Wednesday 25 January 2017

Brexit realities - 3

There is no such thing as a ‘soft’ Brexit.
It was Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, who said back in October “The only real alternative to a hard Brexit is no Brexit”.  Events are proving him right.  For all the talk and hot air, the decision to interpret the referendum result as being, first and foremost, a demand for an end to freedom of movement means that leaving the single market is inevitable; and the desire to negotiate separate trade deals means that full membership of the customs union is also a non-starter.  It is possible that there might be partial membership of the Customs Union and a transitional period, but that’s realistically the best that can be hoped for.
Welsh politicians who continue to argue that some form of membership of the single market can continue are not only wasting their energy, they are misleading the people of Wales and serving us badly as a result.  Since May laid out her 'plan', there is only Brexit or no Brexit. That’s the binary choice open to us.  Whatever words they use, all those who choose to say that they ‘accept the result – we’re leaving’ are now effectively supporting and facilitating a complete break.
When the Tories in Wales talk about getting the ‘best deal for Wales’ they are being considerably less than entirely honest.  The best deal is to stay in the EU – but they’ve taken that off the table.  The second best deal is to stay in the Single Market even whilst being outside the EU – but they’ve taken that off the table as well.  Anything else is, at best, the third best deal for Wales, and it would be better if they were to say openly and honestly that all they’re aiming for is to get the third best deal for Wales, because that’s all there is left to hope for.  And actually, they've already said that they will reject even that and walk away with an even worse option if they don’t get what they want, like a spoilt child taking his ball home.  

It’s important that people understand in Wales that ‘third-best’ is all that our politicians can now aim for, even if that’s something they would rather not admit.  Clarity on that point is not being helped by Labour and Plaid, who are promoting the idea that they can somehow use logic to persuade people who have their own 'alternative facts' to put the second best option back on the table. Whilst I don't disagree that that would be a desirable outcome, it's a position which is more likely to see them complaining from the side-lines than achieving anything very much.  Labour will huff and puff and table amendments; when those amendments are rejected by the Tory majority, they'll huff and they'll puff a bit more; and then they'll vote in favour of exiting the EU and blame the baby-eaters for everything.  It's more about political pantomime and playing the Westminster game than standing up for the best interests of Wales.  And, while the government put the case for the third-best option and the opposition put the case for reconsidering the second-best option, who exactly is arguing for the first-best option?
Now, it may be right, as the Brexiteers say, that in economic terms we’ll thank them in a few decades time.  I tend to agree with them that the UK economy will over time adapt to the new circumstances.  There will be winners and losers from the change, and we will all have our opinions as to which people will be in which group.  Whether, twenty years from now, the overall economy will be better or worse than it would have been had we remained in the EU is a matter of conjecture.  Conjecture is always interesting, but it’s not fact, and the truth is that none of us can know with any degree of certainty at this stage; we can only project forward based on our own assessment of probabilities. 
I’ve repeatedly made the point that I don’t see the issue in primarily economic terms anyway.  But those who do see it in economic terms and genuinely believe that the economy will improve over time, are absolutely right to pursue their aim doggedly (although I’d trust them more if they were to openly admit that they are treating it as short term pain for long term gain, and I’d give them even more credibility if they owned up to who exactly will take the short term pain and who will get the long term gain).  But equally, those who see it in economic terms and genuinely believe that the economy will be in a worse position over the long term have a duty to oppose that aim in principle, not just indulge in woolly-minded and ineffectual talk of doing no more than mitigating some of the worst effects, let alone resorting to parliamentary games.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you doing these series of posts, here's a few factual Brexit consequences for Wales, some affecting now, other as we negotiate and more when we leave.

Higher inflation.

Lower pound making everything more expensive as producers and retailers pass on costs to us consumers.

End of European Social Fund (ESF) or European Regional Economic Funds (ERDF) money, any replacement from the UK and Welsh Government will have to compete with Health, education etc for cash.

Airbus COO told Parliament that no tariff free access and free movement of people will be seriously dangerous' for them resulting in less investment in Flintshire plant which will in the medium term lead to Airbus relocating to an EU country.

A much reduced farming industry or no Welsh farming industry (despite a majority of farmers voting Leave) both will lead to higher food prices as we have to import almost all of what we need because we can produce it at world market price, due to labour and transport costs.

Leaving the EU also means losing protected status for Welsh Lamb, Halen Mon Salt and many more welsh food products and then there's the trade deal with New Zealand that will end probably end welsh lamb industry.

Tariff access to European single market where 68% of welsh exports went in 2016 and paying more for French wine, German beer etc etc as they put tariff on good we want to buy.

Welsh Universities and higher Education colleges losing research money, access to EU staff and research networks. EU staff are already leaving Welsh Universities

Erasmus exchange programme for young people to study abroad programme will go, as will all the others.

Significant rise is hate crime against EU citizens reported by all 4 welsh police forces

Add in the entire political class swallowing UKIP rhetoric on 'immigration' whole and its difficult to see an upside, but 52% voted for this and its sod the 48% who already know that this a disaster waiting to happen, but we're ploughing on regardless.