The Irish Border is just an Excuse

It’s on, it’s off. Oh wait, now it’s back on again…hang on though, it was never really on in the first place…and now we’re back to square one and it’s halfway through October. Tick tock, tick tock…

That seems to be the general consensus of our political commentariat, who’ve been following every tortuous twist and turn of these increasingly fraught and fanciful Brexit negotiations. Once again the thorny issue of the Northern Irish border has thrown a spanner in the works, accompanied by pie in the sky expectations of frictionless borders between two independent and self-governing jurisdictions.

Whilst the EU indulges the fantasy that it can maintain some kind of legal control over the UK post Brexit, Britain daydreams about sending goods and products into a foreign jurisdiction without so much as a cursory customs check.

If there was the political will to manage this change in a pragmatic and co-operative way, there would simply be no need for these circular conversations endlessly revolving around some non-existent, magical border solution, which is how we know this is a political issue rather than a legal or technical one.

For example, more than 4,000 passenger vehicles and 10,000 commercial vehicles cross between the US and Canada every single weekday via the Ambassador Bridge
alone. In other words, the Irish border problem is eminently manageable if each party is willing to abandon its unattainable political goals.

It’s also a bit rich for the EU to be so suddenly concerned with border management, after deliberately letting more than a million undocumented migrants literally break down the gates and march straight into Europe. No such danger exists along the Irish border.

It’s no coincidence that our one and only land border with the EU (aside from Gibraltar) is presenting the biggest single obstacle to progress on any kind of meaningful Brexit deal. As I’ve watched these increasingly preposterous discussions unfolding, I’ve come to believe the EU isn’t really interested in the Irish border per se, but they’re especially interested in sending a message to twenty-seven other nations for whom land borders would be a much bigger issue if they decided to leave someday.

I think this is the real agenda behind the EU’s illogical insistence on continued regulatory control over a nation which will no longer be a member of the bloc. They know perfectly well that no sovereign nation worthy of the name would ever agree to such an outrageous demand, but they also know that the remaining twenty-seven members are paying close attention.

The Irish border problem isn’t really about the Irish border. It’s about showing those other nations within the EU just how difficult and bloody-minded Brussels intends to be if its authority is challenged. We could solve this problem fairly easily if the European Union had any political interest in doing so, but they obviously don’t, because it was never really about that.

I’ve said for some time now that the EU has no political interest in reaching some kind of reciprocal deal with any nation that dares to leave. It’s now clear that the Irish border has been chosen as the pretext for a no-deal Brexit.

Don’t be afraid. It could not be otherwise.

Images courtesy of Ted C & Phillip Flores at FreeImages.com

FCO30/1048 Initial Request

This is something of an unusual blog post for me, but I’ve a feeling it could be the first of many on this obscure but nonetheless important subject.

I have today written to the Chief Executive of the National Archives at Kew to request that the fabled FCO30/1048 report be digitised and made freely available online.

You can click this link to read my letter in full, and I’ll keep you posted with any developments…

Image courtesy of philipp k. at FreeImages.com

Let’s Hope Theresa’s Learned her Lesson

Well I guess there’s some life in the old gal yet. After more than a year of obfuscation, humiliation and repeated capitulation, Theresa May at last seems to be waking up to the cold, stark realisation that the European Union is a thoroughly hostile, untrustworthy and deeply anti-democratic institution. After her completely unnecessary and gleefully stage-managed humiliation in Salzburg, our Prime Minister seems to have finally understood that the people she’s dealing with will do anything and everything they can to undermine her at every turn, and what’s more they’ll enjoy doing it.

With her name fast becoming a byword for political miscalculation, Theresa May’s decision to come out swinging following the EU’s pre-planned political ambush was exactly the right move at the right time. We’ve all been forced to endure the endless scorn and derision of Brussels’ bloated little big men since the day of the referendum, and we’ve all had a bellyful of it now.

