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
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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, Theresa May

. #Brexit and the Dark Art of Bullshit

Written on Sat., Jan 26th 2019
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Andrew Neil with James Delingpole on BBC1’s This Week

Negotiations can be full of sound and fury for the most part signifying nothing. This week has been one of those weeks where UK politicians and commentators sought to play the “gotcha” game. Remarks by EU spokespersons and Irish politicians on the backstop and what would happen with regard to the Irish border in the event of “no deal” seemed contradictory. “Gotcha – the Irish border issue was a hoax all the time designed to keep the UK trapped in the EU”.

While I can’t remember just how many labour negotiations I have been involved in over the past forty plus years, I can say with certainty that in every one of them someone or other, at some time or other, said something out of place that had to be corrected.

Negotiations are conducted by human beings. They are not run by algorithms. Human beings can make mistakes. But when verbal mistakes are made, or are alleged to have been made, it does not change the underlying balance of forces which is what ultimately determines the outcome of any negotiation.

By the way, algorithms are not infallible either. Garbage in, garbage out. Anyone who has ever spent any time on Twitter knows just how much garbage there is going in.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, Theresa May

#Brexit: A Procedural “Fix”?

This #blogpost was written at midday on Friday Jan 18th, 2019

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The UK would apppear to be in a state of political paralysis over Brexit. While there might be a majority in the House of Commons against a “no-deal Brexit”, there is no majority for an alternative way forward.

The European Union cannot rewrite the agreement that is on the table. You cannot negotiate with a party which keeps saying: “I don’t like the proposal you have just made to me. Make me a different one”. You need to know what it is they want, at least in general outline.

But could the EU offer the UK a procedural “fix” as a way forward? Could the EU create time and space for the UK to reflect on where it really wants to be at the end of the Brexit process? Is there a way for all parties to step back from a brink that no one wants to be standing on?

As things stand the UK leaves the EU on March 29th next. If, a very big if, the Withdrawal Agreement is accepted the UK goes into a transition arrangement which could run until the end of 2022, a period of nearly four years. During this time the UK will be a de facto member of the EU, following all EU rules and procedures, but will have no say in EU decision making.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

So… #Brexit? What happens next…? No one knows…

This blogpost was written early on Wed Jan 16th

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Last night the UK government lost the vote in the House of Commons on the Brexit agreement it had negotiated with Brussels by 432 to 202.

This is the largest defeat suffered by a government in over 100 years. In normal times a defeat such as this on the government’s flagship policy would result in the fall of the government or, at the very least, the resignation of the Prime Minister.

But Brexit times are not normal times and today the government will, in all likelihood, win the vote of No Confidence tabled by the Labour Party. While over 100 Conservative MPs voted against the government’s Brexit plans, they will not vote to bring that government down, thereby possibly letting Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, regarded by many as a radical leftist, into 10 Downing Street.

So, the UK government is likely to survive, though whether Theresa May stays on as Prime Minister may be another matter.

So, what happens next? Absolutely no one knows.

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Article 50, Brexit, Referendum

How do you ‘just get on with doing it’ when no one can agree what ‘it’ is?

Ths blogpost was written on January 2nd 2019.

brexit-referendum-question

As Winston Churchill might have said, but didn’t as, in that quaint American way of describing death, he has long “passed over”, we begin 2019 with the dreary steeples of Brexit emerging once again.

What Churchill actually said in 1922 was: “The whole map of Europe has been changed… but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again.”

He might well have been talking about the Irish backstop.

Weeks away from March 29th, when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, and no one can yet say with any certainty what will happen. What an incredible position for a country like the UK to be in. In the face of the biggest constitutional, political, and economic change the country is going to make in over forty years it appears to be deadlocked over what it should do.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, Negotiating, Theresa May

Where next on #Brexit… My Modest Proposal

This blogpost was written on Sunday, Dec 9th, 2018

BoJo

It is impossible to say what will happen in the week ahead, other than it appears that the May government has little chance of winning the Tuesday’s vote on the proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

How things play out after that it is anyone’s guess.

Much will depend on Tuesday’s numbers, particularly the government losing margin. Such is the state of things that there are even suggestions in today’s Sunday newspapers that May could delay Tuesday’s vote as she does a “Maggie May” dash to Brussels to demand changes to the deal, specifically the removal of the Irish backstop. Goodluck with that.

No matter what happens, the choice facing the UK is clear: stay in the EU or leave the EU.

Many will say that this was decided by the June 2016 referendum. Since then, however, much new information on what leaving the EU involves and the price to be paid has become available.

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