Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market

Fog in the English Channel. Continent Cut Off

 This analysis of recent developments was written and posted on Monday, May 18th, 2020

Belgium EU Britain Brexit
EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (Francois Lenoir, Pool Photo via AP)

Fog in the English Channel, Continent Cut Off” may or may not be an actual UK newspaper headline, but could easily sum up the remarks of the UK’s Brexit negotiator, David Frost, last Friday after another round of discussions between the EU and the UK.

“We made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us,” Frost said, adding it was “…hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which makes it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement”. Frost’s comments were repeated on a Sunday TV show by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove who said “…there’s a philosophical difference” in the UK-EU negotiations

In reply, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michael Barnier, commented:

“This makes me believe that there is still a real lack of understanding in the United Kingdom about the objective, and sometimes mechanical, consequences of the British choice to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union.”

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Single Market

UK’s Brexit mandate is based on 3 fictions

This blogpost was written on Saturday March 7th.

BoJo

The first week of negotiations on the terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK after the end of 2020 transition year opened this week in Brussels. The previous week both sides published their negotiating mandates. The EU mandate can be found here. The UK´s here.

Leave to one side the technicalities of tariffs, quotas, rules of origin and so on, the small stuff of trade negotiations. “Zoom out” and see the big picture. And the big picture is this: the UK is leaving the EU. The UK decided to leave. It was its decision and its decision alone. It was not pushed out or asked to leave.

All the consequences of Brexit flow from the UK´s decision.

The UK is walking away from the deal it now has, as an EU member, of frictionless trade in goods, liberalised access for the services sector, and full integration into intra-EU data flows covering individuals, businesses, and justice and security matters. The UK government has now accepted that any future deal will be worse than this, will generate border delays and frictions, will curb services access and disrupt data flows.

Business will take a hit, in some cases a very big hit (see below). But, as is it right, the current UK government has privileged sovereignty and law-making autonomy over economic and commercial considerations.

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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, Data transfers, Single Market

First Rule of #Brexit: If it can go wrong it probably will

This blog was written early on Sat August 31st 2019

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Sometimes, all you can do is to shake your head in disbelief. I’m not talking about Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks to push through a no-deal Brexit to guarantee the future sovereignty of parliament. After all, was not returning sovereignty to parliament from the clutches of Brussels what the slogan “take back control” was all about? What better way of returning sovereignty to parliament than suspending parliament. See this By Chris Grey on what all this means.

No, I’m talking about the fact that every day it becomes clearer that those who have campaigned longest and hardest for the UK to leave the EU have no real idea what this will actually mean in practice. The day-to-day consequences of the UK putting new barriers between itself and the largest, single market in the world have never been thought out.

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