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“The Brexit Committee has warned that even under the most optimistic scenario, there may not be enough time to complete all necessary work before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. The Brexit Committee report also calls for an extension to the exit timetable if a deal has not been finalised.” — The Express
What *Have* They Been Doing?
Two years on from the June 2016 Brexit referendum and with almost one more year to go before the stated target date of March 29, 2019 and the Brexit Committee says that “even under the most optimistic scenario, there may not be enough time to complete all the necessary work before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.”
That’s the definition of ‘Low Ambition‘ right there.
Whether the fault lies in Brussels or at 10 Downing, or even because of the infighting that happens within the Conservative Party itself, governments need to remember that the people have spoken (and quite apart from that) sentiment continues to grow among the UK voting public for the government to ‘just get on with it’.
Even people who voted Remain now think the best thing for the country is for a quick and streamlined Brexit agreement — one that is fair to citizens and industry on both sides of the English Channel.
If two years and nine months isn’t enough time to get it done, what is?
Do the politicians in London and Brussels think they have carte blanche to spend the rest of the decade and part of the next to arrange a suitable Brexit deal? If so, that’s very telling… and not in a good way.
Citizens on both sides of Brexit need to know and industry needs to know what to expect so they can prepare for life after Brexit. And they needed to know a year ago.
How Hard Can it Be?
Most of the existing EU laws will simply continue unchanged following Brexit, therefore, more will stay the same than will change.
It was originally thought that the UK would be leaving The Common Fisheries Agreement by March 29, 2019, or at the latest, by July 2019.
Therefore the UK had been negotiating with the EU in good faith so they could make some basic decisions about how to manage UK fisheries after Brexit. Micheal Gove is surely an able enough minister to easily handle it, yet, the EU indicated that the Common Fisheries Agreement will remain in place until 2020 and there will be no negotiation about it. And that was the end of that.
Read this important article about UK fisheries policy between March 29, 2019 and January 1, 2021: Brexit: Michael Gove shares fishing industry ‘disappointment’
Actually, the EU might’ve done the UK a favour by sidelining fisheries policy until after Brexit. Imagine that!
As off-putting as that sounds, it dramatically lightens the load of UK government negotiators because it’s one less sector that needs to be debated with EU negotiating teams. All of which should have conspired to put both the UK and EU six months *ahead* of schedule on the Brexit negotiation timeline!
So we can’t blame Brexit delays on Micheal Gove, the Common Fisheries agreement, or the EU for delays to that timeline.
Both the UK and EU will remain members of NATO post-Brexit and as the UK already operates its own defence infrastructure there isn’t much change expected there.
Apart from arranging the return of any non-NATO-dedicated Royal Air Force jets presently in EU countries, or removing Royal Navy ships from EU waters (unless there by invitation of an EU country or while taking part in a NATO exercise) there isn’t much for Gavin Williamson the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom to handle for this part of Brexit. A few phone calls before the Brexit date should cover it.
So we can’t blame the lack of progress on Gavin Williamson or his EU defence counterparts for agreements not reached in time for Brexit.
CUSTOMS and SINGLE MARKET
Thus far, the EU seemed to be in denial that the UK was actually leaving the bloc, so quite logically from their point of view; Why would they want to entertain UK negotiations allowing the UK to leave the customs agreement and the EU’s single market architectures?
But now that the UK Parliament have voted in favour of the EU Withdrawal Bill you’d think the EU would accept the UK is leaving the bloc and that it is time to begin crafting an agreement setting the dates and terms to allow Britain to leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market.
But since the Withdrawal Bill passed last week, some in the EU suddenly began saying that negotiations with the UK can’t continue because the UK’s ruling Conservative party is ‘deeply divided’ and that ‘the EU can’t be certain who it is dealing with’ — yet, the UK government easily passed the EU Withdrawal Bill which it said it would do all along.
Full marks here to Prime Minister Theresa May for shepherding this bill through and making it look easy. Brilliant!
Read this important article about: How MP’s voted on the EU withdrawal bill amendments
Until the Withdrawal Bill was signed into law, any Brexit timeline delays were the fault of UK Conservative Party MP’s and the EU bore no particular blame for its lack of enthusiasm regarding the furtherance of Brexit negotiations.
However, now that the bill has been made into law, negotiations must begin in earnest.
FREE TRADE BETWEEN THE UK and THE EU POST-BREXIT
Almost everything that applies to the delays in the customs and single market negotiations (see above) applies here too.
To reiterate: Until the Withdrawal Bill was signed into UK law, delays to the negotiation timeline are to be blamed on the UK side and not on the EU side for the simple reason that until the UK side got serious about Brexit, why would the EU get serious about it?
Fortunately, and better late than never, PM Theresa May got the job done and now things must advance in the interests of industry and citizens on both sides of the Channel.
