Lipstick On A Pig – Managed “No Deal”
Most reasonable people are convinced that a “no deal” Brexit scenario would be devastating for the UK economy and society. No deal planning has included requesting pharmaceutical companies to increase stocks of vital medications, plans for food stockpiling, plans to turn part of Kent’s motorway system into a giant car park to handle a logjam in the port of Dover and even contingency planning for troops to be available for ensuring civil society can continue to function. Even the Leave Alliance has long warned against the cataclysmic risks of falling back onto WTO trading rules, yet Brexit headbangers in parliament still advocate it as a viable option.
The prospect of a “no deal” Brexit getting parliamentary approval is close to zero, but if nothing else happens to block it, pause the A50 process or rescind it, “no deal” is the default position on 29/03/19 – without any transitional period: the dreaded cliff-edge Brexit. Even the headbangers accept that this is going to be a hard sell, so in true political spin traditions, its advocates are trying to re-style it as a “managed, no deal Brexit”. The idea of this is that key aspects of the UK’s relationship will be protected in a raft of mini-deals which the EU and UK will strike (immediately and with no discussion, apparently) through mutual interest, but at a national, rather than a supranational, level. It is, of course, insane.
Imagine, for a moment, that (oh, I don’t know…) France, say, decides that the clearly mutually desirable outcome of continued “open skies” scheme is in both its and the UK’s interest, but decides that a condition of such a deal will be that the French fishing fleet is granted rights (maybe even exclusive rights) to British territorial fishing grounds. The British need to have an open skies solution across all of the EU, so the price of agreeing to an extension of the existing (or a worse) fishing agreements would be an acceptable price to pay. The UK would find itself between a rock and a hard place, needing the deal vastly more than any one of its 27 former partners or the bloc as a whole.
Managed no deal shows the intellectual weakness of the Brexit contingent starkly. If the UK can’t get a wholesale agreement at state level with the EU whilst it is still a member and with the leverage that access would be a “job lot”, it is hard to see how the nation would get a better deal when each sector is taken in turn. It completely ignores the fact that each sectoral deal would require the full-time services of a team of dedicated trade negotiators (that are in extremely short supply) and that, until such deals were struck, the sectors would be forced to operate on WTO rules – probably for months.