Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Delusion and reality

One of the problems from which the delusional often suffer is that the real world has a tendency to intervene, and can’t always simply be imagined away. For Brexiteers, the hard reality that they are not going to persuade anyone to give them any new concessions by threatening to simply renege on existing financial obligations has been a long time coming, but there does seem to be an inkling of progress towards a more realistic position.  It’s not agreed yet, of course, and we don’t yet know the final figure.  It will almost certainly be higher than the headline figure being quoted, but a bit of skilful negotiation on both sides might be enough to hide the final total in a plethora of rebates, discounts and conditional payments.
There has also been talk for a while about progress on protecting the rights of EU citizens.  If it weren’t for the innate dislike that some people seem to have of all foreigners, this should have been the easiest of all to resolve.  All they ever had to do was to extend the rights of UK citizens to match those of EU citizens.  Again, progress has been hindered by an unwillingness to give the citizens of the UK more rights.  I think it’s called ‘taking back control’.
That leaves the one that the UK imperialists always thought was going to be the easiest of all to settle, and that’s the question of the border with the Republic of Ireland.  There was never any rational basis for assuming that it would be easy, but a failure to understand that the republic is an independent state, with full membership rights of the EU, rather than some sort of vassal state of the UK has blinded them to the fact that the EU 27 were always going to be more likely to unite behind a loyal continuing member than to abandon that member's interests in pursuit of a deal with a troublesome departing member.  The treatment being meted out to Ireland by some sections of the press well displays the lingering imperialism and exceptionalism which has dogged the UK for generations.
In purely logical terms, I have some sympathy with the position adopted by Liam Fox, which is that the nature of the border required depends on the nature of the trade deal between the EU and the UK, and might therefore be better dealt with in phase 2.  Or rather, I would have more sympathy if the UK government had not, during phase 1, removed from the table all the practical options which would allow an open border to continue, demanding instead that the EU come up with a proposal to avoid the logical consequences of Brexit for the border.
The key word there is practical, and how it is interpreted.  It has long been clear that the real objective of the Brexiteer ideologues isn’t simply to remove the UK from the EU, it is to abolish the EU and replace it with a purely economic relationship based entirely on trade.  How else can anyone interpret the demand for a trade agreement as good – or better – that the one we have, but without membership of the single market or the customs union?  Now if somebody believes – as I suspect that Fox does – that Brexit is just the first step towards that goal, and that the UK crashing out with no agreement on a future relationship will help to bring that about, then the position being adopted actually makes some sort of sense.  But to repeat the opening line, one of the problems from which the delusional often suffer is that the real world has a tendency to intervene, and can’t always simply be imagined away.

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