Brexit: Sound and Fury

Even though we are just past a Bank Holiday Monday, it seemed timely to check in on the state of Brexit, if nothing else because the G-7 meeting provided the opportunity for some posturing.

It is admittedly potentially hazardous to one’s reputation to speculate about what someone as fabulously erratic as Boris Johnson might do. Nevertheless, in his campaign for Prime Minister, Johnson looked to have committed himself so irrevocably to a Brexit on October 31 that it would be virtually impossible for him to change course, since it would take time to attempt to soften up the Tories. Plus it would also take time for the gravity of a Brexit to penetrate as well.

So far, Johnson has acted in line with our expectations. We anticipated that he’d go visit European leaders while Parliament was away on summer recess if nothing else so as to appear to be Doing Something, and if he got lucky, to get remarks that No. 10 and the credulous press could play up as signs of progress.

One minor deviation was that Johnson was slower to hit the road than he could have been, but perhaps that reflects Johnson’s desire not to look eager combined with his faith that the EU will blink.

Angela Merkel gave Johnson reason to hope regarding the non-binding description of the future relationship, which predictably was played up by the Government and the press as a Johnson breakthrough. I wondered if this was Merkel yet again being her cautious self or whether she was toying with Johnson. She made a later remark which if she was not trying to make sport, was unhinged, as in suggesting that since the EU and UK would eventually have to come to terms in a trade deal, why not get it done in 30 days? She can’t be so clueless as to not understand that even the US, which dictates terms in its trade agreements, still takes over a year, and more like two, to get them done. And can she have missed that the relatively uncontentious deal with Canada took seven years to negotiate?

Needless to say, in Johnson’s next head of state meeting with Macron, after Merkel’s first chipper-sounding remarks, , the misguided optimism was put paid. And in terms of substance, the EU has made clear that even if it were to renegotiate, a new Withdrawal Agreement would be substantively the same as the old, but if the UK wants to put a concrete proposal forward, they’ll entertain it. Notice that despite Johnson making an articulate case as to why the Withdrawal Agreement was a non-starter for the UK, he has yet to provide an alternative.

We’re in Groundhog Day territory yet again, with the tired threat of not paying the so-called divorce tab again rearing it ugly head. It is quite astonishing that most of what passes for the elites in the UK seem not to grasp that Brexit is not the end of the road, but merely an irrevocable first step in what will be a long and taxing process of forging new trade agreements with the rest of the world and making significant legal, economic, and lifestyle changes as a result of that. Those of you who are keeping tabs on the finer points of the Brexit negotiations likely took note of Barnier saying that any trade deal with the EU would require the UK to commit to the main points of the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular, the exit bill, the provisions regarding movement of people, and something a lot like the backstop (Clive pointed out it would be very hard to devise an analogue to the backstop arrangements absent a transition period, which comes only with a Withdrawal Agreement).

Nevertheless, some people are taking UK’s latest justifications in the right spirit (hat tip guurst, who encourages you to read the comments):

Another controversy is that Johnson has asked attorney general Geoffrey Cox whether Parliament could be prorogued for five weeks starting September 9. Recall that the normal Parliament session would have it be in recess for three weeks, from mid-September to early October. Nevertheless, this Parliament might choose to dispense with that, and in any event, five weeks is not three weeks.

The press reaction was explosive, but it also made clear that the only recourse would be to go to court, and that might take time when time is of the essence.

Substantively, Johnson’s inquiry into suspending Parliament suggests he’s worried about the one way his pet Brexit could be cashiered…by cashiering him with a no confidence vote. But even then, it’s not clear he’d be beaten despite his lack of political legitimacy, in terms of having been installed by a mere 100,000 or so voters. Even though pro-Remain Tories might defect, whip counts so far have found their numbers would be at least matched by pro-Brexit Labour MPs who’d abstain.

Further, as readers have discussed at some length, the last date for holding a vote of no confidence in time to hold new elections before Brexit has already passed. And again, as discussed, the idea of using the 14 days before a new election to form a government of national unity is going nowhere thanks to Labour-LibDem rivalry. That is not going down well in some circles:

We also have tired old unicorns prancing around:

And unhappiness with Labour posturing:

One thing that has happened despite the apparent lack of movement is that it’s now widely recognized that a crash out is the most likely outcome. Yet businesses seem oddly somnolent despite how little time is left. And it’s not as if most of the Europe seems adequately concerned either.

Bronwen Maddox, a director of the Institute for Government, wrote a comment for the Financial Times which has the feeling that the author felt a need to state what ought to be obvious:

The coming weeks will show whether the UK parliament can find a way to block no-deal. But the assumption made by spectators of this extraordinary piece of theatre, in which the nation’s future is being improvised from cliffhanger to cliffhanger, must be that no deal is the most likely outcome….

It is no surprise, then, that the prospect of no deal is taking all the oxygen in government — all that is left, that is, by the planning for a general election.

I’m wondering when Johnson will finally get that the EU really will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. My sense is he still believes his own rhetoric and believes the EU will relent at the last minute. Does he simply try to refine his “blame the EU” talk? Because even now, he’s running out of options.

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  1. vlade

    This is fascnating TBH. The only thing I really wish for in the Brexit story is if I was able to read it in a book 100 years later on.. I do wonder how (some) people felt before WW1 and WW2..

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’m not a huge fan of Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, but she does have a some good ‘on the ground’ articles about Brexit. Its quite clear that many in business realise what a shitstorm is about to hit them, but the message just isn’t getting out.

      All three of these very different businesses make the same complaint. No one listens. They can’t get the ear of any ministers. No one wants to know what Brexit is doing already, or the devastation no deal will cause to companies like theirs. They warn that bogus reassurances about the UK’s preparedness will come unstuck. Lorry delays at ports may be sorted within weeks, but Varga says his problems are mostly “frog-boilers” – the steady loss of customers that has started already. Why hasn’t business shouted louder from day one? He tried, but others took fright in the face of hostile press coverage. He says businesses were warned that pro-leave customers would turn their back on products from companies that spoke out against Brexit.

      There are numerous stories floating about of SME’s in the UK quietly making enquiries about moving elsewhere in the EU. Most of these are run by Tories – I think historians will spend a lot of time wondering how the Tory Party became so disengaged from its own business roots. I can only assume it comes down to the complete dominance of Finance now in influential circles.

