Peace isn’t a commodity to be traded , subject to customs duties , time limits or a unilateral exit . This is a fundamental truth about the Belfast Agreement with which Brexiteers choose not to engage . The result is our current logjam and the accompanying question of how do we break out of the Brexiteers’s now favoured position – arrived at through of process of failing to agree any other definition of Brexit : a Crash Out with No Deal .
Strategy to Prevent Crash Out
What options does Parliament have to challenge the notion that the legal default of a Crash Out Brexit will arise through the effluxion of time and put in place an alternative path ?
The approach which attracted the headlines was Government of National Unity . Government of National Unity was the wrong name – for a single purpose emergency government averting a national crisis – and the wrong first step.
Chance to Succeed or Fail
Corbyn’s pitching straight to a nuclear option misses out all the earlier steps on what should be a ladder of escalation.
If Johnson isn’t given chance to succeed – or fail – with his ‘plan’ his opponents inherit the blame for failure which should be his.
So there needs to be a parliamentary ladder of escalation which gives him 30 days to table his proposal but maps the parliamentary route which will be followed if he fails.
Don’t Staple Brady to Prosperity UK
Stapling a version of the Brady amendment to Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements won’t meet the test . Not only is it well short of an implementable plan but putting forward a proposal which does not seriously address your negotiating counterpart’s objectives simply returns us to the same cul de sac . And the White Cliffs of the Brexit Crash Out
Macron was succinct on outcome EU required:
Stability on island of Ireland
Maintaining integrity of Single Market
It’s inescapable that UK’s current predicament stems from failing to declare a clear end state and route to it before serving A50 notice . Making triggering notice contingent on declared destination would have created a clear negotiation mandate ,backed by a parliamentary majority to deliver approval of putative deal which met it .
Even now Johnson’s desired future state isn’t clearly declared . If it is ,as assumed ,a version of ‘Canada’ which is accompanied by the much vaunted swift and fabulous deal with the USA the implication is that U.K. is anchoring its future to alignment with that trade super power rather than Europe
The Dare You To Put Up Border argument ( everything is same day we leave as day before) is superficial in that if the explicit direction of travel is divergence the nature of future relationship needs to reflect that . Farage etc bluster over this point in interviews – when they are occasionally challenged
Self evidently if the future state had been settled at the outset , before triggering A50 , then the transition path to follow would have been a clear one which obviated the need for an ‘insurance policy’ aka the Backstop. The recriminations about the tortuous path we have followed , with its accompanying blight of uncertainty eroding confidence , investment and the value of the Pound should be directed at all those MPs who voted for A50 notice to be given as a knee-jerk demonstration of their ‘respect’ for the Referendum result .
In that sense it’s Parliament which has got us into our current mess
Johnson’s 30 Day Plan
Johnson in producing his ‘30 day’ proposal should make the desired future state explicit . If it is ‘Canada’ accompanied by a wide ranging Trade Deal with USA the future is about increasing divergence with EU . It seems self evident the greater the extent and rate of divergence from the EU regulatory sphere the sharper the focus will be on implementing in a short timescale the measures which safeguard the integrity of the EU’s Single Market
Conversely if the strategic choice the UK were making was to anchor its long term future to the regulatory superpower that is the EU the scale and intensity of managing transition to the future state is considerably reduced in scale .
Not Ready to Implement
My understanding of the Alternative Arrangements Report produced by the somewhat whimsically named Prosperity UK is not that of a Trade Expert . However from what I have read it is some way from being an implementable solution. Further work is needed . Many aspects are clunky and cumbersome, and onerous compared with the current position . Furthermore in some respects it requires building on existing ‘special status ‘ arrangements which treat the island of Ireland as one . The problems to be addressed and the danger of this falling apart at first serious challenge are obvious .
So on current knowledge, including that there is no border anywhere which is free of friction it is difficult to see how in any short to medium term time scale – the Home Office put it at 2030 – Alternative Arrangements are going to be a negotiable outcome which will be ready for implementation.
Which Trade Super Power ?
Now if the future state was one which maintained close alignment with the EU customs and regulatory sphere there would be a navigable route to Brexit discernible. Charting that clearly as an outcome to which the parties are committed arguably takes away the need for any Backstop- because the nature of the future state is clearly prescribed along with the timescale for achieving it .
However , if as likely, Johnson’s future state is Canada and a future anchored in the USA regulatory sphere it is difficult to see any negotiable outcome other than a Border in the Irish Sea . It is probably fair to say no one knew this would be the outcome in June 2016 . Certainly the Leave campaigns never seriously considered the issue of the UK’s land border with EU.
This is the reality which will emerge from Johnson surfacing any proposal which is , in effect , the Brady Amendment stapled on to Prosperity UK’s Report . Even if it were to achieve a parliamentary majority it would not signify much because , unless there were a sudden willingness on the part of the EU to undermine the integrity of the Single Market it does not represent an outcome that can be negotiated any time soon .
So the building of a parliamentary alliance to foreclose on the possibility of a No Deal Crash Out needs to anticipate the likely sequence of events and construct a ladder of escalation so there are prepared graduated steps to respond to what the Johnson/Cummings Strategy brings forward – or not ,