Brexit Brief

Quite honestly, I’m not sure anything of lasting importance happened in Brexit-land yesterday, save the UK used up one of its very scarce days before the EU Council meeting on April 10 demonstrating the UK’s confusion and disarray.

So I am offering a few observations and treating today as an open thread. Theresa May has planned five hours of Cabinet meetings so expect leaks and declarations!

In the meantime, as you have almost certainly heard by now, Parliament again voted down all four of the motions that Speaker John Bercow allowed to be considered.

The one that came closet to being approved was Ken Clarke’s “customs union” handwave, which lost by only 3 votes. Oh, and Tory whip Nick Boles resigned the party due to its second refusal to support his soft Brexit plan. That’s because a “no deal” faction is at war with the EU friendly types. The Telegraph claims today that 14 of May’s ministers favor a crash out.

Not that Labour is doing much better on the party discipline front. Labour whipped in favor of “Common Market 2.0” (Boles’ plan) but only 185 members backed it and 25 even voted against it. The big reason for the split was that backing that plan meant repudiating Labour’s promise to halt the free movement of EU citizens.

It’s hard to see how EU leaders can watch what is happening in the UK and not conclude that the UK is a tar baby. That would seem to strengthen the case for not giving the UK a long extension, since the UK looks to be incapable of understanding what its options are, let alone choosing among them. How is another year of faffig about going to change anything? Some examples:

How does a super hard Brexit become a soft Brexit? The motion that may finally pass Wednesday is the customs union scheme. That’s being pitched to MPs as a soft Brexit even though it’s just about as hard as a crash-out. The fudge is that the customs union will be a component along with other things that will get to a soft Brexit. Why should EU pols have any confidence that Parliament can accept what those yet to be named pieces will be? They already rejected Theresa May’s deal, and for many, it was because it was too soft, as in still tied the UK too much to the EU. Why should the EU have any confidence that the UK is prepared to live with a non-unicorn Brexit?

How can the EU negotiate a deal with a party that won’t live up to even short term plain English agreements? Remember, Theresa May is still trying to get her Withdrawal Agreement passed even though the EU Council made clear the last day for that was March 29. Richard Smith sent along a short legal analysis by Prieskel & Co. on the messiness of re-setting the exit date if the UK needed to do that as of April 11 or 12. But its set-up was a reminder that Theresa May is poking a stick in the eye of the EU by trying again to get her Withdrawal Agreement passed…..and the press doesn’t even take notice. The exchange below also illustrates the lack of professionalism of the UK side, yet another obstacle to coming to an agreement:

As it happens the United Kingdom decided to seek an extension of the Article 50 period.

This request was made to the European Council on 20 March 2019 and the full letter is here.  You will see the letter is wordy and rhetorical, and it gets to its point only at the end:

I am therefore writing to inform the European Council that the UK is seeking an extension to the Article 50 period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty, until 30 June 2019.

This, of course, was the only sentence that mattered, the rest was waffle.

The European Council, in turn, regarded this letter as little more than an invitation to treat.  On 22 March 2019 the European Council made a reasoned and unanimous decision (here), which offered the UK two possible extensions:

In the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons by 29 March 2019 at the latest, the period provided for in Article 50(3) TEU is extended until 22 May 2019.

In the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons by 29 March 2019 at the latest, the period provided for in Article 50(3) TEU is extended until 12 April 2019. In that event, the United Kingdom will indicate a way forward before 12 April 2019, for consideration by the European Council.

The United Kingdom accepted this offer the same day, in a letter far less wordy and political than before (here):

I refer to the draft European Council Decision taken in agreement with the United Kingdom extending the period under Article 50(3) TEU, as attached to this letter. I am writing to confirm the agreement of the Government of the United Kingdom to the extension of the period under Article 50(3) and to this decision.

Offer and acceptance; the extension took legal effect.

The point here is that the Government has demonstrated yet again that it isn’t agreement capable. Recall that it repudiated the backstop that it had committed to in the Joint Agreement of December 2017, and reversed itself only after the EU applied a lot of fudge (for which it has not been given credit). And as dreadful as May has been to deal with, it’s not clear there is anyone better in the offing…charitably assuming she leaves before the next general election, which is now set for 2022. Remember, she has committed to depart only if her Withdrawal Act is approved, as well as to not lead the party in the next GE. So I would not assume May is leaving any time soon.

What will the EU make of the Government’s relationship to Parliament? The Parliament has made it apparent it wants to have a lot of say over Brexit, even though, as reader David and others point out, treaties are clearly the purview of the Government. May could go to the EU Council next week and largely ignore Parliament’s wishes. But even worse, not only is the EU faced with the drill of having the Withdrawal Agreement ratified by EU27 member states plus the UK, the UK is now proposing to make that harder by requiring a “confirmatory referendum” on top of that. This would create an additional layer of Brexit uncertainty and delay if the UK were to insist on it as part of an extension process (which is why the EU, if it does grant an extension, will proceed as planned and let the UK worry about if and how a public vote figures in).

The bottom line is if the UK asks for an extension next week, which seems probable, the EU will determine what if any relief it will give. And the UK’s conduct keeps reminding the EU as to why it might not be so smart to be generous.

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  1. BrianM

    Local radio here in Edinburgh is leading the news with a quote from the “EU Chief Negotiator” (I presume Barnier, but wasn’t specified) saying that negotiations are over the only possible deal is the one that has been negotiated. This was given without any context, so not sure if it was intended to imply nasty EU or stupid parliament faffing around for options that aren’t available. I’d like to think its a sign of realism, but unicorns still seem to be bounding around Westminster, but (mixing metaphors) we are getting close to MPs fiddling while the country burns.

    1. David

      This is the confusion that some of us have been talking about recently, between the Withdrawal Agreement, which May is still trying to get through Parliament and which is essentially about process (how the UK leaves) and all the debates yesterday which were about what the future relationship will be after the UK leaves. Barnier (it was him) was insisting that the WA has already been negotiated, and the EU aren’t going to re-open that now. What might follow is a different issue. It’s a shame that Barnier still has to make points as simple as this.

      1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

        I think the confusion is that everything is noise except for the fact the on April 11, Theresa is going to put it to a vote whether Parliamemt wants her deal or whether Parliament wants to the entire UK to put a hand grenade in its mouth and pull the pin out.

        And then we get Prime Minister Boris. This is where the real fun begins. This blog ain’t seen nuthin yet…

        1. RBHoughton

          Its a slow-motion traffic accident. The irresistible force is striking the immoveable object.

  2. AdrianD.

    Can anyone point me to a digest of the possible/probable costs of a No Deal Brexit? I’ve been searching for anyone who has collated them all in one place. Does such a resource exist? Ideally it would be something rather more balanced than the Guardian’s Brexit Watch columns whose partiality makes me suspect their choice of figures and sources they highlight on a month-by-month basis.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Adrian.

      There’s little objective around.

      From conversations with contacts at UK, Canadian and Japanese banks last year, the consensus after some number crunching was that UK GDP would be about 10% smaller by the 10th anniversary of the referendum on current trends and on the basis of a hard Brexit and years of turmoil (uninvestable UK, spike in political and credit risks etc.) and social mobility grinding to a halt. In all cases, the persons were looking for parachutes abroad, more for their children (still of school age).

      I need to ask around for Bank of England and Treasury figures, but staff are reluctant to talk / share data for fear of repercussions. You may have noticed the Cabinet Secretary’s letter to ministers this morning. That’s part of the end game.

      You are right to be suspicious of the Guardian. It’s not just their data. Their so called investigative journalism is equally suspect. Same with Channel 4. On their Politics Live blog this morning, a reader replied to Barnier’s claim about people wanting to destroy the EU and posted links to who they are. There are UK neo cons who want to do so and are happy to let the bad boys of Brexit front up. The neo cons stay at the back, but are not ever brought out into the light. The Guardian, especially Carol Codswallop and Nick Cohen, and Channel 4 do not dare do so.

      1. Winston Smith

        Thank you for this comment. I peruse the Guardian regularly and I am always astonished by the muddle of their reporting where Brexit is concerned. They seem happy to put out a large volume of reporting that does not bring much light to the issues. Reading the NK reports (including some stellar comments) on the subject has been enlightening for their clarity and directness.

