But trade experts in the UK and Europe described Abbott’s column as «embarrassing» and «voodoo economics».
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said Abbott’s column «demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how the EU single market actually works, or what trade between the rest of the EU and the UK consists of».
«The last thing the UK needs in its current difficult and complex Brexit debate is advice based on ignorance and confusion,» he said.
And a former trade negotiator for the Abbott government, Dmitry Grozoubinski, Tweeted a detailed rebuttal of Abbott’s column.
Grozoubinski noted that the former PM’s prescription for a smooth no-deal would require the UK violating the World Trade Organisation’s ‘most favoured nation’ rules, submitting itself to all EU standards and praying the EU reciprocated, and reintroducing freedom of movement – a key ‘red line’ for many Brexit voters.
It also «ignore[s] how borders work», Grozoubinski said.
On Wednesday the UK government published the latest in a series of warnings about the dire impact of a no-deal Brexit, which other groups including the Bank of England have predicted would be a hammer-blow to the UK economy and businesses.
The report found that food prices would increase and customs checks would cost £13 billion ($24 billion) extra a year for businesses.
Almost a third of the UK’s food comes across the Channel from the EU. Disruption to trade from a no-deal Brexit «would lead to reduced availability and choice of products», the report said. «The UK is particularly reliant on the short Channel crossings for fresh fruit and vegetables.»
It repeated a previous analysis predicting the UK economy would be 6 per cent to 9 per cent smaller than it otherwise would have been in 15 years time, and the worst-hit areas would be Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In February, the government was on track with only two-thirds of the most critical projects required to handle a no-deal Brexit.
Also, the UK would need to roll over about 40 trade agreements that exist between the EU and other countries – but to date just six have been signed, including such economic powerhouses as the Faroe Islands and the Palestinian Authority.
The government paper also said it was a “misunderstanding” of GATT trade rules to claim the UK could have tariff-free trade with the EU after a no-deal Brexit.
One of Abbott’s ideas in his column for a no-deal Brexit was that Britain could unilaterally declare that post-Brexit trade with the EU would be tariff-free and quota-free.
That, plus full mutual recognition of standards and credentials, and «throw in provisions for routine movement of people for well-paid work» and «you’d have a good clean Brexit», Abbott wrote.
«By far the more serious threat comes from Britain caving in and agreeing to a bad deal that imposes most of the burdens of EU membership but with few of the benefits … For Britain to lose its nerve now would represent failure on an epic scale.»
Abbott was returning to a theme from a previous Spectator article which was one of the conservative magazine’s most-read of 2018.
That article was also criticised as ill-informed and «embarrassing».
The pub chain Wetherspoon, whose owner is pro-Brexit, included it without permission in a free magazine that it distributed to British households.
But exasperated Wetherspoon staff formed a collective called Spoons Workers Against Brexit, and launched a petition urging their boss to «withdraw all pro-Brexit propaganda from the workplace», including beer mats, leaflets, magazines or menus that promote the pubs’ owner’s politics.
Nick Miller is Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age