Friday, 18 January 2019

Norway of any stripe is dead

I can say with reasonable certainty that there are few more long standing and prolific advocates of the EEA option than I. I see enormous potential for is as a springboard. For it to work, though, there needs to be some vision and ambition which is wholly absent from parliament.

For the last four years I've had ultra leavers telling me that "Norway is not Brexit" which was true - but it always missed the point that it's a relatively smooth exit that avoids many of the hazards that go with leaving the EU. The option, though, has suffered from a pincer movement from both sides. It's incompatible with the infantile delusions of the ERG and remainers simply refuse to compromise.

There are basically two ways to go about the EEA option. You either see it as a foundation for building a revitalised Efta and a distinct north atlantic bloc capable of exercising its own clout in global trade or you see it as a place to park Brexit and a means to plug the policy holes. Sadly the parliamentary push for EEA more resembles the latter.

This is largely because parliament doesn't want Brexit and is only reluctantly carrying out the instruction of the referendum. The lack the imagination and principle of leave voters. This is just a giant exercise in managerialism.

I don't know what the current parliamentary arithmetic for the option is but it faces the combined resistance of the ultras on both sides and with the debate as incoherent and directionless as it is, and with the executive dead set against it, the state of deadlock remains.

Meanwhile, I do not expect the EU to budge on the withdrawal agreement. Even if parliament could agree on a direction, the message from the EU will be roughly the same. We don't pass go without a withdrawal agreement and there will be no agreement without a backstop, and if the EU bends at all, it won't be by much.

This works in Theresa May's favour. May is no longer the blocking element. She's done her bit. The delay is now entirely in the hands of Parliament. Having tossed it back to parliament May can now afford to let them dither then make them sweat. That may be what buys her the votes to pass the withdrawal agreement as is.

As it happens, I could live with that. The deal clips the wings of the ERG and is an affirmative move toward the exit door. Moreover it bends to the political reality that the EEA does not enjoy the support of remainers and, more importantly, does not enjoy the support of the referendum winners. They've all said what the won't entertain so let them both live with the consequences of their intransigence.

More to the point, I'm sick of it all. I no longer have the energy to write rebuttals of this gibberish. If remainers are going to write poison pen attack pieces on the one sensible option then ultimately they can own the consequences. They as much as anyone have pushed us toward no deal. Moreover, I am not going to lift a finger in support of the carpetbaggers who appropriated the EEA arguments to shunt us into a dead end.

I am not alone in my sense of resignation to fate. As one Tweeter, Sam White, puts it "I've gone from EFTA to hard Brexit in about 2 days, largely because EFTA isn't possible now and nothing I think matters, but also because if it's a choice between what the Hugo Rifkind class think and literally anything else, I'd take anything else for the rest of my days". I very seriously do not want a no deal Brexit, but that is a position I have every sympathy with. Between Rifkind and the persistent smarm of Fintan O'Toole, there is a certain appeal in giving way to Brexit nihilism.

Here I simply have to remind myself that I barely exist and it is not within my power to influence outcomes. I am but a mere pleb with a blog. I am as much a passenger in this as anyone else. The cake is in the oven. We now simply have to wait to see if it rises.

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