The Brexit crunch may come as soon as Christmas. The British case should be taken more seriously

Many commentators on the Brexit negotiations, including Irish ones scarred by the diktat of the 2010 bailout and understandably opposed to the whole idea, talk as if the EU Commission’s  stance is not only immutable but deserves the status of Holy Writ, while the British position is purely faction-ridden and pathetic.

The contrast is too stark.

There is no absolute  logic to the EU’s making an adamantine sticking point out of  of undefined  “sufficient progress” on  UK financial contributions,  citizenship and the Irish border  before moving on to trade. The British argue that they have made substantial if not necessarily final offers on citizenship, financial contributions and the continuing influence of the European Court of Justice.  And if borders are to go up, if will not be the British who erect them.  For myself I can’t see how the Irish border question can be settled until free trade is dealt with.

Today, Theresa May will probe the EU Commission’s position in her report to the Commons after her Florence speech. Even though I’m a  Remainer and closer to Nick Clegg than anybody else, I believe the British government’s  case needs headroom. Leaving aside troubled internal Tory politics, the case made by the ardent Brexiter Bernard Jenkin MP deserves space.

A soft customs frontier should be established from the day the UK leaves the EU. There is no need for zealous enforcement by the UK or by the EU of the “rules of origin” that govern the international trade in goods. There is no need for tariffs if the EU and the UK have jointly notified the World Trade Organisation of our intention to implement a zero-tariff comprehensive trade deal, and of our special customs agreement for the interim. If everyone was intent on being reasonable, the practical or legal problems would be surmountable. However, the EU is determined to be anything but. It refused to enter any discussions at all until the UK had invoked article 50. We did so, and still the EU refused to discuss the future trade relationship, insisting first on “sufficient progress” on citizenship, money and the Northern Ireland border.

If  the political leaders  refuse Mrs May’s appeal to move on to trade – or at least define what is meant by “sufficient progress” – the spectre is immediately raised of crashing out in a hard Brexit that all but the most ardent Leavers fear.  This could even happen as soon as next month. It looks as if the bare knuckle politics of Brexit is about to begin. Danish support may not be decisive but  may begin to create the flexibility the UK is looking  for and we all need.

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  • NewerSouthernMan

    You’re probably right. But it’s looking like a very lucky break.

  • Salmondnet

    Believe me I’m not being sarcastic.

  • Sean Danaher

    Hi Korhomme
    Its much worse than that. The richest area in the EU by far is Inner London West with a staggering 580% of the EU average. The worst in North Western Europe is not UKNI but West Wales and the Valleys at 68% of the UK average (NI is 78% and the BMW region of Ireland is at 80%, though the S&E region of Ireland with a much bigger population is at 157%).

    There is a link here to the 2017 data; I know Seaan was going to post one http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistical-atlas/gis/viewer/?year=&chapter=06&mids=BKGCNT,C06M01,CNTOVL&o=1,1,0.7&center=57.01017,1.38473,4&ch=C05,ECF,C06&lcis=C06M01&

  • Damien Mullan

    “You’re playing senior hurling now lads”, as the late irrepressible Seamus Brennan once said to the Greens in 2007.

    It’s utter folly, Davis and May’s hubris will be consigned to the same rocks as that of Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis.

  • Damien Mullan

    “Tariffs will produce much greater income for the UK than the EU”

    You obviously don’t know how tariffs work. It’s the domestic consumer who pays, that’s the nature of tariffs, its intent is to change domestic consumer behavior by making it more expensive to buy imports.

    For instance, the US Commerce Department’s recent ruling, is not that Bombardier is to pay more, but that Delta is to pay more, almost quadruple, the intent is to price Bombardier out, thus forcing Delta to buy elsewhere, preferably from the Trump administration perspective, to buy American.

    So if the UK slaps on tariffs on goods the UK itself does not produce, they will force domestic consumers and companies to pay more, which will increase inflation and reduce disposal income, hurting living standards, it will also force companies to reduce investment as they are forced to pay more for imports.

    So good luck with that.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Do you think the union was created for the benefit of (a) Ireland or (b) Great Britain?

  • Sprite

    do you mean Ireland leaving the UK?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m entirely in agreement with everything you’re saying here. In addition I note that the Europeans employ variants on an inquisitorial legal system derived from Roman law where the intent is to get to the truth, whereas we have always worked from an adversarial system which works on conflicting arguments clashing……Enough said……

  • Pang

    Your mother was a hamster & your father smelled of elderberries. Now go away, or we will taunt you a second time!

  • Korhomme

    Hi Sean

    Thanks for the info and the link. I was aware of the geographical differences in the UK, but I wasn’t aware that it was so marked; I see it as a real failure of government.

    And while I was also aware that RoI was ‘richer’ than NI, again I didn’t know by how much. Though, I parked at Dublin Airport short stay a few weeks ago; I was impressed by the massed ranks of top-end BMWs, Audis and Mercs; almost a little scared after I’d seen the short stay parking at City Airport.

