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Theresa May's A50 letter

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 04:55:12 PM EST


The full text of Theresa May's A50 notification letter is available here, and is well worth a read in full. It is a largely unobjectionable 2200 word document, and takes into account some of the previous criticisms that the UK should not be allowed to "cherry pick" those aspects of the EU it likes, to the exclusion of those it does not like.

Overall it paints a positive picture of the EU it wants to do business with as an economic and security partner. So much so, that one wonders why the UK wants to leave in the first place! Membership already provides the benefits the UK says it wants to achieve in its future partnership with the UK.

One is left with the feeling that what the UK really wants is not to be just one member amongst 28: It wants to be in some kind of equal Partnership with the EU27 as a whole.


Ireland will be particularly pleased that it makes special reference to our unique relationship with the UK, to the importance of the Good Friday agreement, to the avoidance of a "hard" North south border, and to the maintenance of the strong trading relationships and free travel area between Ireland and the UK.  Again, nothing we don't currently already have.  

So it reads very much like the UK wants "to have it's cake and eat it" at the same time: Maintenance of existing relationships and freedoms with Ireland and the EU, whilst at the same time achieving the freedom to do business with the rest of the world without reference to the EU. Well, she would say that, wouldn't she?

But there are a few problems already apparent in the letter. Reference is made to wanting a "strong" EU as an economic and security partner sharing common values. But how is Brexit supposed to strengthen the EU?  And have Brexiteers not been quite open about their wish to see the EU disintegrate and about their expectation that other members will seek to leave once they see what a "success" the UK has made of Brexit?

The Letter makes it plain that the UK wants to negotiate a future trade deal side by side with the detailed arrangements for leaving.  More than that, Theresa May wants any such trade deal to go beyond the scope of any trade deal agreed in the past to include financial services. This rather ignores the fact that even much less comprehensive trade deals typically take many years to negotiate and that any comprehensive agreement is unlikely within the 2 year A50 time frame.

Reference is made to trading on WTO terms if no agreement is possible, ignoring the fact that even WTO terms have to be negotiated and agreed between trading partners. There simply are no "default terms", other than a few general principles, available under WTO rules in the absence of agreement. Import duty rates and quotas have to be negotiated first. There would be nothing to prevent either or both of the UK and EU putting duties on each other's exports post Brexit if no such detailed terms of trade are agreed. Indeed the EU might be forced to impose such duties if a major devaluation of Sterling were to put it at a dramatic trading disadvantage.

Reference is made to both sides "having regulatory frameworks which already match": but what is the point of Brexit if it is not to free the UK from EU regulatory oversight and to enable divergence in due course? Theresa May has already threatened to turn the UK into a low tax, low regulation haven if talks fail. Allied to a major Sterling devaluation, such measures would simply force to EU to protect its own industries through import duties.

Reference is made to creating a disputes resolution procedure when the EU already has one - the ECJ - which Theresa May has said the UK will not accept. Indeed rejecting the jurisdiction of the ECJ appears to be one of the main drivers behind Brexit. Why on earth should the EU reject its own judicial system? To do so would be to accept that the ECJ is incapable of resolving disputes with the UK and that the UK must be granted equal status in any new disputes resolution process. Why reward Brexit by promoting the UK from being one of 28 to being one of 2 equal partners?

---

Much as I would like to see the Brexit negotiations resolved amicably, and much as it would be in the particular interests of Ireland that this should be done, I just cannot see the A50 process ending well. There are two main reasons for this, one economic, and the other political.

1. Economic reasons for a hard Brexit

The referendum result has already seen the large-scale development of contingency plans by UK based companies to relocate large part of their operations in the EU27. There have been almost no announcements going the other way - of EU27 companies re-locating large parts of their business into the UK to protect their UK market share. Why on earth would the EU wish to discourage this process?