After the astonishing scenes at Salzburg, anyone who cannot now see exactly who and what we are dealing with is either woefully misinformed or dangerously dishonest. Either way, we can now safely discount the mournful wailing of those continuity Remainers who still rush to bend the knee to this smug, ossified and overbearing boys club. Their breath-taking and barefaced mendacity shows just how well they’d get along with those Brussels bureaucrats who think that sniggering Instagram posts are an acceptable form of international diplomacy.

So it was with a renewed sense of relief and optimism that millions of hopeful voters watched our most senior elected official finally standing up for herself, and by extension, the scores of us who would’ve happily told the likes of Tusk and Barnier exactly what to do with their damned cherries several months ago.

It’s taken a right royal spanking in front of the whole world to shake her out of her complacent stupor, but it seems that our Prime Minister is beginning to understand that the EU27 are no longer our friends. Theresa May’s newfound belligerence is a breath of much-needed fresh air, and a welcome reality check for those Europeans who believe that if they just fold their arms and say “non” often enough we’ll suddenly change our minds and realise the error of our ways. We knew this was coming on the day we cast our votes, and every petty, petulant insult and snide jibe merely confirms our worst suspicions about the motives and demeanour of those who, even now, refuse to relinquish control of our future.

But let’s not be too hasty in our optimism. After all, we’ve been here before. It’s no accident that those heady days of double-digit poll leads and solid party support coincided exactly with the Prime Minister’s firm and mature attitude towards those Brussels bullyboys in expensive suits. I believe that Theresa May can find that level of support and respect again, but only if she listens to the wisdom of her own experience, rather than to the poisonous, weasel words of an elitist establishment that’s always been embarrassed to be British for some reason.

Whilst it’s true that we’ve seen this more determined and less wobbly PM before, there’s an important difference this time around. Post Chequers, she knows full well that she’s spent every penny of political capital she once held while trying to conduct her own legislative ambush against both her own Cabinet and the country at large. Having first cleared her hugely unpopular plans with her “friends” in Europe, she now realises that her only achievement is to severely weaken herself at home while getting nothing in return from the EU. In short, they knowingly lied to her when they quietly tipped her the wink and said they would support the Chequers plan.

It must be comforting for Theresa May to know that with friends like those, she can still rely on her enemies among the Brexiteer faithful to help her do the right thing.

These are strange times indeed.

Image courtesy of Krzysztof Szkurlatowski at FreeImages.com

The Swivel-Eyed Brextremists were Right

“Brexit means Brexit…there must be no attempt to remain inside the EU, no attempt to re-join it through the back door and no second referendum.”
Theresa May, June 30th 2016

Like many Leave voters, I’ve been chewing my lip and trying to keep my own counsel for months as I’ve watched our government surrender concession after concession to the EU, while receiving the grand total of nothing in return. The exit bill, the order of negotiations, the transition period and the unending stream of calculated insults emanating from Brussels have been difficult to endure, but I’ve kept my eye firmly on the greater prize of Britain once again becoming a self-governing and independent nation state, ready to plot a new course in our rapidly changing world.

I’m not easily shocked, but the revelation that our own Prime Minister has been actively plotting to do the very thing she swore not to do when she was entrusted with the keys to Downing Street has taken some getting over. I know the word “plotting” has some very dark and emotive connotations, but it’s completely justified. There’s absolutely no chance that the Chequers agreement is something that was just scribbled on the back of an envelope as the PM awoke from a recurring Brexit nightmare one stormy night. It’s far too sophisticated for that, having been deliberately designed to deceive by talking positively about sovereignty, while vaguely referring to some unspecified “common rulebook.” Anyone who understands anything about the EU will spot Brussels’ fingerprints all over a document such as this.

And just who will be writing, updating, interpreting and arbitrating this exciting new common rulebook I wonder? Now let me think…

Who would’ve thought that those swivel-eyed Brexit extremists were right all along when they warned against putting a Remainer in Number 10? However, it’s now crystal clear that our Prime Minister hasn’t really embraced the idea of leaving the European Union and making autonomous decisions without its advice or approval. Indeed, we now know that she’s been consciously and secretly plotting to keep us shackled to that failing institution and bound to their our shared “common rulebook” indefinitely. If that’s not re-joining the EU via the back door, then I really don’t know what is.

