Hunting for a way to out-Boris Boris

July 2
If there are going to be two Jeremys facing each other across the dispatch box in a few weeks’ time, Jeremy Hunt will need to convince Tory members that he will deliver Brexit more certainly than Boris. Competing with Boris with promises of tax cuts and spending commitments will not convince Tory members who know a little more about budgeting than the general electorate.
The members know that the EU will not re-negotiate whilst there is any chance that the new government will fall. The EU have seen off Theresa May who inherited a majority in the house of fifteen and a clean sheet. Mrs May’s tactics have cost the majority and wasted three years and the EU are smelling blood.
Whilst Jeremy Hunt’s strategy is to behave in a civilised way to the EU and attempt to resolve the backstop problem, he has absolutely no chance of winning against Boris.
His only chance is to set out in detail the kind of negotiating approach that EU negotiators will take seriously. The ones that they used so successfully against Theresa May.
Firstly he must state that he expects that the EU will only start negotiating again when they are convinced that the UK is prepared to leave without a deal. Is the EU prepared to let us leave without a deal?
A deal is so desirable to both sides that it is inconceivable that we will end up leaving without one. The problem here is that the EU has its own internal affairs to sort out and then, even at the best of times serious EU negotiations occur only as a deadline approaches and then sometimes when it has passed by a few hours.
In order for Jeremy Hunt to convince Tory members that he has the nerve to leave on WTO terms he has to spell out the consequences of doing so and how he will handle them.
There are a number of points to be made regarding trade, which he should make repeatedly:
Membership of the EU favours countries whose economies are based on trade in manufactured goods where there are no tariffs. It is not helpful to countries whose economies are based on service industries, which still have to negotiate EU and individual country restrictions.
Manufacturing economies like Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France have done well from their membership but for the UK’s service economy the EU has been unhelpful. Our trade gap in manufactured goods with the EU was an enormous £95 billion in 2017. Somewhere up to a million more EU manufacturing jobs than UK jobs depend on our trade with the EU.
If WTO tariffs had applied in 2017, the EU would have charged our exporters £5.2 billion, but the UK could have charged EU exporters £12.9 billion. The UK government could have given grants to our exporters, including the sheep farmer Jeremy mentioned in the first hustings that would have refunded their tariff charges twice over and still had over £2 billion to pay for the administration involved.
Liam Fox and others have stated that our exporters would have to pay EU tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They very conveniently do not mention the vastly greater tariffs that we could charge EU exporters.
A lot of the scare mongering by closet Remainers and EU officials assumes that the EU can impose tariffs and other restrictions to trade on the UK and that we will do absolutely nothing in return and continue importing EU made goods as at present.
Up to now, they would have been correct, but under a new UK government, they should be made to negotiate on equal terms instead of as a powerful club dealing with a supplicant.
As long as UK negotiators insist that The UK will impose the same tariffs and restrictions on goods as the EU does post Brexit, towards the end of October a lot of EU politicians will become increasingly concerned if there is no deal in place. They will be aware of the hundreds of thousands of workers across Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands etc. etc. who depend on the UK market for their employment.
A casual glance down any street in the UK will show that the majority of cars to be seen come from the EU manufacturers. There is already chronic overcapacity of car manufacturing facilities within the EU and together with the diesel fiasco, a no-deal Brexit will cause even greater distress.
Over 1.3 million jobs in Germany are linked to producing exports for the UK market. For every car exported from the UK to Germany, we import five and a half cars from them. Mrs Merkel will not want us to leave without a deal.
At the moment Jeremy Hunt’s main claim to Tory members is his willingness to debate with Boris, especially in a televised format.
Whilst this is a good point, it is not going to attract sufficient voters to swing the contest his way. If he seriously wants to win, he will have to follow the above strategy to get a Free Trade Agreement AND he will have to re-negotiate the leaving charge of £39 billion. £1,300 from every UK taxpayer is a ridiculous charge. The cost of outstanding EU pensions and other admin charges is less than £4 billion.
Paying over vast sums of money to build unwanted infrastructure projects and subsidise inefficient farmers across Europe is something he should publicly decry. If he also points out that Boris is willing to pay over the £39 billion, he will capture the attention of his target audience.
Another £35 billion available for the various underfunded providers of services in the UK will go a long way to fight crime, poverty, health problems, the cost of care etc. It would make a good speech and answer Phillip Hammond’s point about spending promises.
Jeremy Hunt must recognise that he is only in the competition because a number of Boris supporters wanted to stop Michael Gove and voted for him to keep Gove to third place.
The reason the Boris supporters did not want Gove was because his policies were more likely to interest Tory members. The obvious thing is therefore to have a good look at Gove’s policies.
Jeremy’s taxation proposals are better than Boris’s who surely regrets the proposal to increase the higher rate threshold by so much. Jeremy also needs to recite more details of his plans for the Irish border.
With the Withdrawal Agreement’s backstop removed from all consideration, new proposals for the border are required. A statement to the effect that the EU have cynically used the Good Friday Agreement to justify the backstop, with detailed proposals to provide the available, no infrastructure, technical solution will give confidence.
My understanding of all of the technicalities of Brexit may not be complete but it is at least as comprehensive as the majority of Tory members. They will vote for Boris unless Jeremy Hunt can convince them that he will out-Boris Boris.
Chris King


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