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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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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Brexit, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Rees Mogg, Theresa May

Deadlock on #Brexit

This blog was written on saturday morning, Sept 29th 2018, 

5ae09c05dda4c864608b4586

I completely agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Actually, to be more accurate, Rees-Mogg agrees with me. Some weeks ago I wrote a Briefing, The Politics of Hard Numbers, here, in which I argued that there was no majority in the House of Commons for any Brexit deal.

In an article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph Rees-Mogg argues, as regards Theresa May’s Chequers plan, that the EU:

“…has been so clear that the plan fails to meet its requirements that it is hard to see that it could change tack without a new chief negotiator.”

More critically, he notes:

The domestic opposition is even more important because, although our system provides for a powerful executive, ultimately laws need the support of the House of Commons, which Chequers cannot get. Indeed, if put forward it could be heavily defeated with no direct consequence for the Government.

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

#Brexit and the Politics of Hard Numbers

This blog was written on Aug 26, 2018.

Commons voteIn the end, democratic politics comes down to the brutality of numbers… of hard numbers. Either you have the votes to get measures through parliament or you don’t.

Politics is about being able to count. Ask the Australian politician Peter Dutton about hard numbers. Last Monday he believed he had the votes to oust the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and take the top job himself. He had the votes, as they say in Australia to ‘spill’ Turnbull but lost to Scott Morrison when it came to the decision as to who would replace Turnbull. Dutton counted the wrong numbers.

For a great part of the past 100 years parliamentary majorities and party discipline generally gave UK governments the numbers they needed in the House of Commons.

But not when it comes to Brexit.

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

There is Only One #Brexit Question: The Irish Question

May FosterBrexit, all comes down to this: The Irish Question.

As on so many other occasions over the past 200 years, the English, and it is mainly the English, do not know to handle the existential problems that Ireland creates for UK politics.

As we have done previously in this Briefing, it is well to remind ourselves that the UK voted to leave the EU. It was not pushed out, expelled or asked to leave. It decided to leave, and UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, determined, fairly much on her own it seems, that leaving meant leaving the single market, the customs union, the jurisdiction of the European Court and ending the free movement of people. The problems of Brexit are entirely of the UK’s making.

The EU didn’t start the fire.

Despite initial shock and deep disappointment, the EU has never sought to challenge the decision of the UK to leave. It accepted the decision and told the UK that its departure would have to be dealt with in accordance with Article 50 (A50) of the Lisbon Treaty. The key language in A50 reads:

In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. Continue reading

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

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

The #Brexit Delusions of Davis?

This article was written on April 16th 2018

DavisHaving your chief negotiator on top of their brief should be a given. Knowing all relevant facts and figures is usually helpful, as is being familiar with the procedures that are to be followed.

Having some insight into the thinking of the other party is recommended as that can stop the negotiator making rash promises that cannot be delivered.

All of this holds true, no matter what the negotiation.

It is even more true when it is a negotiation of unequals, with one side holding most, if not all, of the cards.

In such circumstances for the lead negotiator of the weaker party to unilaterally announce what is going to happen, how it is going to happen and what will be the outcome is foolhardy and unwise, to say the least. Unless there is some unknown, ulterior motive for so doing.

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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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