The UK’s Brexit options are limited

I had thought for some time that, in the Brexit negotiations, the question of the border in Ireland would be quietly fudged and kicked into the next phase of the process. In the event, it was noisily fudged and kicked into the next phase of the process. For, despite all the drama, nothing much has changed. Or, at least, the UK government is talking as though nothing has changed.

The crucial paragraphs in the Phase 1 agreement published on 8 December are these:

Paragraph 49:

The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all- island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

Paragraph 50:

In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.

There are essentially 3 reasons why customs borders exist:

  1. To impose tariffs and quotas;
  2. To confirm the imports’ countries of origin;
  3. To ensure compliance with regulations and standards.

A free trade agreement with the EU would only get us over the first of these. To avoid the second would require continued membership of the EU Customs Union (or the negotiation of something similar). To avoid the third we would need to stay in the European Economic Area and abide by the rules of the single market.

This gives the government a problem. If it is serious about its guarantee of no border checks, it can’t fulfil its stated aim of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. Yet, almost every day, a government minister repeats that the UK will do just that. The problem with this is that the moment the UK leaves the customs union, there have to be border checks. There is really no getting around this.

There is no high-tech solution to make the border disappear. The idea that border checks will take place somewhere discreet, far away from the border, is also nonsense. The law-abiding would comply but the point of border checks is to discourage the would-be law breakers. As officials from Norway and Switzerland explained to MPs in November, even the most technologically advanced countries with the most friendly relationships with their neighbours still have border checks. When you move from one customs regime to another, there is a visible border.

Even if we suspend disbelief and pretend that it would be possible to construct an invisible border, the government hasn’t made any plans to put the necessary systems and infrastructure in place.  It has left it way too late to have anything ready for March 2019 and it is doubtful that the work could be completed by 2021. The technological solutions suggested would be expensive and would take time to implement. The National Audit Office isn’t convinced that the systems already in development will be ready in time for Brexit so there isn’t much likelihood of new ones being delivered on time.

Furthermore, the government hasn’t put any money aside for new customs systems and infrastructure. The £3bn extra spending for Brexit preparations, announced with much fanfare in November, has, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, all been allocated as resource spending (RDEL):

Of the scorecard RDEL measures, the largest increases relate to 2018-19 and 2019-20, where a cumulative £3 billion has been allocated to Brexit preparation and another £3 billion for the NHS. The 2019-20 ‘efficiency review’ announced in Budget 2016 has also been scaled back. These measures explain most of the total increase in RDEL spending in those years. From 2020-21 onwards, increases to RDEL plans are more modest.

RDEL is day-to-day spending, so it would cover things like training, extra staff, consultants, legal fees and, possibly, some upgrades to existing systems. There is, however, no capital spend allocated. So nothing for new systems, CCTV, number-plate recognition, satellite tracking or new lorry parks.

Not only are the government’s statements about leaving the Single Market and Customs Union incompatible with its guarantees on the Irish border, they are also inconsistent with what it is actually doing. The infrastructure question also applies to the borders at the UK’s ports in Kent. So far, no plans have been made or funds made available to create any new border infrastructure. The government may be talking about leaving the Customs Union and Single Market but it is behaving as though very little will change.

This doesn’t give the UK much room for manoeuvre in the trade negotiations. There is a narrow range of options which would enable the UK to keep some of its red lines and avoid the need for border checks.

Sam Lowe was initially joking when he suggested the Jersey Option but something like it might be where we eventually end up:


Being inside the Customs Union and in the Single Market for goods, as Jersey currently is, would get around all the physical problems associated with Brexit. If the UK then stayed outside the Single Market for services it would probably be able to avoid free movement and the application of EU law to areas like employment protection. The Channel Islands, for example, do not have TUPE laws.

A crazy idea? Well George Peretz reckons it might be an option at least for the transitional period because it also has the advantage of preserving the UK’s trade agreements it has with other countries through the EU. A similar principle underpins the Institute for Public Policy’s “shared market” approach, published today, which combines regulatory alignment with a UK-EU customs union.

The problem with these options is that they would prevent the UK from negotiating trade deals, at least on goods, with other countries outside the EU. This is something that the government is still insisting it wants to do.

But we can’t be in a customs union and have separate trade deals. Or, to put it anther way, as soon as we have trade deals with other countries we have border checks in Ireland and we need a customs infrastructure that we haven’t even started planning for yet.

