Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Brexit: back to basics

This is my third attempt at writing a blog this evening but the circumstances keep changing and I just can't keep up. There are too many variables in play to make any sense of it so I will wait til tomorrow before speculating on parliamentary events. Right now my opinion is in a state of flux so it's worth going back to basics.

I want to leave the EU and so does the majority of the country according to the last national consultation. There are a number of ways to do this, all o which have been ruled out by either MPs or parliament. Theresa May failed to pass a withdrawal agreement and she has now been replaced with an administration hell bent on leaving without a deal as its preferred option.

This is not my preferred option and my occasional advocacy of no deal is merely exasperation, believing that parliament will see to it that no deal is the only way to leave the EU and the only way to deliver what the public demanded in 2016.

But here's the thing; it's a terrible outcome. It's ruinous for our trade and jobs that depend on it. I have not been brainwashed by project fear. I have acquired a basic level of expertise on matters of trade exceeding that of most people which forces me to conclude that I really would really rather not end up in that position. The latest outing from Ivan Rogers largely repeats most of what I have already concluded on this blog - the gist of it being that no deal puts us in a weak position, still in need of a formal relationship with the EU and doing so hands all the leverage to the EU.

I wish I didn't think that otherwise I could join in with the Brexit death cult in calling for no deal without hesitation and write simplistic articles on how parliament has betrayed the people. But I'm afraid I can't do that even though it wouldn't do my blog hits and public profile any harm. The fact is that though our MPs may be venal, supine and stupid, they have at least grasped that no deal is a thing we should make a serious effort to avoid.

Being that the Brexiters have taken a mandate to leave the EU and through their influence over the media managed to persuade Brexiters that no deal is the only real Brexit, effectively playing double or quits with the referendum result. Of course MPs of all stripes were going to frustrate this. As much as there is little to be said in favour of no deal, there is nothing especially enticing about subsequent Johnson policies because they are largely issue illiterate wishful thinking.

That these same MPs are largely responsible for bringing us to this cliff edge by voting down a withdrawal agreement, with the intention of stopping Brexit still doesn't make no delay an attractive proposition. Politically necessary perhaps, but not desirable. I think all but the most rabid no dealer Brexiters would prefer a deal of some kind.

So where we're at now is yet another critical juncture. MPs have either bought themselves some time in which they can resurrect the withdrawal agreement or they've bought themselves a general election. We won't know until tomorrow.

If there is to be a general election, despite the Tories having a firm lead over Labour, if the general election is a re-run of the referendum then it'll be a close run thing, possibly requiring another coalition. Though I want to leave the EU I am not voting for a party with an explicit no deal agenda. I just won't vote. If the consequence is no Brexit then so be it. I long warned that the absence of a plan and insisting on the hardest Brexit possible could lead to no Brexit. I'm not voting to bail them out of their self-inflicted crisis.

If, however, parliament does not consent to an election, we could see another delay and moves to take Mrs May's withdrawal agreement out for another spin around the block. If then MPs have the good sense to vote for it then fine, but if not we will know for certain that the only way to leave is with no deal at all. Patience is already wearing thin. This can't spin on forever.

As much as I want Brexit I want a successful Brexit where we don't end up confronted with ultimatums form the EU we can't say no to. That's where I reckon no deal puts us - where we bleed away trade to the point where we'll sign just about anything which then puts us on a course to re-entry or worse. A managed departure ensures we maintain a viable relationship with the EU, securing trade with our most important regional partner so that we can then diverge when and if we need to as we seek out new opportunities globally.

I have always believed that EEA Efta provide as an adequate framework for a gradual departure process - which is still possible should we conclude a withdrawal agreement, but if we treat Brexit as an event rather than a process then we'll end up in a state of permanent dysfunction and accomplish none of the things we hoped to by voting to leave. If there is still the glimmer of a chance of pulling it off then I can stomach another delay. If we end up remaining, it is ultimately the leaver's fault. They rejected a viable plan to chase a pipedream and turned the majority against them. They could and should have anticipated it.

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