LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Friday 9 March

Donald Trump last night signed an executive order for the significant hike in steel and aluminium import duties announced this time last week.

The frenzied response from the American establishment shows no signs of abating, but it’s increasingly clear the US President has pulled an absolute blinder.

He has won leverage with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate Nafta – something the US commentariat said he could never do – by exempting America’s neighbours to the north and the south. The rest of world is lining up to get in his good books now that exemptions are on the table, while Trump has his sights set on fellow Nato members’ scandalously slim defence budgets.

“We have some friends and some enemies where we have been tremendously taken advantage of over the years on trade and on military,” said Trump last night.

“If you look at Nato, where Germany pays 1% and we are paying 4.2% of a much bigger GDP, that’s not fair.

“Nato countries, some owe billions and billions of dollars. Defence is also a part of trade. To a certain extent they go hand in hand.”

The Telegraph believes Britain is now poised to gain an advantage over the European Union. Only four EU countries meet their 2% of GDP defence spending obligation as Nato members. One of them is the UK, the other three, Poland, Greece and Estonia are minnows. Because the EU controls trade policy for the entire bloc, Germany’s chronic underspending is set to drag the whole continent into a trade war.

With Brexit, Britain has a wonderful opportunity to escape the conflict by signing a trade deal with the US. Under WTO rules, the UK would not be eligible for an exemption unless it signs its own bilateral trade deal with the US as an independent trading nation. This opportunity goes way beyond steel.

But while that may be a source for optimism, plans to tempt the EU to Theresa May’s third way will bring many a Brexiteer back down to earth. According to the Spectator, a document has been circulated to senior members of the Cabinet suggesting concessions on free movement if Brussels doesn’t take the prime minister up on her mad ‘single market for some sectors’ idea.

This was entirely predictable. At each turn, May has given everything the EU has demanded, and more. The coffers are dry, the foolish defence commitment has been made. All that is left, the prize desired most by Brussels, is access to Britain’s thriving labour market, generous welfare and free at the point of use healthcare. A climb-down over immigration would well and truly consign Brexit to a mere concept, a dream never to be fulfilled. Tragic.