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October 10, 2018

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I'm curious. What can May bring to the table that could be described in any manner as a "deal"?

Doesn't the Common Market have some say about the shape of any such "deal"? It seems the article presumes some sort of 'compromise' on the part of the other side.

Is there any evidence for this? I am curious.

I cede my remaining time to Nigel and GFNC.

I think it can be best summed up by no one has a clue, and the outcomes will range between mildly poor, and very bad indeed.

In answer to bobbyp’s question, yes, any deal will have to be ratified by all 27 member states. Most will go along with a compromise, but France and Ireland in particular, amongst others, could be awkward in various ways.
(Though Ireland would suffer more than anyone in the absence of a deal.)

The biggest problem is likely to be getting anything through the House of Commons, where May dosn’t even have a majority, relying as she does on the votes of a handful of Northern Irish DUP MPs (who have their own separate issues about approving any deal).

A more perfect mess would be difficult to construct.

Thanks, Nigel. So what compromises have the Euros agreed to? Of this I am not aware. So fill us in.

Thanks.

Good question.
Nothing much, publicly, yet.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/10/brexit-deal-may-must-agree-on-customs-union-says-barnier

From half way around the world, it seems like the Irish have a big interest in a smooth transition -- specifically with provision for keeping their border with the UK as open as possible. But the incentives for most of the rest of the EU look more on the side of making the whole deal as painful as possible. Not least to discourage others who might think of leaving.

Doesn't seem like a formula for getting much in the way of concessions, or even just flexibility, from the EU side. Unless there are significant factors that I'm missing.

The Irish do indeed.
They have also been the most intransigent in terms of any compromise on the status of the Irish border - if the UK does not stay in the Single Market and Customs Union (which is unacceptable to the Tories, and many who voted leave), they are insisting on a hard border.
(Their alternate suggestion of a ‘special’ status for Northern Ireland is completely unacceptable to the DUP, who would bring down the government immediately were they to concede ground on the issue.)

No, the UK has very little leverage to obtain concessions. The Leave line, which was obviously false at the time, was that Germany would be desperate to make concessions as they have so large a trade surplus with the UK. The UK government (and more specifically the recently resigned David Davis) has spent a couple of painful years finding out that isn’t true.

My understanding, mostly from reading (very leftwing) https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/ and (comparatively conservative, leaving proponent) http://eureferendum.com/ is that it will be a real muddle. The EU can't budge (not won't) on the Irish border because the integrity of the single market is at stake. As a third country (non-EU country), without a free trade agreement, GB will be treated as any other country as demanded by WTO rules. If the EU grants better conditions to GB, it would have to offer them to any other country in the world.

Mutual agreements on standards will not do, because GB is explicitely going to change those standards, that's what sovereignity over trade means. Also, one of Theresa May's red lines is the ECJ (European Court of Justice) as final arbiter in trade disagreements. The whole apparatus to enforce these regulations will no longer apply to the GB, so there has to be a border somewhere.

Because of the political situation in Northern Ireland, both Ireland and GB want to keep that border as open as possible, also to honor the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace in that region. But the GFA in wide parts worked only because both Ireland and GB were at that time in the EU. Since GB is leaving the EU and since there is no political will to stay closely related to the EU and give up independent trade agreements and accept EU regulations (aka Norway option), it will be a hard border. If it is not to be between Northern Ireland and GB (which, by the way, is a large concession from the EU, granting single market rights to part of a third country), it can only exist between Ireland and the rest of the EU (unacceptable to Ireland) or between Northern Ireland and the rest of GB (unaccepable to Theresa May). This has been the Gordian knot from the beginning and is still unsolved.

Most of the dire predictions of waiting trucks / lorries blocking the M20 up to London, interruptions in just-in-time production lines and subsequent production delays in many industries, food rotting near the border because of long waiting times and so on stem from the rapid disentanglement of ties to the EU grown in 40 years, including regulations, certifications, international production lines and so on. Therefore, comparisons to e.g. China, where compliance and enforcement of these rules is part of trade agreements and where the time for border inspections is already factored in, are misleading.

