Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Non-voting membership?

As the official Brexit negotiations continue at a pace which would appear on the slow side to a snail, the contradictions within the ‘leave’ side become increasingly apparent.  This post has already been widely shared as a word of warning from a leaver about the direction that things are taking.  Some have interpreted it as a sign that leavers are changing their mind, but I think that what it actually shows is that ‘leave’ means – and always did mean – different things to different people.  The campaign may have managed, by fair means and foul, to amass a slender majority in favour of the simplistic concept of leaving the EU, but there was never any real agreement about what that would mean in practice.  I read the article less as an expression of regret about the fact of Brexit and more as laying the groundwork to say that those in charge got the detail rather than the principle wrong.
Laying the groundwork for blaming someone else is what the Brexit minister seems to be doggedly trying to do as well.  Demanding ‘flexibility’ from the EU27 sounds more like an attempt to blame Brussels inflexibility than make any sort of breakthrough in the negotiations.  Looking at the detail of the ‘flexibility’ that he’s asking for, it seems that it’s just a continuation of the ‘have cake and eat it’ dictum of the Foreign Secretary.  It amounts to a demand that the UK should continue to enjoy all the benefits of membership (and even retain an input to the regulations) whilst not being a member and reserving the right to do all sorts of things which members are not allowed to do.  In practical terms, it’s not far short of asking the EU to more or less disband itself and turn itself into a much looser relationship solely to accommodate the UK.
That’s not as stupid, in principle at least, as it might appear – I’ve argued before that the one context in which Brexit starts to look like a coherent policy is the context in which it is the first brick to fall in a process of pulling down the entire edifice.  The Brexiteers might say, repeatedly, that they want the EU to remain as a strong and united partner, but that’s the last thing they really need.  The problem is that there are no signs that the expected collapse is going to happen any day soon; in fact, quite the reverse.  If anything, Brexit appears to be provoking more, rather than less, unity among the 27.
But Davis is right on one important thing: if a deal is to be done, there will be a need for a lot more flexibility.  It’s just that it needs to come from the 1, not the 27.  The question is whether he prefers to stick to the ideological view of many within his party, and allow the talks to fail whilst blaming someone else, or whether he’s prepared to be flexible to the point at which non-membership looks increasingly similar to membership, but without a vote.  That latter is gaining in credibility as a likely outcome, as this piece suggests.  The potential political consequences are very far-reaching.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

I agree flexibility is the key to a good negotiation, but what will create that flexibility will only be known in the final stages of the negotiations (the five minutes to midnight) and by that, I mean the condition of world trade, financial health of the banking system and what is on the world political agenda.
The Fourth Reich (EU) set their theme of flexibility by taking a lesson from the Third Reich (funny that) when dealing with POW camps, in that those who escaped and captured or tried to escape were servilely punished, to ensure that others in the camp did not dare do the same. This by and large was very successful, as most POW`s on evaluating the risks were happy to sit out the war – my Uncle was one of their guests.
This is a very sad position for any organisation based on mutual advantage to take and shows all that is wrong with that body, but it might be that the Fourth Reich is planning for failure from the outset as they have this crazy requirement for the 27 states to agree to the deal. Now, we know that is not going to happen as Malta (if it has the same government) will say No as it’s a post-colonial thing, Spain might be forced to do the same based on domestic issue around Gibraltar and there are other smaller countries in Eastern and Southern Europe that are not exposed to the English economy so will demand concession and/or cash from the Commission for their support – sadly that’s how it works.
So, I have a plea to the Remainers and the Brexiters; please don`t bore the hell out of us over the next eighteen months by ranting about what might or might not happen.