There is, then, no way that the UK government can have everything it says it wants. Something has got to give. The options available therefore look something like this.

Post-Brexit Options

If we want trade agreements with third countries, there will have to be some customs checks on the Irish border. Even if we want to maintain our most important red line, control of immigration, which was the most important issue for Leave voters, there is only a narrow range of options which allow it to co-exist with the guarantee of no hard border. Perhaps the Jersey Option, or something like it, isn’t as absurd as it sounds.

Update 19/12/2017

The Guardian’s Brussels correspondent Jennifer Rankin reported today that Michel Barnier showed this slide to EU leaders. It explains how each of the UK’s red lines rule out the various options for a post-Brexit trade relationship with the EU.

By sticking to all the red lines we end up with a Canada or Korea style trade deal, both of which would result in a hard border in Ireland.

But would the EU agree to such a deal knowing it would mean a hard border?

As I said, something has to give.

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67 Responses to The UK’s Brexit options are limited

  1. Patricia Leighton says:

    Why don’t people realise that, with all its faults, there is only one creditable option-stay in the EU and stop all these fantasies-including the UK becoming Jersey. Mad!

  2. Dipper says:

    Whilst I’m busy hunting for the exact WTO wording on customs and how different regulatory regimes are legislated I’ll just put here that the people you Remainers think are your friends are not in reality your friends, and they certainly aren’t mine.

    We are currently facing the prospect of a transition period of two years during which the EU are currently proposing we will have to follow EU laws and ECJ adjudication without any input or influence. Now put aside your desperate Remainer cheerleading for every punishment the EU throws at the UK and ask yourself if the UK would ever consider a situation where UK laws were imposed on a people who had no representation in making those laws. And given that is going to be a No, ask yourself what that says about EU attitudes to the UK. Do you seriously think that the UK, yourself included, will experience any long-term good from being in a relationship with nations who deal with dissent and disagreements through threats and punishments?

    And to get back to that border, what is it you are concerned about going over the border? To make the point yet-again, industries that are highly regulated have extensive organisational systems for ensuring compliance and at no point in any of these processes is some bloke in a shed on the Newry-Dundalk Road involved.

    Since the referendum the case for leaving has only strengthened and I can say from experience of friends and acquaintances that opinions are hardening. The Leaver case that the EU was a proto-super state which will remove all independence from the UK has been made in spades time after time and the case of some Remainers that the EU is a happy band of independent nations has been shown to be completely delusional. Leavers are now extremely wary of being sold out as it is clear that there is no compromise with the EU and surrender will be long-term disaster. Playing tricks with the Irish border to try and avoid giving 17 million people what they voted for is a highly dangerous game that will very likely backfire. Politicians should be careful. We should all know by now that modern politics can end up in circumstances you never thought you’d see.

    • Phillip Watson says:

      With regards to the transition it’s almost as if you are making the case for staying in the EU. But it is good to see you concede that the U.K. had a say in any laws through our democratic representatives. You are right it’s not the best situation so we shouldn’t leave.
      How will you control immigration into U.K. across an open border at NI?
      What’s to stop an EU citizen entering Ireland legally but entering U.K. illegally.
      How is this controlling our borders?
      The problem with regulatory alignment isn’t where we are at but where we will be. Any change in alignment means a hard border. WTO rules say any differences in customs require a hard border so again we need to either sign an FTA with full regulatory alignment or we stay in CU/SM.
      This is not ‘punishment’ as decried by the ultras it’s the EU protecting the integrity of their market from potentially illegal goods. Without a hard border any country would have a de facto trade agreement with EU with no control.
      Putting aside your rhetoric and veiled threats the last 12 months have exposed the unicorns, delusion and doublethink of Leavers. What has been promised can’t be delivered. Leave lied and with impunity. You can’t have status quo for free. You can’t cherry pick. The German car industry are not pushing Merkel for a easy deal. The EU are not begging for a deal. The EU does not need us more. There are no easy trade deals to sign. There are no sunlight uplands. It’s all a con.
      Brexit is a scam.
      The scam has been exposed.

      • Dipper says:

        As usual, Leavers and Remainers look at the same facts and draw opposite conclusions.

        “What’s to stop an EU citizen entering Ireland legally but entering U.K. illegally.” – what’s to stop an EU country failing to exercise proper border control at the moment and allowing illegal migrants to enter the EU then cross the Irish border into the UK? The key is what they can do whilst they are here. We already have lots of people who are here as visitors or tourists and so are not able to enjoy the rights of citizenship. Employment rights and rights to public services are policed within the relevant organisations, not at the border, so an open border is no problem for people.