With a monumental effort, some of this work might have been done in the 2 years time span given in Article 50, but the Tories are still arguing among themselves what type of Brexit they favor. At least in the UK media, it is rarely mentioned that 27 other countries (and some regions) might also have an interest (and a veto) in that matter.

tl,dr: if GB truly insists on hard Brexit, it will be chaotic and hurt a lot of people. But, people in the EU will still have access to a single market among 27 states to cushion the impact, while people in the UK will not.

The EU can't budge (not won't) on the Irish border because the integrity of the single market is at stake.

I don’t think this is strictly true... there are the examples of Switzerland and Norway to consider.
The EU is entirely capable of fudging such issues if it wishes.

And note even under a FTA, the issue still obtains (and the EU’s position on this is somewhat opaque).

I don’t think any but the most hardline Leavers* want WTO terms; if we get that, it will be by accident, and as a result of the deadline next spring.
Which is why the current talk is of a transition period which retains a customs union for a couple of years.

That doesn’t solve anything fundamental, but puts off the crunch (& sees the UK formally outside of the EU).

* note that we have a new political lexicon ((Leaver; Remainer etc) which is quite orthogonal to the left/right divide.

I always thought the UK position on Brexit was best summed up by Sheriff Bart taking himself hostage in Blazing Saddles.

Yes, pretty smart of Mel to see it coming so early.

bobbyp, I cede your time back to you.

I have just about nothing to say about Brexit, and the continuing debacle as it unfolds.

I agree with Nigel when he says:

No, the UK has very little leverage to obtain concessions. The Leave line, which was obviously false at the time, was that Germany would be desperate to make concessions as they have so large a trade surplus with the UK. The UK government (and more specifically the recently resigned David Davis) has spent a couple of painful years finding out that isn’t true.

And Ugh's 08.05 above also strikes me as apt.

And to add to one's disgust at the Tory government and all their works, their "Universal Credit" benefit reform, which has looked like a disaster looming for a long time now, is finally hitting the buffers, with ministers starting to panic:

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/universal-credit-mcvey-warning_uk_5bb7db30e4b01470d051784a?utm_hp_ref=uk-homepage

For lefties who are happy with Corbyn et al, this is all encouraging news from an electoral viewpoint, but I am not of their number. On the other hand, I am starting to think that they could hardly do worse.....

And Theresa May curiously similar to the Pythons’ Black Knight, shrugging off every rebuff and insult from her EU interlocutors, as her negotiating position slowly gets sliced away.

Be careful what you wish for, GFTNC.
Brexit plus Corbyn would be..... interesting.

Nigel, your Black Knight analogy is perfect! And, on Corbyn, I'm not wishing for it. Every alternative seems absolutely terrible (partly my general emotional landscape at the moment, but partly justified by objective reality I believe).

I don’t think this is strictly true... there are the examples of Switzerland and Norway to consider.
The EU is entirely capable of fudging such issues if it wishes.

Those options are ruled out by May, because she wants to make bespoke trade deals with other parties and wants to be able to diverge from EU standards. Which you can't with the Norway/Switzerland options (those were offered by the EU).

Be aware that the DUP are fanatics who never approved of the GFA, so for them a hard border in the Isle of Ireland and going back to the times of the troubles in Ireland is an advantage.

For lefties who are happy with Corbyn et al, this is all encouraging news from an electoral viewpoint, but I am not of their number. On the other hand, I am starting to think that they could hardly do worse.....

A dedicated conspiracy theorist could believe that Brexit was nothing but a ploy to get someone as far out as Corbyn in as PM -- which, when he first became Labour leader, seemed wildly unlikely. And it does appear to be working.

Brexit+Trump is showing more and more clearly that there's a global pandemic of "stupid".

