We got our fish back. They are now British fish and they are better and happier fish for it.

If you are not British, or you don’t happen to live on these isles, you may not know who Jacob Rees-Mogg is, so let me introduce you. Rees-Mogg is a senior, and a rather controversial, MP for the Conservative Party in Westminster. At one point, he was even mentioned as a possible successor to Theresa May as Prime Minister of the UK – the job that Boris Johnson eventually landed.

The reason I bring him up in the context of this month’s Absolute Return Letter is that he was (and still is) a leading light for the Brexit movement. He was elected chairman of the influential European Research Group – a group of EU-sceptic Conservative MPs – that put immense pressure on Theresa May to pursue a hard Brexit.

In the following, I will look at the pros and cons of life outside the EU, and I will assess whether Britain could end up in ruins as a result, which the little devil in the back of my head keeps telling me. It is admittedly a very emotional topic. I know of entire families here in the UK who have fallen out over Brexit, so I shall do my very, very best to be as clinical as possible in my assessment. That said, I am a European after all, and that fact can only colour my views.

Over dinner the other night, I said to my wife: “Are you aware that there is a link between Brexit and the uncomfortably high UK death toll from COVID-19?” (now in excess of 100,000). “Of course”, she said. “About the worst you can do to the average Brit is to take away his sense of being in control of things. The government did that when they signed up for the EU, and they did it again when putting various lockdown restrictions in place last year. The longer those restrictions lasted, the fewer followed them and, consequently, the more died”. Sad but true.

Now, this month’s Absolute Return Letter is not about COVID-19 but about the (likely) implications of the trade agreement that was entered into five minutes before midnight late last year, so let’s drop the COVID topic for now. It is just very sad to see that the British desire to remain independent has led to a world record in mortalities.

The naked facts

The trade agreement is far too complex to go through in detail (it would probably turn the February Absolute Return Letter into a 1,200 page monster), but let me briefly go through some of the key elements in the agreement (with Politico being my primary source) so that you have a sense what the fuss was all about.