Much has been made of the fact that the EU "needs" London's financial expertise and expertise and the fact that many financial disputes are resolved using UK law. This may very well be so, but can the EU really expect to be taken seriously as a world power if it does not develop its own, Euro based, centres of financial power and judicial determination? Some short-term disruption may be damaging, but the long term interests of the EU are clear.  It must develop its own independent financial services presence in the global economy.

2. Political reasons for a hard Brexit

However much you might seek to dress it up in emollient language - as Theresa May's Letter seeks to do - the hard fact is that Brexit represents a stab in the back for the European Project. The over-riding purpose of that project is to maintain peace and stability on the continent by reining in competing nationalisms and ensuring that the common interests of all member states take priority over the particular interests of one member state or ruling class at one particular time.  No one member state can be allowed to game the system to the detriment of all others.

Brexit represents an attempt by one member state to re-write the rules in its favour. Not content to be one of 28, the UK seeks the right to negotiate more or less comparable terms on its own behalf without being subject to the overall Sovereignty of the 28 and the institutions of the EU - the ECJ, EC and EP.  Effectively it is seeking a special relationship as a more or less equal partner: able to go its own way as and when it chooses whilst maintaining most of the benefits of membership.

Trade and other international agreements constrain both parties. Why should the EU27 agree special arrangements with the UK which might constrain their future freedom of action in response to some international financial, economic or, indeed, security crisis? The UK could, for example, agree a future deal with Russian Oligarchs to locate most of their assets in London on favourable terms, thus giving them access to the EU on whatever terms the UK has been able to negotiate - whilst at the same time the EU might be more or less at war with Russia over the Ukraine or some other crisis point.

The UK could become the sanctions busting, low tax, low regulation, environmental, civil rights and labour rights busting haven in Europe; undermining every value the EU holds dear or is trying to achieve; an ally to Trump and every dictatorship on the planet; and refusing to accept refugees from anywhere even when the refugee stream is partly a consequence of UK foreign policy adventurism. Does the EU really want to tie itself to that nightmare scenario? Theresa May's Letter extols the virtues of European values whilst seeking the freedom to follow a different path.

If the UK really wanted to be a team player in Europe it would never have chosen to leave the EU in the first place. It has been gaming the EU for long enough. No deal is better than a bad deal for the EU as well. Otherwise we might as well get used to the Le Pens of Europe ruling the roost and breaking up what is left of international solidarity on the continent.

For the EU Brexit is about much more than transient economic or political advantage. It is about maintaining the peace and prosperity achieved on the European mainland since World War II. Some economic disruption is probably unavoidable.  The German car industry and Irish agricultural and food exports will suffer. Financial services and many transnational production processes will have to be re-organised. Trade with the UK will suffer and overall growth in Europe will decline.  The EU, too, will have to reform its institutions to ensure they do a better job of avoiding crises and protecting the common good.

But nothing compares to the devastation which could ensue if we allow the EU project to fail. For the EU to survive, Brexit cannot be seen to be a "success".

Display:
Reading between the lines
On no fewer than seven occasions in her six-page letter, Theresa May referred to the "deep and special relationship" the United Kingdom seeks with the European Union after Brexit. It's an echo of the "special relationship", a formulation the UK has long used to characterise its close bond with the United States. It also set the tone of May's letter, which was more conciliatory - dare we say it, more pro-European - than any of her previous set-piece speeches on the topic. Remove a dozen lines and it could have been an application letter.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 05:46:03 PM EST
Angela Merkel rejects one of Theresa May's key Brexit demands  - Guardian
Angela Merkel has rejected one of Theresa May's key Brexit demands, insisting negotiations on Britain's exit from the European Union cannot run in parallel with talks on the future UK-EU relationship.

"The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship," the German chancellor said in Berlin. "Only when this question is dealt with can we - hopefully soon after - begin talking about our future relationship."