However, even if this chequered “turd rolled in glitter”
does come to pass in its current form, there’s still good cause for optimism in the longer-term. Let’s not forget that Article 50 has already been triggered and, more importantly, the European Withdrawal Act has now passed into law, despite a co-ordinated campaign of sabotage by an increasingly desperate establishment which has demonstrated it will never accept the referendum result.

The significance of these Brexit triumphs should not be forgotten, because they mean that EU law will no longer be supreme in the UK after March 29th 2019. This date is now enshrined in UK law, and the dread European Communities Act 1972 is set to be repealed on that same day. The current babble of loose talk about simply abandoning Brexit altogether fails to acknowledge that any changes to our current exit arrangements would require further legislation via Parliament. Good luck with that.

Although at least half the country (and I suspect more) is rightly up in arms about May’s sloppy stich-up at Chequers last week, any future legal partnership with the EU must, by definition, be an arrangement ratified by the UK Parliament, and there’s little evidence that such a disastrous deal would ever make it through the Commons. How deliciously ironic it is that we can thank the reliably condescending and galactically over-entitled Gina Miller for that Supreme Court precedent. Thanks Gina, I know you’ll be pleased because I’m sure this is exactly what you had in mind when you set out to recycle, re-package, and re-brand an establishment attempt to overturn the referendum as a deeply held and strangely sudden conversion to the cause of Parliamentary sovereignty. Is anyone giving odds on Miller taking up some kind of Brussels role when we’re finally out? She’s a natural.

I could continue writing here, but my eyes have started to swivel.

Images courtesy of Peter Skadberg & Lorenzo Gonzalez at FreeImages.com

 

The Unstoppable Undead Remain Campaign

There is no escape from the nightmare! We cannot wake up!

No matter how far we run, how many times we knock them down or how many new Acts are passed to finally end their monstrous non-lives, the eternal protest horde still lumbers through the streets as it seeks to feed on the brains of the gullible and terminally entitled.

Just when you thought that Royal Assent for the European Withdrawal Act would be the final blow that just might bring peace to these tortured and insatiable fiends, still we hear their blood-chilling refrain whenever we turn on our televisions or dare to glance at a newspaper.

Remaaaaaaaain!

Cruelly unaware that it actually passed away in the early hours of June 24th 2016, this hollow, shambling echo of a hard fought political campaign still stumbles through our streets and TV studios, forever tortured by the vague recollection that it once dwelled among the living and was once loved.

None are spared by this new and seemingly unstoppable political pathogen. Young or old, high or low, the Remainia virus can strike anywhere at any time, and its victims would be pitied if their symptoms were not so horrifying and dangerous.

Formerly high functioning doctors, lawyers and politicians are inexplicably stripped of all but the most base collective instincts as they herd together with others of their own kind, mocked by their shared recollection that once upon a time the world listened when they spoke.

You can’t reason with political zombies because they don’t even know that they’re dead.

Their cognitive functions are too greatly impaired to understand that they were on the losing side of the single biggest democratic mandate in British political history. Instead, they will simply try to eat your braaaains with sharp-toothed sophistries about not really knowing what Brexit meant, even though they fail to understand that both options on the ballot paper were equally unconditional.

Robbed of their most basic human wits, these pitiful parodies are unable to conceive how any second referendum would require parliamentary assent. They are simply too befuddled to realise just how many years it took first to secure and then to win the 2016 referendum, and they sincerely believe the result can simply be reversed because they happen to think it’s a bad idea. Pity the afflicted, it’s not their fault.

Victims of the Remainia virus are so cognitively impaired that they cannot even grasp how a second referendum would probably go the same way as the first one, and it certainly would have no legal bearing on the Lisbon Treaty now that Article 50 has been triggered. Instead of displaying the human instinct to argue for re-joining once we’ve left, the blind, instinctive drive of Project Fear sends them headlong into the brick wall of reality, before the next scare story sends them stumbling back into that very same wall in an endless cycle of destructive and embarrassing self-humiliation. I’m just glad they can’t feel much pain at this late stage.

