Monthly Archives: March 2019


No-Deal is not a destination: it is a failure to reach a destination. And it would be perceived rightly – by our international partners and investors – as a signal failure of sense, statesmanship, and strategy. We would drop overnight into the margins of the world’s trading system. We would have left all the fundamental questions, about our future, unresolved and uncertain. And our reputation, prosperity and influence would be damaged for no benefit. A sensible Brexit deal, by contrast, would not only avoid the mess of no-deal. It would provide a constructive and predictable environment for our businesses, for government, and international trade – from which Britain can grow its influence and standing in the world.

No-deal is not a destination – it is a holding place for negotiating future deals with Europe, or the US, or Japan, over some years, which would then need to be approved by parliament.

There is no transition under no-deal. We literally crash out on April 12th with nothing in place – with the Irish border issues, our payments to the EU, and citizens’ rights unresolved – and our entire web of relationships with the EU severed. All these things instead of being resolved are left suspended and unknown.

No-deal knocks us out of 70 existing trade deals overnight. All our current relationships with the EU and the 70 nations with which the EU has free trade agreements (including Japan and Canada) would cease to be operable overnight and we would be forced to revert to the basic ‘schedules’ of the WTO defining tariffs and quotas.

WTO: These are by definition the highest tariff possible in every country on every good. Free trade agreements, such as the EU Customs Union exist precisely in order to secure more favourable terms than the WTO. (For example, cars and milk which are zero-tariff in our current EU arrangements would be under the WTO schedule 10 per cent for cars and more than 35 per cent for dairy products). Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested that we could somehow rely on one of the WTO articles –  GATT 24, to give us tariff free access to Europe for ten years. Trade experts are unanimous that this is nonsense – inapplicable, unacceptable to the EU, and unenforceable.

And no-deal would still leave us with the same divisions in public and parliament – making it very difficult to get out of no-deal/WTO and make any future trade deal.

USA: The key US demand will be to accept their agricultural products and standards.  Would we want our farmers stuck between cheaper goods coming in from the US, and the tariffs of over 40 per cent that Europe would be forced to put up to protect their own farmers?

India: Would we accept India’s demand in the last India-EU trade round that a trade deal is conditional on granting hundreds of thousands of visas to Indian citizens every year?

Europe: Negotiations with Europe – our largest trading partner – are likely to be even more difficult than they have been for the last two and a half years because they will be resentful about our messy and economically damaging departure and negotiating bitterly about the £39bn bill.

External tariffs: Should we prioritise our motor industry (which employs 850,000 people and is entirely dependent on frictionless trade with Europe), or accept a negative impact on the car industry into order to secure free external tariffs? How would we protect against cheap and inferior goods being ‘dumped’ on the UK markets?

Our inability to answer those questions now suggests that no-deal may last far longer and be far messier than we like to think.

And we will be negotiating from a weaker economic position than now.

Every economist (the Bank of England, the OECD, the LSE, the Treasury etc etc) is confident the impact would be negative but they cannot put a precise number on this, because so much would depend on market and government reaction. If investors and consumers are confident that we know what we are doing, and have a clear vision for exactly what deals will follow no-deal, they could make a difficult situation better; whereas if they withhold investment and spending, while they wait and see, they could make a difficult situation much worse. Governments can also make this better and worse. But we do know that in a no-deal Brexit:

Key sectors will suffer significantly from tariffs – including the automobile industry and agricultural exports which have grown, protected by high tariff barriers from non-European competition while exporting tariff-free to Europe. Under no-deal proposals we would pay €95 a tonne to export wheat to Europe, but charge zero-tariff on wheat imports; and 46 per cent tariffs would cripple our current sheep exports (4.5 million sheep a year). Similar problems for chicken, beef and pork would render many UK farming businesses unviable. No-deal also creates severe problems for international lawyers, accountants, architects, doctors and nurses. Passporting would end for the City – forcing them to establish EU branches to trade in the EU.

Delays at the European borders are inevitable – not least because companies and customs officers will be new to the paperwork, (Rod McKenzie, head of public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, said: “In no way are we ready for a no-deal Brexit.”) Friction at the border will seriously undermine automobile just-in-time supply chains (some of their automobile parts cross the channel multiple times in the course of making a car), and of course disrupt supplies of fresh food from Europe.


