Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Brexit: Failure to launch

Today could be viewed as a turning point in Brexit affairs with a formal request, written in bureacratese, to extend the "implementation period" or vassal state status. The Telegraph reports that the Cabinet did not agree to it but for the moment it stands as a Brexit artefact.

Whether or not it survives the next day or so remains to be seen but if somehow Mrs May is forced to retract it then yet again we are kicking the the can down the road. The simple truth of the matter is that two years is not close to enough time to develop and deploy the systems necessary to implement an as yet unknown agreement. There will need to be considerably overlap and the rules of the system will dictate the restraints.

The subtext of this is that we remain a member of the EU in all but name for as long as it takes for the government to get its act together - which will be a number of years by anyone's reckoning. This was, of course, the estimation that underpinned the thinking behind Flexcit which is why the EEA presented itself as the obvious and most expedient road out of the EU. Yep. We told you so.

Instead we are to embark on a bespoke process, mired with complications and unobtainable aspirations which will lead to exactly the sort of long, detailed and protracted trade talks we sought to avoid. There is no possible way to predict the outcome of this. Things are as uncertain as ever they were. The ultras could still derail the process or things could linger on long enough for the opposition to make their move.

Meanwhile we are to be subjected to yet more incoherent noise from what is now the Brexit bubble. Interest in the issue appears to have tailed off whereby even significant turning points in Brexit are greeted with lethargy and despair. Only something seismic and consequential will reawaken wider public interest now. The majority have reverted to routine political discourse with Brexit featuring only as a proxy in the increasingly polarised tribal bickering. If you haven't picked a side and you don't conform to the narrative then you don't exist. Brexit is as uninteresting to them as the latest noise about Corbyn is to me.

As to the the broader picture, there have been moves this week on both sides of the divide to keep the pilot light of public interest alight, but these are largely parasitic London initiatives given their five minutes of fame on Sky News who will shortly vanish into obscurity have had nothing new to say. Nobody is getting any traction simply because an institutional boredom has set in. I discovered this morning that there is a state of Brexit fatigue that even two weeks on the other side of the planet cannot cure. The question is now one of whether any of us will be suitably alert if and when something of consequence does happen and whether any of us will still care.

This is ultimately the failure of the eurosceptic aristocracy. Had they run a successful campaign they would have found ways to unite all the disparate groups under a common banner, able to coordinate their efforts to push forth a coherent agenda for Brexit and beyond. Instead the efforts of the London led campaign (or rather the dregs of it) are so bad that nobody serious could possibly get behind them. The economic case put forth by the leave camp is so flimsy that it's an actual chore to debunk it. Perhaps this is their strategy?

Gone is the momentum from Brexit and the promise of political renewal and revolution. Instead we are to limp through negotiations to accomplish a lame duck Brexit whereupon British politics will turn in on itself as the UK's interests abroad wither and die.

In this I can't help feeling we are watching the end of good government in the UK. With the agenda largely dictated by the television media - which cannot muster a single informed, inquisitive journalist, the debate limps from one misapprehension to the next and back again. The process for gathering and understanding information is no longer there. Gone too are the means of channelling good information into the executive. The government does not know which way to jump, having no read on the public mood.

Then there is the electorate themselves who, when polled, cannot adequately define the concepts about which they are asked. Every poll returns a muddled verdict not least because the pollsters themselves are incapable of asking informed questions. Nobody knows what they want or how to get it. Perhaps the only thing that will bring any coherence to this entire episode is a total collapse of talks.

Later today ministers are said to be meeting at Chequers for a lock-in to determine once and for all what the UK's trade objectives are. With so little institutional knowledge and so many warped ideological agendas and internal resistance there is no possibility the government can get it right. There are too many inherent contradictions and little chance of agreement. All we can expect is yet another vague proposition to be submitted to Brussels whereupon Mr Barnier will go to work on it with a red pen. What we are left with is what we will have to accept. Without a plan and without a credible set of objectives it will be Brussels who decides what Brexit looks like.

No comments:

Post a Comment