Like yesterday, the English language press is preoccupied with a drama that is not likely to drive the outcome of Brexit, and paying less attention to a bigger story. And in keeping, the UK is obsessed with its own politics, and again ignoring clear messages from the EU.
The show today is the last-ditch vote on May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Today is what was to have been Brexit day, so it seems fitting that this will also be the day on which May’s pact either gets approved or dies.
The smart money expects it to die. Some of the ERG is wobbling (more on them shortly) but the DUP is still against it and Labour is also whipping hard in opposition. Via Richard Smith:
Strong and stable. https://t.co/0d5ZKt872B
— Alison Thewliss (@alisonthewliss) March 29, 2019
I’ll skip over bits that were sources of much tooth-gnashing yesterday, such as how the Government decided to get past the John Bercow “No voting twice!” problem by parsing out the Withdrawal Agreement and adding some other bits. It’s not clear that this ruse works under Article 50 and it also pissed MPs off. But May is so low in Parliament’s estimation that she doesn’t appear to have much to lose.
Upddate 8:10 AM EDT: Richard Smith sent this rant in the form of a tweetstorm from Ian Dunt on what the Government is trying to pull off. Epic.
OK, debate begins on May's third-meaningful-vote-it's-not-a-meaningful-vote-but-actually-it-is-she's-a-desperate-liar.
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) March 29, 2019
Back to the original post:
One odd but telling part of this contest is the rationalization of supposed do-or-die ERG figures of their switch to support May’s deal. After decrying it as relegating the UK to being a “vassal state,” they’ve now decided that what they’d have before called a Brexit In Name Only is better than none. For instance, from Jonathan Isby, editor of BrexitCentral (and who will soon need to make an honest living):
Leaving without a deal – a clean break from the EU – is what I would prefer to the bad deal that has been presented to us by the Government – a view that I know is shared by many BrexitCentral readers. But I’m afraid I have come to the conclusion that No Deal is simply not an option on offer, given the political reality and parliamentary arithmetic of a House of Commons which two days ago rejected the idea of No Deal by a majority of 240.
Most Naked Capitalism readers can see the flaw in the reasoning. Parliament is not driving the Brexit bus. Parliament said “no” to no deal, but it also said no to everything, and also still has unicorns on its menu of things it thinks it might get. No deal is still the default, even though the EU graciously allowed the UK a bit more time to attempt to sort itself out and settle on something is achievable (in Barnier’s ladder terms). Really really objecting to “no deal” is not sufficient to prevent that from happening.
But the BrexitCentral/Ultra view illustrates how, still, after 1000+ days, most of the UK’s political classes still have not gotten it through their thick heads that the EU always had more leverage, and has even more now. If May’s final push for her agreement fails, as expected, the best the UK can hope for is that it is able to make a coherent enough pitch for an extension before April 12 to win the EU’s approval.
The EU has gone into “no deal” overdrive. Barnier has said for some time that no deal looked like the most likely outcome. The EU is now engaging in intensive preparation, not just to deal with the immediate impact of a crash out, but also how to take advantage of the UK’s stupidity without going into Versailles Treaty territory.
The number and level of the players involved suggests that this is not posturing to send a signal to the UK, but that the EU expects a crash out. They may have had some hope of an Article 50 revocation based on the tremendous response to the online petition calling for it. However, the magnitude of defeat on a revocation motion yesterday, 184 versus 293, put paid to that idea. From the Guardian:
The EU has moved into full crisis mode, with officials now setting the terms the UK will have to meet for Brussels to open talks on avoiding an economic meltdown in the weeks after a no-deal Brexit…
It was agreed among the member states that for there to be any talks after the UK has crashed out, the bloc’s 27 capitals will expect Downing Street to agree to signal by 18 April that it will pay the £39bn Brexit bill despite the failure of the Commons to ratify the withdrawal agreement.
The terms of the Irish backstop, keeping Northern Ireland in large parts of single market legislation and the EU’s customs territory in order to protect the Good Friday agreement, would remain as the bloc’s solution for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The residence rights of citizens and coordination on social security laid out in the withdrawal agreement would also need to be respected….
Ambassadors agreed they would expect the UK to come back to the negotiating table “pretty soon with an ask to ensure the vital lines and procedures needed for the UK economy to survive”.
“The EU is now already discussing what their price is for entering those discussions,” one diplomat said.
The EU denying an extension even if the UK asks for a non-unicorn is higher odds than most pundits think. If one were to summarize what appears to be the non-so-secret views of many, and potentially most, EU diplomats and leaders, Brexit has become a huge energy drain and they do not want the UK to continue to be an albatross around their necks. There appears to be an increasingly hardline view that of all the bad options, a crash out may not be so terrible. It will help businesses who say they’d rather have a no deal than more uncertainty. It would simplify negotiations with the UK. It might also force its pols out of their stupor.
The reason this line of thought might not be as mad as it sound is that the option that now looks like it has the best odds of getting approved by Parliament is a customs union. But as Richard North explained yesterday, that does not solve the Irish border problem and in many respects is barely better than a crash out. And recall that Sir Ivan Rogers said that it would take the UK five to ten years to be able to trade with Europe on a mere free trade agreement basis, which again is roughly where a mere customs agreement would wind up.
So does the EU really want to give the UK a what, one year extension, go through all the brain damage of negotiating a new deal (and even, say a transition period too), only to have what amounts to a crash out at the end of all that because the UK didn’t understand how much runway it needed? While EU officials normally like “kick the can”s approaches, this one comes at a very large cost, would make businesses unhappy and would keep the UK in the European Parliament. So this isn’t at all a “kick the can” approach. It is more like “Pay now and still pay later.”
Reader Mirdif is party to rumors that are consistent with our reading:
Apparently, a discussion has been taking place in Brussels as to if the cost of a long extension is more than no deal. A growing opinion is that no deal is less costly and will unblock the process definitively. I tend to think this is overly confident and quite reckless but it’s the kind of call you can make with more confidence if you’re in the drivers seat so-to-speak. Also, the EU Commission is taking its hardline stance from the EU27 leaders especially Macron, Merkel and surprisingly Mark Rutte and Xavier Bettel. The UK is dealing with people who are sympathetic and yet will act ruthlessly so what of other forces in the world especially where there are axes to grind both of the colonialist variety and having bombs dropped on your head under cover of international law variety.
