Quick Notes on the Brexit Deal

Because it is Christmas Day, and I’d really rather not spill a lot of ink on the Brexit deal at this particular moment, plus we don’t really know much about what is inside the package yet, I hope you don’t mind just a few comments now.

This is still a very thin deal that only reduces Brexit dislocations. The UK gets a hard Brexit rather than a crash-out. On trade, the big gain is not having tariffs or quotas. However, that does not eliminate the need for new documentation at the border, and new licenses/permits for haulers. Kent will remain a lorry park for the next few months, and the situation will get better only when the various parties to shipments have learned how to process the paperwork correctly and quickly, and the UK has gotten its systems in order and has enough trained border personnel.

Other important issues were things like access to security databases and data sharing, which weren’t as sexy (and weren’t the big bones of contention) but would have fallen by the wayside in a no deal.

A deal by January 1 was not inevitable. Some observers are opining that the EU and UK were bound to come to terms. Yes, because they are still very much bound up with each other due to history and proximity, which resulted in a pretty high level of economic integration under the EU. But not necessarily by January 1. People and countries can be irrational and shortsighted, or think they are being rational when operating on bad data or bad assumptions. As recently as last weekend, it really did look like the negotiations were fatally stalled. I am highly confident that the EU side recognized that a crash-out would result in the UK coming back to the table in relatively short order, say weeks, as the damage done by tariffs on top of all the other disruptions became too painful. I’m not clear if the UK ever accepted this idea.

A thought experiment: what if Jean-Claude Juncker were still President of the EU Commission? Juncker had the highly entertaining habit of poking the UK in the eye after every in-person top-level meeting by allowing his deputies to leak tidbits which demonstrated how ignorant and presumptuous the UK side was. He’d also snark to journalists at his well-lubricated lunches. If Juncker kept poisoning the well, even in a small way, it would have put off not just the fabulously erratic UK side, but would have given ammo to those on the EU side that had lost patience with Johnson’s antics and need to scapegoat. That would have made it harder to keep everyone at the table.

The EU was already tired of how much time Brexit had taken. They could almost certainly gotten a better deal in the if they’d stood back, not kept giving the UK more of a lifeline, and let them crash out. But negotiations in 2021 from meaningfully different starting points would have been a huge time sink, in the middle of a pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

It seems likely that the EU also sensed weakness on the UK side. They had to have noticed Brexit garnering less and less public support. They had to have noticed how the Government was being pilloried for its colossal Covid mismanagement. Even the US press is on the case. From the New York Times last week:

To shine a light on one of the greatest spending sprees in Britain’s postwar era, The New York Times analyzed a large segment of it, the roughly 1,200 central government contracts that have been made public, together worth nearly $22 billion. Of that, about $11 billion went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy. Meanwhile, smaller firms without political clout got nowhere….

The contracts that have been made public are only a part of the total. Citing the urgency of the pandemic, the government cast aside the usual transparency rules and awarded contracts worth billions of dollars without competitive bidding. To date, just over half of all of the contracts awarded in the first seven months remain concealed from the public, according to the National Audit Office, a watchdog agency…

In the government’s rush to hand out contracts, officials ignored or missed many red flags. Dozens of companies that won a total of $3.6 billion in contracts had poor credit, and several had declared assets of just $2 or $3 each. Others had histories of fraud, human rights abuses, tax evasion or other serious controversies. A few were set up on the spur of the moment or had no relevant experience — and still won contracts.

I encourage you to read the New York Times story in full.

So Christmas is nigh. The Government had already gotten pushback over lockdowns in Manchester. Then the new Covid strain is discovered, the Government botches its Tier 4 lockdown of the South just as pretty much all of the world defensively cordons the UK off from air travel (and France from lorry entry).

And speaking of lorries, numerous videos of trucks tailbacks extending for miles and new lorry parks at Kent looking mighty full were a wake-up call that Brexit was turning into a logistical nightmare, and the worst hadn’t even arrived. As David said by e-mail:

Covid has actually been helpful, in giving a foretaste of what no-deal would actually be like, and I wonder whether huge traffic jams and travel bans may finally have brought home to Johnson that no-deal could not be presented under any circumstances as a victory. I think he’s basically a coward (as May was) and he was previously more scared of the ultras than of no-deal. I think he was finally more scared of no deal.

