Brexit, on the Wednesday after

17th April 2019

One measure of how odd UK politics has been recently is that is somehow strange to be in the middle of a week that does not have the prospect of the UK leaving the EU on the Friday without a deal.

Twice the UK has driven close to that cliff edge before swerving away, thanks to the patience of the EU27 offering us an extension.

We are perhaps too near to what has happened to grasp how extraordinary it is to be have been in this predicament.

A still major world economy came close twice to leaving abruptly complex legal and economic arrangements built over forty-five years without any alternative arrangements in place.

And the reason we did not crash out was the forbearance of the organisation we seek to depart and which many of our politicians and pundits have vilified and insulted.

The UK has been lucky.

Very lucky.

Twice the UK has been in a position where it was outside of our control what would happen next.

One day we will realise just how lucky we were.

But a problem with being lucky is that you can assume that the luck will hold and normalise: that you will always be lucky.

Come 31st October, there is no reason to think we will be lucky again.

Brexit may last for a long time, but ultimately it can only end in one of three ways: leaving without a deal, leaving with a deal, or revocation.

Before 31st October 2019 there is no real prospect of a new deal: the EU does not want to re-open the current deal, and the UK has not shifted its position.

The UK is unlikely to be any closer to being able to cope with leaving without a deal on 31st October, especially as “no deal planning” has been stepped down.

And so we are left with either seeking another extension, which we may not get, or facing up to revocation.

Between now and Hallowe’en the main issue in UK politics is the extent to which politicians address this hard choice of no deal, deal, or revocation.

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28 thoughts on “Brexit, on the Wednesday after”

  1. I prefer this to Twitter. Twitter feels like a frenetic way of thinking about important issues. A blog feels more measured and remains in my inbox if I wish to reread without frantically scrolling through irrelevance. Thank you.

  2. Thanks so much for writing these posts. I’ve also just come off Twitter for many of the same reasons and I’m very glad I can still get this content without being on there. Sam

    1. I assume you are referring to the UK being humiliated by the USA/UN and being forced to depart with their tail between their legs from Egypt after their joint invasion of that country hatched with Israel and France.

  3. Let’s see if the anticipated loss of council seats in the May elections concentrates a few Tory minds.

  4. I was fond of Jack for his historical associations, but seeing you in your own persona, so to speak, is even nicer :-) and certainly an improvement over Twitter.

    Your calm reflections in this frenetic time are very valuable, and very accurate. As an English lawyer living in the 27, I find that even my most Anglophile friends are losing patience with us, and come 31 October we may no longer be able to avoid a real decision. Lets indeed hope our politicians are using this time to prepare for that moment.

  5. Thank you David for your balanced views in greater depth and now posted under your name.

    The interview that Christine Amanpour held with Nancy Pelosi, Congresses speaker, regarding the unlikelihood of any quick deals with America in the event of a hard border arising on the island of Ireland should be very sobering for the Brexiteers. Somehow I doubt it will.

  6. Yes, we have been lucky, very lucky, but there are other interests at work here than just the UK’s. The EU needs our £41 billion to balance its books for what remains of the MAFF, and they, no less than us would suffer economically from No deal, so forbearance in this case isn’t pure altruism. Unless the circumstances change and they are likely to become more conducive to forbearance not less, there’s no reason our luck should give out. Oh, I completely agree with you, there are three possible endings, and those who started this ball rolling, (I prefer dominoes falling) need to decide how it ends, and if they don’t have the gonads to do that then they should have the gonads to let us decide ho it ends…… which is still my favoured ending, and in gambling terms, my ending that is favourite.

  7. Calm and factual look versus the chaos of twitter!

    In the noise of European elections, to-ing and fro-ing second referendums & custom unions, the default position is still that it will take something extraordinary to not be in exactly the same position on October 31st.

