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Yet we have now allowed ourselves to become bogged down in the fruitless quest for a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, wasting precious time and making concession after concession to try and achieve one. It is fruitless essentially because the EU is determined that we should not get anything that can be presented as a good deal, as that might, either now or in the future, encourage other member states to follow suit. That includes, in particular, the European Parliament, which, let us not forget, has a veto on the outcome.

The most important point made by Theresa May in her excellent Lancaster House speech about Brexit a year ago was that no deal on trade with the EU was better than a bad deal. Yet she appears to have lost her nerve, and — no doubt encouraged by the bureaucracy, who are horrified by the idea of Brexit — has allowed herself to be maneouvred into imagining that no trade deal would be a disaster.

This is manifest nonsense. It is also the cause of most of her current difficulties. It is only the will o’the wisp of a good trade deal that gives the Irish Republic its bargaining power.

The issue of the border with the UK is straightforward. There is already, of course, a border. Britain’s departure from the EU will necessarily add a complication. But with co-operation and goodwill on both sides, assisted by the full use of the latest technology, it can remain a relatively unobtrusive border. To suggest that this will imperil the peace process and lead to a recurrence of the Troubles is irresponsible scaremongering. Yet it appears that the British government is prepared to compromise its regulatory autonomy over this.

The provisional agreement that Mrs May secured in December is just about acceptable so far as it goes. But let us be quite clear. The UK’s regulatory autonomy, post-Brexit, must be unfettered. It is an essential attribute of national sovereignty, which is what Brexit is all about.

Some have already rightly pointed out that its surrender would prevent the conclusion of future trade deals between the UK and the faster-growing markets of the rest of the world. Even more important, it would negate our ability to reduce the burden of EU red tape on the masses of Britain’s small businesses, most of whom do little or no overseas trade.

So we find ourselves today quite unnecessarily as a supplicant, in a humiliating state of cringe, begging for what is both unnecessary and unattainable — a posture which would have been anathema to Margaret Thatcher.

The time has come to call an end to this demeaning process. We must get up off our knees. Enough is enough.

The government should instead devote its energies, as is long overdue, to making the necessary arrangements for leaving without a bilateral trade agreement and preparing the regulatory changes to take greatest advantage of our new-found freedom.

Let us honour the memory of Margaret Thatcher by recovering our national self-confidence and national pride, and securing a Brexit she would have been proud of.
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FRANK TAYLOR
February 7th, 2018
3:02 PM
Since Nigel Lawson quotes Adam Smith it may be pertinent to say that, to work properly, the Smithean Free Market model requires that all participants in a market be small in relation to one another. In a situation where, for example, 70% of retail trade in this country is dominated by four companies and 80% of vehicle manufacturing internationally by five, and 95% of internet services by two, the model breaks down. Instead, we have oligopoly. The number of major corporate scandals in the past 15 years demonstrates the enormity of such power and the manner in which it has become arrogant, corrupt and greedy beyond words. If the result of the free trade agenda has been (as in the USA) the wholesale off-shoring of our productive capacity, then something has been fundamentally wrong. Trade is fine, providing we trade at a profit. We don't, nor have done for decades.

amcdonald
February 5th, 2018
2:02 PM
The Tories have the worst `delusions of adequacy`. And express them. Just like Prince Charles. Every council house built is a vote for Labour so Thatcher gave tenants the right to buy and sell them to corrupt landlords who then triple the rent or resell at ten tines the price. And the Grenfell Towers tenants haven`t even been rehoused yet. The Chinese Communist Party are the best at` managing` capitalism so far, And #MeToo and #TimesUp have reached Islam. It`s popular culture and science that`s educating the world. The Labour Party is now part of popular culture.

Miklos Legrady
February 2nd, 2018
8:02 AM
it does sound like sovereign nation state are passé.

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