But of course, as we’ve all been saying recently, a “deal” in this context means precious little in practical terms. It’s almost like saying “we agree to say we have an agreement” and we’ll work out the details later.

The UK makes it clear that it cares more about PR than substance. The Government stunningly posted a document designed to bolster its campaign to depict the deal as a win for the UK t before the two sides said they’d reached an agreement (per Politico, 2:44 PM Brussels time; Clive e-mailed me the link at what would have been 1:43 PM; a Bloomberg story on Johnson braying about the Government’s supposed victory had gone up more than two hours earlier).

As vlade noted:

The point here is that the UK even feels compelled to score it as a “win-lose” situation, which is likely to be the first. Even Trump didn’t run a detailed score-sheet on the US negotiations counting “points away and points home”.

David added:

I may be wrong but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in the past – a document which analyses a settlement in terms of “wins” and “losses.” It’s spin-doctoring gone mad. The usual custom is to talk about a “good deal for both sides.” It suggests, as we thought, that this has always been just about presentation, not substance.

In keeping, from Politico’s morning newsletter:

“It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at her press conference, citing the greatest British export of all time. “It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”

And even on the most cursory of passes, it’s obvious that the Government’s scorecard can’t be taken seriously. First, there’s no weighting of the importance of the various items. Clive concurred:

It’s just stupid stuff which is fodder for sound bites in a five minute TV interview from ministers but of not a shred of real-world meaning. Prisoner transfer having the same “win” or “lose” numeric value as financial services? Pish. Written by the U.K. government Department of Silly Walks I think.

Second, some of the claimed UK wins are clumsy fabrications. For instance:

This is a flagrant misrepresentation of a process point. Recall that the UK repeatedly asked for a series of mini-deals, a la Switzerland, which the EU flatly rejected. Remember Barnier’s mantra: “Nothing is settled until everything is settled.” Even though the two sides had put a large number of issues to bed while wrangling over the open matters, any understandings would be moot if the remaining ones weren’t agreed.

The barmy discussion of annexes is an effort to present their existence as a capitulation to the earlier “mini deals” demand. But that’s false. The deal is one big treaty. Having some issues addressed in particular sections does not make it any less a single deal unless the annexes are set up to be legally separable, which is exceedingly unlikely.

Given this level of, at best, slipshod presentation of the terms, it will take a reading of the actual text to determine what went down. Careful wording could turn what the UK scores as wins on either side to draws or “to be determined later.”

As the Guardian cautioned in its editorial:

The contents are not yet clear, and the proximity of the 31 December deadline leaves little time to absorb the character of the new arrangements, let alone scrutinise the detail. That is partly a function of Mr Johnson’s notorious tendency to equivocate, but it also reflects a certain tactical cunning. The prime minister does not want this deal to be examined. What can already be said with some certainty is that it prescribes an immediate downgrade for the UK economy. That is a function of leaving the single market and customs union, and those choices were baked into the negotiating mandate. Trade volumes will decrease. Supply chains will be disrupted. Jobs will be lost. Those are intrinsic features of the hard Brexit model mandated by Mr Johnson.

In other words, Johnson’s victory is Pyrrhic.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Wow, this is above and beyond duty, Yves.

    I have no patience whatever to go through the documents until the leftovers have been consumed, but its safe to assume that this deal is quite threadbare, and will increasingly be seen to be so as various sectors (especially services) try to work out what it means for them.

    I think its a safe assumption to make that most of the nasty surprises that will lurk beneath the deal will be nasty for the UK side. The EU were always a step ahead of the game and, as you say, had a strong incentive to let the UK stew in a no-deal, so the fact that they went the extra mile right up to the last second indicates that they saw more upsides than downsides. The fact that many governments (including Ireland) will have to swallow some losses on fish indicates that they saw significant upsides elsewhere, and not just in deferring any ports chaos.