Nigel,

as Dutchmarbel says, you can't be part of the European single market without also participating in the rules. Those rules exist to prevent race to the bottom. A country that would be allowed to lower its standards below the minimum levels set by EU. This is not only economically unfair, but also might endanger the health and safety of citizens. You know, those pesky European standards are one of chief reasons why people, especially children, have much less fatal or serious accidents than a couple of decades ago.

So, you cannot have access to the single market unless you abide by the rules of the EU. It is a technical impossibility. The idea that EU would acknowledge British standards and laws as legal equivalents is unworkable. It would practically mean that every new piece of legislation or standards would become a mini-Brexit: if Great Britain and EU don't agree, that part of relationship gets a Brexit. And this is simply not possible: open borders mean that people are exporting and importing things over the Channel, and can sell them freely without a domestic importer responsible for the product. If you give that up on any branch of economy, it means the establishment of customs border.

Brexit+Trump is showing more and more clearly that there's a global pandemic of "stupid".

Aided and abetted by a global pandemic of Russian interference. (Wonder how many of the other "populist" movements in Europe (and elsewhere) will turn out to have been subsidized by Putin and his merry men....)

Lovely to see Dutchmarbel, despite the fact that women of her ilk trounced the Japanese women in the recent World Championships in front of a home crowd

http://www.volleyball.world/en/women/schedule/8838-japan-netherlands/post

Also, if any non American commenters would like to write a post about what's happening someplace that doesn't talk about Trump 24/7, please write to the kitty, we would love to have it.

I still lurk :)
Volleyball is suprising us too, we've not been this high in ranking before. But we totally missed out on the football championship, so maybe it is karma balancing things...

I don't understand why this catastrophically stupid idea hasn't gotten more public pushback. Why aren't the people of Ireland (both halves) marching in the street? Why aren't there demonstrations, sit-ins, letters to The Times?

Ever since the vote, everything has seemed so vague and unfocused. It's like you-all know you're going to be hung in a fortnight, but why hasn't it concentrated all your minds?

Can the decision to leave be rescinded?

Taking over the means of production, you say?

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/boston-dynamics-atlas-robot-can-now-do-parkour-so-dont-bother-running-away-2018-10-11?siteid=bigcharts&dist=bigcharts

I'd say we're going to be overtaken by the means of production, as if we haven't been all along.

Wrong thread, but maybe not.

Can the decision to leave be rescinded?

Well, there could be another referendum. Except that if the PM suggested such a thing, she would be out post haste -- too many politicians in her party are anti-EU true believers. And Labour doesn't have the votes to form a government. And likely won't until after economic disaster has struck.

So, as a matter of law it would appear to be possible. But politically? Apparently not possible.

It seems from the very little I know about it to be a bad idea impossible to implement.

Yeah. Obviously so. But there are a bunch of folks, not least politicians, who are in complete denial -- because they have invested so much in Brexit being the magic answer to everything. (Not unlike Trump true believers, absolute libertarians, and trickle-down economists.) Faith trumps mere facts.

@Doktor Science
I'm in Germany, so not in the middle of it, therefore take everything with a grain of salt. In my opinion, the referendum made a deep split in British society visible. Decades long austerity makes downwards mobility in society ever more likely. Many regions, e.g. in Wales or in Northern England, are comparatively poor, compared to London. I think that there was a lot of resentment, some justified (e.g. austerity), some less (e.g. "foreigners"). The referendum gave a lot of people the once-in-a-lifetime chance to show the middle finger to the establishment.

This split has never healed. Therefore, the polls show only a slight shift to remain in a new referendum.

The majority of people are not that interested in politics. A lot of things that worked well in the EU were simply not newsworthy, an other part was claimed by local politicans as their own merit, while blame for failures (deservedly or not) was shifted to the EU. The British press has been anti-EU for a long time. Even now, a lot of reporting focuses on personalities and internal Tory politics (Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson...). The populist disdain for "experts" and the genius slogan "project fear" for all information critical of Brexit do not help either.

