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May should embrace WTO option now if EU stalls trade talks

Date: 19 10 2017

May should embrace WTO option now if EU stalls trade talks, say leading Brexiteers

  • Prime Minister urged to abandon EU negotiations if no progress on future relationship made at this week’s European Council
  • Senior figures from politics, business, economics, law, science and the military call for the Prime Minister to make a clean break from talks to dispel ‘highly damaging’ levels of uncertainty
  • Operating on WTO rules from 30th March 2019 would provide businesses with certainty and allow the UK to conduct its own trade policy and remove tariffs to benefit the poorest.

The Prime Minister has been urged to walk away from the negotiating table if the EU continues to refuse to discuss the UK’s future trade relationship at today’s (Thursday’s) European Summit.
In a letter to Theresa May, senior figures from politics, business, economics, law, science and the military call for “decisive action” to dispel the “highly damaging” levels of uncertainty facing businesses across the country.
The letter, organised by Leave Means Leave, sets out how the UK economy can benefit from a clean break from talks if the UK has enough time to prepare. It is signed by senior politicians including former cabinet ministers Lord Lawson, Peter Lilley, John Redwood MP and Owen Paterson MP and Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer, business leaders including Tim Martin, Robert Hiscox, John Mills, Richard Tice and John Longworth as well as prominent economists Professor Patrick Minford and Roger Bootle.
While noting that Theresa May’s speech in Florence was “warm and generous” and that the Government “has been more than patient” towards the EU, the letter argues that a clear line in should be drawn in the sand. In the event of no progress at the European Council, the UK should formally declare that it is assuming that we will be subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules from 30th March 2019.
An ultimatum is needed as the EU institutions currently “do not believe that the UK would be prepared to go to WTO rules”. The effect would be to give the EU an opportunity to reconsider the glacial pace of negotiations, break the current deadlock and allow the UK to prepare for exit in March 2019.
Early notification of the UK’s intention to operate on WTO rules from the end of March 2019 would mean that the UK could “concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues” and prepare to “crystallise the economic opportunities” of Brexit.
The letter points out that the “United States and India do not pay to sell to the EU but successfully trade from outside”, so Britain should be able to do the same.
The signatories argue that announcing the UK’s intention to move to WTO rules from the end of March 2019 would allow it “to negotiate free trade agreements across the globe”.
The UK’s freedom to set its own regulations, conduct its own trade policy and lower tariffs would significantly benefit consumers as “the price of imports such as food will fall”.
The major intervention comes as the European Council meets today and tomorrow to consider whether to progress Brexit negotiations onto the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU.
The full list of signatories are:
Rt Hon The Lord Lawson of Blaby, former Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rt Hon Peter Lilley, former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Rt Hon John Redwood MP, former Secretary of State for Wales
Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Kate Hoey MP
Graham Stringer MP
Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon plc
John Mills, Chairman of JML Ltd and Chair of Labour Leave
John Longworth, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave, entrepreneur and former Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce
Richard Tice, CEO of Quidnet Capital Partners LLP, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave
John Fifield, Chairman of Fifield Glyn Ltd
Lance Forman, Chairman of H. Forman & Son
Emma Pullen, Managing Director of The British Hovercraft Company Ltd
Simon Boyd, Managing Director of Reidsteel (John Reid & Sons Ltd)
Tilly Carefoot, Owner of Singleton’s Dairy Ltd
Johnnie and Arabella Arkwright, Owners of Hatton Adventure World
Hugh Osmond, Osmond Capital
Richard Patient, entrepreneur
Robert Hiscox
Christopher Nieper, Managing Director of David Nieper Ltd
Professor Patrick Minford, Chairman of Economists for Free Trade
Roger Bootle, Economists for Free Trade
Edgar Miller, Convener of Economists for Free Trade
Sir Richard Aikens
Major-General Julian Thompson, Veterans for Britain
Professor Gwythian Prins, Veterans for Britain
Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott, Veterans for Britain
Professor Angus Dalgleish, Scientists for Britain