“Divisive nationalists” may have to wait for Article 50 to play any new cards.

UK constitutional politics right now is pretty counterintuitive. Brexiteers stole the Yes campaign’s best tunes from IndyRefI and used them, provisionally at least, to jailbreak the UK from the EU.

Can Scotland in turn break out of the UK deal? As Brian says that’s extremely unlikely when he notes that “the cardinal point [is] that EU membership is a matter reserved to Westminster“.

In NI much is made of EU associations to the Belfast Agreement, but it’s more political belief than fact. Whilst Martin protests of collateral damage it is also his job to prevent that from happening.

The term ‘divisive nationalists’ seems calculated to stir things up rather than smooth things down, particularly in Scotland. In today’s Herald, David Torrance notes:

Yesterday the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson had a pop at Tories for indulging in “post-Empire fantasies”, and he had a point, but then Nationalists, whether British or Scottish, are prone to fantasy, it being easier to conjure up future visions of greatness rather than deal with the here and now.

But following the Prime Minister’s speech it’s now got to the point where the First Minister has to stop commentating on events via Twitter and actually say how she’s going to respond to the UK Government’s intention to take Scotland out of the EU and single market in two years’ time.

As Pat Kane noted this morning, whilst Ms Sturgeon may be hampered by the timing of the negotiations, she’d be unwise to try to pull the trigger until Scotland can be sure of EU support.

And that is unlikely to happen until negotiations are complete. If her speech is taken at face value Mrs May is committed to triggering Article 50 before the end of March.

She is, she says, looking for some class of access to the Single Market rather than membership of it, whilst the UK has some class of immigration control.

What that means (and without a major and sustained recession its unlikely to result in decreasing immigration anytime soon), still remains to be seen. The original Tory sceptic plan was a tad bare:

1. Offer talks on trade and tariffs if they wish to change anything, saying we are happy to offer them no change to current arrangements.

2. In other words, we stay in the Single Market as now, without freedom of movement and the contributions.

3. The advantage we have on trading is that we are happy with the status quo, so they are the ones with a problem if they wish to change it.

4. This reverses the presumption of many commentators that the UK needs to negotiate with the rest of the EU and is the supplicant.

The Times of London in its editorial this morning was less than impressed with the British PM’s pro Brexit brio:

British voters have judged, in the referendum, that the costs of EU membership — in budgetary contributions, freedom of movement and regulatory burdens — exceed the benefits. That is a respectable case and the government must act on it. The idea that there are no costs at all in Brexit and that the benefits of membership may be retained is, however, false and irresponsible.

Britain’s EU partners do not have an obvious incentive to cut a deal. EU countries export about 3 per cent of their GDP to Britain. Britain’s exports to the EU amount to 12.5 per cent of GDP. For Boris Johnson to declare that Britain can have its cake and eat it is a dangerous delusion.

Irritating as it may seem, those divisive nationalists may be better advised to wait for the negotiated  outcome Mrs May comes back with towards the end of Article 50 to play their new set of cards.


  • chrisjones2

    Many of the London based comentariat believe that the Plebs have called this wrong. They take a superior position from which they can see the serious impact on restaurant staff, nannies, house prices etc in London. There is also the attitude of proprietors to be considered and their business interests will usually favour Remain

    There are two ways to view the issue of tariffs. Yes potentially we may be stuck with WTO Tariffs. and , as discussed extensively on other threads those might particularly impact agricultural sectors – which would hit NI exports to the EU but hugely benefit NI exports to the UK. NI Beef Bacon and chicken in the UK might be 20% to 40% cheaper than Irish, Danish and Polish equivalents? Plus the tariffs charged accrue to the importer state and as we import £11bn more from the EU than we export that might be a difference of £1 – £4 bn depending on the mix of goods. The tariff impact is likely to be more acute for Ireland than for the UK. Then there is the impact on all those brass plate companies in Dublin selling into the UK on a double Irish. Offices in a Belfast with reduced Corporation Tax may look very attractive

    And that is the worst case and the starting point for negotiations – it will end up much better than that or Renault and VW will be planning to lay off lots of workers in the run up to their elections. Noone wants even the risk of that and perhaps the UK should start to issue clear offers in key sectors like motor vehicles to pressurise EU Ministers into early commitments to buy off powerful local sectoral interests.

