Yves here. I thought it was worth highlighting a key point that Clive makes relatively late in his post on why a “no deal” or “crash out” Brexit now looks like the most likely outcome. Even though one of the main arguments made in favor of Brexit is that the UK will take back its sovereignity, it is not only utterly unequipped to do, it has taken no steps towards increasing its competence. The reality is that Tories hate bureaucrats whether domestic or foreign, but it will find out soon the catastrophically high cost in a legalistic and systems-driven world of trying to get by without them.
In addition, Clive has pointed out he voted for Brexit.
By Clive, a UK-based IT professional
I’ve always been ambivalent towards the AJP Taylor theory that during the course of 1914 the slide into WWI became inevitable due to the constraints imposed by railroad timetables. While it’s probably true to say that it was a contributory factor, it is to me a stretch to suggest that it was the factor. Rigid interlocking mutual defence treaties which were supposed to guarantee peace and security, which they probably did in isolation but, when the cumulative effect was considered, in reality only restricted room for manoeuvre, were just as culpable to me.
But regardless of the weight it should be given as a cause, it does strongly suggest that the elites of the time had at least some sensitivity to the practicalities and prerequisites of mobilisation. In that respect, they could teach today’s elites in the United Kingdom a thing or two. Strangely, in mainland Europe, certainly as demonstrated by the EU member states which will remain after the UK’s departure (the EU27), their elites are apparently well aware of it.
It marks what I have observed as a cultural difference between transatlantic (a group which I’d count the Unites States as a member, indeed, in its vanguard) and European political and business leadership. Perhaps explicable due to US and UK common law legal systems as opposed to the civil law legal systems practiced in Europe, the transatlantic business and political culture allows — encourages, even — a pernicious form of managerialism whereby someone in charge issues some edict or other which the minions are then supposed to bring into being. If this breaks the rules or the law, then you can always go and retrofit the law to your actions later. See Naked Capitalism’s extensive mortgage securitisation and MERS coverage for detailed explanation and analysis.
Certainly there needs to be some explanation, history will no doubt revisit this with the benefit of hindsight, to tell us how we have arrived at the current parlous state of Brexit affairs. As with the WWI Railroad Timetable Theory, my suggestion of this cultural difference between the UK and the EU is likely to be just one factor to be considered amongst many other complementary and conflicting notions.
And what a parlous state of affairs we have. Like some overwrought Wimbledon tennis final which has gone on so long that everyone just wants it to finish so we can all stop for a nice cup of tea but instead we get one more tie-breaker and have to sit through yet another rally, the UK government led by Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU negotiating team (the day-to-day management of which is handled by the European Commission) are still lobbing speeches and draft documents at each other.
None of it will make any difference and all of it is irrelevant. Neither side is capable of taking anything other than very limited, pre-prescribed, actions. In the absence of feasible actions to the contrary, a default outcome is inevitable. This default outcome is a “crash out” or “no deal” Brexit. This means that the UK will leave the EU without any agreement for how ongoing business, legal and political activity between the UK and the EU is to function. Some impact to these ongoing activities is likely to be unavoidable. See here (pgs. 16 thru 18) for an overview of the scale of the activities subject to potential negative impact.
Like the intergovernmental treaties which cemented the responses of the European states which got drawn into the WWI conflict, there are multiple constraints pressing against both the UK and the EU which preclude either party changing direction. I will list these below and briefly explore each:
No Square Circles Have Been Found for the Northern Ireland (NI)/Republic of Ireland (RoI) Border
The EU’s Single Market Rules require the members of the single market to check and, if necessary, restrict non-compliant goods from entering. This is because, once goods have entered via one member state, any goods can then circulate within the single market without further checks. Post-Brexit, the EU27 will have no method of ensuring that the UK will enforce the single market standards. The UK is asking the EU27 to take the UK’s word for it that it will instigate appropriate standards checking and verification. But the UK has not published methods which can be scrutinised how it will do this. Theresa May’s most recent speech gave aspirational statements but was not a fully worked through proposal. Absent any mutually agreed solution, the land border between the UK and the EU27 (in NI / the RoI) must facilitate the required checks. But both the UK and the RoI are bound by an existing arrangement, known as the Good Friday Agreement, not to have intrusive border checks between the two countries.
The EU27 Can’t Compromise on the Role of the European Court of Justice Even if They Were Minded to — Which They Aren’t
The UK’s argument as to why the EU27 should be prepared to be flexible is that the UK will provide equivalent protections to the EU27’s single market. But the EU27 is obliged by mutual treaty to enforce the protections. The treaty obligations require the EU27 to have recourse should the promised protections not be implemented. Enforcement actions (such as seizing goods) must have a legal basis in international law. The EU27’s only legal option for enforcement is the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It is not permissible to have two unconnected courts with the same jurisdiction. Only one court can be superior in any hierarchy of appeals to ensure finality of justice. Either the ECJ is the superior court or the UK’s Supreme Court is the superior court. Both cannot be superior at the same time. The UK government is insisting on parliamentary, which means legal, superiority over the areas which it intends to participate in the single market. The EU27 has no other court to utilise than the ECJ. The UK government is proposing an arbitration committee or similar to settle differences between the two jurisdictions. But for this to be workable, it would have to make binding rulings on the ECJ but the UK government would be able to ignore its decisions — albeit at the cost of not participating in that particular aspect of the single market. There is nothing for the EU27 to gain in this lop-sided justice arrangement since it asks the EU27 to give the UK government the very thing the UK government won’t grant the EU27 — jurisdictional autonomy.
The RoI has to Decide Who is Most Likely and Who is Least Likely to Throw it Under a Bus — and Has Decided that the Party Most Likely to Defend its Interests isn’t the UK
From the RoI’s perspective, Brexit has given it a headache which it didn’t ask for and can’t fix without impacting its relationship with and position in the EU. It has to make a binary choice — go along with the UK government’s suggested fixes or stick to the EU’s rules. It has chosen the latter. As with the ECJ above, the UK government is asking the RoI to accept 3rd parties’ assurances in situations where the UK government has said it is no longer willing to rely on the assurances of others. While the RoI may not be able to trust the EU to safeguard its position, the EU has more to lose in abandoning the RoI than the UK government does. In not aligning completely to the EU, the UK government is asking the RoI to take the risk of finding itself non-liquet – the possibility that a case cannot be decided because of a gap in the law.
None of the UK’s Napkin Doodle Proposals Outlined in Theresa May’s Speech on the 2nd March 2018 are Legislation-ready
The measures suggested by the UK government to the EU to avoid a hard Brexit require primary legislation. May specifically said “parliament would be sovereign”, which is fine, but neither the UK parliament — nor any government or the EU — cannot make stuff up as it goes along. If parliament is sovereign in matters like the associate membership of the various EU institutions the U.K. government says it wishes to participate in to allow it to continue to access the single market, that will need a white paper, first reading, second reading, select committee scrutiny, Lords’ amendments, Royal assent (then you can still get legal challenges). That’s before you have got things like the magic sparkle pony IT-enabled border controls, where you’d need several green paper drafts just to get the gist of what’s meant by those as Theresa May’s speech only gave the broadest of outlines of their requirements.
When my TBTF needed a statutory instrument, which is much simpler legislation (I won’t bore with the details, it needed to dig itself out of some legal ambiguity) it took over two years. And that wasn’t in any way contentious. And all of the UK government’s proposals are supposed to through the legislation sausage making machinery by next March. Or even, best case, by the end of 2020 when any transition period ends (but the transition period’s start needs the agreement in the areas currently still under negotiations). This equates to just over 18 months of actual available parliamentary time as an absolute maximum, the UK parliament typically doesn’t sit more than 250 days in a year.
No Political Solution now Available in the UK — the Left Hates the EU as Much as the Right and the Hard Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland Holds the Balance of Power
The UK political right, which encompasses the rightmost free market fundamentalism and libertarian wings of the ruling Conservative Party and also the UK Independence Party (UKIP) have been the main instigators of the Brexit movement and the enablers of the 2016 referendum. However, the left of the UK political spectrum, outside of the “Blairite” neoliberal-leaning faction within the opposition Labour Party, have also rejected the EU’s European integration strategy and policy directions. Because the political left does not universally oppose Brexit, the resultant UK political options are limited to some form of leaving the EU. While the Blairite faction within the Labour Party is seeking a BINO Brexit (Brexit in Name Only) which allows for a UK remaining in the single market and the customs union option, Labour’s leader Jeremey Corbyn is largely opposed to this BINO approach. A compromise agreement has been proposed by the Labour Party which involves membership of “a customs union”. This is not, though membership of the customs union, the customs union which already exists within the EU. This is therefore reduced to the level of Conservative’s napkin doodle proposals, being an unspecified and undocumented idea rather than a proceedable treaty text.
Within NI, the DUP holds all unionist constituency parliamentary seats and is a coalition partner in the current UK government. The DUP favours a hard Brexit and is not amenable to accepting the EU’s proposals for how the NI border issue should be resolved. The unionists in NI have universally rejected the EU’s approach and the EU’s by necessity (see earlier point) all-Ireland ring-fencing of the single market is now seen by even moderate unionists as being anti-unionism and pro-united Ireland. This is causing even some Remain unionists to become Leave proponents.
Even if the Conservative Party was willing to throw the DUP under a bus, because the DUP’s support is essential to keeping the Conservative Party in government, it would end up throwing itself under the same bus, too.
