PMP Magazine launches today a new column on disinformation and fake news that will fact-check the claims made by those we entrust with our lives to remind them that power should be exercised in our interests, not theirs. In the driver’s seat, with his seatbelt on, our new Deputy Political Editor, Daniel Reast. No false balance of impartiality here, but fair and reasonable journalism. Welcome to the Sunday Roast.
It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the storm of rhetoric and politicking that is modern politics. When terms such as ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ are now firmly in the public dialogue, many spurious claims and beliefs can go unchallenged or ignored. The answer to this rationalist requiem is the necessity of news media to fact check and validate the words of our public figures.
This is a fancy and (somewhat) oververbose way of introducing my new weekly column in PMP Magazine, which will hope to quell myths about our weekly battle with wild words. I will be validating the claims made in speeches but also journalism, social media, and interviews. Against any claim will be a solid framework of data and expert opinion. However, I will also be looking into the ideological reasoning behind any claims, and accounting for the historical setting. It’s important to note that I will also present a direct opposition from any party or individual, with the issue of balance in mind. Take that BBC, I don’t need a license fee to be reasonable!
Our political climate is frustrating and critical in many ways. I hope that legitimate reasoning and debate can win over the tyranny of biased sources. Every week, the column will counter a claim by one single source — this week’s opening trial for Jacob Rees-Mogg and his recent Mail On Sunday article.
- Name: Jacob Rees-Mogg.
- Job: Member of Parliament for North East Somerset since 2010.
- Political Party: Conservatives.
- 2016 EU-Ref Side: Leave.
- Voting Record: House of Commons.
- Affiliation: Chairman of the European Research Group.
- Claim: Believes his ‘No Deal Plus’ plan is better than any other deal on the table.
- Source: Article for the Mail on Sunday, 11/11/2018.
The immediate background of Rees-Mogg’s article is the considerable instability in the Cabinet over the draft EU Withdrawal Agreement. Jo Johnson, transport minister and brother to staunch Brexiter Boris, resigned on Friday emotively declaring his support for a second referendum over a choice between “vassalage and chaos.” There is also whispers of resignations on the way as more ministers toil over the agreement. Overall, a house built on sand for Theresa May.
Rees-Mogg’s ‘offer’ to counter the draft agreement is a £20bn flat exit fee to contribute to the EU budget until late-2020. His assurance is that it would allow for time to prepare for departure whilst the UK continues to apply existing rules and commercial policies. It is notably only half of what the UK is currently prepared to pay, which according to the Institute for Government think-tank is estimated between £35-39bn.
The MP for North East Somerset calls his offer a ‘No Deal Plus’ due to its departure from the customs union and single market, and its intention for a trade deal on World Trade Organisation terms. His plan would maintain zero tariff trade on goods and no additional barriers until late-2020. He also attests for the deal being “generous” as it would guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
The question at the heart of Rees-Mogg’s offer is whether the EU would actually accept the deal at all. Headlining the offer is the £20bn exit fee to receive zero tariffs and EU laws for two years. Unfortunately for Jacob, this offer would not only be disingenuous after two years of fraught negotiations, it would also contravene the plan agreed in December last year which guaranteed a larger figure and other contributions.
Ignoring this would undoubtedly give cause for a European Court of Justice case against the UK for failing to uphold financial agreements. The BBC’s own fact check theorises that the EU would want their money back, and only paying half would certainly raise some tempers.
Rees-Mogg’s rather glaring condition to paying the £20bn is access to EU markets with zero tariffs until 2020, as well as adherence to laws and conventions. This sounds suspiciously near to a customs arrangement rather than a no deal.
This raises the exact same problems the Cabinet are currently racking themselves over. In order to have access to EU laws and zero tariffs, it requires an agreement which aligns to the customs union. It would raise issues of border control, freedom of movement, the Irish border, and all the lovely cocktail snacks that we’ve heard over the last year. Rees-Mogg explicitly dislikes a customs union opting for sovereignty over trade deals elsewhere. Daniel Keohane, a researcher at Centre for Security Studies in Zurich, commented on Twitter that the offer would not be passed by the EU.
This plan by Jacob Rees-Mogg is unrealistic and unjust to the EU. Denying a full payment after it has already been signed off would be challenged in the ECJ, and would signal to potential trade partners that the UK reneges on deals and ignores international agreements. The conditions of paying are also not workable. It’s impossible to align to EU customs law without a formal deal that aligns to a customs union. Rees-Mogg is either ignoring the rules or hasn’t been paying attention for the past year. Apologies Jacob, but this one’s a non-starter.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)