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Brexit means not very much at all?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 01:04:14 PM EST

Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, has been delaying even a phone conversation with Theresa May, and as yet there are no plans for the two to meet, despite the fact that May is due in Brussels at some stage this week to present her final offer on Phase one issues to the EU.

It's getting to the point where no one sees much point in even meeting May any more. After all, the EU agreed a deal with her team, and then she promptly overturned it at the first sign of resistance. Juncker could be forgiven for asking her to confirm that she has achieved agreement from her cabinet and all other key players before even scheduling a meeting again.


By the way, is there some reason that May always seems to meet Juncker over lunch? Does he imbibe a bottle of wine over lunch and thus become more agreeable, or is this just a UK PR attempt to portray him as an epicurean dilettante? I suggest a meeting over a ten metre long table at dawn, the next time.

It has been noticeable ever since her premiership began how few important people seem to bother travelling to 10 Downing street to meet her. Trump has been invited, but shows no sign of turning up. Rajoy is there at the moment, but he is hardly flavour of the month in Europe at the moment. Varadker re-imagined a "Love Actually" scene there but Ireland has a particular interest in close UK/Ireland relations.

But to be snubbed by the leader of a minor party in N. Ireland with 10 MPs is a new low. Presumably Arlene Foster feels as betrayed as Leo Varadker, but breaking trust with both of them in one act is a new achievement.

Brussels/Dublin may well calculate that there is no point in further discussions with May so long as she is beholden to the DUP. So either she calls their bluff, or the DUP take her down, and she is replaced by a government not beholden to the DUP. This could only be achieved by a general election quite probably resulting in a Corbyn led government perhaps with SNP/Lib Dem support.

May's latest ruse appears to be to promise the DUP there will be "regulatory alignment" between the EU and the whole of the UK, thus obviating the need for a customs border either within Ireland or in the Irish sea.  

But this means that UK is effectively staying within the Single Market/Customs union and thus not "taking back control" over their own regulation, immigration, and indeed the freedom to negotiate their own trade treaties.

Davis has made much of the distinction between being in the SM/CU and having access to it.  Typical "have cake and eat it" stuff. I doubt the EU will be impressed by such Jesuitical casuistry.

But the Irish government may have done the EU some service by taking a hard line on the border issue. Because what May is doing is shifting the UK position from wanting some kind of Canada+ trade deal, to effectively remaining within the CU/SM - the Norway+ option.

That changes the parameters for the Phase II trade and transition negotiations entirely and on to common ground with Labour and the SNP. In fact if the SNP are so keen on the "Irish solution" to the border problem, they might well support the Tories on this, removing May's dependency on the DUP.

The wonder of it is that the Brexiteers seem to be going along with it too. Perhaps they are clinging to the notion that the EU will grant the UK access to the SM/CU on terms entirely unique to the UK. That is a fiction easy to maintain by all sides until such time as it becomes necessary for the EU/UK to agree a price for such access.

If the UK were to pay an access fee similar to Norway in per capita terms, it would end up costing more or less as much as the current net cost of UK membership of the EU, but without any influence over the ongoing process of change of those regulations, and perhaps even the adjudication of breaches of those regulations (C.F. ECJ).

It will then be difficult to see what the UK is getting out of all of this trauma, and Brexit will have come to mean not very much at all, except the systematic dis-empowering of the UK. If May secures DUP and perhaps even SNP/Labour support for such a strategy, her position will become secure unless the Brexiteers manage to overturn her leadership by an internal party coup - and without her precipitating a general election first. In fact her ability to precipitate such an election could be her strongest defence against any such coup attempt.

But what appears to be happening is a slow turning of the screw resulting in a change of attitudes and diminution of expectations on the part of most Brexiteers within the Tory party, although Nigel Farage smells a rat... Had such a position of "maintaining regulatory alignment" between the UK and EU been announced even a few weeks ago, there would have been Brexiteer outrage all round and calls for May's immediate removal.

The DUP/Irish border crisis has changed all that. Expect the phase II negotiations on trade and transition to have a similarly disillusioning effect on Brexiteers as it becomes clear that even "access to" the SM/CU requires a loss of control over regulations, immigration, and over negotiating separate foreign trade deals.

