Britain’s reputation trashed for the sake of a three word slogan

Theresa May was horrified by the idea of a trade border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  “No United Kingdom prime minister could ever agree to it,” she said. No sovereign state, least of all one that still claimed world power status, could allow a part of its territory to be severed from it and governed, even if only on matters of trade, by someone else.

Two years later, though, a UK prime minister did exactly that. He agreed to a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea. He then sold it to the electorate as ”a great new deal that is ready to go” and enthusiastically recommended it to parliament, which duly voted it into law. A matter of months later, the flaws in the plan and its inherent threat to the unity of the UK have become clear. What Theresa May saw immediately, Boris Johnson has only belatedly acknowledged.

The UK leaving the EU meant that there would have to be a customs border somewhere between the UK and Ireland, either on land, between Northern Ireland and the Republic, or in the sea, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Once the UK was outside the single market and customs union, there would have to be import/export paperwork, border formalities and checks somewhere between the two.

Trade experts explained this soon after the Brexit vote. There was no way for the UK to leave the Single Market and Customs Union and avoid a trade border. David Cameron’s aide, Matthew O’Toole, saw this coming before the referendum but his warnings fell on deaf ears. The government was always going to be faced with the Brexit trilemma. It could pick two but it couldn’t have all three. Something had to give and in the end it was circle number 3, so we ended up with Option A.

The Brexit Trilemma

 

The EU made it clear early on that it would not sanction any agreement with the UK that recreated a land border of any sort in Ireland. Once it had committed to that line, there were only three ways there could be a Brexit arrangement that applied to the whole UK. Either the UK stayed in the single market and a customs union with the EU, the BRINO or EU Minus option, it stayed in a customs union and had a single market arrangement for goods only, the Jersey Option suggested by Sam Lowe and John Springford in 2018, or it left altogether with no deal with the EU on anything, a relationship similar to that of Venezuela.

It is, with a little imagination, possible to envisage a way in which the government might just have pulled off an all-UK clean-break Brexit. It would have needed some clear guiding principles and a well thought out strategy to match. It would have required a long lead time to build up the infrastructure and staffing necessary to cope with a No Deal trading relationship and to prepare UK organisations for the level of change. A declaration of intent in 2016 to leave the EU at the end of the budget period on 31 December 2020, or possibly even later, would have given a breathing space in which to prepare. Above all, the government would have had to level with the public about what was to come.

There would have been an outcry. The Northern Ireland peace process was very much an international effort and there would have been widespread disapproval of anything that threatened it. Even so, the UK government could have constructed a reasonable argument to say that the Good Friday Agreement is over 20 years old and was concluded in very different circumstances. It would be unconscionable for such a treaty to prevent a sovereign nation from leaving a trading bloc when its people had expressed their wish to do so through a democratic vote. There would have been complaints about the UK breaching a treaty but the government could have put forward a moral case for doing so. It would not have convinced everyone but it would have been good enough for many.

This, though, would have required a government with strategic capability, moral principles and candour. It would have required planning, preparation and honesty about trade offs, with the UK public and with international partners. Unfortunately, this government lacks all these qualities and capabilities.

Instead, it signed a deal handing over part of its territory to the partial jurisdiction of an external power, while trying to pretend it hadn’t and telling its voters that everything would be pretty much the same. When the reality of what it had agreed became clear, it then pretended that the bill it had signed into law a matter of months earlier was a terrible idea and introduced legislation to renege on the deal. Therefore, instead of making a reasoned case for repudiating a treaty the country signed more than twenty years ago it is now making a hasty case for repudiating one it signed little more than twenty weeks ago. Instead of possibly being found guilty of breaking international law, it is now such a dead cert that the government has already admitted it in parliament. While some in the international community might have seen the UK’s point of view if it had made a reasoned argument for an all-UK Brexit and taken the time to make its case diplomatically with allies and trading partners, doing it this way makes us look ridiculous and offends even this country’s closest friends.

Peter Foster reported in the Financial Times on an unpublished civil service document, which warned the government some of the ways in which the Withdrawal Agreement would affect Northern Ireland.

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, which was agreed to enable Brexit without creating a hard border on the island of Ireland, the UK agreed the region would follow EU state aid law for any matter that affected goods trade.

However, civil servants warned ministers in the January briefing document that Article 10 of the Northern Irish protocol that covered state aid could give the EU power over state aid to UK companies operating outside Northern Ireland.