    It does stick in the craw a little to see Johnson being able to claim a victory, but I think the EU side (the national governments have been surprisingly quiet), have been content to give him his moment in the sunshine. They are thinking longer term, and seem content with what they have.

    1. Terry Flynn

      Whilst I agree with all of this I keep thinking about some posts NC made a while back and which I think still hold water – namely that Boris has long Covid or something similar and will soon leave the stage (“in triumph” but on health grounds). The inevitable problems are then left to a successor. He has form in leaving the problems to a successor!

      He has so many flaws but he ain’t stupid and he knows what’s about to hit the Conservative Party (and Labour too). Better to get off stage now?

    2. David

      I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that there are no ultimate defeats in political negotiations, because, in the end, anything you criticise as a bad outcome could, at least theoretically, have been worse. As a result (and I have to say the British are very good at this), then as you are about to be hanged as a lamb, you claim a victory because it was originally intended you should be hanged as a sheep. Over a sufficiently long and complex negotiation, where positions are continually shifting and developing, of course there are going to be cases where even the dumbest and most incompetent negotiating team will avoid the worst, and secure more things than they were perhaps strictly entitled to. It’s a bit like a disobedient child claiming victory after being sent to their room for two hours instead of three. In fact that’s exactly what it’s like.

      I agree that the nasty surprises are going to be largely for the UK, though the French fishing industry is already sounding worried. The fact is that the Commission has a large number of very capable people, masters of the detail, and able to concentrate full-time on Brexit. The UK doesn’t, no does anybody else, which is why I suspect there will be a few unexploded bombs, less in the text itself than in the interrelationships and the implications.

    3. David

      Agree. Made a longer comment which went into moderation, but please, moderators, don’t waste your time today digging it out.

    4. larry

      PK, both the UK and the EU have said different things about the document. Since Johnson is a congenital liar, we can take his victory comments with a ton of salt, as it were. I don’t believe anything this government says about much of anything, and, while the EU is not without its faults, they are not congenital liars. The document is over 1200 pages. Who is going to have the time to read this and ‘understand’ it? Only those who have already had access to it and those who trust them.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, I tried this morning to have a quick read through, if its possible to have a quick read through of something so large, and just gave up after about 15 minutes. Realistically, we’ll only have a clear idea of what it means when various experts delve into it in depth.

        But even some of the quick commentaries I’ve read have highlighted a number of key issues – for example, the supposed EU concession on retaliatory measures if the UK breaks ‘level playing field’ provisions is nothing of the sort – they just softened the language, but its still clear that the EU has reserved the right to use tariffs if they don’t like something the UK is doing.

  2. The Rev Kev

    This deal reminds me of when I use to follow the annual Australian budget which was televised on most TV channels annually. Before long I discovered the meaning of the phrase ‘the devil is in the details’ and you would only find out some of the provisions on the budget weeks, if not months after it came out. So you would find out that when you lodged your taxation records, that it had to be translated into Swahili or Urdu. And when you ask the about this, they assure you that yes it is legitimate and this measure was part of the budget, didn’t you know?

    Same here. Nobody really knows what is in that document. Maybe Boris himself has only a vague notion of all that is in it. Any bad parts he is probably going to use his spin-doctors to explain it away or blame the perfidy of the EU but most assuredly, it was not his fault. He will continue to put himsef ahead of the welfare of the country so there is a lot to resolve in the coming months. Like, are chlorinated chickens off the menu now with this deal? As they say in Star Wars. ‘I’ve go a bad feeling about this!’

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S74rvpc6W60 (1:07 mins)

    1. Carla

      Thanks for this handy-dandy chart. I went looking for the one item that, were I British, I imagine would have given me pause about remaining in the EU.

      Found it at the BBC, among other places:


      “4. European Court of Justice (ECJ)

      The EU’s highest court will remain the ultimate arbiter of European law. But the UK government has said the direct jurisdiction of the ECJ in Britain will come to an end. So, will the European court play any role in overseeing the future relationship agreement?