In her six-page letter triggering article 50 and formally launching the process of leaving the EU, the prime minister said she believed it was "necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union".

by Bernard on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 08:24:02 PM EST
tbh much commentary I've seen suggests that this is just horse-trading on Merke's part. That there are no real structural objections to running the negotiations in tandem, but the objection just sets up the first concession that will be demanded of the UK

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 08:56:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many complex negotiations are organised into strands where specialists in each area focus on just one strand and where senior negotiators focus on keeping things moving across strands more or less in tandem. The "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" principle gives negotiators some freedom to make some concessions in one area in the expectation of reciprocation in another, and still have the ability to row back on an offer if they don't get the reciprocation they expect.

However, negotiating a trade agreement is such a painfully slow and complex process that no one believes it will be completed in two years.  Tying the divorce negotiations too closely to the trade negotiations more or less guarantees that neither will be completed in two years and - given that extending the two year period requires unanimity - that more or less condemns the entire negotiating process to failure.

So if you do want to avoid the UK falling off a cliff without an agreement, it does make sense to prioritise those areas which absolutely have to be sorted before the UK leaves.

Yes, both sides are setting out their stall and prioritising what they want to prioritise, but this is a fundamentally asymmetric negotiation.  The UK is out without anything in two years unless it can entice the EU to give it stuff.

The EU is already taking some of the UK's financial services industry and will grab ever more business as the cliff edge looms. What can the UK offer the EU in return?  SIGINT?  Seriously? Financial services expertise?  The EU needs to develop its own. A market for German cars? The Far East is where the growth is.  A market for Irish food? Devaluation has already forced Irish food industry to diversify its markets.  The UK's share of total Irish exports has already declined from c. 70% in 1970 to 13% now. Brexit offers a rare opportunity for Eastern Europe to reverse the brain drain and establish more back-office and other industries on their own turf.

Don't get me wrong: Brexit means everyone is a loser and we're are down to damage limitation,  But a minor recession in the EU27, especially as it hits the richer member states harder, is a small price to pay for a survival of the EU.  One Union will disintegrate, and I am hoping it won't be the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 09:37:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 08:36:56 PM EST
Frankly, I've just been filled with increasing horror as today has approached.

The biggest domestic issue is that there are so many contradictory ideas about what brexit will entail. Not just in terms of what is possible when we get around to talking to the EU, but even in Westminster there are so many idfferent ideas.

We get Bernard Jenkin (Leave MP) and Digby Jones (ex-head of CBI and leave campaigner) talking as if it's just a change of letterheads, nothing much will change, tariff free access, all the immigrants can stay etc etc. They're being wheeled out on every occasion cos their reassurances play well with the rubes.

But they're not the people doing the negotiating. Those people are much more rabid. They are the destroyers of worlds. And they're going to start here, in the UK.

As somebody wrote recently, "England is a Great nation and it was a Great Power. But in these changed times, if it tries to continue to be a Great Power, it will cease to be a Great Nation".

Well, we aren't even much aof a great nation anymore, but these madmen will destroy us all trying to be a power of sorts

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 09:06:21 PM EST
As somebody wrote recently, "England is a Great nation and it was a Great Power. But in these changed times, if it tries to continue to be a Great Power, it will cease to be a Great Nation".

Might also be true for just plain regular nation.

by generic on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 09:18:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of what made England a great nation was its membership of the UK.  Being united with Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland might not have added hugely to GNP, but it sensitised the English to the need to take a wider range of views into account. Now "England" is increasingly dominated by an older, chauvinistic, insular, middle class inculcated in an innate sense of superiority which pisses everyone else off ... and they fondly imagine they will re-conquer the world with their superior business acumen while the real businessmen make plans to automate their jobs and diversify elsewhere...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 09:53:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boris led the Light Brigade then got helicoptered out when things started to get real.
Back to your sandbox and tin soldiers, Boris!

Two deeply corrupt entities, the UK and the EU decide to part ways leaving each to compete with its own versions of corruption. May -who wanted to stay- leads in leaving. Corbyn following idem.

What could go right?

In other news... Trump signs planetary climate death warrant.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 01:59:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Today's NPR coverage of the event may as well have passed without commenting at all. Reports file were extraordinarily uninformative. I promise you, few Americans have any idea what are contents of the government's letter much less "A50" instrumentality.