    With the looming bank crisis in the Euro Zone I suspect that French and German Ministers will want this resolved as amicably and quickly as possible. Through their own mismanagement and instransigence they have lost the UK as a member. They will not want to lose it as a trading partner

    The Tariff panic will be like the dire predictions before the referendum … in a year it will be seen as hot air and piffle

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not sure about new cards but the SNP’s Angus Robertson has played 20 questions 5 times on this one.

  • chrisjones2

    Well he has a choice. He can ask for another referendum and leave the UK ….except that if he does Scotland will be bankrupt from day 1 …. so he dare not do that and instead behave like a child in a shop demanding a Kinder Egg and throwing a tantrum when Mommy says ‘later’

    So these are the contrived questions of a politician asking the impossible when he knows matters are for negotiation. But he shouldnt worry – the UK Government (which provides the cash that keeps Scotland going and where international issues are handled) will deal with it and tell him in due course

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps … but Scotland cannot afford it and we dont want it

    And if the EU does as you suggest then the Irish Agribusiness sector is well and truly stuffed with tariffs of 20 to 40% on all exports to the UK. You seem to almost welcome that – which is very odd.

    Then there is the status of the Irish in England. The PM has made clear we want an open arrangement provided Ireland reciprocates – but if the EU wont allow her to do that what will happen then? Who knows but the UK position is one of inclusion and welcoming – its for your Masters in Brussels to decide if they will let you be the same.

    And who was it who once said

    ” We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”

    Ah well – that sentiment lasted for near 100 years before it was sold an the country put in hock to ECB. Indeed isn’t it odd that it is very similar concerns that have driven the UK to vote out of the EU to regain our own sovreignty?

    But the UK future is bright and if the EU chooses to do as you suggest to such a large customer it will be just another nail in its disintegration.

    In the meantime the one thing worse than little Engenders is perhaps the Little Irelander who can only think of everything through the failed prism of reunifictaion. Isnt it a shame that it seems that even the well informed Catholic population of the North wont vote for it?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The idea that there are no costs at all in Brexit and that the benefits of membership may be retained is, however, false and irresponsible.

    Just to highlight some of these issues with the 4 demands.

    1. Offer talks on trade and tariffs if they wish to change anything, saying we are happy to offer them no change to current arrangements.

    2. In other words, we stay in the Single Market as now, without freedom of movement and the contributions.

    3. The advantage we have on trading is that we are happy with the status quo, so they are the ones with a problem if they wish to change it.

    4. This reverses the presumption of many commentators that the UK needs to negotiate with the rest of the EU and is the supplicant.

    On 1, I think it the UK wants not to change its external tariffs to the EU it’s free to do so. It’s no longer in the UK’s gift to determine or influence the EU’s tariffs on the outside. The amazing thing about self-determination is that outside the EU, the UK has no “self-determination” over the EU, that’s for the other 27 countries to politically work out. If UK is a successful mad scientist in free trade the EU will follow, if it is shown to be a bad scientist in free trade, the EU will avoid such measures. It’s like the Republic of Ireland gambling with the banking bailouts guarantees, and the UK retreating from that decision once it failed to pay off.

    On 2. I think if the UK surrenders freedom of movement for Britons in Schengen nations, they can solidify their argument for trading without freedom of movement. We’d all love positive discrimination for ourselves, but who would want to enforce it for someone else? The UK could still make some net contributions to EU bodies like scientific institutions such as Euroatom as Israel does. They will probably still aid Eastern Europe under NATO orders anyway. The measly net 1% of HMRC revenue that went to EU institutions was not the massive millstone hammering UK productivity in recent years that people believed it to be.

