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Our piece on Brexit was a bit long in coming because New York Magazine had some delays with the expansion of their site, which in turn led to editing delays, which kicked this piece back into that overly dynamic period right before the October summit, which meant retweaking it to look sufficiently current. But hopefully you’ll approve of the final result.
It was a challenge to boil such a big topic down into a relatively compact space. Clive, PlutoniumKun, and vlade gave enormously helpful comments, to the degree that Clive joked: “It’s had so many of us waffling on at you. I think this poor little article should have had a human rights attorney assigned to it, with so many of us trying to torture it.”
New York Magazine lets me excerpt a big chuck which you see below, and then you need to proceed to their site. I hope those of you who are game to provide comments will go the extra trouble of leaving them there and here.
Thanks again for your help, and particularly for all the very insightful and informative comments we’ve received over he course of our Brexit coverage.
Worried by gyrating stock markets? Spooked by the ten year anniversary of Lehman’s collapse? Time to stop fixating on emerging economies like Turkey, or Trump’s trade wars hurting global growth, and turn your focus to the U.K. — which is even now, after last week’s summit, on a path to the worst sort of Brexit, a disorderly “no deal” in which the U.K. leaves the European Union with no agreement at all on March 29. That means no plan and no disruption-reducing transition period — which in turn means chaos at U.K. and E.U. ports, food and medication shortages, and, if we’re unlucky, an eventual U.K. financial crisis for which we’re extremely unprepared. And there isn’t a scenario that has a decent chance of changing that trajectory.
Brexit was always going to be a messy divorce, but there are better and worse settlements. Best would be an agreement with a transition period, which would hit the pause button on the U.K.’s departure from the E.U., while allowing it to negotiate new treaties with other countries like the U.S. and South Korea. This would amount to a two-stage exit, allowing the U.K more time to untangle itself from the E.U. and both sides more runway to adapt to a U.K outside the so-called Single Market of borderless trade.
But with five months before the Brexit deadline, the “best-case” version of Brexit seems far away indeed, and none of the recent attempts to salvage it have succeeded. In September, the E.U. let U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May pitch her so-called Chequers plan to the national leaders at an informal session at Salzburg, but the plan — named for the site where her ministers agreed to it in July — was dead on arrival, because it crossed clearly and repeatedly stated E.U. red lines.
A mid-October European Council meeting, where heads of member states convene, was then set as a make-or-break moment for Brexit. A flurry of negotiations before the summit came to naught; May rejected draft terms the E.U. negotiators thought had been settled. She gave a short speech before a Wednesday dinner but had no ideas on how to resolve the most stubborn sticking point, how to handle the Irish border.
And then the Council decided not to proceed with a possible November special session, penciled in earlier in case the U.K. and E.U. were on the road to an agreement. They’re not.
The European side tried to put the best face possible on the breakdown in talks, pointing to the goodwill on both sides. Later reports suggest the mood among officials was sober, as they are helpless to solve the fact that there is no consensus in May’s ruling coalition or across parties in Parliament on what sort of Brexit the U.K. should have. And the one change in position that May voiced in her talk — that the U.K. might consider a longer transition period — demonstrated how hard it will be to settle the open questions: May came home to a firestorm of criticism as every faction of the Tories and her coalition partner, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) called for her head, and important Labour MPs also savaged the proposal. With no meeting in November, unless something radical changes, the U.K. is now committed to the default option: a Brexit with no deal whatsoever — and no desperately needed transition period.
What are the impediments? Theresa May claimed in Parliament this week that 95 percent of the Final Withdrawal Agreement has been completed. Items like a financial settlement (the so-called “Brexit bill”), the rights of E.U. and U.K. citizens, and even the once-heated issue of Gibraltar have been sorted out. But just as it’s possible to drown in six inches of water, the intractable 5 percent is enough to produce an impasse.
One sticking point is the fate of what the Irish call the British border in Ireland, and the U.K calls “Irish border….
Story continues here. Enjoy!
Any suggestions on what to write about next appreciated. I have a second piece that I’m staring on soon, but more ideas in the hopper always helps.
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