Although some brave lawmakers have tried to help, nobody has yet been able to develop a cure for this most callous and cruel cognitive affliction. There was a brief hope that waving a copy of the newly passed EU Withdrawal Act might trigger some form of basic political reasoning process, but to no avail. Remainia sufferers are incapable of understanding that repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act is now a constitutional reality, which can only be reversed by still further parliamentary legislation.

At present, there is no known cure or vaccine against the Remainia virus, and the only effective countermeasures are quarantine or containment. Remainia victims can be dangerous, although their habits and responses are fairly predictable when observed over time. Above all, remember that the nice middle class lady shambling around Whitehall with her placard is no longer what she appears to be. She will surely devour your braaaaains with hollow sophistry and leave you just as empty and bereft as she herself is. One more lost soul to swell the ranks of a politically undead army.

Just be careful out there.

Images courtesy of H Assaf and Julia Freeman-Woolpert at FreeImages.com

Decision Time for Theresa

Whatever you might think of her politics or personality, there’s no denying Theresa May’s tenacity and dogged determination. So far she’s confounded all the doomsayers who prophesised that the Brexit talks would never get this far. Predictions of Jeremy Corbyn celebrating Christmas in Number 10 have vanished from more than one blog, and gleeful tweets about the imminent local election meltdown have been recycled into memes of mirth all across cyberspace.

Despite being a little grating and not especially charismatic, the Prime Minister has nonetheless managed to retain, and in some cases gain, the loyalty of an electorate which has come to grudgingly admire her patient if bureaucratically dull approach to an increasingly ill-tempered, intransigent and deliberately discourteous European Union.

Contrary to what the more unhinged factions of the Remainosphere might say, the Brexiteer who thought this would all be a breeze is a rare and strange beast indeed. The British electorate backed Brexit in the full knowledge that there would be more than a couple of bumps in the road as we embarked on the biggest constitutional upheaval in a generation. How could there not be?

This typically pragmatic, balanced and, yes dammit, British attitude explains why both the voters in general and the Tory Party in particular have continued to support the PM through the increasingly difficult and tortuous Brexit process.

However, with her latest and, quite frankly, downright dishonest sounding customs union fudge, the PM has finally run out of creative ways to yield ever more ground to Brussels while kicking the can down the road at the same time. It’s been a really neat trick which has served her well so far; but beneath all the noise and shiny distractions swirling around the Brexit debate, the influential European Research Group has finally delivered its considered verdict.

“Completely cretinous.”

The back benches have lost patience with Britain’s seemingly endless procession of one-way concessions. Their letters to the 1922 Committee are poised and ready. They have the numbers, they’re no longer scared of Corbyn, and I believe they mean business this time.

Soon we will know for sure whether the PM has been doing her best in good faith, or whether her talk of “no attempt to remain inside the EU [and] no attempt to re-join it via the back door” was just another carefully measured dose of duplicity made in Brussels.

At the moment, Theresa May seems to be the only person in Europe who hasn’t learned that there can be no compromise with the EU. I don’t know why she finds this concept so difficult to grasp. God knows, they’ve told us often enough.

Images courtesy of Adrian Olguin & Anja Ranneberg at Freeimages.com

Hooray for the 2nd Referendum!

It’s nice to agree with your most implacable opponents every now and then. That’s why I was especially cheered to hear Patrick Stewart’s reasoned and measured arguments as he championed the new People’s Vote movement in various television studios nearly a fortnight ago. It’s hard to deny that we’d never make different, better decisions if we could see further into the future. After all, how many of us wouldn’t want to turn back the clock and not have a particular argument, or choose a different path that didn’t lead to a dead end?

When it comes to weighty matters of state, we all cast our votes based more on hope and belief than any meaningful knowledge of the future. That inescapable truth probably explains why we’re permanently disappointed that our destination bears only a passing semblance to the exciting postcard we received. So it’s with a big dose of hindsight and a little humility that I’ve come to embrace the idea of a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The landscape is so dramatically different and so many arguments resoundingly disproved that I can see no other alternative. We’re just not where we thought we would be.