    2. Synoia

      I have a copy of the 2130 “History of The British Iles”, in the original French.
      The Introduction is:

      L’archipel d’Angleterre est constitué d’un ensemble de petites îles désolées au coût de la Communauté Européenne, peuplées de quelques centaines de milliers de personnes parlant anglais, enlisées dans la pauvreté.

      1. Seamus Padraig

        At this rate, I’m starting to doubt that the EU will make it to 2030, let alone 2130.

        1. Anonymous 2

          The EU could conceivably lose a member or two but the others derive too much benefit from membership for the whole organisation to disappear – unless the French lose their marbles.

  2. Clive

    In the absence of anything sensible being uttered by anyone in government involved, I can only postulate a change in mood music that seems to be emerging which is a recognition of the bleedin’ obvious that, post a No Deal Brexit, inevitably (as the above piece makes clear) Something Will Have To Be Done. Whatever flavour of Brexit happened on Exit Day, it’s not like either the EU or the U.K. suddenly become pickled in aspic, forever destined to be unchanged through the rest of time.

    There’ll be real problems to solve for both the U.K. and the EU, so even on a day-to-day practical basis, some measures will have to be in place, even on a mundane level like information sharing.

    If you read Fine Gael’s most recent pronouncements (such as here), it’s possible to detect (well, I detected it anyway) that, once you get past the ritual exhumations of the Withdrawal Agreement (and FG’s European Affairs Minister have given Monty Python a run for their money, “this Agreement is dead” “no, it’s not dead, it’s just resting”) then it does suggest that those involved are starting to look beyond Exit Day itself and start their positioning.

    Which, naturally, the openings of which are those of the current impasses (the EU wanting, supposedly, regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the EU being the main one, the U.K. being, one assumes happy with that in the short to medium term but not with a lock-in it can’t ever get out of) plus some neither-here-nor-there nonsense about “the £39bn” or whatever the real figure is, which is, not wanting to sound glib, only money, citizens’ rights virtue signalling and so on.

    Where that will all go, post Exit Day is, though anyone’s guess. On the one hand, the EU will no doubt want to hold out for a backstop-like concession and it maintains the apparent advantage in as much as the EU having a much stronger negotiating position than the U.K. will. But on the other hand, from a starting point of zero — absolutely nothing — in the way of discussions, outline drafts, U.K. legislation green papers, white papers, Parliamentary first readings, second readings, committee stages, Commons amendments, Lords amendments, royal assent and effective-from dates, let alone any kind of democratic mandate for any such things, to pretend that either the EU or the U.K. are in any way “legislation ready” for this inside of two years, barest of bare minimum, is preposterous.

    So what to do in this long, long period of time? On the EU’s side, presumably a mixture of Single Market rule adherence forbearance and inter-government (U.K. / RoI) cooperation. On the U.K. side, probably doing nothing much and seeing what happens. The longer this “temporary” situation goes on for, the harder it, unavoidably, becomes to get the U.K. to try to swallow anything particularly unpalatable. Most of the Brexit dynamic until now has been able to call on a “drama of persuasion” backdrop. But that’s not viable when both parties are looking at having to make do and mend over years. No matter how bad a taste a No Deal Brexit will leave in the U.K.’s mouth, there’s simply no accelerating this process of discussing, agreeing, formalising and then enacting the Treaty or Treaties which will be required.

    Which, returning to my main point, is what makes things such as the remarks by FG’s European Affairs Minister interesting, not in so much as what she said (which wasn’t anything particularly useful) but the fact that the ground was already being shifted to what might happen after Exit Day.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      First of all, just to point out that the European Affairs portfolio is a nothingburger portfolio in the Irish government, its a job given to someone in the party who needs a profile but can’t be trusted to make decisions. McEntee though is fairly smart so I assume she was reading a pre-prepared script of some sort. And yes you are right to say that the conversation has gone on to the post no-deal situation. In which case the Irish government scenario that seems to be taking form is that the WA will still be the basis for rescuing the British government from the mess its making – in other words, it will be part of the precondition for talks for sorting out the eventual deal. I suspect the hope is that by then London will have realised that ditching the DUP is the only way they can address the NI issue, and will bring back the Irish Sea border issue. There is no energy or will to make any concessions prior to November to the UK, its simply not on the internal agenda.

      I do get the impression from comments I’ve read from the Irish haulage industry that they think it will be an utter catastrophe for NI and British companies, but that there are enough contingencies in place for Ireland to do ok. Essentially, Ireland now has enough ferry capacity to bypass the UK for EU trade, and that a combination of pre-EU agreements and a certain amount of pragmatism will mean that Ireland will get what it needs from the UK (e.g. construction materials), and the UK will be desperate enough that it will have to take what its given in terms of imports. I’ve no idea if this is the reality, but certainly the direct haulage/trade people think that they can keep Irish business/consumers going without major problems. But they don’t see any way their NI counterparts can do the same thing.

      1. David

        It’s worth pointing out that almost nobody alive in Britain today has ever lived through a real crisis, and of course unless you have done so it’s virtually impossible to understand how it feels and what its effects are. Britain as a country has not had to handle a genuine crisis since at least Suez, and that was a crisis within the existing rules of the game. So not just individuals, but also systems and institutions, are unused to crises. This accounts, I think for the pervasive sense of unreality. Nobody, from Johnson to the merest HMRC clerk, via parliament and the media, understands what living through a crisis is actually likely to entail. I have no idea what precisely will happen over the next couple of months, but it’s already clear that things will evolve in a way that the main actors (and for that matter the spectators) won’t understand and cannot prepare for. It’s less the content than the form that matters, in other words; less the detail of the crisis than the fact of the crisis.

        1. FergusD

          Not only haven’t they lived through a crisis, many don’t have any experience of the U.K. outside the EEC/EU. If you are a manager in business in your 50s, say 55, born in born in 1964, you were 9 years old when the U.K. joined the EEC. So what would you know of business outside the EC/EU? All your working life integration of the EU increased, trade barriers decreased, so now selling to or buying from the EU outside of the U.K. is a no brainer. Maybe this is an important issue, very few in the U.K. now have any idea of what it will be like outside the EU. And in 2019 life outside the EU will actually be more complicated than life outside the EC in 1973.

      2. Clive

        The main problems with ferry crossings are the limited capacity (8 sailings per week I think at the moment) compared with nearly 40 per day across the channel — and then you’ve got Eurostar Channel Tunnel capacity on top of that, the 18-hour sailing time which is 8 hours longer than the U.K. “land bridge” option even worse-case allowing for traffic congestion and, most problematic of all, weather dependency.