For these and many other issues, the situation would be ‘by clear orders of magnitude materially worse for Britain’s economic outlook’ than the Bank of England’s current forecasts. We should expect:

  • a sharp fall in output (particularly in the manufactured goods sector),
  • a sharp fall in employment
  • a sharp fall in exports
  • a sharp increase in prices (particularly in food)
  • a fall in the value of sterling
  • All of this is likely to contribute to a fall in the value of the pound, uncertainties over interest rates, a drop in household incomes, a reduction in government revenue and a rapid increase in deficit and debt. Estimates put the economic impact somewhere in the region of the impact of the 2008 financial crash. The consequences for the economies of Northern Ireland will be much worse. (In Ireland, the no-deal scenario would see us erect no tariffs against the EU, while the EU erect its tariffs against us – meaning that UK businesses could pay the standard EU tariff of over 40 per cent exporting cheese or lamb to the Republic, and they would pay nothing exporting to the UK).

    Security and Ireland

    The hard border which would follow in Ireland would be a fundamental challenge to the principle of the Good Friday Agreement, which based the agreement on the absence of a border. Politically, a no-deal will increase demands for Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom. And for Scotland to leave as well. No-deal Brexit would force us to revert to slow and cumbersome systems of extradition and information exchange, hindering our ability to fight crime. We would struggle to  transfer and exchange data with EU members for a significant period of time.


    No-deal is not the answer to anything – it is simply another way of kicking the can down the road but into a much more fragile economic situation. We would face more years of debts and austerity, undermine Britain’s reputation for competence and reliability, and take us no further forward in defining any future relationships with the EU or anyone else. It is eminently avoidable through getting a Withdrawal Agreement and a clear future relationship agreed.


    Rory appeared on BBC News today to discuss Brexit and tomorrow’s votes with Vicki Young. Watch it here:

    Channel 4 News with Jon Snow:

    5 Live with Emma Barnett:

    And the BBC’s ‘Beyond 100 Days’:

    And Newsnight with George Freeman MP and Stella Creasy MP:


    Rory, in his capacity as Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate yesterday on knife crime and the Government’s response. Watch it here:


    Rory appeared on Politics Live to discuss the current state of the Brexit and the political situation. Watch it here:


    On the Jeremy Vine Show:

    The World At One with Mark Mardell:

    And on Sky News last night:



    Rory Stewart MP with Climate Strikers

    Rory visited Ullswater Community College to meet with students taking part in the latest ‘Climate Strike’.

    These strikes were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish schoolchild who spent twenty days protesting outside the Swedish Parliament, calling for action on climate change. Inspired by her example, schoolchildren across the world have gone on strike in sympathy and in unison, in protest against the causes of Climate Change and the perceived inadequacy of the Government’s response. The last such action took place on 15 February and saw over 10,000 school children refusing to attend class, instead making signs and marching on government buildings.

    On this occasion, instead of leaving the school to protest, the students of Ullswater Community College assembled in the playground to raise awareness of increasing global temperatures and to call for change. Ella Purdy, one of the event’s organisers, invited Mr Stewart to meet with the students to discuss their concerns, and he was delighted to accept.

    They engaged in a productive discussion, in which the students voiced their views and Mr Stewart explained the Government’s policy programme which has clear targets for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. They also discussed his voting record, and why the Government has favoured certain measures over others. At the end, the students thanked Mr Stewart for speaking to them.

    Rory said, “Climate change is one of the great challenges of our age, and it was wonderful to see so many students engaging thoughtfully with the issue. I was very impressed by their knowledge and their passion – both of which are a real tribute to them and their teachers. We agreed on the need to combat climate change, and it was interesting to hear their views on what the Government has done and what it should do. I look forward to visiting them again to continue our discussion in due course”.


    Rory appeared on BBC News last night, in advance of the Brexit vote, to discuss the situation with Vicki Young. Watch it here:

    He then spoke on The World Tonight:

    He appeared today on Politics Live, hosted by Jo Coburn, and alongside Laura Hughes, Henry Newman, Anneliese Dodds and Laura Kuenssberg:

    And the World At One with Jon Trickett, the Shadow Lord President of the Council:

    He also spoke at a ‘Beer and Brexit’ event, hosted by UK In A Changing Europe, with Anand Menon:

    And Channel 4 News on 20 March:


    Article first published on the Royal Society of Literature’s Website on 19 March 2019.

