The government has released a third “dodgy dossier” on the European referendum, this time examining what Britain’s relationship with the rest of the European Union might look like if the British people vote to leave the EU in June.
Responding to critics, the Foreign Secretary has challenged the Leave campaign to “spell out” a “credible picture” of what Britain’s new relationship would be.
The paper examines potential models for Britain’s new relationship with the EU based on four example countries: Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Turkey, as well as a scenario based only on World Trade Organisation membership.
It concludes that negotiations to secure trade deals with the EU member states would be a long, drawn out process causing years of uncertainty, and repeats anti-Brexit claims that once outside the EU we would have to abide by all the EUs regulations without having a place at the table when those regulations are decided.
But advocates of a Brexit have dismissed the dossier as “pure fiction”, displaying a lack of self-belief on the part of the government and remain campaigners.
“It’s increasingly clear that the real uncertainty is the future of the EU project,” commented Iain Duncan-Smith this morning.
“As each day passes we see yet another example – from the utter failure to cope with the migrant crisis to the increasing disaster of the euro,” he said. “That’s why we need to take back control and vote [to] leave. This dodgy dossier won’t fool anyone, and is proof that [the] remain [camp] are in denial about the risks of remaining in a crisis-ridden EU.”
But hitting back at the “dodgy dossier” label, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has come out fighting. He insists that the paper was written to “smoke out” the Leave campaign, forcing them to put “flesh on the bones” of their argument.
“The leave campaign is telling us Britain would be better off out of Europe,” he told the BBC’s Today Program this morning. “It is for them to spell out the kind of relationship that they believe we could agree with the EU, a credible picture of how Britain could work outside the EU. That is completely missing. They have offered us nothing, no proposals, no detail at all.”
— Bernard Jenkin (@bernardjenkin) March 2, 2016
And during a speech at Chatham House this afternoon, he added: “None of the options that are remotely likely to be deliverable, comes remotely close to matching the deal that we already have on the table. So why would we take the leap in the dark? Why would we risk the effect of years of uncertainty on the British economy? Why would we take that chance with our children’s future, risking our influence, our prosperity, and our security?”
He said that by voting to remain “we can have the best of both worlds in a reformed EU, rather than the worst of both outside. A powerful voice inside Europe, instead of a lonely voice outside.”
Pro-Brexit campaigners have reacted with bewilderment to his suggestion that they present no vision of life beyond the EU. To the contrary, they say that dystopian visions of a diminished Britain languishing outside the EU are indicative of a lack of confidence on the part of remain campaigners.
Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling, for example, told the BBC: “I think the problem with what the Government’s put forward this morning is that it lacks self-confidence for us as a nation. It’s saying we just have to copy Switzerland or we have to copy Norway or we have to copy Canada. Actually the deal we’ll do will be a deal that is a United Kingdom deal.
“And it will be all about giving access to European producers to our markets as well as ensuring we can carry on exporting to Europe. We buy far more from them than they buy from us.
He added: “It is of imperative importance for Germany, for France, for other European countries that if Britain leaves the European Union they have a free trade deal with us because their industries, their car industries in Germany, their agricultural industries in France, depend on our consumers.
“We’ve got four months to set out our case before we come to polling day but the core issue that lies behind the debate about free trade is that we are a crucial market for producers within the European Union.”
And the Leave.EU campaign’s Andy Wigmore said of the report’s claims: “It’s pure fiction. Like the last dodgy dossier the government put out, it’s full of lies and false assumptions that had disastrous consequences.”
Meanwhile, claims by anti-Brexit campaign Britain Stronger In Europe that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, economics advisor has warned that leaving the EU would damage the UK economy have been dismissed – by the author of the report himself.
The Independent yesterday ran an article claiming that a report by Gerald Lyons, which was praised by Mr Johnson, warned that a Brexit would wipe £210 billion off London’s economy. In fact, that figure comes from a section examining the best case scenario should the UK stay within a reformed EU.
The report goes on to show that if Britain chooses to leave an unreformed EU, London would be £120 billion better off.