Thursday, 30 June 2016

Brexit: approach with caution

A lot of people have a lot of growing up to do. Some have a seriously babyish idea of what to expect from Brexit. It's bad enough that knuckle-scrapers think it means keeping muslims out but there is a notion about that in two years time we'll be out of the EU and a buccaneering free trade nation, doing as we please and pulling trade deals out of our backsides. Stop it.

Let's take fishing for an example. We opened up our seas and handed out quotas. With the law being as it stands contracts have been made going several years into the future on the basis of the law as it stands and so freeing boats will have "acquired rights" in law. So no, we won't be restoring our fishing fleet to what it was and as it happens we probably won't be able to. Markets have changed and so has demand.

It is going to take more than a decade for those contracts to expire and we will probably extend them as we won't have a fleet looking to compete. We may regain some domestic advantage but what was done was pretty much irreversible. The same applies with industry regulation throughout.

At best we will be able to retake some of the quota but all agricultural quotas will be used as bargaining chips to get some of the market access we need. And if we do manage somehow to abandon freedom of movement in favour of a quota system for foreign unskilled workers, that will also be a bargaining chip where we will make huge concessions in order to secure continuity agreements on existing cooperation where we lack the domestic ability to take over competences.

So it;s going to be quite a long time before we see any major changes, the changes will be slight and we will be making concessions that nobody anticipated. And that is why people like Leadsom and Gove worry me. They have seriously childish expectations and think that negotiations will be bang the table roads about broad stroke issues whereas the reality will be very long and tedious debates or arcane aspects of law over obscure subjects.

They think they are going to come back conquering heroes where after two years they will have a severance deal that completes the process. This is for the birds. At best we will have an underwhelming agreement that will need to be revisited many times with ongoing talks with the EU as we manage the uncoupling process. This is going to require armies of experts fostering good relations. That is why we need someone remain inclined who harbours no innate animosity toward the EU.

That I would advocate someone like May jars with my own conscious and already I'm getting issue illiterate morons saying "May isn't a leaver" with all the conspiratorial suspicions, which is all very well, but prats like Leadsom could very easily be suckered into a deal even worse than we have as members because they will see her coming.

May on the other hand has had extensive experience trying to hammer out cooperation agreements over border data exchanges and a lot of diplomatic exchanges that go with it. Gove on the other hand has just gone out of his way to antagonise the Teaching profession out of some petulant Tory ideology and enjoyed taking a wrecking ball to it. That might actually be what was needed when you're dealing with a blob like that but the EU talks are no place for ideological zealots like Gove and Cummings and no place for wreckers with a list of stupid demands and unrealistic expectations.

What we will be looking to appoint is someone capable of making an astute choice when none of the options are particularly palatable. That is the nature of this kind of diplomacy and it is not for amateurs. They will at least take May seriously. Gove will be seen as a hostile and Leadsom will be laughed at.

If at the end of this we get a transitional agreement out of the EU even close to what Norway has then we will have done exceptionally well. Gove and Leadsom genuinely believe they can get a better "British deal" which is just completely absurd. We are massively dependent on the EU because we have integrated so many tiers of governance and at best we can negotiate a gentle release from obligations - and we will pay through the nose for them. We do have leverage but it's only useful if wielded with skill.

If we get as far as a Norway type agreement that is the point when we will need to start enlisting the cooperation of Efta members to take us the rest of the way out, using the collective weight to renegotiate the EEA agreement. If we just leave it to rest with the EEA as the destination then there genuinely isn't any point in leaving.

Hitherto now I have advocated the Norway Option not because its a good deal but because it registers a few basic concepts like the EEA, the single market and Efta in the public domain. Even getting people familiar with the terminology has been an uphill battle. Now comes the hard part of getting people to understand the transitional nature of it.

The end goal should be to snatch the single market out of the EUs control altogether, making UNECE the controlling body thereby widening the single market to anyone who subscribes. That is why leaving is, in the end, beneficial to us because we are expanding trade while diminishing the EU's dominance. If we are just going to rest inside the EEA then we might as well have voted remain. The goal is to expand the single market, not leave it.

That is why you don't want halfwits like Gove, Cummings and Leadsom around who believe the essence of free trade is to leave the single market and slash away at regulations. This is not just foolish. It's infantile. It's moronic. These people are not even close to competent adults.

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