Sunday, 6 October 2019

Brexit negotiations. Questions, questions...

1. In the pub on Friday, BenJamin' reminded us that the Benn Act is borderline insane. If somebody has no choice but to agree a deal, any deal, then that more or less negates that person's ability to haggle. The almost inevitable outcome of this would be, by default, for the UK to remain in the EU for another few months. Suitably heartened, MPs can then keep doing the same thing over an over forever. He asked, rhetorically, whether he had understood that properly and we all concurred.

2. My follow-up point was, our PM has made a compromise offer re Northern Ireland, which is some sort of fudge whereby Northern Ireland remains part of the EU for regulatory purposes (food and product safety standards etc) but remains part of the UK for customs purposes. I'm not sure if this is even workable, but you do get weird things like this, like the German enclave in Switzerland and they seem to manage somehow.

But never mind, superficially this is a compromise between:

a) the EU demanding that the whole of the UK remain in the EU for regulatory purposes and/or that the regulatory and customs border would be 'in the Irish Sea'.

b) the extreme (on both sides) idea that there should be a 'hard' border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (the EU appear to be pushing for this more than the UK or Ireland itself).

My question is, from the UK negotiators' point of view, this is a compromise (however insincerely meant) - so what compromise did they demand from the EU in return? Nobody talks about that, maybe they didn't ask for anything. Or is the counter-compromise that the EU no longer insists on 'the backstop' (which is too gruesome to even describe)?


Blissex2 said...

«what compromise did they demand from the EU in return?»

That's a bit of a strange question to ask: the whole backstop as it stands is a compromise offered by the EU governments to the UK government (that asked for it in the whole-UK version, and the whole-UK version is a huge concession from the EU to the UK) in exchange for an exit agreement at all.

The EU governments themselves only care for the northern Ireland only backstop, and but for the DUP that would have been agreed without problems by turning the whole of northern Ireland into a "special enterprise zone", or something with special status like several border areas within the EU. The irish backstop was of no importance until the DUP made a whole-UK one a condition of voting, and then they voted against May's deal regardless.

Without any backstop the EU27 governments are simply not interested in a withdrawal agreement. As they have repeatedly said the alternatives are May's deal (whether with a whole-UK or northern Ireland only backstop) or "good luck on your own".

john b said...

Blissex is right here - if it hadn't been for the drum-banging Orange lunatics, the EU would have been very happy for the UK to leave on May's terms with a Northern Ireland-only backstop. So would almost all English Brexiters. The failure to do so is entirely down to the ridiculous electoral arithmetic caused by May's disastrous decision to hold the 2017 election.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, oh I see. The EU actually wants 'no deal' and sees everything else as a generous concession.

B and JB, yes, DUP are messing everything up as usual, but that's a UK domestic foul up and to be taken as a given.

Lola said...

B. MW. Agreed. 'No Deal' is the EU's preferred option (or May's surrender).

I am of the opinion that under 'no deal' the EU will invent all sorts of issues with the UK 'owing them money' or something to deny WTO rights in order to screw us up as much as possible. Whatever way you game the EU position it must not do a deal and must not let the UK 'succeed' in any way at all.

It won't work of course. Unless the politics in the UK truly descend into madness - which is an uncomfortably relatively high probability.

OTOH if the UK moves to be a super Singapore / Hong Kong etc the EU is stuffed. And that will drive the Woke and Corbyn bonkers - even more than they are now.

Meanwhile, if I was Boris I would be ordering a dozen more frigates and a lot of fishery protection vessels.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, yes, the UK must suffer and be seen to suffer.

Blissex2 said...

«The EU actually wants 'no deal'»

The EU did not send the Article 50 notice that defaults to "no deal", the UK Conservatives did. Also the EU actually accepted and its 27 member states ratified the deal proposed by the UK Conservatives; it was the UK House of Commons that rejected the UK Conservatives's deal.
Those are known facts, how can they mean that “The EU actually wants 'no deal'”?

Blissex2 said...

«the EU would have been very happy for the UK to leave on May's terms with a Northern Ireland-only backstop. So would almost all English Brexiters.»

Absolutely! Indeed the EU accepted and ratified May's terms, and even the very generous extension of the backstop (something for which most countries in the world would sign on the spot, as it means full access to the Single Market with rather few obligations) to whole-UK was granted without a specific quid-pro-quo, once all the other matters had been settled, to avoid reopening the negotiations on those.

The EU is not an organization with the purpose to offer the UK the best possible deal for the UK, but for its members, just like the UK does for its member (England, the others don't matter), but they still have an interest in a smooth exit.

«The failure to do so is entirely down to the ridiculous electoral arithmetic caused by May's disastrous decision to hold the 2017 election.»

May's decision did result in a vote landslide for the Conservatives, with a massive surge of English Nationalist votes. Nobody had predicted a massive surge for Labour too, actually all the big cheeeses, starting with electoral genius Tony Blair, had expected and hoped for and worked for a collapse of the Labour vote.

Bayard said...

"the EU would have been very happy for the UK to leave on May's terms with a Northern Ireland-only backstop. So would almost all English Brexiters."

The EU might have been happy, but I doubt that "almost all" English Brexiters would have been. May's deal really was the worst of both worlds. It wasn't just the backstop that got it chucked out in the HoC. The deal that got the closest to being accepted by the Commons was Ken Clarke's EEC Mk2, that kept the trading union and ditched the political union.

Personally, I think that May and Johnson are both wreckers. May wittingly set out to wreck "deal" and Johnson is setting out unwittingly to wreck "no deal". Then we can go back to what the Establishment wanted all along, the defeat of the nationalists and the end of Brexit, both as a fact and a political idea.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B2, my view is that rejoining EFTA and remaining in EEA would be our best outcome. Anything that veers away from that in either direction (revoking A50, accepting May's deal or going hard no deal Brexit) is a disaster. But everybody has their own opinion...

B, we will see, three years and counting and the EU is winning hands down (and the UK govt is making a total mess of it).