Crash Out Brexit Virtually Guaranteed as EU Leaders Talk Tough to Theresa May, Reject Chequers Plan, and Give Her October Deadline

I’ve long marveled at the patience of the EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. I would have given the UK’s representatives a dressing down a long time ago for their lack of seriousness and their arrogance.

It turns out I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Theresa May insisted on getting an audience with EU leaders on Brexit at this month’s Salzburg conference, with the aim of wresting Brexit concessions from them. Barnier showed an uncharacteristic bit of ire when May announced her plan, telling her she’d find no distance between his position and that of his principals.

May would have done well to heed Barnier’s warning. Donald Tusk and Emmanuel Macron, among others, told May in no uncertain terms what Barnier and other high level sources had said in a not-very-coded manner, that her so-called Checquers plan was dead on arrival. This should have been no surprise. As Richard North wrote today:

On 7 July, in the wake of the now infamous Chequers meeting, I wrote of what has now become known as the “Chequers plan” that: “the precise reasons for the EU’s rejection, when it comes, will not be at all difficult to work out”.

It was always going to be the case that the EU would reject the plan but, at that point, I reasoned that it would be given the deep six by the European Council at the October meeting. What no-one reckoned on was it being thrown out at the informal European Council at Salzburg.

The EU has been clear from the get-go: no four freedoms (and that includes the free movement of people), no Single Market. And asking the EU to set up a whole new bureaucracy and legal arrangements to let the UK have its cake and eat it to was an obviously ludicrous demand, save to those inside the UK’s bubble.

Tusk told May she needs to deliver a new plan by October 18, and that also includes a “breakthrough” for the Irish border, and that the emergency EU summit set for November was on only if the European Council deemed there to be a realistic possibility of getting a deal done in its October meeting.

The UK press reaction is decidedly unhelpful. For instance, the headline of the Financial Times’ account describes May as “ambushed” and the Guardian’s, as “humiliated”. And some details, first from the Financial Times:

The UK prime minister’s allies had hoped the EU would use an informal summit in Salzburg to offer words of encouragement about her compromise Chequers Brexit plan, to help her fend off her Conservative Eurosceptic critics at home.

Instead Donald Tusk, European Council president, threw out the centrepiece of Mrs May’s proposal — an EU-UK free trade area covering goods and agriculture — leaving her fighting to save her Brexit strategy.

“There are positive elements in the Chequers proposal but the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market,” Mr Tusk said…

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, one of the fiercest critics of the Chequers plan, said: “Brexit shows us one thing: it’s not that easy to exit the European Union. It’s not without cost. It’s not without consequences.”

He said that the Leave victory in Britain’s 2016 EU referendum was “pushed by those who predicted easy solutions”.

“Those people are liars,” the president added.

Merkel joined the chorus. From Richard North:

Angela Merkel also pitched in, confirming that the EU was “united that, in the matter of the single market”. There can be “no compromises”, she said, adding: “No-one can belong to the single market if they are not part of the single market”.

But maybe “humiliation” wasn’t an exaggeration after all. From the Independent, EU council president mocks Theresa May on Instagram with ‘cake’ gag after Salzburg humiliation:

The president of the European Council has rubbed salt into the wounds of Theresa May’s Brexit humiliation in Salzburg by mocking her negotiating strategy on Instagram.

During the summit Donald Tusk ushered the Prime Minister over to a strategically positioned tray of cakes and offered her a morsel to eat…

He posted a picture on Instagram of the prime minister and himself at the cake stand with the caption: “A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.”

Yet the Guardian tell us, astonishingly, that May is acting as if the Checquers plan is still viable:

Theresa May was left fighting to save her Chequers Brexit plan and with it her authority as prime minister after she was ambushed at the end of the Salzburg summit when EU leaders unexpectedly declared that her proposals would not work.

On Thursday night the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, hit back for the government, declaring there were no changes to the Chequers plan on the table and the EU’s demands on Northern Ireland were “impossible” for the UK to accept. “The PM has set out red lines that this country is not going to stay in the single market, we’re not going to stay in the customs union – I agree with her on those, that’s the government’s position,” Grayling said….

May was also set an October deadline for a solution on the Irish border issue just hours after informing Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, in a private breakfast meeting that she felt it would be impossible to come to a compromise within such a timescale.

But May has no one to blame but herself. She’s refused to listen to clear and consistent messages from EU leaders, from Angela Merkel on down, from the very morning after the Brexit vote. The UK has faffed around, sent in at best napkin-doodle-level schemes and even then, extremely late in the game, and expected the EU to accept them. This have been extreme form Dunning Kruger syndrome,The EU has lost patience with the strategy of trying to avoid making May look bad to try to prevent Tory Ultras from taking over the Government. That has proved to be exceptionally hard given her incompetence. And as a Financial Times reader pointed out:

Stephen T
There is something seriously wrong when a British Prime Minister can go to an EU Council meeting and be surprised about anything.  Either she has cloth ears and is not listening to the people around her or the people around her are doing a really bad job of intelligence gathering on the lay of the land.  I suspect Mrs May is discovering very late in the day that negotiating a mult-lateral deal involves a bit more than painting herself-in with a lot of red lines and then just “being a difficult woman”. She now has 4 weeks in which to show remarkable agility or be crushed under the weight of a botched Brexit of her own making. And human decency dictates that she should allow the British people to decide if they want to be crushed with her.

The problem is, as we’ll get to in a bit, that the odds of a referendum are zero.

As reader TheScream wrote:

It is astonishing to see that the UK still does not accept that the EU doesn’t want it to go on principle more than for practical reasons. May and the others cling to the notion that without Great Britain, the EU will collapse or something. This is the same nation that has been foot-dragging on everything about Europe and slagging off the continent at every turn while pretending they are a Great Power and the BFF of the US. Trump does not care about Great Britain unless he needs some sort of zoning permission for his gold course, in which case he will cut a deal on trade or arms with May.

As reader disillusionized put it, “I think the bridges have been burned, now it’s surrender or revocation that’s left to the UK, or stepping off the cliff edge.”

One might wonder, why would the EU statesmen blow up May now, with a big Tory party conference a mere week away?

First is that these leader have lost patience with the UK refusal to listen to what they have been saying, in every way they possibly could, and the UK has refused to acknowledge. How many ways can you say “No cherry picking” and still have the person on the other side ignore you? So one way to see this is that the EU is really talking to the UK and whether May stays or goes is of little matter to them since she’s proven to be so rigid and incapable.

Second is they may recognize, as we have, that the odds of a crash out are very high, and the best shot for avoiding that is for domestic and multinational companies to greatly increase pressure on the Government to take off the suicide bomb jacket. The problem is that it’s nine months late. UK businesses seem to be for the most part in denial as to how bad Brexit will be, and a lot of others who are not deluded seem to be of the “It would be so terrible that it won’t be allowed to happen” school. With the benefit of hindsight, Barnier erred in giving May the Joint Agreement concession last December on Ireland and allowing her to punt for a while. Had Barnier hung tough on the original Irish border deadline, he would have forced the crisis early enough that other trajectories would have been possible.

Third, and not that this is that positive an outcome, May could well remain as PM. Despite the Ultras regularly threatening to topple May, it’s not clear they really want the job, but are instead using the threat to keep her from going wobbly. And May has said repeatedly that no deal is better than a bad deal. She can quote herself to shore up her bona fides with the hard core Brexit faction. Or to put it another way, the EU now sees not much difference in having May versus the big scary Ultras in charge. May’s unworkable plans (and critically, her rejection of the Irish backstop) make her functionally no different from the Ultras in terms of ability to get a withdrawal agreement done.

Fourth, the EU leaders may have come, either intellectually or on gut instinct, to our conclusion that a crash out is close to inevitable. UK punters were putting the odds at 62% this week. We had them at 80% before today and we thought that was being too optimistic. With May digging in on Checkers even after the stern EU messages, there’s not even a credible path for the UK to escape a crash out. So if a disorderly Brexit is inevitable, better to make that clear as soon as possible to give businesses some chance to plan.

Sadly, but not surprisingly given the press spin, the public reaction seems to be to pump for a hard Brexit. One Financial Times reader says the “most recommended” comments in the BBC were of the “just leave” variety.

As for the deus ex machina of a second referendum, fuggedaboutit. May has ruled it out. If the Ultras oust her, they certainly won’t initiate one. The Tories will not vote themselves out of office and DUP is unlikely to play spoiler (they have power now as essential to the Tories majority that they stand to lose in a new General Election). It’s not even clear a new referendum would produce a different outcome. And in any event, it’s too late. A referendum that followed the procedures takes a minimum of eight months (the LibDem’s campaign site set forth the timetable) and the Ultras would be guaranteed to challenge any process that cut corners.

So if you are in the UK, start stockpiling. Or find a way to be out of the UK for at least six months starting shortly before the Brexit date. It won’t be pretty.

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141 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    Excellent overview and analysis.

    Oddly enough, I notice that while May’s humiliation is front page news in the UK, otherwise, its been given scant attention elsewhere. The rest of Europe is bored with the whole thing (even in Ireland), which probably means there is no big political loss to any European leader to have seen to have failed by allowing a crash out. Nobody cares, and the damage has already been discounted, even in countries with very high levels of trade with the UK such as the Netherlands and Spain.

    The EU has been very careful for the past 18 months not to undermine May personally. This has finally ended. I wonder though if there is a calculation that she is now worse than any alternative in that she is incapable of handling a no-agreement and too incompetent to even manage a crash out. Maybe there is a thought that a political crisis in London before the NY could, just possibly, result in a leader who can do an emergency deal, at least for the transition period. Oddly enough, I think a hard Brexiter would be more likely to do a quickie deal than a ‘moderate’. Someone like Johnson could turn 180 degrees, announce that up is down and down is up, and maybe even get away with it. Thats fanciful of course, but still more likely than May suddenly gaining competence.