    One story has always puzzled me a bit; the area between Coalisland to Washingbay on the shores of Lough Neagh was said to be one of the most deprived parts of NI. Years ago, there was an EU delegation of some sort; a local councillor or similar worthy felt he could not show them this area. Were you to drive there, the McMansions and the large cars would make you wonder about statistics.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Skibo, thank you, a key point I’ve been attempting to explain to Unionists for donkeys years! To Westminster we are a “ remote region” like Cornwall or the Isle of Skye. To The Dail, striving to develop into being one of the top six world economies, we are as important as Munster or Connaught and will attract the regional development interest that has marked Ireland’s economic growth. I am astonished that our fellow citizens choose to tie themselves to an indifferent partner rather than one who has some interest in our good. In the 1930s Westminster averaged .05 of its business time on anything to do with here. This went down until the 1960s revived interest and, accordingly, debate (through action on the streets, rather than in any chamber)……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks Sean…oh, it seemed your email did not work when I sent you details about “ the book”……I’ll try again…..

  • Korhomme

    Ah yes, that was Napoleon.

  • Skibo

    I don’t think he ever vacated the position. Libya comment a simple example.

  • Korhomme

    That Farage said that if it was 48/52% against him, he would try again.

    The 52% represent about 37% of the electorate; those aged 16 and 17 didn’t get to vote, yet it will affect them more than pensioners. And what of those who didn’t vote?

    An ‘advisory’ vote, we’re told. Yet the government has decided that immigration is the issue that ‘decided’ things (on what evidence? — who needs evidence?), and trade etc are secondary.

    If we must have referendums for this sort of thing, let them have a ‘supermajority’, say >65% of the popular and with a majority of the regions. But we got a narrow majority, a not very spectacular turnout, and two regions voted Remain.

  • lizmcneill

    Yeah, but make it official like.

  • lizmcneill

    Brace yourself for the blast of the Daily Heil being turned on NI…..

  • Roger

    Ireland, per google, had a GDP* of US$57.15b in 1994 and U$294.1b in 2016.

    1994 saw ‘pretty much’ the end of the Troubles in UKNI.

    I don’t have figures for UKNI. *I accept GDP isn’t a superb measure and those numbers ignore inflation.

    “Now they are off the stage…”

    But surely above numbers underscore that 1994 is eons ago now. They’ve been off the stage for a generation. Not much more relevant than protectionism in 1950s Ireland. A poor excuse for anything.

    In 1994 Mandela was just taking over…That’s how long ago that was…

    As for EU subsidies, they pale in comparison to the subsidies UKNI didn’t just receive for a few years but for generations. And still does.

    Again, as for Troubles, I wonder how strongly Israel’s economy grew in the same period.

    Then there’s the notion of UKNI emulating Ireland. It can’t. UKNI operates as a UK province. The UK makes the big decisions.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There are opportunities for sure; there are also potentially massive downsides. Make no mistake, the Republic does not want Brexit, economically.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Delusional I’m afraid. Northern Ireland is different, there is no getting around that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    other routes that take twice the time. That’s why a good trade and customs deal is essential

  • Like this, just withou the comedy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_JOGmXpe5I

  • Croiteir

    Yes – it is unfortunately tagged onto Britain

  • Croiteir

    They have not been paying their way since 1935.

    https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=1937-05-06a.1237.7

  • Croiteir

    According to the NI Executive over £13bn in EU funds have been received since 1994 and the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through the single farm payment accounts for 87% of total farming income!

    A House of Lords committee was told that some 60% of those working in NI agri‑food factories are non‑UK nationals while 90% of the seasonal labour required to handle the seasonality within the industry, is non‑UK labour.

  • Croiteir

    Then the UK needs to worry, especially Larne Belfast and Warrenpoint if those lorries start travelling to France direct through Rosslare. It will be northern, Scottish and English jobs at risk there.

  • Croiteir

    An even bigger loss to Britain if they try to block internal EU trade and engage in a trade war with the EU.

  • Croiteir

    No – realistic, Britain would be economically destroyed if it tries to isolate Irish access to Europe. No Flights across EU airspace would end that nonsense smartly. Britain will do as they are told.

  • Croiteir

    If the British want to commit hari kari by taking on the EU in a trade war then let them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d entirely agree with the supermajority idea. But of course the simple “ yes or no” of the question is utterly inadequate to assess public feelings on the matter. If the referendum was to mean anything then it required a series of questions to assess what kind of remain or exit the percentages would qualify the straight yes or no with.

    The one certain thing is that the negotiators may claim a mandate on, as you point out 37% of the actual electorate, but even that cannot be argued as a mandate for a hard exit which utterly disrupts our economy with export reduced by foreign tariffs and inevitably raises prices here to reflect the tariffs we put on imports! “Back to the 1960s” then.