    On 3. A vote to leave the EU is not a vote for “the status quo without free movement” inside the Single Market. The idea that “we are happy with the status quo” whilst simultaneously crying about wanting more is ridiculous. More being unilateral privilege in a foreign Single Market for non-reciprocated free movement in labour and the services sector within the 27 nations. The status quo and the “more” that the UK needs while outside the EU pretty much has a snowball’s chance in hell of working. Since many Leave supporters are talking about leaving the Single Market as if it didn’t really matter one day, and then the next staying in the Single Market for convenience sake the next day like a refugee from personal responsibility, we cannot really tell if this is bluff or guff.

    On 4. The answer to this display of brinkmanship is highlighted in the last quote “Britain’s EU partners do not have an obvious incentive to cut a deal” …with of course the possible exception of the Republic of Ireland. Then again this is the nation the UK government is dismissing the most with this attitude for the sake of media commentators, with the possible exception of the United Kingdom.

  • mickfealty

    She really doesn’t have to give him one though… That ‘once in a lifetime’ will likely get strategic outing more than once.

  • pablito

    If the UK government offers to continue to trade freely with its EU neighbours, but the Brussels bureaucrats insist on imposing tariffs, it will be for a purely political motive, not good economic sense. If we are forced to revert to WTO rules, the fall in the value of sterling has already more than wiped out the loss of competitiveness which the tariffs would put on UK goods. But in the other direction it would cause much more pain. German cars are already 10% more expensive in the UK due to the fall in the pound. Do they really want a 10% tariff added on top of that? Ireland would be the biggest loser of all, because agricultural products have amongst the highest tariffs under WTO rules. The Irish government has made clear to its EU partners that it needs to be treated as a special case in regards to future relations with the UK. I hope those leaders listen and help. Otherwise the EU is no friend, and of no use to Ireland.

  • chrisjones2

    I agree and its a lot like the position of SF …oh Lord give me a referendum ….but not now

  • lizmcneill

    A reasonably bright 12-year-old could see the leap in logic between points 2 and 3. Maybe we should get a few of them to run the country. Can’t be worse than this “We’re going to eat all of the cake and none of the broccoli, so nyah!” that the Brexiteers have come up with.

  • Declan Doyle

    Thatcher minor. If thats her attitude, both Scottish and Irish nationalism will most likely benifit from a much needed shot in the arm. May is batting for England no matter how flowery her words. McGuinness is quite correct when he speaks of collateral damage. The precious United Kingdom has not been as close to break up in 100 years. May could well deliver the knock out blow if her speech is a fair reflection of her plans. Here’s hoping.

  • eamoncorbett

    And what if Brazil and Argentina flood the UK with cheap beef , and Renault ,Seat and VW/ Audi plus BMW join together in protectionist mode to squeeze out Japanese cars like Toyota and Nissan built in Britain and what if these cars are subject to double duty first ,raw material from Japan then customs charges from EU , what if quotas are introduced to protect Europe’s car industry from its nearest competitor . There is a counter argument for all your pro Brexit arguments.

  • eamoncorbett

    How are you qualified to determine what the well informed Catholic population of the North would vote for.

  • chrisjones2

    I read the polls. How are you qualified to say I am wrong

  • chrisjones2

    They can only flood the UK if we have trade deals that let them

    And if European car makers combine then they will undoubtedly face retaliation elsewhere – but the French already break the riles – how many Government purchased cars in France arent made by PSA despite open competition?

    There’s a counter argument for all your anti Brexit arguments and both the ruling parties in France and Germany face huge internal problems driven by the same issues that pushed the UK out

  • chrisjones2

    “Here’s hoping.”

