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Ireland and that speech by Theresa May on Brexit… September 26, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Ray Bassett has a piece in the SBP that seems almost bizarrely at odds with the reality of the Brexit process in the UK. In his analysis of Theresa May’s speech in Florence he appears to take it at face value – ‘upbeat’ ‘on almost every issue the line she took was hugely in Ireland’s interests’. And yet, and yet, prod at his analysis and it begins to fall a bit apart. For example, he writes:

She instanced the unacceptability of a physical North/South border, the need for an extra two-year transitional period, the request of the closet possible economic relationship wight he EU, her appeal to maintain trade as tariff free etc.

And yet that’s not quite what she said. Richard North notes that:

Pointedly, she offered nothing of substance on any of the three outstanding issues.

On perhaps the most troublesome of the three, the Irish question, her superficial treatment of the issue verged on the insulting. She loftily declared, “we have both stated explicitly that we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border”, adding: “We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland – and indeed to everyone on the island of Ireland – to see through these commitments”.

The point here is that was all she said.

Now Ray Bassett knows this because Ray Bassett has read the speech and yet he argues that somehow the speech was in our interests?

And what she did say ruled out aspects that would be of vital importance to our interests. For example she dismissed the EEA/EFTA option which incorporates freedom of movement. That’s a huge blow to working out the border. And Bassett realises this because he notes that ‘she wants to move beyond a Canadian type FTA and have a much deeper relationship with the EU’. But then immediately writes ‘However a Norweighian style association through the EEA is probably too close’. He weakly concludes that ‘she envisages something completely new… [and] used the word creative on a number of occasions’. So new that we can place it somewhere between an FTA and EEA. So deep that we can place it beyond an EEA relationship. Not so deep clearly.

Bassett can’t quite hold back his antipathy to the EU. At every point he reiterates the idea that ‘talks have been stymied by Brussels intransigence and a lack of unified approach on the British side’. But what intransigence is there? When someone like Richard North – still pro-Leave, and Leave across many decades, is arguing that the very idea of intransigence when applied in this context to the EU is a category error of dangerous proportions since it misunderstands entirely what the EU is and is not (and it is in a sense about certain legal framework and how those outside that framework cannot be treated as if they are within it), then clearly Bassett is in trouble conceptually.

Bassett then proceeds to compare like with not like by dragging in Jean-Claude Junckers speech on the State of the EU. And he then suggests these entirely different speeches, one by May and one by Junckers constitute ‘two sides’.

But unlike North (who Bassett one suspects shares a pro-Leave sentiment with if not anything like the same rigorous analysis) Bassett is constrained by that previously mentioned antipathy. North wants Leave, but he doesn’t pretend it is easy to get there or that the EU is acting unreasonably by its own lights. But antipathy gets us nowhere in what is a dynamic whose scale is so all embracing that it is not even clear it will ultimately proceed.

Read Bassett. Read North. And then perhaps read Stephen Kinsella’s (tellingly) much shorter piece in the SBP where he argues that Brexiteer rhetoric has had to be scaled back from the very day of the referendum result due to that dynamic above.

Time has falsified every single claim the pro-Brexit side has made. Institutions like the Bank of England have seen their forecasts and warnings ring true. Institutions like the Office of National Statistics have called out ministers like B. Johnson for using dodgy statistics.

And Kinsella makes the key point:

The only thing that matters in this phase is the issue of the border and how close to the status quo the eventual deal leaves Ireland. We want a hair’s breadth from today’s arrangements. The closer Ireland gets to that the closer the outcome will correspond to success by our lights.

But he cautions that while…

We already know that Britain desires a deal on the CTA. We know it has no idea how to get there.

That in a way is the heart of matter… Britain has no idea how to get there or how to get anywhere with Brexit.

One final link… bjg notes in comments linking to this, indicating that others also don’t agree with the Bassett line that May’s speech was anything to write home about about Ireland. So what exactly is Bassett reading?