The Mood in the UK is Hardening Against the EU
The EU has no choice to take the positions it is taking but that’s not exactly helpful to its PR image. The UK’s popular press is notoriously Eurosceptic already and the EU’s unavoidable proposals are being used to further heighten anti-EU sentiment.
No Second Referendum to the Rescue
There is no viable parliamentary route for a second referendum because there is no window for the procedural steps for it to happen before next March when the UK is leaving the EU. Passage of the necessary Bill through parliament, approvals by the Electoral Commission, inevitable legal challenges and organisation at a local level (polling stations) would be essential — and it would all have to happen by the end of November 2018 because you can’t outside of emergency situations have a poll in the middle of winter; last week (until 2nd March) was a case in point, any vote would have been disputed because of extensive travel disruption which the UK was subject to.
The UK has technical options to avoid a crashing out Brexit (no deal and no transition period) but these are not acceptable politically. The UK has politically viable options, but these are neither implementable in the timeframes available or not technically or legally acceptable (or both). There is no foreseeable change pending to the UK’s political makeup either in terms of a general election or, even if there were a general election, the stances of the main political parties which would be vying for power.
Situations can change and a year is a long time in politics. But given the current position, the limited possibility of new vectors being introduced and the unmoveable constraints on the various stakeholders, a crash out Brexit is now the most likely outcome.
Thank you Clive.
A very good post.
Your arguments are powerful and may well prove correct. However clearly there are people with money who think differently.The markets are, so we are told, pricing in a deal. I wonder why? Is it because they see no preparations by the UK and therefore assume the UK will fold eventually? I do have other questions but I am unsure anyone can give answers at present so please do not think I am expecting answers to any of my questions. I merely ask them to illustrate the uncertainty which to my mind currently permeates this whole situation.
The balance of power within the Parliamentary Conservative Party has to be relevant. Are Tory MPs telling people in the City that they will ensure there is no disaster? By the way, I would not trust a Tory MP an inch. They are by repute the most devious, mendacious electorate imaginable when it comes to leadership elections.
How influential are the disaster capitalists? Legatum seem to be much in favour with the government. Is this a blind?
My hunch FWIW is that May has yet to make up her mind which way to go – fold or crash out – and is waiting to the last minute to see if some deus ex machina comes to rescue her. So perhaps it could still go either way? But time has very nearly run out IMO.
I am sure Clive will chime in, but let me stick my two cents in for now:
1. There is no way May can cave, as in far enough to stop the UK facing a customs border with the EU. It is not politically or operationally possible. Her government will fall. That either means a coalition with not enough legitimacy (and messy because Tories aligning with Labourites, which has to my knowledge not happened in the post WWII era, party discipline is strong) to go against the “Brexit means Brexit” particularly with the super powerful press barons virtually unified on a hard Brexit.
If the government were to fall, then we have elections, and no one in power in time to do a deal before the drop dead date, which is October 2018. That is when a deal MUST be finalized for approval by the EU27. Operationally, they can’t push that out.
2. There is also no way to back out save another referendum. Absolutely no political groundwork is being laid for that either. The EU would allow the UK to back out of Brexit, I think literally as late as one second before Brexit became effective (approving that is operationally different than approving an Article 50 agreement, which is essentially a type of treaty). But there’s not enough runway for that either.
The markets are being stupid. Seriously. They also were in 2007 and 2008. Look at the bounceback even as late as the Bear Stearns rescue, which we correctly called as not solving anything as the underlying problems were getting worse.
Everyone in the English-speaking world is going on misguided assumptions, that the EU and UK will stitch up a deal at the last minute. If you stop reading the totally inaccurate and propagandistic UK press, and just read what EU leaders have said again and again and again and again in the clearest terms possible, all sorts of things the UK acts as if it must have are absolutely not going to happen. The EU is not negotiable on them for good and logical reasons it is sick of having to repeat ad nauseum. The EU is civil law, which means it is also a stickler and very procedural. And most important, Europe has written the UK off. It is prepared to accept even a crashout. It would rather not have it but it is not going to compromise the EU to deal with UK idiocy and refusal to listen. This is so not a political issue in the EU that its press is not covering it. No one in any position of authority will suffer in the EU if the UK drives itself off a cliff.
An excellent and clear article Clive, thanks.
Yves, after reading your comment, the thought occurred to me that perhaps some of the hard Brexiteers are well aware of the lack of time that you’ve mentioned and are deliberately stalling or being wilfully obstructive to any deal exactly, so they do get the ‘No Deal’ hard Brexit they want.
Domestic media coverage (which is relied upon by analysts) from supposedly neutral and reputable sources (BBC, ITV, Sky) is axious to not be seen to be fanning any controversy or opinionated so the only sources of information are the Conservative government’s statements which are repeated verbatim and only subject to the mildest of challenges.
No reporter from the mainstream TV or print media is willing to go into weeds on this and even if they were, the usual 5 minute news “story” or 10 column inches maximum limitations don’t allow the details to be fleshed out to anything like the degree needed. So you’re not going to be exposed to anything other than bland wishy-washy don’t-scare-the-horses soporifics. The conclusion of which is that something will be worked out. And yes, all Tories (bar a tiny, tiny handful like Ken Clarke, former Chancellor) are going around telling everyone who asks that there’ll be a deal of some sort.
There’s nothing which will prevent this state of misinformation and denial from continuing until October when the EU27 has to make a key decision about agreeing the transition. The EU is bound by diplomatic norms in the language it uses. And in any case, whatever the EU say can plausibly be dismissed as a negotiation tactic.
This isn’t as demented and inexplicable as first meets the eye. Every day, a thousand women (mostly women, I’m not being deliberately sexist here) ask the question “does my bum look big in this?” Rarely, if ever, do they get an honest answer. The “markets” are similarly asking “will everything be okay, then?” — and expecting the same level of candour when they really should know better than to trust the motives of the people providing the answer.
I suspect the govt is putting the foot really hard on the media. Say on FT Alphaville, Brexit is unofficilly banned subject – and I suspect because the guys there would have nothing good to say on it. Apart from Guardian, as you say most reporting is anodyne at best, and even Guardian often gets things overly optimistic.
As readers pointed out in the FT comments on an article it ran where Wolfgang Munchau and others went on about May’s latest speech, everyone was pretty chipper and at most offering only the mildest of possible criticisms. The FT readers were on the whole pretty unimpressed and even annoyed. They said it looked like someone had come down on the FT for having had some pretty straight, as in unfavorable, stories re Brexit, like the one about how they needed to enter into at least 759 3rd party deals to replace ones they now had via the EU, as well as some good leaks out of Brussels.
I noticed that the CEO of IAG/British Airways called the FT the “Fake Times” aping Trump apparently after the FT published that story about airline landing rights. As I mentioned yesterday while the elected UK government can choose to keep their head in the sand it is concerning from a shareholder disclosure perspective that so many UK corporates are unwilling to discuss or disclose the worst case Brexit scenario.
I noticed that Hammond two days ago warned during a committee hearing that “airlines will need to know on April 1 whether they can safely schedule flights in April 2019”.
The Guardian published one article about it but otherwise I saw almost no reaction. I remember the Ryanair CEO warning about this scenario too last year. And being ridiculed for it.
And now April 1 is just a bit over 3 weeks away!
It´s apparently “keep calm and carry on” in the UK.
Yes, I’ve been waiting for the FT Alphaville boys and girls to get to grips with this. If they are being muzzled, I hope they manage to pull one over their local 大名.
I do wonder if its the government who are putting the foot into the media – do they really have that much influence? Its usually the other way around.
If I was to get foily, I’d say its more likely that certain powerful interests have an interest in keeping things as calm as possible so they can work out how to profit the most from chaos.
The UK government may have had a word with the owners, asked them to rein the FT in. The Japanese do not like to put their heads above the parapet in my experience.
From discussions with a dozen journalists I know (rabid right wing Brexiteer at the Daily Telegraph, centrists / Blairites at the BBC, Daily Mail, WSJ, Independent, Observer, and socialist Brexiteer at the Guardian), all of the above are true.
With the exception of the socialist, the others fear Corbyn more than Brexit, so are not inclined to rock the Tory boat.
With regard to the above’s unauthorised sources of information, most are likely to be traders and may be former FI economists like Gerard Lyons and Liam Halligan, so not the type of people who know or are bothered about the legal and, with regard to supply chains, logistical issues / complexities that really drive this.
The compliance team where I work has just hired a former trader. His grasp of economics / political economy, public policy / the public interest and law is poor. He’s slowly learning. He first thought Brexit would be a nothing burger, but when passporting, rules of origin, product liability etc. were explained to him, his attitude softened. He’s not the only trader I know like that.
Plus FT with regard to journalists I know.
His grasp of economics / political economy, public policy / the public interest and law is poor.
I wonder how much the atomization of knowledge at the uni and corporate level has created a professional class that only understands its own tiny part in a large complex system. And cannot see the other parts or understand them. Shorter: a professional class that no longer know how things actually work?
Thank you, Flora.
That’s all too common, unfortunately.
On the other hand, the ENA, which for decades has been “the” elite education and training institution for French top-level political personnel (for instance both the current French president Macron and prime minister Philippe are former ENA students) has been lambasted for producing only pseudo-generalists who just have superficial knowledge in a smattering of domains.
I think that the problem is, for your average middle-to-upper class Brit, nothing really bad has happened for a very long time – since 1945, really. There might have been the odd recession or job loss, or heaven forbid drop in house prices, but absolutely no system – level threats.
