Wednesday, 7 December 2016

We won't get a good Brexit deal - and that's fine.

As noted earlier, the separation process in order to become a distinct WTO member will leave us with subsidy quotas we don't want. We're probably going to be stuck with rules of origin procedures. We're going to end up a bit less access to the EU internal market. On the whole there is no deal that strikes me as especially optimal. I can't say if it will cause a recession but I know that we will either end up paying more tax or accepting more cuts - or both. We're taking on a lot of extra work in order to make Brexit happen.

That's fine though. This blog has never flinched from saying things as they are and I have made no attempt to gloss over the monumental incompetence of key leavers or the incoherence of the Leave campaign. My conscience is entirely clear.

When it comes down to it, my vote was to end political union and to reassert Britain as an independent country. Remainers would argue that we were never not independent but these are people who have never really understood the EU. For sure the leavers haven't covered themselves in glory but there is plenty of ignorance to go around.

In a very real sense, the UK does not speak for itself. In terms of all the international top tables Britain does not speak freely, we have no independent voice at the WTO and in the technical sense, we are not an independent country in terms of WCO listings. We are, though not for much a longer, a nation that must seek approval for its actions and permission to trade.

For sure we can roam off on military adventures with whomever we please but in terms of securing our own economic goals we have one hand tied behind our backs. Brexit is the process of cutting the bindings. That much is going to be a very slow, very messy, very expensive business.

The way to have avoided this was by not voting to stay in 1975 but we made a mistake. We made a mistake that cost us a number of key industries and caused irreversible damage. There is no deal we can get that can undo it all.

So you might ask why go through all the trouble now. The answer lies in parliament. Even today we see broad confusion as to the constituent parts of the EU and as the supreme court case unfolds we see our MPs grasping at the issues, completely oblivious to the UKs constitutional make up. It's been a long time since we have seen this much ignorance condensed into such a short time. What that tells you is our "leaders" have been asleep at the wheel. Brexit has shaken them out of their complacency and forced them to down tools on their displacement activity. Events just got serious.

I must confess I have been too busy earning a living to keep up with today's events in parliament and though it all seems like shenanigans, I watched a few clips from earlier. There was an odd mood in the house where there was a real sense of seething enmity - a hostility I have not noted for many years. This is not the cosy and cordial exchanges we have seen in recent years, this is real raw nerve politics over the future of the country. What a joy to behold.

From now on, what our MPs say and do matters. It matters that they become experts on the arcane and incomprehensible. It matters that they know more than they have been allowed to get away with knowing - which is very little. And now we're really seeing who makes the grade - who are few in number.

This is the politics that will take us forward - with MPs treating governance with the seriousness it deserves. In that, it doesn't matter what our Brexit deal looks like. What matters is that MPs can no longer get away with shirking their responsibilities and now they must govern.   

Once we are out of the EU we can have a serious debate about what happens with all the new found freedom to make policy and our freedom to innovate. Westminster for a long time to come will be a law review factory. We'll be setting up new departments and looking at things afresh, looking at new ways of doing things after doing things the same way for decades. We're going to find things that don't work and find we no longer have excuses for not fixing them.

The Brexit process itself will be marked by howling incompetence but at the same time the options will be tempered by political and economic reality and we will get a sane Brexit if not an adequate one. It will be a bureaucratic fudge just to say that we are at least, on paper, out of the EU.

In the immediate aftermath we will see a lot of overly optimistic illusions shattered. Some on the hard right will be reminded that the anglosphere is in no rush to join an alliance the likes of which we have just left and the Brexiteers are in for a shock when "bumper deals" don't start rolling in.

I'm fine with that too. The more cold water poured on daft notions the better. The sooner it happens the sooner it gets serious and the sooner they start asking all the serious questions about where we go from here - and how we engage in the world as it is rather than how it was before we went into stasis. In the wake of that we will see a purge of the hard right as well as the die hard remainers. We will get a crop of new politicians geared to the task of making the new Britain rather than leaving the EU.

What we get is a new, but uncertain beginning. What happens then is really up to us. As good as that is for the UK, it's a good thing for Europe, having a dynamic and sizeable economy like the UK putting some serious thought into how to do things afresh, free of ossified structures and compromised procedures.

The debate we had about Brexit was largely in isolation of the EU. It was a domestic political dispute and still is. But those of us who do watch Europe though cannot have missed the fact that the EU is grinding to a halt, struggling to make gains and unable to respond to entirely new challenges that simply didn't exist when the EU was conceived. All of a sudden these things are out in the open, up for debate, and the oldest excuse is no longer there.

This blog has never made the case that Brexit is a silver bullet, nor have I said there are any guarantees. All I have said is that Brexit is a departure from the tired post-war settlement and a departure from democratic restraints. In some that inspires fear. For me, I find it compelling. Britain only thrives with renewal and reinvention and only democracy can really give us that. There are many things a remote technocracy can do, but inspiring people is not one of them.

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