GOOD sense and good cheer from Australia’s high commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, who has spoken about the benefits of Britain leaving the customs union after Brexit. He said that Australia had itself experienced the “huge advantages of unilateral trade liberalisation”.
He also discussed how Australia wanted to “build back” its trade with the UK and warned Britain that: “If you remain in the customs union you would have no control over an independent trade policy. In fact, you would have no control over trade policy at all.”
The issue of the customs union is a defining one. Staying in guarantees tariff-free trade with EU countries but leaving it guarantees our freedom to reach new trade agreements with the rest of the world.
But the truth is that unless Brussels is determined to be eternally obstructive there is no reason why Britain and the EU can’t reach a mutually beneficial agreement on their trading terms. This would be advantageous not just to the two main parties but also to the global economy – another of High Commissioner Downer’s sensible and positive points.
For months now it has often seemed as though there is only Britain and the stonewalling EU in this endless discussion about how Brexit will proceed. It is refreshing to hear from a significant and knowledgeable figure from beyond this over-heated arena who can cast a new perspective on Brexit. His remarks also serve to remind us that for most of the world the EU is not the main event.
The Prime Minister stands firm on migrant rights
Quite rightly, Theresa May has overruled the Home Office, making it plain that EU migrants will not get the automatic right to remain permanently in Britain if they arrive here during the Brexit transition period between March 2019 and December 2020.
She was also right to ignore the Civil Service moans that the new system for processing the arrivals would not be ready in time.
As Jacob Rees-Mogg noted: “If this were true, it would be a sad admission of incompetence at the Home Office and it would be hard to believe that someone as efficient as Amber Rudd would accept such a sorry state of affairs.”
Or as the management speak gurus say, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”