Dominic’s Brexit: Would you have major surgery without Anaesthetic?

Imagine this scenario.  You visit your GP because you are feeling under the weather, he or she checks you over and says there is a simple solution.  It is take out one of your lungs and to do it without an anaesthetic.  Don’t worry.  It will be quick and easy.   The GP has recently read a report saying that the other lung will grow to replace the one they remove and it will help to cleanse and re-energise your general sense of being under par.

Well, that is how I feel right now about the deals being discussed about Brexit.

We have established that leaving the EU will mean pain.   It will mean seeing the demise of some industries in order for others to grow.  That’s the basic argument.  The choice between ‘No Deal’ or a ‘Soft Brexit’ all comes down to how quickly you want the pain to last.  A rapid exit will take 15 years to re-adjust and we start to grow again.  The slower, softer version might take 20 years or more and overall the ‘No Deal’ supporters are planning for a 50 year delay before we fully take advantage of leaving the EU.  Yes, I said 50 years. 

I don’t know about you, but 15 years of disruption, slower growth and who knows what for public services is not what I want. 

This week the picture became both clearer and more muddled.  Clearer about the reality of the cost of leaving in terms of our standards of living.  Clearer about what the two main political parties are saying about Brexit.  And clearer that the negotiations are more about politics than they are about making sure we make the right decision.  But muddled as to what the government is actually trying to achieve.  Not to mention just who is in charge. 

It is why we need a ‘People’s Vote’. 

When we voted in the referendum, the prognosis was that our removal from the EU would quick, painless and beneficial.  The reality is that while leaving might happen 1 minute after midnight at the end of next March, but the consequences will be slow, painful and with uncertain benefits.

If a doctor asked you to have major surgery, you would have to give your written permission once all the facts and risks of the procedure were explained.  It should be the same with Brexit.  Now we know the details, Parliament should seek our consent for the next step: leave on which terms or stay.

Dr Domonic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic is a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

Dominic’s Brexit: New UK divorce proposals could be applied to Brexit Process

New proposals for divorce law announced last week could be applied to the UK’s process of leaving the EU given the logic of the reforms and the acrimonious state of Brexit negotiations.

A consultation period was announced last Friday by Justice Secretary David Gaulke to gather people’s views on the laws covering divorce.  In launching the consultation, Mr Gaulke said:

“….. there’s been a growing coalition recognising that the animosity that is put into the system is not doing us any good…….

The fact that more and more voices have been saying it’s time to look at this again (suggests) … the time is certainly ripe to make this change.”

One feature of the reforms is especially attractive in resolving the problems we face as we try to negotiate our exit from the EU marriage.  This is the period of reflection set between deciding to divorce and the final moment when the marriage ends.  This pause allows couples time to reflect on the decision: in the words of the government (, to make sure that the decision to divorce continues to be a considered one, and that spouses have an opportunity to change course.

At last some common sense.   In a divorce, we do not expect the ‘will of the couple’ when they file for divorce to have to be delivered even if they change their mind.    They can look into the practical realities of what their divorce would mean and can decide to make a go of their relationship.  Many do. 

And that approach to divorce could be applied to the Brexit process.

Now we know more and more of the reality of what Brexit means, we need a chance to reflect on our decision.  Once the final deal is agreed and before we end our EU marriage, we need a People’s Vote to decide our future.



Dominic’s Brexit: What would Tigger say?

What would Tigger say?  Well, we heard what he would say when Jacob –  call me Brexit Tigger – Rees Mogg bounced and chortled before an audience of journalists this week to explain the benefits of a clean break Brexit. 

 The occasion was the launch of a report called ‘From Project Fear to Project Prosperity’ (you can find it here.) based on a paper written by his friendly economist chum Professor Patrick – the slasher – Minford.  Not a Winnie the Pooh character I know.  He is famous for telling Margaret Thatcher that the UK had no future in coal mining and steel making back in the 80s and we know where that ended but that is quite another story.  Wait till you hear what he thinks about farming and manufacturing  …..

 So what did we learn from Tigger?

