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

That #Brexit Winding Road may be a Cul-de-Sac

This post was written on Monday Dec 4th, 2017.

may-tusk-junckerThere was a time, before the Internet and social media, when politicians could say very different things to very different audiences and get away with it. Not so today. To coin a phrase, what you say in Brussels is known in Belfast before you finish your sentence.

As I write this, at 18:30 Paris time, reports of what actually happened in Brussels today are still somewhat unclear. But it does appear that all parties thought a deal was done until the UK said no at the last minute. Speaking to Irish radio, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar said:

“The U.K. had agreed a text on the border that met our concerns … I was then contacted by [Juncker and Tusk] and confirmed Ireland agreement to that text… I am surprised and disappointed that the U.K. Govt is not in a position to agree to what was approved today”

Reports suggest that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it could not support the agreed text as it appeared to split Northern Ireland economically from the rest of the UK as Northern Ireland would, to all extents and purposes, still be in the EU’s single market and customs union while the rest of the UK would not.

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Article 50, Brexit, David Davis, GDPR, Irish border, Michel Barnier, Theresa May

Still a (very) Long and Winding #Brexit Road Ahead

This Briefing was written on 3rd Dec 2017

7EEC154E-1C26-4BA9-BD46-6E7E326308E2As we write this Briefing, early on Sunday Dec 3, it would appear that the EU and the UK are moving towards a position where the EU Council (heads of government) at its next meeting on December 14/15 will be able to declare “sufficient progress” in the Article 50 discussions to date to allow them to move on to the next stage, which will focus on the “framework” of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

However, as one diplomat put it, until we see what has been agreed “on paper” rather than “in the papers” it is wise to withhold judgement. But it does seem that the logjam on citizens’ rights has been broken by the UK conceding an ongoing role for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in upholding the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK after Brexit.

The UK has also agreed to meet all its outstanding financial obligations to the EU, estimated at around €50 billion net, while accepting that this money does not buy a future trade deal of any type, even if, for the moment, UK cabinet ministers are not exactly making that clear to MPs in the House of Commons. Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, David Davis, Irish border, Negotiating

#Brexit: “Sometimes it seems like they haven’t thought all this through”

This article was written on 17th Nov 2017

Hammond BoJoAnother week, another seven days that leaves us little wiser as to what happens next. With each passing day it becomes ever clearer that the UK government fundamentally misunderstands the position it has placed itself in as regards exiting the European Union.

This misunderstanding is such that, as of today, there would appear to be only two possibilities open to the UK.

The first is to leave the EU in March 2019 without an agreement as to its future relationship with the EU and, therefore, obliged to conduct trade with the EU within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The second possibility is to accept a free trade agreement modelled on the agreement the EU has recently signed with Canada. That agreement basically covers trade in goods, resulting in a reduction in tariffs of some 98%, and mutual recognition in regulated professions such as architects, accountants and engineers, and easier transfers of company staff and other professionals between the EU and Canada.

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

#Brexit, a Dickensian example of: “Please sir, can I have less?”

This article was written on Oct 29, 2017.

Sir-Ivan-Rogers-776583If the absence of economic rationality, as a driving force behind Brexit, was ever in question, comments this week from three very different speakers should put an end to the doubt.

First, the French ambassador to the US, Gerard Araud tweeted:

“Maybe I am too cartesian but leaving the largest free trade area in the world and 53 free trade agreements on behalf of free trade is weird.”

Indeed, much too logic. But that’s the French for you.

Second, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of Bloomberg and former mayor of New York commented:

Brexit is the “single stupidest thing any country has ever done…it is really hard to understand why a country that was doing so well wanted to ruin it”

Third, and most significantly, speaking to a House of Commons committee, Sir Ivan Rogers, the former UK ambassador to the EU (Photo above with David Cameron), who resigned earlier this year after warning against “ill- founded arguments and muddled thinking” in the UK’s approach to leaving the EU, said: Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, Divorce, Negotiating, Theresa May

On #Brexit: You can’t always get what you want…

This BEERG Brexit Briefing (#16) was written on Sat Oct 21, 2017

Hammond BoJoWords and phrases can shape reality.

How we describe an issue or event can determines how that issue or event is to be understood. Such “framing” can be particularly important when we are dealing with some something unique, something that has never happened before. How do you describe the unknown? How do you explain the unprecedented?

One way of doing so is to compare the unknown to something known and familiar. This, in the UK at any rate, is what many journalists, commentators and academics have done when writing about Brexit, an unprecedented and unknown event. They have taken to describing the Article 50 discussions between the EU and the UK as being akin to divorce proceedings, with the key argument being about money: how much will the UK have to pay the EU as part of the “divorce settlement”?

