Tag Archives: Brexit

Be careful what you wish for

Rafael Behr makes an obvious point:

And it isn’t obvious that the Brexit ultras would want to be in control of the process now. Then they would have to negotiate, to own the compromises and explain the disappointments. They would no longer have the luxury of crying betrayal from the sidelines, which is all they really know how to do.

It’s long been apparent (to me) that, with the referendum, the Brexiters achieved what they campaigned for but not what they wanted.

Blaming the EU for all of your country’s ills is both easy and comforting. But once you’re out, you will have to start taking some responsibility.

This, of course, is the fundamental problem into which all populists eventually crash. Finding a scapegoat is easy, but when the scapegoat is gone and the problems still persist, who or what will you blame next?

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Money for Nothing

UK government paid consultants £680K for Brexit customs plan

Government records show the U.K. tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), spent £680,000 on a contract with consultancy firm McKinsey & Company to, among other things, assess the “commercial feasibility” of the “new customs partnership model.” That is one of two customs proposals put forward by U.K. Brexit negotiators last week in talks aimed at avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The customs arrangement designed by McKinsey was, of course, dismissed as unworkable as soon as the rest of the EU saw it.

Hiring consultants is like wishing really hard. It doesn’t mater how much you spend — or how much you wish — the impossible will remain impossible.

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Superficial, pointless and wrong

There has already been plenty of response to the news that British passports will[ be dark blue after 2019. For me, this story underlines wrong with the various claims made by the Brexit lobby.

Firstly, of course, there is the fact that this is yet another case of ignoring reality in favour of a bunch of symbols of a world that no longer exists — and probably never did.

Secondly, the claim that the burgundy passport was imposed on the UK is flat-out wrong. There is no requirement for passports to be burgundy and no-one would have batted an eyelid had the UK decided to issue dark-blue EU passports, just as no-one bats an eyelid Croatia’s dark blue EU passports. Indeed, Charles Powell has confirmed that it was the Thatcher government that chose to ditch the blue passport.

This Brexiter obsession with superficialities like passport colour sums them up perfectly. It is a pointless and illogical obsession based on a complete failure to understand where we are today and why. The previous passport layout was determined by the League of Nations back in 1920 and the size and layout of modern passports is determined by the needs of international airports (as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the UN).

Brexiters have nothing. Everything they have promised has been shown to be a lie and they are reduced to either clutching at nonsense like this or pretending that a referendum result is somehow inviolate and unchangeable.

As David Davis once said, if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.

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Trust, once lost, is difficult to regain

In a surprise to no-one, the EU27 have “hardened” the language of a proposed Brexit resolution for this week’s European Council summit in following David Davis’ remarkably stupid comments on Sunday that last Friday’s Brexit deal with the EU was “more a statement of intent than a legally enforceable thing.”

The text now also says the U.K. will stay in both customs union and internal market for the time of a transition period, which includes the whole acquis (the body of EU law) and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. While that has always been clear to the EU side, it will be made explicit in the summit resolution “to avoid any ambiguity,” according to one diplomat.

Spelling out what transition means also include making it explicit that the UK will have no representation in any EU body or agency, “neither as a member nor as an observer,” the diplomat said.

And it doesn’t stop there. The European parliament’s main parties have drawn up an amendment to their Brexit resolution, on which MEPs will vote today, condemning the Brexit secretary personally for damaging trust.

Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for Europe, told German media he was “taken aback” that the language May had used in Brussels “differed somewhat” to what the prime minister had said in London since her return, referring in particular to the suggestion that Britain would only pay the final bill to the EU once a trade agreement had been reached. “She needs to be taking the same line in Brussels as in London,” he said.

The arrogance, incompetence and stupidity of the Brexit fantasists in Theresa May’s cabinet are undermining the future of the the UK and putting at risk the economy, jobs, services and the status of British citizens around the world. Their actions are liable to torpedo any deal with Europe and leave the rest of the World wondering why on Earth they would talk to us.

It’s way past time for some adults to step in, take charge and call a halt to this whole farrago.

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Two days after signing an agreement, the UK government is already trying to welch on it.

Putting everything else to one side for the moment, this is a government that wants to strike new trade deals around the world. What makes them think that anyone is going to want to start negotiating with a country that can’t keep its word for more than two days?

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UK cabinet soon to hold debate about ultimate Brexit aims

According to The Guardian, the UK cabinet will soon meet for their first formal discussion over what the government should be aiming for at the end of Brexit discussions.

Sources said May would update her cabinet on Monday about the latest breakthrough, but admitted a wider meeting would be held within a fortnight.

That could pitch the demands of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – who could be wary of too much regulatory alignment with the EU – against remainers such as Hammond and the home secretary, Amber Rudd.

Well, better late than never, I suppose, but it would have been a lot better all round if this ongoing joke of a government had given some thought to what they wanted to achieve before triggering Article 50.

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Brexit Cancelled!

