Sunday, 21 August 2016
Britain has made a wise decision. Brexit will be great.
The main function of Sunday papers is to do news round ups so that those who only really bother with news can catch up on the week's events. That is why Sunday papers are a wholly different beast. They specialise in telling us what we already know in a tone that assumes we know nothing. In the internet age this is increasingly valueless journalism, made worse by the fact that journalists are the laziest creatures anywhere. Sunday Times hacks make three toed sloths look like Mo Farrah.
This morning they take a measure of where we stand with Brexit. That means they have to dream up creative ways of telling us that nothing has happened and dream up yet more idle speculation on what might happen when there have been no events which could radically alter the narrative.
Some are imbued with the idea that Brexit may yet be kicked into the long grass even though there is no evidence to support this. The EU is gearing up for it and the civil service has been hiring key people all through the summer. Only when it is equipped to start work will it start to explore the options. Until then we can expect no affirmative signals.
Some have it that Brexit has not caused the recession many predicted and some point out that the worst is yet to come. My own view has not changed. There will be a slowdown and it probably will cause a recession. It will however be one of those recessions where there are no real tangible effects and things plod on as normal but with a few decisions deferred. As far as most people are concerned, it makes no real difference either way. Also, nobody can claim with any certainty that it wasn't coming anyway.
What we can say is that there won't be any spectacular disruption to anyone's life as a result of Brexit. I have outlined the hazards and the worst case scenarios but the risks are slight. I only spell out the risks because it is important to know what the possibilities are and to give people an idea of just how extensive EU governance is. Most people vastly underestimate just how pervasive the EU is.
In the real world though, nobody us looking to disrupt supply chains. Even if we leave the single market we will have a mutual recognition agreement on conformity assessment and we will maintain the present set of rules for a decade at the very least. Only if talks fail completely will be see any tangible disruption but as we are going about this carefully and deferring Article 50, we now have some breathing room to plan our approach.
What that means is that the main threats to the economy are the peripherals like financial services passporting. We do not know what the final agreement will look like but we do know there will be some provisions for these areas. In this we might take a big hit. One way or another we will pay a price for leaving the EU and deferred investment will have an effect on growth. And I still don't care. I still want to leave the EU.
Everything we are discussing here is short to mid term stuff. Something will get sorted out and we could never expect for things to seamlessly slot into place when undertaking such a profound and far reaching step in our development. Brexit is about breaking out of the existing economic paradigm and designing a new one.
In order to do that we need to acquire institutional knowledge of how the system works. This is something we have let slide over the years and it will take time to understand it all. Only once we have a complete picture will we be able to break off the most pressing concerns and address them. In all likelihood we will have continuity agreements so we can pick off areas for divergence one at a time. In this we will likely look at agriculture and rural affairs concurrently with fishing while a whole new working group is set up to look at financial services.
Much of what we can do depends entirely on whether we stay in the single market or not. Having developed my thinking I am now of the view that it does not matter in that because we are leaving the EU we will need transitional arrangements for legacy commitments, goods will move freely as they did before and even if we end freedom of movement we will have a generous quota system that won't be that hard to navigate. By the time you add in the peripherals such as decentralised agencies and non-treaty agreements like Erasmus the whole package starts to look very much like the single market even if we are not actually part of it on paper.
The reason I still push for an EEA agreement is that we might as well use an existing framework as developing something else to achieve the same thing, covering more or less the same areas is a waste of time. It's also safer. It removes many of the points of failure which could see tangible disruption to supply chains. We would have to be spectacularly incompetent to bring about the doom predicted by the remain camp. Admittedly our run of the mill incompetence comes close but we would have to be trying to screw it up to make it that bad.
The short of it is that nothing is going to be that different for at least a decade. The recession will only last as long as Article 50 talks and when business realises the status quo has a shelf life of another ten years or more they can continue according to their plans and projections. Smarter investors have already concluded that weathering the storm is tolerable and it's only short term speculators who have a need to warehouse their money elsewhere til the dust settles. Everything between now and then is just politics and space filler to be kicked around by idle hacks.
What really interests us is how we will reform trade and agriculture in the coming years. This is where I see real opportunities for change whereby those things that have been set in stone for decades can be challenged and entirely new ideas can be tested and trialled. It is also likely that we will have a good deal more control over labour laws and a savvy conservative government could very easily kick start hiring by making the labour market more competitive. The sooner the Agency Workers Directive goes in the bin the better.
Trade wise, the government will soon realise that bilateral deals yield little for Britain as we are already fairly open. Once the grubby think tank consultants are swept aside in favour of real expertise we will see the government looking for more creative means of enhancing trade where we will see a revival of our diplomatic corps. We will need to be aggressively seeking out new opportunities for trade and international development will become key to that. If you look outside the claustrophobic EU trade debate, trade facilitation is the next big thing. It will take time for the government to wake up - but it will wake up. It doesn't have a choice.
Ten years after Brexit things are going to look very different. The national conversation will have changed. Trade and agriculture will be central to politics. Real foreign policy will be a subject of debate once more. The substance free tinkering around the edges will have to give way to grown up concerns. Things will change because they will have to. And in so doing it will present many long buried opportunities. We will then be kicking ourselves that we didn't do it sooner.
I am under no illusions that there is a price to pay for leaving the EU and I don't for a minute think that the process will be cheap. We won't be saving any money - but that was always a fringe concern. What we will have is a UK more involved in global forums looking at how we get the best from current trends in trade and regulation. We will be taking more of an interest in it since we have the right to refuse bad rules we don't want. No more will we watch helplessly as the commission overrules our vote.
In the long run I think it will be totally worth it and the snivelling and petulant remainers will then pretend they always thought Brexit could be a success. From my point of view, this is an exciting time for Britain. Politics has not been this interesting for as long as I can remember and it's a far cry from debates around how Mr Miliband eats a bacon sandwich. It's a revival of politics and media where there is genuine competition to see who can surround the issues. For sure, the laziness of silly season is starting to grate, but very soon the debate will be introducing entirely new concepts to the media - concepts that have been neglected for forty years. It's going to be great!
Only if you're bogged down with the dismal dogmas of the status quo do you find Brexit a threatening prospect. You have to be lacking in ambition and imagination to think that the creaking and stifling EU represents the best of what is possible. How shrivelled and cynical must you be to think that because something is time consuming and complex that it should not be attempted? Those are people we absolutely should not listen to.
On the other side of this we'll have a government equipped with extensive know-how along with a boot up the backside for the electorate to use it in our interests. No longer can we dither and defer decision making to the EU. They will no longer have that excuse. EU cooperation will be by choice instead of by diktat. We will have a veto and we will use it. Once we get used to wielding our influence we will look back and wonder why we ever gave it up. To hell with the naysayers. This is the best thing that has happened to Britain in my entire lifetime. Britain has made a wise decision.