requires the UK to pay towards a facility for refugees in Turkey.

26. Article 152 requires the UK to set up a new monitoring authority to monitor the implementation of the Agreement.

27. Article 32 limits the rights of UK citizens living abroad to move between Member States, treating the European Union as a collection of Member States. Whilst this approach is in itself unobjectionable, it shows the European Union itself cherry-picking by creating an exclusion to their own principle of treating the European Union as a single entity.

Response to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech regarding the customs union

The big question about Jeremy Corbyn’s speech today was whether it will make it easier, or harder, for the UK to negotiate a good deal with the European Union. He’s just answered that question: it’ll be harder.

When people voted to leave the European Union, we voted to take back control over our finances, our laws, our courts, our borders and our right to sign trade deals with other nations.

For the last 45 years, Jeremy Corbyn has voted for eurosceptic principles. Today Jeremy Corbyn betrays Jeremy Corbyn, betrays Brexit, and betrays you.

Whatever weasel words they use, substituting ‘the’ for ‘a’, today is the day that Labour make clear they do not support the will of the British people. They do not support the referendum result, in which more people voted Leave than have ever voted for anything in British political history. They do not support their own General Election Manifesto, to which scores of Labour MPs owe their seats. They no longer stand by repeated statements of their own leadership and Shadow Cabinet, and they place themselves firmly against the spirit of the European Union (notification of withdrawal) Act 2017, for which so many of them voted and on which they had a three-line whip.

Perhaps it is time for honest, decent Labour MPs to consider whether they can continue to take the Labour whip when the Labour whip has so fundamentally changed.

Claims about North East economy slammed by MEP

An Independent North East politician has slammed false Remain claims that the North East economy will drop by 16% in the event of a hard Brexit, suggesting that they are not only misinterpreting Treasury data, but that the data has a proven track record of being flawed.

Jonathan Arnott, an independent member of the European Parliament for North East England, said:

“Actual recent empirical evidence suggests that we shouldn’t believe a word of it.  Let’s look at the facts from recent Treasury predictions.

“The Treasury projected that the UK would fall into recession and lose between 3% and 6% of GDP in the last 18 months. Real data shows the economy has grown in every single quarter. They projected the loss of between half a million and 800,000 jobs over the last 18 months. The reality is that jobs have been created.

“Now they’re projecting not over 18 months but over 15 years. If they’re so wildly wrong in 18 months, why does anyone suppose they’ll be right over 15 years? For pity’s sake, even Government Ministers are saying these figures should come with a health warning.

“The reason these figures are always out is that they consider the downside rather than the upside. Nobody ever factors in the benefits of Brexit; the ability to negotiate trade deals with third countries, the ability to get rid of unnecessary EU regulations, or run a more competitive economic policy.

“Here in the North East, the figures have the worst projections in the UK – and why? Because for a region that trades more than any other with non-EU countries, the failure to consider the benefits of Brexit will mean the figures are more wrong than anywhere else in the UK.

“Now there’s all kinds of misinformation and propaganda being spread about this: continuity Remainers are trying to make it sound like these figures predict the economy contracting. In fact, they predict it growing at a slower rate.

“The 16% prediction is a worst-case scenario, spread over 15 years, and is based upon about as much proven track record as using a crystal ball to predict this week’s lottery results,” said Mr Arnott.

Response to UKIP statement

I have read the UKIP statement requesting that I step down as an MEP after my resignation from the Party. In that statement UKIP claims that such a decision is a ‘matter of honour’ because, before I was elected in 2014, I agreed not to step down from the Party.

In employment law, there is a principle called ‘constructive dismissal’. An employer, basically, can’t make your work situation so horrible and intolerable that there’s no reasonable way you could stay in the job – and use this as an underhand tactic to sack you despite having no legal grounds to do so. When I agreed not to step down, everyone knew that this commitment was not binding and it contained an inherent presumption that the Party would still remain broadly the same organisation that it was when I was elected. The Party has fundamentally changed its people, tone, rhetoric, policies, and style to the extent that it is unrecognisable in 2018 from the one for which I stood for election in 2014. Nobody in their right mind could possibly consider this Party to be the same organisation as it was back then.

I am not alone in thinking this. Up to 70% of the members have left; councillors have been resigning across the country, and in many regions the Party lacks even the most basic Party infrastructure because regional officials have resigned. The state of devastation within the Party is hard to underestimate. I stayed within the Party far longer than I should have, precisely out of respect to those members who chose to stay.

For accuracy I should point out that I have had phone calls from three senior people in the Party (and also from a number of MEPs) who have told me the Party is obliged to request my resignation for form’s sake, but that they privately completely understand and respect my decision.

An environment in which it’s not possible to have a straightforward meeting without the contents being leaked to the press is not one in which it is practical to work. An environment where colleagues scream at each other across a room is not one in which it is practical to work. An environment in which NEC members spam each other with vitriolic emails several times a day is not one in which it is practical to work. An environment in which the aim is to attack your colleagues not your political opponents is not one in which it is practical to work.

When I resigned I made it quite clear that I have no intention of creating further unnecessary damage to the Party; therefore, so long as the Party does not dispute the accuracy of this statement, I will keep all corroborating evidence to myself. They know my words to be true; I know my words to be true, but I will not embarrass them by proving what we all know to be the case.

The reaction I’ve received to my resignation was unexpected. I have received dozens of messages of support from current and former UKIP members. There has been a co-ordinated attempt to get members to contact me and seek my resignation; despite this co-ordination, those messages are still outweighed by positive messages I’ve received by a margin of roughly 4 to 1 by those who supported UKIP when I was elected.