@Doktor Science
... might be comparable to the climate change / global warming discussion...

Ever since the vote, everything has seemed so vague and unfocused. It's like you-all know you're going to be hung in a fortnight, but why hasn't it concentrated all your minds?

Because 'democracy'...

Pretty well all sentient MPs (which is a quite separate question), apart from a rump of maybe 50 true believers, realise it's going to be a shitshow, but are terrified of frustrating the 'will of the electorate'.

There could be a second referendum, except that there's very little time left for the necessary enabling legislation, and as wj suggests, any such attempt might well bring down the government. Corbyn's Labour has no real interest in preventing Brext, their priority being getting into government (indeed it's not at all clear that Corbyn doesn't desire Brexit anyway).
There's also the fact that a second referendum might well produce the same result as the first.
Absent a major shift in public opinion, it's unlikely we'll have one.

Minds are certainly concentrated - it's just that there isn't a majority in parliament for any of the varying strongly held opinions.
And the government is held to ransom by a handful of Irish unionist MPs.

Dutchmarbel says, you can't be part of the European single market without also participating in the rules.

Remaining in the single market is not going to happen under any deal (whoever is in government in the UK).
The EU made it clear that the ‘Norway’ offer was on the table, but that involves accepting freedom of movement, which is the one thing that Leavers will never accept.

(FWIW, I would have been quite happy with such a deal, though it would be very much second best to having stayed in the EU.)

The fudge, if successful, will be about staying the the customs union.

How's that fudge coming along, Mrs. May ?
http://uk.businessinsider.com/theresa-may-weekend-to-change-her-brexit-backstop-plan-and-avoid-cabinet-resignations-2018-10

Nigel,

It is interesting to see whether this proposal can be accepted by EU. Simply staying in a customs union without any strings attached is, essentially, the British maximal objective. It would allow Britain to cherrypick the parts of EU they like and encourage further withdrawals.

I would not accept this proposal unless it were accompanied with the acceptance of ECTJ jurisdiction, acceptance of relevant EU law and freedom of personal movement, perhaps with some face-saving limitations. Free-standing, this proposal is unacceptable.

Public service announcement for US (and other non-UK) friends who understandably might have a hard time following.

General explainer:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887

Where we stand now:

https://www.ft.com/content/1688d0e4-15ef-11e6-b197-a4af20d5575e

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/brexit-explainer-the-three-options-available-with-six-months-to-go-1.3647403

And if you still haven't got enough, I recommend the rolling coverage here:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/eu-referendum

https://twitter.com/bbclaurak

https://twitter.com/faisalislam

And if you want to go through the looking glass take a peak here - it's not pretty, you have been warned:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Simply staying in a customs union without any strings attached is, essentially, the British maximal objective. It would allow Britain to cherrypick the parts of EU they like and encourage further withdrawals.

No, it's really not.
I think you might be confusing the single market with the customs union ?

Turkey is in a customs union with the EU, for example.

One more: Katya Adler (BBC Europe Editor)

https://twitter.com/BBCkatyaadler

Nigel,

Sorry. I thought you meant a full customs union. The Turkish case is a more complicated one, as it doesn't cover everything. And while it would probably be acceptable for the EU, it would establish a hard border in Ireland, because there are things the customs union doesn't cover.

And for British exports to Commonwealth countries, the Turkish model would be really bad. In the Turkish case, the goods covered by the customs union may enter the EU from former colonies that get the preferential customs treatment, and then they may continue to Turkey without any further customs duties. Yet, Turkey does not benefit from the rights that association agreements grant the EU exporters.

If the same would apply with Great Britain, it wou mean that the former British colonies receive favorable customs treatment from the EU and from UK and grant EU investors and exporters certain privileges while they are under no compulsion to give similar treatment to British companies. Essentially, it would mean that you sign over the vestiges of your former empire to the Continent. I am OK with that, but I wonder of you can accept it.

