Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Irish border, Single Market, Theresa May

Now #Brexit shifts from omnishambles to megashambles

This blogpost was written on Thurs March 21, 2019

May

How did it come to this? Just eight days before the UK is due to leave the EU and we still do not know whether it will leave on agreed terms or leave with no deal. What a megashambles!

A megashambles is beyond an omnishambles, it is on route to being a blackhole-shambles, into which everything disappears. If that happens there is every chance that the UK, as we have known it, will never be seen again.

That would be a great pity because, leaving aside dark times past and crimes in foreign lands, in recent times the UK has given the world so much. I am of the 1960s generation. When Ireland was still a closed, introspective, Catholic-dominated country, the UK in general, and London in particular, opened windows and showed us that other lives were possible. Clothes that went beyond the drab, rock concerts in Hyde Park, the West End on a Saturday night. Magazines and writers suited to all tastes. Best of all, no church on a Sunday.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Irish border

One month to go and #brexit gameplaying goes on…

This blogpost was written on Wed Feb 27, 2019
skynews-jeremy-corbyn-keir-starmer_4435682
UK Labour’s Starmer & Corbyn in Brussels. Pic via Skynews

With each passing day it becomes clearer and clearer that far too many politicians in the UK, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, think Brexit is some form of game of political point scoring, with little or no thought for the immense damage to lives and livelihoods that will ensue.

On Monday of this week the leadership of the Labour Party, still reeling from the defections of nine MPs last week to the independent benches, announced that it planned to table a motion in the House of Commons calling for a different Brexit deal than the one Theresa May has agreed with Brussels. If the plans it brings forward are voted down in the Commons Labour may then call for a second referendum.

So, what are these Labour plans?

Apparently, the party wants a “future relationship” which would see the UK in “a” customs arrangement with the EU, but the UK would not actually be a member of the existing EU customs union. It would be a bespoke union between the UK and the EU. As part of this arrangement the UK would have a decision-making role when it came to future trade deals being negotiated by the EU.

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

There is No Good Way Forward on #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Saturday, Nov 17th, 2018

MichelBarnierDonladTuskBrexitDealDraftNov18_largeUK politicians are faced with an impossible decision. There is no point pretending otherwise or wishing it were otherwise. There is no good answer to the problems the UK has created for itself when it comes to Brexit and to its relationship with the European Union.

It all comes down to this. How can the UK government, any government and not just the current government, deliver on the Brexit promises to take back control of borders, law and money from the EU, while not damaging trade in goods and services between the UK and its biggest market? It simply can’t. There is no way to square this circle.

Imagine if, for example, Sweden decide to leave the EU. I pick Sweden because it, like the UK, is not a Eurozone member and so is not faced with the problem of untangling its currency with an EU exit. The main withdrawal issue facing Sweden would be fixing its financial obligations on departure, paying its fair share of what it agreed to as a member. Secondly, would be the rights of EU citizens living in Sweden and Swedish citizens living elsewhere in the EU. Probably not a major issue. ABBA would be welcome in Europe, anywhere, anytime.

The most important question to be resolved in the Withdrawal Agreement would be the “framework” for future economic relationship between Sweden and the EU. That “framework” would be identified and thrashed out after Sweden left the EU. No doubt, there would be a transition period because one thing we have learnt from Brexit is that it is impossible to go from being an EU member to a non-member overnight. Life is just too complex.

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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Irish border, Northern Ireland

#Brexit – The Fast Fading Fantasies

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 11, 2018

jo johnson

Just when you think there cannot be any more twists and turns in the Brexit saga, along comes the resignation of Jo Johnson (Photo): Transport Minister in May’s government and Boris Johnson’s younger brother. Jo Johnson is not, and never was, an attention seeker. Instead, he was a sober, industrious member of the government who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

His devastating resignation statement frames the choice May intends to present to parliament as one between “vassalage”, obeying EU rules with no say in their adoption, or “chaos”, leaving the EU with no agreed terms. Rather than have parliament vote on these two unpalatable options he wants them, along with the option to remain in the EU, put to the people in another referendum.

If a centrist such as Jo Johnson is taking this position, then there must be many other centrist MPs who see things similarly. Will they break cover in the coming days? If we add the dozen or so already declared centrists who want another referendum to 20 or 30 Hard-Brexiteers and the 10 DUP votes, it becomes increasingly difficult to see May getting the Commons to vote for any deal she manages to bring back from Brussels.

That is, if she manages to bring back a deal.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Irish border, Northern Ireland

#Brexit and the Politics of Hard Numbers

This blog was written on Aug 26, 2018.

Commons voteIn the end, democratic politics comes down to the brutality of numbers… of hard numbers. Either you have the votes to get measures through parliament or you don’t.

Politics is about being able to count. Ask the Australian politician Peter Dutton about hard numbers. Last Monday he believed he had the votes to oust the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and take the top job himself. He had the votes, as they say in Australia to ‘spill’ Turnbull but lost to Scott Morrison when it came to the decision as to who would replace Turnbull. Dutton counted the wrong numbers.

For a great part of the past 100 years parliamentary majorities and party discipline generally gave UK governments the numbers they needed in the House of Commons.

But not when it comes to Brexit.

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

There is Only One #Brexit Question: The Irish Question

May FosterBrexit, all comes down to this: The Irish Question.

As on so many other occasions over the past 200 years, the English, and it is mainly the English, do not know to handle the existential problems that Ireland creates for UK politics.

As we have done previously in this Briefing, it is well to remind ourselves that the UK voted to leave the EU. It was not pushed out, expelled or asked to leave. It decided to leave, and UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, determined, fairly much on her own it seems, that leaving meant leaving the single market, the customs union, the jurisdiction of the European Court and ending the free movement of people. The problems of Brexit are entirely of the UK’s making.

The EU didn’t start the fire.

Despite initial shock and deep disappointment, the EU has never sought to challenge the decision of the UK to leave. It accepted the decision and told the UK that its departure would have to be dealt with in accordance with Article 50 (A50) of the Lisbon Treaty. The key language in A50 reads:

In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. Continue reading

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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