      Answer: The EU has dropped its demand that the ECJ should play a direct role in policing the governance of the agreement in future. That was a clear British red line. One place where the ECJ will still play a role is Northern Ireland, which has a special status under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. It will remain subject to EU single market and customs union rules, which means the European Court will remain the highest legal authority for some disputes in one part of the UK.”

  3. hemeantwell

    Once again the morning mantra: “Oh, don’t bother slogging through the Times, just read what they say at NC.”

    Merry Christmas to all of you!

  4. Count Zero

    Johnson is a loud-mouthed, obnoxious and incompetent egomaniac. I am embarrassed to be British — and English. Millions of us would apologise to our European colleagues that they were forced to negotiate with him as our “representative.” But we had no choice in the matter either.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Its only an insult if its untrue. Even Johnsons closest allies don’t deny his incompetence and egomania. They see it as part of his brand.

  5. Jeremy Grimm

    I cannot read about Brexit any more. As bad as things are in the US and as bad as they could be getting — Britain seems to have an even bleaker present and future. I don’t feel any schadenfreude or take any comfort from company in sharing misery. I look away when I drive past traffic accidents.

  6. Phil Smith

    “… plus we don’t really know much about what is inside the package yet, …..”

    Well, for really not knowing much about what is inside the package , I’d say this kind of article aligns closely with the kind of inherent bias or trope that the BBC or Guardian could write.

    The ink isn’t yet dry on the the raw 2000 page output ,yet the above comes over as a modest demolition job on the fact that we at least do have a skinny /thin deal with the EU.

    Looking forward to any informed assessment comes your way.

  7. Tom Stone

    Like Jeremy Grimm, I take no joy in the suffering of others.
    I do wish all a joyful holiday and the fortitude to deal with what comes.

    1. sporble

      That makes three of us – maybe we could form some kind of club – no doubt there are other like-minded individuals here at NC, too…
      Wishing you all relaxing holidays and hoping the next year proves much better for all of us.

  8. Susan the other

    Why do I think this is all smoke and mirrors to seal the deal. The deal being that the EU couldn’t take being incessantly undermined by The City – and it has taken this long, since before Theresa May – maybe all the way back to the frantic Cameron – for the UK to gradually allow their financial services that the EU depended on to be transferred to various places; France and Germany? It has taken a small eternity for the US to get its financial house in order or some semblance – since 2008, and we’re still not there, just better. We too are on the verge of a new and improved financial system. So the hint that there was a “tradeoff” between a prisoner exchange (are you kidding me?) and financial services is interesting. Prisoners? Maybe some egregious white collar stuff? If this is true it was always a closely guarded secret and a huge stumbling block. It had to be resolved and then everything else was minor detail. And the whole flap about fishing rights was hardly more than a… red herring?

  9. Fazal Majid

    As usual your “quick notes” are far more substantive than whatever passes for analysis in the British press, Yves.

    Biden’s reelection was probably a major consideration. No crowing over EU concessions can mask the fact the trade in goods is to the EU’s advantage, whereas the trade in services is to the UK’s, and not covered by the deal. Furthermore, the agreement stipulates UK testing labs cannot be used to certify compliance with EU standards, a sign of how far trust has deteriorated due to Johnson’s wholly unnecessary and counter-productive Internal Markets stunt.

    I don’t think calling May a coward is called for. She dutifully (and woodenly) tried to square the circle of Brexit’s contradictions, and inevitably failed. At least she refused a withdrawal agreement that set up an internal border between Britain and Northern Ireland, unlike her feckless successor. It is an illustration of the English’s atavistic tendency to tug the forelock that someone as breezily incompetent and manifestly untrustworthy as Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson holds the place he does.

    As for the Covid contracts, the NYT gives too much benefit of doubt to what is obviously brazen corruption in Johnson’s government. I wish they had shown the same jaundiced eye they had in their excellent investigation of Xi Jinping’s family fortunes (which led to their banning from China).