    Incidentally, the Guardian unusually published an article with helpful timelines explaining why holding a referendum before 29 March 2019 is almost impossible.

    Last week the Irish government announced it is hiring an extra 400 customs officers (which is about 1.5 per road crossing on the border, barely enough) in addition to hiring lots of new vets for animal inspections. The underlying message for a few weeks now seems to have been to assume brace position for a no deal exit. They are desperate for some sort of deal – oddly enough I think its the EU that is holding Ireland to stay firm on the Irish Sea border issue rather than (as the Tory Press likes to claim) the other way around.

    I’m visiting Seoul next April. I’m trying to figure out if there is a return flight route that doesn’t go over UK airspace….

    Reply
    1. makedoanmend

      PK, what you say “…The rest of Europe is bored with the whole thing (even in Ireland)…” is worrying.

      I know when I mention a “no deal” Brexit here in Scotland I often just get blank looks. I never get a reply. It is a subject not spoken about.

      I wonder what your take is on the situation in Ireland with regard to the average citizen. In your estimation does the average punter in Ireland really have any idea of what is about to hit Ireland if a no deal Brexit takes place? Do you think the government has prepared Ireland both economically and socially for the implications of Brexit? My feeling is that preparations have been spotty, and that the populace is largely unconcerned.

      Being at a distance, I can’t get a decent read. The people at home I do have continual contact with are either heavily knowledgeable or totally oblivious. There doesn’t seem to be an in between.

      Reply
      1. liam

        Do you think the government has prepared Ireland both economically and socially for the implications of Brexit? My feeling is that preparations have been spotty, and that the populace is largely unconcerned.

        Your gut view is the same as mine. I don’t think the necessary preparations are in place. Whilst to outside observers the Irish establishment looks competent, (they’ve done a good job getting the north on the agenda), in reality, they’re for many reasons, but chiefly ideological, been caught up in multiple growing multi-year crisis within the country, especially health and housing. If I had to bet, which by living here, I suppose I implicitly am, I would bet that they’re so preoccupied that they haven’t wanted to contemplate the probability of a no deal Brexit. Of course I hope I am spectacularly wrong….

        Reply
        1. makedoanmend

          Thanks for the response Liam. It’s funny as I was writing the post the mounting problems in the Irish economy/society you mentioned also infiltrated into my thoughts. The Brexit fiasco, which is baked into the equation in any and every possible scenario, coupled with the structural deficiencies (including the rotting of the economy outside the more vital economic zones in Ireland) might rock Leo and his posse in ways they haven’t reckoned.

          As for the six counties, I really don’t think the average punter quite realises the long term implications.

          In an increasingly orchestrated uncertain neo-liberal economic world, Brexit just piles on more uncertainty for the average punter.

          Reply
      2. PlutoniumKun

        I’d love to give a clear answer to that, but I don’t really know. I know people are very worried, but there is a sense of ‘some sort of fudge will get everyone through’.

        There is no question but that Ireland is far more prepared than the UK. A lot of work in various government agencies has been done and I know the food and agriculture sector has been frantically trying to find back-up markets, with some success. I know on a micro level companies have been making minor adjustments to protect themselves. Just as one small example, most pre-cast concrete in Ireland comes from Northern Ireland (often made with concrete made in the south), and I’ve heard through the grapevine that building plans have been changed to ensure in-situ concrete can be used instead. This sounds like a small thing, but it does show that some thinking has gone into it. I also know that quite a lot of frantic work is going on in trying to develop direct Continental freight routes, but I doubt sufficient capacity will be in place in time for March – but at least work is being done on it.

        Most official projections (e.g. from the Central Bank) are predicting a sharp downturn in the economy from Brexit, although that isn’t feeding through to most business behaviour that I can see. Several big building projects broke ground in Dublin in the past few months, which certainly indicates that developers aren’t put off – they probably are gambling that in the 24 months or so it takes to finish the buildings, it will have blown over.

        The public sector was hobbled by direct orders from government not to be ‘seen’ to prepare (the semi-state sector did their own thing), which means the government is well behind on things like recruiting more customs officers (announced this week they are hiring 400 more), and I’ve seen no evidence of orders or plans for a mobilisation of police, army, etc., for border issues. I suspect there will be frantic activity in the next 6 months. No doubt individual Gardai are already planning what to spend the overtime money on.

        One common thing I’ve heard is people postponing buying a car this year. Lots are thinking there will be a flood of cheap second hand cars coming from the UK next year as the car market there collapses. I know car dealers are very nervous indeed, why buy a new car when you can get a 3 year old BMW for loose change?

        A big unknown is airlines. Dublin has developed into a very significant hub. Will flights be able to go over UK airspace? I honestly have no idea, I’m not sure the airlines do either. I’ve been looking at booking flights for the easter break and I’ve seen no evidence of airlines pulling back scheduled flights.

        Reply
        1. makedoanmend

          Thanks for the considered response PK.

          It actually sounds as if some decent groundwork has been done, which is somewhat comforting.

          “… A lot of work in various government agencies has been done and I know the food and agriculture sector has been frantically trying to find back-up markets, with some success…”

          This is particularly pleasing as we (local community @ home) are highly dependent on agricultural products, especially milk and poultry.

          “…No doubt individual Gardai are already planning what to spend the overtime money on…”

          lol + chuckle: I know a local Sargent who did very well on border patrol during the troubles. As with nearly all border Guards, he was from down the country. However, he made so much more money for being on border patrol and from O.T. that he decided to retire in Monaghan when the time came, such was his fond memories of such an easy and lucrative job when such jobs were not readily available in days of yore.

          Reply
        2. Clive

          Re: flights.

          That still wouldn’t work. Click on almost any of the flights on a tracker e.g. https://planefinder.net/ going in or out of somewhere in the U.K. and the aircraft themselves are using a U.K. airport as a stopover from departure point A onto a further (other) destination B. Rarely do they simply round-trip point-to-point.

          And if the U.K. NATS-Control Zone is deemed off limits, that’s thousands of flight paths to be recalculated and agreed. That’s assuming there’s capacity in the alternative control zones. Millions of fare rate cards to be recalculated with new inputs from fuel usage, crew hours, ground service locations and costs, aircraft asset utilisation… Months of work, none of which has even started.

          Global aviation would be impacted in a few hours and suffer significant disruption after a week.

          Just one of the many “mini” sector-specific deal-ettes which would end up on the table in the event of “no deal”.

          Not, of course, anyone would have to agree with anything…

          Reply
          1. vlade

            EU/US could do a control of Atlantic (from Iceland & Ireland), but the planning would have to be in place already,and the implementation started (or possibly starting) – and even then I suspect the capacity would substatially less than current one for quite a while.

            You’d still have to avoid UK airspace, which would play havoc with a lot of European great-circle routes going west (Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Prague.. Charless deGaul and anything south of it could be, just about, ok).

            Reply
            1. Clive

              I think Ireland only has installed infrastructure for radio. The radar is through NATS.

              https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanwick_Oceanic_Control

              The flight control (procedural ATC) aspect within the Shanwick OCA is the responsibility of the United Kingdom and is provided by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) from the Prestwick Centre and the voice communication aspect is shared between the CDOs (clearance delivery officers) based at Prestwick Centre and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) from Shannon Aeradio, based in Ballygirreen Radio Station. Shanwick Control further delegate oceanic control of traffic in the NOTA (Northern Oceanic Transition Area) and the SOTA (Shannon Oceanic Transition Area) to Shannon Control, and traffic in the Brest Oceanic Transition Area (BOTA) to Brest Control.

              Reply
              1. vlade

                Yep, that’s why I included Iceland – NATO (well, US under NATO guise) has some pretty powerful radars there IIRC. But I have no idea how well they can be adopted to ATC (or, if at all), so it may fail on that.

                Reply
                1. Clive

                  I think the radar and tracking would be adaptable from military purposes to civilian aircraft and their control but the software wouldn’t scale to handle the vast numbers of commercial paths.

                  NATS just added extra capacity through an upgrade https://www.nats.aero/excds/ which was not, erm… without incident https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/04/06/nats_upgrade_excds_air_traffic_control/

                  So probably not an instant fix. Even if the U.K. would allow the NATO ground-based radar to be repurposed to fill the gap (essential as the Republic isn’t in NATO and France is too far to the south). AWACS would only work in “theatre” for a few weeks at best and has very limited spans of and capacity for control.

                  Techie limitations aside, if it was a NATO-instigated fudge, the U.K. might go for it. But that would be on the basis it got the benefit. Then the EU27 would probably resist for that very reason. So back to square one.

                  Reply
        3. Richard Kline

          ‘Suicide Terry’ May may have felt humiliated in that she hadn’t anticipated multiple post-summit announcements that she was naked, her ideas were stinking dead on the parquet, and that she now has a public deadline to meet. To this point, the EU had agreed to let her lie to the cameras and she assumed that this fix was still in, or that at least other heads of government would tell her before they went live. . . . She doesn’t deserve further ‘professional courtesy,’ and didn’t get it. European leadership had accepted her lying to her public but reached their limit of herself so audibly that it amounted to lying to them, face to face.

          Contra the header in the Financial Times, the Chequers Plan was most certainly NOT a ‘compromise.’ That plan was a tacit demand that the EU 1) surrender multiple hard red lines stated from the very outset, 2) cut the UK a bespoke deal which the EU would have to administer, which 3) resulted in a preferential outcome for the UK superior to that enjoyed by any continuing Member State! Of course May is still clinging to it: it’s a capitulation document which she seems to expect the Yurpos must and will sign, but which grants them a few fig leaf concessions for their constituents whereas her Torrible hardliners wouldn’t even concede them so much. The incomprehensible and indescribable arrogance in the British media generally that the UK’s offers constitute in any way a ‘compromise’ is the patent tell that an accord is impossible, and crashout is certain. To them, quite clearly, ‘compromise’ means that the other lot do all the real giving. The British majority seem capable only of thinking of themselves, even those who would like to remain.

