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Today Was Supposed to be Brexit Day! Instead, It’s Just Another Day in Europe

by John Brian Shannon

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.

How European.


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.

If the UK Misses Official Brexit Date; UK Industries Could Sue the Government

by John Brian Shannon

March 19, 2019: It’s been 999-days since the June 23, 2016 referendum to leave the European Union and the UK government has failed in all that time to agree a deal with the EU — yet UK Prime Minister Theresa May has steadfastly maintained that Brexit will happen on the promised Brexit date of March 29, 2019 — “Deal or No Deal” — according to the Prime Minister.

And, there is still a 50/50 chance the UK might actually leave the EU on that date.

However, the odds of not leaving on that date were increased due to a series of votes in the UK House of Commons in recent days, and subsequent to those events, Theresa May seems to be backing-off from her usual assertions that “the UK will indeed Leave the European Union on March 29, 2019,” which is having the effect of causing even more uncertainty in the UK economy than had been the case over the previous 999-days.

Whereas the Theresa May government has promised Britons and British industry (hundreds of times over the past 999-days) that “the UK will indeed Leave the EU on March 29, 2019,” and whereas thousands of UK businesses have been incurring extra costs in their preparations over the past 999-days to meet the guesstimated requirements of Brexit, and whereas unconventional costs are likely to be incurred by UK businesses (through no fault of their own) if the UK government misses the official Brexit deadline which has been promised over the past 999-days by the Prime Minister and by other members of her government;

A case may be made that UK businesses can sue the government for the false and ongoing advertising (of the officially presented Brexit date) and for non-performance of its duties (failure to deliver Brexit as promised) and for not warning UK businesses in advance that Brexit may not occur on March 29, 2019 as promised hundreds of times over the past 999-days.

As a majority of Britons voted for Brexit and as UK businesses are subject to democracy just like everyone else, they wouldn’t be entitled to sue the government for acting on the results of the June 2016 referendum.

But what they can sue the government for is promising hundreds of times over the past 999-days to deliver Brexit right up until the official Brexit date — and then not delivering it — with the UK government knowing full well they weren’t able to deliver Brexit, or had changed their minds in recent days or weeks about their ability to deliver Brexit.

Without taking anything away from the previous paragraphs, it could also be argued that UK businesses could sue the UK government for failing to inform them in advance that the official Brexit date (might be) or (will be) missed.

As most businesses in the UK operate on a quarterly schedule, that would mean the UK government should’ve officially informed UK businesses about the possibility of a missed Brexit at any time prior to January 31, 2019 — which is when the October 1 through December 31 quarterly reports are typically due.

If Theresa May and Co. think that they can ‘suspend’ Brexit indefinitely in order to solve the above-described problem, they couldn’t be more wrong.

UK businesses cannot sue the government for the present period of uncertainty.

BUT IF THE OFFICIAL BREXIT DATE IS MISSED DUE TO A FAULT OF THE UK GOVERNMENT, THEREBY RESULTING IN A FAILURE TO DELIVER BREXIT ON TIME AND AS PROMISED; Beginning March 29, 2019 the UK government could be sued by UK businesses for losses resulting from an oft-promised and subsequently missed official Brexit date — especially when no advance warning was given to UK businesses about a potential missed Brexit prior to the end of the 4th-quarter reporting period.

Therefore; For the Theresa May government to avoid having to pay £1 billion per week (or more) in court ordered penalties to UK businesses should the government fail to deliver Brexit by March 29, 2019

I strongly advise the Prime Minister to keep her promise to Britons and to British industry that the UK will exit the European Union on March 29, 2019.

There’s no way out of the looming catastrophe of the UK government being sued by British industry on account of a Brexit ‘own goal’ unless you actually keep your promise that, “the UK will indeed Leave the EU on March 29, 2019.”

And if you don’t keep that promise I hope it costs the UK government billions. Because going forward, that’s how much all the additional uncertainty (from March 30th onward) will amount to and all of it caused by a suddenly missed and no advance notice Brexit.

You were saying to your MP’s recently, “Don’t lose your [Brexit] nerve.”

Well, maybe this blog post/circular will help MP’s to keep their nerve and to deliver Brexit as has been promised by the UK government almost every day for the past 999-days.

Image courtesy of PoliticsHome.com

As Brexit Negotiations Drag On: Are Europeans Missing Opportunities as Big as the Sky?

by John Brian Shannon

Countdown to Brexit

Countdown to Brexit. As of August 5, 2018 there are 237 days until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019.

 

Only 237 days to go until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019, and only microscopic progress has been made on crafting a ‘Win-Win’ divorce deal.

Such is the state of affairs that exists (1) within the UK, (2) within the EU, and (3) between the two countries. It is to weep.

