Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Brexit: into the abyss of no deal


The way it's going, it looks like leaving without a deal is a dead cert. If things were polarised before then it's incurably polarised now. The fever is full blown. Nothing anybody says is going to make a difference. The headbangers have decided that no deal is the only way.

Only now we are at this critical juncture are we seeing the kind of issues based scrutiny that we should have seen three years ago. Even this dimmest of beeboid hacks are shredding the assertion that GATT Article 24 is a viable option to salvage a crash out. It's all too little and too late. What happened to this thirst for detail when MPs were bleating all the classic memes about the Norway Option ("fax democracy" etc)?

Were that people realised just how bad no deal were likely to be there would be a far more forceful public outcry but throughout the media has trivialised the issue, turning credible warnings into clickbait scare stories thus undermining their own credibility. Worse still, even if the media did get a grip, I fear they've left it far too late now. We are past the point of no return.

From what we know of Boris Johnson's intentions there is no possibility that a new deal will be struck with the EU, especially considering that the alternate proposal is a non-starter. Meanwhile there is nothing parliament can do about it. Dominic Grieve has tabled another motion that will fall flat yet again if it is even passed and with the parliamentary constitution being what it is, even if principled remainers quit the party or passed a vote of no confidence, the timing ensures that no deal is still the only likely outcome.

If there is a silver lining to any of this is is that Boris Johnson's premiership is likely to be mercifully short. Possibly even the shortest in British history. At the best of time Boris Johnson would be wholly unsuited to the position, but in the wake of a no deal Brexit, with a barrage of problems hitting the news, it will become abundantly clear that this profoundly unserious man is out of his depth and that nothing can be salvaged unless he is removed. He will be widely viewed as a political vandal. At that point even some of the Brexit headbangers might wake up.

But then we head into a new stage of the propaganda war. Already ERG Tories are attempting to shift the blame for no deal to the EU - and after the fact, the media will likely report any new third country restrictions as either a blockade or "sanctions", whereupon the Ultras will weave a narrative of victimisation. They will use the full weight of their influence to duck responsibility.

Depressingly it will work on the headbangers who already believe in the betrayal narrative and that May was a secret remainer working to keep us tied to the EU, with Raab pushed out as she conspired with the civil service to deliver BINO. They won't need much persuading that it's all the fault of the EU.

I live in hope, though, that the truth will out. One by one the promises will collapse. Fishing for Leave has long believed that no deal means the entire quota for British fisheries can and will be divvied up between British boats and we'll see a renaissance of British fishing. This will be one of the first delusions to hit the wall as it turns out we can't sell into the single market.

We still don't know exactly what the situation at the ports will be, but even if preparations turn out to be adequate, we will still be drowning in a number of problems even the keenest of us did not anticipate. Just about every sector will be affected and keeping the ports open won't be enough save the Tories' bacon.

The real question is one of how far things will deteriorate before we are back at the table in Brussels. This all depends on resolving the political quagmire in Westminster. There will need to be a general election sooner or later. Probably later because the public are not going to tolerate any more scheming by the Tories. The situation is then highly unpredictable with too many unknowns to speculate. The worry is that even a general election will not bring any coherence to Westminster politics and until there is a decisive direction, British industry will be hung out to dry.

It could even be some months, or well over a year before a renewed conversation with Brussels happens. When that happens the issues will be much the same as now, and the more acute our predicament, the more the EU is at liberty to make demands. The Brexiters will stand utterly discredited and though they will stamp their, the urgency of the situation, and Britain's lack of apparent choices, will ensure we sign up to whatever is put in front of us.

Today Brexiters are tweeting that the EU has sought to formalise the various trade agreements in a new treaty, which would effectively lock Switzerland into the single market and oblige it to accept new rules as and when they are brought in. Amid frustration at the amount of time it was taking for the Swiss to sign the treaty the EU threatened last year that, unless a deal was done, it would no longer recognise Swiss stock exchange rules that permit the cross-border trading of shares.

Naturally the Breixters are holding this up as an example of the EU being a "bully", along with all the usual canards, but this does not help their case. This is what real leverage looks like. Switzerland is in a position to push back to a large extent in that only the relevant sector is affected. The decision is theirs as to whether they accept the trade offs. The UK however, will be in a state of emergency and time is a luxury we will not have if we are to prevent a further exodus of jobs.

Whether it is right that the EU applies this kind of pressure is neither here nor there. The reality is that it does and that is a reality with which we must contend. With the UK having torched all of its formal trade relations, burning up all goodwill in the EU in the process, our situation will be quite grim indeed. By the time the EU has finished with us, Brexiters might well be wishing they have ratified Mrs May's deal when they could.

The effects of no deal will be far reaching. Most of the no dealers have a deeply naive view of the EU. It is a deep rooted system of government that has worked its way into just about sector. Terminating that system without understanding how it works and what it actually does - and just how deeply integrated it really is, is a recipe for disaster. It is a great irony that Brexiters long warned that this is what the EU would become, only to be met with ridicule from europhiles. Now that it has actually happened, the ones in the deepest denial are the Brexiters themselves.

Likely it will take decades to recover from crashing out of the EU. The trade aspect alone will take some years to address before we turn our minds to the peripheral, but highly important matters of intergovernmental cooperation. It has taken twenty years for Switzerland's relations with the EU to get to where they are now. The UK will be starting from scratch and with domestic politics in flux. If anyone thought no deal was a way to get it all over and done with, they were sorely mistaken.

As much as British politics has developed its own schisms, we still have the blame game to come and there is a good chance that both Labour and the Tories will disintegrate with no viable movement to fill the void. There is every likelihood that the political vacuum will be persistent for more than a decade, much like Italy.

I have long felt that Britain's stability and prosperity was living on borrowed time. Successive governments have abused their power and taken advantage of political apathy to dilute democracy and do as they please. They've played a dangerous game of Jenga and now it's all about to come crashing down. Though that may sound satisfying to those of us who are sick of them, the price is sustained decline. Britain has turned a corner and there is no going back. 

Britain's EU membership is only partly the cause of our problems. Mainly our EU membership is a symptom of the problem; an establishment that does as it pleases without reference to public sentiment and abusing media affiliations to advance propaganda narratives. The Brexit Tories will be no different. Whichever wing of the establishment is in charge, the effect is much the same. No Deal Brexit will be Boris Johnson's Lisbon Treaty: Something done to an unwitting public without informed consent. Ironic that the final betrayal in our rocky relationship with the EU will be one executed by Brexiters themselves.

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