The cat is out of the bag. After rejecting the ‘Chequers Deal’ the extreme Brexiters pushed forward a vision of ‘Singapore on Thames’ – low taxation, light regulation, no immigration and few trade barriers. Where was growth to be found in such a place? Through mega free-trade deals with the USA, China and a host of others.
Times have changed; the USA deal is dead, China is a bad smell, the NZ deal is now seen to be a failure and immigration is higher now than before Brexit (albeit with non-EU immigrants). So much for Trussanomics. The alternative growth model? The Swiss pay a levy for access to its nearest market and have to accept regulatory compliance, free movement of labour and EU jurisdictional oversight.
So do we lurch to the second? The EU will have none of it – it doesn’t like the Swiss model and doesn’t trust the current government to adhere to any agreements. With the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol too, not much will happen until such time as the UK stops its shrill yelling every time the ERG senses its purist Brexit vision is being betrayed.
But times are changing. Sunak says that there will be no ‘Swiss style’ agreement. As does Starmer. But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a deal. That the government is softening its stance on the NI protocol and countenancing a different relationship with Europe speaks volumes. It is unlikely that this present government can or will seize the opportunity. That opens up the possibility for the next Labour government…
Little Bealings, Suffolk