Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Single Market

The “Brexit of Small Things” is here… to stay

EU non EU

January 31. A full month into full Brexit. The UK is now completely out of the EU, out of its political, economic, and commercial structures. In Brussels jargon, it is a “third country”. Freedom of movement between the EU and the UK is now a thing of the past. New border barriers are in place, or soon will be. People, goods, service, and data now need permissions to cross this new border.

The new border barriers have come as a shock to many in the UK who seemed to think that a “free trade agreement” between the EU and the UK would leave things much as they were before. When you have spent much of your adult life living in the open European space that the EU has created through a mesh of agreements between its member states you can easily come to assume that this open space is the natural order of things. Except that it is not.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, Customs Union, Negotiating, Single Market, Trade Deals

UK is the EU’s “sovereign equal” just as Malta is the “sovereign equal” of the USA

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In a BBC interview last Friday, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, said:

“They’ve done a deal with Canada – long way away – of a kind that we want, why shouldn’t they do it with us, we’re so near, we’ve been members for 45 years.”

Think about those comments. Then think about them again.

When Johnson said, “we’re so near” I am not sure if that means that the UK and the EU are “so near” geographically, or whether a deal is “so near”. But then, with Johnson you are never sure what he means, or whether he knows what he means himself. He is the Dali of British politics, a gushing stream of consciousness. Without Dali’s talent.

What Johnson appears to be saying is that he, the UK, wants the same deal with the EU as a country a long way away from the EU, and that has never been a member of the EU. And he wants that deal because he, the UK, is “so near” the EU and has been a member for “45 years”. The comments, like much of what Johnson says, defy logic.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Customs Union, Irish border, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Single Market

International Law… what’s that, says the dead cat

Boris deadcat.png

Last week was some Brexit week, a week in which the UK government introduced legislation, the internal market bill, which a government minister admitted in the Commons would break international law, but only in a “specific and limited way”.

The minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, was talking about the powers the government proposed to take which would allow them to override provisions in the Withdrawal Act signed with the EU in 2019 when it comes to the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK, according to the minister, was deliberately and consciously going to break an international treaty that it had only recently signed.

The international treaty, the Withdrawal Agreement, provides that Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, will remain in the EU’s customs union and single market for goods to avoid rebuilding a hard border on the island of Ireland between Northern Ireland and Ireland, a continuing member of the EU.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Data Protection, Data transfers, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market, Trade Deals

A “No-Deal” Brexit looms ever closer

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On January 1, 2021, whether there is a deal between the UK and the EU on future trading relations or not, significant new barriers to doing business between the UK and the EU will come into existence. There is no possible agreement between the UK and the EU that can eliminate these new barriers and borders because of the UK’s decision to leave the EU’s single market and customs unions.

At best, an agreement will provide for tariff free and quota free trade in goods between the two. But such an agreement would not eliminate the need for paperwork and customs checks, to certify such things as “rules of origin” – where the goods in question, and the components in them, were actually made. Indeed, it has been estimated that UK business will need to recruit at least 50,000 customs agents just to handle the additional paperwork involved in the export of goods.

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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Data Protection, Single Market

No matter what, years of Brexit uncertainty beckons

This blogpost was written on Sunday Oct 20th, 2019

boris

Whatever happens in the days and weeks immediately ahead, one thing can be said for certain: the UK faces years, if not decades, of uncertainty as it struggles to negotiate, and then constantly renegotiate, the nature and substance of its relationship with the European Union.

Despite what Brexiteers like to claim, the UK cannot deny the pull of history and geography.

The “history” is, in the first place, that European economies have been slowly integrating over the past fifty-plus years and that integration is not going to stop, or go into reverse, anytime soon. The “history” is, in the second place, that Northern Ireland is not a “normal” part of the UK and because of its unique relationship with Ireland, the country with which it shares the island of Ireland, it will always need to be treated differently from the rest of Great Britain.

The “geography” is that the European Union is, and will remain, the UK’s single biggest market for both goods and services for many years to come. Which means, given that the EU will be some six times bigger than the UK, that if the UK wants to trade with the EU it will be largely on EU terms. But this undermines a great deal of the rationale for Brexit, that it allows the UK to “take back control” of its own laws enabling it to diverge from EU standards.

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Article 50, Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market

The #Brexit Syndrome Delusion

This blogpost was wrtitten on Friday Sept 27th.

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Wikipedia defines Stockholm Syndrome as

“a condition which causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. These alliances result from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time together, but they are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims.”

However strongly the bond is felt, to the outside observer it is irrational, explainable only by the unreal circumstances created during the time of captivity.

A large part of the UK political class and the wider population now seem to be suffering from “Brexit Syndrome”. This is probably best defined as:

an irrational and emotional commitment to a political project which all objective evidence shows to be deeply damaging to the long-term national interest.

Brexit Syndrome causes many friends of the UK from across the world to shake their heads in disbelief that a previously pragmatic country could become so deluded.

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Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Customs Union, Data transfers, Single Market, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

Can #Brexit be “Made to Work” (Part 1).