If May can stay the course it will be a classic case of the apocryphal frog who failed to jump out of a slowly overheating pond whereas he would have jumped instantly out of a pot of boiling water. It would also be a considerable political achievement on May's part.

It is still my main expectation that at some point the Brexiteers will revolt and May will change course and that the UK will lurch toward a no-deal or minimal deal Brexit. But if May's parting gift to the nation is to stay the course or call a general election I would expect a successor government to pursue precisely such a course: continued membership of the CU/SM and only minor changes in the overall EU/UK relationship perhaps branded as some sort of external associate membership.

In practice not a lot will have changed except that the UK will have disempowered itself within the EU to the barely disguised relief of almost all.

Display:
Kevin O'Rourke: Britain wakes up to the reality of free trade
If the Irish Times report on the deal is accurate, the British have moved a huge distance, suggesting that they badly need a deal. This week's drama, on the other hand, will make the EU even more reluctant to consider bespoke negotiations and even more determined to offer only off-the-shelf arrangements.

I don't want to count my chlorinated chickens before they've hatched: a catastrophic no-deal Brexit is still very possible. Maybe the UK government will collapse, and then who knows what will happen. (If London cannot decide what it wants from Brexit this may be what is required.) But given the season that's in it, and putting everything together, you begin to wonder whether "it's beginning to look a lot like a customs union and single market". Here's hoping.

Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke is Chichele professor of economic history at All Souls College, Oxford



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 04:20:14 PM EST
frank:

"Davis has made much of the distinction between being 'in' the SM/CU and 'having access' to it.  Typical "have cake and eat it" stuff. I doubt the EU will be impressed by such Jesuitical casuistry."

me always impressed by Jesuitical casuistry, especially of the writerly kind

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 05:07:14 PM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 05:17:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"You don't grasp my point, says Bloom. What I mean is..."

**

"He laughed to free his mind from his mind's bondage."

     -- some irish guy

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 05:29:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes I thought it might be a reference to Joyce's Jesuit education, but I had never taken you for a Joycean scholar!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 06:04:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I shall now waste the rest of my evening curiously thumbing through "The Abuse of Casuistry" by Jonsen and Toulmin rather than attending to my edifying obligations. All this for two gentlemen elsewhere on the planet chattering about a couple of islands off the coast of civilization.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 09:31:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We look forward to seeing the fruits of your casuistic explorations edify our readers on these pages. While you refer to the coast of civilization, I hope you are not construing it as a border, because I can assure you the continent of which you speak shall be the poorer but for the influence of this island. My (English) English teacher used to remind us that this island was an "island of saints and scholars" whilst the denizens of our neighbouring island were running round naked painted blue with woad.

Shure haven't we won the Eurovision song contest 7 times!! (And haven't even qualified for the finals since the eastern European countries started block voting for each other). Admittedly, Italy has some trifling track record of contributing to civilisation as well. I well remember this performance by Gigliola Cinquetti of Non Ho L'Età:



Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 10:01:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My current attitude towards the fate of civilization is festering with signs of the great simplification.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Dec 7th, 2017 at 12:35:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My first heartthrob at the age of 11.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 7th, 2017 at 12:46:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

introibo ad altare Dei.

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called out coarsely:

--Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 10:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose in many ways, this all goes to prove that conservatives haven't got much oa sense of humour; after all, if some of them did they might be aware of some wisdom inserted into the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The mighty supercomputer Deep Thought, when questioned as to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything (eventually) responds that the answer is 42. When this rather mundane and baffling answer is queried, the computer notes that the problem was that the question itself wasn't really understood and so the answer could never make sense.

And here we are with brexit. It's not surprising that the Government is getting in such a mess over enacting it, because nobody really understood the question. so being entirely unaware of the implications of their approach to brexit more or less ended up as a given. Of course, if we were to look back over the whole course of events that led from Cameron's idiotic promise, there were many points where you'd suggest that things really ought to have been done differently. And I mean REALLY DIFFERENTLY.

But we are where we are. and it's quite messy.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 05:51:18 PM EST
Wild talk from poltical blogs that the conservatives have gone on to General election alert. Or that the brexiteers are going to mount a coup.