    Still, as a US/EU resident in the UK, I’ve got to admit a sigh of relief in Johnson stabbing in the back the dead-ender hard brexiteer Tories who brought him to power. In this case, his unreliability went in the right direction.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think your point about Biden is correct. I think his election took the wind from the sails from the hard right in the Tory party, and convinced the EU that they would squeeze a deal from Johnson. It’s very noticeable from my position across the Irish Sea that the bloviators of the right in the UK stopped talking about Ireland, north or south, as soon as it was clear that Trump is on his way out. They realised that at least to the west, they’d been checkmated. They’ve been noticeably quiet on the fact that the deal makes the Irish Sea border functionally permanent, which is a huge victory for the Irish government.

      As for the Covid contracts, I’m amazed at the lack of attention given to them – that is looting and corruption on an epic scale, very little different in scale or brazenness than, for example, the 1MBD scandal in Malaysia. The latter has been worldwide news for more than a year, but somehow the UK government gets away with it. I think George Monbiot is the only mainstream journalist who has been really focusing on it.

  10. Tomonthebeach

    From my perch on the wire, Brexit looks more like a trial separation than an actual divorce. Once the rank and file Brit sees how their independence affects their bottom lines, all of Farage’s BS will even start to seem hollow to those subsequently laid-off who once bit his Brexit baloney bait hook line and sinker.

    Tourism might be dampened too. Flying into Heathrow en route to our house on the continent, afforded a few days to visit friends in London. But if Brexit affects schedules and prices, it might make more sense to fly into FRA, CDG, or even FCO.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Brexit is permanent – the damage done is so intense that even if there was a pro-EU government elected tomorrow in the UK, they would not be allowed back in – the potential political headache would just be too intense.

      Its hard to predict what the longer term impact would be, but as the UK is now firmly in a subsidiary status to the EU, I expect that regional politics will come in to play, where by local interests start pushing for a more aggressive stance to squeeze jobs and investment from the UK into Amsterdam or Paris or Copenhagen or Lisbon or wherever. Most of the EU’s immediate neighbours are small and friendly (Norway, Switzerland), or generally too poor to be worth worrying about otherwise, so their fairly favourable treatment can’t be compared to the UK. But even Switzerland felt a lot of pressure when Berlin felt they were pushing their tax and banking laws too far. I believe that what we’ll see over the years is a gradual squeeze on the UK’s crown jewels (for example, Airbus wing manufacture, Pharma research, key service industries, Japanese car plants in England, US investments), to get them to slowly shift over to EU bases. It will be a gradual bleeding out, rather than a one-off blow.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          It will have a very significant effect. The main one is with health coverage – a new retiree will no longer be automatically covered by existing EU wide agreements, which essentially means high quality health care in perpetuity in those countries. There are also issues with long term visas, tax arrangements, and property ownership rights. Over time, most of these will be smoothed over (the retirees are generally welcomed by those countries as they bring a lot of jobs to the poorest parts of those countries), but the uncertainty will be a major problem for many people.

  11. Tom Bradford

    “They shall not prosper as we who went to the right schools shall prosper:
    Wealth shall not trouble them nor the Dow Jones distract.
    As they toil from sunrise to sunset or in dole queue decay
    We will dine well with our chums and forget them.”

    – frontispiece to the Cabinet Manual, 2020 edition.

  12. satan's fax machine

    Is there any evidence that it will in fact be ratified on time? From what I can gather the EU is willing to “provisionally” apply it to 2/28/21, in order to give enough time for MEPs to carefully scrutinize the bill. This fact seems to have been ignored by everyone in the media… in order for this to work Johnson’s deal must be a total sellout deal aka something Leavers will not vote for. So Johnson has to rely on Labour to cross the finish line and he has to do it on blind trust.

    And again even if this is all done MEPs can still reject it or demand a renegotiation of key points. Is Johnson prepared to do that? How could he refuse? If he does refuse (or simply not get his act together in time) does this make 2/28/21 the new deadline? This approaches a larger question: if Johnson looses a confidence vote and there’s a new election, what would a caretaker government do? Would the EU be willing to extend it further just to have another election?

    Sorry if this all seems ill-informed, I’m not good at reading British politics.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Richard North has reported, based on press sources, that the on the UK end, the deal will be voted on before year end in a remarkably rushed process. That is part of what the Guardian whinging is about, no way could any MP scrutinize it properly. Starmer has said Labour will support it.

