Thursday, January 31, 2019

Brexit has been a shitshow and a complete clusterf***

Just prior to the last general election, called by Theresa May soon after invoking Article 50, a British satirical political candidate Lord Buckethead made his prediction as to how the whole Brexit process would go. In short it would be chaos.

"Your Prime Minister, your MP, Theresa May, called this election about Brexit," the self-styled Lord Buckethead said, "Have we heard from her what she plans to do about Brexit? No. This is mad. On Thursday, you are going to be faced with Prime Minister May, or Prime Minister Corbyn, against twenty-seven prime ministers from the European Union. It will be a shitshow." [YouTube / YouTube / YouTube]

Given the events of the last two and a half years, the description is more than apt. Lord Buckethead may have only secured a mere 249 votes as he stood against Theresa May in her Maidenhead constituency, but he surely could not have done worse than May in terms of brokering a deal with the EU whilst the chaos of Brexit encircled her and her government.

Having proclaimed she had finally secured a 'deal' with the EU last November, and scheduled a vote for Tuesday 11th December, at the eleventh hour Theresa May cancelled the vote whilst admitting she would have lost by a large margin [Guardian].

In the weeks that followed she attempted to seek further reassurances concerning the so-called backstop from the EU in order to placate hardliners within her party.

But essentially May could provide little to persuade Brexiters and Remainers to back the Withdrawal Agreement. And on 15th January MPs rejected the deal by 230 votes - the largest defeat for a sitting government in history [BBC].

MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain's exit from the EU on 29th March. The defeat emboldened Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who then tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could have triggered a general election. However, May narrowly saw off the bid to remove her government from power, winning a no-confidence vote by 325 to 306 [BBC].

Further political battles came on the 29th January as amendments were put forward and MPs voted against a proposal to delay Brexit in order to prevent the UK leaving without a deal [BBC].

The discussions and debate about the details within the Withdrawal Agreement all seemed rather academic since the EU remained adamant that the Withdrawal Agreement was not up for discussion and that negotiations would not be reopened [Guardian / Guardian].

And with only around 57 days until Britain leaves the EU, May has scheduled a further round of debates set for Valentines Day [FT / Guardian].

Parliament had been due to break up on February 14th and return on February 25th. However the recess is likely to be cancelled as the clock ticks down to what is increasingly looking like a no-deal Brexit should Article 50 not be withdrawn.

With May having kicked the can so far down the road there is no longer time for a so-called people's vote before the default crashing out on March 29th.

And so now there are only three potential scenarios.

The first is that May scares - for fear of a no-deal Brexit - or persuades a majority of the house to back the Withdrawal Agreement. Given the current math, this seems unlikely, and given the EU27 are unlikely to renegotiate, it is unlikely too that hardliners on both sides will budge from their position.

Given that the Withdrawal Agreement is not passed Britain will crash out on the 29th March and fall back to WTO rules. It would have no trade agreements with any country in the world and would have to begin negotiations in order to create trade deals. Of course Britain would still be able to trade but all imports would be subject to tariffs of up to 40% for all exports until trade deals between other countries are struck, which would make Britain's export trade extremely uncompetitive. As regards imports, Britain could unilaterally reduce all tariffs to zero. This would mean that all countries would be on the same level playing field when it came to importing products. But this could result in cheaper and more inferior products ending up on the shelves. Overnight customs and border control will have to apply the same stringent paperwork to all imports while exporters to the EU will also find themselves having to fill in paperwork where they were previously not required to do.

But falling out on WTO rules is only half the story. Britain will have to replicate and sign up to 750 treaties that will lapse as it leaves the EU. These cover many things including regulations on medicines, airlines, agricultural standards, safety standards and so on [Out-LawFT].

Britain would of course have to prioritise which treaties were more important than others. Getting regulations and treaties signed that relates to airlines would be one of the first. But it will be no small task sifting through the mountain of legalese and getting countries to agree and sign.

The third scenario is that May "bottles it" at the eleventh hour and cancels Brexit by withdrawing Article 50.

Whilst the risks of a no-deal Brexit are dismissed by hardline Tories within the ERG as project fear, most economists and most politicians believe Britain's crashing out of the EU could be devastating for the economy.

The government has set out plans for the army and police to man the streets following a no-deal outcome in order to prevent food riots and to maintain order. But the same security preparations might also be put in place should May revoke Article 50.

Whilst a revocation might save the country from itself, the far-right and extreme Brexit supporters could exploit such a situation and cause civil unrest.

Given the so-called deal is unlikely to be passed there is only a hard no-deal Brexit or no Brexit. Either option will likely precipitate civil disturbances and riots, though the repercussions of a no-deal Brexit are likely to last much longer.

Lord Buckethead's suggestion that Brexit negotiations would be a "shitshow" nailed it. As regards the outcome it can perhaps only be described as a complete clusterfuck. One could say it was an omnishambles, but that really doesn't quite impart the absolutely disastrous mess that the whole Brexit fiasco has been.

tvnewswatch, London UK

Thursday 31/01/2019