And that has bred two contrasting issues. One is that absent real threats, there has been a tendency for people to jump at shadows – witness the reaction to a few minor terrorist attacks. The other, ironically, is a complacency – that whatever happens, the Authorities will know what to do and it’ll all be OK. This gives us both people voting Brexit as a massive overreaction to the EU, imperfect as it is, and the widely held idea that Brexit will all just work out.
I still think that even in the worst case, there will be a flurry of last minute agreements to keep things like food, fuel and medicines moving.. but if not, the the resulting national nervous breakdown could be severe.
I think that another issue, and I’m as guilty of it as anyone, is a misplaced residual faith in the ability of governments to manage complexity — indeed, manage anything non-standard.
Not just Brexit but also our endless foreign wars, climate change, the GFC, demographic changes and much more besides — experience has demonstrated that small government ideology and insisting on private sector “solutions” have so withered in the vine governments’ expertise and even mere basic competence to an extent that they are deers in the headlights when it comes to problematic situations.
Then you have their hubris which stops them not knowing what they don’t know.
I knew it was bad — but not this bad. Talk about learning a lesson the hard way.
And alas I’m unconvinced about the ability to pull any last minute rabbits out of hats.
After GFC and related I even the little faith I had in government capability – to an extent, the current state is too complex a beast to manage well (but the libertarian solutio of getting rid of it is no solution either, I believe that the solution is to devolve to smaller constituents while high-level issues like defense and foreign policy). That was the sole reason why I voted remain. But even I didn’t think the idiocy would be this bad.
I think thats a pretty good assessment. I do think the fact that for most westerners there hasn’t been a real crisis – I mean, the sort of crisis where you can get killed or become a refugee, hasn’t occurred since WWII (except perhaps the times we came close to nuclear war) has bred a weird mix of hyper sensitivity and indolence, but mostly the latter.
People just don’t appreciate that just because we’ve had half a century or more of relative stability and prosperity that somehow we’ve got this civilisation thing cracked, and the people in charge will always work something out. You could say the same about the strange lack of urgency over climate change. I do think that there is a segment at the upper edge of society who actually relishes the idea of a good crisis, like it would prove their manhood or something like that.
For what its worth, i am being told by ex-colleagues that this is precisely what senior political figures on the UK side are saying. That they see difficulties but with goodwill on both sides they anticipate a deal. I cannot make heads or tails of why they are so sanguine but that is what is currently being peddled by the likes of MGA and SGH
From where I sit, Brexit means then :
* civil war on the RoI/NI border
* NHS crashing down for lack of staff
* no planes entering/leaving UK
* no ‘atoms’ entering/leaving UK, so issues coming soon for cancer treatment, power plants, ..
* EU citizens haunted out of country, out of NHS, out of research institutions, business,
* City keeling over for lack of passporting rights
* little to no exports to EU for lack of customs infrastructure on both sides of the border (the Dutch started work, but e.g. Eurostar wil fail). With civil war on RoI/NI border, and no ‘hard border infrastructure’ in RoI, EU may be forced to exclude RoI also.
So 1000s will die, and most other UK citizens will be worse off. Theresa May is doing more damage to UK than Hitler ever managed.
(but a heartfelt thank you for the timetable history on WW1)?
The one thing I think the Government has woken up to and is trying to address is airline treaties. So even those are messy, the UK is likely to get at least provisional deals to keep air travel orderly. But expect at a minimum that UK carriers will lose routes, which over time will mean more costly and cumbersome travel in and out of the UK unless you are going on a nonstop route (London-NYC, London-Amsterdam, London-Tokyo).
The City, as in London, will suffer, but the firms will move personnel and operations. Some UK nationals won’t get relocated and will be replaced by hires abroad. Support services in London like lawyers and accountants and caterers will take a hit too.
Re airline treaties: Must have come as a shock to the govt’s neoliberals to discover markets and the private sector are not the answer, government is.
FWIW I reckon that the Netherlands are preparing their customs because imports to the EU that currently arrive in the UK will in future go directly to the mainland. This is another cost of Brexit which seems to have been largely unanticipated.
Crushing the population is a feature, not a bug.
Next time, they’ll know better than to ask for improved conditions. They’ll get nothing and like it.
You forgot to mention the EU outpost of Eire being cutoff, encircled and invaded for its agricultural production.
Things may get a bit difficult for Spain too when they are attacked by Gibraltar.
I know that this is an overly simplified question but will ask it anyway. They say that if you owe a bank £1,000 it is your problem but if you owe the bank £1,000,000 it is the bank’s problem. Could we be seeing a bit of this here with the UK government? Stacking up all these problems so that this will force the EU to take on some of these problems themselves?
I can see the UK government grabbing more power for itself after Brexit to try to secure their position. After all, when things rapidly fall apart, people are going to be wanting those responsible held to account and the mind boggles at the thought of a load of cretins strung up around London to all those CCTV cameras. With some 420,000 in London alone, it’s not like there aren’t enough of them available.
That was the Brexiter’s position – “we are large market for EU, so they will budge”. Well, yes, but the EU is much larger market for the UK, and the EU has political red lines it has shown is willing to take economic pain for. With Brexit, the red lines are literally survival ones, as a sweetheard deal with the UK would be a mortal threat to the EU showing it was easy to exit.
RoI is the only govt which may get burned really badly by it (non-economicall speaking, Dutch and others will suffer economically too).
There was a really good FT analysis that I am up too late to track down, but it debunked that pet Brexiter myth. With a very few exceptions (and IIRC they were Denmark and Holland), exports to the UK for particular countries really aren’t as big a deal as you’d think. Moreover, a lot of them are intermediate product where a more finished good might be shipped back into the EU27. This happens mainly with auto and truck manufacture. EU factories have surplus capacity and a lot of that manufacturing is reasonably fungible. The EU will move a lot of that back. Less loss than apparent due to the operation of the supply chain.
Plus the UK really can’t get by without some EU products, no matter how messy the customs process, most of all food. The UK isn’t even close to self sufficient in food.
As I have said before here, cutting of a country’s food supply is an act of war. Are you really predicting war on the grounds that the fools we have for politicians cannot reach a compromise, despite starting from a position of complete regulatory and legal alignment?
If so, you have an even more jaundiced view of them than I do.
But if a country cuts off its own food supply, does it declare war on itself?
In reality, yes, but in law?
The food supply won´t be cut off.
Britain is currently trying to transfer all EU laws into British laws. The Great Repeal Bill / EU Withdrawal Bill, remember?
These “shiny” new British laws will demand that Britain treats for example food imports exactly like the EU currently does. Which means sanitary and phyto-sanitary checks at the border at specific Border Inspection Posts for all agricultural imports from third party countries. And since the EU will be a third party too after Brexit……
The same of course is true for British exports to the EU too. Welsh sheep farmers for example might be in for a surprise.
Did you perhaps hear about that advert from the port of Dover at the Conservative party conference in October 2017? In it the port authorities said that they currently can process one lorry every two minutes. That´s for travel inside the EU without customs check. And they warned that just adding 2 additional minutes per lorry could led to 17-miles long queues.
Four minutes would still be pretty impressive. Especially since the British government apparently hasn´t done anything to prepare customs for it.
And once again, queues too would happen on the EU channel side.
These queues alone would ensure that quite a bit of food wouldn´t arrive at supermarkets but would be in a lorry somewhere in a traffic jam. And if that lorry carries perishable food….
Now the British government could then decide to implement emergency measures. Not checking food for example and preferential travel rights for lorries with food.
Of course then other WTO member states, the USA (?) might complain that Britain violates the WTO non-discrimination rules?
Help me. I know you included some negative factoid, but the more cheery stuff this does not stop a hard border, with delays and attendant costs, like storage of perishables. Plus Parliament is balking at the Great Repeal Bill. It is correctly not buying the Government claim that all it has to do is cut and paste in inconsequential changes.
The EU is worried about reimport. Like the famed frozen chlorinated chicken going into the UK and back out to the EU. The UK will need to implement hard checks to protect its food exports, like cheese.
And even if the UK were to exactly replicate relevant EU laws, this still does not fly because the UK would still need to accept the ECJ as final arbiter in the event of any dispute. The EU has made clear it is not accepting magic sparkle pony compromises like a cobbled together joint tribunal.
There will be a hard border that will cover everything, including food, unless the UK relents and accepts freedom of movement. The latter is na ga happen. A total backout of Brexit is more likely and odds of that are so vanishingly small as to be zero.
I think there is the possibility that a hard border is simply overwhelmed by the volume of traffic. The blockages on the French and UK motorway networks could potentially be enormous and I’m not sure that the customs officials will be able to withstand the pressure that would be applied to them.
It’s a very interesting situation. It could be an example of people engaged in business transactions simply ignoring what appears to be the law, because the law is just too stupid.
Here goes the war fantasy again… So I’ll counter with my own: Indian peace troops in London. That’ll be a sight.
Cutting off your own head is a suicide, not murder.
There is also the simple calculation, I think: If you are, say, BMW, then you know that any free trade deal will likely include cars, as physical goods are the easiest thing to include in FTAs. So you might take a hit on exports for a year or two, but that’s it. The resulting UK recession will probably be worse for sales.
Whereas for UK services companies, the situation is much worse. Markets may be lost permanently, because trading across Europe basically requires the Single Market to be in place.
If this holds, the implication is that we will lose far more than the EU does just because of the nature of the trade.
