Wednesday night’s vote along with last week’s “Agreement” reinforces my prediction made following the referendum that Brexit will never happen. See http://www.northdownindependent.com/10-reasons-why-brexit-will-not-happen/
The events of the past week highlight many of the points I made in my original article. In particular I pointed out that the final decision could not be taken by the government exercising prerogative powers but by Parliament as a whole and I also highlighted the issue of the Irish border as being insoluble. Other I identified issues including passporting, the role of the Scottish parliament and returning rules and regulations remain to be resolved.
I also emphasised Harold Wilson’s famous quote that “A week is a long time in politics” and this has been illustrated by the general election resulting in the Tories losing their overall majority and the destabilisation of world trade by the election of Trump and his “America First”. These have made the Brexit negotiations even more difficult.
The Parliamentary vote gives MPS the final say on Brexit and as at least two-thirds of MP’s and the House of Lords are opposed to Brexit I believe that the government will be unable to get the Bill through parliament when it eventually comes for ratification.
In reaching the Agreement the government has finally been forced to face up to reality and deal with some of the complexities arising from Brexit. In each of the 3 areas under discussion the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and Irish border they have caved in. We are still no clearer what Brexit means as we are now told the Cabinet has not even discussed it yet. The first discussion is next week.
For 18 months we have been told that “Brexit means Brexit “and been assured by Liam Fox that “the free trade agreement should be one of the easiest in human history” and that the EU needs us more than we need them.
We had been fed many vague, ambiguous unrealistic predictions largely seen through rose-tinted spectacles.These were accompanied by visions of Empire and nostalgia for a time when Britain dominated world trade. This has no relationship to the real situation in early 1970s when UK was widely seen as the “Sick man of Europe” Far from the UK being an economic utopia before we joined the EEC the UK had just suffered a 14% devaluation of £, with massive balance of payments problems, a three-day week and a period of stagflation with interest rates of 9%.
Last week the government was forced to face up to the realities. It had previously caved in on the staging of the Agreement and on the method of calculating the divorce bill. Boris had claimed the EU could whistle for any divorce payments European Court of Justice would have no role beyond March 2019 and there would be no border controls on the Irish border.
Those who believed Liam Fox’s claim that an agreement with EU would be one of the easiest in history will be shocked by what was agreed and how it relates to the promises made during the referendum campaign. There was no discussion of the divorce payment of £40bn, the fact that the ECJ would still have a role to play for up to 8 years. There would be no restrictions on EU emigration until at least March 2019 and throughout the transition period.
In fact UK has agreed to terms of a two year transition period during which it will apply EU rules, free movement and be subject to the European Court. This is not what the Brexiteers promised.
The Irish question was fudged by agreeing two conflicting propositions. The agreement that there would be no customs barriers between NI and the Republic and that the UK would leave the single market and the customs union are clearly irreconcilable. It cannot be resolved by the proposal for regulatory alignment (following the rules of the single market) between Ireland and UK. Any change in the relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and could threaten the peace process if unilaterally imposed by the UK The Irish question has been fudged to allow progression to the next stage but it will continue a major problem for the negotiations.
That was the easy bit. Negotiations on our future trading relationship have not yet begun. The trade deal between Canada and EU took more than seven to negotiate and did not include services which are one of the UK’s priorities (see Passporting ).While the UK is concentrating on achieving trade deal the EU’s concern will be to preserve the integrity of the single market and avoid upsetting existing relations with other third countries.
Theresa May has conceded that the terms of the transition period will meet the EU’s conditions: Britain will have to apply EU rules, including new ones, allow the free movement of people and be subject to European Court judgments. Some in the Cabinet reject these conditions and there is likely to be long and heated discussions when the Cabinet finally meets to determine its negotiation position.
A week is a long time in politics and much can happen in the next 3 years. A general election, a new PM or a change in public opinion. I believe it is significant that an opinion poll published this weekend shows the British public 51%-41% in favour of REMAIN.
The negotiations over the next few months will be very interesting and as the details become clear there could be a significant change in public attitudes. I have no reason to change my opinion that BREXIT WILL NOT HAPPEN