    And that is what drives all your posts …not rational assessment so dream on and you will see

  • AntrimGael

    It was a crass, provocative speech and the term ‘divisive Nationalists’ was just insulting and ignorant. McGuinness is correct, this is all about internal Tory party politics and a sop to the bigoted, Little Englanders in the Home Counties and Shires. May doesn’t give a monkey’s about the North or Scotland and the Peace Process and GFA are just insignificant things in a far, far away land. Once again England is treating Ireland, North and South, with contempt and I believe Dublin sent a shot across London’s bow today with the ‘Immigration’ exercise at the border. The South is maybe starting to show that they will not roll over and play ball at the Tories back and call and are quite prepared to enforce border controls if they have to. It’s the same old Perfidious Albion who have not learned the lesson of history when it comes to Ireland and who are doomed to repeat their mistakes. I only see very pessimistic times ahead and the dissidents must be loving every minute of it; their work is being done by London again.

  • 1729torus

    If we are forced to revert to WTO rules, the fall in the value of
    sterling has already more than wiped out the loss of competitiveness
    which the tariffs would put on UK goods.

    So the same position as before, except the British population is poorer due to the increased cost of buying things from abroad? Actually you will also see a 3% hit to GDP.

    Except we aren’t taking to account the loss in productivity due to non-tarriff barriers and leaving the EU, which are substantial and could easily end up costing around 6% to 9% of the UK’s GDP. There is also the loss of FDI, which would cost £2,200 per household or around 3% of GDP. Leaving a minimum of around 12% GDP loss.

    Alternatively, the OECD estimates a 5% loss.

    At the end of 2015, the UK’s nominal GDP was $2.8 trillion, and a pound was worth $1.45 For every 10c drop in Sterling, the UK’s nominal GDP drops by $200 billion. It has already dropped around 15 cents, so that’s $300 billion gone.

    So if we assume the pound drops to $1.20 and a 5% cumlative GDP loss, then the total damage would be as if the UK’s GDP shrunk to $2.24 trillion. If Scotland goes, down to $2 trillion.

    lf the pound reaches $1.15, and there is a 10% loss of GDP and Scotland goes, it would be as if GDP shrank to $1.9 trillion.

    lf the pound reaches $1.10, and there is a 10% loss of GDP and Scotland goes, it would be as if GDP shrank to $1.7 trillion.

    These don’t take into account any demographic troubles due to reduced immigration. Assuming no migration, you will see around 7% fewer people, most of which would be skilled and of working age. So you could reduce potential GDP down to $2 trillion in the optimistic scenario or down to $1.5 trillion in the very pessimistic one. The reduction in workers would be higher than suggested here though. Don’t expect the government to spend money to boost productivity either.

    There is also potential loss of tourism in the event of constant violence against immigrants or deportations, but this should be minor.

    There are various quibbles and alternative scenarios, and you might think dropping $1.5 trillion in today’s money is ridiculous. My main point is that the
    consequences of “Hard Brexit” and closing the borders are not trivial at all. It did not take too much imagination to invent that number.

  • Nevin

    “the ‘Immigration’ exercise at the border.”

    AG, this isn’t a novel event:

    A CIE employee who asked not to be named said the practice of gardai inquiring if there were black people on board the trains was a cause of concern to some staff. Two of their fellow workers are Indian-Irish and, as friends, other staff found what was happening “very offensive”.

    He said some gardai boarded the train at the rear and made their way through the carriages. Others asked staff if there were any black people on board and went straight to them.

    The CIE employee said he had seen two incidents which had embarrassed him. A black British engineer working for the company which had introduced the new train to the Belfast service had been asked for identification.

    And on another occasion two Chinese students had been turned back from Connolly Station because they did not have satisfactory identification. He said the students were from Northern Ireland and were visiting Dublin for a seminar. .. source

    The Aliens Order has been in place for many years; AFAIK the UK is the only EU state to which the order doesn’t apply.

  • chrisjones2

    Many foreign passport holders lawfully in they UK dont seem to realise that the Republic is a totally different state and if they go there they may need a visa for Ireland. It is simply a mistake and I know friends who have been politely warned by Garda and allowed to go about their way. One even bemoaned that he had to fly to Belfast via London (the more expensive route) because he didn’t have an Irish Visa

  • chrisjones2

    “whilst simultaneously crying about wanting more is ridiculous”

    You are entitled to your view. The majority of voters disagree and have advised the Government that it is essential.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You could have 27 populist referendums across the EU countries where they decide to offer the UK no more largesse on this matter of unreciprocated freedom of movement rights, it seems to me the rational trade off. That’s a very simple way to kill that exploitative indulgence democratically within the EU.