In 1975, the UK Government’s official pamphlet informed voters that a Council of Ministers would make Europe-wide decisions. However, that competency was transferred to the unelected European Commission in 2009. The UK electorate was not consulted about this change.

In 1975, the UK Government’s official pamphlet assured voters that “no important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament.” However, both the Maastricht
and Lisbon Treaties handed many important policy powers to the same unelected European Commission. The UK electorate was not consulted about this change.

In 1975, the UK Government’s official pamphlet declared that “through membership of the [Common] Market we are better able to advance and protect our national interests. This is the essence of sovereignty.” I can’t possibly speak for 17.4 million leave voters, but I’ll bet the farm that a significant majority of them believe that regaining control of UK border policy, money and laws is the true essence of sovereignty. It’s taken a little over forty years for that glib official statement to be tested in the real world and found so desperately wanting.

In 1975, the UK Government’s official pamphlet stated that Commonwealth countries would not be disadvantaged by Britain’s membership of the EEC. Yet less than two pages later, the very same leaflet states a UK voting to leave the EEC would no longer be inside the Common Market tariff wall – but outside.” The pamphlet didn’t try to explain how splitting the Commonwealth between those behind and those outside the EEC’s tariff wall was beneficial to the countries left outside. The eagerness of those same nations to embrace new trading ties with the UK shows that statement to have been utterly false, and I suspect Edward Heath and a large portion of Parliament knew it back in 1973.

Whilst some of the Government’s claims regarding the Common Market may have been accurate in 1975, an awful lot has changed in forty years. New treaties, new power structures and new laws have transformed the EEC beyond all recognition, and in the light of those radically altered conditions, it was right and proper that at long last a second referendum on EU membership took place on June 23, 2016.

Some of the more embittered remain factions highlight the fact that older voters were the deciding demographic in the referendum result, as though that somehow counts for something. Despite ridiculous and condescending claims that older voters represent a non-existent past, they are in fact the very same people who’d voted to remain in the EEC in 1975. They’d just developed a better understanding of what they were really voting for this time around. Sound familiar?

Mr Stewart and his chums at People’s Vote HQ can celebrate the fact that we’ve already had a second EU referendum. When considering new developments and changed circumstances that were unknown in 1975, the electorate has soberly and very sensibly changed its mind.

The North London, 2nd referendum set can sleep soundly knowing that democracy was well served by the 2016 vote, and they can focus on really important things like writing letters to the Guardian.

The People’s Vote of 2016 was a triumph for democracy.

Image courtesy of nwhomebuyers at FreeImages.com

Remoaners need Dr Who, not Captain Picard

So, it’s finally happened. The entrenched establishment’s last desperate gamble to thwart Brexit has cranked into life amid great fanfare, tons of publicity and a million pound budget.

Of course they don’t call it that. When questioned on their attitude to Brexit, this elitist coalition of closet authoritarians hide their disdain for democracy behind phrases like “choice”, “new information” and “the terms of divorce.” They are always, always at pains to stress just how much they respect the result of the 2016 referendum.

This is a brazen, calculated lie, and we all know it. In fact, arch luvvie and continuity remainer Patrick Stewart couldn’t even convince the BBC’s Andrew Marr of his sincerity when asked about respecting the Brexit vote. Either he wasn’t properly briefed by the “People’s Vote” campaign, or he’s decided that honesty is the best policy. Whether by accident or design, we should thank Mr Stewart for saving us all the time and trouble of trying to prize the truth from this dishonest and deceitful campaign’s lips for the next year or so.

One of the more reliable rules of politics is that any nation with the words “democratic” or “people’s” anywhere in its name should be treated with extreme caution, and the same can be said of political campaigns. Ironically enough the “people” understand this fundamental truth well enough, which is why this this last hurrah from the fading neoliberals will expend a lot of time, energy and hot air with no discernible outcome. Kind of like having a counsellor on a spaceship.