        A week of jet-stream directed strong winds really did cause “chaos at the ports” even on the comparatively short Dover-Calais route and not infrequently in winter you simply get low pressure system after low pressure system charging in from across the Atlantic. A 90 minute Channel crossing can provide enough flexibility and small good weather Windows can be exploited to make short-notice sailings, but this just isn’t viable on an 18 hour ferry trip. “Reliable” weather disruptions was a major part of the Channel Tunnel business case.

        In the longer term, larger and more weather-tolerant shipping options from/to France and the Republic are a fix, but you’re talking 5-year lead time here. The route has long suffered a poor record on cancellations and the only really viable way of adding resilience is a substantial increase in both capacity and redundancy, which is capital-intensive and thus costly. But you can only do so much against the weather issue.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Its not something I’ve looked into in detail, but I read recently a detailed analysis by a guy who runs a mid sized haulage firm who seems well connected. He points out that its actually ideal timing from the point of view of ferry capacity, because there are a number of older ferries being replaced, so the companies are looking to ‘overlap’ the replacements, leading to an effective doubling of capacity to Europe. There is a surplus of ro-ro capacity in Europe now due to Mediterranean routes being cut back, so there isn’t a particular issue with theoretical capacity. Also, the newer ferries coming on line now are far more weather resistant – the previous problem was with ferries being used that were not specifically designed for Atlantic crossings (I know this problem all too well as I once took a ferry from Dublin to Roscoff on a ferry designed for the Irish Sea crossing – it was not pleasant).

          He also said that while Irish hauliers will avoid Holyhead in the immediate aftermath of a no-deal, they are confident that existing arrangements will allow for ‘sealed cargo’ arrangements so that the cross-UK route will still be viable in the New Year for time critical deliveries.

  3. Ataraxite

    Thank you, Yves, for another thorough portrayal of the madness. Like vlade, I find this fascinating, but I suspect that’s because I can watch all this from the sane side of the English Channel.

    Some other thoughts:

    The EU seems to be quite happy with the current Brexit Stasis – it avoids any shocks to the various EU economies, which are looking a little weak of late, and it requires very little EU bandwidth, apart from repeating to the English every so often that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened. For this reason, I think we won’t see a repeat of the April European Council, and a further extension – another 6 months, another year – is almost certain to be offered.

    (This is also the EU’s trump card in the blame game currently being carried out: they offer an extension, but if the UK refuses it, they can hardly blame the EU for no deal. “We tried to help you guys!”)

    I disagree with you, Yves, that Boris will relent at the last minute, or that he even believes the EU will. And the reason for that is that there is a hard core – and a significant portion of the Tory vote – who have essentially become a cult as regards Brexit: only the purest, hardest form will do, and even a Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop (not gonna happen, but bear with me) will be seen as a betrayal, and will reanimate the Brexit Party with extraordinarily rapidity. There was a very interesting poll in the Telegraph at the start of August with various scenarios:

    No Deal is the only possible outcome where Johnson remains Prime Minister. If he agrees a deal, it will be seen as a betrayal. If he asks for, or is forced into an extension, it will be seen as a betrayal.

    God help the minority of Brits who see through this madness, but are going to be affected by it anyway.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I did not suggest that Boris would relent. I clearly indicated that he’s burned his ships, that he has no where to go. He’s so committed himself to a crash out, and more importantly boxed himself in politically, that he can’t back out (as in even ask for an extension) absent a truly extraordinary event, like the US invading Iran.

      I am saying I wonder what Boris will do it/when he realizes there is zero chance the EU will budge and Brexit will be a train wreck. I don’t know how a guy who has gotten by with charm and dishonesty does when neither of them will get him out of the mess he’s created. Does he panic? Go into hiding? Engage in frantic displacement activity?

      1. Noel Nospamington

        The answer Yves is obvious, that guy will lie as much as possible and blame others to get out of the mess they created.

        Keep in mind that a big reason why leave won the Brexit vote has to do with decades of Conservatives and right-wing press deflecting as much blame as possible unjustifiable to the EU for their defective policies. Why would anyone expect this to stop after a no-deal?

        1. RBHoughton

          Very good Noel, thank you for saying that. I live in Hong Kong and have been made aware of the startling almost overwhelming power of the English-language media, both print and TV, to create a tissue of lies (with photographs) that could impress many readers as real news.

      2. Larry Taylor

        > I don’t know how a guy who has gotten by with charm and dishonesty
        > does when neither of them will get him out of the mess he’s created.
        > Does he panic? Go into hiding? Engage in frantic displacement activity?

        Sure, didn’t we have a crystal-clear example only three years ago? The system is built specifically to take care of guys like that. I mean: David Cameron.

      3. vlade

        Another option is that he could engineer something via opposition.

        Remember, it is extremely likely that he faced anodyne Hunt rather than Gove because some of his supporters voted tactically.

        Arguably, that was a secret ballot, so much harder to do in Parliamentary votes, but a junior MP (or a retiring MP) could well be told “vote with the rebels [or abstain], it’ll be uncomfortable for a while, but we’ll make it up for you”. But then, we have seen examples of drunk MPs wandering into the wrong lobbies during votes (or getting lost etc..), so there’s always an excuse..

        Then he can blame the opposition for anything passed.

  4. Mark

    A small correction regarding the Merkel 30 days issue. At least in her German press conference she was not talking about a futture trade deal instead she was talking about solutions which would make the backstop unneccessary. She said something like: it might be possible to find a solution, even within 30days – she also made clear that the UK has to provide workable suggestions first.

    1. DaveH

      Indeed. It was very much in the context of “well, we originally said we’d try to get a replacement for back-stop in two years. Maybe it’ll sort itself in the next thirty days. It’s on those dozy Brits to find a way to make it work, so who knows?”

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      She had said that right after the first meeting with Johnson, as in recounting what she had told him after her in person. However, the FT piece reported the 30 days to a deal, as in “we have to have an overall deal anyhow, so why not get to that in 30 days,” as if it were a subsequent remark. Is that not the case?

      In any event, if the latter, it sounds like a taunt: “Surely you can build Rome in a day?”