Reader Ataraxite also pointed out that the prospect of replacing the known-even-though-problematic May with an unknown during an extension is another negative for the EU:
May has thrown a spanner into the extension works with her promise to resign, although she doesn’t realise it. It means the EU will now be even more wary of extending any trust to the UK for a longer extension, as they now realise its ever more likely that they won’t be dealing with the useless-but-sane May, but possible one of the rabid Ultras. A long extension, in addition to the problems in the European Parliament, grants Britain leverage in future negotiations. This has been flagged by them, but the succession of the UK PM puts the risk into far starker relief.
It’s obvious the EU is playing a good cop/bad cop routine – Tusk is the good cop, making noises to remainers, and keeping the path clear for a reasonably rapid (say within 5-10 years) return of the UK to the EU if it does leave. The bad cop will likely be Macron, who represents that significant strand of thinking in the EU27 that the UK is for now, far more trouble than it’s worth.
I don’t think the risk of a new Prime Minister is a big consideration but it strikes me as likely that any decision on an extension will be hard fought, so considerations that would normally be marginal could tip the balance
And remember it only takes one no vote to bar an extension (although in reality, it’s hard to think one county would go it alone; they’d want a little company). Macron is still not happy with the idea of keeping Brexit in play. From The Sun:
EMMANUEL Macron’s top advisor on Europe has said Britain shouldn’t hold a second referendum and signalled France could block a long Brexit delay…
And she warned against the political “chaos” gripping the UK being allowed to infect Europe, insisting the time was right for us to leave the bloc.
She said: “There is chaos, there is confusion. I’m against a new referendum because it would be a denial of democracy. Britain must leave.”
Mr Macron opposes a long extension and has lobbied other EU leaders hard to keep any delay to Brexit as short as possible.
The UK may be about to create new unicorns. One troublesome element is that the normally astute Michel Barnier seems not to grasp that a mere customs union solves almost nothing; he is reported as having supported Corbyn’s latching onto it and also made hopeful remarks about how that option only lost by eight votes in the round of indicative votes. Richard North revisits the topic today and says that MPs may be about to create a new Frankenstein option:
However, this [second round of indicative votes]could prove distinctly problematical as the top two slots are taken respectively by Kenneth Clarke’s custom union and by a referendum on any plan agreed by MPs.
Just to confuse the situation still further, there is talk of splicing the absurd customs union option with the equally absurd Kinnock/Boles Common Market 2.0 plan, to produce a hybrid option, the like of which no mortal person has ever seen before…
But there is no possible way that a customs union in any shape of form could satisfy the UK’s trading needs or form the basis of a relationship with the EU. Anyone with the remotest idea of the history of the EU, and the progression from the custom union to the Single Market, will understand this to be the case. Even with the EU’s customs union fully in place, by the early 1980s there were still delays averaging 80 minutes for lorries at the EEC’s internal borders.
In any event, the current outline written into the political declaration allows for a tariff and quota-free agreements, while adoption of the EU’s WTO tariff schedules gives us the effect of a common external tariff without the need to commit to a customs union.
Further, tariffs have very little impact on border management as they are largely paid electronically, and even the much-hyped rules of origin are managed beyond the border. Delays at borders are more likely to arise through non-tariff barriers, requiring the adoption of Single Market systems and other measures to ensure frictionless trade.
May could still throw a spanner by accident or design. May has said she’s not necessarily going to be Parliament’s messenger boy. She won’t present proposals she is sure the EU will reject and she’s said she’s not keen about an extension beyond May 22.
Moreover, May being reasonable or faux reasonable could run up against deadlines. We warned that even if Parliament agrees on something, and even if that something is kinda-sorta-maybe something the EU would consider, who firms it up into a real proposal? What if May goes passive aggressive and tells Parliament to flesh it out? What if she delivers an end product that is so sketchy that the odds are high the EU won’t accept it?
Even more so than usual, whether the UK gets an extension (charitably assuming Parliament gets out of its own underwear), is likely to depend on human considerations: how the request is framed and whether the UK looks as if it is attempting to solve its problem or looks to be again dumping its internal conflicts on the EU’s lap. EU officials are tired of Brexit. EU businesses are tired of Brexit. Even if it might be rational for some of them to be patient, the UK has been hugely vexing and shows no willingness or ability to shape up.
However, as much as emotional and even a lot of rational considerations (such as the risk to the EU project of having the UK continue in the the European Parliament), the EU has a curious and large constraint: they need to feel they are being fair. The UK is still a member. The European Union has survived as long as it has, despite the damage done by the bad design features of the Eurozone, because a genuine effort has been made to appear to be evenhanded. Everyone knows that is not completely true; big countries often get breaks that the smaller countries don’t. But not trampling smaller countries, and not being arbitrary and capricious is extremely important. Any decision on an extension will be highly visible and therefore also held to high standards due to its obvious importance.
Thus even though the EU has repeatedly insisted that the UK needs to give a clear reason for seeking an extension, which has meant giving a coherent explanation as to how it will put a process in place to arrive at a different Brexit, that has been an effort to shift the burden off the EU (that it must justify a “no” to an extension) to the UK (to make it justify why the EU should grant a yes).
Logically, the structure of Article 50 means that any extension is a gift that the country who triggered it has no reason to expect. But the EU seems to have needed to convince itself of that. To put it another way, the UK, by asking for an extension, has put the at least some EU members in the position of worrying that they will be seen as throwing the UK out of their house. But even that feeling can lead to resentment as opposed to guilt.
In other words, my sense is that there are sensibilities at play that are important and are unlikely to be articulated explicitly, but will be bundled into arguments and will weigh on the participants. And that means how the UK approaches the EU is likely to have disproportionate impact.