      1. larry

        Some front bench Labour MPs have already said that they will defy the whip and either vote against or abstain. This I think if the better stance for Labour to take. I think Starmer is making a mistake here.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, I think supporting it is very ill advised. I can understand the thinking – Labour just want the whole thing gone as they see it as a huge ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ issue.

          But they must make the Tories own it, so at the very least an abstention would force the Tories into fighting it out over the details.

          1. David

            That was my reaction too. After all, Johnson is not going to lose the vote even if Labour abstain, and an abstention will usefully highlight splits in the Tory Party and weaken Johnson’s position. I never had much faith in Starmer but I thought he might be a bit better at, you know, politics, than this. Having John Crace in the Guardian think you’re wonderful isn’t enough.

            1. larry

              “Having John Crace in the Guardian think you’re wonderful isn’t enough.” Ha, ha. Very good, David. I had a little faith in Starmer in the beginning, but have been losing it as time passes and the more errors or slight misjudgements he makes as time goes by. I thought similarly to you though perhaps initially more positively. But I am becoming depressed about Labour’s future.

          2. Harry

            I’m a little too left wing in my politics to be welcomed by the Starmer wing of the party. That might partly reflect my having “met” Lord Mandelson. He wears Brioni very well.

            But Starmer is busy purging the Labour Party of its unsavory Trot element. That seems to mean he will have to pay lip service to the “salt of the earth” types who wanted the EU migrants out.

            I think Starmer is doomed, but why couldn’t he do a Biden? No one voted for Biden. They voted either for Trump or against.

        2. vlade

          Labour is in a tizzy about this. The problem is, if they vote against it, and Tories sink it, Labour will be seen as sharing some blame for any chaos that comes later on.
          If they vote for it, it’s a mistake too for any problems. Except if you’re a Labour MP in a strongly pro-Brexit area.

          IMO the least-bad option would be to have “abstain” as a Labour official vote, but no consequences if someone votes either yea or nay. Sort of free vote but with a party line.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I think there was an immediate assumption, fuelled no doubt by a desire by everyone to get to their Christmas Dinner, that it was all done and dusted on the 24th.

      However, there is no doubt that procedural and legalistic fudging will be required to avoid a drop off next week. I think there is still the potential for a serious hitch if the Brexiteers decide on an ambush (although there are no signs so far of this happening), and there is also serious discontent in the European Parliament at having been taken for granted. So I don’t think everything is signed and sealed yet, although I think sheer exhaustion over the whole issue, not to mention fear over the new variant of Covid (someone should name it the Bojo Strain), will mean nobody will want to make too much trouble.

      1. David

        There’s a lot of momentum here, and a lot of historical form. Only in the last few years has the UK Parliament been consulted about Treaty issues, and the EP has historically been a very weak player. I think you’re right that exhaustion will push it through, if only because nobody will want to take public responsibility for wrecking the whole thing now. The problem, I suspect, will be afterwards when specialists start crawling through the detail and all kinds of things pop out that were unnoticed or deliberately concealed before

  13. skippy

    In light of the Brexit dramas …

    The Dirty War on the NHS was first broadcast in Britain on the ITV Network on 17 December, 2019. It was shown following the general election that saw Boris Johnson become prime minister – even though the future of the NHS was a major issue in the campaign.

    The remarkable prescience of the film became clear when the COVID pandemic struck, and the NHS, crippled by bed shortages, the starvation of resources and accelerating privatisation, could not cope. This was the film’s warning – a warning also delivered in 2016 when a full ‘drill’ for a pandemic showed the NHS would barely survive such an emergency. The politicians and managers did nothing; the report of the results of the drill was suppressed.

    The ideological assault on the world’s first public health service continued at the height of the COVID crisis with inept private firms given lucrative contracts for PPE and mass testing. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, an arch privatiser, announced in August 2020 that in future most GP consultations would be be online. Hancock’s association with the tech company, Babylon Health, is dealt with in The Dirty War.