    Arabian Sands

    Wilfred Thesiger

    While the world struggled with decolonialism, genocide, revolution and modernity, Wilfred Thesiger walked the world’s largest sand desert – 250,000 square miles – stretching across modern Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman. The landscape is largely barren, there are no monuments to admire, the days are repetitive and, yet, Thesiger turns this confusing and potentially alienating journey into a compelling and unified narrative. His physical endurance makes Arabian Sands a unique and final witness of a particular aspect of Arabic nomadic life.

    The Natural History of Aleppo

    Alexander and Patrick Russell

    This combined work, by the Russell brothers who, between them, spent 31 months in 18th century Aleppo, remains the most comprehensive and compelling account of the city written in any foreign language. Their intellectual ambition is overwhelming – they examine everything – from agricultural techniques to clothing, horse furniture and every step of the massage in the hamam. They acquired their knowledge not in disguise but through long medical practice and, as a result, they describe places and customs rarely witnessed by foreigners.

    The Ruin of Britain


    Gildas’ rhetoric – deeply marked by classical and biblical references, analogies with the apocalypse, and a sense of being isolated at the edge of the known world – is evocative of a society conscious of its own decline. The author – a sixth century monk – experienced Britain as a crushed, impoverished ex-colony – abandoned by the Romans – and a society with no records or sense of its own past.

    The Barburnama: Memoirs of Babur


    The author – the founder of the Mughal Empire – tells the story of his journey through Afghanistan on foot with impressive modesty and – though what he did was very dangerous – he doesn’t draw attention to this. Instead he focuses on the people he meets and uses the portraits of these individuals to describe their society as a whole.


    Rory Stewart MP Presenting The Petition

    Almost four thousand people have signed a petition to save Penrith Post Office, which Rory gave to a representative from the Post Office’s management on Friday.

    The petition, started by Mr Stewart and supported by a cross-party coalition of councillors, received a total of 3,682 signatures, which is equivalent to around 25% of Penrith’s population. The names were collected on physical copies of the petition which were circulated around the town, in addition to an online version which received around 1,500 signatures. The petition was handed to Richard Hall, External Affairs Manager, at a meeting on Friday, at which Mr Stewart again made clear the reasons why he and the town oppose the proposed relocation.

    The Post Office announced its intention to relocate its Penrith operation from the current standalone site on Crown Square to the WH Smith on Angel Square in January. At the same time, a consultation was launched, to gauge the community’s views on the plans, with many raising concerns about the size and suitability of the space selected.

    Rory said, “I would like to thank everybody who signed and supported this petition, which I am hopeful will make the Post Office’s management think again. The wonderful response which the petition received makes clear that the strength and breadth of opposition to this relocation and the community’s satisfaction with the current arrangement. Mr Hall listened to the concerns that we expressed on Friday – particularly about space and access in the new site – and I will continue to make this case in further meetings”.



    Rory is delighted to launch The Reiver Ride – a journey through The Forgotten Lands to celebrate the rich Border Reiving history of the area.

    The Reiver Ride on Saturday, September 7th, is the first of what will become an annual event, with different routes every year. Riders are invited to choose between two routes – 18 and 12.5 miles – both of which take riders on a journey past former bastle houses, pele towers and through the stunning countryside of this forgotten part of Cumbria.

    The routes have been devised by Mr Stewart and local equestrian business owners Chris Parsons and Pam Copeland with help from local farmers and the Bewcastle Hunt. There will be pit stops for food at six miles at Bailey Mill and 12 miles at The Row. The routes are predominantly on quiet, country roads but there will be opportunities for gallops through fields and canters through woods. In the evening, The Reiver Ball will be held at Roadhead Village Hall with live music and a bar.

    Mr Stewart first had the idea for The Reiver Ride to raise the profile of the The Forgotten Lands – the north east corner of Cumbria. The area is one of the very last examples of historic farmed landscape in Britain, where traditions and the farm buildings themselves go back unbroken over a period of at least six centuries.

