Brexit – what next?

Posted: November 16, 2018 in Political musings
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Regular readers will know (a) that I think Brexit is a really, really bad idea, and (b) I have blogged about why often, or waffled about it on Facebook, or whatever.

But after the shambles in the UK Parliament yesterday (Australian time) I thought this BBC graphic might be useful for anyone trying to understand what on earth happens (or can happen) now.

Brexit next steps

The UK Parliament yesterday was a seething mass of regret, ambition, determination and anger.

The problem, as one Brexiteer friend complained to me this morning is that Prime Minister Theresa May was never a Leaver, and therefore the entire negotiation has been bumbled along incompetently in order to leave the British sort of still in the EU and sort of out of it. As Aussies would say, paraphrasing a famous old advertising slogan: “It’s the Brexit you’re having when you’re not having a Brexit.”

Theresa May under pressure in the UK parliament yesterday.

There’s only one problem with this analysis, which is that the current situation could well cost Theresa May her job, and politicians don’t generally engineer a situation which seems tailor-made to see them sacked.

If May wanted a Brexit deal that left the situation essentially a status quo, one suspects she would have dressed it up better to mollify the right-wing anti-European segment of her party, rather than enrage it. (Which presumes that they were capable of being mollified, which is by no means certain.) But when the Minister in charge of the deal enunciated yesterday, as Dominic Raab did, that he’s resigning because he can’t support the deal he himself negotiated, then we are in uncharted political territory.

It is likely that the Brexiteers in May’s party (by no means a majority, but incredibly determined and vocal) were simply waiting for this moment to topple her in favour of one of their own. They won’t get one of their own, but they will succeed in making their party look ungovernable and fractured. Why they would want to do that you will have to ask them.

Nevertheless, putting a deal to Parliament which seems to please no-one apart from a small core of May loyalists seems a failure of political strategy. Doing something to unite the right wing of the Tories, the increasingly marginalised Lib Dems, the much more significant Scots Nats, large swathes of Labour (if not its increasingly unimpressive leader) and even the DUP (nominally part of the government, in effect) is quite a feat.

It may simply be that May has simply run out of time, and had to do something. She may, indeed, prefer to go down fighting on the principle that the people voted for Brexit, and she’s going to deliver the Brexit she can, or die trying. Certainly her performance in the Commons – against a barrage of criticism unlike anything seen since Chamberlain was removed in 1940 – was bullish, determined and courageous.

The problem, of course, is that in terms of what is right for Britain, this is a disaster.

If the deal cannot survive the Commons, then a “No Deal, Crash Out” outcome becomes very likely. Passionate opponents of the EU will say (are saying) “Well, so what? We survived two World Wars, we can manage a bit of trade disruption!” The problem is that this is mere wishful thinking – “magic thinking” – and terrifyingly naive.

The UK currently trades with the EU under rules set down by the EU customs union, which is an agreement that goods can be traded freely, and the single market, which sets a common regulatory structure and allows the free movement of goods, capital, people and services.

Leaving these two arrangements overnight would, first, mean the UK would trade with the EU on the basis of rules set down by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This would end the free movement of goods between the UK and the EU, and mean that tariffs, or special import taxes, would apply on some products. Secondly, customs checks would also be immediately needed between countries where they aren’t currently. Chaos.

Aviation is an example of another key area where problems will arise. At the moment the UK aircraft industry operates under EU regulation both within the EU and for flights to other countries such as the US. If the UK leaves suddenly next March, then some new regulatory arrangement would be needed. This could be worked out in advance, or could ground flights between the UK and EU countries for a period if not. On some scenarios, flights might halt for a few days before things are worked out – but much will depend on what the mood is between the two sides at the time. Any any such disruption would cause untold problems. Similarly in pharmaceuticals, the UK is part of the EU regulatory regime and questions would emerge over pharma exports from the UK,and vice versa. Stockpiling of vital drugs in both the UK and EU countries is already at the planning stage as a fallback. The UK Health Secretary reportedly told the Prime Minister and her cabinet that he ‘could not guarantee that people would not die’ if no Brexit deal was agreed. Matt Hancock is reported to have said that lives will be at risk due to a shortage of medicine in a no deal scenario during the stormy No 10 five-hour meeting on Wednesday.

