EUROPE: When Brexit stopped meaning Brexit

22 July, 2018 | Posted By: Charlie Charalambous

Brussels wants a deal on Britain leaving the 28-member Union because letting it run off without a rider would harm its own institutions and cause mayhem at the border when it comes to the movement of goods and services.

It seems no longer a question of whether the UK is going for a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit but how damaging a non-Brexit fiasco will be.
British PM Theresa May is adopting a ‘third way’ on a customs agreement that will remove any notion of a hard border with Ireland but stop the free movement of services and people.

Free movement of people will cease, but a mobility agreement will be signed, allowing people to move in order to study, to visit as tourists and to work. A kind of half in, half out scenario.

It’s all rather sketchy and merely a launch pad for talks with the EU on the way forward. Having said that, the EU isn’t entirely satisfied with the vagaries of this plan that straddles opposing camps in the UK.

But a trumpeted agreement on this third way – an attempt to appease a Conservative Party at war with itself – has quickly unravelled into a deal based on wishful thinking. No sooner had the ink dried on this declared victory for May than her two most senior ministers – Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis – pulled the rug from under her.

Boris, charming as always, likened the new proposal to “polishing a turd”.
These senior Brexiteers are now fighting for the rebel cause to ensure the customs proposal is shot down before it can reach Brussels. Parliament is also divided with May requiring the help of Labour rebels to ensure her Brexit policy survives.

There are fears May will not be around long enough to deliver Brexit to the British people as her party endures a full-blown rebellion that drains confidence in her leadership and ability to survive the recriminations.
Ironically, following the recent resignations, the UK government is navigating Brexit with those who voted to remain in the EU while Labour is not sure what it wants other than to sit back and watch the Tories implode.

Theresa May is fond of saying: “Brexit means Brexit” but arguably Brexit doesn’t have any meaning at all right now because it has no face or identity. Nobody can be sure that Britain will actually leave the EU on March 29, 2019 – because now the country is rudderless.

Brexit is now more of a mess than Neymar’s short-lived ‘noodle’ hairstyle. Voices are beginning to utter the notion of a second referendum to exit Brexit as it has become plainly obvious that neither the government nor parliament is able to deliver a watertight deal.

Be assured that whatever evolves from this fractious divorce between a divided Britain and an obturate Brussels the child will be unloved and disowned.
Believers wanted out of the bloc to stop foreigners coming to the UK and claiming benefits while also demanding independence from Brussels bureaucracy.
Even before Brexit is upon us, EU nationals have stopped going to Britain. EU nationals that live there aren’t sure where they stand, and big business is ready to jump ship if frictionless trade can’t be achieved.

Inevitably, Britain will get the worst of both worlds; unable to shape European policy while having to abide by the rules or fending for itself in a tariff-strewn protectionist world where jobs are lost, and skilled workers can’t be enticed to come.
Brexiteers argue the opposite, envisaging a Britain doing all kinds of trade deals, being able to chart its own course without the European Courts sticking their oar in and immigrants staying on the other side of the Channel.

Arguably, London has helped shape the Europe that we live in today by championing the internal market, trade and EU enlargement.

To create a Brexit that is palatable to both sides of the argument would take the type of monumental compromise that has been sadly absent.
As blinkered-Britain approaches the finishing line, the smooth transition that was hoped for could transpire into a swift execution at the guillotine.

And the EU has not covered itself in glory, it was slow to understand the tide of feeling against the old order and a need for the institutions to listen to the people.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron sought a new way for Europe to go – Brussels didn’t pull its finger out amid growing Euroscepticism over federalism and a needless referendum was called.

The shock 2016 referendum result is tainted after the Brexit campaign group Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and referred to the police after an electoral commission probe said it broke the electoral law.
It exceeded its £7 mln spending limit by funnelling £675,315 through pro-Brexit youth group BeLeave that skillfully used social media to target people to vote Leave who may not have done so otherwise.

The Vote Leave campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove won by 51.9% to 48.1% for Remain – not exactly a resounding a mandate to change the future of Britain.
Others argue the extra cash had no effect on the outcome, but with the result so close it is difficult to be certain either way.
For a re-run to happen (unthinkable not so long ago) the government would have to agree, and parliament would need to pass a referendum act.

What we do have is a gaping chasm where the Brexit deal should be, surely there can be no clearer sign that Britain is ill equipped for a leap into the unknown.