    Mr Stewart said: “I am thrilled to launch The Reiver Ride, which I hope will become a firm fixture in every riders’ calendar in Cumbria and The Borders. I was keen to hold an event that celebrated the Reiving history of this very special area, which has a great, strong community of small family farms. Many farmers inherited the land from their ancestors and feel deep ties to the land that nurtured and shaped them. And the names of the farms today are exactly those preserved in the bard ballads – most famously ‘The Fray of Suport’, which describes a ‘hot trod’ when an English resident from Solport attempted to regain his property stolen by Scottish Border Reivers. I’m very much looking forward to dusting off my riding hat and riding across the lands the Reivers would have known and seeing the same landscapes as they did hundreds of years ago.”

    There are many deep layers of history in the Forgotten Lands. The centre of the area is the Bewcastle Cross, where The Reiver Ride will starts and end this year and which was described by the scholar Nikolaus Pevsner as the greatest piece of sculpture created in the early 8th century. Beneath it lies one of the most unusual Roman Forts in the entire Roman Empire – with a hexagonal rather than square or oblong base occupied by the Dacian regiment. And even further beneath that a still older Celtic pre-Roman shrine – the shrine of the god Cocidius – a god worshipped in early Britain, especially in the north and west, whom the Romans compared to Mars. Beside the Cross stands the ruins of one of the great castles of the Border – that of Bewcastle – and in the churchyard, the tombs of the Armstrong and Routledges who led the Border Reiving in the area. Today their lineal descendants maintain a proud sense of their Reiving history and have preserved unbroken traditions of stockmanship.

    Farmer Steve Pattinson, of Roadhead, said: “We’re very proud of our history in this area – there’s so much north of Hadrian’s Wall up here and most people don’t even know about it. Really we’re Cumbria’s best kept secret but it is definitely time people knew more about our history and were given the chance to wonder at the beauty of the land up here. I’m very much looking forward to taking part.”

    Pam Copeland, of Bailey Mill Accommodation and Trekking Centre, said: “This ride is a fantastic opportunity to introduce people to our historic area and explore our wild countryside. The Reiver Ride is offering people something unique – the chance to get a hint of what it felt like to be a Border Reiver riding around these lands hundreds of years ago.”

    Chris Parsons, from Off The Beaten Track Rides, said: “I know people are going to absolutely love this ride! The first gallop up the hill to Peel O’Hill is absolutely breathtaking. I would encourage all riders to get involved. And we already have ideas for routes over the next few years – this is only the beginning.”

    Anyone wanting to take part in the ride should email [email protected] asking for an entry form. Numbers may be limited – on a first come first serve basis – due to parking restrictions.


    Rory has welcomed the news that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will invest a record £260 million in the Borderlands Growth Deal (BGD).

    Philip Hammond announced a UK government commitment of £260 million to the BGD in his Spring Statement in the House of Commons this afternoon. Together with funding from the Scottish government, this brings the total figure to £345million and is the largest investment yet seen in the project.

    Mr Stewart began pushing for a BGD before the Scottish Referendum while he was a Minister at DEFRA, as a way of acknowledging how much the communities across the English-Scottish border have in common. This place-based investment strategy is designed to bolster economic growth in the rural communities of northern England and Southern Scotland. It previously received support from the Chancellor in his 2017 Budget and today’s announcement indicates the Government’s interest in and commitment to the region.

    As well as welcoming the news, Mr Stewart has expressed the hope that, when details are disclosed, both tourism and broadband will receive significant investment. He has long championed rural digital connectivity and argued in meetings with ministers that the digital proposals contained within the BGD are absolutely vital to the success of the Deal as a whole. Connecting the most remote rural communities to reliable, fast broadband or 4G, though it has often proved difficult, makes an immense difference to people’s lives.

    Commenting on this, Mr Stewart said: “The Spring Statement brings further good news on the strength of our economy. Nine years of consecutive growth, falling borrowing and debt, 3.5 million new jobs, the fastest rate of wage growth in over a decade and positive predictions from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility all give grounds for confidence.

    “I am particularly pleased that the Chancellor has pledged such significant investment in the Borderlands Growth Deal. This is an incredibly special part of the United Kingdom and now that the funding for the Borderlands Growth Deal has been secured, we can really start to tap into its potential. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how investment in the area’s tourism and broadband will make a real difference to people’s lives.

    “I will continue to work closely with ministers, MPs and councillors on both sides of the Border as we make the Deal a reality.”