 Well, the Brexit Tigger told us that if we leave the EU lock, stock and barrel it will be great because we can cut all tariffs on all goods straight away to make imports cheaper and to put more competitive pressure on business.  For example, the price of lamb, beef and chicken will fall dramatically as we will then import cheap food from the USA and elsewhere. 

 The issue the National Framers Union had picked up on in a report of their own is that most farms would struggle to survive under this scenario.   For example, the combined effects of less direct subsidies to landowners and lower protected prices for imports would mean a drop of over 50% in farm incomes.  Yes, 50%.  A Cardiff academic estimates some 25% would go bust and that employment will fall in the sector.   And even without these dramatic reductions in tariffs, a post Brexit will see the UK farming sector struggling to survive unless it can diversify.


But that is ok, as Slasher Minford tells us that the UK shouldn’t really see itself as an agricultural nation.  Much better to let them go to the wall and rely on imports for our food.  I am not joking.  That is what he thinks.  But isn’t farming the backbone of our nation?  Haven’t we tried to protect our farming heritage since the second word war exactly NOT to rely on imports?


Professor Minford also believes that our manufacturing industry is too inefficient and a dose of foreign competition would do it no harm.  In fact, previously he has gone as far as saying to a Parliamentary Committee that he thought that manufacturing (including automotive, aerospace, brewing and electronics) pharmaceutical) would quickly decline should we leave the EU.

 The next day Michael Gove gave some hints about the future of farming under his watch.  Don’t you think he has something of the Piglet about him?  Always a little anxious about something as if, maybe, he’s worried someone might whip out a knife and turn him into some nice chops and a few pounds of sausages. 

 According to Michael, he plans to end direct farm payments from 2021: a year earlier than the commitment made by Hammond to keep them going until 2022.  From 2021 payments to farms will not be to do with land ownership but with what farmers do to the land in terms of looking after what we call public goods: that includes clean air, clean water and providing ease of access for people to the countryside. 

 Whether it is Tigger or Piglet in charge, farms and farmers will be very different in the future.   Unless they can diversify and ‘add value’ to what they do like dairy farmers opening ice cream businesses, many will go bust.  The question is just how many holiday lets, campsites and ice cream outlets can the market really support.

 So that’s what Tigger would say.  And there is one more thing to say.  If you look at the Wikipage for Tigger you will discover that although he is always super optimistic, his antics often lead to chaos and trouble for himself and his friends.  He often undertakes tasks with gusto, only to later realize they were not as easy as he had originally imagined.  Ring a bell?

The mess that these characters are getting themselves and us into.  The damage they are knowingly about to wreak on our economy for the next 15 or more years with their plans.  We cannot let them decide what will happen. 

 That is why we need a People’s Vote on the final deal.  To take back our control of the process.

Dr Domonic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic will be a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

Dominic’s Brexit, Would you really buy this?

Why do we need a People’s Vote on Brexit?

 I was speaking to a friend who voted to leave the EU.  He told me he thought the mess we are in now reminds him of a time he was sold a secondhand car.  What was meant to be a ‘nice, low mileage reliable runner’ turned out to be a ‘shunt job’: the car turned out to be two halves of two different vehicles that had been written off and welded together.  And the clock on the car had been turned back to show a low mileage.   He wished he’d got a mechanic to look over the vehicle before parting with his cash.

 His point?  He thinks we need a People’s Vote now that we see the reality of the impact of various versions of Brexit compared with what was described in the referendum campaign.   He thinks our politicians cannot be relied upon to produce what is best for the country.

 The latest voice to warn of the consequences of our actions is Mervyn King, ex Governor of the Bank of England and someone in favour of Brexit.  He said this week that:

 “ …we are now being told that we have to accept a certain course of action (the Chequers Proposal) otherwise it would be catastrophic (No Deal) …..  it beggars belief that the sixth biggest economy in the world should get itself into that position.”.  

 It is time to bring in that mechanic to take a look at the Brexit car.  Is it a nice little runner or a shunt job? 

It is time for a People’s Vote.


Dr Domonic Swords


Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic will be a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.


The end of farming as we know it?