You have reminded me of that Yeats poem, Your Grace – “….. the centre cannot hold”
Thanks Clive, lucid and clear as always, I always learn a lot from your posts.
I think that as a general principle, you are entirely right – all parties, in particular the London government, are in a bind and it is very difficult to see how it can result in anything but a chaotic/hard Brexit. I’ve always thought that a no-deal exit was at least 50%, and I think its much more than that now.
If I had a *insert favoured single currency unit* for every time I’ve heard a variant on the ‘Oh, they’ll fudge some sort of agreement at the last minute’ line, I would be a very rich man. And I’m forever the one who has suggested that this is far less likely than everyone assumes. But I would set out a few reasons why I think it is possible that there could be a deal of some sort for March 2019, albeit certainly a kick-the-can down the road type of deal. This deal would almost certainly be in the form of a capitulation by London to most of the EU’s demands for the transition period, with a few token concessions by the EU. In no particular order:
1. Don’t underestimate the galvanising and unifying effect a ‘its this deal, or Jeremy Corbyn as PM’ type message can have on the Tories and DUP. I do believe that even the hardest Brexiters may well fold if they think that it will lead to an immediate Labour victory and Corbyn steering Brexit. If May found a backbone she might be able to sell a capitulation on all the EU’s main points, and kick the can down the road for 2 years at least. A cross-party alliance could then try to implement a BINO by stealth, which would no doubt be the favoured option of the centrist establishment in and out of Parliament.
2. Don’t overestimate the political strength of the DUP. They are caught by the knowledge that if they bring May down, this could bring Corbyn to power, and they fear him even more than the Tories hate him. It would also I think be possible for May (if she shows hitherto undemonstrated political skills) to arrange an informal deal with the SNP or Labour to ‘vote match’ any attempt by the DUP to bring down the government. I would also question whether there really is a hardening of Unionist opinion behind the DUP. I think the business establishment of Northern Ireland are fully aware that Brexit will hit them hardest of all. I’ve seen no evidence that the strong Remain vote in NI has changed in any way. Nationalist/Republican opinion is absolutely united on this (around 40% of the population), with a substantial soft middle class urban Unionist element who agree.
3. Don’t underestimate the internal pressure on Corbyn to accept, even temporarily, an informal deal to keep hard Brexiteers from undermining the government. There is a simple political calculation that it may be better to wait until the dust blows over before facing another election. There are also a significant number of his supporters who are furious at his stance – I know you have your finger on the pulse of Labour opinion more than I do, but I certainly know strongly left people – mostly ‘returnees’ to Labour with Momentum, who are as strongly pro-Europe as any Blairite. Add to this that Corbyn has been lobbied intensively by his long time friends in Northern Ireland (he has long been an outspoken supporter of Irish Republicanism) on this issue. And add to this that he is for the first time finding traction with a message that he is more economically responsible than the Tories, and there is every reason for him to help May if she tries to force through a capitulation deal against her Brexit hard core and the DUP.
I hate to tell you, but even though I am in the US, I don’t see any possibility of 1-3. The DUP is not going to get out of its own way and allow the sensible and very good for NI solution of accepting the Barnier (actually May too) fallback option of a sea border. They are too stupidly dug in on their Unionite position.
The Tories have not been even remotely psychologically prepared for how far they have to retreat to avoid disaster, which is to stay in the Single Market. They are committed to controlling immigration to a degree that is not acceptable to the EU. There is no way to reconcile this.
Worse, the Government and the press keeps talking as if they can have their magical solution of Canada plus plus plus plus…. The EU said no yet again today. They’ve said “no” at least 50 times to date if they’ve said it once. They were saying “Single Market only if all four freedoms” literally from the day after Brexit, from Merkel on down. The UK still acts as if that’s not serious.
I can pretty much guarantee even after the EU AGAIN being as clear as it can possibly be, the UK is going to act as if it can force the EU to retreat.
And look at the timetable. This has to be resolved by the end of October. That is when the EU needs a final written deal to get all the needed approvals. Tell me how that happens given where the UK is now. All they can do is a skeletal exit deal and at best a transition more or less standstill. Given how the UK has been faffing about, no other outcome save a crash out is possible.
This is vastly worse than the denial and inertia I saw in financial regulators in 2007 and 2008. Plus the press at least was not campaigning hard to box the authorities into a crisis of one flavor or another.
In other words, a mere hard Brexit is now about as good as you can hope for.
I generally agree. Certainly, the DUP will not back down – but I do think there is a possibility – and I would emphasise, just a possibility, that they can be politically by-passed. They can only bring the government down if everyone votes against the government, which means that if, say, the Lib Dems or SNP were to abstain on a vote, the DUP would be powerless. But this would involve real political skill from May, something we’ve not seen any evidence of.
I interpreted May’s speech last week as the first, tentative steps at trying to set the stage for a climbdown further down the line. It is of course, far, far too late to do this, but it is the first glimmer of a sighting I think that the pragmatists might be starting to get a hold of the steering wheel.
In many ways, I think the relative calmness of business and the markets is not helping the pragmatists within the Tories. The signs of impending panic – various statements over the past few weeks from Japanese carmakers and Airbus UK among them – are so weak that they are quickly forgotten. But that doesn’t mean that if and when it does start, that the self-protection instinct won’t kick in with the Tories.
But as you say – all indications are that the timetable is just too tight to allow for the necessary political manoeuvring and the hard graft of writing up the agreements.
Logic says Yves is right. There is one thing though that makes me wonder. A good friend of mine is a top level employee at an ABB factory in Heidelberg. It is a large plant – almost 2000 workers inluding temps.
Of course everybody is worried about Brexit. Supply chain a.s.o. There was a communication by the very top of ABB to the top of Heidelberg saying they should continue as if no Brexit was going to happen.
This has to be resolved by the end of October
October is the end of Summer. Few decisions are made between July and September, because of holidays, and the absence of various decision makers who “need to be consulted”.
While October is the calendar choice, it is very possible if there is nothing by July 1, there will be nothing by October, making the timeline impossible.
This is a project with a milestone “Then a miracle occurs.” Miracles are generally in short supply.
The other aphorism which applies is “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”
Good summation. A note – I think the headline should say “default”, not “defender”?
What I’m surprised with at the moment is the lack of business activity – it seems to me they assume that the alternative is so horrendous May (or whoever else will be there) will fold. We know where that took the world few times..
Two small comments which really make no difference to the conclusion:
It’s not entirely true that once-in-EU, anywhere-in-EU works IIRC. EU state can limit imports (or re-imports) from other EU states (an example would be stronger health and safety rules – but at the same time you’d have to show that the limitation is not giving domestic manufacturers advantage over the rest of EU. Food safety works often like that – say quite a few EU states banned Dutch eggs and egg products imports and re-imports when pesticides were found there), but the rules under which they can do it are pretty arcane, and the law harmonization is making a lot of it irrelevant TBH.
On the ECJ court – any good imports will automatically fall under ECJ jurisdiction (the dispute would be litigated in EU), and ECJ could unilaterally ban them + fine the EU distributor. The real problem is with services, as there is no real recourse for customers purchasing services outside EU, even if they are delivered in EU. Hence the whole financial industry stuff.
As mentioned in a blog post linked to on NC two days back, what the UK is asking for in terms of mutual recognition goes beyond what member states even have!
Which if I recall from studying EU law many, many, many moons ago, sounds about right.
Yet another unicorn.
Thank you and well said, Vlade.
Your comment about “once in the EU, anywhere in the EU” is particularly accurate.
UK regulators are suspicious of third country financial services firms setting up / set up in an off the beaten track jurisdiction, say the Baltic states, and branching / passporting into the UK, especially to tap deposits or move money. Such applications have been rebuffed or the firm told that only a UK incorporated firm will be accepted.
EU rules have public policy derogations. These are not new. One of the cases that one learns when studying EU law is Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s exclusion from France for years after his expulsion in 1968.
It’s striking how brexiters — having put politics (sovereignty etc) above economics — now expect the EU to ignore politics, aka literally the potential disintegration of the single market should it allow the UK to have its way.
But of course I’m perhaps ignoring the fact that, in lalaland, brexit will yield amazing economic possibilities!
And it’s not just the single market. It’s the political unification that’s at risk.
I’m not at all convinced that Brexit means sovereignty over economics. It seems to mean free market fairy over governing bureaucracy. That any change in status quo meant even more governing bureaucracy seems to have eluded those free market fantasists who have governing responsibilities.
From article 50:
“3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”
Couldn’t the EU and the UK extend the 2 years of “interlude” before the treaties of the EU cease to apply?
This wouldn’t actually need any legal treaty, but it would need unanimous approval in the EU end from the UK.
Would the UK stomach it?
Would the EU stomach it?
(if I were an Eurocrat I wouldn’t: why give away an advantageous negotiating position?)
The EU has made clear the clock is ticking. It set forth the arrangements (as also required by Article 50) last April.
The UK knew or should have known what it was doing. It could have delayed triggering Article 50 so as to prepare. The EU member states are in no mood to bail the UK out of the mess it created. It has no friends (save sort of Poland) by virtue of being total jerks in Brussels for decades and behaving badly during these negotiations. Opinion in Europe is remarkably united against the UK to the extent anyone cares (and hardly anyone does, which is even worse for the UK).
A ticking clock works AGAINST the party that needs a deal. That is the UK, not the EU. The EU has no reason to relent. And in any event. the UK has to be the one that wants to back out, and ASK to back out. There is no sign of that happening. No one thinks that could occur without a second referendum, and there isn’t enough runway for that.
