Theresa May, Brexit, Article 50, Conservative Party

On #Brexit: You can have the politics or the economics; but you can’t have both

This blogpost was written on May 14th 2018

thatcher-Delors
Margaret Thatcher and Jacques Delors, London 1989

It is increasingly difficult to see any way in which Brexit ends well. The reason is simple: The UK wants what it can’t have. It asks for two incompatible things.

  • It wants to be leave the EU and take back control over its money, borders, laws and trade policy so as to be able to say that it is a completely sovereign country, beholden to no one.
  • But it also wants to continue to trade with the EU in the frictionless manner that it does today so that it will suffer no economic damage as a result of leaving.

As we have repeatedly noted in this Briefing, it wants all the benefits of the customs union and the single market, but without the obligations and restraints that come with those benefits.

Throughout the process the position of the EU has been clear. In accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty it says the UK is free to leave the EU. The very fact that a country can leave the EU shows that sovereignty was never lost. Only a sovereign country can quit an organisation like the EU. Is California or Arizona free to leave the United States? A civil war says no.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot #Brexit #BrexitShambles

This week’s blog was written on May 8, 2018
borisAs of today, May 8th, the day after a long, hot, holiday weekend, it is difficult to see Brexit ending well.

It is difficult to see how it even makes it to March 29th, 2019, the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU, with, it hopes, a signed Withdrawal Agreement providing for an orderly exit.

The fault for this state of affairs lies not with the EU but with the UK itself and particularly with the UK government.

Close to two years after the June 2016 referendum, thirteen months after informing the EU that it planned to leave, and with just over 10 months before it actually does leave, the UK cabinet is still debating the nature of the future trading relationship it wants with the EU.

Debating is too kind a word. Hand-to-hand, combat to the death between different factions more correctly describes it.

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Brexit, British Government, David Davis, Irish border, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

#Brexit and the Ideology of Angloism

This blog was written on Monday April 30th, 2018

Hammond BoJoYou can only understand Brexit if you understand that Brexit is not a rational economic calculation but is instead an ideology.

An ideology that can best be described, for want of a more elegant word, as “Angloism”. Angloism is a deep-seated set of beliefs with three main threads.

First, it holds that in joining the old Common Market the UK lost its sovereignty, the ability to take its own political decisions. This loss to the EU is seen by many Brexiteers as a betrayal of centuries of English tradition, of government through the “Crown in Parliament”. “Taking back Control” was about returning to this perceived happy state of affairs.

Secondly, it argues that the UK in general, but England in particular, is fundamentally different from mainland Europe. Its legal system is based on the common law, not the Napoleonic Code. Its economy is liberal and individualist, not corporatist and collectivist. And, not to be underestimated, its religions values are Protestant, not Catholic. Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, David Davis, Irish border, Michel Barnier, Negotiating

The #Brexit Delusions of Davis?

This article was written on April 16th 2018

DavisHaving your chief negotiator on top of their brief should be a given. Knowing all relevant facts and figures is usually helpful, as is being familiar with the procedures that are to be followed.

Having some insight into the thinking of the other party is recommended as that can stop the negotiator making rash promises that cannot be delivered.

All of this holds true, no matter what the negotiation.

It is even more true when it is a negotiation of unequals, with one side holding most, if not all, of the cards.

In such circumstances for the lead negotiator of the weaker party to unilaterally announce what is going to happen, how it is going to happen and what will be the outcome is foolhardy and unwise, to say the least. Unless there is some unknown, ulterior motive for so doing.

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Brexit, British Government, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

#Brexit – Charging on…

Written on Monday April 9th 2018

LightThere is an old Chinese saying that you should always give your enemy a “golden bridge over which to retreat”. After the battle, you may need to negotiate terms with the other party and a bruised, battered and bitter enemy can makes for a bad negotiating partner.

Over many years involved in labour negotiations, I have also found that it is a wise negotiator who ensures that a golden bridge is available in case their initial plan does not work. This is known as having a Plan B. A necessary precaution for, to paraphrase Mick Tyson, “Everyone has a plan A until they get punched in the face”.

Sometimes, however, you can be faced with another party who seems determined to burn all bridges behind them or, at the very least, to pack them with enough explosives that they can be detonated at any time. For such parties, Plan A must be the only plan for if there is no way back, no Plan B, all they can do is to stand and fight, or push forward.

Call this the Charge of the Light Brigade stratagem and it usually results in disaster.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, UK Labour Party

#Brexit: A New UK Politics in the Making?

This blog was written on Fri March 30th, 2018

out out
Leave the EEC campaign – 1975 UK Referendum

In the Ireland of the 1950s and 60s, in which I grew up, you had no choice but to go to Sunday mass. You might get away with not going in the big cities, but not in rural Ireland, the valleys of the squinting windows, where everyone knew your business.

Those who were reluctant mass-goers would wait a few minutes until after the mass had started, then slip in and stand furtively at the back. Needless to say, they did not “participate” in the mass and you would rarely, if ever, see them join in the singing of hymns, much less walk up the church to take communion. As soon as the priest gave the final benediction they were out and gone. There in body, but not in spirit.

It often strikes me that this is a useful way of looking at the UK’s membership of the EU: arrived late, stood at the back, participated as little as possible, and a lot of the time, seemed to wish it were elsewhere.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, David Davis, Irish border, Negotiating

#Brexit Illusions Are Now Meeting Reality

This post was written today, March 23, 2018

waves-breakToday, Friday, March 23, at the time of writing, the European Council of the heads of government of the (remaining) 27 Member States are expected to sign off, politically, on the details of the transition arrangement that the UK government had requested be put in place after it leaves the EU on March 29th, 2019.

The transition will run until December 31, 2020. During that time the UK will be bound by all EU laws and procedures, including new laws, and will also be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court. But it will have no role in EU governance meaning it will not attend Council meetings, it will have no members of the European Parliament and will have no Commissioner.

Arriving in Brussels on Thursday, Mrs May said:

“I’m looking forward to talking about Brexit. We made considerable progress through the agreement on the implementation period, which will bring certainty to businesses and people.”

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