Monday, 10 October 2016

Hard Brexit is off the table completely

I watched David Davis give a statement to the commons this afternoon. Twas what you might expect. Reiteration of what we already know. Davis argues that we will seek the best possible access to the single market. The evasiveness is telling. Neither May nor Davis have explicitly ruled out membership of the single market.

For reasons that escape me the media still seems to think that means a hard Brexit. But given The Leave Alliance was the first to identify that Brexit is a process and that there is even the possibility of a soft landing, we have more right than any to define those terms. We took the view that hard Brexit was leaving the EU without a negotiated settlement, relying on WTO rules without invoking Article 50. That is most certainly out of the window. There will be no hard Brexit.

But what the media thinks is a hard Brexit is any Brexit that does not mean retaining membership of the single market. So what does that look like? Well, everybody is determined to have no tariffs with the EU, but that doesn't even begin to cover the rest of the relationship and since we have no administrative capability to take over a number of functions like fishing we will at the very least need an interim deal on that.

In this afternoon's debate we heard nothing about the European Medicines Agency or the European Food Safety Agency or the Single European Sky. Things most definitely will fall apart in a bad way if we don't have an agreement for that so we will at the very least be negotiating some kind of long term continuity. Then on top of that there are the other peripherals which total over three hundred different policy areas. These are things that literally cease to function without an agreement.

Meanwhile we have yet to devise our own customs codes and processes and so we need a while to come up with something to plug those procedural gaps. That none of this was mentioned in parliament is a testament to the low grade vermin we have for MPs and their parasitical advisers.

What it means is that if our inept government has not considered these things then they will be sprung with a few nasty surprises during negotiations and will need an emergency fall back position in order to keep things as they are for the time being.

This is what we would very much describe as "the British option" where we attempt to negotiate sector by sector looking for parts of the single market that we don't want. Which won't be very many by the time we are done. And this is why it won't be a hard Brexit. Worst case scenario is that we end up out of the single market with ninety percent of the functionality still in place having paid a heavy price in concessions to get a reduction in freedom of movement. It won't be a hard Brexit though. It'll just be a cock up.

It could actually be that the EU is not minded to let us prat around like this and insist on EEA membership at least for the time being since our time is also their time. It's really up to the government then to explain why ten years of uncertainty for a bespoke deal is better than the EEA when there is so little functional difference.

Whichever way you look at it, in order to retain the MRAs relating to our Authorised Economic Operator status, we will be maintaining regulatory equivalence. Much of what we bring on to the statute book by way of the Great Repeal Bill will stay unchanged until such a time in the distant future where we have the parliamentary runtime to take a second look. Then when you look at our international obligations and other trade agreements based on mutual recognition, the chances are that technical regulation stays much the same.

The short of it is that the Brexit that the hard right fantasists wanted is dead and has been dead ever since Mrs May took control. We will have a negotiated exit which by definition is not hard Brexit. The only question now is whether we will go to extended lengths to reinvent the wheel. For the time being the remainer media is still determined to maintain the narrative that full freedom of movement is necessary in order to remain a member of the single market and so if they wanted an EEA Brexit they have soiled their own nest.

Meanwhile, it looks like Vicky Ford MEP has picked up on the Lichtenstein Solution which Open Europe is so determined to rubbish having completely misunderstood it. It looks like we have a way to go before they realise how few options we have and they will try it the hard way before waking up to reality. It is not a question of soft or hard Brexit, it is only a question of whether Mrs May's advisers are better informed than is immediately apparent.

Were I to speculate I would say that Davis is under strict orders from Mrs May not to rule out the single market, keeping it as a reserve position for negotiations. She might well intend to go for a single market agreement but is in no hurry to give her malevolent Brexiteer backbenchers the chance to rock the boat. That's what I would do. The only absolute certainty is that hard Brexit is not on the table. That the media thinks it is, is all the proof you need.

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