But whether the United Kingdom or the European Union are ready for Brexit or not, the Brexit baby will be born — therefore, it’s imperative that both sides stop posturing and get on with creating a deal that works for citizens and industry on both sides of the English Channel.


What Else Is There Besides Brexit?

Although it may be difficult for Europeans to see, there are bigger issues in the world than Brexit which is why a deal needs to get done properly and quickly as there are other, more pressing, and more important matters for European politicians to attend to.

If we liken the geopolitical world to an auto race (a Formula One race) while all the other teams are busy prepping for the race and getting to their startup positions, the UK and the EU have found a muddy part of the infield and are playing ‘bumper cars’ with each other like a couple of overly-exuberant teenagers — getting mud all over their sponsor’s brand names and on their respective drivers’ goggles, they’re damaging the tires and composite body of their race cars, and they’re burning up precious fuel reserved for racing against the ‘big boy teams’ of America, China, Japan, India, Brazil and others.

Either the UK and the EU governments already have a deal and just haven’t announced it to the public, or they don’t realize that other more important geopolitical matters will soon bypass the ‘tempest in a teapot’ happening in Europe.

New and important things sometimes start small. Don’t believe it?

The first streetlights were installed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1879 when electric lights (Brush arc lamps) were placed along major roadways. Thomas Edison (who spent most of his day napping in his workshop only to become extremely productive afterward) was a person who toiled away for years inventing and designing a reliable light bulb, manufacturing one bulb at a time. Yet, the lighting industry in its entirety is a multi-trillion dollar business in our day.

George Eastman, right under everyone’s noses created a company in 1888 (Kodak) that eventually made so much money they weren’t always able to count it. New machines had to be built (computers) to keep track of the astronomical number of transactions happening all over the world, every minute of every day. Over the decades Kodak contributed more than a trillion dollars to the global economy and made the company and its shareholders unbelievably wealthy. Kodak’s patents and knowledge are still with us today.

The Wright Brothers ultralight aircraft first flew on December 17, 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. At that time, the two men were thought of as odd, even eccentric people with fantastical ideas wasting precious days that could’ve been better spent. Yet, look at what their great invention has created — a multi-trillion dollar civilian airline industry and military aircraft industry.

From tiny beginnings, the first Model T automobile rolled off the assembly line on October 1, 1908 and see the changes the auto industry has brought to the world. Henry Ford is widely credited with the creation of the American middle class, something that propelled America far ahead of its competitors. Today, the world’s auto industry is also a multi-trillion dollar business, yet everyone thought old Henry was a bit of a dreamer.

King George VI united the modern Commonwealth of Nations under the banner, “Leaders agree that Commonwealth members are free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress.” The Commonwealth now have 53 members with a total population of over 2.5 billion citizens and ranks near the United States, China, or Japan in GDP and PPP.

Steve Jobs created a company that in relatively few years became a trillion-dollar company, designing a computer operating system that was ahead of his competitors, and designed an astonishing number of world-class products, services and apps that allowed users capabilities they’d never imagined.

All of these great advances slipped completely under the radar at the time of their creation. Governments, industry, and citizens were completely oblivious as to what would follow.

The first flight at Kitty Hawk was seen as a sort of carnival ride item that made you wish you’d live long enough to see it come to your hometown, while Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, Henry was that far ahead of his contemporaries.

The point is, all these advances and others haven’t stopped at any time during the 20th century — technological advances are happening right now, right under our noses, just as in the time of Henry Ford — and the next Steve Jobs or Henry Ford aren’t going to stop and wait a few years for the UK and the EU to get their Brexit act together.

For all we know, the next trillion-dollar company or multi-trillion dollar industry might be deciding (this week!) where to set-up their ground-breaking operation and such entrepreneurs are likely to avoid regions of the world where economic instability appears or where regulations aren’t finalized. Dragging-out Brexit = European instability.

It’s not against the UK or the EU… it’s against both.

Both will suffer if a stabilized economy and a finalized regulatory environment are seen to be ‘aspirational’ — which is a word entrepreneurs sometimes encounter in developing nations.


Missed Opportunities?

UK and EU leaders should rethink their negotiating ‘strategy’ and factor-in the potential for losing the next start-up, disruptive technology, or multi-trillion dollar industry to a different region of the world, whenever they next meet to discuss Brexit.

Imagine if Europe would’ve ‘had it’s act together’ in previous decades… perhaps Thomas Edison, George Eastman, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs would’ve started their businesses in Europe instead of America.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, negotiators.

With financing and instant communications available almost everywhere, the global playing field has levelled since the 19th century, so ‘ease of doing business’ and ‘a transparent regulatory environment’ can make all the difference when today’s entrepreneurs meet to choose a location for the next trillion-dollar business.

We’ll soon know if any of this registers with British and European leaders…