A thorough analysis of Shanker Singham’s No-Deal Brexit piece in yesterday’s Sun. Or how to fact-check an article before ripping it to pieces. Sadly, people who need to won’t read this!

Dear Britain,

Late last night Shanker Singham, the so-called brains of Brexit, Director of the International Trade and Competition Unit (ICTU) at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), published an article in The Sun, which I understand to be one of your premier academic journals. Since he found time in between negotiator cosplay and Oklahoma FTA talks to write it, let’s have a read!

The Sun


Strong start. Apparently, the UK has nothing to worry about, provided it is ‘well prepared’ in some nebulous way.

The Sun

Spoiler: At no point in this article does he indicate what those preparations have to look like.

Some worries bro. Some worries.

The Sun

Good news everyone, in the first paragraph there is a link offering incontrovertible proof that No-Deal would be more bearable and beneficial than we, doom-whisperers mutter, from noted trade expert...

<checks notes>

... Sun Columnist and former political editor Trevor Kavanagh.

The Sun

Back to Shanker Singham’s piece.

“Treasury analyses assume we will not change anything.”

The Sun

The last Treasury analysis assumed rollover of every single EU free trade agreement and negotiation of 15 additional FTAs all more ambitious than NAFTA.

(note: the link in the article is about the Government advice warning UK citizens not to book holidays after March 29. Yay?!)

The Sun

So much to unpack here.

The first sentence is meaningless drivel which amounts to “we should talk to the EU about a trade deal” but with more of the kind of words trade nerds suddenly discovered impress attractive people at parties in 2018.

The Sun

It is certainly in the EU’s interest to secure market access into the UK, including on agriculture.

Good point Mr Singham, let’s hope you don’t undermine it like three paragraphs down when you declare the UK’s mitigation strategy for No-Deal will be eliminating agricultural tariffs.

The Sun

“If the EU doesn’t play ball, we won’t pay what we owe,” he says before suggesting the EU should fear screwing up THEIR relationships with the finance sector.


The Sun

Ah yes, if the UK just ‘shows strength’ by demonstrating it is prepared to screw over the Irish border with a No-Deal, the EU will be far more likely to drop the backstop they wanted to prevent that scenario.

Had Sun-Tzu had the opportunity to study at Mr Singham’s feet...

The Sun

So, the key to keeping pharmacy shelves stocked is:

A. Unilaterally recognizing EU regulations (taking back control!);

B. Unspecified ‘customs upgrading’ in the next 3 months (good luck!);

C. Pretending the problem is somehow tariff related (it is not!).

The Sun

This is great.

“Project fear says the supply chain could be disrupted.”

“The government looked at the issue and said yes, holy shit it could be, start stockpiling!”

“But HA! Even stockpiling won’t work!”

... and then Shanker Singham moves on to planes.

I am not reassured you guys.

The Sun

First, the primary issue isn't landing rights it's certifications for planes, pilots and parts.

The Sun

Second, upon leaving the EU with No-Deal the UK will no longer be a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), so literally everything else he says is predicated on a falsehood.

Update from the EASA
The Sun

For the record, I believe the issue of planes is probably fixable but not through blind optimism and not through the EU offering UK citizens visa-free short-term non-business entry... a completely unrelated question.

The opening statement on ports is more or less accurate.

The Sun

I am assuming Shanker Singham stopped there and didn’t proceed to spiral into nonsense but just in case let me scroll down and...

The Sun


The issue isn’t a lack of agreement between customs agencies. The issue is no longer being in the Single Market, and Calais-Dover becoming an export movement.

No one thought the French would DELIBERATELY slow Calais.

Manual customs-checks aren’t the issue.

The Sun

The 2015 French ferry strike cost the UK £250m a day.

The Telegraph

I am not super comforted by the fact the UK survived it.

The Sun

I will be skipping this section because Shanker Singham doesn’t say anything of substance here.

tl;dr: They might, but some of these could be addressed in side deals short of a fully fledged FTA.

This is true, though more of the No-Deal-But-Some-Deals thing, which some take issue with.

The Sun

So, the EU is on the ropes because they won’t want to face the tariffs the UK won’t be applying.

Well played!

Also, that first link goes to an article about grocers in the UK panicking because they don’t have space to stockpile food.

Sleep well, kids!

The Sun

Shanker Singham ends here by basically saying that if you lose your farm, following this unilateral liberalization, it is because you are a bad farmer.

For what it’s worth, I support agricultural liberalization too. I just try not to be such a massive toolbelt about it.

And that is it. Shanker Singham ends there.

If Britain revamps its custom system, lowers agricultural tariffs, while simultaneously keeping them high, does a bunch of side deals and invents teleportation, then a smooth No-Deal will provide all the leverage it needs to avoid No-Deal...🔷

(Note from the Editor: Shanker Singham’s article obviously received the blessing of the Lord of the Manor, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, on Twitter...)

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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s conscent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)

(Cover: Pixabay.)