Brexit will be with either no deal or a deal on the terms of the European Union – and it is difficult to see how any Brexit could have ended differently

8th December 2020

We are now at the latest Brexit endgame.

Another endgame in that succession of contests between the United Kingdom and the European Union that we call Brexit.

This latest contest is about whether there will be an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom for the relationship following the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020.

And the United Kingdom has a difficult choice.

The choice is between the United Kingdom agreeing to the terms on offer or refusing those terms.

Take these terms or leave them.

This outcome, like previous outcomes in this process, will be determined by whether the United Kingdom refuses to agree a thing or agrees that thing on the terms of the European Union.

And this is how ‘taking back control’ has worked out in practice.

The European Union’s way, or the highway.

And, as before, it is more likely than not that the United Kingdom will agree a thing on the terms of the European Union.

This latest agreement was to be called the ‘treaty of London’ as a patriotic gesture.

But instead, it is Boris Johnson who has been summoned this week to Brussels.

Perhaps the European Union will not be so insensitive as to provide a disused Eurostar railway carriage as the venue for any reeluctant signature of instruments of the trade agreement.


Is ‘no deal’ still possible?

There is a real prospect that Johnson going to Brussels will not mean he agrees to the presented trade agreement.

Even with the United Kingdom government jettisoning the makeweight issues of fisheries and the Internal Market Bill clauses, there are two serious issues of contention.

The outstanding issues are the governance of the agreement (that is, how is to be enforced if things go wrong) and the ‘level playing field’ of regulatory equivalence (that is, how is any divergence from the current common commercial standards be managed).

A moment’s thought should make any sensible person realise that these two issues go to the very centre of any future relationship agreement.

For these issues to still be open just days before the end of the Brexit transition period is not a good sign.

There is no indication or reason to believe that the European Union will compromise on either issue.

Not least because the European Union will be fully aware of how any compromise in this agreement will affect its credibility in other trade agreements, and European Union negotiators are not fools.

So it will either be the European Union’s way, or the highway.

And the United Kingdom is perfectly capable of choosing the daft way.


Could things have been different?

What if, for example, the United Kingdom had exercised its (now lost) power to request an extension of a further year to the transition period?

That certainly would have been prudent from a practical perspective: it would have enabled the European Union and the United Kingdom to deal with other pressing issues, not least the coronavirus pandemic.


Does anyone seriously think the United Kingdom government would have used this further year working out what it wanted from Brexit?

It has had since 2016 to work out its position, and there is no reason to think that another year would have made any difference.

Had there been a year’s extension to the transition period, the United Kingdom’s (lack of) position would have been the same in December 2021 as it is now in December 2020.


So, if this is the current predicament – who is to blame?

There are currently pundits putting forward the view that the lack of a ‘soft’ Brexit, with the United Kingdom staying in either the single market and/or the customs union is somehow the fault of those who were not in government since 2016.

Remainers are certainly culpable for losing the referendum – after 43 years of membership, the referendum was theirs to lose.

And, in my view, Remain lost the 2016 referendum far more than Leave won it.

But once Theresa May made ‘Brexit means Brexit’ the basis of her bid to become prime minister and Conservative party leadership, there is no plausible chain of events that would have led to any Brexit being a ‘soft’ Brexit rather than a hard one.

(Brexit may have been avoided by a general election or a further referendum, or there may have been endless delays in sending the Article 50 notification – but if Brexit was to happen it was never going to be a happy one.)

‘Brexit means Brexit’ quickly became the red lines, and the red lines in turn necessarily meant the United Kingdom  leaving the customs union and the single market.

Remainers can be blamed for losing the referendum, but not for government policy on Brexit thereafter.


Now we are a few days before the end of the transition period, without either an agreement or much clue.

Both a trade agreement on the terms of the European Union and no deal seem possible.

This is perhaps the worst possible position for the United Kingdom to be in at this time.

But since May told us ‘Brexit means Brexit’ it is difficult to see how any departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union could have ended up any better.

Brace, brace.


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60 thoughts on “Brexit will be with either no deal or a deal on the terms of the European Union – and it is difficult to see how any Brexit could have ended differently”

  1. “Perhaps the European Union will not so insensitive as to provide a disused Eurostar railway carriage as the venue for any reluctant signature of instruments of the trade agreement.”

    Absolutely hilarious !!!