A new word for Brexit, from former Irish president Mary McAleese : Necrotising Fasciitis
I’ve heard through the grapevine that there are some very senior legal advisors from Brussels in Dublin today, no doubt brainstorming the legal issues involved in a no-deal. I also talked to a senior civil servant who said that the working assumption was that the situation would crystalize the closer March 29th came – but instead its been the opposite. So there is some confusion at a higher administrative level as to what exactly they have to do and whether they should go into war mode over a no-deal. Varadkar is meeting Merkel and Macron on Tuesday, no doubt he’ll be given his instructions, which he’ll pass on down the chain of command when he’s back on Wednesday.
The Irish government have been adamant that there should be no preparations for a no-deal, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t some plans lurking around. If its true that Merkel has been leaning on Varadkar to point out Irelands obligations over trade then there will have to be at least some symbolic checks on the major roads from day one. This isn’t logistically impossible – the main roads are just 2-3 hours from the major concentrations of army/police, so its not a huge mobilisation to have symbolic checkpoints with one or two customs officers. But this isn’t sustainable in the longer term.
Some businesses are preparing – a colleague told me that her online Sweaty Betty yoga gear order this week from England had a customs form attached…
Varadkar does, if reporting is accurate, still seem to be in deep denial https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/republic-of-ireland/eu-agencies-are-exploring-max-fac-border-system-despite-previous-derision-37954736.html
But Leo, nothing in the GFA resolves the border in a No Deal outcome.
Plus, even if the EU27 were suddenly to embrace Max Fac, ignoring totally any verification of animal product and phytosanitary checks, none of the necessary infrastructure is in place. They won’t be by the 12th April, either. At best, the EU’s “preparations” are a plan for a plan. We’re talking a minimum of a year, possibly as much as much as two years, to get a functional Max Fac implementation. During which time, assuming a No Deal, the entire Single Market edifice is in legal limbo (the standards will be in place but there’s no realistic enforcement).
Hard to see Merkel living happily with this very un-Germanic jurisprudencial handwave. No matter what Macron might think. And we all know who wears the trousers in the Council.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall at this meeting.
Doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that’s going to all decided upon in the next week, to me.
I’m not sure that article says anything we don’t know, which is that there have been working parties between north and south active for the last two years looking at various technical issues. I’m pretty sure there are workable tracking systems for movements between established ‘nodes’. For example, tankers of Guinness drive every day from Dublin to NI to be bottled/canned, much of the product then sent back down south. I assume there would be a fairly easy verification system to ensure the canned draught Guinness that is then re-exported to Europe is legally ‘kosher’. I don’t really know how they could do the same, for example, for a chilled readymade meal for M&S with a dozen or so ingredients.
As for Varadkar, I suspect he doesn’t believe that stuff about the GFA, it is simply for Northern nationalist consumption. He and Coveney have been strongly focused at keeping border communities and northern nationalists ‘onside’. How he will avoid making border checkpoints look like a betrayal is another matter, but I think at this stage the DUP is doing all his hard work for him.
Varadkar has just said (at least, it’s on the Sky News ticker so we have to assume it’s a verbatim quote) “we should be open to a long extension should the UK decide to fundamentally alter its position”.
For the first and possibly only time, I cannot help but be in complete agreement with him.
You could see how something realistic or at least something that could be made realistic with a bit of work could emerge. If the U.K. accepted a Customs Union, the EU27 accepted Max Fac and both accepted mutual animal product and phytosanitary (I hope that’s spelt right, my crappy phone doesn’t have a lookup for it and I am too past caring to faff around with Google) standards recognition, that’s a workable compromise so long as no-one mentions the backstop. Or something like that.
Or everyone can keep digging their respective heels in.
And this article – by a well known security analyst – hints at another big problem Varadkar will face – the army, police and customs bodies will see this as a perfect opportunity to start negotiating hard for more money for their members and equipment. You would well see a deliberate ‘go slow’ even if Varadkar orders a full border mobilisation. Its a once in a few decades opportunity for those bodies to squeeze a few billions out and they won’t hesitate to use it.
Good point about the military lining up for more money.
But one should stop them (and ourselves) and ask this question: “Is the ‘English’ border (the one between NI and RoI) for: military defence against or military action toward your neighbour or protection against unregulated, un-standardized, and un-desired goods, services, and people?
The first answer requires a military force, the second answer requires a police force; two entirely difference forces, in their purpose and their cost to their respective society to build and maintain.
Thank you, Yves, and PK.
“What, these? No, they aren’t plans for no-deal.
They are ‘contingency maps’.”
I would say RoI leaders are about as culpable as our golden shower if they haven’t been planning for no-deal.
Thanks for all the great reporting, as usual.
A question: can the UK still unilaterally withdraw its A50 notification after today?
As I understand it, tonight the short extension kicks in. If, as expected, Parliament rejects the WA today, it will be a short extension followed by a crash-out on 12 April. Am I correct that such an extension is legally a different phase than the 2-year A50 phase which is ending today? Does this mean that UK loses its final card today, that of unilateral A50 withdrawal, and consequently the EU has now even more leverage?
Until 12 April, I believe the EU might still approve a longer extension, either in the case Parliament ends up approving WA after all (MV4, 5?), or if they commit to EP elections and present some kind of plan or changed political process. The latter might be a cross-party consensus of some form of softer Brexit, with appropriate adjustments to the Political Declaration. As I said, this all seems unlikely to come together, and anyway this window closes 12 April.
Yes, the UK has a clear extension till April 12, so it could withdraw right up to the very last minute (asking for an extension at the last minute isn’t on, however). It would need to have done whatever it needs to do to participate in the EU Parliamentary elections too.
The EU isn’t so keen about having the UK participate if it is still on a probable path to Brexit, but I think it would be much less conflicted if the UK did so along with a revocation.
However, today is the last day to approve May’s Withdrawal Agreement. If the UK were to approve today, it would get an extension to May 22 to pass enabling legislation.
Thanks for that!
Parliament rejected May’s ‘deal’ by 58 votes. Now comes Monday.
My question is when Nicola files for Scottish independence again.
I actually think this is a positive thing as it, years for now and after Brexit, breaks the logjam that is currently British politics and resets the political balance.
Just for Brexit kicks, it’s worth watching Madame Sturgeon twirling her rapier in the Edinburgh parliament – a witty politician, and the contrasts to Westminster’s PMQs are interesting – just search Scottish first ministers questions for 28 March on BBC iPlayer.