The EU-Turkey CU provides frictionless trade for certain goods, a model which may seem attractive for the UK’s Brexit negotiators. However, some of its features – a common external tariff, regulatory alignment without participation in the decision-making, interpretative jurisdiction of the ECJ – are unlikely to be welcomed by some cabinet members.

http://ukandeu.ac.uk/explainers/eu-turkey-customs-union/

This (very) long read on the Brexit debacle is excellent in describing how Britain, and Europe, got to where we are now:
https://share.trin.cam.ac.uk/sites/public/Comms/Rogers_brexit_as_revolution.pdf

It also points out that any transition period agreed is merely going to see precisely the same arguments played out all over again (to the UK’s disadvantage).

Those of you wondering why a significant majority of Brits have decided to inflict major damage on their future economic prospects might reflect that the economy barely figures in polling on the US November elections:
https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/12/politico-harvard-poll-health-838938

It’s no longer the economy, stupid.
For a little while, at least.

Nigel, thank you for that Rogers article. It really does lay it all out.

One thing Rogers wasn’t entirely accurate about was the unwillingness of the EEA contemplate potential membership of the EEA:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-britain-join-european-economic-area-single-market-norway-eea-a8350681.html

They are not really enthousiastic either.... https://www.businessinsider.nl/very-difficult-for-norway-stop-britain-soft-brexit-eea-single-market-2018-6/?international=true&r=US

The history of Brexit reminds me of the Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act. After nearly eight years of attacking the ACA, the Republicans got complete legislative control of the U.S. government, and couldn't agree on an alternative to the ACA. That's partially because the attacks on the ACA were mostly lies, and partially because they never offered a specific alternative to the ACA but simply promised to pass something "better."

The spectacle of our Prime Minister twisting in the wind in the House of Commons is not an edifying one:
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2018/oct/15/brexit-uk-accuses-eu-of-trying-to-impose-backstop-to-the-backstop-politics-live#5bc4b415e4b0d2200667a862

The relationship between the two parts of Ireland has effectively hijacked all discussion on Brexit terms (and both sets of Irish leaders effectively have a veto on any deal, and demands which are entirely incompatible).

Northern Ireland (whose Troubles IIRC only got dealt with in the context of free movement and trade allowed by the EU rules) was one of the many "details" which Brexit campaigners never bothered to address. But which anybody with two brain cells to rub together could see would be an issue.

The question arises, how many in Northern Ireland, and from which factions, voted for Brexit even so?

This is all about old English Tories:

Majority of Tory voters in England would be happy to see UK break up as price of Brexit.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2018/oct/08/labour-and-tory-mayors-unite-to-demand-they-take-back-control-of-regional-spending-after-brexit-politics-live?page=with:block-5bbb76f0e4b0fe77b41b05ed#block-5bbb76f0e4b0fe77b41b05ed

The Unionists (Protestants) voted majority leave, the whole of Northern Ireland voted majority remain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Results_of_the_United_Kingdom_European_Union_membership_referendum,_2016#/media/File:United_Kingdom_EU_referendum_2016_area_results_(Northern_Ireland).svg

If anyone still needed proof of the utter and complete incompetence of the Brexiteers it is worth taking a look here:

https://mobile.twitter.com/joncstone/status/1052267923795038213?s=19

The collection of tweets that novakant links to show that David Davis was unaware that EU members cannot make their own trade deals. David Davis, for those of you who don't know, is the man who was chosen to negotiate the terms of separation with the EU.

Well, we all know (from Trump, of course) that actual understanding is irrelevant if you are a great negotiator . . . and a more powerful position. Pitty Davis fails both ways.

i hear news reports of the Brexit deal/no-deal stuff (esp. with the Irish borders, and the Gibraltar border) and i'm stunned by (what seems like) how little thought went into it pre-vote.

were the border issues discussed before the vote?

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