Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Going nowhere as usual

Painting By Dennis Meiners
On Twitter I've had to mute the terms "people's vote", "second referendum" and any other permutation of a re-run of the 2016 vote. I am not interested in having that debate. We've had that debate time and again and even if minds have changed (which they more than likely haven't) there isn't going to be a second referendum.

As much as that debate is not interesting it is also futile in that if anyone does have a hardened position on it, nothing anyone says is likely to change their mind. Getting involved n that sort of debate is a waste of time and I rather suspect the only reason anyone is engaging at all is out of utter boredom with the entire proceedings. I don't blame them.

It has been a while since I devoted any space to the ongoing negotiations not least because there have been no developments to speak of. Every time the media claims we are close, the Twitter "Brexperts" get excited over something new to churn but these breakthrough stories don't even last a day before we are back to square one.

Then, as EUreferendum notes, the conversation is awash with vague terminology and without seeing the hard context of it, for which there is none, all of it is meaningless. We simply do not know what is going on and we cannot trust the guesswork of the media. We're going to have to see a formal draft before we know what we are looking at.

What makes it doubly difficult for me to follow is the knowledge that there is the basis of a solution (the EEA) which remains the elephant in the room. Being that this government will not contemplate it, there is only one of two ways this can go. Either it's an inelegant fudge (but essentially a cave in to most of the EU's demands) or crashing out without a deal.

Should a deal be reached it will be a deal that pleases no-one and will only limp through parliament if there is a general realisation that voting it down makes an accidental Brexit even more likely. One certainty is that Brexiters will vote it down largely because it will be worse than Chequers. To avoid activating the backstop, any future deal will be more of a "rule taker" set up than the EEA and without the Efta firewall. If Corbynite MPs then play silly buggers too then it has no chance of passing. What then?

There are those who believe Theresa May will move to extend but there are no signals from this government to that end, it certainly isn't planning on a wider vote and they have quietly convinced themselves that no deal is a recoverable position. Unless something radical changes, we're still leaving the EU as planned.

We are, therefore, playing the waiting game. We still have a way to go before things get interesting again. The last window for any kind of agreement is probably going to be early January and if by then we are still nowhere then it really is time to stock up on the tinned food and instant noodles - after which things get very interesting.

Whatever does happen, Brexit day is only the beginning and the shape of the deal (or the non-deal) will dictate the scale, scope and duration of the problems, many of which will not be satisfactorily resolved by 2030, if ever. The uncertainty in between will be the job killer. We are already seeing businesses voting with their feet.

Whether Brexiters care to admit it or not the only workable whole UK deal was the EEA. We were always going to have to leave in stages and we weren't going to get everything we wanted on the back of the Brexit process. We needed a long term navigation out of the EU but everyone is in so much of a rush that it can only end in Brexiters being bitterly disappointed or with Britain facing an omni-crisis the likes we have not seen before.

In respect of this, with the EEA knocked out of the running by the idiotic Nick Boles, I feel I have no dog in the fight. I have no particular desire to see us crash out but May's deal is so utterly obnoxious that even I'm wondering if it isn't better to simply bite the bullet and let the fever run its course. Only when the ultra Brexiters stand completely discredited and swept off the board can we have a rational discourse about what happens next.

For the moment they are still poisoning the well with propaganda and until their supporters can see with their own eyes that "project fear" is project reality. They will make their excuses and try to blame Brussels, but Brussels certainly will fight back. They will not stand to be slandered. For a time we will all be too busy playing the blame game to address the issues.

In the end the blame lies squarely with the MPs and Prime Ministers of the last thirty years who have willingly allowed all of our regulatory functions and external relations to be absorbed into the EU apparatus. Most of all their hubris is to blame - believing that they could keep us from having a say and that what was done would be irreversible. Cleaning up their mess was always going to be a very mess, very bloody business.

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