A decision to subsidise British companies servicing Northern Ireland clients might fall within the scope of the agreement, or granting aid to any company in Great Britain exporting to Northern Ireland or with a subsidiary in the region.

Kit Malthouse was on BBC Breakfast earlier today warning that exports from Great Britain to Northern Ireland could become illegal when the Northern Ireland Protocol is implemented. He’s right, at least in theory. If UK food standards were to diverge significantly from the EU’s, some exports might be banned. Were that to happen, though, UK exporters would also be locked out of the entire EU so they would have a lot more to worry about than not being able to sell to Northern Ireland. It’s an unlikely scenario. Perhaps Mr Malthouse was only using it to illustrate a point of principle. The trouble is, his prime minister conceded that principle at the end of last year.

The implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol were always clear. The EU even published a set of slides to explain it. In Part VI, the fact that Northern Ireland will still be governed by EU legislation on product requirements, agricultural production and state aid is spelt out.

It also sates that:

Northern Ireland can be included in the territorial scope of the UK’s independent trade policy, provided that this does not prejudice the application of the Protocol.

It’s glaringly obvious what takes precedence here.

The Withdrawal Agreement makes Northern Ireland, in many ways, a separate country. It is a partial surrender of sovereignty over part of the UK’s territory. Even the DUP, surely the stupidest political party in any European legislature, spotted this in the end. Late in the day, it finally dawned on them that the project they have been getting excited about for years isn’t going to include them. The rest of the UK is quitting the EU but their bit is being left behind. As Tom McTague said, the price of Brexit is Northern Ireland.

There is now no way out of this which doesn’t involve all the problems we would have had from a properly planned No Deal exit, together with the complete shredding of our international reputation and the probability that no-one will take this country seriously again. Even as he insists that songs celebrating the old empire are sung at the Albert Hall, Boris Johnson has set England on a course to where it was before the empire began: a peripheral European country walking a delicate line between stronger world powers. He accuses the EU trying to break up the UK. The truth is that Boris Johnson has already done that. His agreement and the treaty that he promoted have cleaved the UK into separate jurisdictions. His attempt to backtrack on the deal may further threaten the UK’s unity. If the country is becoming a rogue state, it adds weight to the arguments of those who want to leave it. Polls are already showing rising support for Scottish independence. ‘Let’s leave the ship before it sinks’ could be the sentiment that finally seals it.

Twelve years ago, the UK provided global leadership in the financial crisis. It may be a stretch to say, as some did, that Gordon Brown saved the world but the world came to London, at his invitation, to work out what to do next. Since then, first David Cameron, then Theresa May, have thrown away much of this country’s diplomatic capital. Boris Johnson is now hell-bent on destroying what is left. If he pushes ahead with his plan to renege on his own agreement even our closest friends will distance themselves from us. No one is going to listen when British politicians bang on about the Mother of Parliaments or the Rule of Law. Like the songs at the Last Night of the Proms, it will look like a façade from the past. Peel back the curtain and there is nothing there. We used to joke about the Perfidious Albion tag. It’s not funny any more.

Boris Johnson left Northern Ireland under EU jurisdiction so he could get the Withdrawal Agreement signed and claim he had got Brexit done. The details of the agreement were always clear and it was obvious that it would mean a trade border in the Irish Sea. His attempt to row back on the deal in a matter of weeks fools no one. He is destroying this country’s international reputation for the sake of a three-word slogan. That tells you all you need to know about his government.

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31 Responses to Britain’s reputation trashed for the sake of a three word slogan

  1. Dipper says:

    The EU has behaved in exactly the way I thought they would; as despotic dictatorial authoritarians. The fact we are in this position does not make me think we should not have voted to leave, instead it completely justifies it.

    And that international reputation of the UK – for what? Being a nation that can be intimidated into giving up its territory and its people?

    Having won the referendum the winning side has not only been facing a significant foe in the EU but has had to deal with a political establishment committed to overthrowing the democratic vote and effectively implementing a Vichy regime in the UK where the political class would implement EU decisions on their behalf in the UK. This significantly limited the scope for action. Should Johnson have put the WA through Parliament with this clause? Politics is the art of the possible. He had to find a way through. He did what was possible and necessary.

