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If anyone on Earth is remotely surprised that European politicians couldn’t get the Brexit job done by their own chosen deadline of March 29, 2019 you haven’t been on this planet long.
Obviously, the process was bound to fail as no one on the EU side wanted it to succeed — and on the UK side the effort to Leave the EU was quarterbacked by a staunch Remainer; UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Not only that, however. Seven days before the June 23, 2016 referendum to Leave the EU (when the ‘Leave’ side was polling at 65% – 35% among decided voters and climbing) a respected Scottish ‘Remain’ politician by the name of Jo Cox was murdered in a car park and Britons fell backwards in shock and horror at this appalling crime.
Almost instantly, the British mindset was thrown back to the time of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland where each terror attack was more horrific than the previous one, which had the effect of cowing large numbers of Britons who had been working through the process of deciding whether to back ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ in the campaign into maintaining the status quo (at least, for now, they told each other, until we see what happens) consequently, the final referendum result was 52% – 48% for the ‘Leave’ side.
Britain’s Prime Minister at the time of the referendum was the highly principled David Cameron, who decided to resign his premiership soon after the referendum result was announced, as he felt that as a staunch ‘Remainer’ he couldn’t do the job required of a ‘Leave’ Prime Minister. Much respect, David.
1009-Days Since the 2016 Referendum + 100’s of Brexit Promises by PM Theresa May = Still No Brexit
Theresa May the Remainer became Prime Minister on July 16, 2016 and immediately began promising the world to the winners of the 2016 referendum using the language of populists:
- “Brexit Means Brexit”
- “Brexit Delayed is Brexit Denied.”
- “No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal”
- “The UK Will Regain Control of its Money”
- “The UK Will Become The Great Meritocracy”
- “Nothing is Agreed Until Everything is Agreed.”
- “The UK Will No Longer be Subject to a Foreign Court”
- “The UK Will Regain the Right to Write its Own Trade Deals”
- “The UK Will Regain Control of its Borders and Immigration”
- “The UK Will be Leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019.”
- “In Trade Deals With the U.S., the UK Will Now be at the Front of the Line.”
And all of it sounded sincere, legitimate, and oh-so-doable to Brexiteers. It was exactly what they wanted to hear. Those words were like icing on the cake, they were like pristine snow on the mountains, like apples of gold in pictures of silver. How they loved her!
In other words; Too good to be true.
So. Did Theresa May Lie or Fail?
Actually, nobody knows the answer to the question; Did Theresa May lie or fail?
What I suspect is that Theresa May tried to dampen enthusiasm for Brexit in the early days of her premiership, but soon realized the depth of determination among Britons to Leave the EU and reluctantly decided that the only way to stay in power (the goal of every politician, nothing personal against Theresa May) was to deliver Brexit to the British people.
And then, her bureaucratic training kicked-in. And Boom! Whole new ballgame.
Theresa May, the consummate Home Office bureaucrat who became UK Prime Minister via a set of impossible to predict circumstances, must have decided that if the UK was going to Leave the EU it might as well leave with the best deal possible — and that she was the best person to deliver that deal — which, if the universe were a fair place (it isn’t) would result in her winning the next two or three general elections. Fair enough, Theresa.
And I’ve no doubt that she would’ve succeeded — perhaps spectacularly — except for internal EU politics.
Enter the EU Agenda
The EU too, has its own agenda; And first on that list is that the EU is in a conflict of interest with regard to the UK’s European Union membership as the union receives a net annual payment of approximately £10 billion from British taxpayers. Click here to see where the EU has been spending all those 10’s of billions of UK taxpayer pounds. (Information and charts courtesy of TradingEconomics.com)
Second on that agenda is that other EU countries wanting to Leave the EU might feel more empowered to do so if the UK’s exit turned out to be a smooth and easy process.
Resulting in a Complicated Dance
The UK wanting to Leave the EU and led by a Remainer; The EU wanting to help the UK to leave but not wanting to encourage other European Union countries to follow the UK out of the union; And both sides with loud and spirited factions defending their point-of-view. What could possibly go wrong?
Yet, they’ll get it done eventually. ‘Just get us enough smoke and mirrors and we can make anything happen!’ said every policy wonk ever.
