After six rounds the brexit talks are stalled. The Irish, frustrated with hearing Theresa May say one thing, Dave2 another and Boris something else, are threatening to veto any attempt to move onto trade talks unless they get a written guarantee of no hard border. Donald Tusk has given May a two week ultimatum to get Dave2 to pull his finger out of his butt and make some meaningful offer on the three core issues, citizens rights, trade and the divorce bill. Dave2 however argues that its all the EU’s fault. The EU he says is putting politics over prosperity, the UK has compromised enough now its the EU’s turn.
Well the thing is that the entire brexit enterprise amounts to putting politics over prosperity. And furthermore, the EU’s counter argument is that they have to stick to their guns, the short term hit they’d take from the UK leaving without a deal, would pale in comparison to the long term implications, both economic and political, of allowing the UK to gain an unfair advantage over its former EU partners. Never mind the political implications of failing to get an agreement on citizens rights and the Irish border.
And ultimately an uncontrolled brexit without a deal would hurt the UK more than the EU. A Dutch parliamentary investigation (and the Dutch have been among the most pro-UK of the EU nations) put this at a cost of up to 4% of GDP for the EU….although they also said the UK would take a +18% GDP wallop (ouch!).
I think there’s a failure of the brexiters to realise what sort of damage this whole process is doing to the UK’s reputation as an honest broker. Some of those who you would normally count as the UK’s friends in the room (such as the Irish and the Dutch) are becoming increasingly sceptical and critical. And this is all a consequence of broken promises, “magical thinking” from the brexiters and unguarded comments from unruly ministers (given May’s complete lack of control over her own government). And from what I’m hearing from those abroad, they are looking on with increasing scepticism and are rapidly losing respect for the UK and its citizens.
For example, this week a Tory minister stated that the Irish were only making a big issue about the border because the Taoiseach was coming under pressure from Sinn Fein (thus trying to make a dog whistle connecting the Irish government to terrorists). Suffice to say this went down like a lead balloon in Dublin. Varadkar despises Sinn Fein and won’t go near them with a barge pole (well other that to whack them over the head with it). And frankly with his Jerryness set to retire soon, I don’t think Varadkar could care less what a soon-to-be-pensioner thinks. So if you’re wondering why the Irish came out of the boxes fighting this week, this is what happens when a PM loses control of her ministers and they start making off the cuff the remarks to keep the tabloids happy.
And the message from the brexiters is hardly consistent. They’ve flip flopped more than John Kerry at a beach footwear convention. As James O’Brien at LBC has pointed out the message from the brexiters has constantly shifted and contradicted itself. For example, one of their core mantra’s going right back to the referendum itself was that they could rely on the Germans and Angela Merkel to pressure the EU to grant the UK a favourable trade deal for the sake of German industry. But this week they’ve turned a full 180 degrees and been arguing that Merkel’s difficulty is the UK’s opportunity. Sufficient to say, if you think such lunacy is going unnoticed around the world, think again.
Let me put it this way, suppose a used car salesman sold you a motor, offered you a guarantee, but then when the car broke down after just a few days and he refused to pay you back, how would you feel? If a fed days later he offered to do you a great deal on an nice little runner, would you take him up on it? Probably not. The brexiters seem to think they can screw the EU over, refuse to pay their bills, make unreasonable demands. Then the day after brexit expect to be able to do business with the EU as if nothing has happened.
And they seem to be assuming that the rest of the world don’t have access to this thing called “the internet” and thus won’t realise what sort of incompetent arseholes they behaved like while negotiating with the EU, how they reneged on past UK commitments and promises. And that these other states (Canada, China, Australia, etc.) will then trust the British at their word and lavish them with gifts and a trade deal that puts them at a disadvantage too. Well no, that’s not how the world works. You develop a reputation for being disingenuous, as the UK is doing, then that label tends to stick. You’ll be lucky if anyone offers you any sort of deal at all.
I used to work in an engineering consultancy and there were some potential clients we won’t work for. Why? Surely the customers always right? Well not when he’s a pain to work with and keeps sending you bouncy cheques. And similarly there were contractors in the city whom we would never give work too. And I mean we’d ship people in from overseas or even get someone from Dublin to do it, rather than give the job to them. Why? Because they made such an awful mess of a previous job that frankly even if they offered to do the work for free, it still wouldn’t be worth our while having them on site. This is the consequences of developing a bad reputation. Nobody will do business with you, not at any price.
As a result, the UK is increasingly coming across as a nation of spiv’s and Arthur Daley types. In fact that’s not even accurate. Arthur Daley was at least street wise, what we’d call a cute hoor back in Ireland. The brexiters are not. They are a bunch of out of touch, upper class twits who have lived their entire lives in a home counties bubble. They are the sort of people who go to Paris or Rome and get conned by a street grifter (hate to break it to you Boris, but there’s no such thing as a wallet inspector, I don’t think he’s coming back)….which probably explains their hatred of everything European.
You do wonder if they should slip a line in the great repeal plagiarise EU law bill to change the national anthem of the UK to either the theme song from Minder or only fools and horses. It would be a more accurate representation of how the rest of the world sees the UK post-brexit.