jump to navigation

Assessing Brexit June 28, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This is a sensible contribution to the debate, and thanks to the person who linked to it in comments. Ivan Rogers recent speech where he underscores the legitimacy of the referendum vote but points out how it is a disservice to those who voted to leave the EU to pretend that this is without significant costs and choices that have to be addressed.

And he reminds us of one very pertinent fact:

And having agreed the backstop proposal in December 2017, the Prime Minister’s only escape route from a Northern Ireland specific backstop was the all UK backstop she urged EU leaders through autumn 2018 to insert in the legal Withdrawal Agreement. Telling them indeed that only this would win her the ‘meaningful vote’ in the House. They duly gave her what she asked for and signed it off now 7 long months ago. But it was just never going to fly. Her strategy of ‘you’ll see: it’s my way or the abyss and you will have no other or better choice in the end, because I will prevent any other emerging’ held no terrors for those who much preferred the abyss – because, for them, it was not an abyss but a ‘clean break’ liberation. And her deal delivered too close an economic and juridical relationship with the EU ever to be tolerable for them. None of this – surely to goodness – can have been a surprise to No 10.

But I think this is also important.

Nor in my view, can we exonerate those Remainers who spent all their time training their guns on any other compromise version of Brexit in order that they could reduce it to a choice between ‘no deal’ and ‘revoke’. It is frankly ludicrous for all parties – the former prime minister herself, the hard Brexiteers and the hard Remainers – to have played this out before a disillusioned public.

I’ve never been convinced that attempting to recast the issue as a binary rather than opting for a compromise was feasible. From the off it seemed to me that the forces were too closely matched numerically, though not politically and that distinction is far from unimportant – because Remain never commanded anything like a majority of MPs, and wishing the BLP would do the decent thing as some have seen it was always an appeal likely to fall upon deaf ears. Of course it could also be that were the LP to swing overtly behind a ‘soft’ Brexit, the terrain would still have shifted rapidly towards hard or no-deal. As Rogers notes, there was no end of deceitfulness about those who would not put a hard Brexit before the UK electorate in 2016 but who sought that goal. But politically Remain has depended upon forces too distant from the corridors of power to be able to tilt the battlefield in their direction. And even should the BLP arrive in power I think it deeply unlikely it will explicitly call for Remain so much as a softish Brexit. At best.

But in a way all that analysis is irrelevant. Matters stand where they stand. And that is where Rogers does us all a real favour in pointing out what ‘no-deal’ actually consists of for the UK;

No deal’ is not a destination. It is simply a volatile and uncertain transitional state of purgatory, in which you have forfeited all the leverage to the other side because you start with a blank slate of no preferential arrangements, and live, in the interim – probably for years – on a basis they legislate – in their own interests. At 27. Without you in the room, and without consulting you politically. So much of our debate about ‘being ready here for ‘no deal’ therefore totally misses the point.
Namely: it is the others who largely dictate what we have to be ready for. Yes. ‘No deal’ can and will be ‘managed’ or controlled to a degree. And it would be. But by the EU. Ask the Swiss about trading and dealing. with the EU from outside. Hardly a country which is not immensely proud of its sovereignty and of its extraordinary democratic traditions, and evidently not a country destined to join the EU or Euro – though it does operate free movement with EU citizens treated far more favourably than others. Just as evidently, like us, it’s a country with a global, not a parochial regional outlook. The reality is that the Swiss, who are now nearing the end of yet another difficult multi-year negotiation of their most comprehensive package of economic and juridical relationships ever with the EU, know full well that their economy would not survive ‘trading with the EU on WTO terms’. They don’t. They haven’t for decades. And they are probably about to have to agree to legal provisions at which the European Research Group would blanch because they have no negotiable alternative.

And there’s this:

The EU will not set out to humiliate Britain, to punish us, hobble us or ‘bring us to our knees’.
Though of course, we shall shortly be hearing plenty of that again. Sure: the EU, like the US or China, plays hardball in negotiations. Because it has the weight to. That is, after all, rather the idea of trade blocs. We knew that when we joined one. But it is not daft. It will not prohibit every flight from Stansted to Malaga, stop any British truck invading Calais, turn off all energy interconnectors, terminate all cross-border data transfers, or whatever else. Please note, incidentally, that whatever key Brexiteers tell you, these are classic examples of where so-called WTO rules simply have zero-bearing on what happens on day 1 after a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And this…

It is very sad to watch blustering Brexiteers played for fools, and being nicely set up for their next thrashing. Because it will not be they who suffer the consequences. Why does this generation of UK politicians seemingly find it so difficult to think its way into the shoes of key opposite numbers, and work through how exactly you would play this if you were them, given the domestic political incentives they face? Is that not part of the job? As I have said before, other people have sovereignty too. They have politics as well. So, no: they are not going to wilt at the first sign that a new prime minister is prepared to withhold the money and walk.