        1. Peter Foges

          At least Guardian journalists live in the same space as the politicians in London, sup with them, sleep with their sisters and went to school with them. You think the Talmudic chart worshipping fools on Wall Street know anything? All they do is read the same stale stuff as the man in the street. What’s missing from the autistic super brains in the financial patch is The Human Factor — and political instincts
          . How many of them know a single senior official in Whitehall and Westminster? Hardly any. Their prognostications are largely garbage — though unlike grubby Guardian scribes whom they excoriate they command the corner offices and the big bucks. Pathetic reflection on our current world.

    2. Sanxi

      Ok no one denies this isn’t (below) true and in fact in has been asserted as such by Sir Mark (leaked?) that it is true, but the motive for all it and data all are self serving, but the begs a question, would you or anyone really want to play chicken with 60 million some plus people? I do not like the EU for many reasons, but this process is all wrong, if the U.K. can’t get a year extension and do the right deal which is a very customizable EEA /efta. I rather be hated for un-revoking article 50 than destroying my country. So be it… In sum:

      Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, to cabinet ministers about the dangers of a no-deal Brexit. He is also the National Security Advisor. Sir Mark’s warns:

      ‘No-deal would result in a 10 per cent spike in food prices and the collapse of some businesses that trade with the EU: The government would come under pressure to bail out companies on the brink;
      It would hamper the ability of the police and security services to keep people safe;
      It would lead to the reintroduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland for the first time since 2007;
      A recession will hit the UK and the pound’s depreciation will be ‘more harmful’ than in 2008.
      Our legal authorities and judicial system would be put under ‘enormous pressure’ …

      ‘Our national security would be disrupted,’ he says. ‘The UK would forfeit access to criminal justice levers. None of our mitigation measures would give the UK the same security capabilities as our current ones.’

      ‘A no-deal exit would enormously increase pressure on our law and security authorities and on our judicial system. The UK would be less safe as a result of this.’

      Sir Mark warns ‘no-deal could lead to the break-up of the UK’, saying: ‘The stability of the union would be dislocated.’

      He says Northern Ireland would face ‘more severe’ consequences,’ particularly as the lack of devolved government would require direct rule from London.’

      ‘The running of Northern Ireland under No Deal is a sensitive issue,’ he says. ‘The current powers granted to the Northern Irish secretary would not be adequate for the pace, breadth or controversy of the decisions needed to be taken through a no-deal exit. Therefore we would have to introduce direct rule.’

      When asked if it was so, he said it was so. There it is.

      1. AdrianD.

        Thank you Colonel & Sanxi. I had seen the comments from the (Theresa May appointed) Sir Mark, but it seems that to get to grips with the bigger picture requires more of a trawl than I’ve so far managed. I was kind of hoping to see if I’d missed much in my little pros and cons checklist (food-price spike & medicins stockpiles bad, airflight disruption, more localism good etc).

        I wanted to see it all in one place as I can’t help feeling I’m insufficiently worried about a No Deal. – all this talk of the destruction of the country looks rather overdone. We seem to be talking of a few % points of growth over a few years (assuming no government intervention), more expensive (often out of season) foodstuffs, some financial services/banks going abroad (cost or benefit is moot there), a few months (years) of annoyance at our numerous borders and the like. The biggest concern for me is the status of the millions of EU citizens who have made their life here (who should all be offered fast-track British citizenship as a matter of urgency imho), UK citizens living in the EU and, to a lesser extent the Northern Ireland issue (although again I think the return-to-the-troubles warnings are overegged too – this is not the 70s). On the upside we could do something about FoM of Capital (we may well be forced to of course) and insist that every company who does business in the UK has to be registered here in some way and thereby be able lead the way on corporate transparency. Oh and the Scots will have their freedom.

        Perhaps I’ve been a little desensitised having live through the last few months of it – all this talk of ‘chaos’ and ‘carnage’ – terms I’ve always considered to mean what Dr Peter Venkman described in Ghostbusters as (“Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria”) when in fact It’s just a few MPs not agreeing on ‘acceptable’ or a lot of bored lorry-drivers sat in a big queue up the hard-shoulder listening to whatever the Polish version of Talk Sport is.

        1. TimH

          re fast-track citizenship for UK citizens living in the EU… it’s not that easy. I have US citizen friends working in Germany, and for that courses in language and culture and testing thereupon (lovely word) are necessary to maintain residence permissions. What happens to those who refuse or fail?

          1. AdrianD.

            TimH. The status of expat British citizens living in the EU would need to be negotiated – it would not be in the UK gov’s gift to offer a particular status for them in another country or the EU as a whole, but I’d hope a quid-pro-quo arrangement would be acceptable to them.

      2. Oregoncharles

        “a 10 per cent spike in food prices”
        Does the UK feed itself? CAN it feed itself? Remembering that these are separate issues; it takes at least a season to grow crops, once they’re planted, and things can get pretty tight in the meantime. There’s still considerable surplus of some foods sloshing around, mostly in the US, but money would be required for that, and “sovereign currency” doesn’t always work internationally. Unless they ask Mr. Trump really nicely.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The UK produces only 60% of the food it consumes. I’ve read pieces that argue the UK could get to 70% in pretty short order but that is not 100%. It would fall most short in fruit and veg. Weirdly, initially there would be a meat surplus since live animals normally exported to the EU for slaughter wouldn’t be exportable (I forget all the detail as to why but Richard North, who is an expert on all of the physiosanitary rules, has provided a lot of detail backing this view).

          1. Oregoncharles

            Fruits are mostly from trees and vines that would take a long time to get established. Aside from tomatoes and peppers that the English climate is not ideal for – and Scotland even less.

            However, cutting back on meat exports would increase the amount of arable land available. (Well, maybe – much of the north and of Wales is only suitable for grazing.)

            The gist is that either their diet changes drastically, or they have to have foreign exchange to buy food. Very 3rd world.

            1. AdrianD.

              Thanks – the food issue might be overcome in the short term with some leeway on tarifs perhaps (although I fully expect to be put straight on why that’s not possible).

              The food issue reminded me of a conversation I had with my Mum and some of her friends (mostly Leave voters) on the subject – they reminded me that when I was growing up most of the veg we are talking about were very much more seasonal and that ‘never did us any harm’ and that perhaps ‘it might help if [we] didn’t chuck so much of it in the bin’. Good-natured conversations like that one made me sceptical of the supposed epidemic of family-breaking arguments around Brexit. They also made me very intolerant indeed of the they’re ignorant and/or bigoted characterisation of the apparent age-related split in Brexit votes – and absolutely furious at anyone who gleefully tweets about two years worth of deaths tipping the scales for a ‘PeoplesVote’.

              Of relevance to food and a good example of my scepticism of the Brexmatgheddon Guardian is this piece where they framed a predicted drop in farm land prices as another dire effect of Brexit, when one might expect the opposite if we need to produce more food…a


              1. PlutoniumKun

                I can’t see food in total calorific terms being a huge issue – for no other reason than plenty will be able to enter via the ‘open’ Irish border (and of course, in the absence of checks I do wonder whether Irish processors will choose to dump its worst quality produce into the UK market – there are precedents for this – in the 1990’s one Irish dog food manufacturer claimed its biggest customer was a distributer in Londons Chinatown). Its the variety of year round fresh food and veg that will prove problematic.

                The issue of land prices would be most relevant to those crops supported through generous CAP policies. There is a lot of intensive agriculture in England which is only viable through support mechanisms which, by an amazing coincidence, tend to favour big landowners. Its not impossible to foresee a scenario where the UK grows far more food, but agricultural land values decline.

          2. DaveH

            “Weirdly, initially there would be a meat surplus since live animals normally exported to the EU for slaughter wouldn’t be exportable (I forget all the detail as to why but Richard North, who is an expert on all of the physiosanitary rules, has provided a lot of detail backing this view)”.

            Basically, any third country that wants to export live animals (and if I recall correctly, it’s not just live animals it’s any animal product) needs to be included on a list of countries approved for export, a list which the UK would need to apply to be included on.

            So in a 21-month transition once the UK is out, that process can be undertaken. Facilities inspected, qualifications agreed as acceptable etc. If we crash out on April 13th, the UK can start that registration process but a) it’s not going to be overnight and b) the Commission might feel that they’ve got more pressing matters to deal with for a while before they get around to it.

            Sheep farmers are probably the people most familyblogged by this – as late spring is their peak time for export to their biggest foreign market. So bargain lamb for the UK for a few months. Then very expensive lamb in future when all the sheep farmers go out of business.