      1. DaveH

        Not quite on the former – the idea was always for the transition period to be two years of magically coming up with something that meant the back-stop would never be needed. That could have been the the trade deal (which doesn’t solve the problem and would take a whole lot longer as you rightly say) or the “alternative arrangements” (taken as unseriously now as they deserve to be).

        Your second reading is absolutely right (and German commentators have since said this). Basically saying “if you think you can fix in a month something that everyone else knows is impossible, then crack on Mr. Johnson, the floor is yours…”

      2. seninger

        As a German native, what Merkel said puzzled me for a few days, I didn’t really understand it. Now after a few days and her clarifications, I do. Boris Johnson always says the Backstop is no problem, its easy to solve (through “alternative customs arrangements”) and therefor the EU can easily drop the Backstop. Therefor Merkel says, ok if you are so smart, why wait another 2 years for presenting your easy solutions. If its so easy then you can easily present them in the next 30 days!
        There was a lot of sarcasm in her remark, and it was both brilliant and hugely misleading, when you think Boris and his press used it to give the impression the EU would finally move now.

  5. larry

    Toynbee has an interesting article in the Guardian today, where she reprises a topic she addressed recently, how some businesses are viewing the possibility of a no deal Brexit. This time three businesses are discovering that no one in government is listening to members of the business community. One said that, in an interview with his Tory MP, it seemed to him that he couldn’t be got rid of quickly enough. No one seemed to be listening to him. In a previous article, one business, a chocolate manufacturer, hence one reason it caught my eye, in which the owner contended that he could not get any sense out of HMRC about filling in the hundreds of forms he needed to. They didn’t seem to be listening to him either.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I actually posted a comment on that Toynbee article, but its stuck in moderation at the moment.

    2. Pavel

      Post-Brexit UK-EU trading and customs (with or without a Deal) would call out for a sophisticated and user-friendly IT system running on robust servers to handle all the new forms that need to be filled in. In other words, just what the UK has never been able to deliver…

      Of course, for *really* important systems, manages to pull things together, right?

      The Ministry of Defence’s secure military network was built to help British troops operate more effectively around the world. The MoD gave parliament a figure of £2.3 billion, but a report by MPs has shown that they knew that the project would cost at least £5.8 billion. The true figure has since risen to at least £7.1 billion. By 2008, the programme was running at least 18 months late, had provided only 29,000 of a contracted 63,000 terminals, and had supplied none of the contracted Secret capability.

      According to the then chairman of the PAC, Edward Leigh, there was no suitable pilot carried out for such a multifaceted programme. The condition of the Department’s buildings where the system was to be installed was badly miscalculated due to insufficient research.

      –Biggest UK Government Project Failures

      [I guess not — Ed.]

      1. DaveH

        On this, something I’m surprised that I haven’t seen raised anywhere – the hypothetical, proposed solutions and how they will interact with data protection rules.

        “So Mr UK Government Minister, you say that the solution to the border is going to be online and technical, involving a huge amount of data storage and exchange between the UK and EU. So presumbly by extension, the UK will be signing up in perpetuity for dynamic alignment on all EU data protection and data sharing laws?and amending UK laws to match if they change in the future?”

        I would have thought it was the obvious follow-up question to any interviewer who is told that trusted traders, pre-clearance and online declarations can fix things. But it never seems to be raised. Surely the solutions that they propose are incompatible with what they hope to achieve?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          OMFG, this is so basic! And I see today better descriptions of why the data sharing will pose problems for UK businesses. Some of it is marketing-related (not being able to share what a customer has done in the EU readily with a UK-based merchant), but in other cases, it seems more fundamental.

          1. vlade

            I dropped a comment on the data protection stuff, because I thought it was too snarky.
            Basically it’s an avalanche that’s going to hit a lot of UK businesses, even some that do not consider themselves “export” (your average B&B, via bookings..).

            It really really brings home to what the no-deal is. It’s removing majority of existing legal framework, in a world where you can do stuff only through a legal framework. Most people in the UK still believe that “no deal” is “status quo”. It ain’t. It’s as far from status quo as you can get.

            1. Clive

              Not strictly an issue because you can simply nominate a “data controller” in the EU and another one in the U.K. — if you operate internationally, you’ll have (or should have, if you’re remotely competent to do cross-border sales) an overarching agreement which you get your customers to sign up to (and they don’t actually need to sign anything, they just agree to it by continuing to use your services, or not) that agrees to pooling of datasets across the enterprise as a whole. And there’s usually a boilerplate clause about, for EU citizens, that data may be processed outside of the EU but to “equivalent standards” of data protection.

              Here, as a worked example, is Airbnb’s — get a load of this bit:

              1.3 Applicability to Payments

              This Privacy Policy also applies to the Payment Services provided to you by Airbnb Payments pursuant to the Payments Terms of Service (“Payments Terms”). When using the Payment Services, you will be also providing your information, including personal information, to one or more Airbnb Payments entities, which will also be the Data Controller (the “Payments Data Controller”) of your information related to the Payment Services, generally depending on your country of residence.

              (Clive: shorter, “we can do what the heck we like, wherever we like to do it”) … but here’s a real peach:

              If your country of residence is in the European Union, the Payment Data Controller is Airbnb Payments UK. On or after March 25, 2019, any change of the Payment Data Controller to Airbnb Payments Luxembourg S.A., if any, will be notified to you at the time of checkout or by other appropriate means.

              “notified by appropriate means” — we’ll tack it onto the end of an email, or something.

              A real, genuine B&B (a traditional Devon or Cornwall landlady letting out a few rooms in a big house) will either just have a crude, plain website, maybe a few plain HTML only pages they host and maintain themselves which isn’t transactional and takes “bookings” by turning what the person filling the form on the website types in into an email or something like that (in which case, they don’t “store” or “process” data and even if they do, they’ll be confined to the U.K. and cross border data handling simply doesn’t exist as an issue for them) or they’ll some large aggregator (not a scammy one like Airbnb, such as the Good Hotel Guide) which might well be transactional and do data processing, but are U.K. only and registered in the U.K. with a U.K. data handling policy.

              The only risk I see in all this is, as with GDPR, a whole bunch of con artists see an opportunity to stir up a flurry of general concerns in a group of (usually small and inexperienced) business owners who they can then sell unnecessary and inappropriate “consultancy” or overpriced techie solutions to fix a non-existent problem. And big scale, knowledgeable international operator, say, like Airbnb who wants to continue to play regulatory regime arbitrage has already made sure they and their ill-gotten revenue stream will be unaffected.