        “WTO rules say any differences in customs require a hard border” I don’t think they do. I think they say you need a means of ensuring goods in your country are not evading controls or tariffs, and again this can be done in various ways not necessarily through a hard border. We can do this as I described. What Ireland fears is not the UK erecting a hard border, it is the EU requiring Ireland to erect a hard border.

        “it’s the EU protecting the integrity of their market from potentially illegal goods” like beef that is in fact horsemeat? But that is the EU putting a hard border up, not the UK, and, again, are pharmaceutical imports into the EU reliant on a bloke in a shed? Or on an extensive system of regulatory conformance? And anyway at the moment you can easily evade EU regs on pharmaceuticals by buying on the internet.

        The last 12 months has gone well for Leavers. The threats from Remainers about imminent economic collapse and big increases in unemployment the moment we voted to Leave have been shown to be empty, the negotiations with the EU are so far going well. There is every reason to be optimistic about the future

        There are two false notes. One is the EU that is attempting to hijack international relations and protocols on trade and commerce to enforce a superstate on an unwilling nation. This is a disgrace and should be called out. These people are not reliable allies, and it is completely inappropriate.

        The second false note is Remaniacs who just spend all their time yelling at Leavers that they are useless, they are fools to dream that they can have better lives than the ones handed down to them, that they should accept their place at the bottom the pile and getting crumbs off the table of the technocratic elite. Anyone who has been involved in organisational change knows that the moaners who just keep going “people who don;’t agree with me are stupid, this will fail because I disagree with it” are highly destructive and should be fired at the first opportunity. Sadly we can’t do that in the UK as a nation.

        Politics is about power, not about the odd percent in next years growth figures. We saw ourselves having increasingly less power over critical matters of the UK. If we do not get this back we are doomed as a nation, just a parking lot for excess people and goods on the outer-rim of an economically sealed zone whilst the rest of Europe gets on with the main business of keeping Germany happy. Personally, I couldn’t care less about a hard border in Ireland. But if the EU are prepared to do a decent deal to avoid it fine. But I’m not going to be blackmailed into surrendering political rights over it.

        • Phillip Watson says:

          An open border is not a problem? Now I’m confused I thought Brexit was to take back control of our borders. How does having a porous border within the U.K. ensure controls? It seems like you are prepared to take a risk on things like the black market and security just to cling onto your ideology. If you have no problems with an open border in Ireland perhaps we should open up our other borders? As you said you have no problem with people. How long and politically viable would an open border be for the U.K. government after Brexit? It leaves a gaping hole within the U.K. which is easily bypassed. You can have one or the other again it’s about reality not fantasy.
          I think you need to check on your WTO regulations. Where there is a border between two countries which do not have an internal market or a trade deal a hard border is required. There are exceptions but none of those are valid.
          The border would be there to also protect the U.K. market. Employing whataboutery here won’t change the facts. The idea it’s the only the EU’s choice to place a hard border is at a new level of fantasy. Putting aside the complaints from the WTO with regulatory divergence there is no way to limit or control what goes across the borders. Wishing something was true doesn’t make it true. Again this is the reality.
          You may be right the EU may be planning a superstate in the future. So how can we stop this? By leaving? A third country doesn’t have a veto.
          To quote Marvin from Hitchickers ‘No-one even mentioned it’ I certainly didn’t so I will dismiss that Strawman as a deflection attempt. I never yell at Leavers. They yell at me. I have been told I will be hung up to dry and a few other threats as well.
          What Leavers try and do now is play the victim card. We have come a long way from EU needs us more as we hold all the cards to U.K. being the poor victimised bully. All I can see that you have is blind faith and nothing else. Faith and rhetoric will not pay the bills and Brexit is like a religion. It says it can make your life better but doesn’t say how.
          If you want CELTA than it’s a hard border.
          If you want CU then it solves that problem.
          If you want full access to SM than it includes FoM.
          If you want none then it’s WTO where the U.K. will be up against 167 countries and again a hard border.
          A dose of reality the anglosphere have already rejected EU/UK negotiations on NTB’s. India want liberalisation of visas. Australia wants FoM. Argentina and Brazil want NTBs abolished for their meat exports. Thailand want NTBs abolished for their poultry exports. US wants to reduce food safety regulations for FTA. Japan and Canada have signed a deal with EU. They have refused to copy and paste the deal for U.K. only use it as a basis. South Korea have refused to grandfather current EU deal. You see a great global independent nation. I see a country getting screwed by their bigger competitors because the U.K. is now the weaker party who are desperate for a deal.
          So forgive me if I don’t get all excited about a potential trade deal with Panama which is 3,000 miles away and currently has 0.2% of our exports in exchange for a trading partner which is 20 miles away and accounts for half of our exports.
          Ultimately I am a man of science and I am suspicious of any ideology which tells me to think positive, have faith and believe. Because that to me smells like a religion not reality.

