Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Why Brexiters have the most to fear from a no deal Brexit

It is still very possible that the UK could leave the EU without a deal. The stage is certainly set for it. The government is set to adopt a proposal that has no chance of succeeding. They simply haven't understood the exam question. So when the EU inevitably declines Mrs May's offer it will appear to the uninitiated that the EU doesn't want a deal and is trying to make it as difficult as possible.

Eventually the EU is going to have to spell it out in black and white. It's the EEA, an FTA or nothing. This is the dilemma which has haunted the negotiations throughout. Eventually May will have to make a decision and it remains to be seen as to whether she can survive it. This could be the political crisis that sees us sliding into an accidental Brexit. 

Most people at this point now understand that a no deal Brexit would be a bad thing - save for those in thrall to the mendacity of Jacob Rees-Mogg. But even they admit (if cornered) that no deal cannot mean no deal.

There is now a mountain of evidence to suggest things very much will come to a grinding halt. Put this to a Brexit headbanger and they will tell you how we can do a deal to sort it out after the fact. The fact of matter is that the UK needs formal trade relations with its nearest and largest neighbour. 

They will tell you that there are workarounds and fixes, which indeed there are but those fixes require a degree of cooperation from the EU. No doubt the EU will face pressure from member states but our need will be far greater and the balance of power will be against us. 

At this point we would be in a state of crisis with European relations being their worst for decades, not least with the UK having abandoned all of its political and financial obligations. To even get the EU to come to the table there will need to be an accord on settling the bills and that is going to look a lot like that which the UK has already agreed to. 

In those circumstances the EU will then offer us only limited participation rights in the EU aviation market, only superficial improvements on customs cooperation and no access for UK services. It will use the opportunity to cannibalise UK market share. This will be a long process, where there will be no real incentive for the EU to act with any speed since the longer the UK is on the hook, the more business it can poach from us. 

Within three or four years we can expect to have negotiated sticking plasters but that situation will be satisfactory for neither party. We will need enter a process of normalising relations and work on building a new economic relationship from scratch. 

By that point we will have taken a huge economic hit and will no doubt have a new administration with a gun to its head to sort out the mess. Having been burned by the UK the EU be far less accommodating and not at all in the mood to prat around as we have for the last two years. They will instruct the Commission to draw up a non-negotiable association agreement. Most likely it will include demands for the adoption of rules with direct ECJ applicability. 

By this point the public mood will also have soured and no administration is going to be in a position to refuse. We therefore end up with a deal with more constraints than Norway but with substantially less single market participation rights. 

In the meantime we will have cause a serious political crisis in Ireland and having inflicted so much unnecessary damage on the economy we will see new pro-EU movements and demonstrations - and they will be genuine as opposed to the Soros funded jamborees we have seen of late. The Tory right by this point will have completely lost the argument when those "bumper free trade deals" never materialise. 

That will give the government the tacit consent it needs to head down the path of further integration via the association agreement - as indeed is the very purpose of an association agreement. They are used as a precursor to joining. The nihilistic "walk away" tendency is more likely to see us on a path to re-entry but this time with none of the opt outs and without the necessary economic clout to resist ever more integration. 

Should this happen I won't be at all surprised. It all makes sense. The disaster capitalists get to make a fast buck and wash their hands of it all while genuine leavers are left humiliated and discredited and the whole episode with be a scar on the British psyche for generations to come. 

As a fate it would be one well deserved. This was all predictable even before the referendum when the leave campaign refused to have a plan and repeatedly asserted that it was the job of government to have a plan. This shifts the responsibility away from Brexiters but they cannot then complain that the destination is one they do not like. 

But this is in fact the whole problem with the leave movement. They arguments are superficially sound but without a plan it's all just a pipe-dream. The problem is that they never managed to agree on a destination or what they planned to achieve by leaving the EU. Leaving the EU has become the end in itself.

The rhetoric about free trade and democracy doesn't really hold water unless ambitions are tempered by reality and the limitations of our predicament. If you cannot even acknowledge the limitations then none of the nostrums can ever come close to becoming a reality. 

The problem here is that the Brexit we are experiencing is conceptually flawed. Leavers believe that the problem is the EU and our exit form the EU is the solution. Of course the EU is a bureaucratic, corrupt, dysfunctional mess but then so is our own government. What makes Brexit necessary is the combination of the two. 

Our politics is in an advanced state of decay and the EU is propping it up. The failure to arrest this decline is what makes it ultimately worse. If though, we set about Brexit without an agenda then we simply create a policy vacuum which will no doubt be filled by the powers that be having learned nothing at all from the whole enterprise. 

The problem here is that Brexiters have bought their own bullshit. Rees-Mogg's "fwee twade" mantras carry considerable weight and leavers seem to think that democracy will simply appear on Brexit day. More likely, with a botched Brexit, it will entrench the establishment who will be ever keen to gloat that the people got it wrong. And then where are we?

This is why we need the EEA to demonstrate that we can leave and maintain economic stability - thus our economic and political credibility in order to exploit the opportunities. As we gradually reassert ourselves we are then in a position to use the institutions of the EEA to further configure our relationship while developing our own trade policy with the rest of the world.  

The chances of this happening now seem remote. More likely we are facing a massive humiliation simply because the Brexiters want it all and want it now with no plan and no vision. Every new policy initiative will hit the brick wall of reality as the Brexiters realise that in or out of the EU, the EU is still the regional superpower and can easily thwart or frustrate our decisions. Especially so if relations are at an all time low. 

As to the price we pay, remainers can take a share of the blame. Having lied about the Norway option all the way through the referendum, sowing poisonous untruths, combined with their brazen attempts to sabotage Brexit through the courts, they can't be surprised if there is no trust. Now that some of their number now suddenly see the Efta light they are viewed as acting in bad faith and the solution becomes tainted by association. 

This is what has made Brexit a culture war where leavers no longer care about the economics. The details are secondary just so long as the opposition loses. And when that opposition is made up of Caroline Lucas, AC Grayling, Nick Clegg, Andrew Adonis, Tony Blair, Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and John Major, you really can't blame them. Who would want to preserve a political order preferred by a condescending authoritarian political aristocracy who actively despise them? Viewed through that prism, if the issue is reduced to a simple leave or mean binary outcome then I'm leave all the way. 

It would seem though that we are at the end of the line. Whatever will be will be. With no political coherence or leadership and without any vision or ideas, I do not see how we can avoid sliding into a deep abyss. There are no embers of political thought to breathe life into.

I don't know what it will take but there will have to be a catalyst in the future before we can turn it around. The next election ought to be decisive for the next phase of politics but it won't be. We have a choice between deadbeat clapped-out Tories who'll have driven us over the cliff - or a pack of throwback socialists who couldn't run a bath. It worth be worth the trouble of even casting a vote because neither choice is attractive.

I think, therefore, we have to get used to the idea that this political malaise will live on for a good while longer. Living standards are sure to decline and political dissatisfaction will rise with no solution in sight. The public might then conclude that we really aren't fit to govern ourselves and the dead hand of Brussels is preferable. If that happens Britain really is over.


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