  8. Thanks a lot David. I greatly value your commentary legally informed and opinionated (I mean that in a good way). Twitter vs blog discussion ? Twitter is great for keeping up with a fast changing.. and seeing good Journos thinking “out loud”… Blogs and podcasts good in other ways. Let a thousand media formats bloom!

    1. Indeed. I am fortunate enough to have more than one platform where I can engage with things and those interested in those things.

      Different forms of media are good at different ways of engaging.

      1. Thanks for the blog. I too am taking a bit of a Twitter break, as it’s just a festival of nastiness out there and the situation for us Brits in the EU27 is frightening and depressing enough as it is. I grew up studying the Third Reich am very worried about the current situation in both Britain and Europe due to the destabilising influence of Brexit and the way it has empowered the far right.

  9. As an Italian, as a fully committed Europeanist (if such an adjective exists in English – but the sense is self-explanatory, I believe), I really cannot get over the fact that nowhere in the public Brexit debate in the UK seems to have emerged that the EU is primarily an existential project and a transactional one only afterwards. The European Coal and Steel Community, the Common Market, the EEC and the later the European Community were all born in the minds of our founding fathers as the only possible way to bring peace and prosperity to a Continent that had waged war and destruction for too many centuries.

    The UK does not seem to have internalized and processed this basic consideration in forty-five years but, rather, has shown to prioritize the economic and commercial aspects – not that these are not important, even vital, but…

    What is Brexit, after all? I believe it is ignorance, lack of preparation, arrogance, isolationism, imperial nostalgia, amnesia, demagoguery – all seasoned with a good dose of ontologically unexplainable sense of superiority. And that hurts me because I always looked to Britain and its centuries old institutions with great respect and admiration.

    The Romans used to say “Absens haeres non erit”, Italians say “Gli assenti hanno sempre torto”, the French “Les absents ont toujours tort” – Brexit means that “the absentee Nation is always wrong”.

  10. As someone who’s never worked out how to use Twitter, I’m glad you are back with old-fashioned methods. Thanks for the clarity you bring. Do you have a view on the possibility/desirability of a further expression of ‘the will of the people’?

  11. Sorry, Mr. Green, I forgot mentioning how much I value your balanced and well-motivated opinions. Thank you very much indeed.

  12. Like many commenters, I’m glad you’re writing here rather than on Twitter. I’ve also got quite tired of Twitter, and I much prefer being able to read insight like this in longer form.

    (I don’t normally post comments or replies, and have nothing worth adding to your excellent article, I just wanted to say thank you for starting the site, and hope you keep this going, no matter where you end up going with Twitter.)

  13. As many others before me I wanted to thank you for all your work. I have had people wonder if I work for the EU when they hear me talking about Brexit because I am so informed! I laugh at the thought of me being informed since I am usually anything but. I like (prefer) this format, but what worries me is that I would never have found you if you had not been on Twitter in the first place. And I would still be considered an ignorant :(

  14. Good points!
    Politicians learning the wrong lesson from their minor victories- Cameron thinking he could repeat the Scottish referendum trick rather than realising how close the UK had come to breaking up for instance – has plagued the UK for decades! That the UK had been lucky as you say, does not mean it always will be!

    1. While no fan of Cameron, we shouldn’t judge him with the benefit of hindsight.

      When he promised the referendum, it looked as though we were headed for a hung parliament in 2015. The opinion polls gave only a 3% chance of a Conservative majority. So there was a very low chance he would have to enact the referendum. And even if he did, he could rely on solid support from Labour and the Unions. Labour were solidly pro-EU with the exception of a few obscure dinosaurs like Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn. After all, following Ed Milliband’s defeat in 2015, Chuka Umanna was 2/1 favourite to succeed him.

      I wonder what developments we will face in 2024 which seem like utter impossibilities in 2019.

  15. I like this blog already David. Twitter getting very unpleasant.
    By the way, I worked in Wolverhampton many years ago, and they seem to have shortened Ta rah a bit to Ta rah bit- although this was 1994

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