Friday 21 September 2018

EU Calls May’s Bluff – Time to start Stockpiling Tinned Food?

The European Union (EU) has been consistent in the two and a quarter years, although it seems like longer, since the UK referendum vote to leave the EU. They stated what their red lines were: a workable solution to keeping open the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and maintaining the ‘four freedoms’ of free movement of goods, services, capital and persons within the EU. Yes, the negotiations on Brexit, if we can call them that, have been couched in diplomatic language, but the EU’s position has not changed.

Indeed, on Northern Ireland, the UK agreed to the ‘backstop’ arrangement for the Irish border in December last year, but now wants to renege on this it seems. The EU summit in Saltzburg, Austria, appears to have displayed the utter frustration of EU nations with Britain’s delusions of grandeur, where prime minister, Theresa May was told in no uncertain terms that nothing the UK has come up with so far, is even close to addressing our Brexit relations with EU when we leave.

It was always likely that push was going to come to shove this autumn, as substantive agreement really needs to reached by the EU summit on 18 October, less than a month away, for the EU to deem it is worth holding a special summit in November, to finally make an agreement.

After farting around for over two years the British government, wasting everyone’s time with ludicrous plans, has now been put on the spot. Do we want a deal or not, appears to be the exasperated message from Europe?

Maybe we don’t want a deal, and should fess up and tell the EU this, because even a Canada style free trade agreement (no tariffs on trade) is not on offer unless the no border in Ireland issue is resolved. Certainly some people prefer the World Trade Organisation default position on the right of the Tory party and perhaps elsewhere.

This scenario would almost certainly cause a recession in the UK in the short term, eventually the UK may recover, but this will take several years, maybe ten, before we get back to anything like the situation we have inside the EU.

Some Brexiters even agree with analysis, Jacob Rees-Mogg thinks it might take fifty years for Britain to see the benefit of leaving the EU, so why is this so desirable? The rather vague slogan of ‘taking back control’ is the only justification that they can come up with. But what does this mean in practice?

Allowing US businesses to run the NHS? Eating fluoridated chicken and hormone pumped beef from the US? Allowing Genetically Modified crops to be grown in the UK? Reduced employment rights for workers? Reduced protection for our environment? Some freedom that.

It is not as though immigration will stop, or even reduce to the fabled tens of thousands when we do leave the EU. Britain is apparently trying to recruit Jamaican nurses to work in the NHS, and other sectors will need to do similarly, if the country is to function properly. After the Windrush scandal, why anyone would want to come to Britain is an open question, perhaps we will have to bribe them handsomely?    

Anything could still happen, we might crash out, we might compromise enough to get some kind of deal with EU, we might have another referendum and vote to stay in the EU, we might have a general election which if the Tories lose, could be a game changer.

But the way the Tory government is riven with division, but still clinging onto power, I now think that the most likely scenario is crashing out of the EU, which I didn’t think would happen. I thought sense in the end would prevail, and some sort of compromise would be reached. It looks like I was wrong.

So, start stocking up on tinned food and lock all doors and windows on 29 March next year. We are in for a bumpy ride.

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