Thursday 24 November 2016

Please, no more Brexit nonsense

The Brexit headcases are growing in number and they are growing impatient. I share their frustration but Brexit was never going to happen quickly. Annoyingly though, the idea that we can simply pull the plug and walk away is a seductive idea that simply will not die.

Whether we can legally leave the EU unilaterally is really a debate for men who wear wigs and gowns (no, not Richard Branson), but the real question is whether we would want to. There are grave consequences for doing so.

To pick just one example, if we left the EU unilaterally then the air transport regulations cease to apply to us and we'd lose our non-secured aviation rights. The right to pick up passengers on intermediate flights between airports not comprising of your own territory, and which is not an end destination, is not a given right. It is what is known as a fifth freedom right, which only came in with the third aviation package, by way of Council Regulation. Overnight we would obliterate UK airlines and send schedules into chaos.

Similarly goods could not pass between Dover and Calais because Calais is not equipped to handle freight from third countries (countries without customs agreements). The hard Brexit nutcases think it's a simply a matter of knocking up a quick deal of tariffs and going on our merry way. It isn't.

There are hundreds of similar regulatory considerations, leases and contracts. There are no quick fixes, no temporary sticking plasters and no magic wands. Over the last forty years we have dismantled a lot of our own domestic administration capacity and we will not be able to "take back control" until we have rebuilt our domestic governance systems and adequately planned the handover. 

There's everything from medicines approval to food safety surveillance to consider, all of which makes up multiple tiers of invisible government which is seldom ever acknowledged but keeps the wheels of civilisation turning. 

While the temptation to tell them to shove it is ever present, and believe me I've had my moments, unilateral withdrawal would plunge the UK into every kind of crisis imaginable and would cost a good deal more than £350m a week to sort out. Omnishambles doesn't even come close.

Brexit will have to be handled carefully and forensically, and must be meticulously planned in order ensure a smooth transition. That is absolutely paramount to the economy and national security. Hard brexiteers should also consider what would happen to our credit rating if we took drastic measures. 

If I were to detail every last consequence of unilateral Brexit we would be here all week. Even a negotiated settlement that involves leaving the single market creates numerous administrative difficulties for exporters and they need time to plan and adjust their budgets. The simple truth is that hard Brexit, whichever way you want to define it, is simply not a realistic proposition. 

This is not a matter of remoaner catastrophising. I have been committed to getting us out of the EU all of my adult life. We just have to recognise that forty years of economic, social and political integration is not undone at the stroke of a pen. To pretend otherwise is to grossly underestimate the extent of what has been done in our name over the last forty years - the very thing we have been warning voters about all this time. 

Suzanne Evans, Nigel Farage, John Redwood, Arron Banks, Bernard Jenkin and all the rest of them have long since given up thinking. Their steadfast refusal to engage in reality is a symptom of the bubble mentality. It borders on the psychotic. They are being dishonest with voters and with themselves. Whether we like it or not, and believe me I don't like it, we have to leave the same way we went in. Gradually. 

It will be many years before we see any tangible benefits to Brexit. Ultimately we voted to leave to stop the UK being subsumed into a federal Europe and to safeguard democracy. It doesn't matter if it takes five, ten or even twenty years just so long as the job gets done. We have waited this long to start the ball rolling. Waiting a little while longer won't hurt. Reckless gambles based on assumptions serve nobody. If leavers continue to insist on making Brexit a binary proposition then they risk Brexit not happening at all. The public will rightly turn in the other direction. 

This June we won a significant victory. D-Day. But it was only a beachhead and there is long fight ahead of us to see it through to the end. In this we must fight will as much skill as determination. Dogmatic, unreasonable and hasty moves from hardline leavers could see all of our work undone. It's time to get serious and drop this hard Brexit nonsense. 

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