Britain is also highly dependent on imported food. By value, imports make up more than 90% of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK and half of the meat. A “hard” Brexit is expected to suddenly and substantially increase trade costs and make food imports more expensive, something that could lead to changes in diets and dietary risk factors that influence health. In fact, Brexit could lead to up to 5,600 diet-related deaths per year by 2027, additional healthcare expenditure of £600m, and increase the GDP losses of Brexit by up to 50% according to estimates Florian Freund and Marco Springmann published in a new Oxford Martin School Working Paper.

The stupid thing about all this is that it is only Theresa May’s dogged determination (although disgracefully supported by the grinning idiot Jeremy Corbyn) that “Brexit means Brexit” and therefore there is nothing for it but to “keep on buggering on” in Churchill’s famous aphorism, that is the real problem here. She is full of Thatcher-like passion that “there is no alternative”. But there is an alternative, which is commonsense.

During the Brexit process, and increasingly as the negotiations have become mired in the very complexity that many of us predicted from day 1, the British people have gradually woken up to the fact that they don’t really like the look of what they voted for.

The original referendum was advisory only, and even if we elevate that to the level of Holy Writ as some have (with no basis in law), arguing that it places a moral obligation on the Government to deliver Brexit (this is May’s oft-stated position), this does not allow for the very obvious fact that people change their mind.

When a Government is elected, it undoubtedly has a mandate (of some strength or other, depending on the details of a result) but that Government is elected in sure and certain knowledge that it can be removed if it loses the confidence of the House, or a subsequent election. So why should the result of a referendum be somehow locked eternally in stone, when no other Governmental process is?

The Government has struggled hard to deliver Brexit. And failed. It was always a quixotic and incredibly complex goal.

The terms of the deal May has now put on the table actually leaves Britain economically worse off than staying in the EU, but with none of the advantages that Brexit was supposed to deliver. Far from “taking back control”, it actually cedes further control to the bureaucrats. Crashing out without a deal would be political and economic insanity, although it would be the preferred option for the Brexit fanatics. But in reality they have never truly been in a majority, either in the Conservative Party, or the country as a whole.

Opinion polls now suggest that there is a solid majority of the British electorate who have changed their minds on Brexit as the details have become clear. An even larger majority want the chance to vote on the terms of the deal in a so-called “People’s Vote”. May stubbornly refuses.

It is simple ornery-ness to deny them that chance, especially as it might well produce a result – staying in the EU – which would instantly resolve the current impasse. Such a result would not, of course, prevent the UK seeking to continue to renegotiate any of the terms of membership which it finds especially onerous.

Sadly, such commonsense is in short supply at the moment. Götterdämmerung works in Wagner operas. It’s no way to run a country.

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Comments
  1. Pat A says:

    Excellent and thoughtful precis of this whole Brexit debacle, Yolly, thank you.

    Unfortunately many people seem to be naive to the point of stupidity including major politicians – how they summon the intelligence to cross the road unaided is beyond me. Dominic Raab (who has just resigned on a point of what he seems to think is principle) was called by his staff Raab C Brexit (people in the UK will know of Rab C Nesbit, a fictional character and [accidental] gormless comic genius) – and Dominic Raab openly said a couple of days ago that he didn’t realise the Dover-Calais trade was so vital to the country!!! Presumably he thought the channel tunnel had been put there just for holidaymakers – but this was a then government minister and (then) member of the Cabinet openly admitting his TERRIFYING ignorance of a) trade and b) how this country works – and he is one who said Brexit would bring untold benefits to the UK and no consequences. Idiot.

    For anyone with a) intelligence and b) a fully functioning conscience, this is an awful time to be around here. The trouble is that even now, many people don’t seem to have a clue what is happening and what the horrible consequences can be – how they can have missed all this is beyond me, but lots of people have, I was talking to one only last week. The prime Brexiteers are reported to have been getting a lot of their assets out of the country – most of them are multimillionaires and Jacob Rees Mogg is reported to have moved a mass of his business dealings to the Republic of Ireland because of Brexit. Ah the gentle whiff of hypocrisy!