    3. boz

      Hi Adrian

      Not a collection, I’m sorry, but Rabobank did a study back in 2017. Given its age I would recommend caution.

      They posit negative UK growth in all options (soft to hard)

      I would also call out that some UK institutions will have considered Brexit in their 2019 budget modelling, but perhaps not declared the base scenario for their economics.

      You will probably be able to identify them from their profit warnings post-exit day (whenever that is).

      So even though some warnings might be overblown (because Project Fear), you should consider that some corporates have been unduly optimistic (because patriotism, innit).

      I think leading factors like business investment and purchasing managers index (PMI) are probably better barometers than economic ‘Ceteris paribus’ forecasts (“all other things equal” – which autocorrected to “Ceberus Paribus”, something quite different!)

      1. AdrianD.

        Thanks Boz. It’s hard to think of a less Ceteris Paribussy scenario than a no deal Brexit (it’s kind of the point of leaving I’d have thought) which seems to be a point missed in most of the (gloomy) orthodox-modeled forecasts.

        With the BoE Chair himself recommending a big stimulus if we leave, there’s plenty of scope to pick things up quickly (a VAT drop to balance food price inflation for instance). Again it’s all well short of the ‘carnage’, ‘chaos’ and ‘destroy the economy’ talk that seems to be the order of the day here.

  3. Jeff

    I still read the 2nd para of the EC’s answer as ‘crash-out* happens on April 12th. What fudge do you propose on the 13th regarding citizen’s movement, pallets, freight, hard borders, medications, flights, … and when do you plan to pay the divorce settlement?’
    I think it is clear to all that nobody in UK (gov & parliament) is seriously preparing for Brexit or has a good idea of what Brexit entails – after almost 3 years of discussion. So I don’t think EU is willing to grant an extension (that would only extend the pain), and Theresa May is not going the cancel the Art. 50 notification.
    So, please assume brace position, and hope for the best.

    *For those at the bottom, not much will change, and for those at the top, multiple opportunities will appear. It is those in between that will suffer the most.

    ** One might imagine a long extension (more than a year, to be able to reconsider a 2nd referendum, GE or whatever wild dreams spring up), but the very first requirement is then to organise EP elections. I don’t see anyone in UK going to the people saying ‘in order to leave the EU in a good way, we have to sign up for four more years’, and survive. And on the EU side, I don’t seem them engaging either, as there is a new budget cycle coming up, committing countries for almost a decade. So neither side has an incentive to ask for a long extension.

    1. Oregoncharles

      One reason the EU doesn’t want a crashout is that it’s going to be really hard to collect that “divorce settlement” – AFAIK, there won’t be a court with jurisdiction.

      I assume one of the objections to May’s agreement is that it gives the EU court jurisdiction over a lot of issues, which would be a colonial relationship. (Or did I mix that up – I’m losing track of which proposal is which.)

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, that isn’t correct.

        First, the divorce settlement is paid over an extremely long period of time. The impact on the budget annually isn’t large.

        Second, in a no deal, the EU fully expects to collect its pound of flesh. The UK will most assuredly need the EU to issue lots of waivers to prevent worst-case outcome. The EU has already been war gaming that. The EU intends to get the divorce payment + impose the Irish backstop as a condition of giving the UK anything.

  4. Ataraxite

    I suspect the submarine story this week are the meetings between Leo Varadkar and Macron (today), and Merkel (Thursday). These will be critical to how the EU27 handles any request for an extension next week, as Ireland is the critical lynchpin around which EU solidarity turns, as it will be most affected by a No Deal Brexit.

    From leaks from the last EU Council, Merkel was key in pushing against a No Deal. There was also the very important exchange between Macron and Varadkar there – “We [Ireland] can cope” with no deal.


    While the UK burns through whatever minimal reserves of goodwill and patience remain for it in the EU, there will still be hesitation to actually refuse an extension because of the damage it will do to Ireland (and to a lesser degree, other EU27 states). But if Ireland says it can handle a “no deal” situation – which seems to becoming more likely (based on the Tony Connelly report this week), then that hesitation will become far less important, and the EU Council may well tell the UK to go jump.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t think there is much doubt but that the pressure is being put on Varadkar to accept that a no-deal is a strong possibility and that Ireland needs to deal with it. There are plans in place, but they are contingent on having a year or so to bring in controls in a phased manner. For the first few weeks at least, the border would be open with little more than symbolic checks. But I suspect the food processing industry (which is huge, and entirely dependent on complex cross-border supply chains), will be the first to be ‘leaned on’ and will probably have to deal with the mess themselves.

      I think there is a growing feeling in Ireland that they’ll just have to deal with it if it happens. I don’t see Varadkar using up all his goodwill by begging the EU27 to do what it takes to give the UK an extension. It may be that London is relying on this happening (i.e. using Ireland as their proxy to get the EU to accept a half-assed ‘plan’ to win themselves yet more time to argue). But I think there is an increasing mood to just get it all over with and deal with the aftermath later. Varadkar is also angling for an election next year while he’s still doing well in the polls – a relatively short (say, 9 month) extension would throw a spanner in the works for this. He may well think a well-handled ‘no-deal’ would help him electorally – his Brexit policy has been very popular and he needs a distraction from the other issues that are dragging him down in the polls.

      An issue that I think might be relevant is that the German carmakers in Britain have already shut down for a fortnight – they’d planned on an assumption of a 31 March exit. They will not want a continuous series of false Brexits, they want certainty. So there will be pressure from that side on Merkel to either agree a very long extension, or use the guillotine.

      1. Richard

        I think UK people will still have free movement across the Irish border to work after a hard Brexit (i.e. daily commute), so how feasible would it be to physically move manufacturing agricultural infrastructure to the South (or North) to minimise cross border animal movements?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Actually, most agricultural infrastructure is in the south – the key issue is that a significant proportion of dairy products consumed in the UK are produced in NI, but processed in the Republic. The challenge for the dairy and beef industry is to keep those two streams separated for regulatory purposes.

          Minimising animal movements will be very difficult given modern beef raising processes, but it will probably be necessary. I’ve little doubt individual farmers will see no merit in paying too much attention to the rules. But all cattle are now tagged and tracked as part of disease control, it remains to be seen if beef processors will look too closely at the data when it comes to slaughtering animals. This element will be highly disruptive to farmers, especially as beef farmers tend to be the poorest and most elderly segment.

      2. Ataraxite

        That’s the other thing – I think Varadkar has plenty of domestic political coverage from the effects of No Deal, and is unlikely to be blamed for it even if it has quite severe economic effects in Ireland.

        And I think this is true across the EU27 – as Yves pointed out in a comment many months ago, one of Barnier’s (unstated) tasks was to provide political cover to the leaders of the EU 27 so that they wouldn’t be blamed by their domestic electorates for the effects of No Deal. I think he has quite comprehensively achieved that.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Ultimately, these things come down to politicians making political decisions. Most pols are quite happy to make ‘difficult’ decisions if they are confident someone else will get the blame. As you say, most of the EU27 leaders have been quite skillful at ensuring the UK will get the blame for a no-deal, so they don’t have skin in the game to that extent, which puts even more pressure on May.

          While Varadkar most certainly does not want a no-deal on his watch, the polls are pretty clear in Ireland that his handling of Brexit has widespread public support. So it may well be that he calculates that he could be the winner politically if he handles the fall-out in a reasonably competent manner. There are many things going on in Ireland that he’d welcome a distraction from.

          1. Mattski

            And despite the short term hit for the Irish economy isn’t there enormous long-term upside?

      3. David

        But what about movements of human beings? After all, this will be an EU/non-EU border, and in all other cases there are identity checks of some kind. It’s hard to see how this can be the only exception without causing trouble elsewhere. Is there any evidence the Irish government have gripped this question?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          They are hiding behind pre-EU agreements on free movement. As Ireland is not in Schengen I don’t believe there is any obligation on the Irish government to check the movements of people across the border.

          This is actually more of an issue for the UK as Ireland will then become the main source of illegal immigration, it will be very easy for, say, migrants in France to get a ferry to Ireland and then simply get a bus to Belfast. What will happen of course is that London will order the stiffening of checks on ferries and flights from Belfast to the ‘mainland’ since they don’t care about illegal immigrants in NI, only in Britain (not that there are enough jobs for migrants in NI anyway). This, of course, means the ‘Irish Sea border’ will in fact exist.

          In the longer term, if Ireland joins Schengen, then it will create a very significant border problem.