  2. Agree with every word of this. I have argued here and elsewhere that to insist that ‘sovereignty’ must be preserved is to completely fail to understand how legal agreements work. “Brexit means Brexit” – snappy and apparently meaningless as it no doubt appeared to be when formulated – became the cage that constrained any possible agreement.

  3. Agreed the 2016 referendum was Remainers’ to lose. Cameron was so confident of victory he crippled Remain by preventing us attacking Leavers because he wanted to reunite his Cabinet after his “inevitable” Remain victory.

    Non-Tories in the Remain campaign were marginalised and neutered by Cameron’s inept complacent leadership.

  4. I thought in 2016 that Brexit would prove to be the humbling of the English right (for it is at heart an English nationalist project) because it was based largely on invented victimhood and nostalgia for imperial grandeur.

    The war-invoking rhetoric of some of the Brexiters reveals that.

    We did not learn the lessons of Suez: that it is better to exist as a nation of equals instead of reimagining 19th century dreams of global supremacy.

    And then, the English felt left out of the devolution process of the 1990s, as they were left with nobody to speak for them except Westminster; while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gained their own Assemblies.

    What now?

      1. “The European Union simply wasn’t popular in Britain”

        Neither was it unpopular (unless you fell for Johnson’s Daily Telegraph columns). The general population never had cause to think about it. It would be more correct to say that all the country’s ails were disingenuously attributed to the EU, and we know by whom, rather than its own government.
        Wales did vote leave. To be more precise, “incomers” to Wales, comfortably-off retirees voted heavily in favour of leave.

  5. During the referendum Boris Johnston looked us in the eye and told us that he wanted to have his cake and eat it.

    He knew it was a lie. We knew it was a lie.

    Four years later, with days to go, he is still pretending there are no hard choices.

    The cake is finally coming home to roost.

    1. Ah, yes, the Roosting Cake. Somebody at some impressively early stage was talking about a solution being “oven-ready”. – (signed) Toomas Karmo (amateur observer in Nõo Rural Municipality, Estonia, grateful to Mr Green for his analyses)

      1. Like much Johnstonian rhetoric, this is reheated and repeated again and again. As a professional comedian, he has a storehouse of lines like this.

        Andrew Gimson’s biography quotes Johnson saying “I want to have my cake and eat it” when considering his promise to Conrad Black not to seek election while editing the Spectator, which he broke in 2001.

        The very phrase “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it” appears in Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson published in 2013, and also in an article in The Observer in 2008. eg and I believe in Time in 2007.

        Also indicative of his persona is a quote from The Observer in 2005: “Life isn’t like coursework, baby. It’s one damn essay crisis after another.” Failure to prepare, and then winging it in reliance on charisma and a neat a turn of phrase. And of course promising whatever is expedient to get through the day and then profusely apologising when he is caught in the lie later. A beautiful butterfly broken on a wheel of EU process.

          1. As DAG says, “True of writing too”.

            Blaise Pascal once wrote a letter of explanation to his superiors. He apologized for the length of this letter, saying he didn’t have the time to write a short letter.

  6. David

    I agree with your analysis, with the exception of one point “Remainers can be blamed for losing the referendum”.

    This requires further explanation.

    By “Remainers” are you referring to those who voted to Remain, those who led and made the case for Remain, or both?

    I ask the question because those who voted Remain had one vote, they used it. They could have done no more.

    If you refer to Remainers who for whatever reason didn’t vote, that may be more valid, but needs clarification.

    “Remainers can be blamed for losing the referendum” is an unreasonable accusation to be levelled at the 16m+ who voted, and who were then immediately dismissed as if they hadn’t.


    1. * the biggest mistake was – in my mind – the actual referendum date;
      * it ought to have been set in
      – either April / May
      – or October / November
      to avoid holiday / festival date periods/dates and ensure thereby a higher turnout, just maybe with “Remain” winning by a very small margin

      1. According to the Electoral Commission, the turnout for the Brexit referendum was 72.2%. That compares to 66.4% for the 2015 general election and 67.3% for the 2019 election.

        Essentially, the turnout was unusually high for the referendum. I well remember writing to somebody the day after the referendum, saying that – whatever other reasons there might be – turnout was not the reason for the loss.

      2. One aspect of the Remain Campaign that seems to have gone under reported by the media, because of how embarrassing it would be for many in the Labour Party if it became public knowledge, is the lacklustre nature of some of the campaigning on the ground.

        If North Birmingham is any guide then party activists chose, deliberately, not to campaign much, if at all, in areas where they suspected there were high numbers of Leave supporting Labour voters.

