Sunday, 13 January 2019

We can't kick the can down the road any more. MPs must back the deal.

Twitter is hugely predictable today. Foaming ultra Brexiters waffling about betrayal. The brainwashing is complete. So the legend goes; any deal is a bad deal. Baker, Mogg and Paterson are in full flow with their campaign of systematic lying. The WTO has become a mythical construct capable of overriding any problems. A magical wishing well.

Meanwhile Mrs May is doing a little spinning of her own, essentially threatening Brexiters to voter for her deal, saying that no Brexit is more likely than no deal should there be no agreement. She may may be right but with the situation being so fluid, she has no more idea than anyone else.

In respect of this the Brexiters are playing a dangerous game in that they are playing double or quits, gambling the win they have in the hope of securing their WTO utopia. Should they lose the prize I will be saddened, but will have little sympathy for them or their shortsighted supporters. Here I am not inclined to speculate either way. It has all been said. We simply have to wait and watch how it unfolds.

In many ways it would be easier to blog Brexit if I could get carried away by talk of plots and coups, but since much of it is rumour and media fabrication, when you filter out the noise, today is just another quiet Sunday. There will be more wailing through the course of tomorrow, with yet more calls for a nebulous people's vote and more pompous demands to overrule the plebs. Brexit blogging has become as mundane as writing the weather forecast.

For all that there is intense bickering from within the bubble, out in the country things are as you might expect them to be. The public is weary of our politicians, tired of hearing about Brexit and very much want to get it over and done with one way or another.

I think perhaps that sets the tone either way. This is also why the UK is lost if we do not leave. Leavers are kidding themselves if they think there is going to be a mass yellow vested protest. There may be a few weeks of troublemaking and we may see one or two large crowds but we won't see anything like a poll tax riot or a million strong protest in Trafalgar Square. The "neon nazis" in yellow vests will try to kick something off, but everyday leavers will want nothing to do with it. Who wants to be associated with them?

One would like to think the masses would be so enraged they would bring the country to a standstill but it's only really the headbangers relishing the prospect of a no deal Brexit. Port chaos and shortages is not really high on anyone's list of things to experience. After three years of relentless Brexit coverage I think there'll be a shift of mood and a sense of resignation to remaining.

Remainers would be delighted by this but it is not without consequence. Parliament will rapidly sweep it under the rug and with Ukip now defunct as a movement, co-opted by the Tommy Robinson clan, there's nothing to stop the establishment glossing over the whole incident. Politics then returns to normal as we approach a general election where all the Tory tribalists, once infatuated with Rees-Mogg, will get back to sharing memes about Corbyn's sympathy for terrorists and Labour's antisemitism. The right once again becomes a stop Corbyn movement.

Course, this all depends on whether it's a Brexiter leading us into the next general election in which the general election could become a re-run of the referendum, only this time there would be no Article 50 process. The Tories would not necessarily win. If that happens then Brexit is dead and buried.

If the referendum is mentioned at all thereafter, it will be pious lip service to the need to address the causes of Brexit, which in the mind of Labour is all about austerity and thus an excuse to abandon fiscal discipline and return to firehosing welfare at the plebs while the debasement of Westminster continues. they will need to come up with a big initiative such as a "people's assembly" which is essentially a super focus group tacked on to the Westminster bubble. Something else for hacks to scribble about.

The longer term consequence of this is that our zombie economy limps on with all the continuing pressures on housing, transport and health with nothing of consequence being done about it, while we rack up a future pensions crisis. the establishment will continue to address the symptoms rather than the causes while voter participation collapses. Many will simply conclude as I have that voting is a waste of time. The adults will leave the children to it. That has consequences of its own.

Further into the future we reach a stage where so little works and politics is so deeply despised that we really will start to experience civil disorder. Not in a yellow vested sense; rather we will see a change of public attitude and an increased lawlessness. The denial of Brexit will leave a scar on the psyche of the public. Public courtesy will go out of the window where politicians and public officials are concerned. The police too.

It is said that the British do not riot. They plot. Here I expect there will be fertile grounds for a new Ukip style movement, but this time it won't play the game by the rules as Ukip did. It may take them another twenty years but next time around, knowing what transpired over Brexit, there will be no trust. No referendum. It will be a brute force political movement.

