Brexit Weekly: 5 Things

Deal or No Deal?
Much of the news on Brexit this week has centred around the increasing likelihood of a ‘No Deal’ scenario, with new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, stating that the UK is ‘heading for no deal by accident’ and  arch-remain-supporting Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, describing the possibility of ‘No Deal’ as ‘uncomfortably high’ and ‘highly undesirable’.

In light of these reports, a number of pharmaceutical companies have taken measures to stockpile medicines with The Guardian publishing a number of pieces around what members of the public should store in preparation for a ‘No Deal’ outcome.

However, The Express highlights research from eminent former Harvard economist and entrepreneur, Michael Burrage, which reveals that ‘No Deal’ (which, in fact, means reverting to the same set of World Trade Organisation rules as currently Govern the UK’s relationship with most non-EU countries) could in fact present an opportunity for the UK to ‘strongly outperform’ its rivals, as The Treasury would collect £80 billion a year, we would not then have to pay a £39 billion ‘Divorce Bill’ to the EU, nor be bound by any of the EU’s restrictive trade rules.

Burrage points out that exports by the UK to the 111 countries outside of the EU and on WTO terms has risen steadily in recent years more than three times greater than growth exports to the EU in the same period, and 1% higher than the 62 countries which have trade agreements with the EU.

May Meets Macron
Prime Minister, Theresa May, is set to cut her walking holiday short this week to visit French President, Emmanuel Macron, at his summer residence off the French Rivera in an attempt to gain his support for her Brexit plans.  However, the UK’s former French Ambassador, Lord Ricketts, told the BBC that Macron would be ‘the last person’ to break ranks with his EU counterparts as he is a ‘passionate pro-European’.  This could be Mrs. May’s second setback this week after a poll of Conservative Party members for Conservative Home showed that, following his resignation over Chequers, almost 30% of Conservative Members now want to see Boris Johnson as the next Conservative Party Leader.  Even worse for May was the Cabinet satisfaction polls amongst party members which showed an ‘unprecedented’ result – with every single member of her Cabinet dropping in approval ratings post-Chequers and May, herself, bottom of the pile with a -48% approval – her lowest rating ever!  Interestingly, May’s Chancellor, Philip Hammond, polls second-worst at -42%.  Happier news for some Cabinet Ministers, though, as the top five were: Sajid Javid on 67%, Penny Mordaunt on 51%, Esther McVey on 41%, Michael Gove on 39% and new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock on 33%.

Barnier Briefs European Press on Brexit
The EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, has set out his stall for the block’s negotiating aims in an op-ed for several European newspapers.  Barnier says: ‘we respect [the UK’s] sovereign decision’ and describes the UK as an ‘important partner’ post-Brexit, stating that ‘80% of the Withdrawal Agreement is agreed’.  He does not, however, seem to support Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, ‘Chequer’s Plan’, as he believes the proposals ‘would undermine our Single Market’, which he refers to as one of the EU’s ‘biggest achievements’.  He has shown some signs of compromise, though, on the Northern Irish border and on financial services.

Wollaston Wobbles
Chair of the Health & Social Care Select Committee, Dr. Sarah Wollaston, has faced criticism this week after becoming the fourth Conservative MP to formally back the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal.  She follows in the footsteps of fellow ‘Remoaners’, Philip Lee and Anna Soubry, both of whom have been critical of the Government’s approach to Brexit.  Some have commented that her behaviour seems rather strange, given that unlike more quixotic colleagues, Lee and Soubry, Wollaston initially backed the Leave campaign in the Referendum – before switching sides to the Remain camp at the last minute.

Interest Rate Rise
The Bank of England has raised the rates of interest for only the second time in a decade.  Business groups have questioned the timing of the decision, citing that it should have been kept static to provide stability during the uncertainty around the UK’s Brexit deal.  The Bank responded that rises will be ‘limited and gradual’, but many critics commented they had jumped the gun, with the Institute of Directors stating the rise ‘threatens to dampen consumer and business confidence at an already fragile time’.