    Sometimes it seems the whole thing is about the right to sellout your own citizens and call it sovereignty …

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I actually don’t think greed is the main driver. Its ideology. It’s clear if you delve into the depths of right wing neoliberal free market thinking that they have always seen the need to destroy anything ‘socialistic’ which is popular and successful. I think one reason why the left has so often failed is that it has never really grasped how much the right is fuelled not by greed, but by a deep atavistic hatred of anything that smacks of collectivism (unless its in the military).

        1. larry

          I think you are spot on, PK. This is not the only reason I think the left has failed, though. It has also failed in another way: getting their own act together in a unified manner, even when it is clearly in thier own interests.

          1. Anonymous 2

            Yes the divisions between the anti – Tory parties in the UK over the last 40 years have been disastrous for the Left. They have allowed actors like Murdoch, Thatcher and Johnson to march the country firmly to the Right with no effective resistance. Next goals are to rig the next elections and probably to abandon the European Convention on Human Rights and start preparing the ground to restore the death penalty over 55 years after it was abolished. These are dark times in the UK.

  14. Maff

    If I had ten quid for every time this blog’s “really, this is it, absolutely final” deadline for Brexit negotiations passed by I would have been able to pay for my Christmas booze this year, and that’s saying something. Love the blog, but can’t resist this dig.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It was not this blog. This blog was repeating what the EU said. Do you want us to Make Shit Up? And we did make sure to say this was their position. If you aren’t a careful enough reader to notice that, you should go somewhere else.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I can’t recall the blog saying anything of the sort, although in the past few weeks Yves pointed out correctly that the final date for addressing all legalities correctly before the 1st of January had passed. And she was correct – its clear that there will be some furious fudging over the next few weeks until a full and proper agreement can be signed off. Plenty of us btl speculated on ‘real’ deadlines, some were right, some wrong (I was certainly wrong in thinking that last Sunday was the drop dead moment), but thats not the same as ‘this blog’. I’m not aware of any other source on the internet that has called things more accurately than the collective here.

  15. ljones

    > “In other words, Johnson’s victory is Pyrrhic.”

    I’d struggle to even call it a victory.

    The EU has been pretty up front on just what a hard brexit and no deal would mean. Unfortunatly if you read a lot of the UK media you wouldn’t get this impression. People have written on websites and made videos pointing out correctly just how terrible a hard brexit would be. And that is what johnson has chosen.

    It is pretty worrying to read in a lot of the UK media the over-optimisitc and even “welcome” reporting of this terrible deal. The impression that is being given is that the disruption will be only a few weeks’ long, a few fishermen are upset and that everything else is “great”. It is not.

    We here in the UK now have the rock-solid granite hard brexit deal that was warned about. As for johnson himself in his own warped mind I suspect he thinks he has a “great” deal; heck even if he only had come back with no deal and a bottle of wine he’d have said it was still “great” since he is such a massive ego-maniac and liar.

    Really though I’m not convinced that he even understands his own deal or plain simply dosen’t care.

    Over the coming weeks and months however I suspect one thing will happen. The EU does not trust johnson at all so they will be watching like a hawk. Johnson could try to break his own deal – for example he might try to sneak back in again the IMB legislation that was to be removed as part of the deal. Or just throw a hissy fit post Jan 1 talks (they’ll have to continue post Jan 1) and waffle about “The evil EU won’t listen”, pull up stumps and kill his own deal. I’d give something like this happening at least a 50% chance.

    If he did that he could then cover both ground – he could say he got a deal but then please his ultras by killing it and having no deal.

    This deal is supposed to govern the relationship between the UK and EU for years if not decades. I’d be surprised if it even lasted a single year.

    And although this last bit dosen’t really have any relevence let me just say this. I remember back on the night of the outcome of the brexit referendum in my part of the UK there were powerful electrical storms – large amounts of thunder and lightning not seen for quite some time where I live.

    And I guessed that that was a pretty good analogy for brexit. “That is what UK politics will be”, I thought. “Volient storms, thunder, lightning and chaos”. That’s what it’ll be from now on.

    As I write this the text of this disasterous deal is being read. And although no electrical storms high winds and bad weather are forecast for tonight with 60-70mph winds. Maybe a case here of deja vu?



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