Saturday, 20 May 2017

Theresa May's Brexit fraud

Theresa May has warned that Britain will face “dire consequences” if it does not secure a clean departure from the European Union. The Prime Minister said that if the Tories win the general election her Government would “not seek to fudge this issue - to be half-in and half-out of the EU”.

She committed the Tories to taking Britain completely out of both the single market and the customs’ union, and cutting net immigration into the UK to fewer than 100,000 a year, something she failed to do in her six years as home secretary.

The Telegraph offers some select quotes:
“If we fail, the consequences for Britain and for the economic security of ordinary working people will be dire. If we succeed, the opportunities ahead of us are great.
“I have negotiated for Britain in Europe. And I know that the best place to start is to be clear about where you stand and what you want".

“That is why I have been clear that we do not seek to fudge this issue - to be half-in and half-out of the EU.
“The British people made their choice. I respect that. And I respect the view of other European leaders who agree we can’t be half-in, half-out either.

The manifesto makes clear that Mrs May would consider paying a “fair settlement” to leave the EU to cover the UK’s obligations to the EU. It says: “There may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate and if so it will be reasonable that we make a contribution.
This is actually nothing she has not said already. The Tory line is that there is no hard or soft Brexit. Only Brexit. This is a rhetorical line swallowed by virtually all Tories but it doesn't sit well with reality. 

We are not permitted to know which of those specific European programmes we might want to participate in. We can take a few guesses though. If the UK wants to sell pharmaceuticals to the EU and have some influence over the framework it will want a seat at the European Medicines Agency. If we are to have a carve out for the sake of continued frictionless trade for Northern Ireland that will mean implementation of all European food standards and some degree of involvement in the European Food Safety Authority. Given that we lack the capacity to restore full control over aviation matters we will need some involvement in the Single European Sky. 

As the list of economic concerns reveals itself during the negotiations we will find ourselves tied, if not for the interim then for the foreseeable future. If we want to maintain the same levels of trade with the EU then the standards and regulations we adopt by way of her repeal bill will be permanent. This is immediately at odds with her assertion that we will “take control of our laws".

In fact, the only way to ensure that we are not half-in and half-out of the EU is to abandon most of our trade and cooperation with Europe. As a former member of the EU we will need a long lead time to dismantle our joint programmes. If we are cancelling any on the spot then we will have to buy our way out. 

All of this agenda completely ignores the Swiss experience where they have found that all the barriers to trade and cooperation have over the years forced them to drop many of their red lines or put them in a position of having to operate to EU rules with virtually no input. 

I could quite easily go into more detail but I'm starting to get deja vu. I am nearly certain I have written this exact article before. If May is reiterating her Lancaster House speech then I am making exactly the same points now, only with less will to live. 

Effectively May is exploiting the ignorance of the public, the complete absence of Brexit debate and the collapse of opposition to effectively hold off any serious examination of the issues. By now though, she probably knows there are trade offs and uncomfortable compromises. I just don't think she realises how many she will have to make and how little leverage she has. The EU can be flexible but it cannot break its own rules, nor indeed WTO rules. If May believes even half of what she is saying then we are in trouble. 

May states "I have negotiated for Britain in Europe. And I know that the best place to start is to be clear about where you stand and what you want". She's right about that. The EU thinks the same way. They have been clear where they stand, in that the integrity of the single market must be upheld with no exceptions, and there is a uniform view on this. They have listened to what May ways (ie the impossible) and they have said no.

As to May's target of cutting net immigration into the UK to fewer than 100,000 a year, nobody serious thinks this is likely and anyone who has looked at it in any detail sees a way forward that will not significantly harm the economy. It is entirely the wrong approach. 

If we had even a halfway competent opposition they would be making mincemeat out of this. They would score with it too because this is the most serious aspect of this election. They have, however, vacated the field. 

The core assumption at the heart of May's Brexit policy is that we can wrap this all up in a short time and move seamlessly to a far less involved FTA without consequence and that this will meet the needs of British business. 

Knowing as little as they do, imbued with a sense of misplaced confidence in their own abilities, steadfast in the belief that "no deal" is an option, willing to bicker over something so inconsequential as the financial settlement, with time running out, much of it already wasted, one gets a sense that there is a strong possibility of Brexit hitting the rocks. Should that happen we are then at the mercy of the EU as to how far they will let us slide.

This is the outcome most favoured by May's Brextremist back-benchers but as we point out on LeaveHQ, one can say unequivocally, that the UK could not survive as a trading nation by relying on the WTO Option. It would be an unmitigated disaster and no responsible government should allow it.

There are two basic possibilities here. Either May is undertaking an elaborate deception or she simply does not know what is involved. I rather get the impression that it's both - which is absolutely inexcusable. Between the arrogance of David Davis and the ignorance of May, we have the most toxic combination possible leading us out of the EU. 

May has already squandered a number of opportunities and by her rhetoric has closed a number of doors a burnt a number of bridges. At some point there will have to be major u-turns. The real worry is that this government is neither honest nor pragmatic enough to admit that they've got it wrong and deliver a catastrophic exit.

Were that we had an issue literate media, capable of prioritising they would leading with this all the way up to the election. That May is openly lying about what is possible should be the story of the century. Instead it falls to this humble blog among others to state it for the record. 

Whatever else is in the Tory manifesto is completely irrelevant. Whatever spending May has in mind will take a severe pruning on the back of the Brexit she will most likely deliver. While some Tories may delight in that prospect, the cuts will fall where they always fall; defence - which is already cut to the bone. As much as that ends Britain as a serious country (which is entirely lost on the Tories) that's also votes on Tory strongholds. And that's the only silver lining to this - a complete annihilation of the Tories. It is no less than they deserve. 

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