The People’s Vote is doomed.

First and foremost, because there will be no second referendum. Both Labour and the Conservatives have been clear about this. Any such proposal is extremely unlikely to make it through Parliament as both the voting public and the political class are well aware of Brussels’ long and lamentable record of re-runs when it comes to democratic votes they don’t like. Such a move would be politically impossible in the current atmosphere.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has already been triggered, and any move to reverse that decision will require a democratic mandate equal to or greater than the 2016 referendum. In the unlikely event a second referendum were to be held, it would not affect the result of the first unless that question was specifically addressed on the ballot paper.

This new and fundamentally flawed rearguard action is grounded on the false premise that any second referendum will be a direct re-run of the first, when the likelihood of such is vanishingly small. The best they can hope for is a take-it-or-leave-it vote on the final form of any future Brexit deal, but this will not affect the legal status of the Lisbon Treaty. In fact, such a plebiscite could quite conceivably lead to the “hard” Brexit they so desperately seek to overturn. The potential for backfire is a real and present danger, so hardcore remainers should be careful what they wish for.

Finally, there is also the inescapable and ironclad fact that Brexit is driven by the largest democratic mandate for anything, ever, in the long history of this nation. The ship has sailed, and there’s very little chance of stopping it now. The hard core rump of Brexit deniers would’ve done better to find a time traveller than to rely on Captain Yesterday.

Image courtesy Carol Kramberger at Freeimages.com

Our Futuristic Breadbin Brexit

What do Brexit, a loaf of bread and a high profile environmental campaign have in common? You might be tempted to answer “not very much,” but they are in fact linked by deeper, hidden forces which are currently the rise of populism and the rejection of the neoliberal world view.

It’s not often that everyday objects like a sliced white can speak so much truth, but that’s exactly what happened in the bread aisle as I endured the ritual torture of grocery shopping. I’d arrived at the supermarket earlier than planned, having fled the house after Sky News tried to force feed me another helping of environmental advocacy. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s true that the amount of plastic polluting our world is a real and pressing problem, and I for one am pleased that such a large organisation is bringing attention to this urgent and important issue.

There were films of plastic, debates about plastic and statistics surrounding plastic still rolling around in my head while I engaged in the drudgery of the supermarket shop. First stop was the fruit and veg, and I immediately recalled the apocryphal tale of four apples shrink-wrapped on a plastic tray, which is often cited as the pinnacle of ridiculous and completely unnecessary plastic packaging.* In fairness there are very few people who’d approve of such a thing in today’s more environmentally conscious climate, but still it happened once upon a time.

Then I came to the bread, and as I was loading my favourite brand into the trolley I suddenly remembered that bread was once packaged in nice neat waxed paper parcels, whereas now it’s nearly always wrapped some sort of plastic bag.

So who actually asked for such a change? I don’t recall the old way of wrapping bread being a particular problem, and I certainly can’t remember the consumer demanding his apples be packed in plastic trays. So how did we get to the place where we find ourselves now?

Like so much in modern life, to find the answer we must follow the money and the power to the point where somebody’s holding of either increases. It’s a fundamental truth that businesses must either cut costs or grow revenue to increase profits, and in the food sector that means processing. The more any given food is processed, the greater value is added to it, and that fundamental economic and marketing truth goes a long way to explaining our apocryphal apples wrapped in plastic. What else can you do with an apple and still preserve it as recognisable piece of fruit?

It’s only now, after decades of profligate plastic usage that we’re starting to understand just how big a problem we’ve created for ourselves. Naturally we’ve started seeking solutions, which ironically involve looking back to an era when paper was king and glass bottles were easily reused or recycled. Taking the longer view, it turns out that maybe we were once wiser than we knew, and many “old fashioned” ideas had a lot more to their credit than the loudest of lobbying voices cared to admit.