    To take but one example of the thousands, take medicines – we import £37 million of medicines per month from the EU – people don’t take these for fun, they save lives. If they can’t be flown/shipped in without border problems, people will sicken and die. One days delays at customs has in the past caused 25 mile tailbacks – that is just for one day, imagine how vast and all encompassing the lorry parks will be if there is border chaos – people will die and it worries me to pieces.

    And we haven’t even got on to the car industry and other industries that now have a 40 minute window to get their new parts delivered – two or three delays would mean plants closed down and moved abroad along with hundreds of thousands of jobs – they have warned the government and been ignored

    Oh yes, and as for that meaningless piece of Mrs May’s propaganda ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – well ‘idiot means idiot’, ‘Kafka means Kafka’ etc etc.

    I could write so much on this – but I will just say about the old saw ‘people get the government they deserve’ – no we don’t, we get the government the most clueless deserve – God help us all.

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    • Stephen Yolland says:

      You may care to engage with Paul’s comment on this article, Pat, if you can be bothered.

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      • Paul Brixey says:

        Don’t bother as I’ve heard enough old tosh from the likes of him. Brexiteers are even more adamant that we will be leaving due to the attitudes of Remainers, the Political Elite and the EU. And your attitude of “if you can be bothered” just about sums up the arrogance of the Remainers over here. We have had enough. We’ve had every insult thrown us but we will stand firm.

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        • Stephen Yolland says:

          Except you’re not standing firm. The Leave side is shedding supporters daily and has been for a year.

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          • Paul Brixey says:

            What you hear and what is happening could well be two different things. A People’s Vote will never happen but the nasty streak in me says ‘bring it on’. Then what would Remainers do if they lost….again?

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            • Stephen Yolland says:

              A people’s vote is now the only way out of the mess that you are your far right loons have foisted on the country. The fact that you can’t understand that is typical of the level of ignorance shown by Farage, Johnson, Rees-Mogg and the rest of your idiot born-to-rule crew. Incidentally, ever wonder why Farage has insisted his children have German nationality? Hmmm?

              Wake up.

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              • Paul Brixey says:

                “Far right loons”……and the abuse continues…..very Liberal of you Yolly.

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                • Stephen Yolland says:

                  I have no respect for far right loons. You call it abuse. I call it not being a bullshit artist.

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                  • Paul Brixey says:

                    In your labelling of Brexiteers as ‘Far right loons’ you include people like me and I am far from ‘far right’.

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      I never hear you express anything but far right views.

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                    • Paul Brixey says:

                      I find that insulting to be honest. Think you misunderstand what ‘far right’ means now.

                      If you want to class me incorrectly as ‘far right’, go ahead but I’ll class myself as just RIGHT.

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

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                    • Paul Brixey says:

                      Typical smart arse response by a Lib Dem and so like the comments that spew out of Tom Brake’s mouth in Parliament for cheap jibes.

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      You really are an unhappy person nowadays, aren’t you? Eaten up by bile. Pity.

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                    • Paul Brixey says:

                      Yes I am. The big reason being totally fed up with the whinging and whining of remainers who just can’t accept the result of a democratic vote. The funny thing a large majority of them tend not to even live in the UK

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      Snide little comment. You do have a very poor understanding of democracy, don’t you?

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                    • Paul Brixey says:

                      “Poor understanding”, I think not. Funny thing is we have a Lib Dem on our local council who is trying to defy a clear majority vote by the Full Council. Seems like a trait amongst Lib Dems. Sorry way to go for a once proud Party.

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      You seem to think democracy is a once-off event. It isn’t. It’s a process.

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                    • Paul Brixey says:

                      Ignoring the result of a democratic vote is a dangerous thing to do especially at a time when the public has little faith in our elected MP’s and system. It will not be good for our country and I for one probably wouldn’t bother to vote ever again.

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      You keep ignoring the points that (a) the referendum was only advisory (b) there is nothing undemocratic about one vote overturning another vote – that is the very BASIS of democracy.

                      If you don’t answer my other question asking you to speak plainly I will be forced to delete all your comments and ban you from this site.

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                    • Stephen Yolland says:

                      I notice you don’t argue with the fact you’re being snide. A most unpleasant characteristic.

