Saturday, 3 December 2016

It's time to ignore the Brexit headbangers

Over the last week or so I have produced a series of articles making the case that we need the single market as part of our departure agreement. Such invites howls of rage from Ukippers. It doesn't matter how clearly and concisely you make the case, you simply cannot get them to engage in reality. If you can get them to even read the article before they go off on one then you're doing well.

But then we've had this from the right of the Tory party as well. People who don't know and don't want to know. There is no reasoning with the unreasonable. And that is why the hard Brexiteers should be ignored. There is no reason why they should be indulged on any level. If they are not even open to discourse, and if they are not interested in reaching agreement then they have absented themselves from the debate.

We should treat this the same as not voting at all. Not voting is a conscious choice. If you don't vote then you resign yourself to the decision that others make in your name. The same dynamic applies in finding a path out of the EU. There are those who would have us negotiate a bespoke deal and there are those who are pushing for an association agreement. I profoundly disagree with what they propose but at least they are making a case of their own rather than demanding the impossible and the improbable.

The fact is the government cannot entertain the ideas of the hard right. Not even slightly. They are so out there that there is no conversation to be had. It is driven entirely by emotion and wilful ignorance. It is nothing more than a tantrum from religious fanatics. We would do ourselves a disservice to even acknowledge it.

By now we know certain things about the direction Brexit will take. We know that we will use Article 50. We know that we will transpose a large tranche of EU law onto our own books. That tells us that we will seek a mutual recognition agreement on standards at the very least. But then we know that there are supplementary aspects to this which must be taken into account and they will be.

We do not know how far the government has progressed in identifying all the areas for debate and discussion but we do know that list will be thorough by the time it is compiled. We know there will be a mixed bag of priority concerns in which we will seek continuity, not least on tariffs and border checks. We know that the government is not seeking to erect new barriers to trade. In this we must take Mrs May at her word when she says she seeks the maximum possible access to the single market.

The only thing we don't know is whether or not it has yet dawned on the government that we need most of what is presently in place to continue on the same basis in order to safeguard the economy. The banks have made their thoughts clear and so has the automotive industry. Yesterday the British Banking Association suggested that banks will leave unless Brexit is staggered over a number of years. That is how it will likely play out. I cannot imagine any other constructive way to do it.

By the time we have compiled our list of ongoing concerns it will, by function if not by name, be as close to single market membership as it gets. The only question is how we bundle it up and what name we give to it - and whether the government realises it has a get out of jail free card in the European Economic Area.

That is really what this debate is about. We can either expose ourselves to a great deal of risk and uncertainty to achive more or less the same thing or we can bite the bullet and take the politically unpopular option. In this, though the single market may be the least popular option, it is preferable to the alternatives which would be profoundly unpopular in practice. The government should take no notice of the protests. Governments in the past have not been deterred from taking unpopular decisions in relation to Europe. Why should doing the same bother them now?

The only absolute certainty in this is that we will not be taking the advice of hard Brexiteers. They have nothing of value to offer and they are not saying anything worth hearing. They have studiously avoided presenting a plan of any kind, and in place of one have depended heavily on petulant outbursts, none of which can be taken seriously.

In the final analysis Mrs May has no need to consult them. She has enough remainers in the house of commons on her side to carry her through and at last polling the extremists could barely scratch a single MP. They now have no real leverage, their protest party is a shattered husk, their funding dried up and their activist base dispersed. Mrs May can do as she pleases, and it's about time she did.

The Brexiteer MPs have shown themselves to be lacking a solitary clue between them, Johnson has exposed himself as a flim flam artist, Fox a fool and Davis as a puppet. The rest of them are the dregs of right - the no-hopers whose careers are behind them. It's time for Mrs May to put them in their place. Britain did not vote for what they propose. Nobody sane wants to slam the door on Europe and nobody believes their panglossian nonsense. The PM needs to put her foot down. This has gone on far too long.

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