Behind the Headlines

30 ‘Brexit no-deal truths’ to destroy ‘apocalypse’ myths. Really?

Written on 01/08/2019


What’s the story?

Former Conservative Cabinet Minister, Lord Lilley, and leader of the so-called Labour Leave, Brendan Chiltern, have sent a list of thirty ‘Brexit no-deal truths’ to all MPs, accusing the Prime Minister of trying to “play up the supposed horrors” of leaving the European Union on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. Read more in The Express here.


How reliable is it?

Not at all reliable. The document simply asserts that things will be better, often relying upon discredited evidence, and is little more than a rehashing of an article published by Lord Lilley last year that has been heavily criticised.


What’s the background?

  • Conservative Lord Lilley and Labour councillor Brendan Chiltern have published, a document entitled ‘30 Truths about Leaving on WTO Terms’ on behalf of Global Britain and a group calling itself Labour Leave. Evidence
  • The first claim, is that the £39 billion agreed settlement figure could be avoided - ‘cashing-in’ rather than ‘crashing out’ - but as Chancellor Phillip Hammond has stated in a parliamentary committee, these are outstanding British commitments and the UK cannot avoid:legal obligation under international law to make payments of sums which were due to the European UnionEvidence
  • The report claims that falling back on WTO terms would be automatic, but this seriously oversimplifies the necessary re-allocation of Britain’s share of EU tariff and quota schedules and assumes an automatic rollover of current trade agreement, which is far from certain. Evidence (p5)
  • The report argues that trade outside the EU is increasing at a much faster rate than trade with EU countries, but growth from a low base is always higher in percentage terms (going up by 1 from 1 to 2 is a 100% increase, while going up by 2 from 10 to 12 is only a 20% increase). It also avoids mentioning that trade with non-EU countries has been boosted by the EU’s trade agreements with these countries, negotiated with the leverage of the whole EU that Britain alone will not be able to match. Evidence
  • The report compares those ‘whipping up fear’ about a no-deal Brexit to ‘scare stories’ about the millennium bug in 1999, which ignores the fact that for several years prior, IT professionals worked on re-coding systems to avoid a crisis. Evidence
  • Many of the claims in this report were made by Lilley last August and have been dismissed as ‘nonsense’ by Economics Professor L Alan Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. Evidence
  • On the same day as Lilley published this report, 212 MPs, including some Conservatives, have signed a letter urging the Prime Minister to rule out a no-deal because of the damage it will do to the UK economy. Evidence


Photo Courtesy Policy Exchange via Flickr


This Behind the Headlines Briefing was first published on the DoorstepEU app:  https://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/app/