The Real Brexit Dealines

There has been lots of talk of deadlines around the Brexit negotiations, the one we beat (just) to be able to move on the talks about a trade deal, another is when the Withdrawal Agreement has to be signed off leaving enough time for it to be ratified by the European parliament, EU27 national Parliaments & a number of Regional Parliaments (but not, please not the UK Parliament).

However, there is one deadline that is not being talked about, probably as it is not a governmental one and not a fixed one either.

It is simply how late can companies leave making the decisions they need to make about whether to transfer all or part of their UK business into the EU27 area to keep it inside the Single Market & Customs Union?

Of course, this will vary between companies. Some like Wetherspoons (can’t move pubs) or Dyson (their manufacturing centre are already outside the EU, in Malaysia & Singapore) won’t be affected too much directly by Brexit so don’t have to move any part of the company, others like EasyJet (maintenance centre moved to Malta) have already move part of its business into the EU27 area, some like many of the banks) are waiting to make final decisions.

As the crunch date of March 29th draws ever closer with no definite agreement between the UK & the EU27 over the Terms of Withdrawal and an agreement in principle over future trade arrangements (for which detailed negotiations cannot start until we are no linger in the EU), more and more companies will be forced to make these decisions as they cannot wait to see if the Hard Brexit wing is defeated and we get a Soft (or no) Brexit deal.

So, if you work for a company with existing business with the EU27, perhaps you should start to think what will happen in the next 12 months?  Are Toyota going to invest in their Derby factory or in their facilities across the EU27 countries to build the next generation of cars?  Are Siemens going to continue to build factories in the KU when products built here will be subject to customs & duties to import into the EU?

Decisions will need to be made soon as it takes time to transfer jobs & facilities and change logistics.  It is meeting the deadlines for these decisions that will determine if the UK can make a success of leaving the EU or not, far more than any politician in Westminster.

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Is Theresa May really the White Queen?

john-tenniel-white-queenin Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, when Alice told her that she can’t believe something clearly impossible, the White Queen remarked, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

This exchange comes to mind when I hear Theresa May or David Davis commenting on the progress of the Brexit negotiations or the “wonderful” future that lies ahead for the UK if they succeed in dragging us out of the EU.

Let’s look at the impossible things that our current Tory non-Government (and the Labour non-Opposition for that matter) seem to believe about what will become the only land border between the EU and the UK if Brexit happens, the long and tortuous border between the Republic of Ireland & the Province of Northern Ireland (NI).

Currently, as both the UK (& therefore NI) and the Republic are in the EU, there is little or no border controls, citizens of both the Republic & NI (indeed all people living or visiting either) can pass to and fro across the border without let or hindrance.  The only difference is that in the Republic speed limits are in Kilometres per hour while in NI, they are in miles per hour.

Many people live on one side of the border but work or shop on the other side, business have supply chains that cross the border, farms cultivate land that crosses the border and families have members on both sides of the border.

The Republic is staying in the EU (and therefore the Customs Union) regardless.   The people of NI are rightly scared that if the UK does leave the Customs Union, then there will be a return of Immigration and Customs Controls along the border disrupting their lives and businesses.  Yet, as the UK will not be in the Customs Union (or the common travel area for non-Irish citizens) a border there must be.  Indeed, no-one wants a return to such border controls.

The alternatives to them are:

  • Northern Ireland stay in the EU Customs Union and the effective border in at the Northern Irish ports and airports. This is rejected by NI Unionists (who support Brexit) as it will be cutting them off (in their mind) from the rest of the UK
  • The Republic impose all the border controls needed at their ports & airports so that, in effect, the Republic leaves the EU Customs Union and join a UK Customs Union. This is rejected by all Republic politicians and they want to remain in the EU Customs Union.
  • Some form of electronic border controls will be implemented to check goods traded across the border and passports of people crossing the border. No one can yet tell us how this will work or show an example of where such a system us up & running but this is the preferred option of the UK Government.

Now it is important to remember that progress on this issue (at least in outline) is one of the pre-conditions the EU has imposed before starting to talk about a future Trade Deal with the UK, which the UK want to start next month.

You would think that some in our non-Government might be working hard on the issue and coming up with details of how their preferred option would work.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Despite the impossibility of the system they are proposing being developed from scratch, tested & installed in the 16 months until the date they say we are going to leave the EU, all they say on the issue is, they believe it will happen.

Clearly, May is channelling the White Queen (with Johnson & Davis as Tweedledee & Tweedledum?) in her faith in the impossible!

Europe Coalesces as Britain Falls Apart

Jonathan Fryer

D1AF3920-7B78-406C-A1FD-FA42B713BF62In last year’s European Referendum, UKIP and other arch-Brexiteers argued that the European Union is sinking and is bound to break up, whereas the developments of the past few months have shown that, on the contrary, the EU is pulling together while Britain, mismanaged by a Brexit-drunk Tory Party, is steering the country straight for the rocks. A year ago, the UK was one of the fastest growing countries in the OECD, whereas now it has sunk to the bottom. In contrast, even the previously afflicted nations of Southern Europe are picking up. Moreover, since Emmanuel Macron became President of France, there is a new spring in the EU’s step; “Mutti” Merkel is no longer the sole voice of EU strength. The Franco-German alliance is back with force. The great tragedy is that Britain ought to be one of a troika helping direct the EU, at a moment when China…

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Why Brexit negotiation are doomed to fail

BrexitOne of the tricks of successful negotiations is to understand the position and drivers of the people you are negotiating with.  If you don’t do this, you won’t know what you can ask for and you won’t understand their “red lines”.

It is obvious that the UK Government hasn’t done this with the Brexit negotiations which is one of the reasons why they are floundering and failing to get anywhere.