One other thought – I do think May’s threat to resign might increase the chance of Europe pulling the plug on the UK. Its bad enough for them to have to deal with May, but they do of course read the English newspapers so they must be aware that the Ultras see this as the chance to put Boris or Raab into the PM’s chair before the summer is out. The idea of being stuck in negotiations with a hard core Brexiter with a party mandate to create hell must give most of the leaders nightmares.
I think that today’s voting result –if not approved– will also be important. A strong defeat will send the EU a signal that it will very difficult to compromise on a future alternative.
May’s remarks about resigning were typically evasive (“the next stage”) and she’s reversed herself so often that I’m not sure anyone regards this as a bankable promise. But as I understand it, she only resigns (probably) if the WA is passed, in which case a number of things are locked in. On the other hand, if the WA is not passed, she doesn’t resign. Of course I accept that for the EU it’s a choice of evils, but I’m fairly sure they must share the general interpretation of the resignations threat (?) promise (?) as a desperate last throw, rather than a considered judgement about her future. I think it’s also very likely (and the EU will realise this) that a Boris-led government, or similar, simply wouldn’t survive very long. There’s evidence from 79-79 that a minority government dependent on other parties for survival will eventually succumb to the attrition of repeated motions of confidence. And a GE, whilst dangerous for all, would surely tear the Tory party apart.
Just an observation – I think it was in January she confirmed in interview that she would not lead the conservatives into the next election, and in the next breath pointed out the next election is the one scheduled for 2022.
Why would it be a nightmare?
The EU leaders are sympathetic to May’s plight, if exasperated by her bull-headedness, but they feel nothing but deep contempt for Boris Johnson (Raab is a non-entity and beneath contempt).
They would probably enjoy the schadenfreude of telling Johnson to “go whistle” for any of his no doubt cakeist demands, with none of the courtesy they afforded May. Not to mention male EU leaders of a certain generation like Barnier are more likely to afford those courtesies to a woman in the first place.
What’s most likely is they have made barebones contingency plans for the first few weeks of no-deal, then perform an intervention, but the terms will be the same as May’s deal, take it or leave it. I suspect they have also made humanitarian assistance plans like the provision of critical medicines like insulin or Euratom radionucleides for cancer treatment. Say what you want about the EU bureaucracy, it is staffed by competent and dedicated people, and the same is true of Germany or France.
My, probably overly, simple minded read of the EU extension to April 12th at the time was three options:
1. Extend the date of crash out to give more time to prepare
2. Elect MEP’s for a longer extension
3. Pass, ha ha ha, the WA, ha ha ha
Don’t see anything happening regarding option 2, and option 3 will be dismissed shortly, again. I think we’ll get one more kick of the can to some arbitrary date between April 12th and May 22 for final preparations, which the UK will need to fortify 10 Downing street and the MI6 tunnels to Westminster.
The conditions for a “long” extension are:
1. Get request in before April 12 (last minute was explicitly stated as not on).
2. Do what is necessary so as to participate in European Parliament elections (Clive has described long form that it isn’t at all clear whether this takes legislation or a mere notice from a minister, but Something Must Be Done)
3. “Indicate a way forward”. That in context means to a different sort of Brexit. Readers are divided on whether this was intended to set a low bar or the EU leaders were fudging for the moment and reserving the right to duke out later how high the bar needed to be.
As you state them, none of 1-3 meet those criteria.
What if, and for the sake of argument leaving aside for now how unlikely or impractical this may be, parliament were to approve WA/PS next week? The government takes that to the EUCO saying, Sorry it took so long but we did it. Can we please now leave on May 22? Don’t you think that would be accepted?
If the WA passes on say Tuesday I would say it’s very likely the UK gets its extension to the 22nd.
This is it. This was the day that Brexit was supposed to have kicked in and the UK left the EU and all the attending consequences, few of which had been prepared for. The one that we have been expecting for the past two years. And now the clock is running down for the next 14 days. If today was not a sharp warning for those MPs to get their literal Act together, them I don’t know what else could be.
This could be the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom as such. Places like Wales and Scotland voted Remain after all. I wonder if Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales & Scotland got together and formed a Celtic Union, if the EU would accept them as a block. I’m sure that Brittany in France would put in a good word for them.
“If today was not a sharp warning for those MPs to get their literal Act together, them I don’t know what else could be.”
It is not the MPs, it is the electorate they represent. There is not a consensus to be had. This was predicted on this blog a year ago.
A note about Wales is that it did, from what I can tell, vote for Leave (not a supermajority, but by a majority). Scotland, of course, voted for Remain, along with Northern Ireland (not of course). Due to Northern Ireland basically not having its own Parliament, I would expect Scotland to stand alone.
The EU would probably not want to accept Scotland back immediately but would perhaps offer a route (EFTA-style due to similar size, perhaps?) to join in spirit but not name.
I find it interesting that the people that believe that the EU is likely to break up does not see the similarities to the UK breaking up (“take back control”, “sovereignity” etc), just as I suspect that I (being of a rather opposite bent) might be seeing an inevitable breakdown in the UK which may never come.
True, but I believe the Welsh-speaking areas voted to remain.
Yes, my understanding is Welsh-born inhabitants voted Remain, English-born living in Wales voted Leave.
If Scotland and Wales were to secede, and apply to join the EU, wouldn’t that require two more hard borders?
It’s hard to imagine the English establishment going along with that…
A great Celtic revival! The spirits of Boadicea, Wallace, and Finghin MacCarthy are astir in the land.
This is funnier than the Daily Mash. Cabinet minister gives very sweary NSFW response about May.
Sorry for repeat – the Tweet didn’t load on my mobile device when I read original posting. Feel free to delete.
Hehe! Haven’t watched Newsnight for years.
It’s no surprise that the UK politicians negotiating the WA agreement consistently overestimated the economic and political power of the UK in those negotiations. After all that overestimation is the ROOT cause of Brexit in the first place. If you think that the EU is just holding Britain back from greatness, than you are also going to think that all the wogs will be desperate to trade with you on terms favorable to you.
