Rt Hon. the Lord Lilley, PC
Parliamentarian and former Cabinet Member
Rt Hon. Sammy Wilson MP
Brexit Spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party
Daniel Kawczynski MP
Member of the European Research Group
The three speakers were all good value : all promised to vote against May’s “deal”, all slated the “deal” , all debunked Project Fear. Yet something was missing. A t the end of the meeting I felt that enthusiastic, sincere and well informed about the detail as they were none of the three had a coherent end game. They all seemed to be acting on the assumption that winning a vote to get rid of May’s “deal” was the end game. In short it was all a bit ritualistic, not exactly virtue signalling but first cousin to it with the three MPs pushing all the cheer making buttons whilst dodging the really testing questions.
What was missing was a plausible plan for removing May from Number 10 if she refused to go voluntarily after losing the vote on her deal”, stopping May if her “deal” did, unlikely as it now seems,win the approval of the Commons or what to do if the vote on May’s “deal“ was lost and May reigned or lost a vote of confidence.
Nonetheless there were points of interest about the general situation.
Lilley was as usual first class as a speaker. He concentrated on trade questions rather than the political upheaval in the UK.
He favours a Canada plus deal and wants any money the UK pays to Brussels to be deponent on a full blow trade deal between the UK and the EU being concluded.
Surprisingly Lilley claimed that behind the scenes both the Uk and the EU had made much more progress on trade deals and regulatory harmonisation than might be apparent from the public idea of what was happening to prepare for the UK’s departure.
Lilley also poured cold water on the idea that lorries would be parked up waiting interminably to be checked manually – Lilley gave a figure of only 1% goods coming to the UK from outside the EU requiring physical checks. He could not see why any more would be required for goods from the EU after Brexit. Lilley also claimed that the French in particular were taking steps to ensure that the flow of goods across the Channel would not be impeded unduly.
As for tariffs being imposed after the UK left, ideally Lilley would abolish tariffs on goods the UK does not produce. But if this was not possible, he would be happy to trade on WTO terms because the tarries on UK goods going on the EU would be £5-6 billion pa while the tariffs on UK goods going to the EU would be £13 billion pa. Lilley also pointed out that world trade outside the EU was growing three times as fast as trade within the EU.
Finally, Lilley is not troubled by the idea of leaving to trade on WTO terms and he described the WTO as “a safe haven “ The scare stories he dismissed and predicted that they would turn out to be another Millennium bug.
Sammy Wilson MP
Wilson challenged the idea of what constituted a hard border by pointing out that this could mean no more than checks on goods and some additional administration , things which occurred now because of Northern Ireland and the RoI having different currencies and different rates of VAT .
Importantly, he made no attempt to address the question of illegal human traffic between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. In fact, this is a subject rarely addressed by any politician of whatever stamp . Nor does May’s withdrawal draft treaty . May’s claim that her “deal” allows UK borders to be controlled is a simple nonsense because if there is no check on those moving from the RoI into Northern Ireland by definition there can be no control of immigration because people can simply arrive in the RoI, move into Northern Ireland and then cross to the British mainland without let or hindrance.
As for the supposed problems with physical checking of goods, Wilson said that such checks did not have to made at the border but could be done through checks made away from the border, for example Trading Standards officers checking goods after they had been delivered to the business which was the purchaser.
Wilson is convinced that the Irish border issue only existed because the EU wished to make things awkward for the UK.
Answering questions at the end of the meeting Wilson stated without qualification that he would not attempt to either overthrown May as PM or influence the choice of any successor PM. His reason for this was that he felt it would be wrong for a party with ten seats (the DUP) to interfere in the choice of leader of a major party. That was probably the most important thing said during the meeting.
Daniel Kawczynski MP
Kawczynski was born in Poland and came here as a child when his family fled Communism. He concentrated on the continental EU countries and what Brexit meant for them.
He compared the coming vote on May’s “deal” as being on a par for importance with the 1940 Norway debate which ended Neville Chamberlains’ premiership
As for Euroscepticism in the rest of the EU, he said there was a good deal of it especially in countries such as Poland and Hungary . But these countries were hamstrung because they had got rid of their currencies and were now trapped in the Euro. Hence, their chances of a Brexit were much less than they would have been had they kept their own currency.
Because of the worries about following the UK’s example, Kawczynski said that it was very important that the UK did achieve Brexit because if it did not then the EU would become stronger and Eurosceptic parties elsewhere in the EU would become disheartened by seeing how one of the major EU countries had been treated.
Kawczynski is concerned about the proposed EU army weakening NATO; sees the £39 billion promised by May to the EU as s simple bride and views Russia as a serious threat.