          1. vlade

            I thought NI border was the main reason why IReland wasn’t in Schenged (because with the UK outside, it would have created a right mess).

            1. PlutoniumKun

              Yes, that’s exactly it. Ireland wanted to join Schengen but were more or less told no by the UK because they’d put immigration checks on the border if Ireland did so. Irish immigration and visa policy effectively mirrors UK policy as a consequence of the Good Friday Agreement – its the only way to ensure no checks on the border.

              As I’ve said, it does make a bit of a nonsense of the DUP’s insistence that NI mirrors exactly Britains rules and regulations. Immigration control from Ireland is based on a combination of monitoring public transport with random checks at the train and bus stations (non-white people will frequently find themselves being asked for ID getting off the Dublin-Belfast train), along with checks on flights and ferries from Belfast – the latter being the ‘real’ border for immigration.

              Thousands of people accidentally cross the border in breach of visa rules – I’ve Asian student friends in Dublin who regularly go shopping or sight-seeing in NI without bothering with getting a UK visa. If they are caught, they just apologise and explain they didn’t know there were two countries on the island, they are never prosecuted, just told to get on the next bus back.

              1. Fazal Majid

                NI diverges from the rest of the UK in other, more significant ways already. Abortion and gay marriage are still illegal in NI, they are legal in both the rest of the UK and in Éire.

        2. Sven

          > … this will be an EU/non-EU border, and in ALL other cases
          > there are identity checks of some kind [emphasis added].

          Strictly speaking, this is not correct. There are EU/non-EU borders where *because other circumstances apply* there are no checks. Norway-Sweden is one example.

          1. bruce wilder

            In theory at least, there are customs checks.

            Which is some indication of how informal, indirect or expedient custom checks can be, if good will exists to facilitate them.

  5. The Rev Kev

    Going by that photo, it’s good to see that there were at least ten people in Parliament that had an exact idea of what they wanted to do and had an actual working plan of how to go about doing it.

    1. David

      It depends what you mean by “possible.” The 27 are free to decide, for political reasons, to extend the process further, and in principle for as long as they want. But whether that’s “possible” depends on whether the UK is able to explain coherently what it intends to do with the extra time. That may not be possible.

      1. IsabelPS

        I am referring to waht Yves wrote:

        Offer and acceptance; the extension took legal effect.

        1. Clive

          The EU27 can offer May an extension. May can accept. At that exact moment (there’d be an exchange of correspondence but that’s perfunctory) there would be, in international law, an extension in place.

          Barnier is therefore correct.

          1. IsabelPS

            If I read Yves correctly, that has already taken place. If true, Barnier would be incorrect.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The EU said it was willing to consider a second extension by April 12.

              The part I was highlighting was the EU was clear that other option, the extension to May 22, depended on the Government getting the Withdrawal Agreement passed by March 29. That date has clearly passed, so as far as what the EU offered and the UK agreed to, that prong has expired. Yet May is still trying to get the WA passed! This is yet another demonstration that the UK thinks it can do what it damned well pleases and the EU will adapt. This is not a posture that will engender much cooperation from the other side.

              1. shtove

                I just watched Barnier in the European Parliament, and he still seems quite chipper about orderly Brexit, still talking about extensions to get the Withdrawal Agreement through. Very impressive man, diplomatic down to his fingertips.

                And it looks like May has caved in to Corbyn. Not quite sure what’s going on, but I am enthused! Maybe the Tory apes have had their day.

                1. Andy Raushner

                  Now well meaning’d Naked Capitalism posters are seeing unicorns. I have a bad feeling about this…….

                  1. Yves Smith Post author

                    If you lived in the UK and had any appreciation of what a crash out mean, you’d be reading the news for any hopeful development. Plus the EU had pretty much said. albeit in code, that May needed to work with the opposition.

                  2. shtove

                    I’m an Irish Brit, so I’ve always had a bad feeling about this! But I also see from history there’s an English-Irish-Scots (not so much Welsh – sorry, Mrs Jones) genius that duz the biz.

  6. Marc

    Asking those who follow this more than I do (though it doesn’t prevent me from speculating). How about the Wednesday choices are May’s deal, CU and maybe CU with referendum (a bit harder). The parliamentary math doesn’t seem to be there for 2.0 (too hard to sell freedom of movement for brexit constituencies) so Bercow should have the leeway to exclude options that have no chance? It would then seem that CU would win out. At that point, can this not be incorporated and still allow for the May 22 deadline? Again, the point here would be that the EU just want the WA to get through parliament so that we avoid a disorderly Brexit. As per above, I doubt they have any interest in an extension so want an outcome that gets through and is manageble within the timeframes.

  7. Inert_Bert

    Guardian liveblog reporting some explicit (and realistic) talk from Barnier on Brexiteers’ true aims, from the horse’s mouth apparently (at 9:28 in case the link isn’t direct):

    Barnier claims some Brexiters want to ‘destroy EU’

    Barnier says some outside the EU, and some people within it too, see Brexit as a means of weakening the EU.

    The EU must respond, he says.

    He says this came up at at meeting he held with Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader. He says he asked Farage how he saw the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit. Farage said, after Brexit, the EU would “no longer exist”. Barnier goes on:

    So these people want to destroy the European Union from inside, and others from outside.

    Barnier says that is why people have to defend the European Union.

    EU countries must stick together,.

    At least it has now been explicitly stated. I’ve long thought that for Brexiteers to actually believe that the UK was “shackled to a corpse” AND that “they need us more”, they also would need to believe that the EU would not even survive Brexit. Leaving aside for a moment that this was convenient for them to believe because it obviated the need for planning a negotiation with a superior entity. Destroying the “Globalist”, “Marxist” (I wish) EU is an objective for the alt-right/nationalist international.

    The idea that the UK’s departure could destroy the EU was always delusional, but that is not true for France or Germany. Post-brexit we’ve seen a lot of eurosceptic far right parties reverse course regarding ending EU membership, but that won’t last. When more established ultra-nationalists get cold feet, the Koch/Saudi/Bannon money will move on to younger, hungrier psychopaths. The Netherlands’ new rising far-right star (an alt-right Reddit-type) just ate Geert Wilders’ lunch in recent regional elections and has resumed talking about Nexit (though he did so after the elections). And even if guys like that don’t succeed like the British eurosceptics have, they’ll seek to sabotage from within.

    It is very good that even a diplomat like Barnier can now explicitly point out this danger.

    1. vlade

      That very much depends on how well the UK goes. If, after a no-deal, the UK spends the next 10 years in economic morass, the EU would likely be quite safe.

      IMO, the largest threat to the EU (elites) would be if the UK went EFTA/EEA and after a few year of settling down started to prosper. I say elites here, because most, a vast majority, of the EU citizens don’t want really a political EU super-state. In fact, probably only French elites in the EU want that (with France at the helm, of course, doing peacefully what Napoleon failed). Most of them want single market (including the freedoms), but want also stopping further expansions, building less permeable external border, and sorting out economy in general.

      And, TBH, short of significant external threat, any EU moves towards closer political unity will either fail, or put yet more stress on it, and that can kill it.

      For me, the paradox of this all is that the Brexiters wanting to destroy the EU can actually strenghten it. But, the EU elites (French ones in particular) can, by wanting to strenghten the EU, destroy it.

      So, if the Brexiters were _really_ smart, they would have kept the UK inside the EU, push for more political integration, and watch for the EU to fall apart as most of the EU countries would have rebelled.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, Vlade.

        If the likes of Farage, Hannan and Johnson paid any attention, they would come to the same conclusion.

        It was interesting when visiting EU27 MEPs and Commission officials in Brussels, one was often treated to a monologue by French ones about EU integration (a la francaise, of course), an often amusing philosophical and “vision thing”. German MEPs from the Rhineland and Walloons sometimes echoed that. One would have to cater for that tomfoolery by scheduling for longer meetings than required and, on the way out or over a beer or several on Thursday nights at the Place Luxembourg meat market, asking their assistants what (the f) was all that about. Party labels made no difference, BTW.

      2. MisterMr

        “I say elites here, because most, a vast majority, of the EU citizens don’t want really a political EU super-state.”

        Why do you say this?
        I’m a EU citizien and I totally want an EU “superstate”.

        If you say “superstate” it sounds bad, so people would say that they don’t want it, but if you say: do you want a more democratic EU, where you can vote for a EU president instead of having unelected bureaucrats, more people would say yes.