          • Dipper says:

            I’m a man of science too, and once you understand the basic laws of how things work then wishful thinking isn’t going to change the outcome, and once we had been shown the basic laws of where power lay in the EU (clue – not with the UK) and seen what the people with that power wanted to do with it (clue – Ever Closer Union), it was clear there was only one ultimate end state and unless we walk away we will be in it.

            And all those cases of these people want this and those people want that – well that’s negotiations for you. Opening positions are just that.

    • lac dirk says:

      “And to get back to that border, what is it you are concerned about going over the border?”

      It’s a significant, real concern even on the Norway and Swiss border, and between countries with more differences it is worse. Just look around the real world for a change.

    • Gulliver Foyle says:

      “Since the referendum the case for leaving has only strengthened and I can say from experience of friends and acquaintances that opinions are hardening.”

      And from my own “anecdotal” experience of friends and colleagues I can say that many people have no idea what is actually going on right now because, unlike obsessives like us, they don’t scour the internet for the sort of information they would normally expect from the legacy media.

      “Playing tricks with the Irish border to try and avoid giving 17 million people what they voted for is a highly dangerous game that will very likely backfire”

      I naïvely didn’t realise politics was a winner takes all game (not that we seem to have ‘won’ anything yet), nor did I realise that every single one of the 17 million or so leave voters were of the same voice over what they believed the exit strategy would be given that absolutely no exit plan was offered by the official leave campaign.

      The truth of the above two quotes of yours is that yes, people will be angry, but not for the reasons you intimate. Rather for the same reason they were angry after the financial crash except this time those responsible will be much, much closer to home.

    • Phillip Watson says:

      Ever closer union isn’t a secret it’s in the Treaty of Rome. As Leavers are afficinedos of leaflets I suggest you read the leaflet/letter from Ted Heath sent out in the 1975 referendum. Also, ironically, the leader of the Daily Mail.

    • Phillip Watson says:

      And no one is playing political games here. This was raised as a problem during the referendum and was dismissed as Project Fear by Villiers and others.

    • Micky says:

      Why do i feel your delusional back is against the wall? So funny reading your ignorance, Dipper.

      • Dipper says:

        I’m perfectly happy with my analysis and many others have the same analysis. Watching Remainers who have backed a side that lost the argument now trying desperately to undermine the result would be amusing if it wasn’t risking permanent damage to the UK.

        • “Watching Remainers who have backed a side that lost the argument now trying desperately to undermine the result would be amusing if it wasn’t risking permanent damage to the UK.”

          You imply that the reputation of the UK is ‘potentially’ at risk at some point in the future by people exercising their right of free speech whereas in the present Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is damaging the reputation of the UK on a more or less weekly basis.

          • Blissex says:

            «You imply that the reputation of the UK is ‘potentially’ at risk at some point in the future»

            The reputation of the UK in Europe (and other countries that were not its colonies) is that it is a mostly affluent, advanced, complicated country, with an insular mindset yet a global acquisitive spirit, a fondness for drink and football, and with many people who are sardonic wits, self-deprecating but pro-active, skeptical pragmatists, with a culture of muddling through and getting things done, but also with a large fringe of loud kippers and spivving thatcherites, probably descended from balkan or latin american immigrants :-).

        • Undermine? Just because we lost the decision to leave does not mean we have no say in what Brexit should actually look like. We are 48% of the electorate, at least, and we still live in this country and in our opinion, we are arguing to protect this country from unnecessary damage…

          • Dipper says:

            The problem is many Remainers are not contributing to the discussion of what Brexit should like like in any constructive sense. Many prominent Remainers seem to believe the best outcome for them as individuals is the worst possible outcome for the UK. They are signalling, possibly intentionally, to the EU that if the EU delivers a hard Brexit and punishes the UK they will try and overthrow the government to negotiate a re-entry or avoid leaving on terms very poor for the UK with them running government. This is going down extremely badly with many Leavers who see this as a sign of, at best, bad faith.