To get a better understanding of why May Davis , et al are failing so badly, let’s try to look at looking it at Brexit from the position of the EU27, the EU Commission & the EU Parliament.

First and foremost, they want the best possible deal for their citizens and for the EU.  However, they see this not just in economic terms but also in what will strengthen the Union in the future.  The last thing they want is for Brexit to succeed as that would encourage other anti-EU groups across the 27.   Few if any in the EU27 hate the UK or wish us harm but neither do they care too much about what happens to the UK.  Their attitude is we voted to leave, it is up to us to make a success of Brexit, not them

Many in the EU have also concluded that taking the hit of losing the 12% – 15%, of trade, the percentage of all EU trade, they do with the UK is a price worth paying for keeping the EU together.   They also have (not unrealistic) hopes that much of that trade will any way migrate to stay within the Single Market & Customs Union, for example all the Euro Clearing trade, other financial business, and manufacturing that relies in the free movement of components.

Let’s not forget also that for the EU27, Brexit is not a big issue.  The future of the Union, supporting democracy, making the EU more responsive to its citizens and dealing with the other problems across Europe are far more important issues.  Quite frankly, for many, the sooner the whole Brexit soap opera is concluded, deal or no deal, the happier they will be.

Once all this is understood, it is obvious that the UK’s position in the Brexit negotiations is very weak.  Only the deluded (or those wish to delude others) would keep on saying that “the EU needs us more than we need them”, the reality is that, unless we put something worthwhile on the table (like continued free access to the UK for trade under Single Market / Customs Union rules, like continued payments in to the EU budget, like continued free movement of workers), the EU have no reason to give us any concessions.

The sooner we realise this the sooner we can also realise that Brexit is a hopeless idea and we are mad to carry on with it.  Tine to #ExitfromBrexit

Who would have thought the EU would put politics before economic on Brexit? 

brexitOne of the biggest complaints I heard about the EU during the Referendum was that it had become a Political Union as opposed to the Trading Union (the Common Market) we join in 1973.

The fact that this complaint is false and that the EU, even from its earliest incarnation as the Coal & Steel Community founded in 1951, has always been a political entity and this was made abundantly clear both when we joined in 1973 and in the 1975 Referendum was not deemed relevant because, as with most facts about the EU, those wanting us to leave the EU have a complete disregard for them.

However, what continues to amaze me is that despite make the complaint that the EU is “too political” during last year’s Referendum, the same self people are now amazed that the EU is being “too political” when it refuses to give in to the whining and bombast from the Leave camp over the Brexit negotiations.

The EU (that is the other 27 nations & the EU institutions) are simply trying to defend the integrity o the EU and will not want to weaken it in any way.  If that means that the UK can’t get the “having our cake and eat it” sort of deal that the Leave campaign promised voters last year, then that is of no concern to the EU.

To put is simply, the Leave campaign sold an unrealistic and unattainable idea to the voters in 2016.  They now need to answer to the public about the distortions, misrepresentations & downright lies they told.  They need to explain why, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, they kept telling people false, demonstratively false, stories about how we will be better off out of the EU.

It is not the Remainers who are making Brexit a disaster, it is those who campaigned for it, knowing it would be a disaster and impossible without a long period of severe economic hurt, that should now be answering to the public.

The Fantasist and the Failed Technocrat

May and corbynThe performance of Corbyn & May at their respective Conferences has highlighted just how unstable our current political situation is and that neither Labour nor the Tories have answers (or the ability) to the country’s problems

Corbyn had the difficult task of one hand wanting to appear to be hoping for an immediate General Election while all the time hoping the Tories hang on until the Brexit negotiations have been completed.  The worst outcome for Corbyn would be to win a 2018 election by a narrow margin (and no polls are predicting a Labour landslide) and having to conclude the negotiations with the EU.

This would leave him not only having to deal with the inevitable post-Brexit recession but not being able to blame the certain bad deal we will get (and even a no deal will be a terrible deal) on the Tories.

One certainty will be that none of the grandiose plans he outlined in Brighton will be able to be implemented as the UK will not have any money to spare, indeed any post-Brexit administration will most likely have to start implementing swinging cuts in all public spending,

Still, Corbyn did what he is very good at, a talented orator & campaigner on issues, he gave a great speech, full of flowing phrases, making expansive promises for action that would, if implemented, bankrupt the nation even if we had a robust economy, not one tottering on the edge of the Brexit cliff.    The only thing missing was any credible ideas of how to pay the promises or how they would be implemented (and remember nor toft heh Labour Front Bench have any experience in running very much!).

 

May also had a difficult job to do as well.  In the face of a Cabinet tearing itself apart as they jostle for prime position to replace her, with the Brexit talks going from bad to worse with, a worsening economic climate (also brought on by Brexit) and after the disastrous (and unnecessary) General Election in June, May had to try to reinvigorate her party and give them a sense of purpose, not an easy task for a charismatic leader and a great orator and May is neither.

She is an efficient technocrat with a tendency to micro-management but she has never been accused of being a deep political thinker & strategist so it was no surprised her speech was flat.  Even with the excuse of the coughing fit, it was not a speech that will send her depleted troops out to battle for her.  Even her “Big ideas” don’t stack up, £2bn for 20000 social homes means on about 50 in each local council area across the UK, not so fantastic after all and even the Tories were rubbishing the Energy Bill freeze when Labour proposed it.

 

So where does that leave us?  One party lead by a fantasist leader with no grasp on the reality of power and the other party, falling apart and lead by a failed technocrat with no vision.  Neither has any grasp of what is needed to unite the country, neither has a realistic vision that will allow everyone in our county to have a better future, both offer a dark future with little hope for the young, the poor & the disadvantaged.  Time to look elsewhere for leadership.