Thanks to Open Britain

Food, Agriculture & Fisheries


Key messages


  • The Government’s decision to leave the Customs Union and Single Market poses risks for consumers. The UK relies on the EU for 70% of its agricultural imports and the Government must guarantee there will be no tariffs on agricultural products or new regulatory burdens, especially given its aim to take the UK out of the customs’ union.


  • The Government should act to protect UK food security, ensuring UK-produced food is affordable, widely available and produced in a safe and sustainable way.


  • The Government must urgently set out its plans for replacing the Common Agricultural Policy, where EU subsidies make up 50-60% of farm income.  Farmers must not lose out.


  • The Government must clarify its plans for replacing the Common Fisheries Policy, which sends a quarter of a billion euros each year from the EU to UK fishermen. The fishing industry’s interests must be protected.


  • Brexit should force the Government to address Britain’s lack of food self-sufficiency with food prices now forecast to rise due to increased import costs.




  • UK Government position: The UK Government’s White paper on Exiting the European Union states that “leaving the EU offers the UK a significant opportunity to design new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming” and that it wants to ‘ensure a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment’. [2]


  • Brexit Implications: Brexit has serious implications for farming, with the common agriculture policy coming to an end. At the moment, EU subsidies account for 50 to 60 per cent of farm income. Brexit also brings Britain’s lack of food self-sufficiency in to focus, with food prices now forecast to rise due to increased import costs. Brexit might also have damaging repercussions for the fishing industry, which currently through the Common Fisheries Policy receives a quarter of a billion euros each year from the EU.


  • Leaving the Single Market and customs union would risk tariffs on UK export! Even EEA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) facing tariffs on agricultural products. Such tariffs could have a potentially devastating impact on farms, which operate under very tight margins. Leaving the customs union could also leave UK exports subject to rigorous customs checks, which would place an additional burden on food producers. The presidents of all four of the UK farming unions have called for “full, unfettered access to the Single Market”. EU external rates include almost 30% on sugar & confectionary, 20% on animal products, 12% on fish & fish products and 21% on beverages and tobacco.[3]  the UK’s Food & Drink Federation has noted that over 70% of food and drink imports are from the EU and has called for a tariff-free customs union with the EU where the Government must prioritise tariff-free market access via a comprehensive UK-EU trade deal before proceeding with the Article 50 exit negotiation process.[4] 


  • UK Farming Trade: The UK Government’s White paper on exiting the European Union acknowledges that the UK is a net importer of agri-foods goods and that the UK has a trade deficit of £17bn when it comes to agricultural trade, with over 70% of the UK’s agricultural imports coming from the EU27.[5] According to the National Farmers’ Union, the EU single market is farming’s biggest export destination by far, with 75% of UK agriculture exports being sold to the EU. In the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the NFU argue that the UK must ensure that famers’ access is not constrained by tariff or non-tariff barriers, such as burdensome inspections at UK borders. The NFU warn that any future bilateral free trade arrangements with 3rd countries need to take into consideration that many UK farm businesses would be unable to survive if current tariff barriers were removed or slashed. [6]


  • Farm payments: The Government has guaranteed current levels of funding to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020[7][8], however Andrea Leadsom, a prominent leave campaigner and the Environment Secretary stated in January 2017 that “As we prepare to leave the EU, I will be looking at scrapping the rules that hold us back”.[9] The NFU have called for current levels of public investment in farming to be maintained in the transition from the CAP to a domestic agricultural policy and that any transition should be gradual.[10] 


  • Fisheries concerns: Outside of the Common Fisheries Policy, the UK would be able to devise its own fisheries policy. However, when it comes to international agreements on shared waters with the EU, the UK would be in a position of weakness when it comes to negotiating Total Allowable Catches (TACs). The UK will also need to see how it would continue to trade fish and fisheries-based products with the EU, where even in the EEA, fisheries is not covered and non-EU member states have to pay tariffs. Tariffs of up to 25% could apply on some products. As concerns funding, the UK Government would have to decide whether it would want to replace the EU’s Maritime and Fisheries fund.[11] Some EU member states have been looking into continued access to UK territorial waters post-Brexit and have suggested that UK tariff-free access to EU waters would be contingent on such an arrangement. [12]   


[1]Unless otherwise stated, information taken from “Progressive Principles for Brexit negotiations” January 2017

[2]The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, February 2017, p.41











Report from Ruth George MP for High Peak on her consultation on Brexit with her constituents.