  3. It’s Christmas so I’m feeling grinchy, and have a need to disagree. I voted Remain, one of the best things about the EU is its attempts to get rid of internal borders, I hate borders. I’m confused because Leave spent a lot of time insisting on stronger borders but don’t seem to want them now.

    So as I hate borders, I have to ask what would happen if we were out of the EU but chose not to have a border between NI and ROI. Honestly, I don’t see the need. As far as I can see where borders existed historically, it is easy to maintain them as a point of checking regulations. So UK and ROI air and sea borders would continue but building a land border between NI and ROI may have uses but is not essential and is obviously unwanted.

    Internally all compliance is done by various bodies, they check the compliance of any product regardless of where it originated. Right now you could make or sell non-compliant stuff entirely within our borders, we try to check and catch these infringements, so where is the practical difference if it originated elsewhere.

    So while I think the best solution in the short to medium term is EEA-like membership, I don’t see why we must have a hard border if this fails.

    • lac dirk says:

      First off, anyone that says that the border would be light should not have a problem putting it between Northern Ireland and the rUK. If it really doesn’t matter, let’s put it where it’s really easy to enforce – in the two sea ports and the airports of Northern Ireland. That is, essentially, what the preliminary Brexit agreement said.

      A first problem is that smuggling would become a big business. It already sustains the gangs that continue to fight the sectarian conflict in NI.

      A second problem would be trade deflection. That’s when trade that should go from, say Japan to the UK, would go into the EU under its trade treaty,only to be re-exported immediately to the UK via Northern Ireland (or indeed wherever the UK decides not to enforce its customs border). That would make it hard for the UK to replicate the EU-Japan trade deal as the Japanese already have full access to the UK market. The UK could give more concessions to the Japanese, and the the trade deflection would go the other way.

      To avoid this “customs arbitration”, WTO trade comes with rules of origin paperwork. That’s the main issue for Norway-EU trade, btw.

      Another issue is sanctions. Without a border, there could not be a different sanctions regime in the EU and UK. That goes also for WTO anti-dumping measures.

      And I haven’t even started on the regulatory part.

      In essence, not controlling your border means that you lose sovereign control over your market. Within the EU, this is covered by sharing sovereignty at the EU level. Without those shared regulatory and political institutions, it would just be a straight loss of sovereignty.

      • Illegal activities are illegal, that’s not new, borders don’t stop illegal intent. Catching import/export breaches at the border is logically neat, but it is not essential. Remember most existing borders do not check every single item, they do random checks. So it is already accepted practice that other systems must exist to complement border checks. It may be more efficient to have a border but it is not essential.

    • Phillip Watson says:

      Phase 1 says on no agreement we default to Irish position in place now so it is de facto CU/SM membership which is why the ultras are getting triggered.

      • Is that really what will happen? I get the impression that the government are telling those concerned about this that it means nothing and will be null and void if we do not come to an agreement. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”…

        • Phillip Watson says:

          The EU are Davis-proofing it. To agree to something and then say the agreement is meaningless doesn’t engender trust in the upcoming talks.The British government still doesn’t seem to realise that the EU gets the internet and that they read our media.

  4. bill40 says:

    As I understand it, and I’ll happily be corrected, the Customs Union is the least important part in the creation of a hard border. It’s leaving the SM that would require a hard border and ceasing FoM. The EFTA/EEA option is fine and it’s FoM that will be the price of avoiding a hard border, the Ultras will have to suck that one up.

    One other point I’d like to raise, why does anyone think that Brexit will stop immigration or even reduce it significantly? Yes the politicians make the “right” noises but we don’t use the powers we have already to reduce. I see zero evidence Labour or the the Tories have any intention of reducing migration.

    • Dipper says:

      “why does anyone think that Brexit will stop immigration or even reduce it significantly?

      A fair question. It makes politicians have to justify the level and type of immigration instead of just saying this is a consequence of being in the EU. Like having to justify turning away highly qualified UK applicants to UK medical schools and importing large numbers of medical staff from overseas instead. Or granting citizenship to large numbers of Somalis to come to the UK – currently being done by other EU states so we have no control. It means we will end up with the migration that is right for the UK, not that’s right for the EU.

      To generalise, Leavers think that if the political process and structures are right then we will get good outcomes, whereas Remainers think it doesn’t matter what the power structure is provided it delivers policies they agree with.