    Our blogger’s wish that things could have benefitted from proper planning ignores the political reality above, which is that there was not the space or the acceptance of the decision to do that. We have to face down the people here and abroad trying to cower us into submission. If we lose this, that is the end of the UK as an independent nation, we will simply be a colony. Surely no-one disputes this; the idea that we could find come kind of relationship of equal footing within the EU is absolutely dead and buried.

    And on the subject of international treaties, as we (should) all know by now the Belfast Agreement (GFA) does not say anything concrete about the border. What it does do is setup up forums and processes the should enable the issues of different regulations on each side of the border solvable. The requirement to implement hard rules in entirety is an EU choice that runs contrary to the spirit of the GFA.

    The one thing the GFA states with clarity is that NI is part of the UK. The requirement to put a border down the Irish Sea would brake this clause and so would be a breach on an international Treaty. those who have a high regard for ‘International law’ should unequivocally state that there is no way that clause can be implemented.

    • gunnerbear says:

      There was ‘no space’ because right through the campaign, the Senior Leavers made the terrible mistake of not spelling out what Brexit would mean…thus Brexit became all things to all people….and it was never going to be the case.

      And I speak as a Hard Brexiteer…..Boris pushed for the WA….he should have put the hardest version of Brexit before the HoC and then threatened the HoC to do its worst in the face of an electorate that demanded Brexit was done….

    • AnonymousCommenter says:

      Even assuming one decides that it is fine to mislead parliament, the British public and representatives of allied countries in order to better carry out the “will of the people”, Johnson could easily have stood on a No Deal platform at the last election which is essentially what he is risking by trashing the Northern Ireland section of the withdrawal agreement (Ignore withdrawal agreement -> trade sanctions -> continued non compliance -> heavier sanctions -> EU/UK trade dies or EU announces withdrawal from treaty due to repeated breaches). He presumably chose not to based on the assumption that if he did he would lose the election. Accepting the idea lying to the electorate during elections to better fulfill the electorate’s wishes makes no sense and seriously undermines democratic legitimacy.

      • Dipper says:

        He stood on a platform of wanting a deal but accepting that no deal is a possibility. That is the current position – that a deal is the preferred outcome but we will have No Deal if the EU is unwilling to negotiate a fair deal.

        The EU agreed to negotiate a trade deal in the WA. They haven’t done this. They Irish government signed the GFA which recognised NI as part off the UK. They no longer abide by this and have breached the

        See the Spectator for details of Germany placing domestic law over international law which is just what the UK is doing.

  2. Dipper says:

    And another thing … this is bound to spill over into Security. The idea that we should be putting our armed forces in a position to risk their lives to preserve the independence of nations who are actively trying to remove our independence is so obviously nuts it will have to go.

    • itsyourself says:

      Hysterical brexiter tripe. No wonder we are such in a state when people so easily swallow the bogus arguments the ideologues and hedge funders make. The chaos and economic slump coming our way are entirely a product of the abysmal and deceitful leadership, the worst we have seen in this country. Thatcher, the architect of the single market, would never have stood for such gibbering incompetence and their calamitous effect on the UK.

      • Dipper says:

        I think you will find the worst leadership we have seen in this country was when Major handed over the keys of the country to the EU at Maastricht.

        The only bogus arguments are the ones advanced by Remainers. The Federalists in the EU must be unable to believe their luck at having so many gullible idiots on their side desperate to hand over the UK to their control for them to plunder as they wish.

        • gunnerbear says:

          Thatcher does have a lot to answer for…..if she hadn’t rammed through the SEA, there would’ve been no Maastricht etc.

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  4. Brendan says:

    >The EU has behaved in exactly the way I thought they would; as despotic dictatorial authoritarians.

    From one of the Batman movies:

    “Let me get this straight, you think that your client, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante, who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, and your plan is to blackmail this person?”

  5. Vince Lammas says:

    As you might expect, Brexit-supporting commenters here (as ever) don’t understand the EU as a club that is joined for the benefit of its facilities (or perhaps an analogy as a game that one enjoys playing with others for mutual benefit). Each of these introduces limited constraints upon participants’ freedoms to act – these are inherent under the current rules.

    Clearly, they would never join a golf club or play cricket with a team!

    The fact the mis-sold vision is unravelling before their eyes is an uncomfortable experience and it’s interesting to see they cannot fathom an approach that would have involved honesty and candour with the British electorate and ended up with a successful exit.

