Tuesday, 24 July 2018

There is room for optimism... sort of.

In a way, the appalling drivel from Brendan O'Neill yesterday served a function. And being a polemicist he might well have intended it to serve that function in that it is roughly representative of what the average Brexiter thinks. A recurrent theme is that the EU is not being especially accommodating and is totally inflexible.

What we are seeing though is the EU safeguarding its own sovereignty and we are just experiencing EU power from the opposite side of the table. It has a system of rules and third countries have to respect them. the EU is capable of fudges for politically sensitive issues like Northern Ireland and Cyprus but does not see why the UK has unique circumstances, nor does it see a case for special treatment.

From a purely technocratic perspective I understand and respect the EU point of view. It is a technocracy run by technocrats and we should expect it to behave as one. Expecting pragmatism from the EU is like expecting an intelligent comment from Kate Hoey. It just isn't going to happen.

Moreover, while we talk of the UK's unpreparedness, the EU wasn't really prepared by for this either. Article 50 was never intended to be used and it's a singularly dreadful piece of treaty law. But it is what it is and it will abide by its own rules.

And that's the real problem here. The situation is not yet acute enough to put the EU into fudge mode. The EU never responds in a timely fashion but emergencies do get it moving and taking shortcuts with the rules. I think that is where we have to get to before we start seeing sense.

Over the last few days I've seen a steady drip of article in favour of the EEA option in the Telegraph, Times and elsewhere. That tells you they are starting to panic and the penny is finally dropping among some of the dimmest in the legacy media. It therefore exists as a political artefact.

This brings us to the matter of EEA membership. It is understood by both sides that when we drop out of the EU we are also out of the EEA, but it still exists in a legal grey area where it could be the first port of call for disaster recovery. It could be reactivated were there the political will. I expect the UK would have to settle the financial question first but that was always going to be the case.

As mentioned before, there is no possibility that "no deal" can stay "no deal". We will have to rebuild formal relations with the EU. And when it dawns on us precisely what is affected and how, and leading Brexiters can no longer grunt "project fear", traditional opposition to the EEA will melt faster than icecream in this weather we're having.

If there is a political agreement to secure EEA membership we can then have some intermediate fudges which are more generous than we could otherwise expect. Whatever arrangements exist for the so-called vassal state transition can be implemented as a framework to negotiate re-accession to the EEA.

The point being that there is no end point of EU-UK relations. It will be a continuum for as long as the EU exists. Brexit does not make the EU vanish into the ether much though we may wish it did. If we crash out we still have to sort something out and it necessarily has to be a deep and comprehensive relationship.

This is not to say that a crash out is not a disaster, but there is no reason why it has to stay a disaster and there will be more room to manoeuvre politically when the Brexiteers stand utterly discredited. There are the tools available to salvage the situation. We just need to be in a space where politics takes precedence over red lines and rules.

Moreover, it was always going to be the case that the toughest decisions would be made in the final hours. There is still time to avert a crash out. We just have to go through the motions of watching the Chequers deal fall flat. Attitudes may shift when presented with a binary choice between a crash out and the EEA. With Mrs May having "taken back control" of negotiations, she may turn yet, humiliating though it would be for her.

This is all speculation and your guess is as good as mine, but we have the time and the space over the summer recess to further erode the standing of the ultras. We may lose this battle, but for as long as there is breath in my body, we shall not lose this war. I am not surrendering to a pack of Tory crooks.

Additional: If the Guardian has the nerve to ask for donations for the crap they produce then so do I. Please give if you can

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