      • Phillip Watson says:

        Why would they want to come here?

      • If the government really wanted to cut immigration significantly, why didn’t they cut none-E.U. immigration to the bone?
        When we negotiate new trade deals with say India, China and Brazil, for instance, do you think those countries will want more immigration to the U.K. as part of their new deals or less?

    • Blissex says:

      «the Customs Union is the least important part in the creation of a hard border. It’s leaving the SM that would require a hard border»

      There is a “hard” border between Norway and Sweden, even if Norway is in EFTA and EEA, as in the absence of shared customs “rules of origin” have to be checked.
      There is also the issue of VAT, where countries in the SM, which is not the EEA, charge VAT in country of origin only, instead of refunding on export and charging on import.

  5. mjbruce1940 says:

    Since no one can square this particular
    circle it looks like the border will be in the middle of the Irish sea, through this wont emerge till the Tories no longer need the services of the DUP. Yes, I know they made promises to the DUP but mendacity has marked pretty well everything we were told about Brexit

    • Dipper says:

      … or it could be between Ireland and Europe.

      If there was a customs presence on ferries crossing the Irish sea that should be a choice of the UK, and done with the agreement of the NI devolved government. For Ireland to be instructing the UK on how to manage internal issues is an affront.

      • Phillip Watson says:

        But you expect Ireland to manage U.K. immigration at their border. Why?

      • 33250p says:

        As is, by the same token, Britain telling Ireland how to manage its borders

        • Blissex says:

          I am note sure you can compare the might of the English Empire, with nuclear weapons, a veto at the N, the “bravest armed forces”, the “finest intelligence services”, with a disunion of small nations with has-been imperial delusions trying to impose deals on other countries as if they mattered. This is how the English Empire deals with nations that affront english sovereignty, from A Marr, “A history of modern Britain”:

          «In 1942, as Rommel’s tanks drew nearer, and Churchill was fulminating about Cairo being a nest of ‘Hun spies’, the British ambassador told Egypt’s King Farouk that his prime minister was not considered sufficiently anti-German and would have to be replaced. The King summoned his limited reserves of pride and refused. It was, he insisted, a step too far, a breach of the 1937 treaty.
          Britain’s ambassador simply called up armoured cars, a couple of tanks and some soldiers and surrounded King Farouk in his palace. The ambassador walked in and ordered the monarch to sign a grovelling letter of abdication, renouncing and abandoning ‘for ourselves and the heirs of our body the throne of Egypt’. At this royal determination crumbled. The king asked pathetically if, perhaps, he could have one last chance? He was graciously granted it and sacked his prime minister.»

          The EU negotiators had better realize that english patience in face of their insolence and impertinence will not last forever :-).

      • Blissex says:

        «instructing the UK on how to manage internal issues is an affront»

        Absolutely, and arch-“Leaver” Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote as to that in “The Times”:

        “When Jack Straw was replaced by Margaret Beckett as Foreign Secretary, it seemed an almost inexplicable event. Mr Straw had been very competent — experienced, serious, moderate and always well briefed. Margaret Beckett is embarrassingly inexperienced.
        I made inquiries in Washington and was told that Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, had taken exception to Mr Straw’s statement that it would be “nuts” to bomb Iran. The United States, it was said, had put pressure on Tony Blair to change his Foreign Secretary. Mr Straw had been fired at the request of the Bush Administration, particularly at the Pentagon. … The alternative explanation was more recently given by Irwin Stelzer in The Spectator; he has remarkably good Washington contacts and is probably right. His account is that Mr Straw was indeed dismissed because of American anxieties, but that Dr Rice herself had become worried, on her visit to Blackburn, by Mr Straw’s dependence on Muslim votes. About 20 per cent of the voters in Blackburn are Islamic; Mr Straw was dismissed only four weeks after Dr Rice’s visit to his constituency.
        It may be that both explanations are correct. The first complaint may have been made by Mr Rumsfeld because of Iran; Dr Rice may have withdrawn her support after seeing the Islamic pressures in Blackburn.
        At any rate, Irwin Stelzer’s account confirms that Mr Straw was fired because of American pressure.”

        Compare with the outrageous EU dictatorship, with the arrogant, faceless, unaccountable eurocrat M Barnier insolently dictating to D Davis what trade deal the UK can or cannot have and has the impertinence of contradicting him on negotiation progress and passporting rights.