              1. vlade

                I’d not be so sure about this, as I had a privacy run-in in the UK (which was basically someone taking my passport, photocopying it, and sending it on, to a non UK party – which definitely counts as “processing and storing”. I was furious when I found out).

                The UK privacy watchdog did zilch “it’s customary, so what?”, even when I quoted them the parts of the UK law which prohibited sending the info outside the UK.

                That said, thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure what could the EU do about something like this (for a small operator) except raise it as lack of protection in wider UK negotiations.

                1. Clive

                  Yes, there’s a lot of nice theoretical constructs in the various EU directives on privacy and data handling, but enforcement is, as always, down to national government. Which in the absence of CJEU referrals and opinions, can (and so you found, often is) useless.

                  For some hypothetical EU citizen in a post No Deal world who complained that an EU Member State registered business was sending their data to the U.K. for processing and this citizen was a customer of that business, they’d have to complain to their national regulators. Who might do something about it, but even then, the Terms and Conditions of the business which was selling the product or service could simply do what Airbnb have already done and stipulate in their small print what they will do with your data — and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else. They may lose a small — teeny, tiny — amount of sales, but I can’t see it turning into a cause celebre. Such crappy treatment of customers’ data is sadly endemic.

                  And while I do get what the Directives were trying to achieve, if I have to click on one more “accept cookies” or “our privacy policy has changed, click here to view” button on a website, I may just spontaneously combust. All the good intentions have done is just turn a continent of web users into a load of “yeah, whatever, like I care” pee’d-off cynics.

              2. vlade

                And, TBH, I wasn’t too woried about payments, for me it was mostly about bookings (which you address) and the requirement to hold guest registration details for anyone over 16 (which is a legal requirement).

                Which includes the passport details for non UK, Irish or Commonwealth citizens, which is where my original privacy thing went wild.

    3. EoH

      The chaos seems to run across government. It is reminiscent of the Home Office, curled up in its shell, but hellbent on keeping out furriners and surveilling those already in that green and pleasant land. It is as if Henry Kissinger has gone to his maker, and finds himself greeted by an infinite number of Nixons and Chiles needing his guidance.

  6. @pe

    She made a later remark which if she was not trying to make sport, was unhinged, as in suggesting that since the EU and UK would eventually have to come to terms in a trade deal, why not get it done in 30 days?

    German humor is famously dry. Where an American will smirk, a German will just very slightly raise an eyebrow (excepting of course broad humor, where German humor is even broader).

    She was saying that, if it’s so easy that the backstop is irrelevant, why not just go ahead and do it today? It’s trivial right? It was an insult, in short.

    1. @pe

      Merkel: “Ich habe gesagt, was man in drei Jahren oder in zwei Jahren schaffen will, dass kann man auch in 30 Tagen schaffen”, führte Merkel aus. “Besser gesagt, müsste man sagen: Das kann man auch bis zum 31. Oktober schaffen. Es geht also nicht um 30 Tage, sondern sie waren sinnbildlich.”

      Free translation:
      I said, what you want to get done in 2 or 3 years, you can do in 30 days — explained Merkel — I should have said better: you can even get it done by October 31. It’s not about 30 days — that’s only symbolic.

      In American: if the back stop is so easy that we can solve it before the end of the transition period, why ain’t there a solution on the table today?

      1. vlade

        Yep. Which, apart from showing that the UK press has no cultural framework to understand her, point to the main problem.

        If you believe there’s a solution to the backstop, call it option 1, then you’d not be worried about the backstop, because it’s a backstop. Only if your solution (i.e. option 1) fails do we go to backstop.

        So, if you ARE worried about backstop, you do not believe in your option 1.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Thanks. Per my comment earlier, this was reported in the FT op ed as if this was a separate, subsequent remark, as in upping the ante from what she said previously. Apologies. I should have tracked this down as opposed to making an assumption based on how the article was written (it made it sound like a fresh development).

        And yes, per my comment above, I did see this as a taunt.

        Merkel had separately (quite a while back) also said she thought it was possible to get to a trade deal in two years, and I reacted incredulously to that at the time. However, given her history, you can see the basis for confusion on my part.

        1. @pe

          My guess, given her history, is that her thinking is that once you get a strategic agreement, you can work on the details iteratively over decades. That would be the “trade deal” — the creation of a process that will produce an ever finer tuned series of deals.

          Her experience is with the Wende, the rejoining of Germany. The deal, in principle, was made quickly — working out the consequences, the details of the deal, have taken almost three decades and are still under negotiation (see the continuing discussion over the solidarity tax which acts as a transfer mechanism between the “old states” and the “new states”).

          It’s classical conservative thinking, in the good sense of conservative. Isolate radical changes to a quick deal, then work iteratively forward over a century or so. Thus the GFA, for example — let’s agree on the principle, then turn that principle into something that can work itself out over the very long term.

          You can also see it with coal-mining in Germany, with long-term plans that lead to a quick discontinuity (the end is being accelerated of a very long-term plan that involves some of the largest works on the planet) but under a plan that minimizes following discontinuities. Every agrees, then the details of how to cut the pie are worked out in a compromising fashion; everyone gets a cut.

          That of course depends on everyone being “Verhandlungsfähig” — capable of negotiating and sticking with the principle of the deal even as subsidiary details are concretized, rather than everyone trying to play winner takes all at every round, which requires one mega-deal.

    2. TimH

      Your analysis feels right to me too. Also, old fashioned upper class British humour was similarly dry, so there’s a subtlety to it that despite BJ’s public school education, his persona is boor not wit.

  7. EoH

    “Taking all the oxygen in government,” is a typical English understatement. Dealing with a negotiated Brexit, let alone a no-deal one, will take all the oxygen for a generation and cost hundreds of billions of pounds to reinvent the legal, economic, and foreign policy wheels of government.

    Mr. Johnson seems to find that as irresistible a proposition as another magnum of free champagne. One wonders why, and who will benefit from the chaos. I should imagine it includes those fond of right wing authoritarian government, which thrives in it like mushrooms. Contemporary anglicized versions of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip will descend on Downing Street like fairies in the moonlight.