This letter was sent to all the people who registered for the event. Thank you Ruth for taking an interest. We hope given the results you feel able to campaign fully for remain in the Labour party.

Thank you to all the 300+ people who came to my meetings on Brexit last weekend and responded to my survey on which options you would prefer for our deal with the European Union.
If you haven’t yet completed the short survey, I’d be grateful if you could, and pass it on to friends in High Peak to have their say.  Whether you voted Remain or Leave, I’d like to hear from all sides:
Now the Government has been forced to give Parliament a ‘Meaningful vote’ on the deal, I’d like to hear views from as many constituents as possible before that vote, so I’m continuing the survey and will hold more open discussion meetings around High Peak in the weeks to come.
Our deal with the European Union will affect this country for generations, and at last weekend’s meetings, many concerns were raised about how our deal is shaping up and the local impact:

  • Ensuring access for local businesses to free trade with Europe within a Customs Union.
  • £40 billion ‘exit payment’ and impact of a predicted economic downturn on the least well off
  • Our ability to travel, study and work abroad – employers were worried they might not be able to recruit skilled staff from the EU, jeopardising local jobs if contracts can’t be fulfilled.
  • EU citizens leaving the UK, and high vacancies in the NHS.
  • Continuing subsidies for farming and the upland environment so land management is viable.
  • Protection of our food standards and environmental safeguards, consumer rights and rights at work.
  • Loss of the EU Social Fund that supports many local charities, businesses and organisations.

Although High Peak voted almost equally for Remain and Leave in the referendum, there were only two contributions from Leave supporters, despite requests at both meetings.
One speaker in Buxton felt trust would be lost if we did not leave the EU.  So I’m particularly keen for people who voted Leave to complete my survey to find out what they want from our deal.
This week I voted in Parliament for amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill to:

  • Preserve all our current rights and protections, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • Future-proof our environmental protections
  • Require an Economic Impact Assessment of the final deal before Parliament votes on it
  • Enable us to have a Transition Period to avoid chaos at our borders in March 2019
  • Limit the huge ‘Henry VIII’ powers which give individual government ministers the power to make laws on almost anything without consulting Parliament.

However, Conservative and DUP MPs opposed all these practical improvements to the Bill, so none of them were passed.  In consequence, I believe the Bill is not fit for purpose, so I voted against it.
The Bill has now passed to the House of Lords where it may be amended.  If the government disagree with any of the Lords’ amendments, then MPs will vote whether or not to approve them.
The debate and votes on Brexit will continue and I welcome hearing from all my constituents – whichever way you voted in the Referendum – on what you want from Brexit and how it will affect individuals, businesses and communities in High Peak.
Thank you for letting me know how you feel on this, and on all the other important issues facing our country.
With kind regards

Great legal summary.

Many thanks to Liam Moore for this.

An interesting and cautious summation of the legal inefficiency of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and its implications.

I always assume three things about the Tories:

1. They are only out for themselves and see the needs of the people of Britain as inconsequential.

2. They are not stupid but are happy to appear so in the achievement of their goals.

3. They have a long term plan to place themselves and their backers (permanently) in the position of greatest financial and political advantage.

Any action and statement they make must be examined in the light of the above…

“On whether and why the Article 50 Bill is flawed

On the day the Government published its Article 50 Bill I wrote this piece setting out what seemed to be a technical flaw in the Bill.