For example and inexplicably, reporters repeatedly associated May's notification to withdraw from the EU with the "Suez Crisi" (1957) wherein reportedly the US ahh trumped the colonial powers' (UK and France) attempt to annex the canal, and US intervention [Dwight D., which definitively established this great nation's imperial heritage, or wtf (neither Nasser, CIA, "national security interests" nor "Cold War" mentioned).

"Swashbuckling"
This is how one reporter characterized UK future geo-political future, following liberation from the EU. &tc: other abstruse commentary on the UK's dependence on financial product marketing and export prospects speculated, as is the custom in the US, on volatility produced by BREXIT: (i) Le Pen will be EU's catalytic leader (ii) EU depends on The City's FX arbitrage, UK depends on the City's taxes to fund education, ergo wtf (iii) brink of bi-lateral trade agreements with each of 191 nations (s Russia-play is off the MSM table in the USA, Frank, sorry ... although I can totally see that happening. heh.).

One could insert insert a Delian League analogy here, if one had thumbed the Odyssey or knew a little bit, but not enough, about League's political purposes, strengths, weaknesses, and ahh adversaries.

Or not.

Enemy of the People Have Spoken of "excitement" with the UK Ambassador to the USA.


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 01:10:57 AM EST
The republican party are as excited as ukip and the backwoods sections of the Tory party. All are based in a strange ideological view of economic relationships more akin to Ayn Rand's feverish ramblings than anything a human being might recognise.

So, of course they're excited, they feel their version of The Rapture is coming, cities will burn and the proles will wail and gnash their teeth.

And when their dreams fail to materialise, they will look aorund for soneone to blame, someone who failed them. For their ideology cannot be wrong. White Men in Chicago checked it and found that it was true. They inherited an awful lot of money, a sure sign of God's favour, so the failure must be due to people who were weak, who were tempted from the True Path. People with bad genes, people who do not pay enough attention to their precious bodily fluids

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 06:53:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
HuffPo - Leave Voters Want A Brexit Britain With Capital Punishment, School Beatings And Inefficient Lighting

A survey that, probably more than the referendum itself, starkly illustrates the differences in the world view of leavers and remainers

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 07:16:31 AM EST
New Statesman - David Hare - Despite its Brexit victory, the hate-addicted right rages on, but the left is silent

The weirdest thing about Brexit is how angry the victors are. You would expect the losers to be sore - but open any British newspaper and it's as if getting what they wanted has rendered the winners yet more snappish. At any time, you can guarantee that the medium least likely to offer principled opposition to any assault on democracy is the British press. Even so, it's astonishing to open a copy of the Daily Telegraph and find that a byline has become a mere technicality, a breakwater for the eye. Page after page, countless squads of identical bald clones drone on - all chorus, no counterpoint - ranting about the evils of a Europe, which, in theory, they are supposed to have vanquished.

What is the point of having so many writers when they all write the same article? It turns out that it wasn't Europe they wanted to leave. It was contemporary Britain. They're not addicted to independence. They're addicted to hatred.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 07:34:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While British Eurosceptics held Article 50 parties, elsewhere in Europe the delivery of Theresa May's letter officially kick-starting Brexit was met with a wary acceptance that the coming years of negotiations will not be easy.

The British newspapers, of course, are lustily backing Team Blighty, with the Daily Mail praising May for a "show of steel" in her threat that Europe still needs British security and defence capabilities.

The Sun goes for the cheery lead headline of "Your Money or Your Lives". The Daily Telegraph calls it a "magnificent moment" that has been met with "jubilation".



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 09:36:34 AM EST
The word "trade" is used in May's letter 6 times, whereas the word "security" appears 11 times.  You would think that the UK is leaving NATO not the EU based on that emphasis...

The implied threat to discontinue security cooperation if the UK isn't happy with progress on other fronts may have delighted the Sun, but it isn't going down well in EU capitals...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 09:54:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which reminds me, NPR refuses to identify Turkey is a NATO member. The omission has become more pronounced to me since the EU refugee "deal", Russian ahh hegemonic victory in the proxy war, and launch of the sorta kinda mebe Raqqa and Mosul campaigns (wherein civilians may or may not have been killed by friendly fire).