    It’s not in the UK’s gift to control the global economy or the sovereignty of these other nations, yet that was pretty much offered in the debate to pensioners and British nationalists who did not know any better.

  • Declan Doyle

    It is a worry indeed. However, one hopes that much of the bluster is no more than sound bites to appease the flock.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Did you blame the private sector’s negative reaction to Brexit rhetoric on a commentariat e.g. The Guardian and other mainstream media outlets. Wow! Hate to break it to you, newspapers are not among the industries most at risk.

    What is so bizarre about corporations calling these events how they feel they are playing out. Even Leave supporting Wrightbus’s management are slowing down recruitment … don’t give me this oh the private sector are drinking from some propaganda fountain. If you want to believe they are suffering fools gladly, by all means use the BoE’s low interest rates, get a loan, invest in a company that takes a heterodox attitude to Brexit and hurt the commentariat with a resilient alternative business model.

    And did you just call trade with the U.K. exports, well obviously NI would have to leave it first, and secondly NI have struggled to make inroads against British competition. This myopic view also fails to accept that NI milk can be farmed in Armagh and conviently processed in Monaghan, so if the UK’s demands for the EU to pay WTO tariffs are unreasonable enough to make it put Armagh farmers out of business, then this cynical brinkmanship will only hurt our industry.

    This is a major flaw in the arguement that is being UK industry and exports outside the EU rely on supply lines linked to other EU countries. This is why capitulating to the WTO option is just the UK shooting itself in the foot.

    Could you present evidence that anywhere in NI would be ready for a hard Brexit … Look at North Antrim manufacturing let’s assume Leave knows best, then it would be nigh impossible for the region to be shedding jobs due to its Brexiteer spirit. Such a region’s politics would in reality make the region so EU-proofed and ROI-proofed and so Brexitcentric that the advantages of Brexit would be manifested the clearest.

    Surely this among all other regions is the most prepared for the economic culture shock?

    Yet even in North Antrim, the most Brexity place in Northern Ireland Ian Paisley Jnr (or Ian Òg) is signing Irish passports … Or document with an EU badge on in … almost accepting concession that Northern Ireland is dependent on both the European Union and the Republic of Ireland to insure its way of life against global forces that it cannot do from the UK alone.

    What annoys me most about the WTO tariff threat the most is, I would think it represents a long fall from grace for the UK government, to simply sabotage itself over nothing more than a vendetta against domestic naysayers and domestic media.

    Somehow I was expecting a bit more maturity, objectivity and responsibility here.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not necessarily:

    1. The EU can still sell to the UK under WTO terms even with WTO tariffs. The EU sells to many nations under this system already. The French and German car manufacturers are not losing their heads at trading with a much bigger USA market or Chinese market under this regime. Yet apparently Franco-German manufacturing trade unions are going to do the dirty work of Nigels Farage and Dodds here, I would doubt it. The U.K. is flooded with Chinese goods, and that’s a WTO relationship.

    2. Countries outside the EU can flood the market illegally as well, consider China’s steel dumping in the EU. I’m still looking to see how the UK government plans to be punitive to the world’s second biggest economy on that matter if it wants a clean break from mutual interests in the EU. Perhaps it’ll just dismiss such steel dumping as the hazards of free trade.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    Yes. I think we can depend on the tories to be crass enough to break the Union without much thought (thinking deeply being anathema to them anyway). As you say, here’s hoping.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    Ditto Scotland.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    There are a wealth of figures around showing that Scotland is a net contributor to the UK economy. Look some of them up. On it’s own, Scotland is the 12th largest economy in the EU. Why is it any less viable as a state then the other members which are smaller?