In the following sub-paragraphs, I set the argument in its broader context. But in reading that context it will be helpful if you bear in mind the structure of Article 50, paragraph 1 of which requires a decision to withdraw in accordance with our constitutional requirements; and paragraph 2 of which requires notification of that decision:

(1) what the Bill – now of course an Act – does do is authorise the Prime Minister to notify the EU that we intend to leave the EU;

(2) what it does not do is make a decision that we should leave the EU;

(3) you search for such a decision in vain. Even if you extend your search beyond the Act. Despite what David Davis asserted in debates in Parliament, the Supreme Court was very clear that the Referendum was not legally a decision to withdraw. In private correspondence, the Brexit Secretary has pointed to facets of the broader political context but he has not pointed to any decision;

(4) the reason the Referendum was not a decision to withdraw is because, in enacting it, Parliament chose to make it advisory;

(5) the Supreme Court judgments do not demonstrate a laser-like focus on whether they are addressing the Article 50.1 limb (the decision to withdraw) or the Article 50.2 limb (the notification of that decision). The (likely) reason for this is that the Claimants decided – and eventually the Government agreed – that for the purposes of the point before the Supreme Court the difference between the two was only formal;

(6) however, the structure of Article 50 is quite clear: it is only the decision that need be made in accordance with our constitutional requirements. There are no formalities governing the notice itself – it could be made via a tweet; and

(7) remember point (6) and the Supreme Court judgments are brought into some focus. In addressing, as they do, what our constitution requires they must (primarily) be concerned with the decision rather than its notification.

This sequence of reasoning has animated a number of campaigners. Might it have as a consequence that, legally speaking, the Article 50 clock has yet to start because we have yet to decide to leave. And that what was notified to Donald Tusk was a nothing? So that Parliament would have now to choose whether we want to leave the EU?

I’ve sat apart from those discussions for various reasons. One of them was that I hadn’t understood why the Government did things in this way? Why did it not enact a decision? Why no section 1(1) of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 saying: “The United Kingdom intends to withdraw from the European Union”?

It is inconceivable to me that this omission was accidental. The short Act is drafted with some care. By way of simple illustration I spent some time with a leading Constitutional Law QC examining whether it was effective to notify a decision to withdraw the United Kingdom from Euratom before concluding that, despite initial appearances, it was.

But here’s a speculation and one – I think – that has the ring of truth.

If you were determined to leave the EU you would not want the decision to do so to be sourced in an Act of Parliament. After all, a thing that is done by MPs can be undone by MPs. But source that decision in the Referendum, source it in ‘the will of the people’, and it cannot be undone otherwise than by the people whose future will you could then choose to mute. And the fact that, legally, in the Referendum the people had not decided to leave but simply to advise Parliament, well, that would be a nuance too far for Parliament. It would lack the will or the courage or the perspicacity to seek to amend the Bill to introduce a decision to leave.

It takes no great effort for me to imagine a conversation between David Davis and James Eadie QC (First Treasury Counsel and the Government’s key legal advisor). Davis says that for his own reasons he wants the Act not to make the decision to leave the EU. Eadie responds by observing that to do so would leave the Act with a technical flaw. Davis says that, surely, no judge would dare declare the withdrawal notification a nullity. Surely?

And what does Eadie respond? Well, someone will have to go to court to find out.”


Anywhere but Westminster: return to Brexit Britain


In the first of two new films, as the Conservative conference promises ‘the best Brexit for Britain’, John Harris and John Domokos talk to Tory true believers and pro-EU protesters, before heading out on the road to find the reality beyond the political noise. They meet hard-working Europeans worried about their future in the UK, businesses that fear the worst, and angry voters who still passionately believe that Brexit must happen

Former British Ambassador Craig Murray has this to say about May.


“All of which underlines a thought that has been pulling at me ever since the election started. May has continually tried to pitch this as a question of who you would wish to act as the negotiator of Brexit, either her or Jeremy Corbyn. But why would anybody believe that a woman who is not even capable to debate with her opponents would be a good negotiator?

In fact she would be an appalling negotiator. She becomes completely closed off when contradicted. She is incapable of thinking on her feet. She is undoubtedly the worst performer at Prime Minister’s Questions, either for government or opposition, since they were first broadcast. Why on earth would anybody think she would be a good negotiator? As soon as Michel Barnier made a point she was not expecting across the table, she would switch off and revert to cliché, and probably give off a great deal of hostility too.