          And it is this attitude, clearly pervasive across parties and over most constituencies in the UK, that has changed my view of a desired end state for the Brexit Confrontation. To this point, my view has been that the UK remaining a Member State of the Community would be a better outcome for all. Economically far better for those in the UK. Structurally better for the federal project in Europe of converging interests, avoiding costly conflict, and aligning a common position against other societies elsewhere in the world (since European interests are in fact inherently aligned). My view at this point is that it is not only better but entirely necessary that the UK be excluded fro the EU, whether it chooses to go or otherwise.

          The colossal selfishness baked into the pervasive British attitude toward membership in the Community makes it a completely dysfunctional actor within the Union. Younger Britons ‘get’ a European identity, but the majority simple decline to see themselves as participants in an larger enterprise, let along participants with obligations incumbent upon them. Too many see what they give while denying what they get. That’s not even to speak of seventy years of active obstruction and undermining of a more functional common polity. A wounded, delusional, and hyper-selfish UK remaining as a 28th Member State would immediately become THE overriding crisis in the functioning of the EU if it transpired, given the liberum veto allowed to major decisions and the propensity for the UK to line up with other dissident Member States. It would be one thing to return and object to some policies; it’s another to return and destroy Community operation. The latter would appear far more likely at this point, so we are at the point where a British return is not viable for EUROPE.

          Furthermore, the cautionary example of Britain’s outcome will have considerable value for those, virtually all, who choose to remain in the EU and make it work better than it does now. If, in the extremely unlikely case, the UK makes a solid go of it, that is to their credit. I’m not going to wait to order my beer against the likelihood of that outcome. It is far more likely that the UK implodes economically, and that the Union fails, with Scotland separating in short order to apply for EU membership, and Ulster ending up a ward of the Community as well, and that England exports primarily people for several generations while its government dabbles with fascism, graft, and general inanity; a smaller, damper version of Ukraine. So be it, if so.

          For Europe’s good, at this point the Brits have got to go. That they’ve decided to throw themselves off the cliff is a huge advantage to Europe at this point, an opportunity not to be passed up. I’m not saying that EU leadership is trying to push the UK out; I’m certain that they would still sign off on a deal that met their objectives. Britain will accept nothing less than Continental unconditional surrender, so let them off their own heads. The fate of little England as a caution to any other State thinking of noncompliance is to the ultimate benefit of the Community. Macron’s post-summit remarks on Schengen adjustments and suspension of solidarity payments have gotten buried n all this, but will prove of long term consequence as well. Those who think they are better off sabotaging or leaving can watch Britain’s lead and follow them over. Or grow wiser and up. And make the real compromises necessary to make an uncomfortably but unavoidably full house work.

          In the situation as it stands, one less is a lot more. Dead to Them Day can’t come soon enough.

          Reply
          1. ChristopherJ

            Thank you Richard, a good rant, the Brits just have to push away from the wharf and Europe can breathe a sigh of relief.

            Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        I don’t think anyone really believes that. The government are still clinging to the official line that formal preparations for a hard border would be too provocative.

        Reply
        1. Epistrophy

          Strange that Europe wants the borders wide open for Africans and Arabs but not for Brits. Maybe Britain should send their future business travelers in refugee boats and float them across the borders.

          OK that’s a bit harsh I would agree but there does seem to be a double standard at play.

          Reply
  2. bold'un

    It seems clear to me that the UK sees the alternatives as either ‘Canada with no special deal for Ireland’, or ‘Chequers’ (where there IS a special deal for Ireland which the rest of the UK can also profit from). The default looks like being the first, though Theresa May and British Industry would prefer the second. However ‘Canada’ is achievable and not at all the same as no-deal.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t agree that “Canada is achievable”.

      You do not appear to appreciate that even if the UK does manage to conclude a withdrawal agreement and a transition deal with the EU, the UK will not have a trade deal. All it would get is a non-binding political commitment to the general shape of a future trade pact. Trade agreements run to thousands of pages and are very time consuming to conclude. And those negotiations sometimes fail.

      There has been way too little attention to the fact that it is impossible for the UK to get a trade deal done with the EU by the end of 2020. The only country that regularly concludes trade deals in less than 2 years is the US and that’s because the US dictates terms. Sir Ivan Rogers has said the UK won’t have a trade deal with the EU before the early to mid 2020s.

      So even with a transition agreement, there will still be a crash out of sorts at the end, since the UK will not be able to conclude a trade pact with the EU unless it capitulates to the EU’s terms, which does not seem very likely given the UK’s very high opinion of itself and its importance. But a crash out in 2020 would presumably give everyone more time to plan. (BTW, the UK can’t conclude a replacement air traffic agreement by then either, those take five to ten years).

      “Canada” is not achievable in less than five years. It took Canada 7 years to negotiate “Canada,” and there wasn’t a meaningful services component. Services deals typically take longer. And it took another year for “Canada” to be provisionally approved.

      Rogers has also pointed out that no trade deal has ever been done between countries that are trying to become more distant, rather than closer, and that could create complications.

      Reply
      1. bold'un

        I believe that ‘Canada’ is on offer form Barnier himself.

        https://brexitcentral.com/michel-barnier-offering-canada-style-deal-along-now-snatch/

        If it cannot be done during the 20-month transition, then the transition will have to be extended. The decision not to extend the transition because the EU-27 have been too slow would be interpreted by the UK as voluntary hostility. The important thing about FTAs is that they can be renegotiated whenever either party desires: probably to the smaller party’s detriment – see NAFTA!.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          Barnier did not ‘offer’ a Canada deal, he has simply repeatedly pointed out that a Canada type deal was the only realistic option if the UK was serious about its own red lines. And the transition period will not be extended because it would disrupt EU budgetary and electoral timetables – there is a reason it is such a specific period of time.

          The UK can interpret the EU’s decisions in any way it wants. But it matters naught. This is not a negotiation of equals.

          Reply
        2. disillusionized

          It’s unlikely the transition could be extended – The transition as such, is only possible with article 50 magic. I use that word intentionally, article 50 is being asked to carry a lot of weight, and adding an extension feature is liable to break it, and the alternative, making the transition last until 2027 isn’t much better, and politically impossible.
          Also the EU is constitutionally unable to start trade negotiations until the UK actually leaves.

          Reply
          1. bold'un

            Formally and legally, the ‘Transition’ can surely be replaced by a very permissive FTA, but with an in-built revision facility that mandates that different chapters will be nailed down more restrictively at certain future dates. So for any country leaving the EU, the FTA becomes a euphemism for IRTA — ‘Increasingly restricted trade agreement!

            Reply
      2. vlade

        ok, but by time “Canada” started, they would be trying to get closer, as the no-deal Brexit will rip an atlantic-size gap in the current relationship.

        Most people have to lost something first to realise how good it was.

        Reply
      3. Richard Kline

        And that is if Britain decided to negotiate in good faith and humility. Neither are going to happen soon. Don’t be surprised if it takes decades to get a trade agreement between the UK and the EU. An application to return is far more likely, frankly, which is not to say that it is likely, far from it.

        England-as-Turkey is the probable mid-term outcome of British crashout, to me. Except that the Turks are more numerous.

        Reply
      4. Mirdif

        There’s also the small matter that an FTA is not all that much better than a crash out. It kills NOT manufacturing and will be severely detrimental to agriculture as well.

        Reply
    2. vlade

      Canada is achievable. Maybe in five years time. What do you do in meanwhile? And what does your service sector, which is majority of both exports and GDP, does do anyways?

      Reply
      1. bold'un

        You can do Canada-2019; then Canada-2021 followed by -2023, nothing stops willing parties growing their FTA through time, and indeed Canada-2019 can specifically look forward to planned amendments. So you could stipulate that say aircraft parts will be tariff-free in 2019 but subject to tax from 2023.

        Ditto with Open Skies agreements. Doing a ‘quickie’ does not mean you cannot revisit it properly later.

        Also the point above “Rogers has also pointed out that no trade deal has ever been done between countries that are trying to become more distant”: I would cite NAFTA as a counterexample.

        Reply
        1. vlade

          EU is not going to spend next five years running one thing after another just to help the UK. Yes, you can do it, but I’d bet you the Canada-2019 will be harsh on the UK – and in 2020 it will “take it or leave it”. Few treaties, except for a country that lost a war, are negotiated in a hurry.

          Reply
          1. bold'un

            Sorry, but you can’t maintain both that “FTAs take 5-7 years” and ‘The EU-27 will not spend 5 years on the UK FTAs” … that’s unnecessarily negative and will go against the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement.

            Reply
            1. vlade

              There’s one thing to do one large project in 5 years, with focused teams. There’s another thing to do a rolling incremental stuff, where you have no idea what it is you’re going to negotiate next year.

              Each EU treaty has to be approved by every EU parliament (including regionals). They have enough stuff as it is, and they would not take kindly to the UK sending them new things every 12 monts. It’d put a LOT of EU’s capacity just to satisfy UK, where the EU has less need to do so than the UK has – and UK gave it no good reason to try to be nice.

              Reply
            2. ape

              It’s like you have no clue how the EU functions — as a loose confederation with an on-going bureaucracy. The only way that the EU could functionally have a decade of rolling negotiations with 2 year trade agreements would be to massive shift power from the nations of Europe into the EU bureaucracy.

              That’s not going to happen, short of a full economic collapse. Damn, even projects of a few thousand people distributed over many organization that have to do full renegotiations every two years are an absolute nightmare and only possible by wasting a huge amount of resources.

              Reply
              1. Tony Wright

                “Full economic collapse”. Well, some fairly well credentialled pundits are predicting just that for the EU, with Italian debt/ bank collapses the likely trigger.
                Despite how shoot yourself in the foot crazy Brexit appears to be by all objective analyses, the UK(misnomer?) just may (?May) be blundering out the door of a soon to collapse building.

                Reply
                1. ape

                  That’s one process for creating a state — probably the most common one, as a matter of fact. But also the most common one for collapsing the constituent states as well.

                  Given a chaotic system, who knows? Even a stupid play may be smart given a system that is unpredictable enough. But it may also mean that the UK blunders out just when an actual strong state appears on it’s doorstep to deal with an economic nightmare.

                  That could be nasty as well.

                  Reply
              2. bold'un

                This surely depends whether subsequent modifications are in the EU’s favour or not: I see a first deal being relatively generous to the UK , which then gets dialed back when the details are sorted out. Maybe the Bulgarians will make difficulties for Scottish wool imports and the French for English bubbly. It is not a question of ongoing total renegotiations, so much as a pre-programmed roll-out for the vey reason that the whole thing cannot be negotiated before the end of Transition, Agriculture is scheduled for July 2021, perhaps, and Automotive for December 2021 and Internet Commerce in June 2022. The initial ‘quickie’ FTA specifies that by default the Transitional Situation continues to apply until each chapter is settled.

                The EU have no interest in forcing a cliff-edge Brexit. Was it not a Frenchman who suggested that the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing? And the threat behind WTO is surely that the UK can counter any crass protectionism from the EU by buying more cheaply in Africa, Asia or America.

                Reply
                1. Ape

                  That’s just fantastic. First, negotiations just don’t work that way. Second, seriously the EU doesn’t work that way. Getting 27 governments to agree on getting free ponies every 2 years is to put it mildly impractical.

                  Reply
                2. Anonymous2

                  The threat behind WTO is that the UK will then have the worst trade terms of any country in the world.

                  And how does it get out of that bind?

                  Reply
  3. John Clark

    THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE RESULT STOP WASTING TIME AND MONEY

    This morning the British Ambassador in Brussels handed the Office of Donald Tusk the President od the EU a
    final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock of the seventh following day that they were
    prepared to accept in it’s whole without ammendment the proposal given to them by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    then the UK will give notice of Exit from the EU and will from the given date will trade with the EU under the terms of the World Trade Organisation.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The “trading under WTO terms” is another Brexiter fantasy. From Richard North, who is an expert on this topic:

      One of the more irritating mantras of the “hard” Brexiteers, defending their stupidity on the “WTO option”, is their false claim that countries such as the United States, Australia and China all trade with the EU on WTO terms – on which basis, they aver, such an arrangement should be perfectly adequate for the UK…

      This, though, is a mix of ignorance fortified by arrogance – ignorance of the fact that all of these countries have multiple agreements on trade with the EU, and arrogance of the people pushing their canard, in refusing to check their facts….

      I’ll leave it with the Independent which has Rogers saying that the consequences of the UK securing no deal and relying on WTO rules would be “nuts” and like falling off the “cliff edge” into a “legal void”.

      http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86386

      That was February 2017. This June piece unpacks the issue a bit more:

      Some standards”, the EFT continues, “concern ‘behind the border’ actions, like the testing of product quality”. But this is airily dismissed with the comment that, “if a company wants to export its products to the EU and the EU insists on some such testing or other internal procedures, then the company must follow them in order to sell to the EU market”.

      What might not be obvious to some, though, is that there is a lie embedded in these statements. Given a “no deal” arrangement, much of this testing is not “behind the border” but at the border. And this is precisely why the WTO option is potentially so damaging. Thousands of consignments daily, which hitherto would have crossed unhindered into the territories of the EU Member States will, post-Brexit, have to be checked.

      In some cases, this may only amount to documentation checks but even these alone are enough to cause substantial hold-ups. But, in other instances, detailed inspections and testing will have to be carried out, routinely taking hours and, in respect of some of the testing, days or even weeks.

      To get the flavour of how the EFT seeks to deceive, though, we have to dart around the publication, where we happen upon the claim that, where it comes to border checks, “the median developed country lets 98 percent of border traffic go through unchecked … and the remaining two percent checked is cleared within a day”.

      This, we have already been led to believe, is a situation that pertains globally, on WTO terms, where the EFT relies on spin from a Telegraph journalist on the basis of a comment said to have come from Roberto Azevedo, Director General of the WTO.

      The essence of this is that we are supposed to believe that “about half of the UK’s trade is already on WTO terms with the US, China and several large emerging nations where the EU doesn’t have trade agreements”. This, it was asserted that, “it’s not the end of the world if the UK trades under WTO rules with the EU”.

      What was quite deliberately excluded here (and subsequently conceded) is that countries such as the US and China (and many others) do have trade agreements with the EU. What they lack are formal Free Trade Agreements. But where the likes of the US (and China for that matter) have multiple sectorial agreements in areas of mutual concern, the cumulative effect is to serve the same function as FTAs.

      http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86905

      From August this year:

      There are no circumstances where the WTO option could be anything other than disastrous. We have got to the stage where, in a mature debate, any claim to the contrary, and in particular assertions that there is “nothing to fear”, is demonstrably false. Those who have not explored the issues have no business pronouncing on them.

      http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86954

      Reply
  4. Bob_Dole

    In the result of the increasingly likely crash-out Brexit, is there summary anywhere of what the UK can practically expect to happen in terms of the consequences over the following 6 months? For example, will Air Traffic actually cease, or slow down. Will food (or certain foods) become scarce? Etc.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think the simple answer is ‘nobody has a clue, but it ain’t going to be good’.

      The ‘three blokes in a pub’ podcast is probably best for this information, which says everything you need to know about the amount of work UK Plc has put into thinking about it.

      Reply
    2. vlade

      As PK says, the answer is “it depends”. In some cases, the EU can help with a fudge (where it will be in its interest, and not obviously against EU law – that would get taken apart pronto, not by EU, but by commercial interests). In other cases, UK govt can do something – assuming it will have a clue what to do, and won’t be just doing rabbit in the headlighs impressions. Which I suspect will be the case.

      Reply
    3. Anders K

      There are no certainties. Googling for “no deal Brexit” yielded a lot of different answers for me – but for a very optimistic look, I found this page from BBC:
      https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-39294904

      You could also take a gander at Dr Richard Norths page, where he has performed deep dives into different areas (but as he clearly admits, certainly not all of them):
      http://eureferendum.com

      My take home from reading his page (and not exhaustively) is that it is VASTLY more problematic than the BBC article above, and mainly because the “legal void” issue.

      Now, it is clear that mini-deals could be struck to allow for some air traffic, for instance, but if UK does not pay the remainder of the commitments to the EU budget that it has made as part of the no-deal Brexit, it is quite possible that the EU will require payment in order to come to the table.

      What is certainly likely to happen is that there will be a great shock to the logistics of getting stuff and people to the UK (in part because getting stuff out of the UK and into the EU becomes a problem due to regulations and paperwork). This will reduce supply all on its own, without even considering tariffs or quotas.

      I could posit other things happening (for instance, having to get a visa in order to visit the EU from the UK) but am honest enough to admit that I do not know. What is more troubling is that a lot of people, who seem to be more expert in the area than me (not a high bar to clear, to be fair!) does not know either. This is the “legal void” problem – no one knows what happens when you blow up forty years of agreements/deals in one fell swoop, especially when the preceding deals have stopped being effective and you are pissing off the people you need to make deals with.

      If you are capable of removing yourself (temporarily, or otherwise) from the UK during the no-deal disaster, I would do so. If you require radiological treatment in order to stay healthy/alive; see if you can get treatment during your (unfortunately likely extended) stay in that place.

      At the very least, try not being in the UK for the week/month after the no-deal starts. I have offered acquaintances in the UK such short-term shelter during the times ahead; it is not too late to see if you can couch surf (if young enough) with friends on the continent or maybe do an extended visit with friends or family.

      I am sorry if this comes through as alarmist, but please, if you are in the UK, do consider your options.
      If you intend to remain inside the UK during the crash out, stock up now on food and medicine that you need. I doubt you need to hoard things enough for months, but you will avoid problems that way.

      Also, if you work within a sector that is going to be affected by no-deal Brexit, now is a really, really good time to look for safer harbours elsewhere. Remember that the second and third-order effects of crashing out will strike more companies than just the ones directly importing/exporting things both in the UK and the EU when moving!

      Reply
  5. Frenchguy

    “One might wonder, why would the EU statesmen blow up May now, with a big Tory party conference a mere week away?”

    On that point, I’ve read that UK officials briefed their EU counterparts that they shouldn’t expect any changes in the UK negotiating positions after the conference. May was actually serious with her Chequers thing…

    Reply
      1. Hougda

        The issue is that the EU saw it as a hypothetical scenario, smeared in enough fudge to get the withdrawal agreement in the bag, then in transition the UK quietly drops all the crazy “customs arrangement” nonsense, gives in and settles for some variant of the EEA when the spotlight isn’t so bright.

        May saw it as a genuine, practical solution. So if somebody can’t read between some pretty well-signalled lines, there’s not much point carrying on the charade.

        Reply
  6. timotheus

    This debacle-on-wheels reminds me of another ongoing visit to diplomatic Fantasyland, i.e., the supposed “agreement” by North Korea promptly, immediately and without any corresponding concessions to denuclearize, which the U.S. media insist was what happened in Singapore, merrily undemanding of any evidence to that effect. As people who actually read the joint statement from the Trump-Kim summit point out, nothing of the sort was ever agreed to except in Trump’s fevered brain.

    I suppose one shouldn’t be astonished at the degree to which an entire political class can slip into believing its own propaganda. Perhaps the rich and powerful don’t need to face facts–until of course they do.

    Reply
          1. Clive

            Yep, May, (I’m paraphrasing but not much): “the EU really must tell us what’s wrong with our proposal…”

            Blimey. Where do you even begin to start with that dimwittedness?

            If I was Tusk, I’d have iced the words “what is it about the word ‘indivisible’ you don’t understand?” on the cake…

            Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      It won’t be coffee she will be smelling but yes, it will be brown. May may have tried her “The lady’s not for turning” imitation but nobody is buying it. They called her bluff and she had nothing to back up her demands with. The ball is back in her court again.
      Trying to think of the long term consequences of Brexit, I think that it is inevitable that the UK loses Northern Ireland. Of course that will have its own knock-on consequences but that is a story for another day. Ireland may want to do a bit of long-term planning here and asking Germany for their insights.
      Brexit is happening whether there is competent leadership or not but when I read that article “SYRIZA: A Cautionary Tale” in tonight’s Links, I can understand why a lot of people decided instead to go for Brexit. Doesn’t mean that the Brits will get a better government out of it and based on their performance the past two years I think that we know the answer to that.
      In closing, number of days till Brexit – 189.

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      Hilariously, the statement is delayed because of a power outage in no.10 Downing Street. You just couldn’t make it up.

      Reply
  7. vidimi

    i’m struggling to find another way of looking at it, but from the outside looking in, those british politicians agitating for brexit appear guilty of treason. call it a lack of imagination on my part, but i can’t see how brexit will be anything less than a collapse-of-the-soviet-union-level catastrophe for the UK. the silver lining is that once all the hardships set in, the average middle-englander will see that the murdoch press has been selling them very expensive snake oil.

    perhaps another referendum could have worked provided that a supermajority of at least 2/3 overturned it.

    Reply
  8. David

    I (and I think others) have been hoping that the stage of pretending that negotiations were actually possible would be over quickly, since it’s been obvious for a long time now the negotiations could never succeed. This is more than the two sides being too far apart, it also involves the chronic incapacity of the present government to evolve a realistic common position anyway, and issues (such as Northern Ireland) for which there is no obvious solution. It looks as though we are moving, slowly at the moment, away from the pretence of negotiations in the direction of a full-blown international political crisis.
    This is why Macron has responded so strongly. He’s been pretty quiet on Brexit to date, and indeed the French political class and media have hardly given it any attention. But Macron has an ambitious agenda for deepening and strengthening Europe, and the last thing he wants is countries having any success with à la carte initiatives. Any weakening of European solidarity on this point, even cosmetic, would undermine his ambitions, and, in his view, European coherence itself. The French are very worried about the stability of the EU as a whole at the moment, and about the rise of anti-EU sentiment around the continent. There’s particular concern about Poland and Hungary, and Orban is seen in some quarters as a kind of evil genius plotting the EU’s destruction in its present form. Last week’s Marianne (a magazine where most NC readers would feel at home) devoted a large amount of space to these issues. One of its stories was entitled “Macron-Orban: the duel that will kill Europe”.
    The stakes, in other words, are perceived to be very high. The French (like many other countries) don’t care that much what happens to Britain, but they very worried that about the collateral damage that Brexit might cause, notably in encouraging nationalists and anti-EU forces across the continent.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for that David, Macron indeed has been quite up to now.

      Leaving aside the schadenfruede that will no doubt be rampant in Europe after suffering so many years of lectures from the British, I do think that in private conversations around European capitals the notion that a really catastrophic Brexit would be the best thing in the long term for the EU is pretty widespread. Either ‘pour encourage les autres’ or the dead chicken that scares the monkeys, depending on which metaphor you prefer.

      Reply
      1. Richard Kline

        My view as well. Europe didn’t start with this view; far from it. Britain was the querulous but affluent relative that had to be tolerated at the party for family’s sake. But the non-negotiation process has opened eyes regarding the lack of value added in retaining the UK. Moreover, the reclamation of EU agencies and investment and the probable shift of many City functions on-shore post Dead Day present potentials not even considered before. To try to snatch these back would have caused a helluva row. But with that sour relative leaving their wallet in the loo after storming out . . . well, finders, keepers.

        The need to strengthen common institutions is THE pressing issue for Europe over the next 6-10 years. Everything Britain demonstrates right now is that they would be an absolute and major net negative to progress addressing that need. And Europe doesn’t even have to push them: they’re outside standing on the bridge rail now vowing to jump. It’s just a matter of having the phone turned off and being busy washing one’s hands when the splash is heard.

        Reply
    2. skippy

      “à la carte initiatives”

      Yeah… I really dislike that condition with clients, even good sorts, after the fact* additions have a completely different set of price and time factors. That is unless you want me to move in and charge at custom rates.

      BTW how is that whole psych evaluation thingy playing out on the ground.

      Reply
  9. EoH

    Theresa May must be employing the same advisers that tell American Republicans that they invent their own reality, occasion by occasion.

    The EU’s position has been consistent, the UK’s equally, unreasonably and illogically so. The Tories have failed miserably – chosen – not to be candid about the pervasive, inevitable, ludicrously time-consuming and expensive consequences of Brexit.

    Nor have those consequences informed Britain’s negotiating position. It seems, instead, informed by an anachronistic imperial arrogance that undesirables begin at Calais and the headline: Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off.

    The UK government and Tory party employ lots of people who hold top degrees, who have long experience, and who know these things. They cannot be as unaware as the public pronouncements coming from May’s people.

    That suggests a hard, no-deal Brexit is an intentional outcome. The argument that only that stance could keep May’s tenuous coalition in place boils down to the same conclusion.

    The rest of Britain is left with the question, cui bono. Whatever the answers, providing services and an improved standard of living to the average citizen in England, Scotland, Wales, and Norther Ireland is not among them.

    Reply
    1. begob

      A commenter on North’s blog, JDD, who claims to be a government adviser on aviation etc, says she’s still being advised by Nick Timothy, the guy who urged her to go for the snap election.

      Reply
    1. vlade

      “[disregarding her plan] without giving any explanation”. Ha, like that would help. If she wanted explanations, they were available for the last two years and something. But if you don’t listen, then why should anyone try to explain anything?

      Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      It won’t hurt the Ruling Class in Britain at all. May and Boris and the others will retire comfortably, have the best of everything including health care, and eventually die in luxury as they have always done. Cosseted and cared for by loving nurses and doctors and other carers who will clean their bottoms, wipe their drool, change their nappies and turn them regularly to prevent bedsores, feed them their gruel and medications, all surrounded by portraits of Great Persons of their set’s past glories of a dead empire.

      Grenfell Towers? Let the mopes burn! Excess population, work houses and all that! Throw a few coins to the father of the child crushed by the wheels of the carriage…

      I do love the meme the Grauiad is peddling the last couple of days now: “EU Council BETRAYS May!” And the French get criticized for having their noses in the air… Too bad the City and the arrant Aristocracy have no effing clue how to feed themselves, other than by tapeworm and vampire behaviors, and their looting has buried so much of the arable island land under “development…”

      Somebody please push the “reset” button, already?

      Reply
    3. paul

      Her sign off : “We stand ready” was actually said with a straight face.

      Re: your earlier comment about treason, its amazing how a small,well connected and funded group can have all their dreams fulfilled through the leveraging of the discontent engendered by their own toxic stew of incompetence and cruelty.

      They seem to have won and are looking to a country more to their liking:

      Liam Fox is plotting to scrap EU food standards to win a Brexit trade deal with Trump

      and the EU withdrawal bill is set to gut the Scottish devolution settlement.

      It’s alll just running down the clock now.

      Reply
      1. vlade

        RE Scotland: I would not be surprised at all if in case of a crash-out Brexit Scotland went the way of civil unrest and forced separation. I’d also not be surprised if NI forced the referendum they have right to under GFA, and asked Ireland to take them in.

        So much for “we will not split the UK!”.

        It’s interesting. European politicians – including French and German – are pretty good at international politics (sometimes much better than domestic). UK and US ones much less so, but the US at least can reasonably claim to be able to ignore it.

        Reply
        1. paul

          I think civil unrest in Scotland is unlikely, but shift to support for independence extremely likely.

          The SNP has thanklessly mitigated some of the worst aspects of the coalition/tory policies but will no longer have the power to do so.
          The scots are about find out what they#re missing when that well runs dry.

          Reply
          1. vlade

            I’d not rule civil unrest – because the Tories will loath to give the new indy vote a go. In Scotland, there was a switch from SNP to Tories. With Tories (although Donaldson has been keeping quiet recently, lucky her with her maternity leave..) being blamed for a crash-out Brexit, I’d see the return of SNP support.

            Which SNP would take (rightly so I suspect) as a mandate for IndyRef#2, which Tories would, in all likelyhood, promplty shoot down (if nothing else, they would have no capacity to deal with it, you know, with sorting all those important trade treaties and jetting around the world..). The tensions would grow, and if that’s combined with drop in real living standards (very likely under crash-out Brexit), well..

            Reply
            1. paul

              Ruth Davidson has been keeping quiet because of the ‘dark money‘ scandal.
              details here
              The media here are as incurious as she is about it, and they only ever interview at her convenience and are always circumspect about her inability to answer legitimate questions.

              Reply
              1. Colonel Smithers

                Thank you.

                One wonders if, ironically, Sajid Javid, whose parents migrated from a country that came about due to partition by the UK, will be the one to preside over the dissolution, voluntary or involuntary, of the UK.

                Reply
                1. Mirdif

                  I’d expect Sajid Javid to offer an amnesty to all immigrants to Britain. This will most likely be needed to prevent a decline in the working population due to the emigration that is likely in the event of a crash out.

                  I also expect this to go down like a lead balloon in terms of public approval.

                  Reply
            2. ape

              Of course if the British ruling class was sensible (had a realistic view of the world), they would have first settled the internal constitutional issues coming from the indyref, then tackled the Brexit referendum. Obviously, you want to be in your strongest state when you negotiate your external position, and that required Scottish independence being totally off the table via a negotiated federal settlement (as was muttered in the news after that referendum by Cameron et al).

              Reply
                1. F. Korning

                  For that class, it was always about breaking the benevolent fetters of the EU. Brexit is a step back to enclosure, to corner protectionist domestic markets, dispense with regulation, and tighten state surveillance of the populace.

                  Reply
  10. Adrian

    I see things quite more simple than stated, so please show me how I am wrong about it.

    As we all know, the EU was a political experiment morphed into an economic, then financial and bureaucratic entity, superseeded with a monetary straightjacket.

    The EU has every incentive to push for a crash Brexit and so showing any other country the disadvantages of leaving.

    Otherwise, other politicians may tell their citizens ‘See? It is not that big of a deal leaving the EU and we would recover sovereignty’

    And if Italy, Spain or any other big country leaves the EU, it’s game over, as they would also be leaving the euro.

    Please, please tell me how I am wrong

    Reply
    1. vlade

      EU does not have to push for a crash brexit. Britain is capable of doing it on their own. The problem with the UK is that it, and a number of people there, still don’t understand that once you divorce your wife, you can’t ask her to live in her house, make your bed and lunch and sleep with you.

      Or rather you can, but the answer is going to be something along the lines of FO.

      Until yesterday, the EU was too polite to FO the UK, which took it as a drunken bloke does – she doesn’t say no, that means she’s saiyng yes.

      Reply
    2. makedoanmend

      I see it the other way about. The original EEC was an economic/customs union that has morphed into a political + economic union. This is problematic in many people’s view.

      Yes, the EU is run on neo-liberal ideological framework, as is the UK and many Westernised countries.

      Yes, there are new tensions in Europe due to the rise of right wing ideology and governments as a result of decades of neo-liberal ideological economic implementation. The UK, being one of the home’s of this ideology, is not going to reform the ideology but, if as some reports suggest, is going to implement the most radical “solutions” of this ideology as it performs Brexit.

      The EU may fail. No. It will fail. As will the US, Russia, China, etc. All states fail eventually. But I don’t think the people who voted for Brexit did it because they thought the EU was falling apart.

      They did it for other reasons and now often try to find new reasons to justify their original reasons.

      Reply
    3. Larry

      The EU has been punitive with states that threaten to leave, for sure. The single currency is a very powerful cudgel, just look at Greece. But there is more than a desire to punish here. The EU has set up standards and agreements for a range of economic activities, with cross border trade being important. Britain cannot stand on it’s on in the modern world. One can ask how long has it ever stood on it’s own? Prior to WWI, it used it’s empire to take in the things it needs to build it’s economy. For better or for worse, it joined the common market. It smartly kept it’s own currency, but has been a major part of building global trade agreements. How the hell does it serve the UK to leave the common market and ALL global trade agreements? How is the EU supposed to just say, okay leave, but still have all of our standards? That just isn’t how these things work. It’s a full on disaster that could have easily been avoided, and my understanding is that Brexit could still be stopped simply by withdrawing the Article 50 letter by October. Sure, there would be a political back lash to that, but it would be far better than the alternative. Brexiters are nostalgic for the days when Britain was a great world power. Sadly, they’re soon to find out how long gone those days are.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Greece did not threaten to leave. During the 2015 debt negotiations, Syriza made clear it did not want to leave the Eurozone and the public was also opposed. Varoufakis had also written before he became Finance Minister about how leaving the Eurozone would be terrible for Greece.

        Please do not engage in revisionist history.

        Reply
  11. Harry

    “The problem is, as we’ll get to in a bit, that the odds of a referendum are zero.”

    Forgive but why? A general election can be arranged in 6 weeks. Why not a referendum?

    Reply
    1. vlade

      GE is easy – trigger is fast (failing a vote of confidence, or voting for GE), and all you need is time for campaign.

      With referendum, you need one-off legislation (that alone is a few weeks at best, and that assumes no holdups and no opposition from Lords or indeed just about anyone in Parliament).

      Unless the one-off legislation rides VERY roughshod on a number of electoral laws in the UK (in a Parliament that can’t agree whether the grass is green?), you then need to follow Electoral Comission rules, which means consultations on the question, etc. etc. You’re also running into winter, where the weather become a potential issue (due to Scotland and some other out-of-way areas), and again can create a challenge.

      AV referendum was the shortest one from the pistol shot to the vote, and that was 9 months. There’s a space for compression and removing a number of usual hoops (I believe, some people don’t), but that would require massive Parliament (and Lords) cross-party cooperation. NGH.

      Reply
      1. Northern Umbrella

        That’s a very good summary, vlade.

        But I would take issue with your flat NGH. I suspect there is a majority in the both houses of parliament for scrapping Brexit and remaining. It’s just that that majority can only be constructed across the parties. So that requires a cross-party government of national unity to be set up and come into power.

        If crash out Brexit is going to be as bad as we all think it is on here, why the hell wouldn’t that happen? Professional cynics will go on about MPs placing party before country, but I say again, if crash out Brexit is as bad as we say it is going to be, then I say it at least a possibility worthy of consideration that they just might place country above party. And things could move quite fast.

        A scenario I could see happening is that May is toppled, the Tory party splits into two – the Brextremists and the Remainers. The Remainers join forces with other parties in a Govt of National Unity with two policies only: (a) to keep the country ticking over whilst (b) they go in and negotiate revocation of Article 50. In those circumstances, the rhetoric from Europe has consistently been, we want you to stay, and therefore, it’s a reasonable possibility that an extension to the 29 March 2019 deadline would be made in order to accommodate a referendum to ratify this course of action.

        I suspect in those circumstances that all the options for compressing the timescale would be taken and a referendum would be held, if not before 29 March, not too long after.

        (I had a long & tedious row on here with a very aggressive guy about conceivable compressed timescales in case EU would not extend beyond 29 March, but it was a waste of time because he couldn’t grasp that we were debating about a backstop in circumstances of dire emergency.)

        So, one way of understanding what the EU leadership has done, is to hurry up the fall of Theresa May so we can get on with the endgame that finishes with UK remaining, rather than UK crashing out. I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying it’s good for NC readers to consider the possibility.

        My final point applies only to British readers. (Apologies US-based and other readers, who ought to be heartily sick of Brexit, and be glad to see UK get its comeuppance for all its arrogant behaviour). If you think my scenario absurd, what better plan do you have? I’m sorry, I’m not going to accept crap like “I’ve got an Irish passport and I’m leaving the country”. For those of us with British passports who have no intention of leaving: what better plan do you have?

        Reply
        1. vlade

          I agree it’s the only sensible plan. Which is why it will not happen. The main problem IMO is actually Labour, where you have a number of senior people who seem to either think Brexit is a non-issue, or that, if the UK crashes and burns, it will destroy Tory party (it will), and hand them the power for a generatio or more (I doubt it) so they can do what they want to to do w/o any major political interference.

          Labour seems to under-estimate how much of their executive attention a crash-out brexit (if they are in the govt) would require, which would likely put a number of their plans on backburner, purely to keep the country ticking over.

          Neither Tories not Labour seems to understand that a 21st century country is an extremely complicated operation, which takes a lot of effort to keep going well.

          No deal means that a lot of the struts (=legal agreemnets) holding things together will disappear literally overnight (I’m not joking here. It’s really one second here, other gone).

          Holding it together will require a bit more than just a duct tape and a bit of goodwill, in fact, it will be impossible to hold it all together, the choice will be which parts to let go, and how well do you know what the second-and-higher-order issues will be by going part of the stucture collapse.

          Reply
          1. vidimi

            indeed. and when you say labour, it’s really jeremy corbin, as much as i love the guy. there’s more than just a shhade of “after hitler, it will be our turn” going on. labour is failing to stay in the way.

            Reply
        2. Clive

          I presume you mean my good self in your characterisation of “very aggressive guy” which I’ll file alongside “bloody difficult woman” as a meaningless statement to describe people who don’t agree with you.

          PlutoniumKun has linked below to a Guardian piece about the timescales for a referendum even in the event of some (ill-defined) “fast tracking”.

          Summary version — the more anyone attempts to short-circuit other legally binding obligations, the more open a ride-roughshod second referendum is to legal challenge. Thereby increasing timescales still further. It more-or-less says exactly the same points I tried to make with you. Perhaps the Guardian, too, is aggressive as far as you’re concerned.

          “It is just possible to hold one within six months, but the shorter the timescale, the higher the chance of the question or other aspects of the referendum being challenged over their legitimacy,” said Prof Robert Hazell of the constitution unit at the department of political science, University College London

          Yes, the U.K. government could declare, banana republic like, a “State of Emergency”. Or martial law. Or whatever. Once the executive, or even the legislature, starts abandoning the Rule of Law because (insert Special Pleading of the Day Reasons Here) you might as well just give up on any pretence of democracy. This is, apparently, fine with you. Because that’s what’s needed to “save the country” etc.

          Now you’re throwing in Fansasy Football style parliamentary numbers games as to how this might all, somehow, come about. I’ll have a bit of what you’re smoking. It’s obviouly good stuff.

          Reply
          1. Northern Umbrella

            Clive, what is your better plan?

            If you’re British, which by your all-too-familiar tone I expect you are, this is your problem.

            If we’re on a oneway ticket to crash out, and it is going to be as bad as you say it’s going to be (and I agree with you on that by tbe way), why wouldn’t MPs rise up and take action over the next 2 months?

            Reply
            1. Clive

              There is no “better plan”. This isn’t a Disney movie and nowhere is it written that everyone gets to act out their various parts, go through a little voyage of self discovery, trip through a had it all, lost it all, got it all back again arc. Then live Happily Ever After.

              Everyone — U.K. Leave, U.K. Remain and, yes, the EU27 too — are going to have to face the not-especially appetising prospect of eating their own cooking. Sometimes people (and that includes nation states and even supranational entities) just have to learn the lessons assigned to them for their current incarnations the hard way.

              Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        No, a GE is NOT easy.

        The Tories will do anything other than vote Labour in by crossing the aisle to support a vote of no confidence. The DUP is in the catbird seat and can push the Tories around. They’ve never been this important and similarly have no incentive to vote for a GE.

        Reply
      1. Anonymous2

        Just for those who are not aware of the sort of propaganda the UK tabloids are doing now, this morning’s Sun newspaper has pictures of Macron and Tusk dressed as Chicago hoodlums, complete with machine guns and calls them thugs.

        Sometimes I wonder if this is going to end in serious violence.

        Reply
  12. DJG

    None of this behavior mystifies me any longer: I have commented before that the Anglo-American elites live in an echo chamber. Our English-speaking public discourse is dominated by a few crude ideas like “free markets,” the best in the world, we invented everything, hand over the money, redemption, and salvation by faith alone (and faith in the “free market” alone). The tone of discourse on the Continent doesn’t match this blowhardism.

    When Macron is the voice of reason, you have a problem. When Tusk, a fairly typical Polish politician, in a country whose politicians are not the greatest problem-solvers, is the voice of reason, you have problems.

    The Anglo-American elites seem to think that the EU is Belgium. Yet the economic power of the EU matches the United States. So why would the Europeans break up a good thing to keep the English upper crust and its fantasies happy?

    I suspect that Plan B for England (and I’m not counting on Scotland sticking around the U.K. forever) is to become one big tax haven. Jersey and Guernsey and the Isle of Man will expand their ports and hope that EU buccaneers pour in with holds filled with golden coins.

    And is the English manufacturing sector any larger than Cadbury and Wedgewood these days?

    The Kavanaugh morality play is a story of our ridiculous elites and the way they want to run the U S of A. It would fit perfectly in England. It’s all an echo chamber of unhinged rich people with no perspective, no judgment, and no concern for consequences.

    Reply
    1. ape

      What is the British upper class afraid of?

      Is it something like the Black Spider Memos — the the EU legal system was failing to protect the irrationality of the British aristocracy? And is this part of the issue in the US as well, that internally it’s becoming more and more apparent that people just don’t want to stand for the *irrational* privileges of the upper caste?

      Reply
  13. Burke

    If the EU want an endgame where Britain stays in the single market, it should be within their power to achieve this.

    It would go something like the negotiations with Greece. A major summit with a drop-dead deadline would be announced. Just before the summit, all the Very Bad Things no one believed would actually happen, start to happen. Planes stop landing, food stops getting imported, etc.

    Attitudes in Britain would change quickly when stuff gets real. The Brexit voters I know at least didn’t really care that much about it – they would rather be out, but not if it involves any actual sacrifices.

    If the EU leave a door open to single market membership, it could well be taken. Yes this would involve a big climb down for Theresa May. But politicians do this in extreme circumstances (like Tsipras did). Even though a new referendum can’t be called in time, the last one said nothing about single market membership, and in any case was only advisory. Parliament can pass any law they want, on a very quick timeline.

    The key question is what does the EU actually want to happen? Since they have all the power, whatever they want to happen, is probably going to happen.

    Reply
      1. Burke

        Yes, this is a scenario that would unfold after a no-deal Brexit in the spring.

        If a no-deal outcome was accompanied by an offer from the EU to rejoin the single market under certain conditions (presumably EEA membership, including freedom of movement), this offer would start to look very attractive to the UK public when Brexit consequences get real.

        Nothing really bad has happened to the UK since the referendum. We were predicted catastrophe the day after a leave vote, but nothing happened. So now when anyone predicts bad consequences, nobody believes them. But when serious consequences actually happen, we may see how thin the desire to limit immigration actually is.

        Whether offering EEA membership is legally and logistically possible at this stage, I don’t know – but the UK press at least talk as if it is an option.Continued single market membership for the UK would appear to be in the EU’s interests. A major recession in the UK would have economic consequences worldwide, particularly in Europe. Many EU-based firms would be hit hard by a crash out (eg Airbus).

        ***

        Second question: could anything happen pre-Brexit that induces enough actual pain to make consequences clear?

        A currency collapse, on its own, presumably no. However if it led to a substantial rise in interest rates, yes. Most mortgages here are base-rate linked trackers with a total rate around 2%. If base rates rose just a few percent, a lot of people would not be able to pay their mortgages.

        The other thing that could do it is factory closures. There was a news story about BMW closing their Cowley plant for a month after a no-deal. Airbus warned they might leave in the event of no deal. If they fixed a date to do so, that could make more of a difference

        Reply
  14. ape

    The British ruling class is simply delusional and dysfunctional. Ideological in the Marxist sense — believing fairy tales that don’t fit with the real economic and political structure of their society.

    This is a general problem in the English speaking world — the system has been functioning on the basis of propaganda developed up to a century ago, and the last few generations have forgotten that it is propaganda. They believe the propaganda — and thus the ideology.

    You can see this as well with the US leadership, which at every level, left right and middle, seem unable to grasp geopolitical reality and handle their internal disagreements. Even the “adults in the room” seem to be functioning on the basis of fairy-tales (they just tell them with a very serious demeanor). It’s quite surprising, because people are coming out of the same institutions and classes that not so long ago had a very firm (and cynical) grasp on reality, and were quite capable of disciplining themselves and distinguishing between the propaganda they sold and their own internal analysis of the world — thus characters ranging from Feynmann to Chomsky were still within the intellectual class as data feeds for the Kissingers of the world. Hersch was still a player in journalism… a lot of players outside the echo chamber were still listened to at some level.

    I don’t know how a society can handle a crisis under those conditions, short of significant reorganization. Adaptation requires a realistic view of the world, not believing your own bullshit. I guess this is what decadence looks like.

    Reply
  15. Larry

    According to the Three Blokes in a Pub vlog, Article 50 can be reversed. This was the first I have heard of this, so I had to double check.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/brexit/2017/11/i-wrote-article-50-and-i-know-government-can-reverse-brexit-if-it-wants

    The government gives the impression that the Rubicon has been crossed, but it refuses to publish the legal advice they have received on the subject. I think we know why. The government has been careful not to say that we could not take back May’s letter, because it knows that we could if we wanted to. The fact is that a political decision has been made, in this country, to maintain that there can be no going back. Actually, the country still has a free choice about whether to proceed. As new facts emerge, people are entitled to take a different view. And there’s nothing in Article 50 to stop them. I think the British people have the right to know this – they should not be misled.

    Unfortunately May’s speech today leads me to believe that there will be no going back and they intend to see this horrible mistake all the way to the bitter end.

    Reply
  16. EoH

    Ms. May is beginning to demonstrate that what little she knows about negotiating she learned from Donald Trump. I’m not sure that a shrill denial that the EU’s position is “unacceptable” will change the minds of those who hold it.

    Sadly, the reality Ms. May fails to confront is that she has no position other than heads I win, tails the EU loses. Her “coalition,” her government, and her party fall apart if she takes any position that accounts for the time, cost, and pain, and the massive reinventing of the wheel, that Brexit will entail.

    That leaves her no option but to ask the Queen to form another government without her or her party.

    Reply
  17. ape

    My favorite part is the steely determination to keep NI. The customs control split of NI: “It is something I will never agree to—indeed, in my judgement it is something no British prime minister would ever agree to,”

    That’s just nutty. The fastest possible way to completely lose NI is a crash out. The best way to delay or avoid the loss of NI is to hold it as loosely as possible, so that the Catholic majority in the near future will see no gain in the risk of changing the status quo. The UK already agreed 20 years ago to giving up NI! The only issue now is how it’s negotiated: slow and carefully over generations to the point that it never happens (or meaningless when it happens), are all of a sudden by creating a crisis.

    It’s like she’s channeling a Sith Emperor:

    Princess Leia Organa: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

    Governor Tarkin: Not after we demonstrate the capabilities of this station.

    Reply
  18. Phichibe

    I would add to all the excellent analysis here (thanks again Yves, I’ve commented here before how much I esteem your posts on Brexit) the following thoughts. First, as I’ve noted in all these threads on Brexit, to the EU pain to departing countries isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. The large majority of EU nations accept that it is the best solution to a difficult set of problems. It’s notable that the BBC reported that the only EU leader who spoke after the Salzburg summit of making Brexit less painful for the UK was Hungary’s Orban, who is himself certainly considering taking his country out of the EU rather than accept large numbers of non-EU migrants.

    The second thing I’d note is that, for France, the usefulness of the EU is as true today as it was 70 years ago when Schumann and Monet knitted together its earliest ancestor, the European Coal and Steel market. Namely, to tether Europe’s largest economy, Germany, so that Europe does not become a German imperium in everything but name.

    The third thing I’d note is that Germany has a less-remarked upon incentive for preserving the EU and Euro status-quos, namely that the Deutche Mark was brought into the Euro at an artificially low price point when this was set in the mid 90s. Germany was then spending massively on incorporating the former East Germany into the Federal Republic, and it was able to argue that its currency needed to be priced low for its economy to prosper. The French, Italians, and other European leaders were victims of their own vanity when they agreed to this, since it made their economies seem bigger relative to Germany’s than ever before.

    This miscalculation has benefited German exports and haunted the rest of Europe ever since. I have no doubt that Merkel and the heads of Germany’s business groups are well aware that, if the EU fails and if the Euro is unwound, a standalone Deutche Mark would rise dramatically and Germany would no longer be able to export its unemployment to the rest of the world. Of all the mistakes the EU committed in the last several decades, the mmispricing the Mark was I’d argue the second greatest, following only the horrific handling of the Financial Crisis and the imposition of debt peonage on the PIIGS under the guise of “austerity”. And Germany’s going to fight to preserve its advantage, even if this means stomaching the Eurocrats in Brussels.

    P

    Reply
  19. Michael Green

    I posted this comment on Progressive Pulse:
    Things may become a lot clearer within a few days.
    Firstly, it is not certain that the Brexomaniacs will have enough MPs to get No Deal through Parliament, if a substantial majority of MPs think it is a really bad idea.
    This will leave Parliament with two fig-leaf options.
    One fig-leaf will be to pretend that a bad deal is a good deal, in which case there may be enough votes to get it through
    The second fig-leaf will be to achieve Remain while saving face by going for a People’s Vote. Although any Brexiters I know are immune to reason, Remain might still scrape home in a referendum.
    We may know the answer quite soon because of the Labour Party Conference. If Hard Momentum can keep Brexit off the agenda, then they may be able to block People’s Vote as an anti-Corbyn plot. If Grass-roots members succeed in getting a People’s Vote through, it will be an attractive option for Tory Remain MPs and there will be a chance.
    I guess it is more likely that Labour will fudge and we will be left with the first fig-leaf. But I can hope.