1. CL - September 26, 2017

Creativity, flexibility, imagination and technology are all wonderful, but when the U.K exits the EU single market and customs union a physical infrastructure at the Irish border is inevitable. The EU is insisting that the Irish border question, finance, and citizens rights must be settled before talks on a future trade agreement can begin. Britain wants the border issue and a future trade agreement to go together. Davis and Barnier have serious disagreements on these matters.


2. bjg - September 26, 2017

Never mind the speech, what about the song?


h/t The New European



3. bjg - September 26, 2017

Here (in addition to Richard North) are some more people who know what they’re talking about: L Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex; Dr Peter Holmes, Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UKTPO; Erika Szyszczak, Professor of Law at the University of Sussex, independent ADR Mediator and a Fellow of the UKTPO.

Once you start to think about how to do it, however, it becomes clear that negotiating a transition on UK terms will be nearly as complex as negotiating full Brexit. So complex, in fact, that it looks more or less impossible in the time available. Our analysis suggests that the only practical approach is to remain within the EU for the transitional period – that is, to extend the period of Article 50 by at least two years. Even this has to be agreed with the rest of the EU, but it will be easier to agree than a ‘bespoke’ transition.



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bjg - September 27, 2017

“diagonal cumulation” is a thing! Who knew? Not HMG, by the looks of things. Here’s the next in the Trade Policy Observatory’s series of articles https://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/uktpo/2017/09/27/grandfathering-ftas-and-roos/

Stick with it to the end: it’s worth persevering to see how difficult all that trading-with-the-world stuff [and not just trading with the EU] is going to be. Still, with Mrs May’s strong relationship with the USA, no doubt transatlantic exports will boom …. Oh, wait: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/us-bombardier-ruling-northern-ireland-jobs-theresa-may-trump-tariff-commerce-a7969256.html



bjg - September 27, 2017

But all is well: Boris is on the case https://www.rt.com/uk/404756-boris-johnson-brexit-challenge/



bjg - September 27, 2017

The Trade Policy Observatory on Boeing, Bombardier and Brexit https://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/uktpo/2017/09/27/boeing-bombardier-and-brexit/



4. bjg - September 26, 2017

There have been a few recent pieces about the consequences of Brexit for Britain. I don’t suppose they’ll have any effect on the gormless loons in HMG, but they’re interesting. I’ll keep down the number of links per reply to avoid the spam filters.

Here’s a Telegraph piece about the danger to the derivatives industry http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/09/25/trillions-risk-without-brexit-deal-derivatives-warns-bank-england/. We might not lose any sleep over that, but it might have some persuasive force.

And here’s Rick on the Moody’s downgrade https://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/pricing-political-stability/ finishing thus:

But the closer we get to the Brexit deadline without any meaningful progress, the more risky the country will start to look. Being volatile, bonkers and a bit maverick might look like fun but there is a price to be paid for it.



5. bjg - September 26, 2017

Two more: a lawyer’s view on “Enforcement of EU-derived rights in a post Brexit UK” https://www.monckton.com/enforcement-of-eu-derived-rights-in-a-post-brexit-uk-an-eu-perspective-of-aspects-of-the-european-union-withdrawal-bill/

There is an obvious risk to the consistency of law making in a post Brexit future unless the UK is able to guarantee that it would follow post-Brexit laws adopted by the EU in the transitional period. There is also an obvious risk to the uniformity of approach by the courts. It seems doubtful that the EUWB, as drafted, will provide adequate assurance to the EU’s negotiators. For example, having regard to the UK Government’s deregulatory aspirations, will the UK continue to adhere to the Single Market rules as they apply to the EU27?

And here’s one about roaming charges http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/09/26/can-mobile-roaming-be-saved-after-brexit/



6. CL - September 26, 2017

Barnier “went out of his way to emphasise that “we also need to find a unique solution when it comes to the island of Ireland”.

Here it was again, a “unique solution”, a coded reference but crystal clear to the negotiators that the EU would not accept the issue being bundled with the general trade talks….

