“Negotiating Brexit is not like selling a second hand car with a dodgy secret under its bonnet…”

Most comments on Brexit (and Trump for that matter) are beside the point until Mrs May gets to the end of her internal negotiations with her party and President Trump takes up the reigns of power. What surrogates (new US media word for shills) for him say or not is as yet beside the point.

First, this from Flip Chart Rick

…the time to put up a fight on the terms of Brexit is now. If MPs want to shape the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, they need to do so before Article 50 is triggered.

Of course, it might be that Article 50 isn’t irrevocable after all. The Lisbon Treaty is deliberately vague. But this raises another question. If we understand so little about what Article 50 does, should MPs be voting for it at all? Shouldn’t they get legal clarification on what Article 50 actually does before they vote for it?

MPs have a duty to act in the national interest as well as considering what they believe their constituents’ wishes to be. That’s what representative democracy is about. Before triggering Article 50, they need to know three things:

  1. Whether or not Article 50 is revocable;
  2. That there is a fallback deal in place should the negotiations extend beyond 2 years;
  3. What the government’s starting position will be.

For MPs to vote for Article 50 without establishing these facts would be utterly reckless and a dereliction of duty. It would set the country on a highly uncertain and potentially dangerous course. History will judge them harshly if they do.

And this from the leader in the Economist last week


  • Brian Walker

    The argument over the technicalities of triggering and halting Art 50 will be resolved sooner or later. The Economist is surely right. If the negotiations are at all like a game it will be an odd one, with the cards face up. Brexit will happen in some form because if there is serious doubt of it in advance, the positions of both sides will be phoney. The EU would be tempted to give terms so stiff as to intimidate the UK into backing off leaving. That would almost certainly produce an even stronger eurosceptic parliament as a result of an election..

    Meanwhile that rabble rouser Nicholas Sarkozy is more creatively imagining the UK rejoining a reformed EU in the FT. While this is as speculative as imagining the withdrawal of Art 50, it is at least forward looking.,

    https://www.ft.com/content/284b6d66-ab57-11e6-ba7d-76378e4fef24 (£)

    “The other Europe, the 27-member union, should revert to its original duties — ensuring the domestic market operates smoothly and focusing on no more than 10 truly strategic issues, such as agricultural and industrial policy to stimulate growth; research policy, which needs to be bolder; competition policy, which needs to be less dogmatic; and trade policy founded on reciprocity. Everything else is best left in the hands of member states….

    Lastly, Europe needs a new immigration policy. It needs a new Schengen, shared immigration and asylum policies, and consistent employment laws regarding foreigners to end social dumping…
    Once Europe emerges from its overhaul, it will be up to British leaders to decide whether to ask their people about joining the union again. The choice will be the British people’s to make, and theirs alone. Europe must not reform because it hopes to bring the UK back to the fold: it must embrace reform because its future and its survival depend on it; because reform is as urgent as it is vital.”


  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Hmmmm, nothing inevitable at all. It’s clear now that ‘taking back sovereignty’ has always been a mirage, oversimplified in the eyes of the viewer. May’s tactic of holding her low scoring cards close to her chest will endure only as long as the Emperor’s new clothes. It will buy her time, but the question is how much time and how will the next problem be handled by her while handling those who are determined to bulldoze it through? Resentment towards the EU among leavers will grow through this process as will misunderstanding of taking back sovereignty: a very British and muddled contrat social.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    While tending to see much of Sarkozy’s prophetic visions as wishful thinking, I think that there’s a glimmer of possibility in the UK rejoining (or never leaving) such a fundamentally restructured EU. Anything is possible, over time.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The UK don’t know what they want to negotiate and at what cost … it’s not like selling a second hand car, it’s like selling a car with a dodgy secret under its bonnet to try to buy a first hand car.


  • WindowLean

    “and President Trump takes up the reigns of power”

    Pedant alert…reins of power??

  • Anglo-Irish

    This ” not wanting to show our hand ” business looks suspiciously like not having a hand to show and not being totally sure which card game we’re playing at this stage.

    It has been reported that the government needs 30,000 additional civil servants in order to deal with Brexit.


    As someone who’s entire working life was spent in the private sector the public sectors way of going about things never fails to amaze me.

    The European Union, which everybody accuses of over the top bureaucracy has 33,000 civil servants to manage the requirements of 28 countries and 500,000,000 people.

    How in hell did someone come up with the estimate of a 30,000 additional staff requirement to add to the existing civil service in order to manage one countries needs?

    More to the point, where are these people going to come from, what skills do they need, where are they going to be accommodated and who’s going to manage the operation?

    Perhaps we should advertise throughout the EU for suitable applicants?

  • whatif1984true

    There is no-one else competing against the UK (best offer gets an exit) so demands need not be secret.
    Negotiation is about the priority of the various demands and how much you will move on each demand.
    Good negotiation gets ALL the demands out on the table and a good agreement will suit both sides but will be based on ALL the demands.

    You must negotiate everything as a package, your opponents will wish to leave out demands/aspects for “further/future” discussion if they succeed and get you to leave out demands from the total package you fail.

    Some countries will be reasonable others will not. Ultimately it will be other members trying to get hardline countries to bend which will give the UK its final package. Whether that package will be PR Hard but in reality soft is a total unknown, this is about politics not the Real world.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So the phrase comes from like Horse Reins?
    … so basically Horse Power metaphor.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Just saw this online.