  6. lac dirk says:

    The main option that’s not covered is now technically the default one: the (inevitable) border is put between Ireland and Great Britain.
    It means that the rUK can have any Brexit it wants without paying attention to the Irish dimension. I suspect that that is what will happen eventually. It would see Irish customs officers working in the Northern Irish ports and airports, though.

    • Blissex says:

      «The main option that’s not covered is now technically the default one: the (inevitable) border is put between Ireland and Great Britain.»

      Well, the “Leaver” option is the clearest and simplest default one and the one with over 500 years of history behind it: the government of southern Ireland is a signatory to the GFA, and if the obviously easiest way to have a borderless Ireland is for southern Ireland to humbly petition Her Majesty and the English Parliament to be readmitted as a member of the United Kingdom, they have the legal and moral obligation to do so.
      Other possible “creative” solutions:

      * My favourite: England and Wales exit from the UK, and thus also from the EU, leaving the UK composed of NI and Scotland, which then remain in the EU.
      * Eire and Northern Ireland both gain membership of Canada as new Atlantic Provinces, thus preserving independence from the UK for Eire and loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen of Canada for northern Ireland.
      * Northern Ireland merges with the Isle of Man and they remain in the EU, retaining membership of the EU, loyalty to Her Majesty as head of state, and becoming an offshore tax haven like Eire.

  7. Perry525 says:

    I worked in import/export for 50 years. Dealing with ships into the Port of London, air freight into and out of Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow and road freight to and from the EU, including Ireland, Gurnsey and Jersey..
    A greater part of the product arriving in the UK was not cleared at the Port of Entry, it was cleared at Inland Clearance Depots.
    This included goods moving from Ireland, Jersey and Gurnsey into the UK.
    The procedure was simple, check that the seals on the container were intact at the place of import, check they were intact at the Inland Clearance Depot, check the contents.
    As far as I am aware the system still operates successfully today.
    So why all the fuss?
    We do not need import clearance at the Port of entry, and not on the Ireland border.

    • Dipper says:

      It is notable how everyone who works in these industries does’t see why we need a hard border, but lots of commentators, academics, and lawyers whose only experience of customs is walking through the green channel tell us we will need one.

    • bill40 says:

      I agree up to a point but the question is one of divergence. At the moment this works because there is an assumption that standards and CoO checks are done, if we lose that assumption then hard NI border is inevitable as are far more stringent checks.

      • Dipper says:

        I think this is a(nother) red herring. Companies in the EU already produce for multiple markets and produce products for export that cannot be sold in the EU. They just need to be able to manage multiple regulatory systems.

    • Blissex says:

      «The procedure was simple, check that the seals on the container were intact at the place of import, check they were intact at the Inland Clearance Depot, check the contents»

      That omits a vital “detail”: check that all containers passing the border are sealed. The “seal” system delays only the processing of the cargo and paperwork from the border customs post to inland customs post, does not eliminate the need for the border posts.
      Duh! 🙂

  8. antoin says:

    Nice idea, but the CD’s are not in the European Union (or UK) for VAT purposes. This is a major technical issue.

    The CD concept is interesting in that the CDs are in many respects part of the UK. You won’t meet the Jersey ambassador at the UN for instance. It shows there is great flexibility and imagination in how territory might be administered. This is of course not uncontroversial.

    • Blissex says:

      IIRC the Isle of Man is in the SM including the EU Customs Unions and in the and VAT area, the seigneuries of the channel islands are in the EU Customs Union but not in the SM or the VAT area, which leads to a certain amount of cleverness…

      • Blissex says:

        «IIRC the Isle of Man is in the SM including the EU Customs Unions and in the and VAT area»

        Ha! Things are crazy: it indeed indeed but only for free movement of goods, not of services, people or capital. By special dispensation in the Lisbon Treaty.

  9. Pingback: British politics is crying out for truth not fantasy on Brexit

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  12. EugenR says:

    Dear Dipper, if you still believe Brexit is about sovereignty, then surprise, surprise, it is all about custom taxes, trade agreements, border regulations, shortly a very boring stuff. Nothing romantic about it. Disappointed? Not yet? Oh yes. It is hard to admit a mistake.
    As to claim about democracy, it works most of the times, but sometimes it doesn’t. Many times when it doesn’t, it brings epical dimension catastrophy. So it happened in Athens, when Socrates democratically was sent to death and so it was when in 1933, Hitlers Nazi party won free legitimate elections. Hopefully the British brexit will become marginal issue for the rest of the world, and will mainly demage economically those who voted for it. This seems to me the most probable outcome. I personally would consider it fair enough.