        But an EU where you vote for an EU government would be an EU superstate, in pratice.

        So it’s mostly the way you put the question: I don’t think that “the people” want a less cohese EU and “the elites” a more cohesed one, it’s more that some groups were able to make the connection EU = faceless bureaucrats.

          1. MisterMr

            No, I’m more euroenthusiast than the average, but I think that the main point is in the framing of the question.

            When you frame the question as “do you want to hand over sovereignity to the EU” people will say No, when you instead ask “Do you want a more democratic EU” people will say Yes, but the two questions really are the same posed in a different way because if you get an elected EU government you get less power for the national governments.

            So I think that most people are actually quite ambivalent and mostly sound eurosceptic because of the way the question is posed.

          2. Ignacio

            There are many but it is difficult to say how many. Many in France, and I guess Spain have been keen on stronger integration “federal style” instead of EU expansion. Germany wanted east col… ups! expansion and UK the contrary of France as usual.

            Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Finland… I have no specific idea on this. And less about the more recent members.

        1. vlade

          I didn’t say “all”. I said “vast majority”. I could count people who want an EU superstate probably on my hands (including you) – and I’m dealing on daily basis with people across a plethora EU states. So that’s anecdotal.

          Polls also indicate that while majority likes EU, few would want to convert into a US-like federation or similar.

          1. IsabelPS

            I think it very much depends how weak or ineffectual or corrupt are national governements perceived.

            It also depends how you phrase or frame the question.

            I very much suspect that, like the Brits, most European citizens would be taken by surprise if they realized how many of the national policies they like and support were “imposed by Brussels”.

              1. Colonel Smithers

                Thank you.

                Apart from Club Med and Balkan basket cases, I have not come across many in the rest of the EU27who want an EU superstate, which often feels like la France perfide trying to hijack power from Germany or ride the German tiger, as it did with EMU, an own goal if ever there was one.

                1. IsabelPS

                  I am sure the Portuguese would not VOTE for a EU superstate. And they certainly are sold the story of the Germany perfide (France being, probably, a sort of knight in armour) bossing everybody around, totally missing the power of the small States (like Benelux) and middle States (like Portugal, but I have this theory that Portugal punches above its weight, diplomatically speaking). But I am almost sure they would not vote AGAINST it.

                  1. Colonel Smithers

                    Thank you, Isabel.

                    I reckon that, after a while, the German elite could not believe their luck with whatever France was thinking.

                    All this said, one should make the distinction between the EU 1%, e.g. the Espirito Santo family, and its 10% enablers, including crooks like the “Marquess of Freeport” Socrates, and the rest.

                    1. larry

                      CS, do you mean Jose Scorates whom the UK SFO refused to investigate? At least, I remember them saying that he wasn’t under investigation.

                    2. IsabelPS

                      Oh, I wasn’t particularly concerned with the 1%, Colonel. They are fairly easy to read everywhere, isn’t it? I was thinking of the “vast majority”.

                    3. IsabelPS

                      Larry, Socrates was investigated by the Portuguese judiciary and stands accused of 31 crimes. Affaire à suivre.

          2. Joe Well

            I wonder how many in the EU see the US as a cautionary tale. Here in my state, when the issue of our relationship with the rest of the country comes up, the metanarrative is that money flows out and guns flow in and we’re only bound together by the ties of affection and duty. In reality, the money doesn’t quite flow out the way people think it does, but the guns part is accurate.

        2. WobblyTelomeres

          It would certainly seem that the best solution, an MMT solution, would be to have the individual states surrender their budgets to an EU Super State, as the individual states are not sovereign in their currency.

          Here in the US, it certainly pains to see the twiddly corrupt lackeys running the individual states sabotaging the roads, bridges, schools, and pensions with austerity shrugs.

            1. larry

              Any EU superstate will have to construct a Treasury to which the ECB should become subordinate. If the EU superstate is properly constructed, it will have its own sovereign currency, which will likely be the Euro.The ECB should then be moved to Brussels out of Frankfurt in order to hopefully lessen the influence of Germany in its affairs. The Germans probably won’t like this. As CS has mentioned, a number of citizens of the EU may not approve of such a development.

              1. bruce wilder

                well, isn’t that rub? no one who is enthusiastic about Europe is interested in constructive design except the neoliberals.

                so all the architects are neoliberals while the PR is done by cosmopolitan know-nothings who wax on cultural themes.

                the four freedoms are highly valued among the cosmopolitans for their contribution to the personal convenience of the upper middle class, and to the neoliberals for their fatal disabling of any democratic impulse

                1. Yassine

                  Are you sure that the EU is a neoliberal nightmare because “no one who is enthusiastic about Europe is interested in constructive design except the neoliberals” ?

                  Maybe the stranglehold that the 1% have on the political process* of the most powerful EU countries has something to do with them agreeing to treaties bringing the EU ever more closely to a neoliberal dystopia.

                  * it works better through representative democracy than direct democracy (2005 EU constitution vs 2011 Lisbon treaty)

                2. PlutoniumKun

                  Its simply untrue to say only the neoliberals are interested in constructive design. There is a very active ongoing political engagement/battle involving progressive left and green forces at all levels of EU structures, and they’ve won many battles over worker protection and environmental protection (while losing the major wars).

                  The EU projects neoliberal policies for one very simple reason. Nearly every major EU country has a neoliberal or neoliberal oriented elected government and has done since the early 1990’s. The EU could not be anything but neoliberal in those circumstances. If anything, the EU has been a brake on the worst of those governments (this is one reason why the Thatcherite Tories hate it so much).

                  1. larry

                    Thanks for the additional info, PK. The Thatcherite Tories could be said to Worse than Thatcher. Which as you know means that they are truly awful. They are even now trying to deny, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, that their austerity program has anything to do with people using food banks and the like.

        3. Inert_Bert

          Thank you Vlade and MisterMr,

          Honestly, I think the discussion about a superstate encourages an incorrect frame.

          The notion that there is such a thing as “single market yes, political integration no” that a lot of even reasonable eurosceptics tend to back is just such a damn fallacy. If you’re legislating, regulating, enforcing and adjudicating (a market): congratulations! – you’re engaged in a political process. Even if the UK were to thrive in EFTA/EEA, that would still be the case, and the EU’s core would welcome them – and possibly others – being a bit out of the way.

          Once you have the internal market, harmonisation and in particular preventing a race to the bottom becomes essential. To me, it’s more about decisions on public policy being made at the level that’s most effective, while still enabling accountability. The process of figuring out what that means, sector by sector – subject by subject, is also a political activity in and of itself (as long as parties are conducting themselves with a modicum of good faith). There are good arguments to pare back some EU-powers (monetary policy being one – though in that case I fear member-states will individually keep screwing that up in exactly the same way the ECB has – the neoliberal call is coming from inside the house after all).

          There are fantasists on both the sceptic and federalists side of course, but until the Brexit-process was underway nobody really worked this openly on sabotage, certainly not while throwing their own country into an abyss. As obstructionist and wrong as the English were (Cameron was the High Representative of the City of London, Blair was the Pentagon’s man, Thatcher… don’t even start), this kind of nihilism seems new to me on this level. That’s why I’d like to draw a distinction between arguments about where what powers should (or even can) lie and far right efforts to make regulating the European economy in the public interest impossible.

          Of course, some European statesmen are only too eager to repeat the mistakes of the nationstate on a lager scale. And yes, plenty of technocrats in the EU like to pretend a larger part of there work is apolitical than can be reasonably argued. And no, we’re not moving in the right direction. But right now the continent is mostly* not being governed from board-rooms or oligarch’s mansions, which is what the ultras are trying to accomplish. Knowingly or not, they’re working towards a sweeping deregulation-agenda.

          I consider it an important development that even a man like Barnier, who is so very careful in what he says, openly acknowledges a hostile program. And the fact that he does that is not very encouraging for any UK effort to seek an extension.

          *I said mostly… Relative to the rest of the world then? Still no?

        4. Andy Raushner

          I don’t agree. Elites that want to increase their power, want a less cohesive EU. Generally it is the upper middle class and low rung landed gentry rich capitalist who support the EU model, because it benefits them. For the proletariat, it is a loss loss.
          The Far Right has been a mess on this for awhile with the cont radictions.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Don’t make stuff up. It is against our written site Policies.