“The only easy solutions to the problem of the Brexit transition are for the UK to remain or to leave altogether. Neither is politically acceptable. The worry is that a third way may not only be difficult, but that it may not be possible at all.”


bjg - September 26, 2017

Yes: and unfortunately the “moderates” [Hammond, Rudd] seem to be just as ill-informed and delusional as the looneys. It might be possible to reason with the moderates, but although they’re right about the drawbacks of cliff-edge or hard Brexit, they are wrong about what arrangements with the EU are possible. They may have pushed Mrs M some of the way to the light, but her fundamental understanding is so flawed that pointing out the practicalities will also undermine the position of the moderates, leaving Europe face to face with the lunatics.

Richard North concluded the piece you quoted thus:

To my mind, when Barnier refuses to play, the only question is whether May will decide to walk away immediately or defers action until after the European Council on 20 October. But if she gives the Council an ultimatum, demanding that we move to phase two or she walks, my guess is she’ll be booking another Swiss walking holiday.

Yet, for the moment, this remains speculation. The only certainty is that, by Thursday, we will know more than we do now. By the following Wednesday when Mrs May speaks to conference, we will know even more. Meanwhile, at chez EUReferendum.com, we’re stocking up on essential foods. That, for us, is our own moment for clarity.




CL - September 26, 2017

The Varadkar govt. emolient commentary on May’s delusions is not helpful.
Perhaps Sinn Fein will give some leadership.

““The Taoiseach has a duty to stand up for Irish national interests. It would be extremely reckless to allow the negotiations to proceed to the next phase in absence of these issues being addressed in a substantive and comprehensive way.” -Gerry Adams.


bjg - September 26, 2017

Varadkar’s comments so far seemed to me (but who am I to judge?) to be polite and non-committal, but to show that he does not think there has been enough progress to allow the talks to move on. In a way it’s a problem for other EU ministers: they can’t actually say to HMG “cop yourself on, you delusional lunatics”. Even the estimable M Barnier can’t express himself in terms that would get through to the average Express, Mail or Telegraph reader. Even this https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/24/theresa-may-brexit-speech-paints-over-cracks-tory-party by Toby Helm in the Guardian doesn’t seem to interpret the runes correctly: partly, I think, because Helm, like many other commentators, looks at Brexit as a matter of British politics, paying insufficient attention to what other EU countries think and want — a problem to which Richard North has drawn attention.

I’ve read the Gerry Adams piece. It’s not clear how it could be implemented without UK [GB + NI] consent. And I fear that Ireland is going to end up building and operating border controls, which will be rather awkward all round.


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gendjinn - September 26, 2017

Their staggering stupidity is seriously depressing. I really thought that by now the Tory donors in London would have set them straight. I’m beginning to think this is how Brexit plays out.

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bjg - September 27, 2017

Actually, here’s the Indie with an editorial comment that suggests that the message is beginning to get through.



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7. GW - September 26, 2017

Why Germany move so decisevely to the right in this election?

Firstly a catastrophic performance by the SPD who reaped the consequences of being part of a government that did very little for ordinary people and a great deal for the continued accumulation of capital by the few. It was a government in which the SPD seemed to have very little influence, being happy to go along with the agenda set by the CDU.

It was comic and tragic to see Martin Schulz going into combative election mode against the CDU only after the election had finished and he was in the television studios to explain why he wouldn’t repeat the Grand Coalition experience!

Secondly, Merkels tactic of avoiding all form of controversy, and indeed content, only played into the hands of those masters of provocation who were given wide media coverage – namely the AfD.

A third contribution factor was the huge mistake that many of the parties made in adopting AfD anti-refugee and xenophobic themes. This played into the largely delusory panic that the AfD generated on these topics and ensured that the attention was directed at them. The CDU and the CSU have been at this tactic for the last two years and they lost big as a result. Why vote for milder anti-immigration parties when you can vote for the real thing?

The SPD wasn’t above flirting with these themes and also lost big, and shamefuly Sarah Wagenknecht of die Linke doesn’t seem to be able to leave the topic alone.

Finally the MSM and especially the state-funded major publicly owned television channels concentrated almost exclusively on the AfD for the last four weeks of the election. And on the AfD themes that most benefited the AfD, not the complete lack of political programme that the said party had on almost anything except kicking furriners.