You couldn’t be more right. The trouble with the Brexiteers is that they think that the British Empire was a great thing. The fly in the ointment is that 2.5 billion + of the world think the exact opposite.
Jim A & Avidremainer, You can’t go round making statements like that, you’ll scare the horses, or servants or peasants or something.
We Brits are best with our backs against a wall (I think that’s so we can’t stab each other in the back)(it doesn’t seem to be working)
I tug my forelock at you sir
The empire WAS a pretty good thing for Brits. The fact that it WAS at best a mixed bag for the rest of the empire is irrelevant to what the rest of Europe feels that their FUTURE trading relationship with the UK should be. WITHOUT the empire, the UK is a middling sized European economy. And THAT simple fact is what Brexiteers are willfully blind to. It is an aspiration to a black and white coloured post war period that never really existed, as an alternative to a Thatcherite imbued present of every greater wealth concentration.
No, indeed there was a large political movement at the height of empire to get rid of it, because it was preventing domestic investment and favouring the colonies. They were called the Little Englanders, a term now applied to Brexiteers – ironic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Englander
Ah well ” The empire was a pretty good thing for Brits “. The Empire was a superb thing if you lived in Chatsworth and Mayfair and several other places ( i.e one family living in several high end residences) . It was absolutely crap for the vast majority.
Jacob Rees Mogg once defended the invention of concentration camps in South Africa by Lord Kitchener during the Boer war because the death rate in these camps was exactly the same as in late 19th and early 20th century Glasgow. Now the audience clapped because here was a man who was defending the Empire.
The death rates in practically every city in the UK at the time were equivalent to the death rates in the concentration camps. No one wondered why the upper classes didn’t treat their fellow Brits better than they did the Boers in South Africa.
I’m afraid that the 2.5 billion + inhabitants who think the British Empire was atrocious would not even accept that it was even so good as a “mixed bag”.
That said you are right the Brexiteers are blind.
Avidremainer. Listen up ignoramuses, all we got from occupying India was apparently a lousy $43Trillion, it was hardly worth the trip over.
In passing, we seem to be in a bit of a tight spot at the moment, could you all please empty your pockets and check down the back of the sofa (couch to you foreign types) if you find the odd trillion we could probably find a good home for it (look even in the sale Turnbull and Asser are charging £50 for a pair of socks, £95 regular price.https://turnbullandasser.co.uk/socks-re-cashmere-plain-knitted-2-1-1) (have you seen the price of a Bentley!)
We really do need the money
Checked sofa…found three buttons, no Sovereign. Sofa so good.
The Indian empire was a good thing for the Brits for a long time. The African empire was a good thing for Rhodes, Lugard, and a fairly small number of others, but a net loser for the nation.
Have a look at Edmund Burke’s exhausting campaign in parliament for the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the tyrannical CEO of the East India Company – a great philosopher imposing his ideas on the real world, only to be frustrated.
It wasn’t for working people. Cheap Indian cottons replaced textiles and embroidered pieces made by women as a very important part of household incomes.
Some Kremlinology from Robert Peston last night, apparently people in Whitehall are telling Peston that Theresa May would actually be ok with a no-deal exit: “They may be wrong, but if no-deal Brexit is really Theresa May’s Plan B, the House of Commons does not – as yet – have a device to stop her.”
My view is that in a crash-out May is guaranteed the prime minister’s job until the end of the year, with Henry VIII powers and an constant supply of crises to apply those powers to. What’s not to like? Of course May can blame everyone else for not passing the Withdrawal Agreement, she even offered to fall on her sword!
A question for anyone who feels like answering: If you were a remainer Labour MP voting today, would you vote for the WA? You would surrender to May’s hostage taking and probably guarantee years of Tory government while they continued to Brexit (in every sense of the word). But the alternatives are holding out for a last minute rescue or shooting the hostage; nobody has the faintest idea what the long-term political results of either would be IMHO.
Oh I missed that from Peston and I had looked at his Twitter feed. Thanks for supplying that.
I’m not surprised. I quoted what May said about Brexit to Parliament the day they “took back control,” about needing to deliver on what the people had voted on and arguing that an extension beyond May 22 would be divisive. That says she sees the only two choices are her deal or a crash out. She’s been saying that in code; Peston is now saying that really is her view and not posturing or being obtuse.
That is one reason why I have pegged the odds of a no deal as still pretty high. May also said explicitly she might disregard what Parliament votes on, and she is still the one who deals with the EU.
As both options are a leap in the dark, the question should maybe be: who would you prefer holding your hand when you jump; the EU, or Boris?
I’m not sure I get what you’re saying. If the WA passes and May leaves (1) then we will still be in a relationship with the EU and we will get someone like BoJo as prime minister; so they both hold our hands? If we crash out we are pretty distant from the EU (politically and legally) and we still have May in charge.
(1) Well, she said she would leave if it passes… Let’s assume that she will for now.
More or less on topic:
How the messy Brexit could be an opportunity for India
Barnier commented on the customs union proposal from Clarke. It is clearly understood on the EUCO side, that this would be a change in the political declaration only and the WA would be signed unchanged, e.g. single market alignment for NI only with regulatory checks in the Irish sea as backstop. If parliament meant something different, than EUCO and parliament talk past each other.
Dunt is talking non-sense in that twitter storm. He claims, it is obviously true, that the EU would allow for a longer extension, if the UK asked, but in reality there were conditions attached to that offer. If parliament can’t propose a reasonable way forwards before April 12th, the EU would (according to the implied texts, changes of opinion are always possible) deny an extension beyond April 12th.
As well his claim, that agreeing to the WA would mean, that the options are down to May’s deal (most of the deal is the WA, which is not May’s deal, but the red lines of the EU) and no-deal is wrong. As agreement to the WA would lead to an extension until 22nd May, up until that date a revocation would be possible. What indeed would become impossible is a referendum, but a referendum anyhow makes only sense, if the only acceptable outcome is remain. So there is not too a big difference to have parliament giving confidence to a remainer PM and have him revoke article 50 without a referendum.
The WA can only be ratified in UK law once the commons has approved both it plus the PD (or FFR). Once there is ratification, can there be revocation of the Art.50 notice?