            The UK has been one of the patient zeros for neoliberalism, and it is much further advanced in the UK than the EU. And as has happened in the UK (see What’s the Matter with Kansas?) people who benefit from government intervention/support can regularly be propagandized successfully to oppose “government” when they are clear net beneficiaries and actually depend on important programs.

            In the UK, the Tories have blamed UK austerity policies on the EU when they were UK products (see the new round under the post-Blair Tory government). Clive points out that the “small England” Tories in his mother’s circle support Brexit. Most would qualify as “low rung landed gentry.” Farming in the EU isn’t on the US factory farm model, and many formerly desperately poor areas (like the Aran Islands of the Republic of Ireland) depend on EU agriculture subsidies. EU worker rights protection are much stronger than what you’d have in the UK post Brexit (and what you have in the US); indeed, one of the big reasons its wealthy backers are pushing it is to weaken labor and environmental protections.

            The problems with the EU are due to its adoption of austerity policies and having allowed the banking sector to become overly large relative to their economies. But the UK is an even worse sinner in both regards. Look at the Tory effort to wreck the NHS. There is no similar attack on any EU national health care system.

            1. Andy Raushner

              I don’t agree. The Tories are just looking for somebody to blame. That explains quite a bit of the new found anti-EU stuff. I don’t buy it and think that austerity in terms of current markets is not that important. There simply isn’t enough new market creation to drive investment like in the past. This board has rehashed this quite a bit. The natural rate of growth has just slowed.

            2. Peter Foges

              Yes. Now you are getting to the nub of it. Brexit — apart from bare knuckle English nationalism and working class resentment — is about weakening the labor and environmental protections put in place by the socially progressive EU. What the Etonian Tories want is a “spiv’s paradise” — a low regulation low tax oligarch friendly Atlantic Singapore — a London-centric neoliberal entrepôt that completes Margaret Thatcher’s half completed project and shafts the clueless self destructive deluded Hobbits.

  8. Matthew G. Saroff

    Seriously, is Theresa May TRYING to make a complete dog’s breakfast of this whole thing?

    1. larry

      I doubt it is her intention; but Richard North’s blog post for today, The Noes Have It, blames many parliamentarians, which includes May, for the mess, as they are completely incompetent, some of it apparently intentional — Boles, e.g., said he would rather chew off his arm than know anything about customs unions. WTF?

  9. Samuel Conner

    Granting the assumption, which looks pretty secure, that May’s political career is ending whatever the outcome, is there any chance that she comes to senses and, faced with the prospect of going down in history as the PM who did the most damage in the least time to England’s economy, experiences a “minute to midnight” change of heart and revokes the Article 50 notification?

    Maybe she’s too self-absorbed for there to be any hope of that, but don’t most politicians care at least a little about how their service is perceived?

    She’s going to be a goat in the eyes of nearly everyone after a crash-out. A revocation would make her “hero” to about half the population (though, admittedly, the “wrong” half).

    1. PlutoniumKun

      May has proven that she will put the well-being of the Tory party before that of country. She sees her mission as delivering Brexit and the one thing we know about her for sure is that she is monomaniacal with whatever she perceives to be ‘her mission’. For her, a ‘no-deal’ is much less of a humiliation than an A.50 revocation.

      The irony is that she’d probably get her deal passed if the Ultras and DUP suspected that she would do a revocation at the last minute. So its their very confidence that she won’t do it that makes it all the harder for her to get the WA over the line.

      1. fellow minnesotan

        While i dont think part of her calculus, their confidence that she won’t revoke also ensures her personal safety. With crash-out being the default, a less monomaniacal PM would be viewed by far right as dangerous indeed, whose elimination–political or otherwise–would ensure the “proper” outcome.

  10. Avidremainer

    Is there anyone out there who can produce a cogent pro-Brexit piece which would show that leaving the EU would be a net gain for the UK economy?
    Minford projects the death of manufacturing and agriculture. Rees-Mogg projects that it will be 50 years before we see any benefit. The WTO no dealer’s claims rest on half truths-invoke article 24 of the GATT things can stay the same for up to ten years-ONLY IF THE EU AGREE. After a crash out exit good luck with that one. Maintain the status quo with the EU post Brexit-DO IT FOR THE EU THEN YOU HAVE TO DO IT FOR EVERY MEMBER OF THE WTO-back to Minford again. Trade deals ahhhh sunlit uplands. Does anyone in their right minds think that Japan will give the UK the same beneficial trade deal as the FTA they have with the EU? No chance, that would be an invite for the EU renegotiate the EU-Japan trade deal on the basis that 500 millions is a much bigger market than 60 millions. What about MRAs? What about cabotage? Passporting?
    Why do people still ask “if the UK propers…” It won’t. It loses too much. We decided to punish ourselves.

    1. Avidremainer

      Colonel, I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. Following any kind of Brexit which UK companies are in danger of being sold off to foreign predators?
      I say this because one of the least discussed issues is that post Brexit our balance of payments problems will come into stark relief. We have maintained our standard of living by selling real estate and Companies to foreigners for years. Can this continue?

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you.

        I can’t see what companies are safe from foreign take over except for national security and totemic reasons, so Glaxo Smith Kline, Rolls Royce, British Aerospace, Lucas and Cobham may be protected.

        The UK arms of banks are “ring fenced”, so there are rules in place and the “Vickers ring fence” is a bit of a poison pill.

        You are right to highlight that the UK, aka Iceland upon Thames, is at the mercy of and needs the “kindness of strangers”, the latter phrase used by Mark Carney at the Commons last year and Yves recently. That can’t go on forever, but it has gone on for decades. There’s not much left to sell. We’ll find out soon enough. The tide and the lights are about to go out on the UK.

        I suspect that the UK will soon export people more than anything else, but potential migrants will find Anglophone countries more difficult to access than thought and the lack of language skills a real obstacle.

        I don’t know how old you are, but, even though I was born in 1970, I recall the crises of the 1970s and 1980s well. Mum was briefly seconded from the Treasury to the Bank of England when one crisis blew up in the 1970s. The media does not cover such matters like it did as late as the early 1990s. If you are interested, the Observer’s William Keegan has just written a book about such matters.

        1. Avidremainer

          Thank you Colonel. How bad would it have to be for the companies mentioned in your first para to come into play?
          Special steels-vital for UK defence were allowed no go by the board in the ’80s by Thatcher. Would a Bojo government resist the Americans if thy wanted Rolls Royce?

        2. PlutoniumKun

          If I had access to capital and was looking at what to buy in the UK, I’d buy agricultural land (once the price collapses when people realise the UK government can’t afford the level of subsidy provided by the EU). ‘They don’t make it any more’. A combination of a need to supply the home market with food and climate change will make good British land very valuable I think.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I should add to this, btw, that my history in providing financial tips is absolutely terrible, its a good thing its not my job.

            1. larry

              True, PK. :-) Since the UK is the monopoly issuer of the pound, in principle, there is no problem in the government providing what level of subsidy is needed. The government is under no financial constraints in doing this. What it would need to consider is whether it is using what non-financail resources that are available to it effectively — they would have to exercise some care in this, but such should always be the case. The current Tory government certainly won’t do this, and I don’t think Labour under their current ‘management’ will do so either should they get into power. This will, then, become a political/ideological problem that may prove difficult to ‘solve’.

              Since the government will likely not do what it could so easily do, given the probable lack of political will, your advice may be sound. But I don’t know that for certain.

              1. Avidremainer

                I’m a bit older than the Colonel. I well remember Harald Wilson and the “pound in your pocket episode”.
                As far as I can see the Labour party will support British industry via RBS, embark on a large infrastructure program etc etc… All this will involve an increase in government borrowing.
                Most Brits think that Italy has been the devaluation king over the last century. In fact the UK runs Italy very close.
                Being sovereign is all very well but as America discovered when Nixon came off the Gold Standard if Germany will not accept your currency at the going rate then you have to devalue. Where is your monopoly then?

            2. Colonel Smithers

              Thank you, PK.

              You are on the money with regard to farm land in the UK.

              It is little reported that Brexiteers Sir James Dyson, Professor Tim Congdon and the Bamford family (JCB) have been on a buying spree since the referendum.

              Congdon owns thousands of acres in Argyll. The Bamfords have consolidated in Oxfordshire. Dyson owns more of England than the Queen. He has bought in East Anglia and the West Country.

              Rees-Mogg and Drax don’t need to buy. The Mogg and his wife, mainly, own 150,000 acres, spread over Somerset, Kent, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. Drax owns 7000 acres in Dorset. He’s an heir to the Dunsany barony in Ireland, a Plunkett.

