Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Missing Link

What's been going on in the Great British Brexit Debacle?  Quite a lot, actually.  The court case forcing Parliament to vote before triggering Article 50 has ended with a judgement in favour of a  Parliamentary vote.  This is huge news but doesn't yet mark the end of the story. Remember, lawyers and hourly billings are involved.  The Government will take the case to the Supreme Court and the whole thing will trundle on for a while longer.  It could even end at the European Court of Justice. Oh, the irony!  I do hope that Parliament will get its act together and start demanding a plan from the Government.  Here's an idea: maybe they could also read through it and offer some constructive criticism.  I don't want get too radical here but how about the opposition get on with the job of opposing?  I'm really hoping somebody with a semblance of principle tries to restore some sanity to this mess.  Remaining in the EEA springs to mind.  I certainly don't remember single market access being on the referendum ballot, do you? Dour Scot that I am, I'm starting to take the view that the madness has a strong forward momentum -  throwing a few ping pong balls at the juggernaut won't make any difference.

What else has been going on?  Well, something else did happen that is actually quite important, in my view.   It is becoming clear that talks to leave the EU must be completed before trade talks can begin.
Leaving the EU and negotiating trade relationships are quite separate things. I'm as guilty as everyone else of conflating these processes under the banner A50.  Let's set the record straight.  The first thing to remember is that the UK can't negotiate on trade with the EU until it has formally left.  There is no getting round this fact.  Facts are facts, after all. I know we live in a post-truth world but this blog is going to stick to the old-fashioned idea that facts should be revered.  Even just working out how the UK will leave the EU is a huge task:  there are legal obligations to be discussed, administrative frameworks to be dismantled, contracts to be signed.  There is truly a lot to be decided.  Thankfully, this is all ratified by qualified majority voting so there is a good chance that an agreement can be reached.  After the UK has left the EU it can then go on to negotiate trade conditions. It's clear to me that these are not independent processes because the manner in which the UK continues or curtails its ongoing obligations will have a huge influence on the trade talks.  A further problem is that all commercial negotiations are put to the EU veto.  That's right, trade talks involve a very different matrix of alliances and compromises from A50.   I haven't even mentioned yet that responsibility for implementing A50 and the subsequent trade negotiations might be handled by different European institutions. There is simply no way to bundle these two processes together. 

Take your time UK, the door's stuck.
I'm sure everyone reading this will have worked out the gotcha for the UK government:  immediately after we leave the EU we will have no trade deal with Europe. Worse still, we might even find ourselves leaving the EU without first sorting out our WTO commitments.  Tim Martin's assertion that we should just trade under WTO rules will look a bit embarrassing if that comes to pass.  In fact, the UK might not be able to trade with anybody in any way whatsoever if that really pans out.  I'm going to speculate that nobody wants this to happen, neither the EU nor the UK.  What kind of solutions are there?  I would guess that some kind of temporary associate EU membership will be arranged until this is all sorted out.   How many years will that last?  As  few as 5?  What about 10?  Should we count it in General Elections?  As with all things Brexit, nobody knows but leaving the EU is going to take a very long time, indeed.

A particularly stupid weasel.  Just look at it's stupid face.  No concept of international trade whatsoever.
I don't know about you but I'm starting to tire of pointing out the lack of attention to detail involved in this whole Brexit mess.  Team Brexit is so far from getting a grip on this I'm convinced they don't even have a todo list of detail that might demand their understanding.  If the UK government can't even figure out its own constitutional arrangements how do they expect to get their heads round the complexities of EU legislative bodies and their matrix of responsibility?  This is rapidly turning into a game of chess where only one player understands the rules.  Actually, that is a terrible analogy.  Let me try again.  This is turning into a game of chess where only one player understands the concept of rules or indeed has any grasp on the symbolic meaning of the pieces on the board.  Even the notion that a game is underway can't be assumed.  The EU might as well assume an opponent that is still to evolve the power of abstraction, like an elderly chaffinch or a particularly stupid weasel.

Over and out,


PS No offence to weasels or chaffinches but they are complete idiots. 


  1. On behalf of the Scottish Society for the Protection of the Reputations of Chaffinches and Weasels (SSPRCW) (Nah, me neither), I'd like to lodge a complaint. No-one is going to argue that they are dense, but for goodness sake, as dense as the UK government? Poleeeeze!

    Secondly, I think ti would be fair to say that the SNP, Plaid and the Greens are acting as an opposition. OK, it's almost impossible given the small number of them in parliament, but at least they are putting up sensible arguments. The fact that they, with only one exception, come from Scotland and Wales, also plays against them.

    When it boils down to it, David Cameron did the country a huge disservice when he introduced this referendum. Apparently Nicola Sturgeon warned him he might lose, and he told her not to be silly.

    So, there you are. You go on winning throughout your life, with a little bit of help from Daddy's money, Daddy's trusts, Eton, Oxford, a word in the right ear from Buckingham Palace and ... But then one day, y'know, it just has to come crashing down.

    They went into it without any preparation (banned by Cameron) and without any notion of what they were letting themselves, and us, in for.

    Of course the likes of Cameron can always walk away. With millions in the bank and the promise of millions more to come, plus all the connections of the old school tie and his relationship with Buckingham palace, he's gonna be alright.

    Still, they have the fascist press on their side, and that's read by a fair proportion of the UK, so maybe they will manage to avoid riots, as long as they keep Paul Dacre, Nigel Farage and Lord Rothermere happy.

  2. There is indeed opposition. I don't mean to slight the efforts of the SNP, Plaid and the solitary Green but they don't really have the numbers to make a difference. I honestly wish there were more of them. The Labour Party is the problem. They are the official party of opposition and I can't see that they are doing very much at all. Their position on this is very unclear. Even if they achieved some kind of clarity there, they are organisationally weak. They can't even organise amongst themselves, never mind seek alliances with other parties. Even if they got their act together they still wouldn't never push too hard on this issue because the last thing they need is a General Election. Everyone knows they will lose badly.

    This whole exercise has been a disaster for democracy. It has made me realise that plebiscites don't work at all in a representative democracy. This is worrying because this seems to be the only accepted route to Scottish independence. It is time for a rethink. I'm not one of those UDI suporters, by the way. I just mean that a path needs to be found that works with the system that we have.


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