Thursday, 20 April 2017

Into the Brexit cul de sac

This election tells us a few things. It tells us that Mrs May expects talks to drag on for a long time and she is not confident of winning a 2020 election. She is buying herself time. Most of all it keeps the media distracted. The media being the brainless pack animals that they are will follow every last utterance of the campaign while paying scant regard to what is happening in Brussels.

Already the EU has said that no serious negotiations will be undertaken until the election but the EU will be sending a number of signals, reaffirming and confirming certain points.

The core message we are getting is that there will be no special concessions for the UK. The EU has a system and it will not bend or break the rules to accommodate the UK. More than likely the WTO would not permit that anyway. The UK does not get a free ride, it does not get to run wild with deregulation and it cannot expect seamless trade with the EU unless EU rules are followed. Since the EU does not want to build a new court system or arbitration system for the sole benefit of the UK it will treat us as a third country and expect us to follow the conditions of market entry like any other third country.

The UK will demand certain rights are preserved, not least free passage of goods and continued participation in EU aviation markets. Customs cooperation and air traffic management does not come for free. We will be expected to pay.

This much has not yet sunk in with the leave crowd, or the Tory party who have made a manifesto pledge to end freedom of movement, end the ECJ influence and to leave the single market. Since the EU will not be minded to offer selective membership (and has already confirmed this) it can only offer us a rudimentary deal.

It is possible that May has already learned this much and is simply campaigning on a pack of lies in the full knowledge she will have to make major concessions to protect UK trade. This is perhaps why she is seeking to avoid a 2020 election.

Meanwhile it is now clear that the negotiation of a trade agreement will not fall under Article 50 and that we will have to use the process to negotiate a transition which effectively means we stay in the EU for the duration - for however long it takes to dismantle our means of participating in the single market. That might well linger on just longer than 2022 giving a future government a chance to reverse it.

Unless there is by some miracle a complete u-turn to an EEA agreement we'll be lingering in the EU for years then dropping into an association agreement where we sit by the fax awaiting Brussels diktats. Course this is what the Tory right wanted. Out of the single market. Only then will they realise that there is a little more to the discipline of trade than tariffs. Once we have lost 40% of our trade that is. This is why anyone telling me how wonderful Gisela Stuart and her Vote Leave cronies are will get a very cold glare from me.

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