A flavour of the messages I’ve received in support can be found below. My advice to UKIP, for what it’s worth, would be not to have a go at me – that would be to fall into the same internal infighting trap that it’s been doing over the last couple of years – but to deal with their own underlying issues. It all shows just how insular UKIP has become. Basic ‘customer service’ principles should teach the Party that. Don’t tell your ‘customers’ that they’re wrong, and that they really want your product even when they don’t: instead, make sure that your product is something they actually want to buy. If UKIP retained any desire to become a professional, credible Party, then it would be addressing these concerns rather than attacking me.

 
If the Party truly cared about its future, should it not have been striving to get people like me, who have served this Party diligently for 17 years, back – rather than acting in a manner which appears designed to burn bridges rather than to mend fences?

[NB: Grammar left ‘as is’. Many more messages omitted including simple ‘well done/good luck’ type messages, most of those on Twitter, some duplication, messages from family, most of those received by email, etc.]

“I am afraid to say that UKIP has lost its way, the party once gave meaning and purpose to thousands of us who were dissatisfied with the status quo in politics. Thank you Jonathan for your loyalty to all us members, you will be missed.”

“Well done, wise choice. A single intellectual with a bucket is never going to save a sinking ship.”

“You didn’t abandoned UKIP, UKIP abandoned you. I know you didn’t make the decision lightly.”

“I can’t say I blame you. I’m not renewing my membership.”

“I’m sad to see you go,but understand clearly why. Good luck in all you do. You can not repair the party alone and neither should you feel the need to hold on when others clearly don’t help.”

“What you said was spot on. I can’t publicise my agreement, but you have my wholehearted support. Well done for saying it.”

“Sorry to hear this Jon but completely understand. It’s a shame that UKIP has not kicked on as it should have. It basically leaves people like me without a party.”

“Best wishes Jonathan you always do the right thing.”

“Principles before party. Excellent priority Jonathan. Well done for sticking with it so long!”

“It’s a shame as you’ve dedicated your life to this but your work was not in vain. It must have been very hard to take this decision.”

“I honestly cannot say I blame you. I’m struggling myself to remain a member. A shame really. It is the only political party I ever joined – as I never ever wanted to get involved in politics.”

“Thank you sir for all of the fine work that you have done. I am afraid that I too have ‘resigned’ from UKIP for very much the same reasons. Best of luck for the future!”

“So sorry to hear this. Another good man leaves. Good luck with whatever you choose to do in the future.”

“Your decision is a massive loss to all the decent people in UKIP Mr Arnott. It is sad that a once great movement has been eaten alive by the cancer within at the very top that has seen so many of the really decent senior people leave.”

“Hi Jonathan, just wanted to wish you the best of luck in your political future, whatever that involves. I totally understand how you feel.”

“Always had a lot of time for Jonathan and he has helped me with his guidance and vast experience and dedication to Ukip People look up to you and when a man of your high standing quits Well I think we are doomed”

“It’s nice to meet genuine people in politics. I too have given up on the Party because of all the embarrassing infighting.”

“Sent you a message in im [Instant Message] you are right the party has changed.”

“I totally understand Jonathon, I have been effectively kicked out by my old Chairman and will not be renewing my membership. It looks like a lot of good people are leaving and all I can say is will the last person in the party turn off the lights”

“You have always been a sane and reasoned voice in an increasingly bizarre organisation and you deserve better.”

“You have to follow your own beliefs. Denying this you become a traitor to yourself. Follow your heart and you will serve your followers truly. Please keep us all informed about what’s going on in Brussels. Best of luck.”

“Tough call for you to make I’m sure and I’m sure anyone who matters wll respect you for what you’ve done over the last 17 years and not the last few hours. Good luck and please shout if you ever feel I can help you in any way.”

“I am so sorry to see you go, you frankly deserved better”

“Sad news Jonathan… I do not wish to say too much (politically) but suffice to thank you for your dedication to UKIP in our region.”

“Sensible move. UKIP has lost the plot.”

“Very sad to see your statement and resignation, it’s a decision I believe many are making right now also. I hope you know I’ll continue to support anything you’re doing”

“You’re well out of it UKIP’s a dead duck”

“So sorry you’ve left. You’ve been a tremendous asset but the last 18 months have been, shall we say, difficult.”

“Its a pity all those who have resigned can’t get together a form a new party.I don’t blame you for resigning I resigned last September as I could see where UKIP was going and it wan’t a nice place. Good Luck to you”

“I understand mate  A lot have not renewed including me . Keep up the fight”

“UKIP left you long before you left them. You’ve done the right thing.”

“We continue to lose good people at ukip sorry to here this news Jonathan”

“Good sensible and honest comments and statement and one almost all UKIP members and supporters can heartily agree with and understand.”

“I agree, UKIP has had some good , honest people at the top but for one reason or another they have been forced to leave. I remember being so enthusiastic when I joined the Party. Nigel was the leader and I was happy to deliver leaflets and stand on street corners in the cold and rain to encourage people to vote for UKIP. I was ecstatic when Leave won the Referendum and thought that the Party was on its way up but then the rot set in!”

“All the best for the future whatever you decide respect your decision and you as a person”

“Sad to hear that Jonathan. It’s a pity the wrong people are leaving, seems the political party of the people has been dismantled from the inside!”

“Well said Jonathan. Congratulations on all that you and UKIP have achieved under Nigel Farage, which will leave its mark on the history of our nation going forward.”

“Most members know deep down that the Party’s refusal to adapt and evolve means the end for it is inevitable…you were one of UKIP’s wisest.”

“At last an honest man in politics. God bless you for your honesty and good luck to you in all you do.”