Thursday, 12 October 2017

Brexit Ground Zero

There is sizable contingent of switched on people on Twitter devoting their attention to the ins and outs of Brexit negotiations. They are finally getting to grips with issues readers of this blog will have known about for several months now. This is why what is exciting for them is thoroughly tedious to me.

What makes it more tedious is that I know how this ends. I do not see a scenario where a deal is successfully concluded. To get anywhere close to a solution for Northern Ireland you would need a good deal more understanding that this government is presently capable of. What makes it worse is that even with perfect clarity the politics gets in the way. Then there is the more fundamental misapprehension at work that many are still under the illusion that the future relationship comes under the aegis of Article 50.

It doesn't. The government is pushing for that to be the case and many argue that it is the case, but the rules say it isn't the case and so does the Commission - and that is not going to change. That is why there is not going to be a deal. If you approach any task with a fundamentally skewed definition of how to approach it, there is no possibility of getting it right.

To salvage these talks there would have to be a recognition of the current misapprehension followed by a change in tone and a reset. What needs to happen is for the government to recognise that two years is entirely insufficient and submit a request to extend Article 50 - with a far less absolute termination point - which might then give them the headroom to talk more about transition. That will still require that we fully turn our attention to phase one issues. I would elaborate on how this could be done but it isn't going to happen.

So what is going to happen? Politics. Bickering, obfuscation, delay, finger pointing, procrastination then ultimately a crisis, followed by a showdown in which the UK walks away. I simply do not see the raw material for it to pan out any other way. What comes after that is yet more politics, but on the other side of the Channel as they decide how it is we fall. Will it be a sudden catastrophe or one introduced over a number of months?

Ultimately we cannot expect minds to focus until they see for real what no-deal Brexit looks like. Only then will it dawn on them what many of us have been trying to tell them. What happens then is a matter for yet more politics. Put simply, I am not taking these talks remotely seriously because the government isn't either.

Ultimately there isn't enough wisdom in the government nor talent in Parliament for this to go any other way. There isn't enough opposition momentum to bring the government down and tribalism within the Tory party means there won't be a rebellion. There is no reason to expect anything other than failure because there are no indicators that anything else could happen. Britain is about to become a global authority in crisis management. Let's hope that is an exportable service. 

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