Have to say, I am luving this!
The treaty specifies an exit day – it would be novel, but in light with the ecj ruling, I would think revocation is possible until time runs out or it enters into force.
MV3 fails by 58 votes.
Surprise surprise, she copes it in again.
WA was not approved. Majority of 50+
Oh, England – my lionheart.
Thank you Yves,
re: Barnier’s overly optimistic embrace of Corbyn’s customs union proposals:
My read is that Barnier assumes that if parliament acquiesces to ANY form of “softer Brexit”, the task of translating that into a workable legal framework will fall on the EU’s shoulders anyway. The details are as yet irrelevant because neither the government nor parliament are capable of engaging with the problems on that level. All he’s looking for is a gesture in the direction of one of the steps on his stairs, which can then constitute either “a way forward” for an extension or a “more ambitious partnership” for ratification of the WA with a softer direction for the PD. I think Corbyn is at least somewhat aware of this because he has lately referred to not just a CU but also to close alignment to single market standards.
In practice, this would mean Parliament either explicitly or implicitly selects a place on Barnier’s stairs (either Norway or Ukraine would be my bet, depending on the urgency of ending FoM) and the commission gets to work. I see two very, very narrow theoretical paths to get there from where we are today. Either labour’s “plans” get put into the political declaration as a price for backing the WA, and the EU hammers out what they look like during the transition. Or the government somehow manages to agree to and obtain a longer extension before the 12th, based on some kind of CU/Soft Brexit preference that needs to finally emerge from Parliament -which then gets “translated” by the EU during that extension.
This is not in the least bit realistic of course, but I think it explains why Barnier has been keeping this particular cat-flap open. My money’s still on no-deal, of course.
I’d agree with that – I can’t believe Barnier doesn’t know that a CU is pretty much a hard Brexit. But I think he believes (as I suspect do other smarter CU supporters) that it can be used as a trojan horse to work to a softer Brexit.
Yes, and even though the chances of succes are very slim, Barnier’s course of action doesn’t really have obvious (to me) drawbacks. Unlike Tusk’s interventions that have in the past threatened to undermine the proces by feeding MPs’ illusions that there is more time to be had or that a referendum is anything but a gamble on top of another gamble.
As an alternative to no-deal, CU is politically way better for the EU (Except for the Irish border, but it it leads to reunification, than who knows..)
Just think of this:
– no independent trade policy for the UK
– the UK still rule taker (and not rule-messer) for any exports to the EU
– no table for the UK on any other political or SM issues..
– break of supply chains means more businesses exit the UK and move to the EU
– same on new investment – no Singapore on Thames even remotely possible
– not having to worry about City and the whole finance industry concentration
I think if it wasn’t for Irish question, the EU would go for CU on a drop of the hat.
Which to me here shows something else, that Yves touches on. The solidarity. Yes, the eurozone is a debtors prison (if you let it take that way, and sometimes you migth not have a choice). But the EU project itself allows smaller countries to have a clout, not just to be targets of the bigger and richer. That it’s happening with English and Irish (and possibly Scottish down the line) is just one of the better ironies of the life.
As I prattle on about above, if the EU27 will accept Max Fac and a smidge of mutual recognition, the border problem can be made to go away, so long as no-one looks too closely. However, I suspect passporting of financial services might be a U.K. requirement for agreeing to participating in a Customs Union.
But we are firmly into genetically engineering unicorns here. However, what else are eighteen month extensions there for, if not to enjoy ourselves?
“genetically engineering unicorns” noted
Thanks, that’s an interesting point. As a market for highly regulated services the UK probably won’t be missed by many, as a market for goods it isn’t going anywhere (though it’ll shrink).
I wonder about the stability of a long-term CU though. When Robbins and May pushed for a CU to be attached to the Irish backstop (cynically leveraging the Irish peace-process), the EU insisted on a swathe of level playing field provisions. I can’t see the EU agreeing to a permanent CU without similar provisions in place and that’s a lot of rules to agree to take for the UK indefinitely.
You’re absolutely right re: solidarity and clout for small countries. Brexit functions as an important demonstration (more so than the “pour discourager les autres” angle that the English media pushed for so long). I bet even a lot of Greeks will feel they chose the lesser evil when they peer across the Aegean (though the EU is going to have to do a lot more to keep everyone on-side wrt OBOR).
Yes, I like that translation idea – you propose, Mr Corbyn, and we dispose whichever way we see fit. The problem for old Labour with EFTA is that it allows FOM and Freedom of Establishment too, but in political terms that can be fudged. I hope!
Looking at the state of things right this second (oh God!), there are suggestions May is trying to get MP’s to choose between her deal and a customs union, because it was the top loser of the indicative vote process (so NOT the Corbyn-proposal that Barnier OK’d), see here:
If this is true, AND if that plan somehow gains the backing of MPs it could constitute “a way forward” to get a long extension (with attendant EP-election). During that transition we just might see a Brussels-led process that stretches a straight Turkey-style customs union out into a vaguely Ukraine-style association treaty, stopping short of freedom of movement (Guy Verhoffstadt has floated that possibility when he gave evidence to the Lords, early last year iirc).
Still not great. Still needs to have broad support in Parliament. Still requires special status for NI and thus displeases the DUP who could detonate the government (whose government?). Still somehow needs a different PM to engage with the EU on this course (another sacrificial lamb while the Big Beasts wait until the coast is clear? Leadsom? Lidington?). Still “sub-optimal” for the EU in terms of process and outcome. Still % upon % upon % upon %.
But it’s on Barnier’s stairs and so it might be worth a punt if you’re a centrist MP who wants to stave off no-deal or at least kick the can down the road?
My money is still firmly on no-deal though… We won’t have clarity until the UK comes back to the table some time after a crash-out (and I think Brussels is very optimistic if they think that’ll happen within five days).
Yes, I think the assessments of Yves and Richard North are the most considered, and therefore crash-out quick is the most likely outcome. But I feel the UK will be given a “helpful” push on its way – if only to shut us up for a political generation!