        Best not to associate Labour with the Remain cause lest those voters turn against the party at a future election.

        As a consequence in these areas, weak Leave voters were not worked on to switch to Remain; floating voters were not spoken with to persuade them to opt for Remain and, quite important this, Remain voters were not encouraged to get out on the day to vote Remain.

        Notwithstanding, Birmingham only narrowly voted Leave in 2016, probably as a result of the actions of a particular Labour MP and by the last European Elections had, arguably, become a Remain city.

        Nationally in 2016, there were only two percentage points in it between Leave and Remain. May be, if Labour had really got its finger out then it would have been at least 50/50.

    2. I can’t speak to what DAG meant of course, but I would like to point out that even as voters, there is always more you can do than just casting your vote. And in many ways, democracy depends on that.
      It is in your power to campaign yourself. Or to donate to a campaign. It is in your power to talk to family and friends. Or even to your awful racist uncle. As unreachable as he may be, you probably stand a better chance of reaching him than any political campaign does (at least of the ones you agree with). Democracy is more than just casting a vote every once in a while. A big part of it is also just talking with people about what is happening and what is going to happen and what *should* happen.

    3. PK makes a very relevant point. It is a subject that I have pondered for a very long while. Though I cannot speak for our host, here are several thoughts;
      1. For decades, most prime ministers have cast themselves as ‘doing battle’ with the EU, often in order to better the U.K. Whether it was Mrs Thatcher giving them ‘what for’, John Major defending U.K. rights while debating Maastricht or David Cameron laying out the U.K.‘s demands. With the possible exceptions of Blair and the short tenure of Brown (and readers will find examples of their shortcomings), by and large the U.K. has cast itself against the EU when politically expedient.
      2. The above feels more relevant to England than Scotland. It is conspicuous that areas of deprivation in Scotland had a higher number of remain voters than their equivalent south of this border. Certainly the SNP have been pro-EU, as were Scottish Labour and Conservatives.
      3. Notwithstanding direct financial benefits by way of grants, and indirect benefits that created a more favourable economic climate, the beneficial aspects of EU membership were usually glossed over where any domestic party could take credit. There are signs adjacent to projects saying ‘funded by the EU’, though they aren’t as predominant as in other member countries.
      4. Connected to the above, European identity seems less strong in England, relative to other EU members. In many central squares across continental Europe, it is possible to see the EU flag flying proudly alongside the national flag and the regional flag. Again, rarely witnessed in England.
      5. Many parts of the U.K. had suffered disproportionately from under-investment since the 1970’s. Successive waves of economic growth seemed to favour other areas, resulting in people feeling yet further ‘left behind’. Successive downturns seemed also to deliver the same disproportionate economic effects.
      Those with ability and aspirations often moved away. Those who remained found income without the dignity of formerly valued industries.
      The 2008 financial crash was one of the first events where London and the South East appeared to suffer disproportionately more than other regions, and there was something of a ‘beggar thy neighbour’ approach from long-suffering areas, (“We’ve had it bad, now see how you like it.”)
      6. The Leave vote was supported by the London crowd, presenting voters further afield with a great opportunity to undertake another levelling up exercise against a Westminster group that was not trusted. At one point I recall a promise that housing would get cheaper if the U.K. left the EU, which has considerable appeal to some.
      7. The leave vote was positioned by Mr Cameron as “advisory”. In the minds of many, it became a good opportunity to tell him how unhappy they were, without doing any damage. Somehow after 23 June 2016, the U.K. slipped from being a representative democracy to a direct democracy for a period.
      8. Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party were very modest in their campaign to remain. If one contrasts Mr Corbyn’s efforts in 2016 with those to become PM in 2017, the difference is remarkable.
      9. There was a perception that a remain vote was the favourite, reflected in polls and bookmaker’s odds. Together with a rainy day across south of England was damp, perhaps people felt that it would be OK if they didn’t vote this time. The same is true for a number of younger people who has actively espoused remain, but did not put a cross in the box.
      10. Mr Cummings used some exceptional data analysis techniques to identify almost 3m people who did not normally vote, and would be inclined toward leave if encouraged to turn out. Remain did not think about this, or find their latent supporters.
      11. The official leave campaign intentionally did not produce a manifesto. Therefore anybody could hang a decoration on their Xmas tree, and it wouldn’t look out of place. Indeed Mr Cummings was said to have taken MPs out at the knees if they promised something, and urged them to stick to the simple messages on money, laws, borders and extra for the NHS. Remain was campaigning for ‘more of the same’.
      12. As an exporter of services and goods to the EU, and a formerly non-political centrist, for the first time in my life I campaigned on the street and spoke at public meetings to explain the detailed issues of import/export necessary of the U.K. chose to become a third country. Frankly it’s not stimulating stuff; the work of a customs agent, form filling, border queues. It’s like trying to explain the specifics of how a laptop boots itself up every time you turn it on, or how to remove tonsils. Its not elegant, but it’s absolutely essential. Its taken for granted that these things work; we don’t need to know how. Images of Turkish trucks at the Bulgarian border don’t work well when the debater opposite could claim that the U.K. would still enjoy free trade because the ‘Prosecco and car manufacturers would ensure that remained the case’. Somewhere logic broke down and people were insufficiently curious to investigate.
      At those same meetings, the people representing leave were extremely well drilled and schooled in debating. They were selected for their ability to persuade an audience with arguments, including the abandonment of facts. Often I would be one of three people, selected as experts, most of us expecting to attend to answer detailed ‘how to’ questions, with no preparation or coordination together. The first time I met people was 15 minutes before going on stage. I discussed this with remain campaign coordinator Will Straw, though he didn’t have the means to change things.
      Speaking with several moderators, it turned out that they too were quite poorly informed themselves about business practicalities, and their behaviour was more inclined to find the spectacle of a ‘blue on blue’ or ‘red on red’ argument.