  8. The Rev Kev

    Sound and fury? Nah, it is probably all signifying nothing and is just a story told by that idiot Boris. I think that at this stage it is obvious that the UK is going to crash out in 64 days time. At that point places like Northern Ireland will have to dump the rule book and cut their own deals and make their own arrangements with the EU in order to survive. What I think will happen is that London will start cracking down using the newly recruited police, all those CCTV cameras and writing whatever laws, including those for censorship, to keep a lid on the population. Certainly they will no longer have to listen to EU directives about human rights. Unfortunately I think that it is going to get ugly as the UK government seeks to keep themselves in power no matter what they have to do to ensure it or who they have to lock up.

    1. Basil Pesto

      the EU has limited authority over Human Rights law in Europe. The principal European body for the administration of Human Rights law is the Council of Europe, which is entirely separate from the EU. They oversee the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK is and will remain party to after Oct 31 (and which is codified in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, which has of course been a source of consternation for the tories and right wing press over the years).

  9. rd

    “It is quite astonishing that most of what passes for the elites in the UK seem not to grasp that Brexit is not the end of the road, but merely an irrevocable first step in what will be a long and taxing process of forging new trade agreements with the rest of the world and making significant legal, economic, and lifestyle changes as a result of that.”

    I don’t find it astonishing. The worldwide trend over the past 20 years is the financial and fiscal systems focusing on saving the elites from themselves at the expense of the bottom 90%. The thing that will astonish the elites is if they are NOT saved from the consequences of Brexit. So their natural state is to assume that Brexit is a mere speed bump.

    Their primary focus is probably how to get legal fees from renegotiation and arbitrage opportunities in the markets. They are probably not looking forward to having to spend some time in customs and Immigration, but they will likely arrange for systems to expedite that for them.

  10. Sam

    I love reading NC, both the articles and informed commentary, but I have been puzzled by the Brexit coverage, in particular the continued insistence that the UK govt must publicly rule out a “no deal” Brexit. I understand that most NC editors and readers believe that Brexit was a misguided policy to begin with, but has no one ever heard of BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), which essentially says the advantage in negotiation always goes to the party who needs a deal less (or more accurately is able to convince the opposing party of that). Entering a negotiation while publicly acknowledging that “no deal” is not an option is a tremendous handicap to a successful outcome, similar to trying to negotiate sale of your house to a buyer who is aware that you must sell and have no other prospective purchasers. I wonder whether the apparent dead end the UK now finds itself in can be attributed at least in part to this continued insistence that the UK govt commit itself to a deal at all costs. Is it possible that financial and other interests threatened by Brexit have all along been using “crash out” hysteria in a rear guard effort to torpedo Brexit in any form? If so they may have inadvertently created a worst case result by preventing negotiation of a deal that would have been acceptable to Brexit supporters (unlike the WD which seems to cede to the EU the BATNA advantage in all future trade negotiations by stripping the UK of the right it had as an EU member to unilaterally withdraw from EU rules).

    1. Anonymous 2

      I regret to say that analogies such as house sales are rarely helpful in international relations.

      The problem for the UK is that the EU knows that the UK will be much worse affected by no deal than the EU. Remember that the EU has been conducting trade negotiations for the UK for 46 years now.

      It probably knows the strengths and weaknesses of the UK economy in detail as well as or even better than the UK itself. The UK is therefore negotiating with a party which knows it very well indeed; difficult to bluff in those circumstances.

      I am sure the EU wants a deal. Indeed it considers it has gone the extra mile with the WA (which it considers makes significant concessions to the UK) but it knows that no-deal will in all likelihood be very damaging for the UK – if Scotland leaves then the UK is effectively no more. Damage to the EU will be relatively slight by comparison though Ireland will be hurt (but the Irish have a long history of enduring suffering caused by the English). The EU is unlikely to make any further concessions in these circumstances.

      Now it may very well be that the UK will indeed throw itself off the cliff, but the EU will be taking the long view. If the UK leaves without a deal it will then have the worst possible terms of trade of any country in the world with its own major trading partner. Geography means that the EU will continue to be the UK’s principal trade partner for many years, probably for all the foreseeable future. The EU also has plenty of levers it can use to exert pressure on the UK. Sooner or later a UK government -or the separate governments of England and Scotland – will get in to power on the programme ‘let us make peace with our EU neighbours’ at which point the EU will get everything it wants from the UK or its successor states.

      It really is a terrible idea to pick a long-term quarrel with 27 of your closest neighbours. It just shows the depths to which English politics have sunk that this may well be what happens. The problem essentially arises because the Brexit project was never carefully thought through. Many of its principal advocates in the public debate clearly expected to lose (this includes Johnson) and therefore made no plans what to do in the event of success. They therefore overlooked the issue of the border with Ireland and have as a result been going round in circles most of the time since. A no deal ‘solution; as advocated by Johnson, is likely only to make matters worse. It is likely to achieve nothing positive other than perhaps allow Johnson some short-term political advantages, which his opponents would be foolish to allow him to cash in by letting him have an election at a time of his choosing. I am uncertain that they will be so foolish but with English politicians, you never know.

    2. ChrisPacific

      At this point, it’s a technical problem rather than a negotiation problem. The two sides are essentially agreed on everything in the Withdrawal Agreement except for the backstop (even the likes of Rees-Mogg said that they would sign up for it with changes only to the backstop portion). The block on the backstop is the need to simultaneously (a) allow for effective border control, including customs, immigration, security etc., between two national entities that intend to freely diverge on matters of regulation and sovereignty, while (b) maintaining an open border between NI and RoI. Both sides are agreed on these two requirements as well. The EU are of the view that the border can only remain open if regulations on the two sides of it are harmonized to the point that meaningful checks are not needed. The UK took that to mean “harmonized with the UK as a whole” since the alternative solution (special treatment for NI only and an effective border in the Irish Sea) was vetoed by DUP. Hence the structure of the Withdrawal Agreement as presented.

      The EU position is: we aren’t married to the backstop, we will consider any other solution you propose, as long as it meets the two conditions above that both sides agreed to. All the UK needs to do to get the WA over the line is come up with a technical solution that does that. The EU is of the view that no such solution (other than the backstop) exists under the present circumstances, hence their position. This is supported by the fact that the UK has had years now to come up with the details and still has nothing more than napkin doodles (and now admits they have nothing that could be in place by 31 October), and also by the fact that the UK is manifestly unwilling to assume the same risk they are asking the EU to bear now – that an alternative solution won’t be found in time – even with the extra two year lead time allowed for in the WA. (Bear in mind that the backstop was envisaged by both sides in the WA as temporary, to be replaced by something else once the future trade relationship started to take shape). This is the bad faith position on the UK side that Merkel was ironically pointing out.