    2. lampoon

      Bill Mitchell, an heterodox economist, is one of the few progressives/leftists I have run across who is firmly pro-Brexit, mostly because he is staunchly anti-neoliberal and anti-EU.
      Here is a link to his blog article “Britain should reject the Brexit ‘agreement’ but proceed with exit” from November 2018 which also provides links to his many prior posts on Brexit.
      He dreams of a truly progressive British Labor government free of the EU’s neoliberal shackles.
      (Responding to Avidremainer’s question if there is any cogent argument for leaving and being better off)

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Much as I admire Mitchells writings on MMT, he is repeatedly wrong about the EU – not in his analysis, but on basic facts. He simply doesn’t understand how the EU works and as such his criticisms should be discounted.

        This isn’t to say there isn’t a coherent left wing anti-EU argument, but you’ll not find it from Mitchell. The most constructive left criticisms tend to come from the ‘light’ Eurosceptic Green/left voices, such as the European United Left – Nordic Green Left grouping and the Greens – European Free Alliance group.

        1. larry

          PK, I think Bill Mitchell understands exactly how the EU works, as can be seen in his book, Eurozone Dystopia. What he does is draw, from his critique of the European elites and some of thier undemocratic institutions, is the conclusion that they are incapable of changing their ways. Since he thinks the EU’s neoliberal ways are irredeemably awful, he further concludes that one should get as far away from this group as possbile.

          His conclusion does not logically follow from his critque, which I think if largely correct, but, then, such conclusions rarely do. Personally, I accept his critique of the European elites, and apply some of it to the UK elite who, I think, in certain respects are worse, but disagree with his conclusion.

          There is no doubt that substantively altering the EU’s neoliberal structure and that of some of the EU institutions will be difficult, extremely difficult. But impossible? I find this hard to accept.

          Moreover, someone could take a modification of his critique of the EU and apply it to the US. Would the conclusion then be that since there is no possibility that the US elite is going to change its ways, the union should be dissolved? Mitchell has said that the EU should perhaps be dissolved and begun again. I am inclined to think that the likelihood of anything beneficial arising from the ashes of what has been is infinitesimal in the present climate.

          I have simplified Mitchell’s views but don’t believe I have distorted them.

      2. Avidremainer

        Sorry mate don’t buy it.
        Neo liberalism has run its course. It should be obvious to even the elites that the rise of China and India mean that unless the West returns to the Social Market, as typified by Germany and Scandinavia, then the west will inevitably decline.
        You cannot be a first world power if your infrastructure is in tatters, your education system a mess and your economy is descending into a rentiers paradise. The future always goes to countries which make things-whether or no it is done by robots or humans.
        By the bye Labour in the UK always has to tread carefully because of all the dark money held in our little empire of tax havens dotted about the world. There is enough money there to blow any currency to the winds.

    3. Joe Well

      My one Brexit prediction is that following a crash-out, the English language is going to become a major driver of what’s left of the economy, as Brits teach English abroad and online, much as kiwi and Canadian recent university grads did during economic downturns, and as language student-tourists flood the UK assuming the pound finally falls.

      This could be a boon for the world, as access to decent English is a driver of inequality.

      My broader guess is that Britain is going to look a lot more like Spain or Portugal, a greatly diminished economy against a backdrop of constant architectural reminders of past glories. Or maybe Ireland is a better comparison. But if Britain can become less unequal at the same time (big “if”) and an actual British 30-something can afford to rent a flat in Zone 2 London…will most people mind?

  11. urdsama

    In looking over the comments at the Guardian, and the twitter feeds of Robert Peston and Richard North, there are a significant number of people in the UK that seem to think the EU will grant an extension no matter what the circumstances are (i.e. plan forward or not) under the belief that a crash out will hurt the EU. Are there still that many people in the UK that are so clueless about the current position of the UK? While I agree that a UK crash out will hurt the EU, it’s looking more and more likely that letting the UK stay will be even more painful.

    This also makes me wonder how much of this unicorn thinking carries over to Parliament and the Government. I’m not defending either one of these bodies, and keeping up to date on Brexit via NC I know most MPs seem to be in their own fantasy land, but how much of this farce is allowed to continue based on the populace spouting such nonsense?

    At this rate, I can’t see how they can give the UK an extension. Who would want such a dysfunctional, and possibly EU hostile via UK MEPs, nation to stay in the EU?

    Time to rip the band-aid off and move ahead. Not saying it will be easy, but can you image 1-2 more years of this circus act with seated MEPs?

  12. Mike

    I’ve been following the excellent NK coverage of Brexit from the start, and have really appreciated the informed and detailed view this has given. I have always hesitated to contribute to such an erudite discussion.
    However, there’s one aspect that I haven’t noticed much comment on – the likely effect of a significantly changed political balance in the EU following the rapidly approaching EU elections. It seems that following these elections, the EU may seem like a rather different organisation, and I wonder how this might affect any feelings and negotiations on anything Brexit-related after May/June. It seems strange that this hasn’t figured in any of the prognostications and calculations.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thats very true, and I suspect the reason is that nobody has really focused on it.

      In terms of the European Parliament, it will obviously hit the Eurosceptic right as the third biggest group, the European Conservatives and Reformists will lose a large chunk of its seats, as will two of the other fringe far right groups (the Tories are in the former, UKIP and fringe groups are in the other). Assuming all other things equal, this will certainly strengthen the mainstream centre right grouping, mostly at the expense of the farther right.

      Its even harder to say within the Council of Ministers itself. The UK has always been a driver behind the ‘competition’ (i.e. neoliberal) agenda and was particularly active in sabotaging environmental directives. It was always a particular friend to Big Ag and Big Pharma. It also tended to ally with East European countries against the Franco-German axis. And of course it was always a strong voice for the financial system.

      So on balance I think the overall result will see a very moderately more Green and less neoliberal EU (ironic given the views of Lexiters), but I doubt the tilt will be all that great as the centre-right is so dominant in both the EU Parliament and among the EU27 right now. I think we’ll see a more overtly mercantilist EU with less sympathy for the US alliance, more direct investment in EU research and development and a doubling down on the Euro (for good or ill, depending on how they double down).

      Apart from that, anyones guess I think.

  13. NIx

    Once again, Thank you, Yves et al, for your unflaggingly superb coverage of all matters Brexit.

    I am not politically connected, but there is an awful lot at stake for me personally in all this.

    Having said that: a great friend of my wife has a relative that works very near the centre of power in Westminster. He says there is a great panic in No 10 because, even though all the press and pundits seem to think that Theresa May can unilaterally revoke Art. 50, this is not, in fact true. There is a process, but nobody knows what it is. I know this sounds a little like late night rumours from Chinese-whispered source, but can anybody here shed light on this?

    1. paul

      Joanna Cherry, SNP, knows how to do it and presented it twice to an indicative vote as a well structured insurance policy against a no deal insurance policy.

      Naturally Labour officially abstained, Kier Starmer saying it wasn’t the time for such a position.
      As a QC, he ought to know if you want insurance to pay off, you have to have it in place before the fact.

      Yvette Balls has cobbled together an inferior bill to obtain an extension from the EU to waste more time.

      As Jolyon Maughm points out:

      The Cooper/Letwin Bill looks like a dangerous distraction.
      First, the timescale is too long.
      Second, it is too vague.
      Third, it doesn’t specify what happens if the EU proposes a different date.
      Fourth, it doesn’t specify what happens if the EU imposes conditions for an extension.

  14. urdsama

    Now it looks likely that the UK PM is going to ask for a short extension…has the UK government lost its family blog mind? I thought the EU had made it exceedingly clear a short extension was not in the offering due to the issue of seating MEPs.

    This seems like an automatic crash out on April 12.

    Am I missing something?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve been distracted today and so am behind, but it what you saw is correct, this is not on. The EU made what I thought was a remarkably astute compromise in what it offered. This would be pissing all over that. I guess they fact that the EU offered till May 22 for the option that expired is emboldening the Government to try to get that anyhow.

      The only way I could fathom the UK might get that is if they said they needed it for crash out prep. Candor and throwing themselves on the mercy of the court.

      1. ChrisPacific

        Yes, this is nuts. More cakeism from May. She seems to think that if she only asks for a short extension (but longer than 12 April) then she can avoid the requirement to participate in elections. As if the EU didn’t draft the offer very explicitly to rule that out.