And he notes that a UK stuck in the limbo of ‘no-deal’ will be told by the EU that they are ready to negotiate, but with obvious red lines of their own, not least the border in Ireland. But… because the UK is outside the tent and, apologies, pissing on its own shoes, it will be in no position to force the issue and will find one or two new red lines introduced by the EU (Rogers suggests ‘fisheries being an obvious candidate’).

This is the reality that Brexit proponents have never faced up to, the sheer imbalance in power between the EU and the UK, that it is not punishment by the EU to demand the best deal they can get in whatever circumstance but the function of the EU to do so, just as others would do so.

And he notes one basic flaw in Brexit logic. That if there were alternative arrangements for the border the EU would be implementing them on its borders between Sweden and Norway, indeed it would be insane not to given both are within the EEA.

Finally he suggests that the ‘constriction’ of the UK economy that will be exacerbated by Brexit continues apace due to the negligence of the Brexit process to date as pursued by London.

It remains staggering that all this is self-inflicted.


1. tafkaGW - June 28, 2019

The first problem with negotiating a soft Brexit, assuming that a Labour Government got a majority or control of a coalition, is that there is very little taste for going round the houses again in Brussels. Unless possibly they were willing to take a tweaked version of EEA.

And secondly there may simply not be time.

The fact remains that there are three real options available to the Brexitannians:

1) No deal with all that implies economically and in international law
2) Unilaterally revoking Article 50 and remaining while that still can
3) Withdrawing on the basis of the deal negotiated by Theresa May.

There should be a referendum with one transferable second-choice vote on all these options. The least popular position is knocked out in the first count and second choice votes counted.

i.e. a Brexiteer could vote

1) No-Deal
2) May’s Deal

and at least have a hope of avoiding Remain.


WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2019

Agree – soft Brexit is today a non starter. I’d very slightly tend to the view the WA will go through maybe perhaps possibly


Daire O'Criodain - June 28, 2019

Not sure if I agree entirely though disagreement may be over semantics. “Soft Brexit” is sometimes applied to two different things: (a) the “way” UK leaves the EU; and (b) the nature of the longer term relationship between the UK and the EU. If the UK leaves without any agreement, that makes it less likely or at least that it will take longer for a stable future relationship to emerge in which they UK’s “ecosystem” is aligned enough on that of the EU to count as a soft Brexit in the latter sense, but it is not impossible to imagine that emerging in time. In the first sense, the odds of Britain leaving without a deal (definitely a “hard” Brexit!) have certainly increased as the candidates are seeking to outdo each other in their ultraism, but is not yet a sure thing. I think it would be fair to say that if the UK leaves with an agreement along the lines of the Withdrawal Agreement, that would count as more of a soft than a hard Brexit.


WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2019

That’s a fair point and you’re right, there is a confusion between the two. At some stage the UK will have to address the realities of the situation, particularly here on this island and that necessitates a softer rather than a hard Brexit.


2. Jim Monaghan - June 28, 2019

I think it is all over. I cannot see anything being done to avoid a hard Brexit. I think Macron’s view that this paralyses the EU and prevents it dealing with real problems is winning out. I think that if Boris does not win, then Farage will win on the basis that they were robbed. We are in the realm of magic solutions to the border. And for the EU and especially Ireland to admit that magic has a reality. The Tories are not going to oblige Corbyn with an election is they can avoid it. And Labour only won Peterborough on a split rightwing vote (Brexit and Tories together outpolled Labour massively. Ireland (all parts) is in for a shock. Outside companies such as Kerry Foods and t he multinationals, Irish companies are not exactly stellar on the management front. Further on, the amount of distrust will poison negotiations. Friendly handshakes in the morning, followed by lies and racist slags next day in British newspapers. What a mess?
Footnote, could our Mali adventure be part of a price for EU support.


Dermot M O Connor - June 28, 2019

It’s mental in the UK now. See the latest yougov poll?


Hunt/Johnson equally popular with gen. public (not by much, mind), but look at the poll numbers for a GE with and without Brexit. Even with Brexit / Hard / out, BP still gets 9 to 12%! Who are these people? Still voting BP AFTER Brexit!!!!!

Depressing to see though, if that poll is even close to right, Labour will need to eat into that godawful LibDem Orange to have any chance. Once again, Libs serve their historical function of keeping Tories in power forever, with ‘Greens’ also playing silly buggers. Hope 5 more years of Tory / BP rule will be worth it for their 1 irritating MP.

Can only hope there isn’t an early GE.

Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: