Brexit: Fatal Complacency?

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It’s perplexing to see the cheerful tone of the press after Theresa May gave her evening talk to the members of the EU27 because nothing bad happened. To be more accurate, nothing happened except everyone for the moment got less cheesed off with each other. That is helpful for getting an agreement stitched up but vastly short of what needs to happen.

But what is outright troubling is that the EU27 has decided not to meet in November and no one seems very bothered by that. Recall that this was originally planned as a last-ditch extension of the original date for the agreement to be settled, at this very summit. Then at the disastrous Salzburg meeting, the European Council told May she’d better have shown enough progress by this Council meeting or no talks in November. Some papers speculated that the Council would meet in November regardless, to do Brexit crash out contingency planning, and to allow for the possibility to consider better UK proposals if May could somehow get things sorted out.

The next European Council meeting isn’t until December.

The way things seem to be moving is that the EU now seems to be falling into a sense of complacency. Having the November emergency session, even it it would be a nuisance for the parties involved, would be an important hedge against a crash out in terms of preparedness. It would also put pressure on May and more important, the recalcitrant Ultras. Polls are now showing that UK voters who aren’t undecided now split 40/60 for Leave v. Remain. That’s a big enough shift to potentially change the political calculus, even though the recognition of waning support for Brexit isn’t yet well reflected in the press. If, and this is a big if, the press were to turn even half as fiercely against Brexit as it was for it right after the referendum, it could change what is possible politically.

The other reason the EU backing off its earlier timetable is worrisome is that negotiations befit from a sense of urgency. The EU had set deadlines for moving the negotiations along. It now has no deadlines for hepherding the negotiations to resolution.

Worse, the UK side seems not to appreciate the operational requirements on the EU side. Richard North took May’s desire to present again to the EU27 leaders as a failure to comprehend that any proposal will have to be presented in a detailed form to the sherpas, at least a day ahead of any European Council meeting, so they can analyze it and advise their bosses. So the next maybe-sorta deadline for having the open terms settled is shortly before the December meeting, although the EU did say it was prepared to call a special meeting. However, the UK may well interpret that as meaning it can push things until January or February.

As commentor NormandChris said on Richard North’s website:

It is a terrible state of affairs when at what should have been presentation of a contribution, yesterday, from the Maybot towards solving the NI border backstop, that the only successful conclusion was she did not insult all the other leaders this time and the atmosphere was cordial.

According to the Financial Times, the EU thinks the ball is in Theresa May’s court:

EU leaders shelved plans for a special Brexit summit next month, saying they were waiting for Theresa May to make a decisive move in a negotiation that could still take some “weeks or months”.

The decision came at a short, low-key dinner on Brexit in Brussels, where Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, noted that talks had hit a “deadlock” and other leaders expressed frustration at political paralysis in Westminster, according to diplomats briefed on the meeting….

However, in the discussion over dinner after Mrs May had left the room, the German chancellor struck a pessimistic tone, saying that London needed to bring “new ideas”, according to two diplomats. A third said that Ms Merkel had advocated the EU’s holding firm in coming weeks.

Juha Sipila, the Finnish prime minister, said it was almost not worth holding the meeting “because we knew all the things we have been told”….

Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania’s president, articulated a frustration felt by some EU leaders when she called for “concrete understanding of what the UK really wants”.

“We don’t know what they want,” she said. “They do not know themselves what they really want. That’s a problem.

The Financial Times stressed that the negotiators would keep talking. But it’s not clear how long they can keep talking past each other, particularly since the UK may interpret Barnier’s effort to come up with creative solutions as a sign that the EU is anxious to get a deal done and will cede more ground if the UK keeps being intransigent. Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see a press report of any EU leader correcting the record on Theresa May depicting what she had agreed to in the Joint Agreement of last December as a new demand by the EU on the Irish border. Nor did I see anyone go so far as even tut-tut the UK for threatening to reopen the agreement on the so-called exit bill.

This section of EU’s morning European newsletter is what really got my juices going:

BREXIT FATIGUE: How did Wednesday evening at the European Council summit go? Well, there were no “humiliations” and a lot of goodwill. Is that a sign of “fatigue,” as one EU diplomat put it?…

The positive assessment: Unlike during September’s Salzburg summit, May didn’t appear to be putting on an act for her home audience. She didn’t repeat that the Irish backstop had to be temporary, or refer to “frictionless trade” (read: the single market). Tajani observed that her “body language” was “more positive than in the past.” Kurz said on his way out after the dinner that “a lot of what she told us was known to us. But the most important is that she wants to bring about an agreed solution.”

But but but: Leaders “expected more,” said one diplomat. “She was disappointing.” Some were expecting May to move beyond the known British position. In Salzburg all 27 leaders intervened, but “merely half of them” took the floor Wednesday night, one diplomat said. May left at around 8 p.m. The rest wrapped up their debate at a record-early 10:30 p.m.

No urgency: Once May took off for the British ambassador’s residence, the EU27 weren’t all that interested in hearing about the Commission’s plans for no-deal preparedness. The message is supposed to be that they want a deal — but feel no urgency on their end to strike one. “We’ve done so much under time pressure in the financial crisis,” said a diplomat who stuck around for a while. “We won’t be pushed.”

If that diplomat’s statement is representative of thinking in Brussels and in European capitals, it’s a very bad sign. Wanting a deal and getting one are two different things. And as frantic as the various bank and government rescues during the crisis were, they were not anywhere near as politically and operationally complicated as getting a Withdrawal Agreement completed with the UK parliament so divided. Having a central bank that you can deploy makes rescues like that feasible.

It seems as if at least some key people in the EU who ought to know better are falling into their own version of the pathology we’ve seen in the UK: “A crash-out would be so terrible, surely it won’t be allowed to happen.”

And we’ve seen too much of clever ideas that fall short of being solutions nevertheless being touted as the real thing, like a longer transition period. As PlutoniumKun pointed out yesterday in comments:

And from Varadkar:

Taoiseach Leo Varakdar has said he could support the idea of a one year extension to the two year transition period which will run after 29 March next year.

However, it could not be a substitute for the backstop, he said.

“From Ireland’s point of view we’re willing to hear any proposals that might help to bring about a solution.

“A lot of us feel that negotiating a new economic and security relationship between the EU and UK within two years would be a real challenge and bear in mind within those two years you’d have to negotiate this new relationship, and it also have to be ratified by 28 parliaments.

“But I really need to say though that any extension to the transition period couldn’t be a substitute for the backstop. We would still need to have that, but perhaps it would allow people to have greater confidence that it would ever need to be invoked.”

The more I see of this, the less it seems. Barnier is simply throwing out the idea of giving more time if there is an agreement, he must know well this doesn’t in any way address the issues of the DUP/Ultras. I think we’ll see a string of these stories essentially offering minor concessions, the primary aim being to keep up the appearance of progress and EU flexibility.

And we also have the wee problem of the Ultras. From the BrexitCentral daily newletter (emphasis theirs):

However, some reports are talking about a year’s extension, which would mean vassal state status for the UK extended until the beginning of 2022 and the idea is already provoking deep hostility from Brexiteer voices back home, not least because of the additional financial cost involved: even an extension of a single day into 2021 would take us into a new seven-year financial framework, in all likelihood without the UK rebate taken into consideration any more. The bill for one year would be at least £10 billion (and some suggest it could be nearer double that) while having to continue to abide by all EU rules, including freedom of movement, without any say.

And Labour’s Shadow Chancellor isn’t keen either, and point about the business community not being keen about a prolonged transition being a negative for the business community is yet another complicating factor:

John McDonnell has ruled out the notion of extending the Brexit transition period beyond March 29 2019.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani commented on Thursday that “both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of the transition period as one possibility which is on the table”.

However, the shadow chancellor does not believe this is viable and told ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston: “Everyone I talk to now – business leaders, investors, trade union leaders – all of them are saying the uncertainty and insecurity at the moment mean that decisions are not being taken about long-term investment.”

“There is a real issue if this drags on that uncertainty drags on – we need a deal.”

And we have the press continuing to flog the UK misapprehension that a customs union would keep the UK in the single market and prevent the need for a hard border, such as in this Politico story, UK, EU take tentative steps toward a backstop compromise:

Brussels is prepared to write a new clause into the Brexit divorce agreement allowing for a legally enforceable, U.K.-wide customs arrangement to give London certainty that the Irish backstop will never be used, two senior officials familiar with the negotiations said.

Help me. A customs union won’t produce “frictionless trade”. Richard North must have produced a week of posts with different example of customs union arrangements showing border stops.

Now having said that, some countries are not slacking off on disorderly Brexit planning. Again from the Financial Times:

France published a draft bill to handle a no-deal exit in March 2019 that empowered the government to use emergency decrees to reimpose customs checks and impose visa requirements on British citizens visiting France.

The lack of any momentum is also a bad manifestation of the Soros concept of reflexivity. Reflexivity is a fancy word for market dynamics feeding on themselves, oftentimes disconnected to fundamentals or other real-world issues. As vlade and other readers have stressed, one thing that would shake the UK out of its torpor would be a sterling crisis. But it appears that the UK businessmen who are clued in enough to be alarmed are afraid to express it in a public setting for fear of being hammered in the press and if they do business with the Government, of being punished commercially. Similarly, if EU officials act as if the lack of progress is no big deal, Mr. Market will take that as proof that an agreement will come together at the 11th hour and/or a crash out isn’t as terrible as the worry warts say.

In other words, serious financial wobbles have the highest odds of getting UK MPs to hold their noses and vote through whatever deal May can get done to secure a transition period (not that I am sure that will happen; the Ultras seem to be as dogmatic our NRA or Freedom Caucus, but it might lead Labour members to cross the aisle). And events seem to be moving in a direction to prevent that critical source of pressure from kicking in until too late.

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  1. disillusionized

    Personally I think eu leaders have realised that there are no deals to be made with the uk at this stage – the uk must decide one way or another. Which is what’s left to the uk a set of options entirely dictated by the EU, and that’s best presented in february.

    Or one scary possibility – the Irish might have been persuaded to agree to the WA absent a backstop and push that into the trade negotiations – in practice it wouldn’t alter anything, but in theory it’s a win for the UK.
    But that would also remove the remain option (however unlikely it is).
    The scary part is that the uk will not be in a position to deal with a world outside the WA anymore than it is in a position to deal with it after March now anyway.

    1. begob

      I can’t see how the EU has an interest in persuading Ireland into a WA without backstop. Absent border checks, once the treaties no longer apply to the UK and the transition period comes to end, Ireland and the EU will be wide open to MFN status challenges at the WTO.

      That’s why they’re so keen on the customs union proposal, as that qualifies as an exception at the WTO (although I’m unsure if that relates to non-tariff barriers too).

      If the challenges start coming in, the EU watches its single market unravel, and the UK then has leverage for a free trade agreement, which removes the issue of MFN status.

      1. disillusionized

        Absent a deal, there will be a hard border – the WA delays that by some time, but doesn’t alter the basic fact unless the UK and the EU has a trade deal to obviate it (that’s the EEA).
        If Ireland agrees the WA absent a Backstop, it’s leverage wont decline, but the UK’s leverage will weaken.

    1. John k

      Neolibs like globalism because wages and profits. Brexit means less globalism, maybe a lot less if this pushes Eu towards breakup. And Brit is in best position to leave, no matter how difficult, because they have their own currency… plus being commonwealth member, special relationship with us, and major auto importer make them desirable trade partner, unlike, say, Italy. Eventually Brit will get past the worst bits of the breakup, and at that point might their independence might look attractive to some… the Eu is steadily becoming less popular, five years on likely gets us to another nasty recession.
      Odd that Brit isn’t focusing more on things like aviation, medicines and food etc as the hard date approaches. Five months…

      1. d

        problem is that major auto importer was because they were the gateway to the EU, which after Brexit goes away

  2. Ataraxite

    I predicted a few days back that the EU would do another “Salzburg” on Theresa May this week, but that has not come to pass.

    Instead, we had this festival of politeness, where nothing changed.

    And perhaps, from the EU point-of-view, nothing could change (for the better, anyway).

    They’re not going to relax any of their requirements, particularly around the Irish/British border, for obvious reasons.

    Increasing the pressure on May and the UK is probably seen as counter-productive – either forcing Theresa May into an active No Deal scenario, or triggering a Tory leadership which potentially leads to her replacement with one of the ultras. It’s sad to say, but Theresa May is still the least-insane option as leader of the Tories.

    So the last hopes to break the stalemate are a) somehow finding a formulation of a deal which might have a chance of making it through parliament (unlikely), b) a general election in the UK (again, unlikely in the short term) or c) a much vaunted Second Referendum (which comes with significant difficulties, but is a growing possibility, in my view).

    So the EU has accepted No Deal as its expected outcome, and is planning accordingly. But it is not discounting the possibility of a second referendum, or some other deus ex machina, so is acting as to not antagonise the UK or its voters.

    (Also worth noting is that Angela Merkel gave a speech yesterday to the Bundestag outlining No Deal preparations in Germany.)

    1. vlade

      There has been a step-up in no-deal preparations across the board. I’m seeing Brexit articles with “no deal expected” in media that didn’t do anything on Brexit for ages, and a wider coverage (main page, five articles in one go, including some sort of analysis) on others that had a Brexit article now and then.

      So I’d agree that EU baked in the “no deal”.

      That said, the EU voting poll would give May a way out (either way, as in “remain” it would cancel the whole thing, in “out” she would have a lot of political cover), if she was brave enough – and we have seen that she can take steps that no-one expects her before with calling the GE. But while I suspect she could get a lot of Tory MPs to back that (to get it through the process), she would have to get Labour on side too, which may not be that easy. And I don’t mean just for the vote – it’s entirely possible that DUP would rage-quit on her if she went for the second vote.

      Announcing it now would mean it could stand a chance of being run early next summer, not too much past the current A50 deadline, and one where I suspect EU could be willing to extend.

      Chances of that happening? Still close to nil.

      As an aside, the Department for Brexit was asked to comment on the EU poll, but to my knowledge they are still “preparing an answer”.

    1. Clive

      Could this be the first recorded instance of a continent-wide major crisis that is diffused (or perhaps vitiated) because the principle players simply get bored of it?

      1. The Rev Kev

        Sometimes the news from Brexit gets so depressing and infuriating that you feel like punching walls. I have friends that live in the UK and I fear what will happen for them in a coupla months time. Ordinary people will be thrown to the wolves as a few like Boris will seek to make out like bandits and I would not be surprised to see the government saying that they want to sell the entire NHS to a consortium of US health care companies as There Is No Alternative. Sometimes you have to take a break and watch something completely stupid to short circuit these dark thoughts-

  3. George Phillies

    The UK is very clear about what it wants: Free trade of goods and services only, not of people. Foreigners now in the EU or the UK are allowed to stay. No partition of UK. Invisible border with Ireland. UK not subject to EU rules.

    The EU is severely not interested in this proposal.

    As I have said repeatedly, the sides’ red lines do not intersect, so crash exit is likely. At this point ‘there is no agreement until there is an agreement’ will have consequences.

    Needless to say, thining outside the box by telling Eire that they are going to be making a minor sacrifice, namely they are now part of the UK again, is not going to work.

    1. EoH

      The UK is clear that it wants its cake and to eat it, too. It can’t leave the EU and retain the benefits from staying in it. That is what’s maddening and self-destructive.

      It won’t only be the Brits who pay a price for this nonsense. But chaos capitalists envision a new El Dorado coming from it.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    One possible explanation I think for the EU’s fairly casual approach is that they recognise that if it is seen as an intense negotiation, the UK cabinet and parliament won’t intervene, apart from the usual sniping. They may calculate that the only possible way for an agreement is for May to essentially capitulate on the key points, and then manage, under the guise of crisis management, to isolate the ultras by getting some Labour votes on board and get it through Parliament this way. In which case, they may think that letting things stew until December is the only hope.

    Just on the situation in Ireland – I keep expecting Varadkar to wobble, but the latest polls are very good for his party, and (I can’t find a link to it, but it was mentioned on the radio this morning), a poll indicates that his hardline stance on the border issue is strongly supported by the public. So there is no external or internal pressure on the Irish government to break ranks with the EU. He is in the unusual situation of trying to engineer a collapse in his government so he can take advantage of his honeymoon period, but the other parties aren’t playing ball with him (historically, Irish voters like to punish governments who make them go vote without a good reason).

  5. finlandstation

    Lets hope they do, get bored. Brexit is the least of the EU’s worries. For the Brits no deal is a far, far better arrangement then anything that their counterparts in Berlin and Paris will/would/can ever agree to. Won’t happen! Nor should it. After all the hysterics and hair pulling recedes, what will be left – assuming there’s much of the EU left to begin with – see news regarding the current threat posed by Italy –
    will be seeing Merkel and Macron explaining the $50 Billion hole in the Eu’s budget following Brexit.

    The larger risks are all on the EU’s side, just that they are too deluded with arrogance and incoherence to understand what’s really going on.

    Let Macron meet French farmers burning manure if French agricultural exports to UK drop. (the fear mongering that produce would rot at customs on the French side if Brexit happened is laughable because if that happened French farmers would be setting fires on roads around France and Macron would be forced to FIRE every idiot in government who had trouble getting french farmers produce through to UK in a fast and efficient manner).

    Let Merkel be told by German heads of industry that she is an incompetent idiot if exports of German manufactured products to UK drop.

    Germany and France export much more to UK than UK exports to them so in any tariff, customs, delay etc. France and Germany are the biggest losers.

    Also since France and Spain are hugely dependent on UK tourists it is beyond laughable that Remainers have made scare stories how tourism would become difficult after Brexit since any government messing with UK tourists and the huge revenue France and Spain get from them will become an ex-government really quickly.

    On the NI front just keep the border open. The horror. A few lost pounds will pale in comparison to what the Eu expects to extract from British tax payers.

    History is running against Brussels, Paris and Berlin. Critically thinking common sense sovereigns are gaining ground on those support centralizing authoritarian power structures.

    Best Brexit is a NO-Deal-Brexit. Just like in the old days I’ll gladly endure the hardship of packing a passport.

    1. Jeff

      If by now you still don’t know that UK imports almost everything, even its teachers, nurses and farmhands, and exports only euro-dominated financial services that disappear by next April, then you must be a good Tory, and we can’t help you in any way.

      Please note that industries, businesses and smarter Tories are already relocating (well, not that smart. Real smart ones left UK ages ago).

    2. DaveH

      I get the feeling that you either haven’t been reading or haven’t really understood Yves’ many articles on this.

      Edit – OP, not Jeff.

    3. PKMKII

      From Vox EU:

      labour income in regions in the UK are much more exposed to Brexit than labour income anywhere else in the EU, despite marked differences across EU27 regions.
      Hence, the stakes in the Brexit negotiations are much higher for the UK than for the EU27, despite the fact that the EU27 is a net exporter to the UK.

      Your argument is also flawed, in that it assumes the EU cannot find alternative sources for export and tourism dollars. Remember, the EU’s position with regards to other major economies (US, Russia, Japan, China, Brazil, India) and intermediate ones changes not one iota when Brexit comes to be. Sure, there will be some rough patches, especially as firms have adjustment periods, but there are other markets the EU can benefit from other than the UK. Whereas when Brexit hits, its entire import-export economy will be plunged into chaos and gridlock, as its current trading status with non-EU countries is as an EU member. And you’re deluding yourself if you think there’s any such thing as an automatic default. The US won’t be coming in to bail out the UK either. Trump would love nothing more than to twist a desperate UK into a bilateral trade deal that the US gets a “win” out of.

    4. Anonymous2

      Oh please. The hit to the UK will be proportionately four or five times larger than the hit to the EU.

      If you want to understand the complexities of the problems the UK currently faces, study carefully not just Yves’s excellent work but also that of Richard North – he is a Leaver by the way.

      Mere rhetoric is no use now. What is needed is calm, intelligent analysis and action.

    5. d

      so the EU wont be shipping you food, which can cost them money, in the mean time, you dont have any thing to eat do you? yes both sides will have pain from this, the question is who has the most? based on they send almost all of the food you eat, the medicines you need, and are your biggest market, seems like the UK wont come out well for multiple months if not years. while the EU can switch who they ship stuff to a lot easier, since the UK looses all of the trade agreements with almost the entire world. and the Common wealth cant and wont replace what the EU exports to the UK, and imports from the UK

    6. Scott1

      I like what Finlandstation wrote because he speaks of friends of his being involved. The retired engineer I sometimes correspond with could by now seem to give a damn. I don’t see anything in my life here in North Carolina that is made in the UK. Well Land Rovers & Jaguars on TV. If I was wealthy I’d be buying a Tesla.

      Looks to me like simple sticker shock and disbelief in the whole thing on the part of the UK government. “Costs what it costs & takes what it takes.” They were smart in the first place to keep their own currency. Maybe they’ll be smart enough to use it. I saw a video of Stephanie Kelton telling them what they had with a Treasury of their own. She one time explained textbooks were never updated & Gold Standard rules just kept on being what was taught.

      The best reasons to get out of the EU have been and will be due to the flaws in the Financial System as Yanis Vaoufakis can explain day in and day out. He didn’t counsel them to leave. Neither he nor Warren Mosler counsel other than EU nations need to fix the Financial System so the Northern Nations & particularly Germany don’t get to conduct war by other means & collect real assets as Greece continues to illustrate.

      Vaoufakis also says Italy is just being led in a way meant to encourage disintegration of the EU.
      “Nothing works if you don’t believe in it.” is what I say when talking about human systems.
      My own suggestion derived from reading Michael Hudson is that the UK ought set up a real Industrial Service Bank, or just give their banks that as a goal, and draw into itself business instead of lamenting Finance flight to the mainland.

      If the EU wants the UK to come back, well what’s wrong with saying so? The UK could say OK if you fix the structural faults of the Financial System. But doesn’t sound to me from what I read that anything other than hand wringing and mealy mouthed trash is said to the point of reportage about “body language”.

      Over all it is the greatest height of economic warfare going on ever and Grotius said those that do business together are more likely to go to war with each other than those that don’t.
      Class war is a habit and the working classes are always having their noses rubbed in the manure, or dismembered on battlefield, or left to starve because those going to meetings are puffed up incompetents.

      Privatization and austerity, well, both are what the powerful want regardless of what the people of Europe work towards individually day in an day out. Too bad their leaders play games with their money and their lives instead of acting in good faith.
      But what do I know but that I like the way Keynes described the characters at the table in Versailles.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Scott, there is so much that is wrong here I don’t know where to begin.

        The EU would prefer that the UK come back but it accepts the result of the referendum. And as readers and we have pointed out, it’s extremely unlikely that a new referendum will be held, and UK MPs regard Brexit as “the will of the people” and aren’t going to undo that without having political cover.

        The UK already had an exceptionally good deal with the EU. The UK has never objected to Maastrict treaty rules because the UK believes every bit as much in austerity as the EU, indeed, the austerity habit was propagated to the EU via the UK. The UK has its own currency so it is not subject to the fiscal constraints of the EU.

        The Tories in particular blamed all sorts of things on the EU that were their own doing.

    7. zmncr

      Tourism won’t suffer because of borders. There was plenty turism before the was freedom of movement. What will bring turism down, bring Brit spending abroad down, and even send Brits living in Costa Del Sol packing back to Swindon, is it the pound crashes down. That will never be blamed, rightly or wrongly, on the local governments. And as probably the euro will go down a bit against other currencies but the pound, the impact will be partly offset by other sources.

      1. Irrational

        I dunno, I find the prospect of queuing for hours to get through the airport extremely off-putting and shan’t be going until I see how that works out.

  6. TheScream

    Why do those of us on the other side of the Channel have to do any of the hard work? If the EU is complacent, it is because the UK is being unreasonable and downright stupid. The only leverage the UK has is to stay or go. Since they are going, there is nothing left for the EU to do but iron out the pre-arranged details of the EU treaty. If May and the UK continue to act as if they have any power in this negotiation, they will simply leave and lose everything including the Irish border.

    This has been a farce from the beginning. What many assumed was a Thatcher’s Handbag Moment turned into a suicide pact. The EU has been insulted, belittled and degraded through the entire process. I find it extraordinary that the leaders have even managed to be merely complacent.

    1. grhabyt

      The EU may not have a responsibility to rescue the British from their idiocy, but they do have a responsibility to try to minimize damage to their own citizens. German auto workers, French farmers, and the whole of the Irish economy are going to be badly hit.
      A good government prepares against natural disasters — and, at this point, the mass delusion in the UK does have that quality. There is no point in raging at an oncoming hurricane, instead batten down the hatches and prepare to spend on damage control.

      1. TheScream

        There is nothing the EU can do that involves the UK. Any concessions which would protect workers in France or Germany would be concessions that allow the UK to pick and choose what they want from the EU. Why would the EU accept that? Every other country would leave and then demand terms that involve only benefits with no costs.

        The UK is leaving. Ireland is going to suffer. France and Germany less. The only way to prevent that is to have the UK remain.

      2. fajensen

        The EU may not have a responsibility to rescue the British from their idiocy, but they do have a responsibility to try to minimize damage to their own citizens.

        Do they, Really? I don’t think so, in fact it was very much a British project to cleanse the EU from any form of “social dimension”. It’s a bit rich to claim what the UK didn’t want before is now important because the UK now wants to extort some concessions?

        Much to the dislike of the rabid Tory social-drawinist asset strippers, there are still some kind of safety net in operation: Working unions, flexible working hours, minium wage jobs, a functioning system of unemployment benefits and even social services on our side of the channel to pick up the slack.

        If needed, we can adjust all of those things to match the challenge – without giving anything to the UK side and, whats even better, the UK will not be there to veto anything either.

  7. EoH

    A mad rush of lemmings, each expecting the other to put a stop to this nonsense, even as they gather speed and momentum and approach the cliff edge.

  8. Mirdif

    “We’re very confident we have the instruments on the table and it should be doable using the legal, the practical and the time dimension to get this last big issue solved.”

    That’s from Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands talking to Nick Gutteridge from The Scum . I really think something is afoot and they are going to get this over the line somehow and deal with the issues later. I also tend to think, having put on my tin foil turban, that the BSE cow in Scotland is rather too convenient.

  9. David

    It’s an axiom in international politics that you don’t bring the top people to the table, with all the organisation and disruption that entails, unless either (1) it’s all been worked out and just needs to be officially blessed or (2) there are a few really intractable problems remaining that only the top people can solve. That is essentially why the November summit was cancelled, because it fulfilled neither condition, and it simply wasn’t worth the hassle. Moreover, a summit in November could only be a failure, and you don’t multiply failures unnecessarily. I don’t think it’s complacency as such, but a recognition that the crisis has to build further before a summit is justified. This would be true if you think May is pursuing either of the policies I suggested yesterday in a separate discussion, but also if you think the EU has a plan for fudging the crisis or alternatively bouncing the UK into effective surrender.
    On which point, today’s Le Monde is instructive, because it will be pretty close to official French thinking. The main purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was described as creating a “good atmosphere” to enable an agreement to be reached “ideally in November but if not in December.” May, it is suggested, needs more time to get a political consensus together. Nonetheless, the leaders of the 27 are “guardedly optimistic” according to Mark Rutte. Macron said that “there is a common desire to make progress but we’re not there yet.” He thought the deal was about 90% done. The article is realistic about the nature of the Irish problem, but notes that sometimes a salutary shock is necessary to get things moving. “A diplomat” is quoted as saying that “we are not at the base camp any more, but we are still several stages away from the summit.” All of which argues a degree of confidence by the EU27 that somehow things will come right, but I can’t find any indication that there’s any active planning going on, as is certainly the case for the crash-out alternative. Perhaps it’s a simple as the belief that time will do its work.
    One bright note in all this is the threat that, post-Brexit, British employers lay may actually have to start employing British workers in everything from the NHS to the farming sector, and pay them decent wages and give them decent working conditions. Whatever next?

  10. Synoia

    Please review three English statements:

    I’ve get the forema’s job at last…..
    I’m all right Jack.
    ……. Peasants.

  11. John k

    Looks like hard Brexit, so what comes after?
    Ww2 was difficult, they got over it albeit sans empire.
    Brexit will have blame game distraction… still, would like to see guesses of five years after Brexit on both sides of the channel. And how would recession affect both sides? Certainly more neolib and austerity in Europe, unless of course Germany is also in recession.
    any chance labor, if it takes power, would spend as it should?

  12. Burke

    Agreed that a major change of heart in the UK will only come after some kind of crisis: currency collapse, planes stop flying, food shortages, something like that.

    The question is what happens if there is no deal, and the crisis comes after the exit date, or very shortly before. Popular opinion in the UK would likely swing rapidly towards at least staying in the single market. Would there be an option to join the EEA?

    The UK parliament can basically pass whatever laws they want. But what are the legal constraints from the EU’s / EEA’s perspective? What are the political motivations of the actors involved, and how would a decision eventually be made?

    Anyone have any insights or thoughts?

    1. fajensen

      The question is what happens if there is no deal, and the crisis comes after the exit date, or very shortly before. Popular opinion in the UK would likely swing rapidly towards at least staying in the single market

      I think it will go the other way: “Popular Opinion” would be calling for sanctions and actual war against the EU/”Bruxelles” for “blockading the UK”, stealing “Our Fishing Waters” and so on.

      The UK does not have the ressources for a kinetic war, however, they can do cyber-warfare, activate terrorist cells kindly delivered from their friends in Saudi Arabia, maybe some bio-terrorism on harvests and livestock. Possibly Poland or someone like Poland can be persuaded to stir some shit with Russia, that the EU then has to handle.

      We live in irrational times; the politics game is no longer about solving or managing problems. It’s all about Being Right, and maybe it has even gone so far into the ditch that it is about Never Being Wrong!

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