      Finally, the salutary lesson from this concerns the use of a referendum. Mr Blair and then Mr Cameron got into the habit of legislating for them, and coming out on their preferred side after the ballots were cast, usually with a bit of effort in the final stages of campaigning. If the U.K. takes nothing else from the Leave vote, it should be this – under absolutely no circumstances should one ask the general public to choose, if you are not willing to implement the outcome you oppose, in its worst conceivable form.

      There are many, many other reasons, though not a day goes by when I don’t wonder ‘why?’

      1. Indeed …

        … and, well, England will find out what it means to trade on WTO terms.

        And then, maybe, a reapplications, sans tous les exceptions, will lead to England becoming a EU member again.

        All very faaaascinating.

  7. I think Johnson is likely to go to Brussels and come back with no deal for two reasons. First, he hates the place since his childhood and so going there and saying goodbye to all that exorcises some personal demons. Second, he’s always seen himself as a Churchillian figure so the symbolism of travelling to the continent to do the opposite of what Chamberlain did is just too irresistible.

    Like you said, brace brace.

    1. Coming back empty-handed and with a triumphant look on his face is the most likely thing and not as difficult as explaining why he agreed to whatever deal was available. So unless someone forces his hand, that is what he will do. That someone remains hidden and may not exist. A pity Shakespeare is no longer around, this would have made a fine play.

      1. “Naught’s had, all’s spent,
        Where our desire is got without content.
        ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy
        Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.” Lady Macbeth


        “Nothing will come of nothing.” King Lear

  8. Was the opportunity for a soft Brexit closer than thought? When May held her series of indicative votes – to replace her withdrawal deal if I remember correctly – the vote proposing a detailed customs union lost by three votes. The Liberal Democrat’s either voted against or abstained, and the then Independent Group and the SNP MPs abstained. For the SNP in particular a close customs union would have gone some way to negating their concerns about Scotland being taken out of the EU, but would have undermined one of their main arguments for independence. The SNP is a political party so it’s not surprising they decided to act in their own self interest, but it does surprise me that they, and the others who voted against or abstained, seem to get a remarkably free ride for an abstention which could have moved matters in favour of a softer Brexit.

    1. I would argue that this doesn´t count as a soft Brexit. Just look at the Turkish-EU border.

      I remember that the EU had prepared a slide to explain just what a customs union would do. It would help only with tariffs. British exporters would still have to deal with rules of origin, regulatory compliance and SPS checks. Even more a customs union does nothing for services where the UK is strong.

      British haulers would still have lost cabotage (the right to transport freight between two EU destinations) and might have faced limited work permits too.
      Schengen restrictions, pet passports and loss of EHIC would still be a problem.

  9. Yes Remain lost in 2016, but the 2019 was effectively a second Referendum and Johnson got a resounding victory, admittedly aided by FPTP. By this time the public knew what sort of Brexit was on the cards and must have been happy with it.

    1. A General Election will always result in many issues being conflated. The dislike (and support, no doubt) for Jeremy Corbyn was a crucial aspect. There were a stunning number of times on the doorstep when I was told that the person could not vote Labour or Lib Dem, despite thinking that Brexit was idiotic, because the danger of Corbyn was too great.

