Thursday, 30 November 2017

A dose of the Brexit blues


Some readers will be wondering why I am not obsessively blogging every twist and turn of the Brexit process. I am watching it like a hawk and spend more hours on Twitter than any human should - thus have seen every possible opinion and every stupid misconception, but other than the provisional agreement on the Brexit bill and the unsurprising shape of the Northern Ireland "deal" there nothing much to get excited about.

The dregs of the ultras, notably the odious Liam Halligan, are still playing their mendacious games, piping out their poison to anyone who will listen, but there does now seem to be a broad understanding in the Twittersphere that the WTO option is not an option and anyone who suggests otherwise very rapidly provokes the ire of the ever growing crowd of brexitologists.

Today, though, there is some room for optimism. If reports are correct and there is indeed the basis for an agreement on the exit settlement and Northern Ireland then it is a signal that time pressures are focussing minds, and in the absence of better ideas the government is having to concede to the obvious. 

We are told that these such concessions "outrage" Brexiters, but it would appear that, as usual, it is only the unappeasable expending any energy over it. Tories can squeal all they like for the One True Brexit™, but the UK does not exist in isolation and its actions have consequences. If we turn our backs on regulatory cooperation we open a hole in the EUs customs firewall. It then has no choice but to police its frontier.

The EU will not make substantive concessions on the NI border because, when we leave, the border becomes the outer frontier of the most mature and complex customs and regulatory union on the planet. It cannot redesign it the for the sole benefit of a departing member. We have a choice of remaining in the single market or erecting a hard border with Ireland. It is that simple.

To make any kind of substantial concession for the UK so as to avoid a hard border the EU would have to revise its treaties, and any concession would then apply to all third countries. That is simply not going to happen. The UK will have to maintain regulatory harmonisation. This we have been over time and again, and as EUReferendum notes, the mechanics of WTO rules means we have obligations either way.

There will come a point in the very near future when there is something original and interesting to say, not least as discussions regarding our future relationship heat up, but for the moment I am living a in a day to day zombie state of lethargy, exhaustion, nihilism, serotonin depletion and relentless boredom - as is traditional for this time of year. Don't be surprised if I am not at my most prolific.

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