Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Get ready for the Brexit that Britain deserves

Britain has invoked Article 50. That basically brings all normal EU operations to a halt because the EU is obliged as per the treaty to enter negotiations. First and foremost the EU is concerned with defending its own interests. First and foremost it is interested in continuity. It must uphold its own rules.

Quite obviously the EU does want a deal with the UK. What it cannot do and will not do is re-write its own rules for the convenience of the UK. It is likely they will seek to accommodate some of our requests but the single market is a number of concentric systems all of which turn on the rule of law. As much as it is not desirable to make concessions that will interfere with the normal functioning of the system, there are some obligations it has made, not least WTO rules, that mean it couldn't if it wanted to. To the uninitiated it is red tape and bureaucracy, but to the EU detail is its DNA.

Since Theresa May has ruled out using any existing mechanisms she is effectively asking the EU to devise an entirely new relationship. That's a big ask. Personally I am surprised they are willing to accommodate us since the EEA is a perfectly viable construct. Howsoever, we have had confirmation that the EU will seek to do a free trade deal, it will be comprehensive - but there are certain conditions to be met first.

The first thing we might note is that comprehensive agreements cover everything from biosecurity to cosmetics and livestock. There are elements which can be re-used and recycled but even so, every detail will have to be discussed and signed off as there will be exceptions in this particularly unique circumstance. We have never designed a post-membership agreement before.

Naturally this will be a long and resource intensive process. Before we get anywhere near that though, the EU needs to tie up the loose ends and ensure that the normal operations of its agencies are not unduly disrupted and that the costs of separation are met. Since we have, as a member state, signed off on a number of cooperation agreements (and contracts therein) along with the multiannual financial framework, the EU not unreasonably expects the UK will fulfil its obligations. And why not? Why should the EU go to the expense and hassle of an FTA process if the UK is not prepared to act in good faith?

As to an exact figure, this has yet to be agreed. Michel Barnier thus far has spoken only of the need to agree a framework in order to deduce what this figure might be. It is the subject of a future discussion. This though is what the unbelievably crass Daily Telegraph calls "First World War-style reparations". And this really is symptomatic of the all pervasive ignorance that starts in the media and works its way into the highest levels of government.

The suggestion that the bill could be somewhere near a hundred billion Euros appears to be a fabrication by the Financial Times which has since ballooned into a national narrative. This has been taken as gospel by the entire edifice of UK media and used as an outrage device.

The consequence of this irresponsible manipulation, compounded the galactic stupidity of our media, is outright hostility to the EU which has thus far only really stated what it has been saying from the outset. Nothing in the EU's official position is especially controversial - and certainly not from the EU point of view.

Though not exactly helpful, the FAS leaks were to be expected but this is hardly "Brussels bullying". Personally I am thankful to have some insight since Number Ten is operating in near total secrecy. What we find from this incident is that our PM is woefully under-prepared, under-informed and with entirely unrealistic expectations. To readers of this blog, it is not news but it is useful to have some public confirmation.

This is obviously very damaging to May and so she has set about a scathing attack on the EU, widely reported as May hitting back at "Brussels bullies". It won't be too long before the "handbagging" narratives come out the woodwork. But we should treat it really for what it is. Face saving. And entirely reckless at that.

Against a backdrop of ministers saying that we won't be paying anything and that they intend to secure a deal that brings about the same benefits as the single market, what else could the Eurocrats conclude other than the fact that May is away in another galaxy? It's typical British presumption that we can waltz away without fulfilling our obligations and then expect a deal on the same terms. Truly bizarre.

More disturbingly, a weird tribal conformity has swept the land where seemingly anybody who doesn't back the PM is siding with Brussels. The entire narrative is built on a series of fabrications that bear no resemblance to the EU position. The resultant hysteria makes a deal far less likely. These are dangers a competent government should be mindful of instead of stoking up jingoistic resentment for electoral convenience.

In this I have to admit some error. When the Conservative Party leadership contest came about, I went to bat for Mrs May, believing her to be a stabilising influence who would hold her lunatic fringe in check. At the time that seemed like a reasonable estimation. It would appear though that the lady has gone native and is just as demented as her Brexiteers. Hopes of achieving anything close to a sane Brexit fade by the day.

Collectively, though, we have it coming. We have been politically disengaged to such an extent where the official opposition party can be hijacked by a tiny band of communists, we elect virtually anything with a pulse just so long as it wears the colours of our preferred tribes and we believe any old shit we are told by the press because it has prestige, despite having a database of everything in the world at our fingertips. This is ultimately the culmination of cultural and political atrophy. Perhaps a cataclysm is what it really takes to wake people up?

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