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  7. Old49er says:

    Each time the Brexit fantasies and lies crash up against harsh reality, the Brexiters find ever deeper and darker rabbit holes to take the country down. Brexit is an irrational extremist cult and thus each time when it is exposed as a not working, the cry has been “That’s because we aren’t doing the right, pure Brexit”..

    • Dipper says:

      When we get to the point when wanting to be an ordinary state like Australia, Japan, or Canada, one where the nation’s voters elect a government that makes the laws and where government talks to government to enable mutual benefit is deemed ‘fantasies, extremist cult’, then we have well and truly gone through the looking glass.

      • Alex SL says:

        The problem has never been that UK can’t be like those countries. The problems were (1) it can’t be like those countries without breaking the GFA or giving away Northern Ireland, and (2) the referendum was won based on the lie that becoming like those countries would come without the substantial losses to prosperity and freedom of movement for UK citizens.

        If (1) Ireland were reunited and (2) the referendum had been won on the honest proposition that the British economy would be devastated there would be no problem whatsoever. Another alternative is to stay in customs union and single market, but that is the second horn of the dilemma of Brexit either being damaging or pointless.

        Regarding supposed EU despotism, in the present negotiation your government is not faced with an EU that wants to keep the UK in, it is simply faced with an EU is unwilling to give zero tariffs, zero quotas, cabotage, free data flows, etc. without obligations. If the UK government prioritises pure freedom in theory over being able to freely trade and move in practice, akin to a human who prefers to live alone in misery in shack in the woods instead of dealing with other people’s social and legal expectations and respecting their interests and desires, it can walk away at any time. The negotiators aren’t tied to the chairs. But there will be consequences, because you buy benefits by taking on obligations.

        • Dipper says:

          just to comment that the GFA is not barrier to having different regulations on each side of the border. There already are different regs and duties, and the GFA sets up processes and institutions that enable these issues to be resolved.

          the EU and other international bodies clearly have not read and do not understand the GFA. It is not shared sovereignty. The one statement the GFA specifically makes is that NI is part of the UK and RoI accept that. And wen people say they are worried by a ‘return to violence’ that is a specific threat to use terrorism to force the UK to accept the proposal.

          I get the bit about deal. But the eU aren’t interested in a deal when they think they can force the UK to capitulate with help from people in the UK who are keen to overturn election and referendum results.

          ‘substantial losses to prosperity’ … ‘British economy would be devastated’ this is just nonsense.

          • Alex SL says:

            I will admit I am not an expert in international law with a specialisation in the GFA, but to me this is like other cases outside my expertise, e.g. global warming or Covid. If all the experts, the EU as a whole, Ireland, the USA, and most of UK politics say A, and Dipper and the right of the UK conservatives say B, I should be forgiven for thinking that A is more likely to be correct.

            Again, the EU is not trying to overturn the referendum or to force the UK to capitulate. They have always accepted that the UK is leaving, and what you call capitulate is merely “this is what you need to do to get a trade deal”. It is no more capitulation than me having capitulated when I negotiated the price I paid for my car. I could just have gone to a different dealer, or stuck to my bicycle and buses.

            Re: loss of prosperity, see above regarding all experts. I think what you may not appreciate enough, as indicated by your repeated references to Japan, Canada, Australia, is that economic actors adapt to existing conditions. As somebody else here has already pointed out, the entire UK economy is now adapted to being part of the single market, so when it suddenly finds itself outside, there will be massive disruption. Of course there will be a new equilibrium long-term, but it will be comparable to a human leaving their well-paying job in a huff without having secured a new one, spending a year searching for a better one, moving to another state with a spouse and child who really hate that, having to build a new social network in the new place and adapt to a new school etc., and then only getting a significantly lower salary at the new job.

            Whether that is ‘devastating’ is perhaps arguable, and I fully appreciate that sometimes you have to leave a job because you just can’t stand working there, money isn’t everything, yada yada. But yes, this kind of disruption *is* a hit to the UK’s prosperity, that fact was not admitted by the leavers during the campaign, meaning the result was as legitimate as if the human above had lied to their spouse by saying that they already had a much better job offer in the bag, and the family members who wanted to stay where they were will always remember the unnecessary pain they were made to go through and having been lied to with huge resentment.

          • gunnerbear says:

            The Remainacs have lied to us for years….shouting that the EU was about no more than trade when they knew…absolutely that it was way more than that. The UK and EU will still trade.