  • Croiteir

    It was the real and present damage caused by extremist unionists that caused the imposition and, unfortunately to this day, the retention of the border that has caused the economic decline of this region since their imposed partition. The joining of the EEC helped to alleviate this damage, no the leaving of the EU will expose us to its corrosive effects once again.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I know just what difficulties some people have with the Emperor and avoided mentioning him. A friend high up in the ministry of defence of the day asked me at a party in the 1980s just how I could be so enthusiastic about Napoleon, “ Luis XIV I can get, but Napoleon, another pushy little corporal like Hitler….”

    Of course he was speaking an encoded prejudicethe English have against anyone who endangered the English hand on the fulcrum of the European political see-saw! That Napoleon made the liberal Europe Hitler would have abolished brutally seems to have passed such thinking by. And the present exit represents to me the pique of realising that the old balance of power doctrine is well and truly dead now that Europe has the strength to balance itself.

  • Sean Danaher

    I would have a go at writing something substantial but fear it will inevitably be marked as spam. I won’t be accompanying the wife to 10 Downing St today so may have few hours. If I can have some assurance from a moderator that a human will look at it if it goes into spam, I will have a go.

  • Korhomme

    The referendum can also be seen as a tool in the management of internal Tory discipline rather than some sort of ‘will of the people’ idea of democracy. Though when I hear the word ‘democracy’, like Goebbels and Kultur, ‘entsichere ich meinem Browning’.

    Meanwhile, I’ll continue my virtual journey round the border with Richard Hayward’s ‘Border Foray’ as my guide in an attempt to retain my sanity.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have an old record of my grandfathers of Richard Hayward singing, playing his gut strung harp, and most notably reciting Florence Mary Wilson’s “ The Man from God Knows Were”. I met quite a few people who knew Richard, alll concurring at his important role as a Cultural bridge during the long almost anti-Cultural years of stale partition! I was lucky enough to attend the unveiling of his blue plaque at the Antrim road house recently.

  • runnymede

    No we won’t.

  • runnymede

    But we won’t put tariffs on things we don’t produce.

  • runnymede

    There are no tariffs on services exports. Only goods.

  • Korhomme

    Indeed; and it’s only recently I became aware of how much is owed to Fox’s Glacier Mints 😉

  • lizmcneill

    Where are the markets though?

  • lizmcneill

    We’re talking about the no deal, lorry-park-Kent scenario here, no?
    Tell that bit about a good deal being essential to the Tory negotiators, I’m not sure they get it 🙁

  • Salmondnet

    Shame on you. There is no place for hamsterism in the modern world.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    Yes, but Boris says any number of things, with tenuous connections to reality and even less to his own government. But he is a shill for the fanatic wing, otherwise he would have been fired long ago. I think they are on course to a no-deal scenario, but it depends on what leadership and resistance emerges from the charred remnants of ‘British common sense’. Ironic that they are all romanticised and teary-eyed about OBE Britain, and acting irrationally, given that they once mistakenly attributed these things as features of the Irish and the celtic Other.

  • Damien Mullan

    Consult WTO rules on discrimination. It’s not allowed.

  • Stifler’s Mom

    We have. Lorries crossing borders has been done before. Actually its been done world wide for like years and stuff.. !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The day job paid the bills!

  • Carl McClean Uup

    Och you beat me to it.

  • Skibo

    There will be no opportunity for services with the UK outside the EU unless they open an office in a country in the EU much like most of the financial sector are at at the moment.

  • Skibo

    Nothing delusional about the fall for the North since partition.
    The only way the North is different to the South is that the South have progressed ever since they threw off the shackles of Britain deciding the direction of the economy.

  • Gary Da;ze;;

    Of major impact was the refusal of the Gov to allow British citizens living abroad a vote. A ridiculous decision in such an important referendum. The whole thing was sloppy thinking on the part of Cameron’s Government.

  • Korhomme

    Agreed.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    agreed

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree

  • Reader

    Korhomme: those aged 16 and 17 didn’t get to vote, yet it will affect them more than pensioners.
    What about those aged 6 & 7? They will be affected more than those aged 16 and 17.
    What’s your position on requiring a supermajority on an even bigger decision – a Northern Ireland border poll?

  • Reader

    Trasna: Now Britain wants to skip to trade because they want to put NI back of the list.
    The British have always known – and the Irish recently realised – that you can’t sort out the trade border without knowing the shape of the trade deal.
    But try telling that to Barnier.

  • Korhomme

    I used 16 and 17 because many others also do so; at 17 you may drive a motor vehicle, and at 16 you may get married. It seemed a reasonable ‘cut off’ point.

    For kids younger than this? Well, as life begins at the point of fertilisation, so we are told, perhaps we should extend the franchise further. I’m not sure how any foetus, let alone a blastocyst, would actually cast a ballot, but I expect technology would find a way.