There seems to be a high probability that the EU Parliament will veto any Brexit deal acceptable to the UK.
At a recent debate between the seven candidates to replace Martin Shultz as President of the European Parliament some said the deal should be fair to both sides so any agreement that meant Britain was better off leaving would be unfair to the EU (did they mean unfavourable?) Guy Verhofstadt said, “It cannot be a situation about you’re better off out than in.” Another candidate, Helga Stevens, also called this a red line for her:
Groucho Marx famously said: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” Perhaps ours is a case of reverse Marxism: we don’t want to be a member of any club that won’t accept our resignation.
Recently the National Review (an American journal) had a piece by Andrew Stuttaford.
In it he argues that Theresa May’s long silence on her wishes for the type of Brexit she would prefer is “…both a matter of clever tactics…and part of a broader strategy”. He is beginning to wonder if he is right and that her silence “conceals, well, nothing.” He favours, as an off-the-shelf, interim solution, Britain’s continuing “membership of the EEA (essentially a single market shared with the EU) such as that enjoyed by Norway, a country that has, despite the best efforts of its political class, twice rejected membership of the EU.”
He offers us an interesting table, showing 20 items, contrasting the constraints on the UK as an EU member with the relatively open status of EEA nations. Unfortunately he doesn’t give us the source of his table so we can’t check its accuracy.
Next Stuttaford quotes from Dr. Richard North’s blog where he gives a list of the 35 chapters of the EU’s acquis communautaire, observing that as all new members have to address the issues in the acquis so will Britain have to “reverse engineer” these if an orderly Brexit is to be achieved.
He then cites Chris Patten, who argues that for Germany and France the EU was always a political project while for Britain it was a commercial transaction; we signed up to help Britain escape from weak economic circumstances. However, the British people were told that the country was joining nothing more than a common market, which Edward Heath, PM at the time, new was untrue (see Our EU Entry was Prefaced with a Lie).
Stuttaford argues that Britain was mistaken to argue for opt-outs when it had the right to insist that integration towards full union should “proceed at the pace of the most reluctant”. This would in time have precipitated a crisis within the EU but it would have been better to face and resolve that crisis from within the EU than to face negotiations having declared its intention to leave, a weaker position. We may doubt that much would have been gained by resisting the EU’s determined efforts to complete full Union but something may be learnt from the counter-factual.
As usual, we’ll give the author the last word, with which we do agree: “the Continent’s elites, at least in Western Europe, remain wedded to the idea of ‘ever closer Europe’. But voters don’t seem so sure. They don’t want the EU to break up, but, on the rare occasions they are given the chance to vote against deeper integration, they tend do so. Then they are ignored. And that, in the end, is why Britain has to leave.”
Reverse Order (see Reverse Marxism above)
If you take the view, as we do – that the EU is quite likely to break up or collapse in the not-too-distant future – then the worst position that the UK could face would be to find ourselves inside the EU while that goes on. We don’t need to dwell on the chaos that Britain would find itself in, over an unspecified period of time. On this view, any form of ‘out’ would be better than any form of ‘in’.
Of course that does not mean that we should accept any outcome of negotiations. But it does make nonsense of Verhofstadt’s statement, “It cannot be a situation about you’re better off out than in.”
Another consideration arises if we ask the question, “any Brexit deal acceptable to [whom in] the UK?” The UK cannot even agree on whether to leave, let alone on what terms, so the best the Government can do is to propose, and achieve, a solution that is unacceptable to as few in Britain as possible. Which won’t be easy.
That brings us back to the possibility “that the EU Parliament will veto any Brexit deal” reached by the negotiators and agreed by their national governments and the EU Commission. Consider, as an example, that the UK applies for Efta membership, and is approved, and triggers Article 50 on the basis of remaining in the EEA (whether as a transitional arrangement or as a final solution). Would that be an option that negotiators could reject or the EUP veto? (We don’t know the answer.)
So, a conundrum for the EU. Assuming that its leaders, including Verhofstadt, are sincere in their commitment to ever close union and everything that goes with it, as they claim to be, then any deal outside the Union is, by definition, worse than being inside (the opposite of our case). Certainly they must regard Norway’s current position as less favourable than the UK’s as a member and, therefore, an Efta/EEA outcome as not “better off out than in”.
At least that’s what logic would tell us; but where does logic fit in this discussion?
Perhaps what Verhofstadt has in mind is that the UK should not feel that it is better off out than in. But that would be adolescent, bully-boy stuff, which cannot be what he means, can it? In any case, there will be so much bickering in the UK after any settlement agreement that no one will believe that Britain feels better off out than in.
“We don’t have to see a ghost behind every corner, but we do have to ask ourselves what could go wrong”, said Mark Carney, Bank of England Governor, to MPs this week. He said the bank was right to be pessimistic about Brexit before the Referendum and to focus on what could go wrong. Indeed they were right to plan for what might go wrong but not to predict dire consequences and so interfere in politics with gloomy speculation. That is not the job of an independent central bank. As Peter Bone (MP) pointed out, the experts don’t apologise when their forecasts are wrong, they simply say something unexpected happened. Well exactly (see Experts don’t agree).
Carney now says that Brexit is no longer the biggest risk to the UK economy, in fact it is a more serious risk to the EU’s financial stability, partly because of the strength and importance to it of Britain’s financial sector. Indeed there are plenty of risks to our economy far greater than the effects of leaving the EU, including our high debt and deficit plus possible global contagion from events in China, the USA and, especially, a collapse of the Euro.
If you are strongly committed to an ideology, and you believe that most people would resist it if you asked them, you need at least three things in place to impose your will.
- an alternative agenda to draw attention away from your real plan;
- a tough regime to oblige people to conform;
- to have delivered a convincing proportion of your alternative.
In short you need to dissemble, to rule absolutely and to be competent to deliver much of your distracting agenda while progressing your true agenda incrementally.
The EU is founded on the commitment to develop a federal state in Europe. Its leaders and supporters have always promised to deliver growth, employment, harmony and democracy to all its citizens. Ever closer union is declared as the means by which they will achieve their promises, while in fact it is the ultimate goal of the project.
Progress towards a complete union in economic, financial and political spheres is sufficiently in evidence. However, the other required competence – to deliver the secondary agenda – is absent. The EU has consistently lagged other developed regions in economic, social and political improvements.
The result of the ideology, deceit, authoritarianism and incompetence has been to make the EU fragile and its future far from secure. Its leaders do not seem to be able to stem the tide of disaffection.