The Latest Complicated Dance Move is the UK Missing it’s Official Brexit Day (today)
Now, if Theresa May can’t get her excellent (except for the hated Irish backstop clause) Withdrawal Agreement passed by April 12, 2019, legal agreements between the two blocs will automatically kick-in and the UK will leave the EU in a so-called ‘No Deal’ Brexit and, apparently, the whole world will blow up, or the Sun will go out, or gravity will fail, or some other such nonsense will occur.
Of course, none of that will happen.
UK and EU politicians will simply read the public mood in both countries and if ‘Leave’ voices are still strident in the UK, and if smaller European Union countries are convinced that it’s too hard for them to leave the EU — then we might not only have a Brexit deal, but a decent trade deal — all of which could be cobbled together in a matter of days if the public supports it.
But if it looks like support for Brexit is waning in the UK, or if it looks like the UK is getting away too easily from the European Union, then more political bafflegab will be required and the UK may be stuck in the EU for however long it takes to get to a point of convergence where it works for both sides.
Eventually, There Will be a Brexit: Just That It’s Costing the UK Billions to Stay in the Meantime
Unfortunately for the UK, it’s losing £10 billion (net) per year to stay in the EU (on average) in the form of annual overpayments to the EU budget and it’s also losing multi-billions per month in lost international trade opportunities until Brexit occurs.
Has the continent ever done anything other than cost the UK money?
Not really. But they’ve been great partners in the postwar era and Britain has had Europe’s back just as many times as the EU has had the UK’s back.
And you can’t put a price on that. It’s an incredible accomplishment, especially when we factor-in what happened between European states in the early part of the 20th-century. Astonishing success after success… out of disaster, really.
Yet, the seeds for all that mutual support were laid down decades prior to the formation of the European Union. The EU isn’t responsible for that success, the European Union like the United Kingdom merely benefited from all that prescient pan-European thinking that began in the immediate postwar era.
And as great as it was to get together and to live in each other’s back pockets for a time, it’s costing the UK big time to stay in the EU.
I can only imagine that EU leaders see this for what it is and are sympathetic to the UK, but don’t want a cascade of smaller EU states to suddenly up-stakes and leave the union. Therefore, I understand where EU leaders are coming from.
So, it looks like the dance will continue until public opinion catches up with the legitimate concerns of both blocs (Britain losing billions per month & the EU rightly concerned about a re-fractionalization of European states) but for all the right reasons I hope that Brexit occurs sooner rather than later, and that all these valid concerns are completely addressed and resolved by Europeans working together on both sides of the English Channel.
As always, Europe remains a work-in-progress. May that ever be so.
Either a country is led by a strong leader who controls the narrative or the narrative is controlled by others
And because Theresa May allowed the narrative to be controlled by everyone but her since July 2016, the present moment of government dysfunction is on the Prime Minister’s head. Her talking about the ‘collective responsibility’ of the House of Commons for the ongoing Brexit spectacle is appalling.
She talks about the ‘collective failure of Parliament’ to find a way forward on the Brexit file, yet MP’s are simply reacting to the situation that Theresa May created — or rather, the situation that she allowed to evolve into what it is today.
Whatever is wrong with Brexit at this moment isn’t the voter’s fault, it isn’t the EU’s fault as they’ve been on-message the whole time without deviation (whether we agree with their positions are another matter, of course) and it isn’t the fault of Parliament.
The reason we’re at this absurd moment is because the seeds were set early in Theresa May’s premiership; In her initial feckless attitude towards Brexit, in her so-called ‘red lines’ (which she has now crossed every one of them, so why did she bother?) and in her weakness to a) stand up to members of her own cabinet, and b) to stand up for the UK’s position in Brussels with anything more than supplication and kowtowing.
Assigning ‘collective responsibility’ and ‘collective failure’ on a House of Commons that (practically) had to pull her teeth to gain even tiny bits of news about how the Brexit negotiations were unfolding is a bit rich, Prime Minister!
12-Days From Brexit Day
Europe is now 12-days away from Brexit and nobody, not one person in Europe, knows what’s happening!