        It’s hard to see how the EU can avoid pulling the plug on April 12 now. There is no point continuing to offer extension terms when the other party isn’t even making a pretense of abiding by them.

        1. ChrisPacific

          From her official statement:

          “I’m offering to sit down with the Leader of the Opposition to try to agree a plan that we would both stick to, to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal.

          And literally the next sentence:

          “Any plan would have to agree the current withdrawal agreement.

          I cannot make head or tail of this. She clearly has no plan beyond “keep bringing the WA agreement back for more votes until either it passes or I am carted off in a straitjacket.” Why would Corbyn want to jump aboard that sinking ship?

          1. Knute Rife

            Under party rules, the Tories can’t force her out internally until December. The only way she leaves No. 10 between now and then is resignation or no confidence vote (Well, there’s also body bag and straight jacket, but we’ll leave those aside for the moment.). She won’t resign, but Corbyn could make “no confidence” happen, and I wonder if she’s trying to goad him into that trap. A general election would follow (no way a government could be formed without one) which Labour would be in danger of winning, and after they turned this dumpster fire into a full-on bollocks-fest, they would end up being the ones wearing it all. Then May would emerge from whatever hermitage she had run off to and say, “Here in these confines slyly have I lurked to watch the waning of my enemies. I tricked Corbyn and saved the Tory Party! Aren’t I a clever girl?” Then the Tories would let her back into the dining hall. At least I suspect that’s what she’s hoping for.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              Paul Mason in the Guardian has an unusual take on it this morning – he sees it as a capitulation by May and a victory for Corbyn’s strategy.

              The Tory party’s moral collapse is under way. I don’t know what new formation will emerge. But even its enemies must acknowledge that Corbyn’s Labour party has ground May’s project to dust by drawing on the one thing that outsiders to the labour movement can never quite understand: the discipline and solidarity that come from being vilified and ignored – something May could never rely on among the squabbling ranks of entitled Tory MPs.

              He’s normally an astute political writer, but I think he’s getting way ahead of himself here. I think the comparative silence from Tories over May’s move means that they see this as a trap she’s trying to set for Corbyn.

              1. Avidremainer

                Well we’ll have to disagree. British politics has always been a race to see which party will disintegrate first. The Tories have been in pole position for some time. I hope they will soon be doing a victory lap.
                Mrs May has legitimised Corbyn. She has horrified her right wing. As you say Paul Mason is usually on the ball. He is spot on in this.

  15. Marko

    I rather enjoyed the rumour yesterday that Theresa May would introduce MV4 shortly—but this time as a confidence matter.

    I think the readership here would be inclined to view a result of no confidence as a near guarantee of a crash out, but I’m not sure the Ultras see it like that. DUP at the very least would be put in an interesting position.

    Alas, today’s announcement seems to indicate that it’s not going to be the first thing for the PM to try

  16. ahimsa

    PM May seems to think the EU wasn’t serious when it granted an extension in order to approve the WA by March 29th and leave by May 22nd avoiding EU elections.

    There was and is perhaps wiggle room to pass WA before April 12th but I imagine that is a red line for the EU with regard to the EU elections.

    I don’t believe the current UK gov will agree to EU elections, so No-Deal Brexit here we come!

  17. Tom Stone

    A thank you to Yves and the very knowledgeable commentariat for their contributions.
    I long ago came to the conclusion that a crash out Brexit was close to a certainty based on the personalities involved.
    It’s going to be a mess and no one can know at this point how big a mess it will be.
    The relationships of the UK to the rest of the World ( Supply chains come to mind) are enormously complex and dynamic, and my experience with complex dynamic systems is that when you change one input the effects can be quite surprising…

    1. Avidremainer

      The answer is in two parts. Does the establishment believe he is the devil? No. Does the establishment want the plebs to believe he is the devil?Yes. After today’s events it will be hard for the establishment’s narrative to get back on track. If the nut jobs in the ERG take off and start to orbit the moon or worse Jupiter then this will split the Tories.

  18. ljones

    Maybe everyone has the whole may wanting talks with jeremy corbyn round the wrong way?

    Random thought: May really actually wants no deal. I’ll note there have been no resignations so far btw – so is the apparent anger by the ERG just manufactured? Here’s how though — this is (yet another) kick the can down the road moment and a possible blame-labour trap. Talks take days with no compromise on any side. So then it goes to parliament and a series of votes but by that time it is too late (no answer or reason for the EU to extend) and the tories won’t accept any vote outcome (even though may said she would — remeber, this could all be a trap). End result? Everything happens too late and then crash-out.

    End result: Say hello to Prime minister Johnson or Prime minister Mogg. Ugh :-(


  19. lampoon

    Reading Rbt Peston, he said that May has crossed a Rubicon by reaching out to Labor to approve the WA and collaborate with them on the follow up future relationship negotiations (I think). She is bypassing DUP and ERG to avoid a no-deal Brexit at all costs. Peston wrote that “According to ministers, defining issue was that if there was a no-deal Brexit “we’d have to go to direct rule in Northern Ireland,” says one. “Disaster. Huge risk. Of all legacies, the break-up of the Union [of the UK], the worst for a PM. She’ll never do no deal now.” And I am told: “Andrea [Leadsom] requested that we go ahead with the risk of direct rule but call it something else.”
    ERG and DUP are ‘spitting tacks’
    Apprently she is willing to split the Tory party to avoid a crash out, which is unexpected, isn’t it?

    1. Anonymous2

      Wait to see how it plays out. It could very well be another ruse. May is slippery.

  20. Epistrophy

    I do not understand the fear mongering of those using the term ‘crash-out’.

    It is a prediction of something that, by definition, has not occurred and therefore does not exist except in one’s imagination.

    If we are looking for historical fact, let us consider the one time of recent history when there was a real ‘crash-out’; that was the ‘crash-out’ of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in September of 1992. The day that broke the Bank of England.

    Thatcher was against joining the ERM and was dispatched in a coup of her own party’s doing primarily led by Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke. John Major, Thatcher’s successor tacitly accepted joining the ERM, I presume because he did not want to be dispatched too. Thatcher did good and bad as all politicians do, I am not saying she was any better or worse than many of past years so do not assume I am a Thatcherite.

    Now we have Kenneth Clarke trying to do in all over again. His so-called ‘Customs Union’ is a disaster for the country and would destroy this great nation’s future.

    I have lived through this 1992 ‘crash out’, managed businesses through it and know exactly what it was like. It was caused by a small cabal of pro-Europe political insiders and it nearly destroyed this great country. In my view, Britain needs a cordial but separate relationship with the European superstate project as history has amply demonstrated is in Great Britain’s best long term interest.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Help me. The degree of trade integration (extended supply chains) and most important, reliance on just-in-time manufacturing and the resulting minimization of inventory means 1992 is the stone ages compared to now. Your experience then has zero relevance to how trade operates today.

      1. Epistrophy

        Yves, the term ‘crash-out’, to me, smacks of pure propaganda. It is in the realms of fantasy and imagination, nothing more. The arguments that are made regarding just-in-time and related issues are technical ones that will be overcome with technical solutions, not political ones. Unlike the IRS in the USA, HMRC in the UK are very proactive when it comes to tariff and taxation solutions on the ground that can facilitate international trade and commerce.

        I note the daily broadcasts in the UK announcing new on-the-ground regulations and technical systems regarding customs, immigration and other matters. I can confirm in my location of the UK that European sourced supermarkets are increasing investment and capacity later this year and are expanding (one European company that imports many if not most of its goods from the European continent has just signed a lease for a facility that is 3 times the size of its current facility). They have obviously already worked out these technical problems going forward.

        The assumption that trade between Europe and the UK would cease or even experience serious disruption is unfounded speculation. Britain runs a large trade deficit with Europe, and Germany, France and Holland are not going to sit idly by and lose perhaps their largest export markets. There is also southern Europe that receives millions of British tourists each year.

        Britain is a trading country, it has been for centuries. The entire regulatory system here is based upon that objective; It’s future depends upon unfettered trade and being in the European Union, that is clearly a protectionist trading block, is not in Great Britain’s long term interests.

        The great danger for the European superstate project is if one member leaves and prospers outside the union.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You have no concept of what “trade” today entails. You are the one engaging in disinformation. Go read Richard North’s website, or watch the 3 Blokes videos on Brexit. You are spewing fact free ideological twattle.

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