What remainers don't seem to comprehend is that remaining does not solve anything. As much as it it provides a life support machine to a broken political establishment, it simply passes the problem to the next generation. Hopes that Brexiters will die off are overly optimistic. This whole debacle has will prove to be a serious recruiting sergeant.

In respect of this I could almost talk myself into no deal Brexit now. At least then we have a controlled demolition and can begin the process of rebuilding. I just haven't given up hope of there being a deal. May will surely lose her vote on Tuesday but that won't be the last of it. She is already playing a game of brinkmanship with MPs. She will toddle off to Brussels to seek further assurances and when the vote goes for a second round, enough MPs will chicken out for it to scrape through. Tuesday is far from the end of it.

There will, of course, be much clucking about betrayal should the deal pass, but this is only really down to the effectiveness of the no deal propaganda that has the Tory party grassroots salivating for armageddon. The Brexiters will whinge come what may. Even if they get what they want and things do go to hell in a hardcart, they will still find someone to seethe at rather than taking responsibility.

For all that the deal on the table isn't what Brexiters hoped for, it is the Brexiteers who are chiefly to blame. Had the ERG come up with a deliverable plan from the very beginning they would have been able to call the shots. Instead they've huffed and puffed from the sidelines, making an irrelevance of themselves. Certainly May has played her role in that the deal itself is a piece of electoral triangulation but a plan with cross party backing could very well have been the artefact to beat her with.

As it stands we are not in any shape to cope with no deal. It creates too many administrative problems that will saturate the absorptive capacity of government. Devising a system to replace the Dover-Calais system that has evolved over decades is of itself a conundrum that ideally requires years of planning and phased implementation. This can only be done inside the framework of a deal. We need the transition lest we be facing more hell than we can handle.

There are now 74 days to go before the deadline. What little preparation we have in place is wholly inadequate and I am far from convinced that ministers have fully understood the implications. There has been a concerted effort to downplay the impact of no deal so business have not been given the information they need. The only kosher information in the public domain is the EU's Notices to Stakeholders and unless you know what you're looking at it's difficult to see how much of it plays out in the real world.

It is this lack of preparation and overall lack of understanding that will create the chaos more than any one single factor. In respect of customs the Commission has said "all relevant EU legislation on the importation and exportation of goods will apply to goods moving between the EU and the UK". Inside that innocuous statement lies a universe of regulatory controls which are understood by view and businesses have been left to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, Brexiters tell us that flights will continue as normal, but again the Commission been clear. It has adopted some contingency measures to avoid full interruption of air traffic between the EU ain the event of no deal. These measures, though, "will only ensure basic connectivity and in no means replicate the significant advantages of membership of the Single European Sky". Precisely how extensive "basic connectivity" is, they do not say, but it is likely to have a dramatic impact on the airline market and the cost of air travel and freight. Anyone looking to the skies to avoid logistical disruption is in for a shock.

With the costs of shipping goods to the continent skyrocketing and services trade hindered by the cessation of recognition of qualifications and right to work inside the EU curtailed, we are likely to see a wave of job cuts across the country inside the first six months and a slow bleed from there. This is not something we should wish upon ourselves.

Whatever the relationship we end up with, one way or another, it will lead back to highly integrated systems and shared regulation. That's just how the world works. We either accept that reality now or we find out the hard way of taking the full brunt of Brexit and having to rebuild our relationship with the EU entirely on the EU's terms. No deal cannot stay no deal. 

With the window now closed for any plan B, the deal on the table is the deal we are stuck with. Whether MPs have noticed or not, the negotiations are over. It is therefore down to MPs to decide whether they are going to honour the referendum and do the right thing or whether they are going to gamble either with the whole economy or with democracy itself. Should we remain we are kicking the can down the road and inviting much worse than we have seen up to press.

Voting to leave was not an instruction to terminate all external relations with the EU. To say that any deal is a betrayal is just another lie in a long line of them - and perhaps the most cynical one to date. There is, therefore, only one thing for it. May's deal. Like it or lump it. 

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