Not that the UK can suddenly afford to make Brexit ‘the EU’s emergency’ as the UK pursued the Withdrawal Bill in a most leisurely fashion over the past 32 months.
“A lack of planning on your part doesn’t necessarily constitute an emergency on my part.”
Yet because trading arrangements will benefit business on both sides of the Channel things must now move smartly along or delays will hurt business on both sides.
I wouldn’t want to be the German Chancellor or the British Prime Minister (for example) who failed to get a trade agreement ready in time for Brexit, or the leader who failed to make the necessary modifications to their respective departments to allow trade to continue uninterrupted.
IMMIGRATION and FREE MOVEMENT
It looks like this is a non-negotiable for the UK government. Too many British citizens spoke too loudly and too clearly for any UK Prime Minister to dare overrule their wishes.
Each EU citizen wishing to remain in the UK after Brexit will pay a nominal annual fee (about the price of a passport) and will be required to provide an up-to-date address and telephone number for the Home Office. Simple enough.
EU citizens wanting to move to the UK after Brexit will face the same requirements as EU citizens who’ve elected to stay on in Britain.
Non-EU citizens can probably expect about the same, although emigrating to the UK *after* Brexit will be much easier if you’re an EU citizen or Commonwealth citizen.
Now that the EU Withdrawal Bill Has Finally Passed It’s Time to Lift Those Anchors!
For industry, change is always negative but still doable. But late changes are lethal to business on both sides.
And UK leaders and EU27 leaders must remember that!
Industry needs clear and timely regulations (with a long lead time) that must rank higher than the ideological differences between the heads of European states (including the UK) higher than the (occasional) personality conflicts between politicians, and must always rank above the partisan politics within a country.
From the day the Withdrawal Bill was finally signed into law, every day must now count, be counted, and be accountable — or the UK and the EU27 will be racing with ‘their anchors still in the water’ against every other ‘ship of state’ in the world.
And that’s not how you win races, whether nautical or economic.
As of today, we’re 286 days from the official Brexit date and much remains to be done, and for all the squallering about it, not much has happened. At least, not that the public can see.
Yes, a final Brexit date has been set, Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed to pay a £20 exit fee (or perhaps as much as 40 billion according to some reports) to the European Union, there may (or may not be) an interim period when the UK is partly in and partly out of the UK (and without EU representation during that interim period — even though the UK will continue to pay billions to the EU) no trade deal has been agreed, nor have customs issues been resolved.
And all of it built upon the principle that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ which means that the UK has effectively nothing if negotiations go awry.
Further, the Good Friday Agreement could be endangered if the ‘no agreement’ scenario comes to pass.
Not very confidence inspiring.
Perhaps All is Not Lost
Negotiators have different ways of obtaining agreements and sometimes the most effective strategy is to wait until the end of the negotiating cycle and hit ’em hard with a deal they just can’t refuse just as the last few days tick off the calendar. Which is a legitimate negotiating plan, if, if, if, that’s what the plan is.
There’s something to be said for playing ‘defence’ (watching the other side to get familiar with their tactics and devices) as EU negotiators play ‘offense’ using all their ammunition to try to slow, obfuscate, or completely derail Brexit.
In short, it might be better for the UK to let the EU expend all of its effort — and withstand that barrage — then at the last-minute, the United Kingdom suddenly offers up a trade deal that the European Union can’t pass up.
If that’s Theresa May’s strategy to deliver Brexit to UK voters, it’s a good one. But only if she and the MP’s whose constituents voted for Brexit can withstand the ongoing negotiating and media blitz for 286 more days.
Otherwise, she will fail, and so will Brexit.
Risky (if you have a weak team) and brilliant (if your team is strong)
We shall see…
As European Union negotiators can’t see any reason to support Brexit, they will continue to keep the European Union’s best interests in mind — which is to say, they will try to stop, slow, obfuscate, or otherwise derail the Brexit process by almost any means possible.
And why shouldn’t they feel that way? The EU is a net beneficiary of £8.6 billion annually courtesy of the UK, so there’s little incentive to stop a contribution that is larger than that of all other EU-member countries except Germany.
If there are any Brexit benefits to the European Union, nobody has bothered to tell EU negotiators or EU media channels.
So how would anyone know if there will be Brexit benefits for the EU when the UK government hasn’t mentioned them once? And yet there are likely many Brexit benefits — for both sides — that just aren’t being discussed.
How to Sell a Product or Idea
When you’re trying to sell apples to a potential customer, giving them a nonstop spiel about how much *you* like apples won’t help you sell many apples!
But if you hand your potential customer a hot glass of mulled apple cider and walk them past appealing displays of fresh apples, followed by a pleasant tour through the on-site bakery bursting with the aroma of piping hot apple pies and offer them a tantalizing sample at the exact moment their interest in apples is high, you’ll sell more apples.
If you’re selling cars, you don’t spend your time telling the customer about the specifications of the car and how it can transport you here and there with ease. Any ol’ car can do that.
