Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Brexit: they know not what they do

I want to see an orderly Brexit. I don't especially mind if things end up not changing very much on the ground. It's easy to get carried away with the revolutionary potential of Brexit, but without any real vision behind it, I think, short of a crash and burn Brexit, things will stay pretty much the same.

I can live with that - and it's not all for naught. At the very least, ad the end of the process we will not be a member of the EU. After a feat of legal engineering, the UK will be a distinct customs entity with the EU having no direct jurisdiction over the UK. The shared acquis will about to about a quarter of EU membership, much of it for the purposes of trade continuity - and rules we would adopt by way of international obligations anyway.

This satisfies my requirement that the UK is immune from the EU's dogma of "ever closer union", and we would have a district foreign and trade policy. We might then expect that we will still have a form of freedom of movement, with notional limitations, which will anger many, but the formal construct of EU citizenship will have ended - thus ending the encroachment of the EU on non-trade related policy. In all the ways that truly matter, we would be an independent country and further divergence would indeed be possible if ever there were the impetus.

What stands in the way of this entirely acceptable settlement is a feedback loop in the bubble, where remainers and Brexiters share equal blame. This article by Jonathan Portes and Anand Menon is a lovely example of that working in practice.

They note that: "some Leavers, either for principled or tactical reasons, see an extended transition period on these lines as a betrayal. Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example, claimed that “If we are subject to the rules of the Single Market and the regulations of the Single Market, and subject to the fiat of the European Court of Justice, we are paying for the privilege and we can’t do free trade deals with the rest of the world, then we are in the EU.” This is clearly wrong in legal terms—it is quite conceivable to be in both the Single Market and the Customs Union without being an EU member state. Which does not, however, prevent Rees-Mogg’s view being widely held".

Now why do these two morons think might be? Well, just look at the previous paragraph. 
The problem here is obvious—any “off the shelf” model looks, in economic terms, very like existing EU membership. And in political terms it looks even worse: during the referendum campaign, both Remain and Leave dismissed—crudely but not inaccurately—the “Norway model” as “pay but no say.” And indeed EEA membership implies not only accepting free movement, but also acceptance of EU law, and continued payments to the EU.
As notes (for the billionth time), one of the great lies perpetrated by remainers and "Ultras" alike is the claim that pursuing the "Norway" (Efta/EEA) option would require us (the UK) to continue obeying EU laws, with "no say" in their creation. That never was true, even within the constraints of the EEA institutional arrangements. Something this blog has also detailed countless times. Nor indeed would we pay anything like what we pay to the EU presently. We would pay for those services we use and the ventures we participate in, and possibly the EEA grants mechanism, but that is the fullest extent of it. 

The "pay but no say" meme is without a doubt the singular most irritating feature of this whole debate. In significance it is as big a lie as the egregious £350m - but in effect is worse because it lives on. Between this and the continued muddle as to the function of the customs union, there is no clarity in the debate - which above all is the retarding factor. This is ultimately what makes the hardest Brexit more likely. Sloppy, disingenuous hackery from people who really should know better by now.

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