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

Breaking up is so very hard to do #brexit

Brexit4Over the past number of years, I have been involved, on the management side, in many European-level labour negotiations. But one particularly comes to mind.

The employees’ representatives on the other side had cancelled an agreement that had been in place for close on 20 years. It wasn’t a perfect agreement, it had drawbacks for both parties, but it worked reasonably well in practice.

Further, it was always possible to negotiate small, but important, changes to the agreement as circumstances evolved, old provisions became outdated and new issues and organisational changes needed to be taken into consideration.

In other words, the other side did not need to cancel the agreement but could, instead, have worked on improving it. But they were advised that negotiating a new agreement would be easy and that it would be a lot better than what they then had. Five years on, a replacement is not yet in place.

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Brexit, Negotiating, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

“Plan for the Worst: Hope for the Best” – the Fading Hope of #Brexit Deal

Posted on Friday, Oct 6th 2017:

4221396001_5597581765001_5597568337001-vsThe major party conferences have come and gone and still we are no wiser as to how Brexit is going to unfold. As we noted in last week’s Briefing, the Labour Party’s policy appears to be that they will deliver Brexit, but a Labour Brexit, not a Tory Brexit, whatever that means. Brexit is Brexit and Brexit means being outside the European Union (EU), the single market and the customs union.

However, Labour is in opposition and, so, for the moment what it says is important but nowhere near as important as what the Conservative government says, as it is charged with negotiating the Brexit arrangements with the EU. Whether it can get whatever deal it negotiates, if any, through Parliament, especially the House of Lords, is another matter.

This week’s Conservative Party conference was dominated by three issues:

  1. Brexit;
  2. Who is going to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader, and when;
  3. and Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government

“Repeal and Replace”: Difficult to do on both sides of the Atlantic #Brexit

Written Sunday September 3rd 2017:

Capture“Repeal and replace” makes for a great political slogan. For Republicans in the US, who minted the phrase, it meant repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). In January of this year, President Trump told ABC news that “he wanted “good coverage at much less cost” and “a much better healthcare plan at much less money.” Over recent months President Trump has found that while “repealing” might possibly be easy, replacing is a lot harder. To date, the Act has been neither repealed nor replaced.

Now, Brexiters in the UK never used the phrase “repeal and replace”, but that is what they meant.

“Repeal” the UK’s membership of the European Union and “replace” it with a relationship with the EU at much less cost and with much better benefits.

That is, in effect, the prospectus they offered the people of the UK. As Boris Johnson, now the Foreign Secretary, put it, the UK “could have its cake and eat it”.

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Brexit, British Government, Negotiating, UK Labour Party

#BREXIT: All Changed, Changed Utterly

Written on August 28th 2017:

Commenting on the Irish insurrection against the UK in 1916, the poet W.B. Yeats penned the words:

All is changed, changed utterly
A terrible beauty is born

StarmerThe announcement on Sunday August 27, by way of an article in The Observer, that the Labour Party now backed a transition arrangement for the UK after it leaves the EU in March 2019 changes everything, utterly.

Writing in The Observer, Keir Starmer (photo), the Labour spokesperson on Brexit said:

Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU. That means we would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during this period. It means we would abide by the common rules of both.

If Labour can push this through it restores for business the vital prospect of greater stability in trading terms with the EU and labour market free movement for at least 3 or 4 years ahead.

How this is to be achieved is not stated but if it involves the complete acceptance of all EU rules, including free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, then finding a way to do this should not be that difficult. The full article can be found here. Presumably, Labour also accepts that after 2019 the UK will no longer have any involvement in EU governance, no commissioner, no MEPs and no European court judge.

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Brexit, British Government, Brussels, Negotiating

The Impossibility of a Peter Pan #Brexit

This was written on August 14th, 2017

“Take care, lest an adventure is now offered you, which, if accepted, will plunge you in deepest woe.”                                                                                                         J.M. Barrie

This will not end well for the simple reason that it is impossible for it to end well. When you promise the impossible it is impossible for it to end well.

The current UK Conservative government has led the British people to believe that leaving the European Union (EU) will come at no economic cost and that UK citizens will be able to trade with, and travel to, EU countries much as they can now. Brexit has been defined as the UK exclusively controlling its borders and immigration, walking away from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), ending payments to the EU for membership of the bloc, and being free to negotiate its own trade deals with non-EU countries. After Brexit, the UK will be outside the EU’s single market and customs union.

But, the narrative continues, the UK will be able to replicate all the benefits of the single market and the customs union through a “bold and ambitious” trade agreement with the EU.

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