Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

#Brexit Will Not End Well… or…Brits need to realise: the #EU is just not that into you

This blog was written on June 12th 2018

Lemass DeGaulle
Lemass with De Gaulle in 1962

In the blizzard of policy statements, position papers, press conferences and parliamentary debates it is crucial to keep one fact in mind: the UK is leaving the EU on March 29th, 2019, unless the UK parliament votes to withdraw the Article 50 notice. Given the views expressed by the Conservative government and the opposition Labour Party this seems unlikely to happen. But never say never.

 

As matters stand, on March 29th, 2019, the UK will become a “third country”, outside of the EU institutions and legal framework. That there may be a transition period until the end of December 2020, with the UK de facto following all EU laws but without a voice in the EU governance structures, does not change the fact that on March 30th, 2019, the UK will have left the EU. Everything else is nothing more than dealing with the consequences of that exit. Damage limitation at best.

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Article 50, Brexit, Conservative Party, Theresa May

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

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, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

Opting-Out and Opting-In on #BREXIT

This blog was written on March 9th 2018

Tusk IrlIn the Roman republic in the 2nd century BCE prior to the Third Punic War against Carthage, the Roman senator Cato the Elder is said to have concluded all of his speeches, no matter what the topic, with the words “Carthage must be destroyed”.

It seems to us that we should begin every piece we write on Brexit with the somewhat longer phrase: “The UK is not being expelled from the EU. It wasn’t even asked to leave. It freely decided to leave.”

Remarks yesterday by the UK’s International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox underscore the need to keep reminding ourselves of this basic fact. Dr. Fox said that “… the idea of (the EU) punishing Britain to me is not the language of a club, it’s the language of a gang.”

Apart from the gratuitous insult in referring to EU representatives as gangsters, Dr. Fox also fails to grasp the point that the UK is leaving the club and leavers do not get treated the same as remainers. “We want to partner with our fellow Member States”, he said. But that’s the point. They are no longer your fellow Member States. You decided that.

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

May: I Am Where I Am Because I Put Me Where I Am #Brexit

This Blogpost was written on Sat March 3rd, 2018

may snowIn the cold light of a snowy Saturday morning, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Mansion House speech yesterday can be read as an anguished plea to the European Union to help her out of the impossible position she has put herself in.

She knows the road she has chosen will result in the UK being economically less well off than it otherwise would have been, not to mention the loss of European and wider geopolitical influence.  But she is trapped.

Where Mrs. May finds herself is the consequence of decisions she herself has made. No one else. She now asks the EU to help her evade the consequences of those decisions by tearing up its own rules and laws, asking it to agree that the UK can be, at the same time in and out of the single market and the customs union, allowing it to pick the bits its likes and reject the bits it doesn’t.

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