It is one thing to be in office but not in control. It is quite another to demonstrate to an international audience how much you are not in control.

However, the Tory party still faces its central question; there is absolutely nobody with any credibility to replace her. And, although it's Constitutionally acceptable to keep changing the Prime Minister within the life of a Parliament, there comes a point where the public won't wear it. And May is that endpoint.

Whatever Boris may think, he is not the answer

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 06:02:21 PM EST
I suspect Deep thought would have difficulty in figuring out the national question to which Boris was the best answer...

What about: "Nobody else want's the job, so we have to give it to Boris?"

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 06:11:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there a precedent for a prime minister calling a general election to ward off the threat of a leadership challenge from within her own party? Does it always have to be preceded by the loss of a vote of confidence in Parliament?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 06:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, a PM can elect to go to the country at any time. I'm not sure if that can be stopped by the party.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 06:27:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Snap election
The conditions for when a snap election can be called have been significantly restricted by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 to occasions when the government loses a confidence motion or when a two-thirds supermajority of MPs vote in favour. Prior to this, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had the de facto power to call an election at will by requesting a dissolution from the monarch - the limited circumstances where this would not be granted were set out in the Lascelles Principles

So May would have to engineer a vote of confidence defeat first if she sensed a heave was in the offing...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 06:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having boasted of the many dozens of assessments carried out by the government to determine the impact of brexit upon the UK economy, David Davis fought tooth and claw to prevent these ever seeing the light of day.

Even after Parliament commanded that they be made available, that was sone so grudgingly, with security restrictions reminicent of national atomic secrets that there was a long queue to examine them. Yet, the cupboard was bare.

Finally David Davis was forced to admit to a committee that there had, in fact, been no impact assessments carried out.

fortunately, a video of this scene has been made available



keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 10:13:11 PM EST
Brexit: Theresa May says she will not explain how UK will prevent a hard Irish border until later in EU talks

That's nice but meanwhile ...

The Taoiseach and British Prime Minister Theresa May have spoken by telephone this afternoon, where Leo Varadkar reiterated the firm Irish position regarding the text of the Brexit deal as outlined by him on Monday.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 11:23:32 PM EST
The whole point of the Irish government wanting the Border issue resolved as part of phase I was to prevent it becoming a bargaining chip in Phase II. Theresa May seems to be trying to take it off the table in phase one in order to use it as a means of forcing the EU to grant the UK seamless access to the CU/SM in phase 2 - as otherwise a hard border in Ireland would result.

Neither Ireland nor the EU are going to accept that. There will be no phase II unless May faces down the DUP or effectively goes for the Norway+ option.- in which case she will have to face down her Brexiteers. I'm beginning to think May might welcome a general election at this point to get out of this impossible position. So she might proceed with the agreement reached last Monday and dare the DUP to bring her down.

The only other option is a no-deal Brexit, so if she doesn't want that she may as well hand over the leadership. The only question now is whether it will be to some other Tory or to Corbyn by way of an election. Personally I think Rees-Mogg is always good for a laugh... As an arch-Catholic he can present a coalition with the DUP as a mending of fences after the Reformation, consigning that unfortunate chapter in Europe's history to the history books. The only question is will the Queen convert back to Catholicism...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 6th, 2017 at 11:55:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Irish government would have to be comprised of fools and idiots to let May & Co. get away with "postponing" the Irish Question until Phase 2.  

Right now.  As of 6 December 2017.  The only thing May seems able to get is a No-Deal Brexit.  Her Tory replacement would either be in the same situation or would welcome a No-Deal.  The chances of another election seem remote, to me.  But I do admit you'uns o'er there have a better grasp of the on-the-ground realities than I.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Dec 7th, 2017 at 01:30:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Helen does have the advantage of being able to talk to real Brits in their natural habitat. I have to make do with ex-pats and ne'er do wells who decided to inflict their talents on foreigners. And reading the Guardian, FT, and Independent obviously doesn't count as communing with the spirit of the nation. I can only read the Mail/Express/Sun etc. for a few minutes before feeling that my hands are dirty. The BBC seems a shadow of its former self and an organ of the Tory establishment. It managed to completely ignore Davis' bare faced lies to Parliament... public accountability indeed.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 7th, 2017 at 10:03:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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