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            • Paul Brixey says:

              Because we would have no control. I would have no faith in an army that involved some of the countries involved. I take it you’re in favour.

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              • Stephen Yolland says:

                You can take it I see very little difference between NATO and an EU defence Force. As for “having no control”, for decades you have been perfectly happy to have American aggressive nuclear weapons on UK soil over which we genuinely have no control. Does that bother you?

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                • Paul Brixey says:

                  I’m not happy with it but not overly concerned one way or the other. I would much rather have americans on our side than some tinpot EU beuracrats acting way above their station. I love the way you use the word ‘we’ as if you’re still on UK soil.

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                  • Stephen Yolland says:

                    I love the way you imagine a conflict in Europe would not affect where I live, let alone the family and friends that are still domiciled in the UK. I note you trust Donald Trump over Macron or Merkel. I don’t. I would much rather be allied with Europe than America. Europe is more stable and less belligerent.

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  2. Paul Brixey says:

    Woke up this morning expecting a long blog from you which ultimately would lead to a demand for a so called ‘People’s Vote’ and surprise, surprise you didn’t let me down.

    The Prime Minister has made a mess of the negotiations, or rather not allowed her negotiators to do the job that they were being paid for. With support from her sidekick Olly Robbins she has gone against the will of the people who voted in a democratic vote. Not only that she has broken a manifesto commitment.

    She may be tough (stubborn) but she deserved everything she got in the commons yesterday.

    When Cameron proposed the referendum he said that the Government would do what the people decided so it was not advisory at all.

    One thing I do agree with you is that the Lib Dems have been increasingly marginalised. You’re spot on there but I think the description ‘increasingly more insignificant’ would be more appropriate. Their input yesterday was some waffle from Vince Cable and the usual smart arse comment from Tom Brake.

    You will never get a ‘People’s Vote’ or a re-run of the referendum just because you didn’t like the result. It wouldn’t be democratic and would cause even more damage to the fabric of the country and the future of democracy which is something I thought you would be worried about.

    I admire you’re perseverance but not sure you really understand what’s going on over here or got any idea of the anger in the country.

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    • Stephen Yolland says:

      I just watched three hours of analysis on Sky News where speaker after speaker said “a second referendum is by far the most likely outcome”. When it happens you will, of course, rush back here to admit I was right all along.

      As for “it was not advisory at all”, whatever rubbish was spoken by Cameron at the time is utterly irrelevant, particularly because he thought he was going to win and therefore he could use the result as a stick to beat his own far right loons over the head with – idiot – but primarily because the referendum was set up by an act of parliament – a law – which clearly states it was advisory only. Your mates Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and the rest of the liars can waffle on all you like, but a fact is a fact.

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      • Paul Brixey says:

        “Three hours of analysis where speaker after speaker……..”, exactly, biased and blatant anti Brexit reporting by Sly. At one point the reporter described Brexiteers as Far Right and had to retract it quickly.

        So a Government can issue a nationwide leaflet saying that they will abide by the will of the people yet it’s advisory’. Cue the end of democracy if that’s the case.

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        • Stephen Yolland says:

          Whatever the leaflets or the politicians said, what matters is what the BILL said that Parliament passed. Why can’t you people get that into your thick skulls? Anyway, as the article said, even if you consider it not advisory only, why can’t people be allowed to change their minds?

          Also: We originally voted in a referendum to go INTO the EU. How come it’s ok to overturn THAT Referendum, but not the one a couple of years back. You really haven’t thought any of this through, have you?

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    • Stephen Yolland says:

      As a committed and angry Brexiteer you obviously now blame May for not being able to deliver the impossible like those who share your point of view. Fair enough, you’re entitled to think what you like. But it’s a nonsense. Brexit was never going to happen because you can’t detach Britain from its biggest trading partners.

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    • Stephen Yolland says:

      As for calling the referendum “democratic”, a referendum built on outrageous lies is many things, but democratic isn’t one of them. How’s that extra money for the NHS going for you, Mr Brixey?

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      • Paul Brixey says:

        If you’re referring to what was written on the bus then forget it. that was an example as you well know. Project Fear was full of lies

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        • Stephen Yolland says:

          Can you hear your own confirmation bias? It was no “example” it was a bloody promise! Do you need a photo of the bus reproduced to remind you?

