Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The state of play...

I didn't actually understand the point of any "meaningful vote" amendment. The financial settlement is untouchable, the agreement on citizens rights is adequate and the NI settlement will be a backstop in accordance with the political agreement.

There was, therefore, no tinkering to be done after the fact and not really enough time to do it. As to the framework for a future relationship all we know is that it will be a detailed political statement - but the substance is not hashed out until we have formally left.

There probably will be a vote on it at some point, but Parliament really only increases the risks of accidental Brexit by meddling. That's the one thing David Davis is right about. It can't compel the EU to do anything.

It would, therefore, be a simple vote on whether to rubber stamp it or whether to crash out. They could force May to run for an extension but for what possible purpose when trade talks are confined to the transition period?

But then what became clear from the session with Verhofstadt today is that some MPs do still think that Article 50 is the full process including trade. It was embarrassing to see the Hof have to spell out the basics.

MPs are ill advised to meddle with the Withdrawal Agreement because it wouldn't achieve anything save for a largely pointless delay in which we would see pushback from the government just to wind down the clock. It's not going to stop Brexit.

I also got a certain gut feeling that Grieve has had a visit from the men in grey suits spelling out the facts of life - because the one thing this government knows, irrespective of what form it takes, they are dead meat unless we leave the EU.

I didn't bother tuning in for this charade largely because it's Westminster white noise - which as usual has very little bearing on the process. Amendments to the trade bill might have some significance but even then it cannot bind either the government or the EU.

In fact, if they try tacking on a customs union or single market amendment in the next round then if they are defeated again, that actually makes it easier for the government to carry on on the Lancaster House trajectory. From the beginning MPs have been strategically inept.

Worse still, the EEA advocates in the Commons tend to be the ones who have acted in bad faith from since before the referendum. They've all switched their rhetoric in line with my arguments despite being responsible for most of the EEA mythology.

So now it looks like the effort to secure an EEA Brexit comes from the duplicitous remainer camp who have simultaneously been working to derail Brexit. No leaver on this earth is going to trust what they say or their motives so they are tainting the best option by association.

If they'd accepted the vote with honour and dignity and not sought to re-fight the referendum they would at least have the respect of moderate leavers but instead they have massaged divisions and played the victim throughout. Their behaviour has been disgusting.

But then the Ultras only have themselves to blame for that by pretending the mandate to leave the EU was also a mandate for the hard economic right shock doctrine theories. They have also acted in bad faith on the slenderest of mandates.

So now there is a good chance that we won't stay in the EEA and we will all lose because of it. We end up with a vassal state Brexit a magnitude worse than the EEA solution. Our MPs have not acted with honour in the spirit of compromise that the vote demanded.

I do not see the matter as closed though. Parliament can prat about fro a while longer and the game doesn't get serious until we move to the trade talks post-exit. That means there is still a few more months to make the case for EEA Efta.

Politically it might look dead in the water but from a technical perspective it is the only way I can see that offers a whole UK solutions and accomplishes most of what we leavers want. That reality will become apparent eventually as we see how dismal the alternatives are.

The Brexitologists and think tankers are kicking around the notion of an association agreement or a single market in goods only but they don't seem to be able to pin down how that would work or even demonstrate it as something on offer.

I don't think the EU will allow a SM agreement in goods only. The SM is an integrated system and regulatory alignment on goods is useless without the recognition of qualifications and certifications. That extends far beyond the basics. EU will call that cherry picking.

The closest we will get to that is something akin with the Swiss deal which involves adopting the EU rules verbatim with no inputs and with direct ECJ applicability (unlike Norway). Brexiters ought to hate that more than the EEA. The smart ones will anyway.

Moreover, the daft ideas floated by IEA/Legatum/Open Europe depend on a model of mutual recognition that is not available and is not going to happen so I think they are in for a shock. The EU has said either an FTA or EEA and there's nothing in between. I believe them.

That is roughly in line with what Ivan Rogers has said and I more or less agree with him. He's mostly right in what he says. If and when that penny drops the argument for EEA should be unarguable. Not least since the Ultras simply don't have a better plan.

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