Having said that, the EU would let the UK out if it asked even at the very last minute, at a price (probably giving up the rebate on EU dues that Thatcher negotiated). But the UK is not asking and not going to ask, so this is all moot.
Shorter: The UK officialdom has been so hopelessly stubborn and uninformed that they cannot be rescued, even if the EU wanted to, and that very same UK pigheadedness killed what little desire there might have been to save the UK from itself.
Thank you and well said, Yves.
Just one quibble. I would substitute officialdom with politicians. The civil service should be held responsible for this mess. Officials are making sure that clear audit trails are kept for when the reckoning comes, e.g. David Davis turning up for the opening photo and leaving even before the coffee gets cold, so that he can report back to the Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre over supper that same day.
The juicy notes are from the Chequers summit that signed off the road to Brexit speeches. Apparently, that felt like the bunker in 1945 as German victories got closer and closer to Berlin.
NB: “Should not!”
Perhaps “political class” would be a better term? Majority of them?
The SNP for example seems quite unhappy with Brexit.
It is my impression that it´s not just politicians who are remarkably uninformed. The same seems to be true for journalists. Even the pro-remain Guardian did have its share of articles failing to get the information right. All their articles about how a customs union would save everything for example.
Some “so-called” think tanks fall in the same category.
Now of course I might be wrong. I´m a German and living in Germany so I watch Brexit with some sort of sick fascination from a distance. I might be overlooking something.
Isn’t it key that aachen is at a distance from London? Florida is smaller than that physical distance.
Thanks for the answer. However:
“Having said that, the EU would let the UK out if it asked even at the very last minute, at a price (probably giving up the rebate on EU dues that Thatcher negotiated).”
But my understanding means [some officials from] the EU is speaking about a complete halt of Brexit, not an extension of the 2 years period.
“But the UK is not asking and not going to ask, so this is all moot.”
Which is sort of my question: why isn’t the UK asking for the extension of the 2 years period, but is ok with the transition period that is clearly the same thing but worse?
Would an extension of the 2 years period enrage brexiters that much?
My opinion, incidentially, is that the EU actually would like cliff edge brexit very much, they just can’t say it loud, but the brexiters are too wedded to the narrative where the EU is forcing them in to realize this, hence the whole stupidity of the talks.
As I understand it an extension of the two year period means that the UK officially would still be a member of the EU. While in a transition period the UK would be officially out.
I think an extension of the two year period would be hard for both sides.
For PM May because her hard Brexiters (ERG) and the Brexit media would “explode”. For them being officially out seems to be the overriding goal. And staying in longer would be “betraying the will of the people”. She might even become “an enemy of the people”. :)
And it seems her overriding concern is to keep the Conservative party together and in power. Which means point at Corbyn and use ambiguous language wherever possible. Something soothing for both the hard Brexiters and the soft remainers in the Tory party.
For the EU because of several more or less important points.
– In May 2019 there will be the next EU parliament elections. If the UK stays in beyond March 2019 they would have to elect representatives too. And forgive but I´ve had enough of Farage. And I´m quite sure I´m not the only one.
– I believe the seven year EU budget ends in 2019. If the UK stays beyond 2019 they of course would have to be involved in the negotiations for the new budget. How do you do that with a member state which has stated its intention to leave?
(This might also be the reason why the EU would like the transition period to end in 2020.)
– As long as the UK stays in the EU the British government has a vote. And in some cases a veto. And quite likely the British government would use its vote and veto with an eye on the time when the UK has left. How do you deal with that? Yes, I don´t think we can trust the UK here.
And to your opinion “that the EU actually would like cliff edge brexit very much”.
I don´t believe that this is the official position. A cliff edge Brexit carries economic risks and with Trump around you don´t want to add to the risks.
Not to mention that a stable UK is in the interest of the EU as a market for goods even after Brexit. If a cliff edge Brexit happens it will be because the British government couldn´t decide on a sane course. Paralyzed by Tory infighting.
Official membership ending in 2019 would remove the British vote. And a transition period afterwards would allow business and member states more time to adjust. Of course that time could also be used to lure a few more companies from Britain to the EU.
Little Children have big ears.
As a child I lived in a polyglot ex-pat community in Africa, before the wind up of the British Empire. I heard many things I remember but did not understand at that time. The so called “continentals” said they were looking forward to the time when the UK was “a little island off the coast of Europe.”
Rancor against Britain has a long History. One cannot escape one’s history.
I’m not buying. You have the opinion there isn’t enough runway but you have not demonstrated that. They will make runway for it.
The prospect is unremittingly grim. Everybody is looking for a last minute miracle solution. They find it: revoke Article 50. I reckon they will take it.
Help me. This is making shit up, a violation of our written site Policies.
For starters, if you bother to read UK polls and the UK press, the only person who has dared push for a second referendum in a consistent manner is Blair. The polls do not support it. No major or even minor person in power has done more than mention it at as most a possibility and then backed off.
You would need a major messaging campaign at a bare minimum for this even to be mooted in Parliament without being fatal to its proponents. There aren’t remotely the votes to have this pass in Parliament now or anytime in the coming months. And the press barons would try to take down anyone who supported it, another huge impediment to passage.
Look at the timetable for the Brexit referendum. The first step was taken in January 2103 for a June 2016 referendum.
If you want to look at the bare minimum time, it was over a year from the passage of the bill authorizing the referendum IN BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, which is not an overnight process. to the referendum date. There is not enough time. Even Blair said so his most recent effort to pump for a new referendum. He said there was at most two weeks left before the window closed, and that was about ten days ago.
Better trolls, please.
To be fair, this is a comment I’ve heard expressed quite often, you see it all the time BTL in the Guardian and I’m told its the sort of thing Tory and Labour remainers have strategised on the back of beer coasters. I think the more refined version is that a bad deal will be arrived at deliberately, and then at a crucial point the government will launch a quick referendum asking a question such as ‘Do you accept this deal, or should we indefinitely postpone Brexit?’ The implication being that once people see what they are faced with, they will vote to ‘postpone’ it, and in the face of the result, everyone will pretend it didn’t happen, the EU will pretend A.50 was never launched, and everyone puts on an innocent face and walks away as if nothing ever happened.
Of course, for this scenario to work, a lot of laws and rules would have to be ignored, and there is always the possibility of a court challenge causing it to fall apart, or for that matter, people not voting the way they are supposed to.
But as you say, even an approach like this would mean a lot of pre-preparation of the runway, and there is no indication the UK government has given it any real consideration, so the time has probably passed for it.
I’m not up to speed on UK referendum procedures, but in addition to the time needed to the language drafted and approval from both Houses of Parliament (which I have not factored in), there are procedural requirements that cannot be truncated, such as the formation of committees (or whatever they are called) on both sides of the issue to campaign for it, with minimum times for that. Recall that for the Brexit referendum, there were televised debates as part of that, at least two.
Actually, I forgot that the LibDems DID campaign on reversing Brexit and they were slaughtered. So that is another reason for UK politicians being fearful about voicing the idea.
While a widely touted January poll said 57% of those polled would support a second referendum, the wording of the poll was extremely biased (I used to do survey research). It was contingent on “if she fails to secure a deal on Britain’s exit”. This is not at all the same as the Government abandoning negotiating and seeking a second referendum.
The better press reports said this means that May’s “no deal is better than a bad deal” position is out of line with what the public wants.
They posit an 8 month timetable from approval to vote. But you have to get the resolution drafted and approved too. And there’s no meaningful support for that. See Clive on that immediately below.
And per Brexit, parliament is sovereign, so you’d have to have a Parliamentary vote to implement referendum results.
Clive pointed out further that referendums cannot be conducted in the winter. Hopefully he will surface and explain why and what “winter” consists of.
Yes, it’s not binding but an advisory https://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/no1parlyelectionsweb.pdf (pg. 5):
Any whiff of voter suppression by having a referendum in the winter months (December, January and February here, although Scotland can get severe weather as early as November) would make good grounds for a legal challenge both to having a poll during that period and — especially if weather was a factor — the result, whatever it was.
Aha, thanks a ton. It’s not a formal prohibition but de facto due to the risk of litigation.
So even that LibDem timetable with the referendum slotted to take place in December was pushing it.
There is a wide margin of support for EU-deal referendum, i.e. a vote once the EU deal is known. 47 for vs 34% no (ICM, early Jan this year), and the numbers were shifting more and more in favour of this for months now. Even a substantial part of leave vote is now in favour of this.
Of course, the practicallity of calling this is a question – it would need wide Labour and Tory cooperation to ram it through against any and all opposition on a pronto scale (I believe Lords would nod it through, majority of peers are pro-remain). That is unlikely, as such a course would likely split the Tory party, and thus it would make sense ONLY if the referendum was called and run at the same time as general elections. Not gonna happen.
Yves has kiboshed you above which is plenty sufficient, but I also want to nail this second referendum coffin firmly shut. If you’re not a U.K. resident, you probably missed that merely defining and getting agreement on the referendum question took the Electoral Commission six months https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/eu-referendum-question-assessment
It wasn’t possible to just get an off-the-shelf question — this had never been considered before. And since, like opinion polling and market research, the question itself has so much bearing on the answer, the question design needed up-to-date research.
And any second referendum question would be far more complex than the original attempt. I couldn’t even begin to come up with a short, meaningful, neutral question which was, above all, an accurate portrayal of the options. You can’t, for example, ask something along the lines of “Do you still want to stay in the EU or leave the EU?” — because that is not, legally, a matter strictly for the U.K. to decide.