      • jayarava says:

        Except that we were *already in the EU*. That was a fact. And getting out was always going to be costly and to have unforeseen consequences. And it was clear that at the time of the referendum most people had inaccurate information and no one had good information. Leaving was always an emotional decision, not a rational one. The rationalisations notwithstanding the feelings engendered by English Nationalism and the myth of British exceptionalism (the last gasp of Empire) were what drove the vote. We know this more clearly in hindsight because it’s clear that there is no rational economic case for a hard Brexit. Economically it is bad for Britain.

        Crashing out in this way, burning all our political capital on a bonfire of vanity, and now breaking the agreement that everyone agreed to (including Johnson), is far more damaging than being in the EU was for the UK. As one of the big three Western European countries we were flourishing in the EU. Free trade with Europe was working for us.

        The nationalist dream of absolute sovereignty has never made any sense to me because it sounds like fascism. Because we never gave up sovereignty but agreed to abide by committee decisions in which committee we had the loudest voice. Because I have no faith whatever in UK politicians running the UK for my benefit, in fact considerably less faith given that they plan to trash human and workers rights protections. And now the Coronavirus debacle shows us that despite being more popular, the Tories are incompetent. Labour are obviously incompetent also. With out the stabilising influence of the EU, who now *hate* us,

        Even if we stipulate that we *should* leave the EU based on just 17 million votes (about 1/3 of the electorate) the process has been badly mismanaged from the start and the present move is madness. We want to trade with the EU, our largest trading partner and reneging on our basic trade deal is not helpful. We want to be able to make trade deals with the EU because that is what makes us prosperous in the present. From now on we will do so from a position of considerable weakness. If anyone is still crowing about Brexit at this point then they really do have their head up their arse. Looking at you Dipper. This bill will be an unmitigated disaster for the UK.

        In the meantime we are watching the Covid R0 rise without any sense that No.10 know what they are doing. Endless three word slogans do not make a coherent plan.

        • Dipper says:

          ‘the myth of British exceptionalism (the last gasp of Empire) ‘

          *** RACISM CLAXON ***

          the ‘British Exceptionalism’ meme tied in to mentions of Empire is just a racist device to present the English as bad people uniquely deserving of colonisation.

          For clarity, all me and millions of others are asking for is nationhood along the lines that the rest of the world understands it, eg Japan, Canada, Australia, Brazil. To pretend that is some kind of exeptionalist throwback is just an anti-English racist device.

          Anyone commenting on an independence movement in Africa as ‘African exceptionalism’ would rightly be dismissed as racist. Same here

          And which side is it going on about ‘Britain’s influence’ and ‘Britains place in the world’ . It is clear that Remainers are hanging on to Empire notions of the UK was one of the world’s moral authorities. Get over it. Its gone.

        • gunnerbear says:

          The UK will continue to trade with the EU or do you think the EU firms won’t want to sell their stuff to us?

        • gunnerbear says:

          “Even if we stipulate that we *should* leave the EU based on just 17 million votes (about 1/3 of the electorate)”
          Still more than the Remainers got….I wonder if you’d be screaming about the number of votes if the Remainacs had won….

  8. Dipper says:

    This ‘mutual benefit’ stuff is an utter delusion. That is simply not the case.

    To take one instance, the UK population is, on the EU’s own numbers, due to go from 60 million to 80 million in a generation. Who benefits from that? Which nation of 60 million needs an extra 20 million people?

    The perpetual inability of Remainers to understand what is directly in front of them and staring them in the face never ceases to amazer.

  9. Jim says:

    “Clearly, they would never join a golf club or play cricket with a team!”

    I played club cricket for 25 years, for 4 different clubs over the years. Whenever I left one for another no-one ever tried to blackmail me into staying, or demanding I negotiate a ‘withdrawal agreement’, with on going payments and preventing me from joining other clubs. Indeed I often played for 2 clubs at once, maybe Sundays for one and Saturdays for another, with no animosity for so doing. Each club was pleased to have the benefit of my skills (and subscriptions) at the times I chose to offer them. I paid my dues as I went, but when I left I wasn’t liable for any debts the clubs had agreed to take on.

    If you think being in the EU is analogous to being a golf or cricket club its you thats never been in either.

  10. Dipper says:

    Some suggested guidelines for Remainer posters.