      In summary, it’s not the negotations that are the problem (they have actually gone remarkably well, all things considered). The problem is that the UK position is incoherent and internally contradictory, and also that the UK side apparently has no mandate or authority to agree to anything, or ability to abide by the agreements once they are concluded. The fundamental problem remains that the range of possible Brexit options is heavily constrained by existing obligations under the GFA, and the UK electorate collectively has no interest in making painful choices. They’d rather cling to their fantasy vision of an ideal Brexit and project it onto whatever looks like the most likely outcome, which right now means No Deal. Hence the current unfounded optimism regarding how No Deal will turn out.

      Incidentally, I am not sure where you are getting ‘continued insistence that the UK govt must publicly rule out a “no deal” Brexit.’ I’ve seen no such arguments here. I would, however, suggest that while convincing the other party that you need a deal less than they do might be an advantage in negotiation, convincing only yourself (and not the other party) of that can become a handicap instead.

      1. Math is Your Friend

        I’m still not convinced that a frictionless border ‘technical solution’ exists.

        You can propose all sorts of things that might sort of work if everyone involved is trying to make it work. Human error or ignorance may still cause errors, but that’s probably acceptable at a low rate… it must happen now, occasionally.

        The problem comes when some people are actively trying to subvert the function of the border, in order to move people, goods, drugs, cash, or other things across it. Every hands off technical or administrative proposal I have seen contains flaws that can be exploited, and I am not a professional smuggler. I presume the pros would find way more of them.

        Barring a stunning level of surveillance of everywhere that handles goods, people, or transport that crosses, and things like automated face recognition tracking, etc., I do not see a way that the border can be made secure.

        Of course there are other suggestions, like having itinerent veterinarians chase cows around NI/Ireland to avoid an inspection point on the border. Given the likely shortage of veterinarian-inspectors (a very large percentage of them come from the EU, above 90% based on one interview with the agency that provides/recruits them) that sort of silliness is almost guaranteed to introduce unacceptable levels of inefficiency, even before considering the potential weak spots this would put into phyto-sanitary supervision of trade.

        At this point my intuition says there is no chance of the EU being handed a ‘solution’ that they could support.

        1. ChrisPacific

          Absolutely. This is what I meant by internally contradictory. Possibly Johnson, the ERG et. al. have just been unforgivably lazy and not put any effort at all into coming up with a workable solution on this front for the last few years. I think it’s much more likely that they have tried, but haven’t been able to come up with anything convincing, because nothing workable exists (Sabine Weyand said this in so many words). Personally I can think of no examples anywhere in the world where it’s been done successfully, which is odd if it genuinely were possible, since you’d think it would be quite an attractive proposition.

          All of which means the UK concern about getting locked into the backstop in perpetuity is well-founded, and also that Johnson is lying through his teeth when he says he’s confident that a solution exists that would justify the EU abandoning the backstop and satisfy the points I quoted.

      2. @pe

        But the border isn’t at the end a technical problem but a political problem. The GFA envisions a sloppy dual sovereignty that can slide slowly towards union as the demographics change. The divergence between the UK and the EU make that impossible — any technical solution will, at best, shove off by a tiny bit the impending problem, that the UK will end up with an NI that is demographically “Irish” but functionally is moving further and further from dual sovereignty and possible union.

        The border discussion is thus only the technical interface of an insoluble political problem, which is that NI was supposed to converge over time with ROI, which was fairly trivial as long as the UK was part of an EU that was becoming an “ever closer union”. In the end, I’d expect that the hope was that the issue would become moot — that it would become as small an issue as a border dispute between two US states.

        Which recall, in the early 19th century in the US would lead to violence, but today is mostly a question of surveyors and maybe a little trade in land and budget.

    3. vlade

      UK’s BATNA in case of no-deal is to revoke. It’s as simple as that – it’s entirely in the UK’s power, and is better than no-deal.

      But it doesn’t mean it will go with its BATNA. Because Johnson’s BATNA is NOT UK’s BATNA, and Johnson cares only about Johnson.

      You do not seem to understand what no-deal means. The damage to the UK by no-deal will be way way larger than to the EU (of all the EU states, only Ireland is likely to get similar ecnomic hit. Irish economy is booming right now, and I do not doubt that the EU would help Ireland with some funds should it come to that too). Saying “we’ll go for no deal” is like saying “I’ll cut off my leg if you don’t take my offer on this house”. At worst, idiotic, at best, emotional blackmail.

      Contrary to what you believe, a no-deal sets a negotiation table that is even more tilted the EU’s way. The US deal will not come except with some sort of backstop (it’s not in Trump’s gift, whatever he says and likes to think). China and India will squeeze the UK way more than they ever could try to squeeze the EU. Japan has already said it will not roll its EU agreement, and will expect way more freebies.

      The UK will find what it is in the current world – not much – the hard way.

      1. Sam

        Thanks to the many thoughtful responses above, I now have a better understanding of this issue. Foolish of me to have underestimated the wisdom of the NC community.

  11. SlayTheSmaugs

    My daughter’s sailing camp has Irish instructors, has for years now, they come here for the summer to teach. Last week they seemed to think that somehow Brexit won’t happen, and they find the idea of an internal Irish border inconceivable. I told them I hoped they were right, but that BoJo seemed determined, and if Brexit happened, either there would (eventually, they can’t build it by October) be a hard internal border, or Northern Ireland would have to unify with Ireland, thereby joining the EU, or Ireland would have to join Britain. And worst, it was possible that the process would get violent, essentially war between Britain and Ireland/EU for the island shared by Ireland/Northern Ireland. There really isn’t another possible outcome (though war isn’t an inevitable means), just those three optional outcomes. Very simple, though not at all easy. The Irish instructors didn’t disagree, they just clung to the idea that Brexit won’t happen. If only for Ireland, I hope they’re right

    1. Oregoncharles

      Personally, I still suspect that the new Irish border will consist largely of wink-and-nod, covered over with EU and British rhetoric. Just because these people know each other, and it’s the only approach, for all its flaws, that they could live with. Remember, they can’t really close the border, even if they wanted to.

      Long term, probably Irish re-unification, as well as Scottish independence – for much the same reasons.