If there was a deal referendum, the question would be relatively simple, although it would not be yes/no one.
Given the deal offered by the EU [explicitly, weaker version could be “negotiated by the UK government…], do you wish to
– accept the deal
– refuse the deal and withdraw A50 notification
– refuse the deal
These are the three only choices really. But as I say, it pretty much would have to be joined with GE, with parties campaigning for one of the above as part of their program.
Thank you Clive for your contribution. Here we see how messy is the situation from an english perspective and it would be interesting to see a similar exercise from the EU-27 perspective that migth be another mess, although apparently more quiet.
I think that, in the EU, knowledgeable people discount a “crashing out” Brexit. For instance, Belén Crespo, Director of the Spanish Medication Agency, recently alerted the industry in Spain to “forget about the transtition period” and “foresee the shortage of medicaments imported from the UK”. So, look NOW for alternatives to prevent any problem, idiots!
A very important issue Clive brougth us that will certainly create maaaaaany problems is that of Justice. Jurisdiction conflicts,merchant laws, market protections, police and intelligence cooperation, civil laws, etc. London law firms have been important players in EU, almost comparable, I believe, with the “outsized” role of the City in EU financial markets. Somehow, replacing the UK, can be seen in countries like Spain as an opportunity to occupy new niches. Opinions that I have read in Spain say that UK settled “red lines” that will be problematic.
Seems to me that we are in a stage in which anything that can go wrong will almost certainly go wrong.
On the issue of law, a colleague of mine who was at a Law conference in Brussels says that it is being actively discussed at a high level that post-Brexit the EU will ask Ireland and Malta – the last two Common Law jurisdictions within the EU, to formally adopt Civil Law as the basis for their legal systems, in order to simplify European law as a whole.
As you say, the British are very good at making law an export service – London is very much a centre for international trade law disputes. This would potentially be a major blow to them.
Thank you, PK.
The EU27 should also consider replacing English with Gaelic as an official language and cease to publish in English. At a stroke, monoglot masters of the universe in London and NYC will be cut off.
I hate to say it but that slightly reminds me of the “fog in the channel, Europe cutoff” headline/joke, except the other way around.
So long as the Skibbereen Eagle keeps its eye on Putin, all will be fine.
I’m on That Team!
Incidentally – slightly off-topic, but here in Ireland we’ve just survived the Beast from the East snow and cold front that moved over most of Europe. The country pretty much shut down for 2 days (Ireland, sensibly I think, tends to take an ultra-precautionary approach to storms and closes down all non-essential services, which tends to amuse East Europeans and Germans here immensely). There was a huge rush on basic food items (sliced pan bread and beer) before the storm hit, emptying many shop shelves.
One thing I’ve heard more than one person comment on was that the Irish supermarkets recovered much quicker than Tesco in restocking shelves quickly. The reason would seem fairly straightforward – Ireland is part of Tesco’s overall Britain and Ireland supply chain supply, while the Irish supermarkets have supply chains based within the country. It can’t have gone unnoticed in Tesco and elsewhere that cross-boundary longer distance supply chains are far more vulnerable to a no-deal crash than more localised networks. Quite a few people have pointed out the implications for Brexit.
Does the EEA option not remain viable until the eve of Brexit day?
That is, without a transition deal in place, whoever leads the UK government in March 2019 will realise that the EU was not, after all, bluffing, and that there will be serious shortages of food and medical supplies which will soon result in riots and electoral oblivion.
Signing up to BINO (i.e. EEA) overcomes that hiccup, and can be sold as pushing the can down the road for further discussion at some later date. At this point, EEA is politically more palatable for both of the main UK parties than remaining an EU member. The screaming of the Brexiters will be drowned out by rolling newspaper coverage of the empty shelves in Sainsburys.
EEA requires signing up to free movement. Free movement is a Conservative party “red line”. I did notice that in May’s most recent speech, she left herself the smallest amount of wriggle room and didn’t rule out EEA membership, just leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. So there is a sliver of a get-out clause without her having to break an unqualified commitment. But it’s pretty weak tea. And still subject to the timing constraints — if May wants that, well, as RuPaul would say if she were here, “you better werk”.
I agree that the Conservative Brexiters would lynch May very shortly after she signed up to EEA.
However, May might prefer the lynching to being remembered as the Prime Minister who created food shortages and lorries backed up on the M20.
Whatever happens, Theresa May is unlikely to survive after a March 2019 hard Brexit. Perhaps she is counting on the transition period to November 2020 (maybe thinks it’s already in the bag), and something more positive to show for her time as PM. But it seems that any such hopes are about to evaporate.
There’s also the chance that the Tories miscalculate, and Corbyn gets to be PM before March 2019. If that happens, I suspect Corbyn would sign up to EEA quickly:
1. Single market membership (i.e. EEA) is the only fix for Northern Ireland, and Corbyn is committed to the Northern Ireland peace process.
2. Corbyn can’t carry out his social programme if he’s preoccupied with Brexit. Better to make Brexit go away. Committing to EEA, under the cover of the Good Friday agreement, buys time for a fuller appraisal of Brexit options (which Corbyn can kick into the long grass, should he so wish).
Watching all of this unravel is entertaining, if nothing else.
Its not possible to ‘default’ to the EEA, it requires a unanimous vote from existing members of EFTA (you have to be in either the EU or EFTA to be within EEA), and Norway has already said it has significant concerns about UK membership, related I think to fishing disputes.
EEA also excludes agriculture, so it would still require customs barriers at the Irish border.
What time scales do you think are involved? Presuming the UK acquiesces on everything, including Norway’s fishing demands.
What I’m trying to figure out is whether there is any way for a UK prime minister to avoid a cliff edge, once it becomes apparent that the cliff edge is indeed approaching.
Choosing to back down entirely and remain an EU member, after all the negotiation, might seem too big a loss of face for any PM. I think remaining in the EU would need either a referendum, or an election. But there would be no time for either.
Thus, what’s actually needed is a BINO option which remains available until the last minute. Does the EU have anything like that?
I’ve no idea about the timescales for EFTA/EEA membership, but I would think that even with everyone agreeing, it would take many months to do the deal, not least as other members, such as Iceland, might well pipe up to see what they can get (make no mistake, the Icelanders have specific issues with the UK going back a few years). But as I said, even this does not solve the Irish border issue unless the UK also agrees to submit to ECJ jurisdiction on agriculture and fisheries.
This is out of my expertise, but I would think that the way off the cliff edge is a simple capitulation to the EU’s transition period demands, and an acceptance that for the period the UK will stay under the jurisdiction of the ECJ and not do any external deals without EU approval. Of course, this only gives 2 years to sort out the problems, and that’s not nearly enough if the UK still wants to leave on its terms. I think the optimist BINO’s see Europe as agreeing to a sort of indefinite transition period that everyone will turn a blind eye to as its rolled over on an annual basis.
I should add of course that even an indefinite ‘transition period’ is not long term sustainable, as one day there will be an EU Directive coming along that the UK profoundly disagrees with, and will be unable to do anything about, except re-trigger A.50.
There is a school of thought which argues that all EU members are also EEA members so the UK, having sent in notice to leave the EU, remains in the EEA until it sends in notice to quit that as well, so no application to join is required. Others, including reportedly the UK government, disagree.
I am no lawyer/expert in these matters so have no opinion on this.
I believe Richard North is of the view you stated regarding the EEA being a way to avoid many of the effects of a hard Brexit. But if I recall correctly, the EEA does not cover services, so it would save critical goods imports like food but still leave the City out in the cold.
I think you’re right. The UK really has negotiated horribly.
What’s needed is some kind of open-ended transition, where everything can stay the same until the UK gets its act together. EEA membership could have worked for this transition. (I think Richard North’s “Flexcit” describes the strategy in some detail).
If there’s not enough time for change from EU to EEA membership, and also not enough time for a plebiscite enabling continued EU membership then, as you say, the only way to avoid the cliff edge is to accept all the terms of the EU’s transition period.
Accepting the transition serves, in the main, to prolong the agony by another 18 months. Persuading the Brexiters to sign up to EEA will remain as hard (or harder) as it was when Britain was in the EU. And then, when November 2020 comes around and the UK is facing another cliff edge, the UK will be in an even weaker position by virtue of already being a third party, and having taken on the inevitable businesses leaving, plummet in sterling, and so on.
I guess all will become clear in the next six months or so.
If I am not mistaken, leaving the EEA requires 12 months notice. You will know if this is the fall-back position in about 2 weeks. The good thing about the EEA fallback is that it does not require anyone to agree to anything.
Yes, a 12 month notice period – but as with everything Brexit the position is muddled: https://www.ft.com/content/16b50be8-161c-38d3-83b8-14b04faa9580
An open ended transition is not permitted under WTO rules. Other third countries could sue the EU for discrimination and demand the same treatment.
And having the transition go beyond December 2020 apparently wreaks havoc with EU budgeting. Its 7 year budget starts then.
Thank you Clive on the writing of a state of play that you would obviously wish was very different. The ceiling is slowly descending in an old horror film fashion, within a room with what appears to be a locked door, but many of those seated below are blithely unaware of this.
Judging by my large extended family who range from the bottom to the high middling, I do not believe that a new referendum would necessarily change anything even if there were time for one. It is reminiscent of the family schisms that existed during the English Revolution, or Civil war if you prefer the revisionist title. Those who are doing fine as opposed to those who are not, with some Little Englander sauce thrown in for good measure – all of this not helped by the tendency to use insult rather than reason.