Just like our apples wrapped in plastic, the European Union has also quietly grown into an expensive and wasteful hazard, and its baleful influence had to reach choking point before most of us noticed its creeping incursion into all our lives. Outside of a few noisy special interest groups, hardly anyone in Europe ever wanted or asked for the gargantuan behemoth we’re battling now; and just like our irresponsible push to plasticise, we stand aghast at the damage we’ve unwittingly unleashed.

The good news is that just like the packaging industry, the future for nation states can be found in the past. That doesn’t mean slamming on the brakes and trying to throw history into reverse, but instead taking some fundamentally sound ideas from a time before the EU and reimagining them for the century to come. Just as some bright inventor will soon come up with bio-degradable waxed paper 2.0 and make a ton of money, so we’ll develop new ways of working together in an increasingly globalised, interconnected, yet de-centralised world.

Doubtless many aspiring authoritarians will argue that our increased interconnectedness demands an even greater degree of supranational governance and regulation. Well, that all sounds fine in the lobbies at Davos, but history is now revealing the folly of exchanging the reality of national sovereignty for the illusion of increased prosperity and security.

The European Union is the plastic apple tray of the political world. We don’t need it, we never asked for it, and all it does is serve the interests of a small group of men sitting on the top floors of tall buildings.

We’ve allowed one hell of a mess to build up over the years, and it’s going to take a long time and some innovative thinking to repair the damage.

Image courtesy of tinpalace at Freeimages.com

*Some commentators maintain that wrapping food like fruit prolongs shelf life and decreases food wastage, and thus the environmental impact is more nuanced.

Does the EU Really Want a Trade Deal?

The evidence suggests it doesn’t.

It feels like forever since Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016. Following that momentous day, the long-suffering British public have been buried by a blizzard of headlines, briefings, position papers and statements of principle. Everything from security, to the Irish border, through citizens’ rights, the “divorce bill” and back to the Irish border has been subjected to the most intense scrutiny and debate. Offers, rejections, accusations and counter-offers have become the new normal for Anglo-Brussels relations.

The only subject consistently absent from this flurry of proposals and propaganda is trade.

Funny that.

It’s become increasingly clear that the EU is desperate to talk about everything except trade. It’s surely no accident that the first phase of the exit negotiations makes no mention of any future trading relationship between us, and now that phase is concluded, the thorny issue of the Irish border has popped up once again, seemingly from nowhere.

The EU knows perfectly well that its so-called “backstop” position on the Ireland issue is completely unacceptable to the UK. So why go to the trouble of including it in the draft Brexit treaty?

The outrageous “divorce bill,” demands for ECJ supremacy and now the de-facto annexation of Northern Ireland are all part of a pattern of behaviour that’s starting to resemble a disgruntled employee who’s trying his hardest to get himself fired.

Why?

To put it simply, the European Union has no political interest in being a good neighbour and dependable partner to the United Kingdom, and is therefore trying to force Britain to abandon the talks. The uncomfortable truth is that while a far-reaching and ambitious treaty will help both the people and businesses of Europe, it will not help the European Union.

And that’s what really matters.

In practical terms it should be a cinch. We’re already so closely aligned that maintaining standards for EU markets while diverging in other areas should be the easiest thing in the world, so why is the EU making it so difficult?

Because Brussels knows full well that if the UK can exit the European Union and continue with (relatively) frictionless trade, other nations will soon stampede for the door. After all, what country would not wish to strengthen its domestic legislature while paying a manageable price in terms of trade? If Britain can strike a comprehensive trade deal with the EU, then the EU is finished as a global political force, and it knows this. The once omnipotent European Union would be politically neutered and gradually reduced to the status of an international trade body if Britain gets a good deal. Ironically enough, this would transform the EU into the kind of continental trading bloc we first joined back in 1973, and that’s something most Europeans and Brits would be quite happy with. However, such a dramatic loss of political power is something that the European Union will never accept. Make no mistake, Brussels is willing to pay any price in European misery to preserve its own supremacy.

If Brexit has served no other purpose, it’s proved beyond doubt that what’s good for Europe is bad for the EU, and all Europeans would do well to think long and hard about how we got ourselves into this position.

Images courtesy of Arztsamui & franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net