    I totally agree on the Sovereignty issue, the UK has a fine historic record of pulling sovereignty with other nations in everything from NATO to the EU to several European Congresses that predated it … all the way back to the Act of Union it was forged with.

    No group of nations are going to acquis to British intentions … heck Scotland, part of the UK is voting for a party to escape them. They would agree with the UK however if they get more nations on board with what they want … and that requires diplomacy, not gunboats and jackboot attitudes.

  • WindowLean

    I think so yes, like “free rein” and “to rein in” though you often see “free reign” etc

  • Anglo-Irish

    Funny because it has an element of truth.

    Did you see where Boris got into an argument with an Italian Minister over Brexit when he suggested that if Italy didn’t agree to giving us a good deal they’d lose out on sales of prosecco?


    It’s probably a good thing that I never entered the diplomatic service, I’ve been getting it completely wrong all these years.

    I was suffering under the illusion that if you were representing your country in an international capacity where your actions will have an impact on trade, employment, and future prosperity, you were supposed to make an effort to be charming, courteous and – while stopping short of obsequious – make every effort to ingratiate yourself with those you came in contact with.

    Apparently that’s nonsense, what you need to do is make demands at Johnny Foreigner in order to show him his place in the world and point out to the dimwit that he’d better jolly well do as required, because we’re British by Jove.

    I’m sure this approach will serve us well.

  • Angry Mob

    The 30,000 staff was in a report written by consulting firm Deloitte in a pitch for work.

  • Anglo-Irish

    If so it seems a strange way to go about pitching for work ” you lot are so incompetent it’ll take 30,000 extra staff to sort this out “.

    Not saying it isn’t true but if someone came up with a suggestion like that to me the first thing I’d do is seek other advice, quickly.

    The reports say that it was in a ‘leaked memo’ and as a memo is an internal communication between departments or staff then it presumably was given some credence by someone.

    Otherwise the memo would have been along the lines of ” Look what these pillocks are suggesting “.

    In which case it wouldn’t have been leaked because there would have been no story.

  • Starviking

    The sad thing is, there is a cogent argument to be made for all of Europe suffering if there is a ‘bad’ deal on Brexit – a lot of big projects rely on the close co-ordination of people and production across Europe – shutting the door on the UK would be shutting the door on their own leg, metaphorically speaking. Now Europe could do without that ‘leg’, but a talented negotiator could convince otherwise. Sadly, Boris’ talents seems to be those suited to clowns.

  • Reader

    Anglo-Irish: Did you see where Boris got into an argument with an Italian Minister over Brexit when he suggested that if Italy didn’t agree to giving us a good deal they’d lose out on sales of prosecco?
    There’s a saying about elections – that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose. It’s been mentioned a few times in connection with Trump before and after the vote. It’s maybe even more relevant for the Brexit negotiations – because the negotiations haven’t actually started yet.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I agree, but as the Italian Minister pointed out to the Buffoon Boris the EU losses are divisible by 27 whilst the UK takes the full hit.

    Unfortunately for Ireland it will be effected more than most.

    During my business career I took part in negotiations on a daily basis. Small beer obviously in comparison, but the principles still apply.

    The aim is to satisfy both parties as best that you can. It’s a business arrangement and hopefully one that will leave a good feeling with both parties and pave the way for future deals.

    Talking about the UK being punished for its decision to leave is political claptrap and hyperbole as demonstrated by Trump.

    Business is business and emotion should be discounted.
    The interests of both parties to the deal are what matter.

    Having said which, it’s difficult to see how the UK hopes to obtain a deal equal to its existing one.

    Concessions are going to have to be made and it’s the number and impact of those concessions that will determine as to whether we’ve done the right thing.

    To date our ‘leaders’ aren’t overly impressing, let’s hope they can raise their game.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Whilst I understand all of that what was Boris doing?

    He isn’t in an election and he isn’t negotiating, all he appears to be doing is playing the smart arse and annoying people.

    It is hardly the job of the Foreign Secretary to amble around in foreign parts winding everybody up is it?

    What Theresa was thinking of appointing that jackass to such a position is beyond me, he’s neither use nor ornament.

  • aquifer

    Love it. “Take back control” was a hoax, a conjuring trick performed daily by a right wing press scared of the EU breaking up their cross media platform cartels, a recollection of loss of whatever you miss most. A formidable media strategy.

    Through the EU commission, the British government always had a veto, but did not use it, presumably because they were satisfied with what they were getting in negotiation.

    Blaming Europe and foreigners for stuff done to you by your own government was always easier that explaining those tradeoffs or admitting that your negotiators were incompetent. Boris’s dad seemed sensible enough.

    Son Boris made a press career out of imagining bananas bent in accordance with EU regulations.

    And the media’s pitiful excuse for balance?

    On the one hand a spokesperson for a functioning co-operative economy, and on the other a performing troupe of little British fantasists prone to fiscal misrepresentation.

    A very British coup, run by the Ministry of funny walking the plank.

  • Starviking

    To be honest, the UK would probably have to use its larger-than-standard NATO contributions as a lever to get any kind of “good” deal out of the EU, and event then that might backfire.

  • Starviking

    Well, the Italian Minister is off-track too, as I’m sure the purchasing clout of San Marino is quite less than Italy. The EU has around 510 million citizens, and the UK 65 million, so we’ve 9% of the population, a good bit better than 1/27.