I reckon the MSM’s decisions were responsible for at least 3% of the AfD’s 13% result.


Pasionario - September 26, 2017

What if the decision to accept a million plus refugees inevitably carried the political cost of a swing to the right?

13% for the AfD is bad, but by no means catastrophic. The party’s already split and could flame out like UKIP. Perhaps this is a price willing to pay under the circumstances. It would be heartening if an overtly pro-immigrant, pro-refugee were rewarded at the polls. But if it that’s not possible, then Merkel’s willingness to sacrifice political capital on the issue two years ago was perhaps the best that could be hoped for.


8. GW - September 26, 2017

The German Jamaica coalition – cue ‘what are they smoking?’ jokes.

The CDU/CSU/FDP/Green coalition should be doable if difficult. The FDP will want some more neo-liberal policies and breaks for their sponsors, and they may well get that. The Green party leaders, provided they are given enough eco in their capitalism will probably assent, but the membership may find being in power with the FDP a hard pill to swallow. Experience in the last decade or more is that leadership wins out.

The Greens will pay heavily for participation in such a government and it opens the possibility for die Linke to possition itself as the only (left) green option next time around.

The most difficult element is likely to be the CSU who lost 11% of their and got their worse result in Bavaria since 1949 despite moving well into AfD territory. A significant part of the CSU wants to double down on this loss and move even further right.

This is going to prove difficult with the smarter heads in the CDU – Merkel among them – who don’t believe in repeating mistakes. One of the few areas where the Green party haven’t (yet) sold their souls is on the issue of refugees and political asylum and so they may find such a movement on the national scale hard to agree to. The CSU is facing a state election in Bavaria soon so they will be focused on that.

It’s going to take at least a couple of months to form such a coalition, which is not good news for the Brexit negotiations – there will be no chance of changing the German minds on the need to fulfill the requirements laid down for Barnier in October in order to discuss future UK/EU relationships.


9. bjg - September 27, 2017

As the leader of the Irish Labour Party, I’m sick of being ignored while Brexit threatens to destroy Ireland completely

Brendan Howlin in the Indie https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-ireland-hard-irish-border-republic-northern-labour-party-leader-eire-stormont-ni-a7968031.html



10. bjg - September 27, 2017

From Richard North today

Pointing to the difficulties negotiators face is Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts of the European Parliament Brexit Steering Group. He thinks the Irish border issue could play a bigger part in negotiations than the financial settlement, even to the extent that it could “derail” the talks.

The principles put forward by the UK Government, where the UK is out of the Single Market and the customs union, means there has to be a border and at the same time no border. ” You can’t have it both ways and I really fail to see how we can reconcile those differences”, Lamberts says.

Thus do we get a tiny glimpse of the reality that the key players seem to be skirting round, perhaps recognising that their differences truly are irreconcilable. The Irish question is assuming that characteristics of an elephant in the room – of gigantic proportions.

Mixing metaphors outrageously, the Irish question is also the canary down the mine, the ultimate test of whether the Phase One issues can be resolved.

And it fruitless complaining that the EU has set an impossible test to pass. The moment Mrs May decided that the UK was going to leave the Single Market, she created the problem of turning a land border into one of the EU’s external borders. As its creator, it is for Mrs May to resolve the problem.




11. bjg - September 27, 2017

Maybe the Tory donors will begin to move …. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/26/city-free-trade-agreement-financial-services-brexit-london-uk-eu

The proposed solution won’t work — and a free trade agreement on services would be very difficult to negotiate anyway — but at least a need is perceived.



CL - September 27, 2017

IDS enters the fray:

” we need to say to the EU that we expect it to respond to the Florence speech with a guarantee that we will now discuss a trade agreement. We should say that the EU has to make that decision by December – or we will assume they do not intend to do so, and that we must make the necessary arrangements to leave without a deal….
having indicated in this case that we could be flexible about money, we should not now accept any answer from the EU other than that we will now start discussions on trade….
The arrogant behaviour of the EU so far, bordering on the deliberately offensive, is a bluff that we need to call.”


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