Wednesday, 29 March 2017
It is done.
Reading the letter from Mrs May and having watched PMQs on it, I note that the "no deal" threat has vanished. It would appear that battle has been won. The tone now suggests something more akin with the Ukraine agreement. Effectively a free trade agreement with a number of bolt-ons governed by joint committees. They seem to think they can get away with something less comprehensive and slimmer than the EEA. I don't think they have really grasped the scale of it - especially since they seem to think they can do it in two years with only a basic transition.
They are working from the assumption that because we are already EU compliant for the most part that the task of engineering the switchover won't be such a big deal. This is naive. They will try to start off small and it will just balloon into something way bigger and more cumbersome than they had ever imagined whereby the number of emergency patches will be larger than the core agreement. We'll sign off on a pretty incoherent package with huge gaps in functionality then spend the next decade trying to negotiate a restoration of access.
The dangers now are that they assume they can change over on the flick of a switch without any kind of staged rollout. It won't be a legal limbo but it will cause mass confusion as we will be completely unprepared for it. That is another battle we have to fight on the blogs. It seems we have to dismantle one stupid misapprehension after another until we get something close to sensible. My concern is that without a system of co-determination for regulatory harmonisation we will be a passive recipient of EU judgements without a means of challenging them. This is why Efta would have been better.
The good news is that it won't be a total smoldering wreck as favoured by Tory Brexiteer mouthbreathers but we won't have a dynamic agreement which means it won't evolve as the EEA does. If it's bad it stays bad. We'll spend the next ten years caving in on a number of red lines to get back rights we enjoy now - as Switzerland has. Any smart opposition will be thinking about making EEA/Efta a manifesto commitment by now. I think that is where it will end up in the future and we'll have a lost decade of trade thanks to Mrs May.
What worries me is that Mrs May thinks there is no real urgency in replacing the EU agencies we intent to ditch. There is apparently no planning as to their constitution which will make it difficult to plan the implementation of any kind of FTA. Defra isn't equipped for it nor is HMRC. This is why we will have to stall the process when the penny drops. There simply won't be the infrastructure to go ahead with the agreement. I think it will be a number of years before we do finally break free. The EEA agreement could have squared that circle but you can't tell Toryboys anything.
The risk is that we will linger in the EU for a while - just long enough for a change of government who may very well change policy to associate membership - right about the time that public sentiment shifts away from Brexit and the shambolic Tories. We could see a scorched earth policy to prevent that from happening. That would be very messy indeed.