Friday, 11 March 2016

Brexit negotiations will give way to pragmatism


Andrew Lilico asserts that if no new treaty deal is agreed then things stay as they are. Being as polite and reasonable as I can, I will just say he's on a different wavelength.

Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty says "The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period."

So the theory is that if nothing is agreed then we do slide into the abyss. In subsequent tweets Lilico clarifies in that there is going to be a certain pragmatism should an impasse be reached - and that's not wholly unreasonable. I'll let that go.

The treaty states that an extension period would have to be unanimously agreed, but the EU in a crisis (and this scenario would be a crisis) would green-light some sort of ad-hoc (and probably technically illegal) agreement to put the proceedings into stasis. This is largely on the basis that neither side really knows what a crash and burn Brexit looks like and nobody is in a hurry to find out.

But actually what matters is that nobody will be willing to risk the uncertainty of such a stalemate in the first place. We will see talks before the Article 50 notification is submitted and because nobody wants the uncertainty of a long negotiation that could result in damaging cliffhangers - ones that could send markets into free-fall. They would plan up front to do it within two years. That means using as many existing legal instruments as possible.

They will choose off the shelf packages - specifically because the terms are already set and the minutia is not up for time-wasting negotiation. That is all the more important when even something like the Norway option has its own peculiarities for the UK. They would have to be hammered out. One such example being the Northern Irish land border. The issue is unclear and people want answers.

The fact of the matter is that Brexit is uncharted water for both the EU and Britain. Even though we can say the risks are manageable and it is worth the trouble, it does create questions to which we need good answers. Those such questions wouldn't need answering were we to stay in the EU - therefore the obligation is upon us to provide them.

In that regard it is in our interests to sell an off the shelf solution. It means that many of the questions are already answered by referencing real life rather than the fantasies of Boris Johnson. I suspect Lilico's blog is written as a react piece in support of Boris Johnson's cock up in putting forward a possible settlement along the lines of CETA - which could take many years longer than the two years allotted.

Personally I feel no obligation to join in the fire-fighting over unforced errors when we have pleaded with such people not to say these things and instead specify a comprehensive, credible Brexit plan. To join in the fire-fighting is to effectively endorse Boris Johnson as a leader, when in fact we should be utterly rejecting tribalism and reclaiming this as a people's referendum; independent of the SW1 hacks and politicos who did this to us in the fist place.

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