Thsi blogpost was written early on Tuesday Sept 10th
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Pic via Stephen Morgan (Lab) MP on Twitter

An article in the Times reports that David Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiator, told Johnson that there was no hope of agreeing a new deal on the Irish backstop while uncertainty in parliament continues. According to the Times:

In a one-page memo to Mr Johnson and his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, Mr Frost wrote that until there was clarity on the domestic front the European Union would not offer a renewed deal.

“The EU are not under pressure to agree alternative arrangements until they know the process will not be taken over by parliament,” he wrote. “Until then they will listen to us but avoid committing. Talks will only become serious when it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Frost’s comment on the opposition in Parliament to the Johnson approach to Brexit reminded me of when I first started thinking and writing about Brexit some two years ago. Then it seemed to me that if the UK was to “make Brexit work” three things were of fundamental importance.

  1. The government needed to develop a consensus in the UK about what Brexit meant, some form of widely-shared vision of what the UK outside the EU should look like.
  2. Resulting from one, negotiate a future deal with the EU that would minimise the impact of withdrawal on the UK economy and provide for a “good neighbour” relationship for the future
  3. Hope that geopolitical developments across the globe would fall favourable for a UK out of the EU, facilitating the conclusion of new trade deals which would open new export markets.

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Brexit, Conservative Party, Customs Union, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Single Market, UK Labour Party

Britain and Europe Plus ça change

This blogpost was written on July 1, 2019

marr hunt

You know a country is in deep trouble when one of its major political party appears to lose touch with social decency and economic reality. Yesterday, we had Jeremy Hunt telling a Sunday TV show that he would willingly tell people whose companies went bust after a no-deal Brexit that their sacrifice had been necessary, saying:

“At the beginning of October, if there is no prospect of a deal that can get through parliament, then I will leave at the end of October because that is our democratic promise to the British people.”

Asked whether, under such a policy, he would be willing to look owners of family businesses in the eye and say they should be prepared to see their companies go bust to ensure a no-deal Brexit, Hunt said: “I would do so but I’d do it with a heavy heart precisely because of the risks.”

As Nick Cohen, recalled in his Observer column“At no time and in no circumstances should a communist place his personal interests first,” said Chairman Mao.” As if anticipating Hunt’s later remarks, Cohen commented: “In the Conservative and Unionist party, as in the Chinese Communist party, personal interests are discarded if they threaten the purity of the Brexit cause.”

Truly, greater love for Brexit hath no politician than this that he would willingly lay down your job for his career (and votes from the 150,000 Tory selectorate who will choose the party’s new leader and potential prime minister).

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Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Customs Union, Single Market

3 years after the impossible promise of #Brexit: all you get is ‘True Britism’

This blogpost was written on Monday May 13th:

Brexit cartoon

Over the past week, as nothing much has been happening in the Brexit process, we have seen several outbreaks of a somewhat virulent disease known as “True Britism”. It is one of those viruses which can lie dormant for a long time, though there can be the occasional flareup. But it really becomes rampant when a Tory leadership election is in the offing. Once this happens, the political and environmental conditions are ideal for the virus to go, well, viral.

Once you are aware of the existence of this disease, it is easy to spot the sufferers. For a start, it is restricted to a particular demographic: Brexiteers, mostly of the “Hard Brexit” variety. The symptoms generally consist of a constant repetition of clichés such as: “we hold all the cards”; “we have all the money”; and the latest “we could have held Ireland hostage”.

For example, just last week the Tory MP, Chris Blunt, tweeted:

UK side had the money, the people, the huge trade deficit, amongst other advantages, including a hostage, the RoI, if EU behaved like this. We capitulated. Olly Robbins reported application for Belgian citizenship when it’s over helps explain the mindset of our negotiators.

“True Britism”, at its core, is a belief that if only a “True Brit” with “True Grit” had been in charge of the negotiations, the EU would have crumbled at first contact.

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Article 50, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Customs Union, Michel Barnier, Single Market

Britain in a Brexit “Black Hole”

This blogpost was written on Sunday morning March 31st 2019.

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Today, Sunday, March 31st, two days after the UK should have the left the European Union, it appears to have fallen into a Brexit “Black Hole”, unable to leave on agreed terms but also not wanting to leave with “no deal”.

This is what happens when you run a referendum on something as open-ended as “Let’s leave the EU” without having any idea what that might mean in practice. Triggering the two year’s Art50 notice was, as we have written before, like selling the house and agreeing a quit date without having decided beforehand as a family where you are going to live in the future.

At best, you might end up renting your old house back from the new owner. At worst, you find yourself out on the street, homeless. No matter what you decide, your end state will be worse than where you are now. No wonder the family can’t agree on anything.

Following Friday’s vote in the House of Commons which saw the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK again defeated, this time by 344 votes to 286, the UK is now scheduled to leave the EU on April 12th without an agreement.

A no-deal Brexit looms. Were this to happen then, from April 13th, the UK would be completely outside the scope of EU law, with all that that implies.

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