    1. There are ideas circulating in Retainer-land that fall into the category ‘Racism for nice people’. These ideas include suggestions that leaving the EU is English Exceptionalism, Xenophobia, a wish to revert to Empire etc. They fall into the category ‘You say you are X, really you are Y, and being Y makes you a bad person.’. Don’t make these arguments. They make you look stupid at best and a quasi-racist bigot at worst.

    2. Don’t go on about how being in the EU is like being a club, you pay your fees, you get benefits; no fees, no benefits. As Jim says above, it isn’t a club. It’s a supra-national organisation. We get that it has rules, we get that there are costs and benefits, Leaver’s don’t think the costs (bothfFinancial and consequential) justify the benefits.

    3. Don’t go on about how educated you are and how stupid Leavers are. It is an illusion to think that your degree in whatever is some kind of passport to wisdom. It isn’t. And David Deutsch is a Leaver. And you’re not smarter than him, unless you are David Deutsch in a different universe. Hence …

    3a. … Don;t think you’ve got a really clever point that stupid Leavers won’t have thought of. We have thought of it. We have just arrived at a different conclusion, that’s all.

    4. We are now in a substantially different place than we were in 2016. We cannot just wind the clock back and pretend this never happened. If we go back in now or agree punitive terms then people like Verhofstadt, Merkel, Macron etc will have learned that we can always be intimidated into submission. So try and argue about the situation now and possible futures, not come up with some mythical future world in which we sit as equal partners at an EU table. That world is never going to exist.

    5. If you mention the GFA, please furnish your mention with the actual relevant text from the agreement. If you cannot find that text, then your point is probably wrong.

    Us Leavers may be wrong. Who knows, The future isn’t written yet so neither part knows what the answer will turn out to be.

    • Alex SL says:

      I am not a remainer but a European, but I think some of this is also meant for me.

      1. It is legitimate to point out that people sometimes show through their actions or arguments what they disavow otherwise. Surely you must know that few people will openly admit to being racist, yet strangely there are still lots of racists, i.e. people who demonstrably judge others based on their skin colour, language, nationality, traditional dress or culture as opposed to their character and behaviour.

      2. Analogies are a useful tool in discussion. The point here is that many Brexiters see the EU as a malicious empire that subjugates the member states, whereas the reality is that the EU *is the member states*. The current negotiations are not the UK against one evil empire, they are the UK against 27 other countries with their own interests.

      It is actually quite bizarre to see how this is twisted by Brexiters, who talk as if the UK was dragged in instead of having joined voluntarily, as if the UK was dominated instead of being one of the three most influential members and *the* driving force behind many key decisions such as the single market and the admission of members in Eastern Europe, and as if the UK was a colony fighting to be freed instead of being able to leave simply by sending an article 50 note. (I am sure India and Kenya would have loved to have it that easy.)

      3. Maybe you have thought everything through, and if so, good for you. But it is demonstrably the case that many leading Brexiters were taken completely by surprise by the Irish border question, expected the EU to give them all benefits of membership without the conditions because German car makers, thought a full trade deal could be negotiated before even invoking article 50, and so much more. This stuff is well documented, and you can either acknowledge that they were clueless or that they were lying.

      4. Again, you have a warped view of what is going on. The nations of the EU are not giving the UK tariff-free etc market access without conditions. That is not ‘punitive’, it is “if you want this, you need to do that”. The UK is free not to want that degree of market access and can walk away at any time, but it cannot expect the other side of the negotiations to simply bend over and give it everything it wants.

      5. I am not a legal expert, but if all the experts, the EU as a whole, Ireland, the USA, and most of UK politics say A, and Dipper and the right of the UK conservatives say B, I allow myself to tentatively conclude that A is more likely to be correct.

      • Dipper says:

        thanks for the reply. I’m a European too. It was meant for UK Remainers.

        1. The Brexit Party and the Conservative Party both had/have people of race in their representative ranks.

        2. Again there is a subtle point here that the UK has been ruled by a class of people who were less than honest about the consequences of each round of integration, and also found it useful to behave as if the UK was a colony ruled by European dictat, not that this was inevitably the case. All national politics is a family argument and this is no exception. I do feel for the EU negotiators who put terms to May they thought would be fiercely argued with, found them accepted in their entirety, and now find the whole thing thrown out. It is hard to negotiate with a party that is internally fighting.