NPR prefers the locution, "NATO ally", as if Turkey and PKK were not the butt-end of "Eurasia".

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Apr 2nd, 2017 at 12:24:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting how the Sun immediately goes on the offensive (both meanings implied) by having "Your money or your lives" as a front page headline.

the idea being that only Britain can guarantee the safety of of the EU, especially with regard to terrorism. I wonder how they'd have reacted if Germany had suggested similar in response to last week's attack in Westminster. I doubt they'd have thought it a good wheeze or even a reasonable suggestion.

We aren't the white hats here and, even if brexiters do not understand this, they don't need us a tenth as much as we need them.

But fantasies must be fed to keep the froth bubbling

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 01:06:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This might raise blood pressures enough to rid us of some of these troublesome Tories.

Future of Gibraltar at stake in Brexit negotiations

EU guidelines make clear bloc will not overrule Spain in any trade or sovereignty dispute involving British overseas territory

Gunboats at the ready. Oh wait a minute.....

by oldremainmer48 on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 03:09:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Europe still needs British security and defence capabilities.

Tories are planning to leave NATO?

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

by ATinNM on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 03:54:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect they mean the UK's contribution to counter-terrorism via GCHQ and others

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 05:49:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because Britain does not need counter-terrorism intelligence cooperation being hardly targeted by terrorism...
by Bernard on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 06:05:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it just me, or is the letter chock full of verbatim repetitions?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 09:58:55 AM EST
Is it just me, or is the letter chock full of verbatim repetitions?

That was my view too.

I found <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/28/theresa-may-rhetoric-brexit-authoritarian-delusions">this article</a> an enlightening discussion of May's vacuous style, written on Tuesday after the meeting in Scotland and before A50 letter was published. The headline is

Theresa May takes empty rhetoric to a new level

The prime minister's motivational generalities over Brexit and beyond may be about to tip over into something darker - authoritarian delusions

by oldremainmer48 on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 11:47:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to ET, oldremainer!

You now have permissions to post HTML links.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 02:00:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome - more comments and lead stories also welcome!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 02:59:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hello all. Thanks for the Welcome. I have been lurking since about June 24th 2016. I can't think what made me seek out a such a level headed and thoughtful group!

I fell foul of creating a new account; the kean-eyed will notice even then an extra 'm' in the username where I hit adjacent keys.

Frank knows me as the source of 'Lords vote for a "meaningful" vote' and the earlier July contribution there referred to.

"Can now post html links" Ah, that's why I spent a happy hour trying to get the HTML URL to work this a.m.

by oldremainmer48 on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 11:00:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What? Repetitions? Only meaningful ones.  You have to read between the lines...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 03:00:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This letter reads like begging, to such an extent that May must have scars on her knees.
by rifek on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 10:35:19 PM EST
Isn't it interesting that the first big point in the letter is about leaving the Atomic regulatory Agency?
Especially in light of Toshiba losing so much money it's firewalling off Westinghouse, which is building the new plant in the UK.
What did I miss?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 09:50:22 AM EST
Sellafield to start cacking up the Irish sea again?

Scuttle a nuclear sub ?

Protecting low level nuclear waste is expensive, dozens of acres are excavated for them. Medium and high level waste are even worse. So, I imagine some form of dumping in the Atlantic might be proposed

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 11:34:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of rumours about an radiation-leaky accident in Norway on the net recently, hushed up.
Anyone hear about that?

Any election promises energy-wise in France?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 01:00:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last signal like that was a facility for producing medical isotopes having a leak. Very sensitive detectors picking up minuscule readings I think.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 02:22:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not an EU organisation, exactly, but is overseen by the dreaded ECJ and is sort of linked to the EU treaties. Opinions differ on whether it would be possible to stay in it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 11:39:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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