Friday, December 8, 2017

Brexit 'deal agreed' - But is it a good deal for the UK?

This is a voyage into the unknown which was always going to be complex and challenging. The terms of the divorce were never going to be amicable as Europe cannot be seen to make it easy for the UK as they will clearly want to discourage other European nations from going down a similar road

Source: European Union Experts
As a member of the British public I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the constant messages coming out of Westminster and Brussels about Brexit. Like most people, I am not party to the Brexit negotiations, so I have to make do with the scraps of information that are constantly thrown at me through the media, which basically tell me nothing.  All we seem to be hearing is that ‘Britain has made concessions on this and concessions on that’. We hear today that the UK and EU have now agreed a deal for stage one of the negotiations, but how do we know if it is a good deal or not? Have the EU made any concessions? When I think of the Brexit negotiations I get the image of a vulnerable British rabbit encircled by 27 European wolves all waiting to pounce on every whimper that the rabbit makes, until it reaches a point where the rabbit is terrified into conceding for fear of being attacked by the wolves. What I want to know is where is the British Lion that will stand its ground, fight its corner and keep the wolves at bay?

At this moment in time, above everything what we need is strong leadership. You may not like Donald Trump or agree with his approach to politics or agree with his policies, however, there is no doubt that he is in charge and that he is not prepared to be messed around. Teresa May continually told us that she wanted to 'strengthen her hand' with Europe and so she called a 'snap' election. This must rate as one of the biggest misjudgements in British political history because, instead of strengthening her hand she ended up cutting one of them off!  With the hand that remained she had to hold out the begging bowl to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to secure a very slim overall Parliamentary majority. The European Union must have laughed its socks off in the knowledge that they would now be negotiating with a wounded Prime Minister, with limited power who faced opposition from all corners including her own party. Not exactly the strong leadership that we need, is it?

Source: Sheet Plant Association
Whether people voted remain or leave is now irrelevant, that debate and that ship has now sailed. There is no point in dwelling on this because on Thursday 23rd June 2016 51.9% of the British public decided to leave Europe, and at 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019 the UK will leave Europe. The triggering of Article 50 seemed to take forever as we were told that the UK wanted to be as ‘prepared’ as we could before giving formal notice to Europe that we would be parting ways. It took nearly nine months from the referendum before Article 50 was finally triggered on 29th March 2017, giving us two further years to ‘negotiate’ a divorce. This is a voyage into the unknown which was always going to be complex and challenging. The terms of the divorce were never going to be amicable as Europe cannot be seen to make it easy for the UK as they will clearly want to discourage other European nations from going down a similar road.

The economy and particularly trade are topics that continually arise as British industry tries to work out the impact of what Brexit will actually mean for imports/exports and to them and their business in a wider context. Again, the EU ‘dictated’ that the next stage of discussions (including trade) could not take place until we have dealt with three key issues; the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, the financial terms of the exit package and agreement of how to deal with the border between Northern and the Republic of Ireland. You would think with all of the UK concessions we have been hearing (which we have no real details about) that negotiations would have moved much quicker however, to the contrary, we are seeing headlines such as; ‘We can't go on like this': mood of resignation in EU as Brexit talks stutter’ in the Guardian (December 5th 2017) (Link). Within the article the current confusion and chaos around Brexit is summed up by a Finnish MEP; ‘the government’s weakness was 'a key question' for the EU. 'We are also in a very difficult position because it would not be in our interests to see the whole thing fall apart', 'At the same time … it’s not our duty to help the British government in a negotiation that is between them and us. The bottom line is that the May government is facing an impossible task', adding that promises made to British voters during the referendum campaign and before June’s snap election could not be kept. The government was in 'an ever-worsening, deteriorating cycle'.

It is a fact that there will be quite a number of years of ‘transition’ whether the UK strike a complete Brexit deal with the EU or not. It will take the UK and indeed European countries and their economies time to adjust as we get used to the reality of life without each other. Therefore, if we know and accept that there are some turbulent years ahead then the question arises of whether it is in the best interests of the UK to strike a deal with Europe that involves so many concessions that we are effectively still a European nation but without the ‘official membership’. There is plenty in the media about the implications of a ‘no deal scenario’ and yes, this would have serious implications.  In the Guardian (December 7th 2017) (Link) the House of Lords warn that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be ‘the worst outcome possible’.  Well, maybe it would but at this point in time nobody really knows. What I would like to see and I’m sure many others would share this view, is a British Government that shows some fight, a British Government that stands up for Britain, a British Government than shows leadership and a British Government that provides confidence to the British people that they have a plan in whichever scenario plays out.  At present, all we see if confusion, discord and poor leadership which has reached a point where we have no idea what is going on. Sadly, this also seems to be the case for those negotiating Brexit on our behalf! What a sad state of affairs.

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