Tuesday, 13 December 2016

None of the above Brexit

We are a week from the Christmas shutdown and government is only just talking about a transitional deal. They have no idea what that looks like. They know only what they don't want. They are vacillating because none of the choices are good choices and none of them deliver on what most people understand Brexit to be.

This is what you get when you think you can get everything you want in a single bound. This is also what you get when you have a complete inability to prioritise. This is also what you get when government has given no thought as to what it wants to do post-Brexit. If they had given it that much thought they would know how to prioritise on what powers are most in demand. Instead, there is a total ideas vacuum. All they have to go on is naive and fraudulent dregs from within the bubble. It will fail at the first hurdle.

Worse still it is apparent that the government, along with the rest of Parliament, has yet to comprehend the scale of Brexit and is still struggling with basic terminology. That's not altogether surprising. The EU as it stands is the product of decades of technical policy innovations designed by specialists and waved through by politicians without any scrutiny. Why would they know what the EU is since they have never paid it any real attention?

What they are now about to discover is that much of what they have committed us to is not undone at the stroke of a pen. If May sets upon a "none of the above" strategy and she does trigger Article 50 next spring she will be going to Brussels empty handed. She will have started the clock on a mystery process, entirely under-equipped for the job to face an equally clueless opposition just as beset by dogma has her own lunatic fringe.

While there are undoubtedly some excellent specialists deep in the bowels of the civil service and the Commission, without any structure they will either end up shaping Brexit themselves or deliver a litany of political dilemmas our politicians have never considered.

By that time it should dawn on them that two years is an impossible window to develop a relationship from scratch. They'll have set a time bomb ticking and will be entirely out of their depth. Very rapidly we will be looking at an emergency summit to pause or delay the process. It will consume the government.

The only way I see this not happening is if the government realises between now and March just how hopelessly unprepared they are and delay Article 50. Since that would be political suicide for May it looks like we are headed for a total pigs ear of a Brexit. There is zero chance they can get from where they are presently to where they need to be. We can only hope there is such a thing as a Christmas miracle.

During the referendum I made the case that after an initial period of confusion the government would inevitably arrive at the obvious conclusion that single market membership is the only sane approach. We are in worse shape than I thought if that much has yet to make itself apparent. 

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