The automatic and legally binding default is a No Deal Brexit — as that’s the law in the United Kingdom and in the European Union — as both accepted the final Brexit date as March 29, 2019 early in the discussions.
But if Theresa May is simply ‘going through the motions’ and running down the clock to get to a No Deal Brexit on March 29th she’s still got my vote.
Because, frankly, that’s what The People voted for in the June 23, 2016 referendum, and the referendum result was strengthened by the June 8, 2017 UK General Election where every party that won seats in that election were parties that supported Brexit.
At that time we weren’t talking about Withdrawal Agreements or Political Declarations as Theresa May hadn’t yet begun to confuse everyone with her ‘red lines’, with complicated withdrawal documents, with a plethora of Cabinet-level firings, resignations and hirings, complete with mixed messages between her and her still-employed Cabinet officials, between her and her caucus, between her and the EU and EC Presidents, and between her and the UK public.
I think I see where the problem is. Prime Minister Theresa May has a communications problem.
That’s fine. New Prime Ministers and new Presidents can sometimes have that problem. But it’s important to rectify it before it blows up the country, blows up Brexit, or even blows up the Conservative Party’s chances of governing ever again.
While she’s done a great job on the economy, on government services, and not too bad on foreign affairs (Brexit aside) nobody knows about that information, anywhere! Even people who work for the government might not know that. It’s a well-kept secret. And that’s the number one sign of a communications problem.
The second sign of a communications problem (in this case) is the present Brexit situation which is looking more a debacle each passing day. Even if the UK does exit on March 29th as promised and as required by UK law, she’ll still receive only half the credit she would for accomplishing that goal on account of the bad optics. Not to mention her remaining challenges.
If Theresa May is in charge of her own communications department she needs to fire herself fast — and if she actually pays someone to keep all her good accomplishments quiet and make her look as inept and as timorous as possible in her dealings with the EU, she needs to fire that person, fast.
The ‘Patriotic Thing’ List for Theresa May
- Always own your successes and always own your failures. Don’t try to fob your failures off on MP’s. You created the Brexit situation as it stands, you are the one in charge, it’s yours, own it. Like U.S. President Harry Truman said: “The buck stops here.” And every world leader must live by that rule. Yes, it can be unfair sometimes, but that’s life, and nobody ever said life was fair. It’s why you get paid the big bucks, and nobody forced you into the Prime Minister’s chair. Deal with it.
- Hire a communications director. You need help. He or she won’t be able to cover bad policy decisions that you make, but at least they can minimize them, and they can help you keep MP’s better informed all the way along a process so it doesn’t look like you F’d it up partway through and you’re now trying to dump the whole mess on them and make it look like it’s their fault.
- Keep your promises, no matter how hard that is to do. You said a million times that Brexit will be completed by March 29, 2019, therefore (too late to change now!) you must keep your promise. The UK must Brexit on March 29th, without fail, or you and your party are toast at the next election. And maybe the one after that.
- Even if the UK leaves without a Withdrawal Agreement, Britain will save £39 billion and it will become instantly eligible to sign Free Trade Deals with other countries; Two major benefits right there! And the EU will come calling, of that you can be certain. They need to sell all those BMW’s and Volkswagens into the UK, and a whole lot more than that. Within days and on an à la carte basis, every part of the present draft Withdrawal Agreement will be signed between the UK and the EU, but only because it’s in the best interests of both parties. It will happen organically. Don’t sweat it.
- Threatening to cancel Brexit or delaying Brexit, or adding one or two years to the Withdrawal Agreement negotiating process only works to make you look small. It will make you look like you’re not big enough to handle the job and it makes the UK look like a teenager who says he wants to move out of Mom and Dad’s house, yet becomes afraid and then reneges on his pledge. Cancelling Brexit or delaying Brexit for any reason means that you’re not up to the job and that you need to be replaced. Real leaders get things done, while pretenders need more time, more time, more time — until the whole issue goes away and it never gets done. That’s the kind of thing we see in Frontier economies, not in the Top 10 global economies.
