Post Florence

It has been quite interesting looking at the comments on the Economist website and on You Tube following Theresa May’s speech in Florence with regard to the Brexit negotiations. She laid out an outline for resolving current issues but also made an appeal over the heads of the EU negotiators directly to national leaders to get a grip and push ahead because quite rightly it is ultimately a purely political rather than a legal decision.

The comments from both the Leaver and Remain camps were predictable but in my view totally wrong because the game has moved on to such an extent that the default positions of both are no longer valid.

Where We Are Today

Given that the vast majority of the metropolitan classes who dominate the media are very ‘pro EU’ and against Brexit in principle, the coverage thus far has been distinctly negative towards the UK’s position. According to them, we are totally unprepared and we don’t know what we want and so on but there has been a suspicion, totally so in the opinion of ardent Brexiteers of course, that the EU negotiators are setting up obstacles to ensure that a reasonable deal can’t be struck. Although I am reluctant to “see reds under the bed” at every turn, it has to be said that this does seem to be the case particularly with the talks agenda they have set out.

As a delaying tactic it is all too obvious. they want the issue of EU citizens in the UK resolved, the border issue between the Republic and NI kept open and the issue of how much money we will pay them for leaving the EU, this last being the silliest thing of all. As someone pointed out, if the UK who is a net contributor to the EU budget has to pay to leave, does that mean that a country which paid nothing but got EU subsidies would be paid to leave ?

My solution to the three issues that Bernier is stuck on are fairly simple, Ireland: no hard border with the Republic, the hard border is on the UK mainland. Whilst this would stall the ‘Common Travel Area’ that has existed between us for almost 100 years, it would be logical because we are going to have to beef up customs and immigration right across the UK so why not focus that effort on the mainland.

EU citizens rights: Same as if I lived in the US, if I had residency or citizenship, subject to US law. I do not see why there should be any difference between EU citizens in the UK or UK citizens in the EU the jurisdiction of the ECJ should not extend beyond the borders of the EU, period.

As to “Settling the Bill” which is a very strange concept indeed: Only when we start discussions on what we are getting in the way of a trade deal will we discuss what money if any may be appropriate which is a logical way of progressing. Mrs May has offered to continue UK payments to the end of the 7 year budget cycle even though that is two years beyond our leaving date, I cannot imagine any further legal or moral liabilities beyond this.

What Mrs May Did

Now whilst I wouldn’t have said that it was her main objective, in one sense she has set a bit of a trap here for the EU. Theresa May’s speech was by any standards a “fair and open offer” and one that had to be made but and as the French President Macron demonstrated the very next day, they are too dumb to grasp it because they don’t understand the dynamics of internal British politics. I am pretty sure that they won’t take her up on any of it and the end result will be either a complete breakdown in talks or the standard EU “burning the midnight oil and a last minute deal” because they love their dramas in Brussels.

As for why Theresa May had to make this offer, that is simple because despite the Referendum producing a high turnout and a clear result it was not by any great margin at 4%. If we are forced into walking away without a deal, in order to ensure the vast majority of people, even those who voted Remain, support that decision. Mrs May cannot be seen at home as an unreasonable and dogmatic PM over Brexit, she has to have demonstrated that she tried her hardest to be fair and meet the EU halfway, it is they who must look unreasonable because that is the domestic political reality.

As to whether Mrs May can take her party with her and despite the lurid headline the following Sunday, the answer is probably yes in both the short and medium term. If there is any uncooperative “push back” from the EU it is likely to make her stronger, not just within her own party but also more broadly across the UK as long as she is seen to be being ‘reasonable’ in her approach. The mood music from Brussels needs to match hers or the ground will be laid for a complete break which will suit neither party.

A further complication and one I have voiced previously concerning when Cameron called the Referendum, he was wrong because nothing would be resolved until after the German elections which are taking place as I write, are done and a new coalition formed, last time it took 81 days apparently. It is not that I expect the Germans to be supportive in any way, it is not in their nature and the “integrity of the EU” matters more to them than Brexit is their settled view. So given the reaction of Macron and with Merkel mainly going to be focused on her domestic position, the negotiations will be left to Bernier and Junker with the result most likely to be a major breakdown in negotiations by early in the New Year, the important thing for British politics is that it should be seen as their fault rather than ours.

For the Die Hards

When I say die hards I do mean those of both the Leave and Remain persuasion. After over 40 years of accelerating nonsense within the EU, another couple even with continuing budget contributions should make little to no difference even to the most ardent “Leaver” I would have thought, we are leaving and that is that. As to having to abide by EU rules and the ECJ during a transition period, even that would be tailored I suspect so that new rulings from Brussels as far as the UK is concerned will be strictly limited to those required to maintain common trading standards.

For those Leavers still hoping that somehow it never happens, I’m afraid they can forget that, it is happening and there is no going back now and even if there is a transition period, it will be strictly limited. In fact and even for committed Remainers, the likely breakdown in negotiations will carry with it a silver lining. If there was a successful negotiated exit, there would inevitably be restrictions deliberately placed within the agreement to minimise the UK’s activities in one way or another so that Brexit could not be seen as a model for success. Without those restrictions the UK would have a completely free hand with a pretty immediate reduction in food prices through freer trade arrangements.

A Rebuttal

The following is a reply to someone in The Economist who repeated some of the usual diatribes concerning why people voted for Leave.

“You persist in following the “lazy man’s thought processes” in citing loss of empire etc which is nonsense and at 71 I can clearly demonstrate why. The ‘Empire’ like the rest of European Empires were effectively wiped out during WWI, the only people for whom Empire meant anything were the generation who fought in that war the last of whom to be a Prime Minister was Harold McMillan. That generation was ‘tired’ in the face of change which is why we had the working class revolution that was the 1960s. I don’t remember Empire, my children and grand children certainly don’t it just doesn’t figure in their consciousness so where are all these people you claim lust after past glories ?

Of course we are a middling little country and therefore a return to a Britain that in spirit is more in line with the first Elizabethan Age rather than that of Victoria is to be welcomed and Brexit offers us that opportunity.

I don’t disagree with your comments concerning our economy but the one thing you have overlooked is that you are describing the global economy generally, it is all a mess and has been long before all the “clever people” realised it back in 2007 and it isn’t finished yet changes are only just beginning. The very basis of both labour and capital in the economy will become challenged and thus far our politicians have failed to grasp the imminent reality as evidenced by one lot of loons talking about nationalisation and the other lot talking about grammar schools !

In WWI, the age of deference died because those in power, the leaders and officer class were shown to be stupid and incapable as the bodies piled up, true it probably took until the 1960s and a better economic time before it finally clicked into place. Today is similar, in 2007 the people who “Ended boom and bust in the British economy” were shown to be as big a bunch of fools as those of the earlier Edwardian age. Brexit wasn’t about ‘Little Englanders’ it was about a common-sense view that says that we in Britain can adapt and survive better without being tied to the dead hand of the EU.”

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