I doubt the EU will move an inch & why should they ? The likely Italian election result will I think only add to the determination to slam the door shut. As for myself currently doing a job in NI, I have not got the faintest idea where best to lay my hat, but that fades in comparison to the situation of an American friend who has lived in Austria for a few years & has gone through all the required hoops, but due to the Far Right’s growing influence on that government is now very concerned that he & his family could be deported.
There’s a subtle but important difference between the facile “it’ll be all right on the night” approach adopted by some, which I quite accept is ludicrous, and what happens in politics when there is a shared will to do something, and where that something is politically feasible. In politics, after all, surprising things turn out to be legally and administratively possible once the political bricks are in place (I speak from experience). The Brexit scenario may very well be as foreseen here, but it may not be. If, during the frenetic final period there is a large enough consensus that crashing out is unacceptable, then a whole series of groups, ranging from hard-line pro-Brussels to hard-but-organised Brexit will suddenly find that they have some interests in common. We’re not talking consensus here, just the kind of political Venn diagram overlap which creates a space where everyone has common interests. It’s not that there is an agreement on a solution, quite the opposite, but rather a wide consensus that of all the possible solutions, crashing out is unacceptable, and must be avoided. In different ways, for different publicly-expressed reasons, with different messages to different audiences, a large part of the British political class could agree on the need to keep the Article 50 process going on longer and to ask the EU to do so (which they would accept). That doesn’t mean there will be an agreement then or at any subsequent stage on the future, just a temporary fix designed to avert the worst. At a pinch, May can present it as a negotiating triumph over Brussels to ensure that British rights are properly protected. Or something.
But what about Murdoch and the ultras, I hear you say? Well the same insoluble logic that applies to Brexit applies to the Tory Party and the two are connected. The possibility of satisfying all sections of the Tory Party, and their supporters in the City and the media simply does not exist. May is desperately maneuvering to keep things together, while trying, as her speech last week suggested, to move expectations towards something less extreme. At some point, part of the Tory Party will have to be sacrificed, or will break away, and there’s little doubt that it will be the Brexit ultras, because any other outcome would be worse. From May’s perspective, soldiering on after Brexit with a rump party of extreme anti-Brexiters who want her blood is a fool’s game, so she will try to keep them on board until the last minute. The kind of minimalist manoeuvre I have described, at the height of the pre-Brexit chaos, would be the time to do it. British politics is going to go bang at that point anyway, whatever happens.
And things can be done very quickly if the need arises; yes, legislation can take forever, but an Allocation of Time Bill (fondly known as the “guillotine”) could take any necessary legislation through Parliament in a matter of days, and I don’t think the Courts would want to pick up an unexploded bomb like that.
Finally, would Europe accept such a short-term fix? It’s true that economically the EU doesn’t “need” the UK nearly as much as Brexiters think it does, but that’s only part of the issue. Saying goodbye to the UK over a considerable period with negotiated arrangements is one thing. But a chaotic exit as we are discussing here would be a major economic and political headache for the EU, and dealing with the consequences would dominate every political and economic discussion in Europe for years to come, at a time when the EU is not short of other problems. It’s never a good rule in politics to create more problems than are strictly necessary.
So I’m not an optimist, but I have a certain faith in the power of collective self-interest in a crisis.
Thanks, you put express very well why I do think the ‘cobble together something at the last moment’ reflex might still succeed, although it will certainly be an almighty mess.
The one thing though which I think could stop this happening, is that quite simply too many important people seem to think a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will not be such a big deal. A few horrible weeks, surely, but by the end of the summer of 2019 everyone will have moved on and be doing something else. For as long as that mentality holds on, I think there will not be enough political will to shove the Ultras off the train.
But meanwhile, people elsewhere must have expectations that something like this can occur. Rigth now, this looks just like a dream. Decision-makers in all kinds of economic sectors in the UK and the EU have to provision for the next year and unless those common interests are found and publicly expressed PRONTO, the default attitude should be to foresee a hard brexit and act accordingly. This means that rigth now, brexit must already be weakening goods and services trade between the UK and EU countries and this will worsen every month.
The EU cannot accept a short term fix. They are procedurally rigid and separately don’t want to. They would rather not have a crash out but think they can live with it. Now that may prove to be as bad a decision as letting Lehman go bankrupt, but that is nevertheless the calculus.
Brexit is already a toll to british exports, I believe. Using data from Bank of Spain statistics database I have compared spanish goods imports from UK and Italy from january 2016 to december 2017 (latest data available) with the following results:
Goods imports from Italy: (using moving 12 months cummulative imports):
January 2016: 17,4 billion €
December 2017: 20,2 billion € (16% increase)
From the UK
January 2016: 12,6 billion €
December 2017: 11,4 billion € (-9% decrease)
looks like i made the right call leaving the uk last year then. shame though, i miss the beer
No love lost there, huh?
I keep hearing about brexit bias in the press. Check out this poll. Four mainstream papers are perceived as pro brexit, four are pro remain (although I accept that the brexit ones tend to have larger circulations). The readership of the pro-brexit mail, sun & express represents a socio-economic sector of society that has long made its mind up about brexit; and they love it. People read these papers because they have these opinions – they don’t have these opinions because they read these papers. The same is true, in reverse, for the Guardian.
But look at the BBC. It is received as hopelessly pro-remain. The BBC carries a lot more clout in many people’s political decision making that the (biased) red-tops and the Grauniad. It is really not surprising when you consider that this reflects the opinions of just about every person who works there. So, I think the ‘media bias’ question is a lot more nuanced than people generally accept.
Economics is notoriously bad at including political/social benefits in its models. I hear a lot about how bad it will be for GDP/exports/air travel when we crash out of the EU but what about sovereignty and border control (=national identity), how do you price that? Let me let you into a secret. Some of us read articles like this one and are reassured: even you remainers believe I will get my hard brexit. Hooray for that.
I disagree with you about readers of the Sun, Mail and Express reading those papers because of their views. Read Bernays about how the elite (in this case Murdoch and Dacre) use the media to control public opinion, Things have not changed much since his day. Mail, Sun and Express readers have been fed a pack of lies for decades to poison their minds.
I would suggest, too, that a crash-out Brexit would be good for the newspapers and they know it. ‘Chaos, catastrophe and confusion’ on the front pages sell a lot more issues than ‘business as usual.’
What border control? UK Gov has made clear that don’t want any border, hard or soft, and no controls on it. And you don’t need to believe me, just look at all the customs infrastructure they are planning and deploying.
What sovereignty? UK Gov will need to abandon any form of sovereignty when they start pleading for free trade agreements. They will take chlorinated chicken, GM-enhanced meat or whatever is needed to get a signature on the paper. Worse, UK is severely lacking the manpower to run its own country: NHS is understaffed, crops are rotting in the field…. They will need to ‘import’ that manpower, but most probably not from Europe (who would want to give up EU freedoms for lousy UK pay, hard work and no incentives). So UK Gov might end up importing people while they started Brexit to get rid of those.
When I still had Twitter (to follow a.o. the anti-Brexiters), the BBC was perceived as hopelessly pro-Brexit, with eg Nigel Farage appearing twice a week or more (while he is not an elected MP, and UKIP represents about 2% of the electorate), and the anti-Brexiters almost never.
What benefits are you talking about?
The leading brexiteers are notoriously good at excluding political/social benefits from those outside their circle.
As for the BBC, it’s so scared of its own shadow, it might as well be a member of the cabinet.
BBC pro-remain may be a bias, since there’s little brexit opinion reporting on it, and most of the bad news are well hidden. Pre referendum I’d say that BBC gave more air to leavers – BJ, Farage and co were on BBC pretty much all the time, and were never seriously challenged. As another commenter below says, BBC is so scared of its own shadow, that it’s now giving voice even to total nutcases (what I’d call now flat-earthers) to be “even handed”.
“form of managerialism whereby someone in charge issues some edict or other which the minions are then supposed to bring into being. If this breaks the rules or the law, then you can always go and retrofit the law to your actions later.”
The phrase “Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” is my favorite/best example of the form of managerialism described above.
I think this form of managerialism is what you get when you operate without any “skin in the game”.
You are in Good Company:
Bertrand Russel, who was alive then wrote a similar comment in his autobiography. If I remember correctly he was opposed to the Triple Alliance (UK, Russia and France), because he believe in 1912 it diverged from the previous British policy of avoiding “Tangling European Alliances,” and was an invitation to war.
There was also the problem that the German plan was basically a massive attack on France – dragging Belgium and therefore Britain into the war – and defensive against Russia, even though diplomatically the main argument was with Russia/Serbia. There was, apparently, no way of changing this plan. Interestingly, the UK was not obliged to join in until Belgium was invaded.
A WWI where Germany simply defended its short border with France whilst thrashing Russia would have gone very differently.
Everyone seems to think the EU will “follow the rules no matter what”. While that sentiment is pleasing and a huge source of pride to many, do we really believe that?
I’d expect a one-year extension for negotiations to continue, issued towards the end of this year. Some fluffed up legal wording will be found to justify it.
The EU operates under civil law. It has a long history of being procedurally rigid, and that goes with a civil law process. That is further reinforced by the EU consisting of now 27 remaining countries with 2 dominant one. The adherence to procedure is necessary to prevent Germany and France running roughshod over everyone else. They already get their way a lot due to voting on many things being via a “qualified majority” which gives countries with more citizens more weight.