    2. But the public still doesn’t know what kind of Brexit is on the cards. No-one does, although it’s becoming clearer by the hour. Johnson’s resounding victory was in very large part owing to his opponent being Jeremy Corbyn.

    3. It’s hard to make 2019 analogous. 14m people voted for Conservatives and the DUP, 16m voted for the rest. How to split that up between leave and remain is trickier.

      I don’t see this as resounding victory for hard Brexit, but I also don’t think it tells us much more than that. It does convincingly make the case of how dysfunctional our voting system is though.

    4. Between the 2017 General Election and the 2019 General Election, Jeremy Corbyn lost Labour 1.2 million, alone to not voting.

      1.2 million voters could not stomach voting for Labour under Corbyn, but also chose not to vote for any party at all, not even to Get Brexit Done.

      Johnson gained 600,000 votes between 2017 and 2019, but lost 300,000 in the process. A net gain of 300,000.

      Corbyn not Brexit has been cited, in polling, as the most significant reason for Labour losing support at the 2019 General Election.

      By the way, according to Johnson, on the 6th January 2019, No Deal is closest to what people actually voted for.

      Why then has he spent nearly two years faffing around trying to get a deal?

      Although, he did say on 11th July 2017, there is no plan for no deal, because we’re going to get a great deal (without seemingly needing to pop it into an oven).

    5. This kind of self-deluding analysis of The Will Of The People is profoundly distressing, and it underpins the failure of our deeply-flawed democratic system.
      Johnson et al. received 45% of the vote in 2019 ( Only wilful blindness to the gross distortions brought about by FPTP can interpret that as “the public … must have been happy with it.”
      It was precisely the lack of such distortions in a single-question, one-constituency referendum that left the Brexit lobby terrified of an actual second referendum.

      1. GL, it is pointless trying to educate Leavers. They believe and that’s that.

        1. However, so do Remainers just believe. Cameron for one! He couldn’t even contemplate that anyone might disagree with him. Many of us do “believe” many things much of the time. That’s why we get so frustrated with one another!

          1. Cameron failed to provide the evidence for Remain because very foolishly he assumed the benefits for remaining in the EU were so obvious. Leave, on the other hand, without a plan, or even an idea of what they’d do after they’d taken the UK out, lied their way through the entire campaign. It swept up the gullible and those who attribute all the country’s ails to the EU with the promise of Brexit means Brexit. Four and a half years on what has changed with regards substance?

          2. Indeed and you’ve made half my point again, that Cameron was a Remainer and merely “believed” without due consideration of the opposing arguments. The original post I replied to referred to Leavers rather than the Leave campaign. I agree the campaign was egregiously misleading but why should we Remainers claim that all Leavers were uneducated morons? How sure are we that Remainers thought things through either? It has been a hard but necessary lesson for me to learn that my fellow countrymen and women do also have valid (as well as sometimes invalid) points of view!

          3. It would be straw-man hyperbole to claim that “all Leavers were uneducated morons”, but following the principles of Damon Runyon, you should probably bet that way, given that there was such a strong correlation between education levels and voting intentions.(

            And which “beliefs” on the part of Remainers are “not thought through”? That it’s beneficial to be able to trade with half a billion of the wealthier people on the planet? That it’s preferable to be free to live wherever we please rather than being constrained by accident of birth? Or that by intricately linking economies and their populations, it was a good idea to put an end to intra-European war for the first time since the Iron Age?

            And four and a half years later, I’m still waiting to hear even one pro-Leave point of view that doesn’t vanish like morning mist in the face of even the most cursory scrutiny. (£350 million a week for the NHS, advantageous trade deals with the whole world, a European army, compulsory vacuum-packing of kippers, straight bananas …)

          4. I know about education levels and voting but often less educated people are less articulate. This doesn’t in itself mean they have no valid view. Equally, I know many educated people who are clever but unquestioning or who use being articulate to bludgeon others. I have talked to a number of Remainers who weren’t cognisant of the beliefs you list and voted as much by gut reaction as the other side. The point I was trying to make was that we should be careful in dismissing what others have to say, as Cameron (for one) did. There was so much more to the Leave vote than lack of familiarity with your sensible points – ignorance, hurt, disenfranchisement, class warfare, self-righteousness, confusion, lack of opportunity, governments failing to educate the populace, lack of confidence and, yes, bloody-mindedness. I personally wasn’t swayed by any Leave argument but I have to accept that half our nation was and to wonder why.

