Monday, 26 September 2016

The way forward for Brexit

If you existed on a diet of remainer problematising you would very much get the impression that there are no real benefits to Brexit. In the interim that's probably true and even then the benefits are entirely contingent on how competent the government is - which doesn't inspire me with confidence so far. Howsoever, to every problem, unless you are David Allen Green, there is a solution. The way Green operates is to pretend solutions do not exist. He cannot be unaware of the many solutions presently in circulation thus his latest venture marks him out as a fraud on the make. Anybody can ask cleverdick questions.

But in order to understand Brexit and what talks are likely to achive one has to first acknowledge that if you thought it was complicated then it's even more complicated than that. That much Allen-Green won't know because he already, as far as he is concerned, knows everything. When you look at the scale of the task you come to one inescapable solution. The agreement signed at the end of Brexit talks will not be the end of the process. At best we will have an agreed a framework for continuous departure. Just the list of subject headings is considerable.

So far many are still caught up in the basics being unable to distinguish between the customs union and the single market and have yet to clarify what they mean by single market access. This, though, deals only with trade. Unless we want to be tied up in Article 50 negotiations in perpetuity - for which there is no appetite, the agreement we shall have will be an interim framework where the finer details are not even opened up for discussion. The easiest and most obvious way to get round them is to use the EEA agreement - or a template based on it.

If the aim of the government is to achive Brexit in a single bound they will fail. One hopes the realisation will come before they invoke Article 50 but these are strange times where political competence is not in fashion. Should they fail to realise the necessity for an interim solution then we will be having crisis talks and quite possibly there will be a pause in the proceedings while both sides get their bearings. 

The big assumption in the Brexit debate is member states and the EU are clued up while our own ministers are muppets. We will discover in due course that ignorance is evenly spread. This will be a vast learning process for all involved as the last forty years of technocratic development is brought out for an airing - some of it the subject of public scrutiny for the first time ever. 

In fact, the only way we are going to complete the talks in two years if we have a meticulously planned timetable and a solid grasp of the issues up front. Bureaucracy being what it is though, there is no reason to expect smooth sailing. If we conducted parallel talks we could very well negotiate EEA terms before invoking Article 50. That would buy us time to further prepare which means all the peripheral issues can be confined to the two years. That though may be optimistic so we should be looking to use our leverage to negotiate an extension before even invoking Article 50.  

What makes the EEA the obvious solution is the nature of the agreement. What critics of the EEA miss is that the EEA agreement is not just an agreement on single market participation. It is an interface mechanism with its own infrastructure for constant review and reform for the purposes of entering special conditions, exemptions and reservations. And so there are mechanisms to tailor the agreement to the needs of the UK, be that enhanced controls over freedom of movement or better consultation on regulations. It also takes a number of issues listed above off the table and beyond the reach of those who would like to complicate the proceedings.

If we do it right, by the end of Article 50 talks we will have negotiated an agreement that keeps much of the existing set up in tact but buys us as much time as we need to decide how we diverge from the EU. If we can accomplish that then it will be a very tidy accomplishment. If however we decide to go full throttle, we will spend several years bickering over the finer points only to replicate the mess of agreements Switzerland has while making life more complicated than it needs to be. 

If we approach talks with a view to creating a Brexit safe space or departure lounge we can shelve some of the more thorny issues where there would be serious advantage in consulting Norway and other Efta states to leverage bigger reforms of the EEA and thus weaken the EUs protectionist measures. That would do all of us a favour. Top of the bill would be Rules of Origin. 

In setting out yet more Brexit hurdles, David Allen Green is essentially reinventing the wheel where most of the work has already been done. Far from being the doyen he believes he is, he is several months behind the curve not least because he is not in the least bit interested in solutions. He's just looking for more flies to put in the ointment.

What is needed is to ram home the message that we need a flexible exit and that there is no need to rush it. We've waited decades to leave the EU so we can be patient a while longer. The collective refusal of remainers and Brexiteers alike to confront this reality is why the government is still thrashing around for big bang solutions when there really aren't any. 

The fact is that Brexit is unprecedented and so we will have to work toward brand new solutions to unique problems and we will have to work closely with the EU and the international community to from them. Consequently the bluff and bluster of politicians on all sides should be ignored because we are all in the hands of the technocrats now. We're looking for something amicable, stable and legal. In that regard, political acceptability doesn't really come into it. Through a process of elimination we will have to learn to like what we get. 

Though we lack the necessary collective competence at the moment we will most likely acquire it through this process and build on that in order to decide our post Brexit strategy which has yet to be defined. We will find that the sweeping reforms the Brexiteers have in mind are not so achievable and we will find we are as restrained as the EU in some respects. What should not be forgotten though is that we will for the first time in a long time have the knowledge and the tools to try things differently - and that is at least half the point of Brexit. If the existing set up was working we wouldn't have voted to leave. 

So far as I am concerned, the problematisers are now simply time-wasting. To them a new Brexit complication is just fodder for their own entertainment and self-gratification. Those like Ian Dunt and David Allen Green are like squirrels harvesting nuts for the winter. Hoarding whatever they can find for their stash. It's a cynical game and it's intellectual masturbation. I have no interest in it. Whether these bozos like it or not, Brexit is happening, it's not an unmitigated disaster and there are solutions no matter how hard these frauds attempt to ignore them. When they are as keen on presenting solutions as they are problems I will know they are serious. I will not hold my breath though. I know they aren't. 

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