- Stop acting like the UK is the 120th-largest economy on Earth. The UK is the 6th-largest economy in the world and every country wants to trade with it. The UK needn’t kowtow to any country. It’s time to embrace the world, and it’s time to re-energize our relationship with the Commonwealth countries.
“Two men look out through the same bars; One sees mud, the other, stars.” Frederick Langbridge
As per present UK law, Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. Which is the automatic default, by the way. Even if the government were to pack up shop and go on vacation, the UK would still cease to be a member of the EU on that date.
And, as of 26 January 2019, there’s still no signed Withdrawal Agreement for leaving the EU, nor is there consensus in the UK House of Commons on amendments to Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement. Which means that the UK and the EU are headed towards a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ where the UK leaves the EU bloc without any agreed terms, conditions, and mutual privileges.
It’s truly a sad state of affairs that 21st-century politicians can’t even agree on the terms for the UK leaving the EU bloc. You’d think they’d employ the kind of thinking that would get the job done, instead of employing the ‘Win-Lose’ thinking of the 20th-century that brought so much heartbreak to the world.
Howbeit, whether a deal is agreed tomorrow or as late as March 28, 2019 there’s no real problem — other than the fact that the business community won’t have much time to prepare for whatever terms and conditions may apply from January 1, 2020.
Not impossible. Just cutting it a bit close is all.
As You Would Expect, Remainers are Still Trying to Cancel Brexit
Their latest proposal is to support legislation delaying Brexit by 3-months or even until January 2020… ostensibly to give UK and EU politicians ‘time to think their way through’ to a solution (a Brexit agreement) that’ll work for both sides and therefore garner enough votes to pass in the House of Commons and the EU27 countries.
Of course, what it’s about is delay, delay, delay — until everyone dies of old age — or something else replaces Brexit in the European consciousness. You’ve got to know that they’re praying for a major terrorist attack (anywhere!) or another war (anywhere!) to make that bad ol’ Brexit man go away. Just make it go away, Mommy!
Yes… We know… It’s scary becoming a real country again, isn’t it? But that’s what voters want sweety and that’s what they’re going to get. So just buckle in. The adults in the room will get the job done and the sky won’t fall. You’ll be alright kitten.
Another Remainer ploy at this late stage is a proposal to have the UK government hold another EU referendum to ensure ‘The People’ voted the right way, and if not, to give them another chance. Kindness and redemption available from Remainers. So nice!
Not only that, you’ll probably get a participation badge for voting ‘the right way’ this time and the respect of un-democrats everywhere.
After Failing to Agree a Withdrawal Agreement for 2 1/2 Years and Counting; Why Do Remainers Think More Time Will Do the Trick?
As the same problems will remain — no matter how much time is added to the Brexit schedule — so how is the element of ‘more time’ expected to solve anything?
More time… won’t solve anything. In fact, it may prove harmful to the UK side on account of the upcoming EU presidential elections.
Both Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk may seem soft and fuzzy in retrospect once we compare them to the next holders of the EU and EC presidencies, and if the UK can’t get an agreement now with grandpa Juncker and uncle Tusk in office, how do we expect to get a deal with the next crew?
Especially when the fundamental issues preventing a deal won’t have changed one iota in the meantime.
The construct we call ‘time’ isn’t the problem here; It’s the issues. Get it? And either a smooth working relationship is worth preserving or it isn’t.
But if sufficient goodwill exists and if a spirit of compromise is in the air, there will be a deal, and the delays we’re experiencing are merely serving to pressure leaders into accepting a certain set of terms. If that is the case, such delays are being used as a tactic by one side to obtain the deal they want from the other side. Fair enough.
All tactics can be considered ‘fair’ as long as by the end of the process on March 29, 2019 it results in a deal that both sides can live with.
Defining the Future Relationship
More than anything else — because actions speak so much louder than words — if the UK and the EU sign a decent Withdrawal Agreement by March 29, 2019 it will guarantee world-class future relations between the two countries.
And the reward for that is quite obvious; Peace and prosperity for the people of the UK and the EU for the rest of the 21st-century.
When it comes right down to it; Is there anything more valuable in the geopolitical world?
If you think there is, then you haven’t been on the planet long enough. Therefore, stick around young sprite. You’ve plenty to learn.