  10. There is a tendency to not ascribe agency to bad or even malicious politicians.

    In the US, I have noticed that when Republicans engage in some kind of scheme that will hurt ordinary people, some commentators will blame the Democrats. Republicans, like zombies, have no choice to do what they do. The Democrats are supposed to always and everywhere prevent the Republicans from creating bad policies, and so the Democrats are to blame for the bad policy if they fail.

    In the UK, I note that Remainers are to now blame for whatever Boris Johnson does today. It was never about, for example, the incompetence of David Davis. He didn’t have a choice but to fail completely at his job; instead, Remainers were to prevent him from causing a big mess and it is now their fault because they didn’t do it.

  11. Brexit implementation was always going to prove impossible since those that want it disagree on what it means (even now, surely, not all Tory MPs are foaming at the mouth Eurosceptics, some were quite reasonable, once). It is a little like wanting to be sexually experienced but, somehow, to remain a virgin.

    As to blame, it lies squarely with Cameron. He played fast and loose with the nation’s fortunes for party political gain. He could have required a super-majority for the vote to pass; he could have enfranchised all EU citizens resident in the UK for (say) five years or more, or he could have given those of us living in the EU a vote – he chose to do none of these things any of which would have changed the outcome of the referendum. When the chickens came home to roost, he walked away leaving the even more inept May to pick up the pieces.

    The Tory Party used to be largely pro-European, that none of its leaders ever had the courage to takle John Major’s “bastards” explains where Brexit came from and who is to blame.

    Neil Kinnock is right in saying that Labour must not back any deal that emerges – this is the Tory Party’s poison chalice and they must drink deeply from it.

    1. Absolutely the mistake was Cameron’s. He thought the value of EU membership is obvious (it is) but failed to cut down the populist easy answers.

      Most mature democracies that use referendums regularly recognise that you don’t make important changes based on one single straight up or down majority of those voting, but require some sort of supermajority.

  12. Three points:

    1) Too many people swallowed the line that the EU needed us more than we needed them. It is an easy mistake to make. David Davis made it.

    2) If Theresa May’s deal had gone through, Gove made it clear that the non-binding Political Declaration would be unpicked so we would have ended up exactly where we are now. Boris isn’t even honouring his own oven-ready deal.

    3) The only way this could have ended differently was if Corbyn had supported the Kyle-Wilson amendment and put the deal back to the electorate. You can argue about his motivation for this.

  13. Brexit was no surprise for Europeans who understood the UK’s position in 1992 as the beginning of a slow divorce and were aware of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. In the hands of Plato’s guardians these would not have been a problem but the increasingly human characters thrown up by the British electorate heve been increasingly likely to exploit the room for opportunism for selfish reasons and without voluntary restraint as may have been the case in the past. That situationn translates into internal policy instability and a focus on the very short time domestically and a loss of credibility externally. The assault on the judiciary and civil/foreign service (the true guardians of the British constitutional system), however well intentioned from a managerial point of view, are just making this worse. Maybe the ballast once provided by the responsibility for an empire, now lacking, plays a role too.

    That lack of credibility has caused the EU to insist on a robust enforcement mechanism as a boundary condition for a trade deal. Of course some in the UK can be made to believe that is a form of punishment, another driver in the feedback mechanism.

    I hope the EU will not repeat the mistake of 1992 by granting the UK part of what it asks for. It would be better to have a relationship built from scratch and with proper risk management provisions than trying to salvage bits of a relationship built, like the UK’s previous EU membership, on domestic quicksand. If the UK can help this along by being intransigent now, that would be fine.

  14. The Prime Minister appears to have a track record for repeating behaviours. Therefore I think there is a strong possibility he will repeat the Taoiseach story: photogenic meeting with ‘big player’, grand proclamation of victory (despite climb-down compared to previous position), sell-out of allies.

  15. I take your point about extending the transition period whilst the negotiations are still going on as just giving Johnson more time in which to dither and prevaricate.

    An extension of the transition as part of an agreement so as to implement a deal being a different matter. We have learnt recently that the meat trade believes it needs a year to implement any likely deal.

    We have also discovered that there is a problem looming that is immune to even an implementation phase. There is growing evidence that many EU27 hauliers are considering pulling out of the UK haulage market that they very much dominate, because it will no longer be cost effective to operate within it. They not only bring goods into the UK and take others out, but undertake many deliveries wholly within the UK.