Instead, you answer their questions about the car, you offer a test drive so they can experience how much better it drives, sounds, and looks than their present car, all of which work together to help them fall in love with the car you’re selling.
If you’re a really smart salesperson, you’ll slap a dealer plate on the new car and let your customers take it home for the weekend so they can show it off to their comrades who will help convince them the new car is much better than their old jalopy.
And have you ever noticed that beer commercials don’t show you endless cans of beer and a quick snapshot of the brewery?
Breweries are highly experienced marketers and they want to show you good-looking people having a great time socializing with their friends and family in a picturesque setting or while engaged in enjoyable activities.
Look at that product placement! There’s the can of beer right beside those sizzling steaks on the barbecue while those great people in the background are enjoying their evening.
Considering a run to the beer store? Well yes you should — because you’re a good person, you work hard, you love spending quality time with your friends and family and you deserve a summer’s evening just like the people on that commercial. That’s the message.
Marketing types call this Feature/Benefit selling, ‘Selling the sizzle, not the steak’ which isn’t about what the product or service actually is, it’s about what it can do for you and how it can make you look or feel happier and better.
What Isn’t Theresa May Doing?
She isn’t selling the benefits of Brexit to the EU.
We know there are many benefits for Britons but even that has been under-sold.
In the early days following the Leave referendum it might’ve looked to Remainers as though Brexit could still go either way, so Theresa May was probably wise to move cautiously at first. But that time has passed. Almost every person and business in Britain wants to get beyond the present period of uncertainty and get on with creating a fresh start for the UK outside the European Union.
The right time to begin crafting a trade agreement that works even better than the present trading system has arrived. And now that we’re at this point in time, under-selling the benefits of Brexit to UK and EU citizens is not the way forward.
What Is The Way Forward?
In a word, Vision.
Theresa May needs to put on her ‘Steve Jobs hat’ and figure out what the best possible Brexit vision looks like from both the UK and EU perspectives.
Starting with a completely clean sheet; What would that look like in its entirety? What would it look like five years on?
If she doesn’t offer an inspiring vision that a majority of people on both sides of the English Channel can ‘buy-in’ to her government will be paddling upstream all day, every day, for as long as she remains Prime Minister. (And that’s definitely a no-fun lifestyle, even for a British PM)
Once the vision has been considered by Theresa May, only then should it be communicated to her Cabinet, while the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) should oversee all other UK ministries and departments as they compile reports that describe what their best-case scenario would look like in practical terms.
Then it’s simply a matter of working to those ideals as much as is practicable to create a Vision Statement that can be released to the public, sans the excruciating detail required in government policy papers.
“This is the Vision we’re working toward…” (Giving UK and EU citizens a view of what a better Brexit looks like)
‘How do you like those apples?’ someone cheekily asked.
The Three Principles Common to all Organizations
- Vision (or Mission)
Without equal weight given to each of those three factors any organization or project will ultimately fail.
It can’t be emphasized enough; Endless discussion about the best Brexit from the UK standpoint are irrelevant to European Union citizens and businesses. Brexit must work for the EU too, or it will be increasingly uncomfortable and expensive for the UK as time rolls forward.
Theresa May needs to find what things will work better for the EU in a post-Brexit world and promote those items on every visit to the EU. If there aren’t any Brexit positives for the EU, she better create some as they negotiate forward to a final trade and financial services agreement.
Without an overarching vision even the best management and leadership will underperform. Perhaps severely.
But as soon as May gives the order to each of her 25 Ministerial Departments and 20 non-Ministerial Departments to submit their best-case scenario (their best hopes and aspirations showing what their jurisdiction could look like five years on from Brexit) and from that she will be able to write a one page vision for each of the 45 departments.
From there she will need to direct the Department for Exiting the European Union to create a list of items that could be seen as positives by EU governments, EU businesses and EU citizens. Those are the apples she needs to sell on every visit to the European Union. And then sell the ‘sizzle’ Theresa, not the steak.
Theresa May must ‘create’ and ‘sell’ (Vision + Leadership + Management + Marketing) a Brexit that will benefit both the UK and the EU and begin to disseminate that better vision throughout both blocs.
Throwing £40 billion at the EU now and (potentially) another £40 billion to obtain a trade and financial services agreement isn’t visionary — it’s ‘buying an agreement’ with taxpayer’s money — which is fine if that’s the only option. But it isn’t the only option.
Getting citizens, businesses, and governments on both sides of the English Channel to buy-in to a grand vision that works even better than the present paradigm without it costing another £40 billion, must be Theresa May’s Number One Priority before the October 2018 Brexit deal-making deadline arrives.
[P.S. to Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the European Union] Jeez, Michel, for £40 billion shouldn’t the UK have received a bespoke customs deal, a bespoke trade deal, a bespoke financial services agreement *and* a chocolate mint on every UK pillow?