The chances of European Parliament elections in the UK are very high now while chances of crash out remain low but more advanced than previously. Indeed a general election is more likely than crash out and it would be a neat way to hide the European Parliament elections. However, even this might not be enough to unlock a long extension. Tusk has announced an EU Council on 10 April and they’ll likely put on very very stringent conditions on how the UK must vote – in addition to the current restrictions the UK abides by – especially with a view to protecting the MAFF. All the whinging about vassal state and yet the country is already a real vassal state.
I’m not seeing anything that supports this position (the odds of the UK staying in the EU being better than a crash out).
Do you have any references/sources that point to this optimistic view of the UK being part of the EU past April 12?
I simply don’t see how a crash out can be avoided at this point. The problem isn’t just unicorn hunters. Every* option (crash out, Withdrawal Agreement, or rescinding article 50) is the worst or second-worst option for a sufficiently large percentage of MPs (and indeed, their constituents) that they won’t be approved. And the autopilot is set to no-deal, so that is what happens, even though a majority don’t want it.
*and at this late date, those are the only three options. Everything else is a unicorn, either because it requires agreement from the EU, there isn’t enough time, or both.
Everyone harps on time being a problem. This is the EU, there is that well known wheeze of stopping the clock and only starting the clock when consensus has been achieved.
I do though agree that no deal is odds on.
Except I don’t think the EU wants to seat any UK MEPs so they will stick to the current date of April 12 and be very critical of any extension proposals (if any are even offered).
The whole Brexit process has gone beyond toxic; it’s now radioactive. I think the EU would rather deal with the pain of a crash out than have to deal with the political basket case that the UK has become.
Okay, I found the source you may be referencing from the BBC.
However, I’m not sure I trust this from the PM as there is also a statement saying selecting MEPs may not happen. Honestly I see this as another tactic and not a good faith effort – and I don’t think the EU will be impressed. Unless Article 50 is rescinded, the EU holds all the cards and can reject any plan the UK presents.
My apologies, this should have been a response to Mirdif above.
April 12 is a hard deadline for participation in the EU Parliament elections. That is a UK problem and there does not appear to be any way around it save maybe primary legislation.
On top of that , EU pols absolutely do not want a crashout happening close to the date of the vote itself. So both argue against any slippage.
I think ego prevents the UK from revoking Article 50. They voluntarily installed the 2 year limit, they voluntarily negotiated for two year and now would voluntarily say “oh never mind”? They would be the laughing stock of Europe and for a people obsessed with maintaining the appearance they are important on the international stage – I can’t see that being allowed to happen. JMHO
At this point a no-deal exit is the only route that gives them any credibility. It also likely means Ireland and Scotland are leaving the UK in the next decade.
I’m so weary from enduring Brexit and our own political fiasco; please ignore this comment: Question: Why don’t we have a digital central clearinghouse for real things – trade goods – something on a global scale to mutualize a trade-credit system? Let a computer do it because politics is piracy. Wouldn’t that eliminate the dysfunctional dictatorship of money, or at least reduce it to an electronic current? After all, money is nothing otherwise. And thereby create a global “balance” with a mutual trade organization with membership by country to prevent logjams and serve as a kind of sovereignty insurance “fund”. More like a goodwill fund. Insuring the flow of goods and trade liquidity. Who’s workin’ on that one? I assume the monopolists would object because it’s too “to each, from each”. And if Brexit is mind boggling, think of the whole planet brexiting around.
I’m often to be found contemplating a “world government” type solution to everything. Which it would be. Right up until all the associated problems with that reared their ugly heads. Then we’d all be complaining about that, instead. And Hilary would probably run for President of the World, get defeated by Betty White then complain about Martian interference.
Brought a smile to my face here! Betty White as World President might be fun.
I agree. The theater of it all… it might as well be Betty as Theresa as Hill. In my better moods I actually marvel at how we make our way through the jungle of it all by denial, gloss, deceit, bluff, greed, and fairy tales. Amazing.
Than trivial amount (/s) is why I’ve always believed there were, and still are, only two options:
Remain or Crash out.
It, as it always is, about the money. I wonder how the EU plans to collect it. /s
Personally, and the time of he referendum, It May be, I was unaware of all the tangling tendrils of trade treaties bringing such troubling things to the termination of the treaties.
Yves – you wrote:
Just for information: the unicorn has deep Celtic roots. For example:
– the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland
– the British celebrate National Unicorn Day each April 9th.
– there is a National Unicorn Museum in Forres.
Plenty of unicorns to go ’round.
But more seriously, I believe that the EU is simply fed up with the UK and would now rather see them out rather than in. The last thing that the EU wants to see is the Farage contingent back in the EU Parliament with stronger Eurosceptic support across other EU countries (which is an expected outcome of the May 23 elections) – against the background of the British Parliament dithering for another 2 years.
I also am going to take the contrarian view here and predict that the UK economy will outperform that of the EU if a WTO exit ensues. In fact, I predict an economic boom beginning some months in (relatively speaking) based upon the proposed import tariff reductions and proposed business investment set aside by regional governments. For example, the Welsh Government has set aside an initial amount of £120 million in the event of a WTO exit, with more to come.
On your last point, you do not appreciate the significance of non-tariff trade barriers. They swamp other considerations.
The prime example is Japan after the Plaza Accord, when the yen appreciated against the dollar by 100% (no typo), from 250 to the dollar to ~125 and even higher. That is greater than anything even remotely in play here.
Japan had non-tariff trade barriers that were weaker than the ones in play here (like excess cost of including the UK in any just-in-time manufacturing process due to delays plus unpredictability of clearance). Japanese imports from the US did not rise despite the huge price fall in US goods.
– the British celebrate National Unicorn Day each April 9th.
So.. Donald Tusk just called an emergency EU summit on April 10th. That means the last day for the UK to come up with a plan is National Unicorn Day.
* flummoxed *
What is your prediction based on?
Guess who wrote this?
You are either overly optimistic or rely an a gutfeeling only?
120m is a chump change.
We’d have to talk tens of billions across the UK, for a period of few years to compensate.
Oh well ,that solves it then – April 9th and somebody will ride in on a white unicorn and magically fix this whole mess…
Overheard: “I have a friend who works in the Treasury who informs me that their nickname for May’s deal is ‘Turkey-minus’.”
