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Brexit countdown – legal update as leave approaches

Kiss tariffs goodbye

As the most recent Nobel prize winner did not quite sing at Desert Trip in California last weekend: “It’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard Brexit gonna fall.”

Indeed, writes Edward Fennell, there’s a good chance that the mercurial Curly Bob has paid little attention to the local difficulty in the EU. But the same cannot be said of Charles Proctor.

The partner at Fladgate, a City of London law firm, is not likely to trouble compilers of rock music and contemporary poetry anthologies, but he reckons he knows a thing or two about Brexit. “It now seems clear that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit,” Proctor said, and he is not just blowing in the wind.

“Whilst the prime minister has expressed her desire for ‘maximum freedom’ for mutual trade and business between the UK and the EU, she also noted that ‘…we will do what independent sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration…’ And that seems to make a hard Brexit inevitable.”

That being the case, Proctor has produced his own “radical proposal”. He said: “The UK must ready itself for the bold and unilateral measure of a global free trade declaration. The government could simply announce that, post-Brexit, it will abolish tariffs on all trade with other countries.”

Radical indeed. And Proctor acknowledged that there could be difficulties. “This obviously carries serious risks for revenues, the balance of payments and the competitiveness of the UK economy.

“However, it also has many advantages. The UK could announce this measure unilaterally, without the consent of the EU or anyone else; it would demonstrate the UK’s commitment to free trade and being open for business; it would strengthen this country’s hand in negotiating trade deals; and it would signify an outward-looking UK confident in its own future.”

If there is any suspicion that such an audacious proposal could only be hatched by a maverick Brexiteer, note that Proctor is an experienced banking and finance lawyer, who last year authored the 1,000-page Oxford University Press publication, The Law and Practice of International Banking.

Perhaps the Nobel committee will be interested after all.

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