A guest post by Samuel Miller
A recurring theme running through the press these days is that the EU just keep coming up with unreasonable demands. Indeed the narrative from certain quarters of government and the meeja paints a picture of beleaguered UK diplomats and ministers bravely fighting off unfair demands and tactics from dastardly furren agencies intent on punishing the UK because… reasons. So, not the more logical explanation of panic stricken politicians, hopelessly out of their depth, in a catastrophic situation of their own making and looking for a scapegoat at all then?
Y’know, it’s even been recently touted that Brexiteering high heid yins in cabinet are set to go off in a major stroomph because these unreasonable furriners don’t understand how this whole Brexit business should work (mainly in their favour dammit). Seems they don’t like the idea of having to put any possible new rules in place whilst they’re seeking to ditch the existing ones and that’s just not cricket. As I recall and so far as I know, whilst you’re still a member, or aspiring to trade with the EU, then you still have to adhere to their rules, but without voting rights or input to relevant bodies.
So, yes. Yes it is a pain and I can even understand the frustration of having to administer any new legislation during this negotiation period, but there is a more important question here. Given that the Lisbon Treaty A50 is pretty clear on an exiting member’s voting rights and participation on voting bodies, why weren’t the government prepared or apparently aware of this possible eventuality? Did they actually think the EU would just stop legislating for its members because of Brexit?
As has been highlighted in a previous post: From the EU’s perspective, they aren’t going anywhere. They didn’t force anyone to do anything and didn’t kick anyone out, but they do have rules (as does any club). So far as they are concerned, those rules help ensure and facilitate peace, trade, access and rights between all of its member states. The remaining twenty seven nations agree to live by those rules and enshrined at the core are the four freedoms.
Is it just me, or is there apparently a breathtaking lack of self awareness by UK government and sections of the media over Brexit? It’s either that or, and this may come as a shock to some readers, it appears some are being more than a little disingenuous on actual facts surrounding the nature of Brexit, its possible repercussions and the processes involved (cough).
Surely then, it is entirely reasonable for the continuing body to expect that you adhere to their rules whilst you are still a member, seek access to trade agreements, transitioning to exit, or are still locked in a negotiating process? Does it not also seem reasonable that the continuing body expects the rights of its member citizens, currently in your care, receive due consideration? Isn’t it reasonable that all the leaving member’s financial commitments are settled appropriately, to each party’s satisfaction and that a pressing issue which may have dire repercussions for current and former members achieve a desirable resolution?
On that note…
Just when your expectations of the Conservative government’s handling of Brexit negotiation outcomes couldn’t be any lower, they always seem to find new and interesting ways of limbo dancing under a tick’s bum with inches to spare. It’s a talent few would aspire to, but an absolutely essential trait when you’re a minister responsible for… something or other. Right down there with the empathy bypass, telling you the order of … things and backstabbing for the career minded. (There’s probably more you can add to that list, but for the sake of brevity and all that.)
So naturally, not to be outdone on the art of stroomphing and in an astonishing (sark) ‘hold my beer’ moment, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said that basically the Irish border issue should not be settled until after there has been a trade agreement with the EU. This, of course, flies in the face of the three issues which the EU have contended needed immediate attention from pretty much day one. Those being: Settlement of outstanding financial commitments, the rights of EU citizens and naturally the border issue between Eire and Northern Ireland.
I mean, what’s the worst that could happen when you use people who have home grown political and economic issues as bargaining chips in a trade negotiation? In fact, what’s the worst that can happen when you ignore agreements, assurances and guarantees given to members of your own political union? Personally I’d say that the situation both for Northern Ireland and Scotland should never have arisen, but then I would. Bearing in mind the UK was the member who initiated the entire process, not the EU, you’d have thought UK gov would have prepared contingencies for Northern Ireland and Scotland. You’d have thought their electorates and their standing constitutional settlements and agreements might have merited some consideration before the whole thing kicked off, but apparently not.
All together now… WHO KNEW?
Seriously though, I believe the government and elements of media need to perhaps take another look at the combative/competitive tone they currently are intent on selling the public. The whole ‘them against us’ language doing the rounds may just have a down side is all ah’m sayin’. Certainly some of your actual diplomacy may not go wrong at this point. Seein’ as how, Brexit or not, the neighbours are still the neighbours and you may, at the very least, want to be on friendly chatting terms with them. It may also be helpful if the political class in general would, (just for once), come clean with the true state of affairs regarding Brexit. Not saying those impact reports (minus the redaction), wouldn’t come in handy for the public about now or anything, but y’know…
At this juncture, many would argue the damage has already been done. The UK’s economy, equally arguably and to put it mildly, is somewhat challenged over ongoing austerity and looming Brexit measures back to back. The government’s reputation on the international stage is not in its best shape ever and the practice of politics in the UK has seemingly descended into jingoistic, soundbite and media-driven, farce. In as little as three years since Scotland’s indyref, the nature of party politics as it is practised have brought the peoples of these islands to the brink.
Might be worth the movers and shakers asking themselves, do they really want to pursue a politically combative and societally polarizing strategy? Do we really need to make a potentially volatile situation any worse than it already is?
Their choice of course, but on track record to date? I’m guessing another ‘who knew?’ moment will be along in the very near future.