2 weeks to midnight, wail away Bruce Dickenson………….
Ireland and Brexit.
1. Get your ports (many potential ones) going well, forget about perfideus Albion, make a thriving trade with SPAIN, PORTUGAL, as well as North Africa, and France (as at present), and northern Europe. and even Russia.
You could be stunned at what good results you get, and only
have a dim memory of DUP morons and their foolishness.
Wouldn’t a logical thing to do be to ask for an extension to negotiate a “Canada” style deal on Barnier’s ladder ? Parliament won’t support anything more, and everyone probably agrees its better than no deal.
At this point I think it would be a mistake for the EU to offer another long extension. Odds are a GE in the UK will solve nothing (which I think is the only way they could even get close to thinking about a Canada style deal), and the drain on all nations will only get worse.
While there are currently noises from the EU that they would support a long extension, I have a feeling there may be some member nations that will vote no to any such deal on April 10th, but don’t want to show their hand just yet.
The whole farce just needs to end.
It took seven years to negotiate “Canada”. And there was no meaningful services element in the Canadian trade deal. Services agreement are harder to negotiate than trade agreements.
It must be difficult for some to understand the time and effort it takes to hash out the legal’eez of such – contracts – of – scope – due to the minutia … hence the crippling effect decades of higher level neoliberalism gutting the U.K. civil administration from the institutional knowlage and experience to carry out such basic national civil duties. All sold [tm] for a quick bob and balance sheet buffer without any long term investment in the nation. Then when the unfettered market does not deliver broad social uplift its all he governments fault or some [in this case] other governments.
Now we all have to watch the doctrinaire ideologues that forwarded and made it a brand too, solidify their political careers around, play simultaneously victim and the savor – the unwashed are just grist for the mill.
Right, but in principle there could be an interim period where the UK maintained ‘alignment’ with EU regulations, just as there’s meant to be in the current WA. Isn’t the real issue that the EU would still be insisting on their ‘backstop’, which is what’s preventing the current WA from being approved ?
In other words, I don’t see that the backstop issue really has anything to do with the position on Barnier’s ladder. Its just a lever to stop the UK leaving unless the EU gets a solution its happy with. Just, as with the current situation, there’s no reason a backstop is logically necessary.
BTW, I thought the current WA didn’t include services.
The EU is not abusing the UK, contrary to your claim. Ireland is an EU member and the EU is defending Ireland’s interests in pointing out that ROI is a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement and any deal needs to respect the GFA. The UK has not come up with any workable alternatives to the backstop. And the backstop actually represents a considerable fudge by the EU as it is. A lot of EU manufacturers aren’t happy about it and aren’t willing to have further concessions made.
The UK proposed arrangements which were consistent with the GFA. The problem was that they weren’t consistent with what the EU says are its rules. So the logic seems to be that any arrangement needs to allow the *EU* not to impose a hard border under its own rules, which means regulatory alignment forever.
You’re not disputing that the issue would have been essentially the same had the plan been to go for a Canada deal ?
Anyway, if we get a hard Brexit EU and ROI will have to figure out how to deal with their own problem. So much for their backstop …
No, the UK did not propose solutions that were consistent with the GFA. They proposed tech vaporware. That is the only idea they’ve proposed and there is nada that would work now, and not even anything in production that would be ready on any well-defined timeline.
You miss that by default, with the UK leaving the EU, the result is a hard land border between RoI and NI. The EU was actually doing the UK and Ireland a big favor by letting them try to come up with a solution that would comply with the GFA and making a big fudge in the Withdrawal Agreement. This is not just my view; Richard North is even more forceful on this issue. I just saw a report that I am too lazy to dig it up, but at the very first worker-bee meeting on the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations, the EU side said, “What do you propose to do about your coming land border with the EU?” The UK side said they had no idea they had any such thing.
This is far too tech centric a view of what is ultimately a political question. The WA minus the backstop is consistent with GFA, since the UK remains in CU pending negotiations. Maybe the outcome is a permanent CU, maybe its a technological solution, maybe something else. The EU is essentially asking for a kind of veto in future negotiations, which doesn’t strike me as reasonable
(Apparently Parliament agrees).
Maybe the UK simply decides – e.g after a hard Brexit – not to harden their side of the border to stay consistent with GFA, whatever the result of the negotiations. This might leave the EU/ROI with a problem, but why should the UK be responsible for EU inflexibility (aka “rules”) ?
No, you really don’t get it. You are sticking your foot in mouth and chewing. You need to bone up or stop commenting. Agnotology is against our written site Policies. I’m not allowing any more comments from you that are so obviously false because I am not wasting more time correcting them.
First, a WA minus the backstop is NOT consistent with the GFA because it means a hard border. Otherwise, the EU is allowing Northern Ireland to become a perfectly legal port of entry for all sorts of goods that would not be compliant with EU regulations, for everything from chlorinated chicken to adulterated pharmaceuticals. Absolutely not acceptable to the EU. This is not a mere “political” matter. This is about public safety and protection of EU businesses that comply with regulations
Second, a customs union, as we have repeatedly state and you choose to ignore, does not solve this problem. A customs union covers ONLY tariffs. Turkey is in a customs union with the EU and has a hard border with it. It does not solve any of the issues regarding how to assure that goods that enter comply with EU requirements.
This is not “EU inflexibility”. A hard border is an inevitable result of Brexit, which the UK elected all on its own to trigger, unless the UK agrees to EU requirements that enable it remain within the “Single Market”. Your position illustrates the UK obtuseness that has made it the butt of jokes around the world, of a man wanting to divorce his wife but still shag her when he wants and have her press his shirts.
You are quite right. The whole problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the UK has no constitution. Add to this the conflict between Common Law and Roman Law and you have a sore that eats at the heart of UK politics.
Our entry to the EU and the subsequent yes vote in 1975 gave us a constitution and necessarily upended the way the UK was governed. This is because our membership of the EU meant that one parliament did bind the next and for evermore unless the EU changed the law.
Hardly anyone tried to explain this and fewer understood that it had happened.
Our political class has been derelict in their duty for decades.