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          • Paul Brixey says:

            I know exactly what was on that bus and nowhere did it mention the word ‘promise’. I don’t think Remainers should try and take the moral high ground after the claims by Project Fear and dare I say it, still going on to this day.

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            • Stephen Yolland says:

              There was no project fear – what you are seeing now is absolutely what the Remain camp said would happen. You’re so locked in your bias you daren’t admit it.

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              • Paul Brixey says:

                Ditto. If there was no Project Fear then you’re living in cuckoo land.

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                • Stephen Yolland says:

                  If you want to defeat something, and you have no evidence to place against the argument, then you label it “Project Fear”. “Project Fear” as you call it is coming to pass, right now. I sincerely trust that none of your family need medication that is going to get stopped at Calais in March 30th.

                  Like

  3. Pat A says:

    Wonderful Yolly, I think you’ve done it for me, thank you! Mind you, we haven’t even touched on Aaron Banks who so heavily funded the Leave campaign, and the money from strange sources, Russia being mentioned;or the fact that Farage is now under investigation by Robert Mueller…. or the fact that it wasn’t ‘the will of the people’ as so many Brexiteers like to call it – 17 million out of a total voting population of 46.1 million at the time (Office of National Statistics) doesn’t make it the will of 64 million people – it makes it the tail wagging the dog – and in a non binding referendum at that.

    Nor does it mention the fact that in 1998, during the Northern Ireland Peace Process, every single household in NI had a copy of the proposed declaration delivered to their door so that they could vote on it. We deserve no less, particularly since the Brexit deal that has been agreed is so very far from the original that even Brexiteers don’t like it. No-one voted to be poorer – particularly that much poorer!

    Then there’s the fact that up to the very day of the referendum Farage said that if the vote went 52 – 48 in the Remainers favour, he would call for a second referendum….

    We could go on, couldn’t we Yolly, but we pay attention!

    Oh, BTW, the People’s Vote campaign now say that Jeremy Corbyn is now on board for a People’s Vote – he might at last have got off the fence, sensing some possible political advantage to himself. In today’s email they say “Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has demanded his party vote against the deal adding: “If we cannot get a general election… we will support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.””

    They also say “It’s not just the Brexiters in Parliament who want to tear up May’s lousy deal. A YouGov poll shows that 63% of the public want it rejected when ‘don’t know’s’ are excluded. Some 59% want a People’s Vote – a figure that rises to 64% if the deal is voted down.”

    Thanks Yolly!

    Like

  4. Pat A says:

    As always you are right Yolly – thank you for doing such a wonderful job – I notice Paul couldn’t argue with any of your points, just call it project fear – when the disaster predicted is ready to unfold and more people are realising the scale of the disaster. That is telling the truth, but the lying leave campaign couldn’t tell the truth if they tried.

    I prefer the democracy and decency of Europe any day over lunacy and lies.

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  5. Pat A says:

    Oh BTW Yolly, if you can manage to see last night’s The Last Leg on Channel Four over here, the first half an hour will make you roar with laughter – it wasn’t just funny it was so very, very true! I don’t know how easy it is to see other countries’ programmes but it is really worth trying.

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  6. Pat A says:

    Sorry, I don’t think this is the place to put this, but I have just seen this excellent article in The Grauniad, which I think you would like to read Yolly,
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/16/uk-austerity-has-inflicted-great-misery-on-citizens-un-says?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlVS19XZWVrZW5kLTE4MTExNw%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&CMP=GTUK_email

    “UK Austerity has inflicted great misery on its citizens, UN says” – inset into the article is the 24 page report by Professor Philip Alston – the report is excoriating on the parlous state of our country, yet it is written with sadness, compassion and logic, never anger. It is so very well worth reading and I agree with every word, God bless the dear man.

    Like

    • Stephen Yolland says:

      Well, it is very relevant in the sense that austerity measures will be introduced if Brexit results in a further reduction in Government revenues through falling taxation …

      Ah, The dear old Grauniad. I’ve only ever been reported on the front page of one national newspaper, and they managed to spell my name wrong …

      Like

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