Yves: “They [Tories] are committed to controlling immigration to a degree that is not acceptable to the EU. There is no way to reconcile this.”
From across the pond, Yves’ remark triggered this thought: Given that immigration (i.e., too many darkies with backward creeds) seems to be at the basis of most EU-wide political internal strife (i.e., some very fascist political power gains), we, meaning non EU residents, may be witnessing what the USA’s Civil War (1861-1865) might have looked like had it happened in 2019. Lincoln did not just get up one morning and say – enough of this segregation and slavery – “I love a good civil war.” Politically, that war was years in the making in which both sides stubbornly dug in their ideological heels.
If my insight is even vaguely correct, then “Britain and EU have a racism problem; not an economic one,” and surely not a political one. What could possibly go right?
It is not as easy as all that to shut down the argument any more, we have been “at it” for more than a decade now.
The split in the EU politics on immigration happens between the classes of people who are not affected by immigration at all because they basically never have to occupy the same stratosphere as the migrants and those people that in the name of “competition” and “democratic majority” are suddenly placed into a direct confrontation over cultural values and never-ending competition over social services, housing, jobs, personal safety and so on. “Hands”, they used to call them.
Usually, it is those non-affected, well-off, connected, elitist classes who are the ones screeching “Racist” / “Racism” at everyone who dissents, which is why nobody else even cares any longer and even actually-happening racism is dismissed as “Fake-News”. Kinda like the effect of Tony Blair oozing forth to support Remain and achieving the opposite because everyone else are sick to their back teeth over ever seeing that smug face again.
There is more EU in existence than the “elite impression”. Immigration creates immediate economic and social problems for the not-well off majority population. People, who do not have the up-to-date education, the connections, the wealth and the ear of governments to remove themselves to a safe distance from the recently-created ghettos, where all of the cheap apartments that were formerly available to the not-so-well-off and their children are all filled up with Africans by “the government”, their support being paid for by cutting benefits for everyone.
Of course the displaced people resent this and they will protest as is their right. If their very real problems of not having an affordable place to live and raise a family is dismissed by people, who should really know better, sneering “Racism!” rather than building more apartments – then eventually people will go with, louder, more kinetic movements, who does not sneer and mock, but “does something”.
This is totally logical and predictable behaviour. But, since we have totally stopped talking about “class” in politics, there is so far little constructive thinking applied – This will last, probably, until the Social Democrats are wiped out as a political entity.
Here are my two pennies:
1. Regarding Brexit coverage in Europe: As you have already noted several times before on NC and several times in this article’s comments section, Brexit is not so much discussed in the European press. I cannot understand why, but the Brits live under the illusion that Europeans cannot stop thinking of the UK in general and the consequences of Brexit in particular. I agree that some smaller, more open economies will be affected to a greater extent, but I do not think this will affect the position of the EU as a whole. The reason for this lies (1) in the nature of the economic models of the largest and most significant countries and (2) in the failure of the British elite to understand and accept the changes in the global economy.
As discussed previously on NC, some of the British elite still dream of their empire, fantasise about a new Churchill and approach others with arrogance and no regard for their interests. Local book stores are still filled with pop-history books about WWI and WWII (how many times can one revisit the events of Dunkirk?), so people naturally have these antiquated stereotypical opinions of foreigners. Needles to say, this does not help.
What I am trying to say is that some people should get over themselves and accept that at some point, no one else will save them from their own mistakes. Of course Brexit will cause some damage, but when you have a hysterical, emotional, save-facing-focused, not results-oriented partner at the table, better just let them do whatever they want, even though they will try to shift blame onto you for their own mistakes. The world is changing at a fast pace (China is rising, India is rising, the Russians are sick of being put down), so better get rid of the noise and focus on the work which needs to get done. At the end of the day, what matters is maintaining reasonably good living standards, which are already under strain.
2. Regarding the pricing which is baked in by the markets and the so called experts: Far from me the thought that experts are useless. I wish we actually had proper experts, who are trained and given the resources necessary to conduct thoughtful, independent work. However, most people who regard/market themselves as experts in markets today tend to be “restaurant-experts”, those type of people who never really do independent analysis or any sort of primary research, but simply talk to people with awe-inspiring titles over lunch and then present those ideas as the absolute truth.
Having worked with some “senior” people very closely, I have reached the conclusion that those people who truly understand things are few and far in between. Why? Because it takes a lot of work and independent thought to be among them. And from what I have noticed, those people tend to prepare quietly and independently for the worst-case scenarios, probably (1) in order to avoid the emotional drain associated with people who laugh at their precaution and (2) in order to ensure maximum benefits for themselves. After all, if you are on to something valuable, why share it for free?
3. Regarding the possibility of the last-minute deal: There is always that chance, but can you really plan the next 5/10/20 years (depending on the business you are in) and live your life hanging on to every little hope and crossing your fingers for the ideal scenario? I certainly cannot and I do not even have that much to lose, as others might.
I agree with Clive’s point regarding the toxic managerial style that is common in the US and UK these days. The purest example of it is Trump, who does not seem to feel any obligation to consider practicalities such as cost or feasibility. He simply describes reality as he would like it to be, then delegates to others the job of achieving it. So you get fantasies like build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. How will we make Mexico pay for it? Not my concern. I’ll turn it over to the State department. Very smart people there. I’ll hire the best and put them to work. If they fail, I’ll fire them and get someone else in, and I’ll keep doing that until they succeed!
We see the same kind of thing with the magic sparkle IT ponies – a bold statement of a goal with an underlying assumption that anything is possible if you can just bring the right people and resources to bear on it. I think the media bear a big responsibility for allowing this shameful fantasy to be part of serious policy discussion for as long as it has. Does any such solution exist? Suppose it does. Then, might we not reasonably expect to see (a) some details on how it might work, given that it’s been over a year since it was initially proposed and (b) examples elsewhere in the world of similar systems having been implemented effectively? The government has neither demonstrated these points nor even seriously attempted to do so, which puts their ‘border IT solutions’ firmly in Flying Spaghetti Monster territory. Why are the media not insisting on grown-up discussion of the issues? If the government want to indulge in political fan-fiction, they can do it on their own time.
What you see in England is really a culture of not rocking the boat. When the powerful say ‘we are going to do this’ there are always enough ‘grown up’ people to work with them, give some positive noises and make the best of it.
Alarmism, throwing toys out of prams, pointing to disasters and problems, make you no friends and get you no influence. And the ambitious prize these over all else.
This type of approach explains the British media position from where I sit.
I appreciated the article and comments. I was interested to know how you Clive anticipated your leave vote would pan out, and whether brexit is going to plan or not?
Prominent figures being the subject of death threats after an MP is murdered is likely to give some people pause for thought as well.
There may also be an issue with a new Italian government being less than totally sympathetic to some German approaches to things, especially if it is an M5S with Lega support, but not a coalition.
Said elsewise, the EU needs unanimity on some things, and presuring the Hungarians and the Poles and the Greeks and the Italians at some time will leads to issues.
Maybe when Brexit is all said and done the people of the remnant of the UK can put an ad in all the papers. Something along the lines of:
“Wanted. New ruling elite for island nation as occupants have no further use for the present elites. Must be able to prove both competence and reality-based decision processes. Pay will be based on the newly-confiscated Royal estates portfolio as present occupants will also be vacating all premises. Language not a bar as this island nation has previous experience with rulers who did not speak the language. Note though – possessing an MBA or a graduation from an elite institution will not be taken into account unless accompaniment by a proven track record of competence. Apply now.”
To me, it seems the USA, Greece, Italy and the UK; have the same problem, the decline in middle class living standards and the failure of left leaning political parties to do anything about it. The continuing wars on Europe’s borders and the refugee influx add stress. The underlying cause is the rise of the oligarchy since 1980 and transfer of wealth to the rich plus the rise of transnational institutions under corporate control. Brexit does nothing to solve these basic problems. Indeed, a cut off of trade makes things worse. For this reason, I fear Brexit is like the Trump Derangement Syndrome. They are the means to introduce more chaos into society. Fire sales speed up wealth extraction. Sadly, there may not be anything left after the deal is done.
While they may remain in self denial regarding their role in wickedly and disingenuously playing both the “bad hombres” and “NHS windfall” cards (cue the numerous pre-referendum interviews on Radio 4 Today show) which served to manipulate and gin up the down-on-their-luck residents of Hartlepool (et al) to sway the leave vote over the top, BoJo, Rees-Mogg and the insufferable Mr. Gove must privately now realize that they backed the wrong horse.
Because they long ago tied their colours to mast of SS brexit, they have existed of late playing out their automaton role of part Brexit cheerleader and part vanquisher of any attempts at retrenchment.
However, to PK’s most insightful suggestions earlier in this thread… I was rather surprised at how relatively chilled the ultras were to May’s recent oratory. I too read that speech as a subtle crack in the armour, and acknowledgement from the PM for the first substantive time that Brexit will not be all wine and roses for the UK. I was anticipating a pointed backlash from the Brexit brigade, which was not forthcoming. Perhaps the reason for their reticence was down more to them believing the war is over (better to now dribble the ball to the corner flag as the clock runs down), but an alternative (admittedly unlikely) read might be posited that their lack of objection resulted from their grudging acceptance that compromise down the road might be the only alternative to disaster.
The brexit brigade are happy because they are getting everything they asked for, aka leaving the single market and customs union.