        3. The GFA is an agreement about agreements. It creates institutions and processes that allow the two parts of NI sufficient representation from their favoured sovereign entities to live in peace together and resolve specific issues like cross-border differences through negotiation. It does not anywhere state there must be a free and open border. If you read Dan Hannan he points out that the RoI and the UK were working towards ways of managing the consequences fo the border until the border got hijacked as a vehicle for forcing concessions out of the UK, and to follow on from my reply to point 2 above, parts of the defeated Remainer clique suddenly found a way of refusing to implement the decision. In my opinion this is solvable, and the refusal to solve it is a refusal to honour a referendum and a decision by a sovereign state that was made available in A50 of the Lisbon treaty. There is a cultural point here that in the UK contracts are vehicles to enable two parties to engage each other with good will, whereas the EU view seems to be that contracts are ways of allowing you to be legally hostile to the counterpart. This is reflected in the different legal systems too. Personally I think it is a very bad idea to force the UK to engage in this latter manner as you will never get an agreement out of the UK again, and that applies to security too.

        4. Yes I agree with that. The GFA is being used to avoid an agreement of the kind you state. Brexiteers like me would like a trade agreement but the EU seems to be determined to include fishing rights and other issues that are not found in normal parts of trade agreements.

        5. Experts are not impartial in this. On one side is an EU system that is largely technocratic and gives ‘Experts’ jobs, power, status. On the other side is a system of parliamentary sovereignty where the electorate are free to ignore Experts if they so decide. There is a clear and obvious side for technocratic experts to be on, but that doesn’t make it necessarily the ‘right’ side. The GFA is easy to read, and I recommend reading it.

        • Alex SL says:

          1. Maybe I was unclear, because that is completely besides the point. First, racism was just an example for why your argument that we should take people at their word is unrealistic. Another would be claiming to want a deal while deliberately working towards no-deal, or claiming to want to maintain labour standards while hoping to deregulate. Second, of course politician A who is a racist can be in the same party as politician B who is of Indian ancestry, but that doesn’t mean that A isn’t racist. And what is more, obviously B can also be a racist, e.g. against other groups of immigrants or later-comers. When I lived in Switzerland I knew an Italian woman who immigrated into the country decades ago and now complained about all those other immigrants doing exactly what she had done then. If that isn’t xenophobia then it would have to be at least hypocrisy and “I got mine, screw everybody else”, but her tone and expression signalled the former.

          2. Thanks for this very nuanced reply. That has indeed been one of the problems from the start.

          3. My original point here was about many Brexiters being demonstrably ignorant about a variety of issues, the Irish border only one of them.

          4. I don’t know much about the fish issue, to be honest. I am told that UK fishermen sold much of their quotas off. I don’t know to what degree that is correct, but if it is it does not seem right for the UK to simply declare sovereignty and grab them back. But apart from this very specific issue, yes, of course this is not just a normal trade agreement, because the UK isn’t just Australia coming to sign a trade deal, it is and will continue to be deeply entwined with the rest of Europe as a consequence of history and geography. So, there are various issues to be resolved where this or that side has more leverage, from cabotage to data flows to professional mobility. *Of course* the EU member states will take the position that they aren’t going to give the UK what it most wants without playing that against what they most want in return. *Of course* they will not tick off all areas where they have leverage and then leave the UK with leverage in all remaining issues, having given up any chance of pursuing their interests there. They would have to be really stupid to do that.

          This was always going to happen, and that goes back to leading Brexiters being either naive or dishonest about the difference between being and not being member of an organisation that protects the members’ interests. We hold all the cards, easiest deal in history, we will keep all the benefits – again, even if you personally didn’t support them, all these claims are (a) well documented and (b) very likely to have tipped the referendum, because it seems extremely unlikely that a few percent wouldn’t have voted the other way if they had been told honestly and understood that the UK would have hardly any cards, would face never-ending tough negotiations with the EU once outside, and would automatically lose most benefits.

          (As an aside, I therefore find it difficult to accept the result of the referendum as any more legitimate than somebody agreeing to sell me a car and then delivering a pushcart. There is a word for that behaviour, and in everyday life it means I get my money back and the ‘seller’ may attract the attention of certain authorities. But I am not a UK citizen, so I do not have standing to complain about the legitimacy of the referendum.)

          5. You appear to be saying that tenured law professors at UK universities, former UK prime ministers, and leading US politicians take the EU’s view despite it being false, because they are gunning for a technocrat job at the EU. That doesn’t convince.

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