In my previous post on this subject a month back I said "I really believe that neither side will be served by an final outcome which is half in, half out...that would be the worst outcome for the UK". The white paper which was agreed at the recent gathering at Chequers offers exactly that - it is a complete cop out and fudge.
From the very start of her time as PM, Mrs May has said Brexit means Brexit. On the day she became PM in July 2016 she stood outside 10 Downing St and said :
"There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it by the back door and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the EU and, as Prime Minister, I will make sure that we leave the EU".
At the time, I took those words at face value but I am now wondering how sincere she was then or has she changed her mind and bottled out of pushing through some tough policy decisions? I honestly do not understand how she gets from that statement to what is laid out in the white paper.
In the crunch meeting of the cabinet at Chequers in early July, the PM presented her white paper which set out her detailed position on Brexit which prompted the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis, Brexit Minister Steve Baker and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. It seems clear from the statement of Baker that for several months there has been a secret 'establishment elite' set up by the cabinet office working on a parallel plan to deliver a much softer Brexit to the plan the Brexit Secretary and DExEU had been working on. He calls it EEA-lite.
It feels to me there are some very powerful interests who have decided they want an outcome of 'business as usual' whilst at the same time giving the appearance of delivering on the Brexit vote. I imagine the Chancellor and some senior civil servants such as Olly Robbins and other senior mandarins have been shaping the direction of travel for some time. I have heard it referred to as the 'Hotel California' option where you can check out any time you like but never leave.
This is a plot which would not seem out of place in the 'House of Cards' political drama. I am wondering who is really controlling our PM behind the scenes. Everything is certainly not how it looks on the surface...maybe that is how real politics works, tell everybody one thing whilst secretly planning to do the opposite.
Proposals on Trade
The PM repeats her mantra that we are leaving the customs union and the single market... if she says it enough times it will be true.
The phased introduction of a new Facilitated Customs Arrangement that would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU as if in a combined customs territory, while enabling the UK to control tariffs for its own trade with the rest of the world and ensure businesses pay the right tariff...
This is effectively a plan to remain in the single market for goods but not services which account for 80% of our economy. Mrs May can sell this on the basis of free-flow of goods and no hard border in NI whist seemingly retaining the freedom to negotiate trade deals with other non-EU countries such as the USA. Note the word 'phased'...this is a fudge and designed to get the government past the next election in 2022
A common rulebook for goods including agri-food, covering only those rules necessary to provide for frictionless trade at the border – meaning that the UK would make an upfront choice to commit by treaty to ongoing harmonisation with the relevant EU rules, with all those rules legislated for by Parliament or the devolved legislatures.
This is not a common rule book, it is the EU rule book and any trade deal we want with other countries would have to comply and this ties us indefinitely to the EU and would compromise our ability to strike our independent deals with some of the largest economies - the likes of India, China and US who would likely negotiate deals directly with the EU rather than the UK.
Mrs May has now set out her Brexit stall which, even before it is watered down during further negotiations with the EU, will satisfy neither remainers or leavers. It will be BRINO - Brexit in name only and we will be neither fully in or fully out. What an absolute shambles we seem to have made for ourselves.
In the referendum the question was very simple - do you want to leave the EU or remain in the EU? The outcome was leave but this is now being reinterpreted as leave means half-in and half-out. If that had been a third option on the ballot paper I wonder how many people would have voted for it.
Her judgment is not the best. She called a general election in 2017 which badly backfired and resulted in her party losing their majority. She offered to stay on as PM as long as they wanted her.
She is now gambling again. Maybe she has an addiction problem and needs some help.
I am really not at all sure where things will go from here.
Parliament breaks up for the holidays next week which will provide some time for all sides to reflect. We voted to leave the EU, Article 50 was triggered last March and most of the MPs accept we will leave but cannot agree on what formula this will take.
If a Chequers-based deal can be agreed by the end of this year, then this would need to be approved by Parliament. The SNP and Labour would not be in favour and there will likely be a large number of ERG MPs against so I cannot see it getting approval. If rejected then the PM would have to resign and call a general election.
I believe the EU are unlikely to agree the Chequers proposals unless drastically watered down in which case we could move to no deal and leave on WTO rules. After all, our PM has always said no deal is better than a bad deal. This is how we operate with countries outside of the EU and it is the basis for trade between the EU and USA. Of course, it would not preclude a trade deal with the EU at a later date when the economic benefits to both sides became clearer.
However a no deal situation would likewise need the approval of Parliament and may also be rejected with the same result.
There are some calling for a second referendum. In my humble opinion this is a non-starter. This needs to be authorised by Parliament which is very unlikely and, whilst there was overwhelming support for the first, there would be little support for a second. Also, what would be the question asked in a second referendum..surely not the same as the first? A second referendum would not resolve this issue...what then, a third referendum?
This is unravelling at a rate of knots, the government are losing credibility and if something is not done quickly we will face the prospect of a national emergency. It's anyone's guess how this will end up but I honestly cannot see a good outcome from where we are now.
Maybe time to stockpile some tinned food and get hold of a generator.
As they say, interesting times!