Brexit Means … Nothing Actually

Brexit means ?It is reported that Prime Minister Theresa May may concede an ‘Irish backstop’ that will keep Britain closely tied to the EU’s Customs Union and regulatory framework – indefinitely if the EU insists, which it will of course. It is mainly fear of the economic consequences of no deal that keep leading her down the path of appeasement, but what is the price of freedom?

Comparing current events to anything concerning WW2 is normally a sign that you have run out of arguments and this is not on the same page, or book, or library. But there are still parallels with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain whose vacillations encouraged Germany to believe it would win all its demands. Those who opposed him in Cabinet and Parliament could not estimate the costs of declaring war but knew that freedom was worth more. The cost was huge and long-lasting but the benefit was greater. May will be lucky if she gets through her premiership with a reputation higher than Chamberlain’s.Darkest Hour 2

Ending the peace in Ireland is the other excuse for this propitiation, EU pressure could succeed where the gun and bomb did not. In 1940 Labour MPs supported the Tory rebels but Corbyn supports the goals of his ‘friends’ in the IRA, as does John McDonald who said, “It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle” and he continues to display a plaque to its ‘martyrs’ in his office. Without Labour, Tory support would have allowed Chamberlain to continue and a powerful Continental empire would have dominated Britain for an indefinite time frame.

Neither the Westminster nor Dublin governments will impose a ‘hard border’ even if there is no deal, they have both said so; probably the EU would not deploy its own officers or equipment either. Of course there is a border now and there is also some infrastructure in the form of cameras to check for smuggling since different taxation rates apply in the two countries. Wherever in the world there is a border with a possibility for illegal arbitrage the smugglers establish their enterprises. The Irish (on both sides) are experienced experts. We have looked at the border problem several times already but since the Prime Minister told Parliament (22nd October 2018) that 95% of the negotiations are complete with only the Irish border left as a major issue it is appropriate to remind ourselves now of the main issues and their solutions. [1], [2], [3], [4]

EU bordersOther EU borders are lightly monitored too and locals take advantage while major traders join registration schemes with occasional checks on their compliance. The European Parliament has even commissioned a report which concluded that existing technical solutions are adequate if the parties are willing to accept minor levels of infringement [5]. Should we therefore succumb or wait for the likely accommodation once this political lever has been pulled and shown to activate nothing?

If there is no reason for a hard border today there are no reasons the day after Brexit or the ‘Transition’. If there is a divergence in regulations later they can be addressed as they arise. As Peter Lilley (previously Trade Secretary under Margaret Thatcher) noted, the Single Market was originally governed by ‘mutual recognition’ of standards and this still rules EU-US trade relations, though chlorinated chickens, famously, are banned. Likewise there is no reason for the UK to be treated less favourably, especially after the initial separation when standards are identical, unless that is done as a punishment.

We’re reminded of the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ in which Morgan Freeman’s character goes before the parole board every year with ever-diminishing hope of release. Whole-life terms are banned in Dublin but fairly common in the USA, whereas Europe (EHCR) isn’t keen, even in cases of multiple murder, because it denies the prisoner a chance of rehabilitation. The EU would be happy to impose such a sentence for the crime of wanting to leave the Union especially as the accused seems frightened to escape because of its punishment threats. Chain Gang 2

(The ‘people’s vote’ in Northern Ireland doesn’t impress them either, though it’s endorsed in the Good Friday Agreement which they otherwise mention as and where it suits them.)

[1]       Bordering on Madness

[2]       Irish Troubles

[3]       Divide or Rule

[4]       Shorties-15: Border Line or Red Line?

[5]       http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/search.html?word=smart+border+2.0

(Smart Border 2.0. Avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland for Customs control and the free movement of persons: Nov 2017 updated February 2018)

 

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