    • Keith says:

      except it will also damage those who did not vote for it and were never fooled by nigel thirsty farage. He at least will collect his enormous EU pension(s) all paid in euro, if he lives long enough despite the booze and fags.

  13. Keith says:

    Brexit an extremist fantasy based on lies. The Far right coalition of chaos still lying day after day.

  14. Dipper says:

    Eugen R and Keith.

    Desperate stuff. Fantasy, lies, democracy a failure. This is just too ridiculous for words.

    The problem for Remainers is they staked all their political capital on Remain and the Referendum came up Leave. They never considered the chance of a Leave vote, now have no political capital in a Leave world, and are becoming increasingly hysterical in trying to rescue themselves from the results of their own misjudgements.

    A Merry Xmas to you both.

    • EugenR says:

      Empty words can’t change the fact, that GB had marginalized itself politically and economically in the world scene. I feel pitty for it, after all without Magna Carta, J.Lock, Shakespeare and all the others, probably we would still suffer from despotic kings and dictators. Now that GB will close itself to Europe and open itself to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, it’s cultural heritage will be doomed, (except of course cricket, where anyway GB has no chance to win).

  15. Gulliver Foyle says:

    “They never considered the chance of a Leave vote, now have no political capital in a Leave world”

    You appear to be using the George W Bush definition of political capital (something to spend), the problem with this is, if the promises and assurances that earned that capital do not get realised or are proved to be false the ‘capital’ runs out and when it does so does the reputation and integrity of the Politian, party or in this case movement that spent it, this is much less difficult to hide when the capital was gained in a plebiscite. Which brings us to: –

    “and are becoming increasingly hysterical in trying to rescue themselves from the results of their own misjudgements.”

    I think we should let history decide who misjudged what, and the benchmark should be the promises and assurances made by the Leave campaign, many of which are already under some considerable strain. We shall see how much “political capital” remains, I don’t think we will have long to wait.

  16. Roger Vickers says:

    Though whilst all this debate bordering on arguement is intellectually stimulating, unless one is in a high position of influence and power it is entirely irrelevant. We will get what we get and live with it. So meantime eyes down and forge ahead with opportunities as they present themselves. For the vast majority of us our only option to exercise any form of opinion of consequence will be in the next general election and in making a choice when that comes around may require the hope for divine intervention.

  17. Blissex says:

    «When you move from one customs regime to another, there is a visible border.»

    There is also the very important issue of VAT, not just common tariffs and rules-of-origin. In terms of money it is a very big deal.

  18. Blissex says:

    BTW just noticed Pete North’s comments on the options available for an EU-exit deal.
    He is absolutely right, and the options for a deal are limitless: the EU member countries are sovereign and they could rewrite all the EU treaties, and even their own constitutions and domestic laws, being “creative” to reach a “deep and special” deal with the UK.
    For example they could agree to give english courts sole legal jurisdiction on the EU and every member country, to give the UK Parliament legislation ultimate authority over their domestic and EU laws, to give UK citizens full freedom of movement in the EU, but not for EU citizens in the UK, to have their financial markets regulated by the BoE and Treasury, to adopt all product and other standards as enacted by UK government departments. After all in a different time the Raj was a model arrangement across the world.
    Absolutely everything is up for negotiation, as in every treaty discussion. The options are simply limitless. It is only the intransigence, obduracy, lack of realism of a small, fading, disunion of have-been nations soaked with imperial nostalgias that drive the inflexible, arrogant posturing of their representative, I mean M Barnier of course.

    • EugenR says:

      And force the Europeans to drive on the left side of the road. After all it is very uncomfortable for the British occupiers of the pubs in the sea resorts in Spain to learn how to drive drunk on the right side of the road.

    • Guano says:

      All of the EU27 said back in April 2017 that they weren’t going to change the rules of the Single Market, nor were they going to allow the UK to cherry-pick which parts of the EU/SM it wants. The reason for that is that the existing rules work fine for the EU27 and, as yet, the UK hasn’t made a clear case for change. Margaret Thatcher was a key driver in creating the SM, and its rules and regulations, so the EU27 are just perplexed that the UK now doesn’t like them (and that supposed followers of Thatcher want to undo her legacy).

      As sovereign states, the EU27 has made a decision which they have every right to do. Is there any reason why they should change their mind (apart from the fact that Vote Leave were wrong in their predictions about what happened)?

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