    There is a certain irony that the big players in the haulage industry are based in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The citizens of which many a Brexiteer has a particular beef.

    As for the matter of divergence, this seems to be an example of a freedom passionately sought by the ignorant about trade and industry, on behalf of a group of people, many of whom do not want it, because they will have little use for it.

    A company that exports to Europe today, if it still wishes to do so from 1st January 2021 will have no option, but to comply with EU rules, standards and specifications.

    On Twitter, it is not unusual for a certain type of Brexiteer to pop up and say, but only a small proportion of UK based businesses export into EU27. Got you!

    That is true, but there are plenty of UK based businesses who do not themselves export into the EU27, but supply goods and services to those who do. If those suppliers wish to retain that business then they, too, will have to continue to comply with EU rules, standards and specifications.

    Enter, the star spangled chlorinated chicken. If you export ready meals with chicken in them to Europe and, at some point in the future, US fowl is suspected of having entered your supply chain then you may well kiss goodbye to any future business with EU27 countries.

    In addition, many countries around the world have adopted EU rules, standards and specifications. Why bother designing your own national rules, standards and specifications when someone else has already endured the pain of doing so?

    And, of course, if companies in countries around the world want to export into the EU then they too will have to comply with EU rules, standards and specifications.

    And a UK based company that exports nothing to Europe, but supplies goods and services to companies in third countries that do export into the EU27 will also … I think you know where I am going with this?

    For the uninitiated, the EU Single Market is the largest single market in the world, measured by per capita disposable income. I gather even Australia is eager to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the EU27.

    At the risk of testing David’s patience further, I would observe I and others have had Brexiteers tell us companies might run two production lines, one producing an inferior product for sale into markets not applying EU rules, standards and specifications.

    Phrases like cost effectiveness, break even points, Just in Time, fixed and variable costs have no meaning for them. Just in Time is particularly baffling to older Brexit voters, who lasted worked decades ago. Of those who finally come to understand it, many say as it was not around when they were at work then companies will just have to drop it, build cavernous warehouses etc.

    Finally, there is the ‘small’ matter of implied racism. Put simply, what does it say about your mind set, if you think a consumer of your product in Buenos Aires will be happy to purchase an inferior version of the one you are selling to a consumer in Paris, just because he or she lives in South America and not Western Europe?

    And if you choose to go down that road, what is to stop someone setting up to produce for the Argentinian market a better quality version of the product you are trying to sell in Buenos Aires?

    The underlying rationale for divergence seems to be partly based on a pile it high, flog it cheap approach to business. The sort of nonsense that helped get us labelled the Sick Man of Europe before we joined the EEC.

  16. We should not overlook the colossal, floppy, neurotic, anti-Empire antics of Jeremy Corbyn, who positively wanted a cake with a soggy bottom.

    1. Ah, yes, Jeremy Corbyn, the man who did not attend the launch of his own party’s National Remain Campaign.

      Corbyn went to a Stop Some Wars meeting in London, instead.

      I have been called an out and out liar for saying he was not at the launch by one group of Corbynistas.

      Another group have said he was not absent from the national launch, because, in their opinion, such a launch would not be held in Birmingham at the International Convention Centre.

      The ICC that is hard by plenty of examples of the results of successful European funding bids. The sort of funding we, in Birmingham, would not have got from the London where the one group of Corbynistas clearly thought the launch must have taken place.

      I was at the launch in Birmingham so I know Corbyn was not there or the national media. Clearly Seumas Milne, a Lexit supporter like Corbyn, was still finding his feet in his role of Communications Director.

      They set out to sabotage the Labour Remain Campaign from the outset.

      Incidentally, Gloria de Piero whilst loosing her moorings with reality last year, claimed to have launched Labour’s National Remain Campaign with Corbyn.

      No, she was not in Birmingham, either.

      There was a rather disappointed group from Peoples’ Momentum, though, who had only turned up, because they expected Jeremy to be there …

      1. Indeed and don’t forget he rated his “passion” for remaining in the EU “at about seven, or seven and a half, out of 10”. The press remarked for some time on his “lacklustre” campaigning.

        1. Ah, yes, what Owen Jones, 13 and three quarters, called, at the time, nuanced campaigning.

          In a binary referendum, there is, however, no Yes, But option.

          Corbyn chose, to all intents and purposes, to make a case on The Last Leg for the other side, in reality his side for decades, safe in the knowledge that the Leave Campaign would not return the compliment.