      1. SlayTheSmaugs

        Well, agreed won’t be a hard internal border soon. There’s such deep denial going on they won’t even try. But if Brexit means Brexit in the BoJo sense–a hard border, or Ireland’s unifying and staying in the EU or joining Britain is simply inevitable. Brexit isn’t Brexit if there’s simply endless smuggling capacity within Ireland. It may be the EU that pushes for the hard border; it probably works to England’s advantage to let goods flow as freely as possible; trade deal de facto not de jure. And Ireland won’t want the border just b/c it’s really bad policy. But the situation will become untenable and one of the three outcomes will result. Dunno if it takes 2 years or 10, but one of the three must happen.

      2. Math is Your Friend

        But they have to close the border, effectively, and that closure must be seen to be effective.

        To do otherwise would be a massive hit to their credibility and regulatory framework, not to mention violating WTO rules.

        1. Clive

          Yes and no. At the very least, the U.K. government would have an arguable case at the WTO using one of several GATT exemptions. They may win, in which eventuality what you say isn’t correct.

          They may, of course, lose, in which case you’d be correct.

          But in the meantime, the immediacy of the problem is vitiated. Being in a position of “we might have to Do Something, at some theoretical point in the future” is not at all the same as “we must do something right now, today“ and has a very different dynamic in a negotiation.

          1. Detlef

            Are you sure?

            I mean I did read quite a few articles which basically said a WTO decision takes years so it´s no immediate concern.

            But in many cases in the last two decades where tariffs were involved nobody waited for the WTO.
            Remember G. W. Bush and his steel tariffs 2003/04.
            Or Trump right now.
            One side threatens or raises tariffs. The other side complains to the WTO? But also threatens to immediately introduce retaliatory tariffs in return.
            Why would WTO member states act differently here?

      3. PlutoniumKun

        You can do a nod and a wink for things like concrete or gravel or waste for disposal. You can’t do it for food products, and that is by far the most important product for trade across the border. Quite simply, if non-EU milk or beef is allowed into Irish supply chains, that’s a disaster for the Irish food industry, which exports milk products all over the world. So there can be no nod and winks with that, the processors will simply not accept it, its too high risk for them. It might cross the border but it will not be let past the factory gate, unless it can somehow be separated for processing and re-exported to the UK.

        Its also a disaster for the UK, because a high proportion of UK dairy is processed in the Republic. They will end up with surpluses that can’t be processed or preserved. Good news for those who like to drink a few pints of fresh milk a day, not so good for anything else.

    2. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists?

      I can’t see why BoJo doesn’t indicate he would just deploy the UK military to keep the border open and see if Ireland backs down. He doesn’t seem to mind other provocations.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        First off, if British soldiers go to the border it will start a civil war in Northern Ireland, its that simple. The first soldiers to arrive will be the first soldiers to be shot at by locals infuriated by Brexit.

        Secondly, they can only ‘keep the border open’ in one direction – i.e. for products going into NI. They can’t ‘keep it open’ in the other direction unless you are suggesting they will fire on Irish border control staff to force them to allow UK goods into the EU. So that means only goods can go from the EU into the UK, but not vice versa. Which would be fine for Ireland and the EU, they are not bothered by that. In fact, they’d be delighted, the Irish republic generates around 2-400 kilotonnes of toxic waste per year, that alone would be a great relief if it could be exported for disposal in Northern Ireland.

        1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists?

          I was just thiiunking of it as a negotiating strategy, to bully Ireland a bit. Sort of like parking an aircraft carrier off the coast of North Korea or near the Strait of Hormuz.

          The troops could have a way of commanding everyone’s attention, as you seem to indicate.

  12. Oregoncharles

    ” Blood spilled in 1380 on the field of Kulikovo, defeating the Tartars of the Mongol Golden Horde for Prince Dmitri,”

    Just to pick nits: and why would Britain care? They have this really large moat. The Mongols weren’t exactly seafarers – their attempt to invade Japan was a miserable failure, even with Chinese ships.

    1. ChrisPacific

      Click through to the original and it will become clearer. He was responding to a tweet by Jim Davidson, who referred to Flanders Field and Dunkirk. He simply replaced them with local references and changed the context for effect, leaving the language the same otherwise.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Obviously it’s just rhetoric (I mean, 1380 – does he mean to imply that WWII is that irrelevant?), but it fails on the comparison. Britain wasn’t threatened by the Mongols.

          1. vlade

            Russian (or possibly Ukrainian) living in Oz I believe. Given his Oz connection, maybe he should have used Gallipoli, that could have been better understood.

            1. DaveH

              Ukrainian heritage, Australian born and raised (where he was one of their trade negotiators), now living and working in Geneva.

              Some of his pieces of writing are outstanding.

  13. Andy Raushner

    Sounds like crash out then elections to decide the future, acting as proxy refie to decide the future. Imo, that is the best that can happen.

  14. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    It appears that what is being served up is a rather poisonous version of an Eton Mess.

    On my weekly travel there & back on the dual carriageway to Belfast, have noticed a large increase of cars bearing Southern Irish plates – I imagine that they are taking advantage of low sterling. I also imagine that in the case of a crash out the pound might nosedive leading to more of this, particularly as Christmas would be appearing on the horizon. Additionally if there is shortages there will likely be especially in border areas an increase in traffic the other way in which even without any profiteering, it would be a much more expensive proposition than it is now.

    Ultra Loyalists who tend for the most part to live away from the border, would likely strongly resist having to use what they would likely refer to as Fenian toilet paper.

  15. FKorning

    Focussing on the backstop is a deadlock and waste of time. Going forward, the UK and Ireland already have the CTA that predates ascenciion to the EU and guarrantees rights for Irish nationals and brits on both sides of the border and might go a long way to assuage fear and loathing. It could be possible to have a No deal that would accomodate the citizens of both (note: it would not include the wider EU-citizens living in Ireland, nor EU citizens living in the UK, unless these also became Irish or British nationals). This would create a two-tier frontier, possibly a 3-tier one: CTA, EU/EEA, the rest of the world.

    That might be by far the most harmonious way forward in terms of people, movement, migration.

    This says nothing about products or services, however. Ireland might become a port of transit, where European goods and services would be imported nationalised, ie on-shored into ireland, to be then re-exported to the UK, and ice-versa. In any case that would involve logistics, brokerages, middlemen, and all sorts of added layers of bureaucracy that would lead to higher prices, but it would be the softish option that would allow to keep the peace… as much as possible.

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