Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Theresa May is away with the fairies

Three hundred areas of cooperation to discuss. To be compared against where we are now with where we want to be. In each policy area we submit our proposals which must be put to member states governments and then out for wider consultation. Positions have to be translated into twenty three languages and responses have to be translated back. 
There is a limited number of interpreters, all tied up with existing EU business. A three week lag at the very least on any one transaction. Anyone who has worked in the EU will tell you that meetings are routinely cancelled because they can't get interpreters at short notice.

Every new measure must be cross referenced by EU lawyers and measured against the treaties and against international law. That's quite difficult when you're negotiating an accession agreement where you are going from the known to the known - but here we are going from the known to the yet to exist.

Then keep in mind all the technical areas of cooperation that require legal and scientific opinion. Then there's the conditions of the agency de-mergers and the financial arrangements. Just from a paperwork angle Brexit is insanely bureaucratic before you even get to the negotiations.

Then let's not forget that we have to resource this. There is huge competition for the best people and most of them will already be working for the EU. Then there is the timing of the transitions which will have to be project planned and agreed. In this there is no model to follow because it has simply never been done before.

With the best will in the world there is no way this can be agreed in two years. Even if we were taking massive shortcuts it cannot be done - and this is assuming we live in a perfect world where member states actually cooperate. More than likely there will be multiple crunch points not least on immigration and visas. If we are closing down huge revenue streams for member states then they will want to take a chunk out of us as we leave - or even veto the possibility of leaving.

Just from a practical perspective I do not see any avenue where this can be done and politically it seems wholly implausible. Theresa May is away with the fairies. As much as negotiating the substance of a comprehensive agreement is complex and fraught with political risk, the transition has to be negotiated because our "taking back control", in fisheries especially has transboundary implications and multiple externalities that we must compensate for. 

Frankly, I am in a state of bewilderment. Hitherto now May had given us the impression that there was some distance between her position and that of her lunatic fringe. Now it would appear that the differences are slight. I have chastised other writers for catastrophising on the basis of no evidence, and I stick by that - but now it's out in the clear it's open season as far as I'm concerned. 

Normally I can bring to this some degree of distant thoughtful analysis but until this sinks in I am in a state of shock that May could be so profoundly misguided. The purpose of Article 50 is to establish a framework for leaving. There was never any realistic proposal that sees Brexit settled in two years unless we were prepared to adopt off the shelf measures. The goal should have been to buy ourselves time and space to start the Brexit process meticulously and to a timetable that caused neither side to rush into anything. Now we find Mrs May wants it all done and dusted and ready for transition in two years. Can you imagine anything more crass?

I expect over the coming days I will have a procession of dimwitted Brexiteers telling me to give Mrs May a chance and to wait and see what she is made of - but now we know from her speech that she has entirely misread the situation and the potential risks and ultimately misunderstood the depth of EU integration much like her cretinous back bench Brexiteers. 
I expect we will very rapidly see May backed into a corner with nowhere to turn. The penny won't drop until she has triggered article 50 and soon after she will learn the depth of her error. The childish notion that we can go to Brussels and throw our weight around expecting them to bend over backwards for us is the worst kind of bombastic kipperish politics that will likely be met with disdain and disbelief. 

It won't take very long for talks to stall and hit a crisis point. We can expect multiple market panics when that happens and as the risk of a trainwreck Brexit looms we will see jitters from investors. Britain's credibility will very rapidly tank and the EU won't lift a finger to stop us making fools of ourselves. I really don't see this ending well. If we get a deal at all it will be a poor shadow of what was there for the taking. Theresa May is going to blow it. 

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