Albion Estate Sign (1970) from Scarfolk Council

After a week’s intensive negotiation, Theresa May has agreed that Britain will do exactly what the EU tells her. The Guardian has a summary of the main points:

EU citizens

  • EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the rest of the EU have the right to stay. Rights of their children and those of partners in existing “durable relationships” are also guaranteed.
  • UK courts will preside over enforcing rights over EU citizens in Britain but can refer unclear cases to the European court of justice for eight years after withdrawal.

This is good, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the UK, are guaranteed and, quite frankly, the UK government could and should have confirmed this at the outset. I’ve seen elsewhere that Guy Verhofstadt is also saying that that these rights will also need to be guaranteed for future partners future free movement and residence of UK citizens all 27 Member States should also be guaranteed.

It’s becoming increasingly safe to assume that — regardless of the form of words used — freedom of movement between the UK and the rest of the UK will be preserved.

Irish border

  • The agreement promises to ensure there will be no hard border and to uphold the Belfast agreement.
  • It makes clear the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, will be leaving the customs union.
  • It leaves unclear how an open border will be achieved but says in the absence of a later agreement, the UK will ensure “full alignment” with the rules of the customs union and single market that uphold the Good Friday agreement.
  • However, the concession secured by the DUP is that no new regulatory barriers will be allowed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without the permission of Stormont in the interest of upholding the Good Friday agreement.

In summary, Britain is leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union. But will continue to abide by all of the rules laid down by both in order to continue to uphold the Good Friday agreement.

Where this becomes really interesting is when you look at the Brexiter fantasy of a buccaneering Britain striking its own trade deals. If Britain is outside of the Customs Union then yes, these deals can be struck — in theory at least. However, Britain can’t strike any deals that diverge from the Customs Union regulations.

In order to maintain this regulatory alignment, any trade deal is going to have to be validated by the EU. This gives the EU an effective veto on any deal that the UK tries to sign and means that the best that Britain can hope to achieve is a deal that replicates what the EU has already negotiated.


  • There is no figure on how much the UK is expected to pay but the document sets out how the bill will be calculated – expected to be about £50bn.
  • The UK agrees to continue to pay into the EU budget as normal in 2019 and 2020.
  • It also agrees to pay its liabilities such as pension contributions.

So much for “go whistle.”

Other issues

  • The two sides agreed there would be need for cooperation on nuclear regulation and police and security issues.
  • There was an agreement to ensure continued availability of products on the market before withdrawal and to minimise disruption for businesses and consumers.

This agreement keeps the show on the road for Theresa May and reduces the risk of a disastrous “no-deal” Brexit. It also means that Britain is heading for the softest of soft Brexits in which — like Norway — the UK continues to observe EU rules indefinitely but without any say in what those rules are.

The Brexit wing of the Tory party seems remarkably sanguine about all of this so far. I’m stocking up on popcorn while I wait for them to realise what they have just signed up to.

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Neither credible nor competent

So, on Monday, the wheels finally came off the Brexit bus with the DUP instructing Theresa May to take her carefully negotiated compromise off the table.

The biggest surprise to me was the number of politicians and commenters expressing surprise. The UK’s Brexit strategy — if you can call it a strategy — is a mess of contradictions wrapped up with wishful thinking. It was only a matter of time before their bluff was called and the emptiness of their proposals was exposed. And now that’s happened and the only reaction from the Tories is to engage in yet another round of bluster and blame-dodging.

Not surprisingly, there have been calls for May to go, with prominent Conservative party donor, Charlie Mullins pointing out that:

Theresa May has neither the power to do a good Brexit deal for the UK nor the authority to call off the madness.

I certainly agree that Britain needs a PM that is both competent and credible. But I can’t think of anyone in the Tory party who both fits the bill and would be willing to take over this ongoing disaster. Which, of course, is why May will remain in office (if not in power) for the foreseeable future.

And it’s not just in Britain that this Government’s incompetence is so painfully obvious:

While the next “final” deadline for stage one has not been defined publicly, several EU sources said the deal would have to be struck by the end of the week, with either Friday or Sunday as the last resort.

One EU ambassador told the Guardian the failure to reach a deal on Northern Ireland was a microcosm of a wider problem. “At root the problem is that [May] seems incapable of making a decision and is afraid of her own shadow,” the source said.

“We cannot go on like this, with no idea what the UK wants. She just has to have the conversation with her own cabinet, and if that upsets someone, or someone resigns, so be it. She has to say what kind of trading relationship she is seeking. We cannot do it for her, and she cannot defer forever.”

For weeks, European officials have walked a tightrope between sticking to the EU’s tough negotiating stance and seeking to avoid action or words that could destabilise the fragile May government.

“We have to treat the UK political system like a rotten egg,” said one EU source in the run-up to Monday’s talks, suggesting that if “the realities of the world” dawned too soon, the British government could become more fragile.

If reality did dawn, and if Britain had a Prime Minister with enough courage to be honest with both her party and her country, many people would be recognising by now that the time has come to stop pretending and call a halt to Brexit. It is not in Britain’s interest and the longer that May lets the bonkers wing of her party corral her into ever more unrealistic positions, the more harm it will do.

Of course, no-one is going to try to make the Brexiters face reality any time soon.

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