    Reply
    1. ape

      But isn’t a frozen parliament sufficient for “No-deal”? Article 50 is triggered — the UK’s parliament isn’t in charge any more. They can refuse to handle it — but No-Deal is the default state if nothing happens, unless the rest of the EU decide to handle it, and they can’t without a partner with a positive majority in the UK.

      And that’s what makes it very easy for the hard-brexiters — all they need to do now is disrupt.

      A lot of the English language commentary has an unrealistically important role for the UK government to play, as if history only happened in English countries. My prediction — the UK will blunder into a mess because they simple will fail to act in any useful way, but will act more like a pack of dogs going after the weakest member. The EU will try to insulate itself from the madness, and external players will try to take advantage.

      Reply
  20. Candy

    Regarding this line:

    May and the others cling to the notion that without Great Britain, the EU will collapse or something

    Umm, yes the EU does look like collapsing without the UK.

    Here is one example: the European Medicines Agency. With some fanfare the EU announced it would move to the Netherlands. But they are struggling to get staff – they’ve lost a third of their staff already, and have had to announce that they won’t be able to access new medicines for a while which is a blow to the pharmaceuticals industry.

    Given that the EU27 have 440 million people, how could it be that they can’t find the expert staff for one lousy agency outside the UK?

    It then turned out that the EMA tended to farm it’s difficult cases to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA). The MHRA is still merilly doing it’s job which means that unlike the EU, the UK will be able to approve new medicines post Brexit. More on this story in the following:

    https://www.ft.com/content/fc151518-9faa-11e8-b196-da9d6c239ca8

    This is being played out in other areas. The European Banking Authority moved to Paris, lost staff and has found it couldn’t recruit the required expertise in France. Same story for the digital agency, the UK was doing the bulk of the work.

    I know it is fashionable to criticise Britain while praising the Europeans to the sky for their “competence” – but how competent is Macron for running a country with unemployment of 9.1% and a huge budget deficit? How competent is Merkel given that German troops in a recent military exericise had to use broomsticks in lieu of rifles they didn’t have? Or that most of their submarines don’t work?

    Meanwhile Brexit Britain is growing strongly,even with all the political mayhem going on. Which means Britain does know something the other Europeans apparently do not.

    Reply
    1. m-ga

      Even if all that you say is true (it isn’t), the EU can simply recruit from the UK following Brexit.

      This is the “England exports primarily people” line that Richard Kline offers above.

      There is zero leverage. And “Brexit Britain” is not growing strongly.

      Reply
    2. Jeff

      A few years back, we had Ukrainians importing motor oil as vegetable oil into Europe.
      Any idea how UK is going to tackle such a problem next April? Who is going to set up border controls? On which borders? With whom? Who is being recruited or trained for that purpose?

      As a reminder, Ireland, Belgium, Holland and others are all recruiting and training extra staff.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        I hate to say it, but there’s more than smidge of positive messaging which is divorced from reality about the much ballyhooed sanctity of the Single Market and its supposed high standards.

        The standards are exemplary, gold-plated, even. But enforcement is down to the Member States. “Patchy” is putting it as nicely as I can. Some markets segments have all but given up the fight, one I follow is refrigerants. Eastern Europe is a lost cause and even Germany is suspect https://www.coolingpost.com/world-news/german-ebay-awash-with-illegal-r134a/

        Put it this way, I for one would never stand next to a condensing unit now which is labelled as containing a very high GWP gas (R134a, R407c…) more than 10kW (3 or 4 tons) operating in design conditions or worse (heatwaves).

        There’s a very real risk, if small, of it not containing a legal refrigerant. You’re unlikely to survive or at a minimum you’d sustain serious injuries https://www.vasa.org.au/perth-truck-hc-explosion-how-it-happened/ in the event of over pressurisation. Not one I’m prepared to run, given the damage potential of this fatal out pouring of crapification.

        This isn’t necessarily claiming that, in the event of a crash out, when the U.K. would let in any old rubbish, things would be better. They may be just as bad, likely worse.

        Reply
        1. Ignacio

          This is quite true. I wouldn’t consider the rules as sacrosant, but just as rules. There are countries where rules are writen famously just to find ways to break them, it is said. Those countries were primarily mediterranean and now you suggest eastern european countries. Anyway let me tell you that in the case of Spain, those refrigerants have been effectively banned (they may still exist in old units), and this means that the ruling works. It is just that enforcement has to be improved in some Eastern countries that have been incorporated to the EU lately.

          Reply
    3. Anonymous2

      The UK is the poorest country per capita in Northern Europe, despite the huge success of London and years of North Sea Oil. Proclaiming British superiority is unconvincing in such circumstances.

      Reply
  21. VietnamVet

    The Elite are simply out for their own gain. Lowlifes are off no concern. The end stage psychosis of the Western Oligarchs is that they have absolutely no recognition of the impact of increased prices at Walmart due to tariffs on imported goods. The forcing up of a customs barrier around the British Isles without trained staff or rules means that imported goods will be illegal for months if not years.

    The consent of the governed in the West is about to be lost.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      Yes!
      The brexit issue is a stronghold of NC. Excellent coverage with very good commentary. Another one is CALPERS management.

      Bravo!!!

      Reply
  22. Lori

    This article is written assuming that the eu would have given the uk a deal if they only came up with an ideal one. But why would they? Look at what they did to Greece even when varoufakis Presented a reasonable economic strategy. The eu higher ups are simply not interested in giving any eu member any leeway. They’d want to pull off another Greece but this time on the uk to teach them a lesson.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This situation is nothing like Greece and we chronicled Greece at great length. The Tories created this mess and have handled it in the worst manner possible.

      As an aside, we predicted the failure of the Greece negotiations in 2015. Greece was in no position to tell the EU what its economic policies should be. Other countries like Spain and Latvia had taken austerity medicine and they were not going to see Greece get a break. More important, Varoufakis never came to grips with what writedowns of Greek debt would mean to the European nations that were Greece’s biggest lenders. They would have had to recognize the losses immediately as a budgetary item. That would require them under EU rules to raise taxes considerably or engage in very large spending cuts. That would have plunged Europe into a recession.

      As for the UK, no one made them do Brexit. The referendum was an intra party power play. The Tories never never never intended to win but the opportunist Boris Johnson did too good a job of hawking Brexit.

      As we have recounted and repeated God knows how many times, the EU has been consistent about telling the UK the parameters of a Brexit withdrawal agreement and any future trade relationship from the morning after Brexit. The UK has refused to listen, been arrogant and shockingly incompetent. This is hardly a controversial view; Richard North, a trade expert and someone who was a strong Brexit booster, says so virtually daily on his blog, EUreferendum.

      On top of that, the UK has done pretty close to nothing to prepare for Brexit, when as we have also repeatedly said, it would require war level mobilization and industrial policy to prevent it from causing very large, permanent damage to the UK. We are looking at food shortages in the event of a crash out.

      The UK did this entirely to themselves, including failing to come up with anything even dimly representing sound proposal to the EU. You are completely wrong-headed to blame the EU.

      Reply
      1. Lori

        Yves, thanks for taking the time to reply. IMHO, you arent recognising that the EU in its treatment of Greece failed to realise that there were lenders on the other side. They were to be held responsible too. One cant borrow without a lender’s approval. And the treatment ultimately dished out to greece didnt account for that. Which basically proves my point that the EU is simply not interested in being fair. Even if the UK government(whoever it may be) had been competent and done everything right, the EU heads would simply not be interested in giving them a fair chance. Many people are mistaking them for the higher moral authority.

        Reply
        1. Hougda

          If that were the case (and it demonstrably isn’t), what would the EU have done if the UK hadn’t been an incompetent shower of imbeciles, who don’t even understand the rules two years on?

          Let’s say they’d said “ok, we understand that we can’t have everything we have now, so are happy to have a looser free trade arrangement with the additional frictions that will cause all parties, so are happy to keep Northern Ireland closely tied to Ireland meaning no border, and we’ll take the administrative hit”

          Or “we have been instructed to leave the political institutions of the EU by the British people, but given how closely our economy is linked, we are happy to form a new Customs Union, join the EFTA and commit to the common commercial policy and abide by the rules of those decisions”

          What “fair chance” do you think the UK would have been denied?

          Reply
        2. vlade

          There’s nothing that supports your argument except for simile with Greece – but that’s not really applicable (as Yves shown in her reply).

          At best, we can claim that EU _might_ not be interested in being fair, but we’ll never know, since the UK never came up with a reasonable suggestion.

          No one with any sort of knowledge – and that includes North, as Yves says a Brexiters, expected the UK to be better off on Brexit day. At the very very best, it would take some (small, but still meaningful) losses now (EEA option), with a possibility of future gains in not tying itself to the body political that the EU builds.

          So, the reality is that the people will be worse short, likely middle (and no-one knows or cares about long) term. People like you are trying to make it meaning that the EU is ‘punishing’ the UK. The point is, it doesn’t have to.

          UK is like a medieval flaggelant, punishing itself, hoping for a gain in the future. Which may or may not eventuate – but the punishment by its own actions is certain.

          Reply
  23. Mik

    Judging by all the comments you guys are going to be shooting each other again pretty soon. Which is fine but this time America is jacked all sideways and has nothing but debt so no GI’s are hitting the beach this time for you.

    And even if we sen’t our youth to fight for YOU again. They don’t have the willpower or the givasheet to bother. War is for video games and other people.

    Reply

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