Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Northern Ireland

The never-ending BYOB (Bring Your Own #Brexit) story

This blogpost was written on Monday, April 15th, 2019

BYOBrexit

Brexit has become a never-ending story for which there may actually be no end.

There is no majority in the House of Commons for the Withdrawal Agreement on offer. Nor is there a majority for leaving the EU with “no deal”. No one seems able to put together a winning coalition for any of the other exit strategies on offer: “Norway” (with or without +++); Canada, SuperCanada or Canada Dry; Malthouse. Alehouse or Curryhouse.

OK, I made the last two up but that’s about where we are. In restaurants BYOB normally means “bring your own bottle”. In the House of Commons read it as meaning “bring your own Brexit”.

Last week the European Union gave the UK a further Article 50 extension, to run until October 31st on condition that European Parliament elections are held on May 23rd next. As a continuing member of the EU the UK must hold the elections, otherwise the legitimacy of the Parliament, and any legislation it adopts, could be called into question.

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Article 50, Brexit, Customs Union, Northern Ireland, Single Market

Some #Brexit Thoughts For This Holiday Season

This blogpost was written on Dec 19, 2018

May Commons

We head into the holiday season with Brexit appearing to be in some form of holding pattern. Brussels has said that the Withdrawal Agreement on the table is all there is and will not be renegotiated. On the other hand, Theresa May is telling MPs that she will secure additional political and legal guarantees that the backstop will be temporary and that the UK will not be trapped in a customs union with the EU.

They both can’t be right.

If to prove that she knows she isn’t right May’s government has stepped up “no deal” planning, which most businesses think insane but then, where Brexit is concerned, rationality, like Elvis, left the building a long time ago. When it comes to Brexit, as Groucho Marx might have said, there is no “sanity clause”.

So, as we wait for the New Year and the final run-in to Brexit on March 29th next, I offer these random thoughts on where we are and why we are here.

The Withdrawal Agreement is all there is: As I wrote last week, the UK really only has two choices. Leave the EU or remain in the EU. Personally, I would much prefer the UK to remain, but as long as the government and the Labour leadership are committed to Brexit then is seems inevitable that the UK will leave on March 29th, 2019.

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Backstop, Brexit, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

Book 1 on #Brexit Closes – Book 2 will be a lot harder to write.

This Blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 25th, 2018

0_EU-Council

Imagine you are in reasonably well-paid, full-time employment with a large company, with a decent benefits package. Your company is doing well… all things considered.

Your union negotiators come back from a meeting with management to announce that they have reached an agreement that you and your colleagues are to lose your full-time employee status and to become self-employed contractors, with no guaranteed hours or weekly pay package.

However, you will be free, as independent contractors, to pick up other work elsewhere, if you can. All of this will kick-in in two to four years’ time, which is the time needed to work out the detailed terms and conditions of the new arrangement. Call it a “transition arrangement” or “implementation period”.

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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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Brexit, British Government, Northern Ireland, Single Market, UK Labour Party

A Never Ending #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 4th, 2018
The Prime Minister Meets DUP Leader At Downing Street
Prime Minister May with DUP leaders

It is Sunday and the weekend papers are awash with suggestions that the Brexit negotiators are close to a breakthrough. The Sunday Times reports, almost breathlessly, on “May’s Secret Brexit Deal”. RTE’s European editor, Tony Connelly reports it somewhat differently – and far more soberly.

As usual, the potential deal-breaker is the Irish backstop.

Apparently, what is now being discussed is that the while the whole of the UK would stay in a “bare bones”, temporary customs union with the EU, Northern Ireland (NI) would stay within the full EU customs code and the single market for goods. Regulatory checks would take place in factories and businesses away from the actual border. Instead of the border being down the middle of the Irish sea it might be somewhere in a factory in, say, Liverpool. But then Liverpool was always part of Ireland, really.

Were this deal to be finalised between the negotiators it is being suggested that it would allow UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to argue that her redlines of no divisions within the UK have been respected and that the NI backstop would never have to be used in practice.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Northern Ireland

Now Impossible to See How a UK/EU Deal on #Brexit is Doable

 This blogpost was written on Tuesday Oct 23rd, 2018

commons

After Theresa May’s statement yesterday to the House of Commons, it seems more likely than ever that we are heading for a no-deal Brexit. Fast.

May effectively repudiated Article 49, the so-called “Irish backstop”, in last December’s Joint Report from EU and UK negotiators to Europe’s political leaders. It was this report which allowed the Brexit talks to move on. The EU will not accept the UK reneging on a clear undertaking, especially as the UK is trying to leverage talks on the Irish backstop to force the pace on its future economic relationship with the EU. (For a full history of the backstop see Tony Connelly here).

Nothing destroys a negotiation more quickly than when one of the parties is seen by the other as acting in bad faith. Renege on a commitment and all trust is gone. May with her Commons statement might have seen off a simmering rebellion in the Tory party over her leadership, but at the cost of breaking faith with the EU.

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