So the EU has released its all to predicable terms for the transitional brexit deal, which has sent the brexiters off into a tizzy. Corbyn, meanwhile has had a rare attack of common sense and realised that being leader of the opposition means opposing Theresa May, not supporting her. So he’s aligned labour’s brexit policy to include staying in the common market and thus more in line with what the labour membership want and indeed what the majority of the country wants.
However, like Theresa May, Corbyn still wants the UK to be treated differently and thus he wants a “bespoke” common market deal. We’ve seen numerous possible brexit options jettisoned. The Norway model, the Swiss model and even the Canada model fall by the way side. So we’re now down to the Turkey model for brexit. Or the kebab option as I suspect it will be called shortly. But both the major parties don’t just want any old kebab, they want a “bespoke” kebab.
To draw an analogy, let’s imagine Monsieur Barnier as the owner of a continental delicatessen and in walks May and Corbyn and both ask for a bespoke kebab (which the Tories think they shouldn’t have to pay for). Barnier has no idea what they’re talking about. Yes he did something similar once, as a favour for a Turkish customer, but that was a one off. He suggests they try something else from the menu, there’s the Norwegian stock fish sandwich, Swiss stew or the Canadian bacon special but no bespoke kebab, perhaps you should try Donald’s burger bar down the street (mind you that’s gone downhill since it got taken over by a Russian sushi chain).
May and Corbyn both plan to keep asking for a bespoke kebab over and over again until blue in the face, because shouting loudly at foreigners has worked so well for Britain in getting its way in the past. Obviously what’s actually going to happen is they’ll get thrown out, at which point May scuttle’s off into an alley, bites the head off a rat and sits on a dustbin Gollum style eating it while mumbling something about her “precious”. Corbyn meanwhile plans to stand outside the shop shouting at passers by for his bespoke kebab, until someone from the council comes along and takes him into care.
Jokes aside, clearly both the main parties negotiating strategy isn’t going to work. Yes, labour’s shift to staying in the custom’s union is infinitely more sensible than the approach of the Tory party. It recognises that Northern Ireland is a place that exists and that a hard border there would be a very bad idea, plus that the UK does this thing called “trade” with the EU. However, as those more familiar with the “Turkey model” point out, there’s still checks at the border (trucks can be held up for several hours). The UK will still have to pay into the EU budget. And while yes the UK will be free to negotiate new trade deals with other countries in areas that the common market doesn’t cover, those tend to be the very areas the UK doesn’t WANT to open up its markets (e.g. healthcare, farming, etc.).
The grown up’s solution would be to negotiate a Norway model like arrangement but stipulate it as an interim to medium term solution. The EU would go along with that, they’ll always take a fudge that kicks the can down the road. Longer term the UK could then look at either a 2nd referendum in a decade’s time (after all the old racists have died off) and re-joining the EU. Or if there is a desire for a more radical hard brexit (and again, polls currently show most want a soft brexit), then the option to do that and back out of existing trade arrangements over time will be available.
However, I’m being way too sensible. The problem with such an option, or any of the other possible brexit models is that it requires one to admit that brexit is going to leave the UK worse off.
In fact, just to keep score, way back in 2011, when brexit was just a twinkle in Beelzebub’s Farage’s eye I put up a post in which I predicted that brexit would threaten the peace of the good Friday agreement (tick) and the union with Scotland (tick). That the UK would have to pay an exit bill (tick) and continue to pay for access to the common market (tick). And that there was no way the EU would allow access to the single market without the UK paying in and retaining freedom of movement (tick). That the UK would need to accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ (tick). And besides, ending freedom of movement probably won’t work because the reasons justifying it are flawed. And “shutting the door” to immigration would just lead to labour shortages and crops rotting in fields.
I also predicted that the UK’s relationship with America would change (either the special relationship would end or we’d become the 51st state, it currently looks like the latter) and the UK’s relations with rest of the commonwealth would suffer (tick). And far from the UK getting “exciting” new trade deals, in “emerging markets“, instead the UK’s going to have to spend decades renegotiating the deals its already got via the EU. And its been made clear by other world leaders (even Trump) that the deal the UK gets won’t be nearly as generous. Indeed, the word from Washington is that regional protection for Cornish pasties, Scotch and Cumberland sausages will have to go, as the price for a UK/US trade deal (I mean who could have known the US would want a trade deal that favours them!).
And on the economic front, the markets are clearly jittery. There have been several large bankruptcies recently. Just the other day two of the country’s leading retailers collapsed. And there’s a long list of other firms on shaky ground. While these business failures aren’t entirely the fault of brexit, clearly it isn’t helping. And there’s worse to come. Many companies are in holding pattern right now, they are waiting to see the terms of brexit before they make any decision. But its inevitable that there will be some sort of “correction” and some significant level of job losses.
In short, everything the remainers warned would happen has happened (or is clearly going to happen). But this is the truth that cannot be spoken by either of the main parties. Brexit is now the official state religion of the UK and speaking ill of it is the equivalent of the Pope coming out to mass on Sunday wearing a Glasgow rangers top and singing a famine song. Brexit is essentially a suicide pact that 37% of the country voted for (without knowing what they were voting for), which will now be implemented on everyone and democracy be damned.
Again, labour’s policy is more sensible here than the Tory’s, but its still bonkers. Its the classic dilemma of the sweet shop owner v’s the doctor. The doctor wants to cure your cancer with chemotherapy, but the sweet shop owner promises to use chocolate and sweet things which he claims, will not only cure cancer, but all other ills and make you fitter and stronger. So Corybn has to sound like the sweet shop owner, while trying to sell the idea of taking our medicine.
Of course so long as this impasse lasts, the only winner is going to be the EU. They’ve essentially come out on top at every turn so far, largely because the UK has no real negotiating strategy other than to ask for stuff we can’t get and probably don’t actually want.
Of course the fatal flaw of many in the UK, brexiters, remainers and those in the middle is that they are confusing the EU with someone who actually gives a toss either way. As far as the EU is concerned they have bigger fish to fry right now (climate change, Trump, Russia, Berlusconi, Catalonia, etc.) than deal with the primadonna antics of British politicians.
They’ll try to get an agreement yes, there is some room for compromise. But fundamentally there’s some things they can’t do nor allow. They have been more than clear on that since the very start. And if push comes to shove they’ll just say suit yourselves, c’est la vie and jettison the UK without any agreement.