          1. Unlike the “nuanced campaigning” Corbyn is currently pursuing against the Labour Party on anti-Semitism!

  17. It has seemed pretty clear to me, that we are not going to get a deal. The mantra of “of course we will have a deal” morphed into “Brexit on our terms” into “we will do fine under WTO rules”. Fishing aside, there is zero chance of the EU giving access to their free-trade area without a “level playing field” which includes state subsidies and employment law. It won’t be “Brexit enough” for the Brexiteers if we have any restrictions or obligations from the EU.

    Anybody who voted for Brexit believing that “We will be part of a free trade zone that extends from Iceland to the Russian Border” (Michael Gove) must clearly be feeling mislead.

    1. One problem with the “level playing field” with respect to state subsidies is that it seemed it was to apply the EU rules, however under those rules, funding provided by the EU itself (as opposed to the member states) does not count as “state aid”.

      Hence we’re left with a fundamentally unbalanced situation.

  18. With hindsight, it may be that the issue has always been that either we would have Brexit, or the Tory party would split. Interesting whether Brexit will in the long term preserve the Tory party as we know it.

  19. The three consecutive Conservative governments definitely do deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the state of Brexit now. But I cannot accept the view that the Remainers (or “soft Brexiteers”) were powerless to affect the process. The second round of the indicative votes gave the support of 273 MPs for the Customs Union; 10 LibDems, 11 TIGers, and 35 SNP members either abstained or voted against. If they were to support it, that would be 329, a clear majority; that’s without counting some other Remainers like Dominic Grieve. Now, I can understand the belief that the election gamble was worth taking in order to reverse the whole process altogether; or that SNP shouldn’t have supported it in order to maximize the anger against the UK in Scotland needed for their independence cause (however, they did vote for CU+SM, so that’s obviously not the tactics they chose). I don’t quite understand the belief in the “People’s vote”, the parliamentary arithmetics was way more skewed against that one. But what I have to reject is the idea that the Remainers were powerless to stop the hard Brexit. There was a path to soften it that relied solely on their (collective) support, for one reason or another, they didn’t take it. But that is also a choice they must own.

  20. The true benefit from a trade deal, however small, would be political as it would keep the door open for a future association agreement. If true that the EU has shown some flexibility on state aid, it would also need to accept that it cannot set the level paying field unilaterally. In turn, the UK would have to accept to commit to it seriously. If the EU is afraid the UK will start subsidising steel and dump it in Europe or undermine labour standards, it should not forget how likely this is. Yes, the UK will introduce subsidies but probably in new high-tech industries, not in declining ones. Also, the UK should be allowed not to follow the nightmarish EU’s framework for data protection and also allowed to defend its interests against China the US tech industry just like the EU now does. The WTO also remains the right place to submit trade disputes instead of imposing a level playing field that effectively makes it impossible for the UK to accept any deal.

    1. EU State Aid rules do not nor ever have prevented the UK Government intervening in the economy.

      If memory serves, the rules make a particular exception for support for fledgling industries.

      Understandably, they do start from the premise that support for mature industries is anti-competitive, but again, in certain circumstances, the rules do not exclude the provision of such aid.

      I am on the centre left, but I have no desire to see UK Governments spending public money on propping up the management of failing companies.

      In the Daily Telegraph in May 2013, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, wrote:

      “If we left the EU … we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and under-investment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.”

      Setting aside the fact that Johnson is a living, breathing advert for sloth and a culture of easy gratification (a culture that provides and supports millions of jobs in the UK), he was saying there exactly what many have been saying for over a century, now.

      By 12:30pm on 22nd June, 2018, Johnson had determined that his strategy to address those structural issues was to be, “Fuck business.”

      If he achieves no other policy aim in Government, he is well on the way to achieving that one.

  21. The failure to explain the consequences of Brexit was the failing of the remain group.
    The failure of the population to understand Brexit is the failure of the government to explain it.

    The excuse of the government will be that the people did understand and they are implementing the “will of the people”.

    The excuse of populists and despots throughout history.

  22. Leave won because of the superb timing of the referendum: wars in the Middle East, esp Syria meant a lot of refugees spilling out looking for safe havens, austerity meant lots of Brits scrambling around mediocre resources looking for: school places, doctors, dentists etc and a sense built over the decades that Britain was being done over by the very countries we had beaten in WW2. Hence Johnson’s repeated war metaphors. The timing was just ripe for Farage and as it turned out, Trump as well. I just hope we can resolve these festering issues before the next 4 years are up.

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