The delusion she would negotiate well has been fed by the media employing all kinds of completely inappropriate metaphors for the Brexit negotiations. From metaphors of waging war to metaphors of playing poker, they all characterise the process as binary and aggressive.

In fact – and I speak as somebody who has undertaken very serious international negotiations, including of the UK maritime boundaries and as the Head of UK Delegation to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks – intenational negotiation is the opposite. It is a cooperative process and not a confrontational process. Almost all negotiations cover a range of points, and they work on the basis of you give a bit there, and I give a bit here. Each side has its bottom lines, subjects on which it cannot move at all or move but to a limited degree. Sometimes on a single subject two “bottom lines” can be in direct conflict. Across the whole range of thousands of subjects, you are trying to find a solution all can live with.

So empathy with your opposite number is a key requirement in a skilled negotiator, and everything I have ever seen about Theresa May marks her out as perhaps having less emotional intelligence than anybody I have ever observed. Bonhommie is also important. Genuine friendship can be a vital factor in reaching agreement, and it can happen in unexpected ways. But May has never been able to strike up friendships outside of a social circle limited to a very particular segment of English society, excluding the vast majority of the English, let alone Scots and heaven forfend continentals. The best negotiators have affability, or at least the ability to switch it on. It is a vital tool.

That is not to say occasionally you do not have to speak and stare hard to make plain that one of your bottom lines is real. But that is by no means the norm. And you need the intelligence and sharpness to carry it off, which May does not. That is one of the many differences between May and Thatcher.

Frankly, if I had the choice between sending in Jeremy Corbyn, with his politeness and reasonableness, or Theresa May, into a negotiation I would not hesitate for a second in choosing Corbyn. I am quite sure there is not another diplomat in the World who would make a different choice. May’s flakiness and intolerance of disagreement represent a disaster waiting to happen.”


What does Brexit mean for farmers in the Peak District?

Farming & Brexit

Britain’s decision to leave the EU poses challenges for many sectors of the economy, none so much  as the country’s farmers and our Peak District farmers will be amongst those most challenged.  Farmers are essential for looking after the special qualities of the National Park for the present and for the future. As well as employing 12% of the working population of the Peak District, farming is crucial in shaping and maintaining the landscapes we love.


Last year CAP payments to the UK totalled about £3bn, making up 55 per cent of farmers’ incomes across the country but here in the Peak District it’s up to 90% of farm related income for hill farmers.  Some believe the CAP has been hugely distortive because farmers are granted funds according to how much land they own.  This has two impacts. British farming businesses may have been unwilling to innovate, leaving agricultural productivity in the UK lagging and many of our richest land owners receive huge subsidies from the EU.  (69 per cent of the land is owned by 0.6 per cent of the population)


We may condemn the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) but our Peak District hill farmers rely on generous subsidies and grants.  Farming in the Peak District is not the easiest of occupations. This is a land of small hill farms, there are more than 1000 agricultural holdings within the National Park. Currently 82% of the Park is classified as farmland. The majority of land is severely disadvantaged being mainly grade 4 or 5 which indicates that it is the poorest agricultural land:  mostly permanent grass or rough grazing. Many farms are less than 100 acres, which struggle to support families, and in recent years have been encouraged to diversify to avoid self-destruction or bankruptcy. The whole area is reliant on EU agricultural subsidies and environmental payments to maintain economic viability.

Most developed countries, whether inside the EU or not, maintain public funding for farming communities.  The Treasury is planning to replace any shortfall in EU funding to farmers that might arise between now and the end of the decade. However, Mr Hammond is providing no more than a short term stopgap. Farmers  here and across the country remain highly uncertain about their prospects after 2020. Without subsidies, almost all hill-farming will cease. Some farms may be abandoned and it will just go wild, Rewilding  will be welcomed by some but here at Hope for Europe we don’t see it as a solution to protecting our environment in the Peak District.


Our hill farms get up to 90% of farm related income their income from EU subsidies and they are part of the sheep meat industry that exports 40 per cent of its produce to Europe.  If the government cuts subsidies or if farmers cannot export to Europe, can an alternative business model be developed or do they face ruin?