Brexit: The endgame

On 29 March this year[1,2], if nothing else changes, the UK will leave the European Union under the terms of Article 50. Unsurprisingly, lots of scenarios are being scripted, but the one I see as most likely doesn’t seem to be among them.

I expect that nothing much will happen until about 28 March. May won’t get a deal that can pass through Parliament. If she allows a vote at all, it won’t be until late January and it won’t pass. At that point, or possibly before, Labor will try a motion of no-confidence which will also not pass. There will be a push for a second referendum, but that will be stymied by the fact that the current law requires a minimum of 12 weeks to hold such an exercise, and that will be too late. There may also be an attempt to get an extension of time for the Article 50 notice, but at least one of the EU27 will find a reason to block it.

May will keep stalling for time, as she has done since taking office, until the deadline approaches. At that point, the ports will start to clog up, as shippers try to move goods across the channel before the No Deal exit. There will be attempts to negotiate temporary “No Deal deals” to smooth the flow, but they won’t go anywhere. By March 28, or maybe a bit earlier, panic buying will empty supermarket shelves and stockpiles of medicine.

At that point, the prospect of NO Deal will become too terrifyingly real to contemplate and there will be only one option left. Britain unilaterally revokes its Article 50 declaration, and everyone agrees to forget the whole sorry business.

Feel free to point out plot holes, or suggest your own script.

fn1. Rather less momentously, I will turn 63.
fn2. It’s generally good to be cautious about revealing your birthdate online. But mine is on Wikipedia, so I guess there’s no harm in that.

61 thoughts on “Brexit: The endgame

  1. @J-D

    I agree on the point of EU’s membership is not necessarily a factor in the strength of the left. However, we are seeing a trend of significant (not necessarily a majority yet) drift to ultra right in a lot of EU countries where the left was relatively strong, for example France. Major reason to this drift to ultra right represents resentment to EU in one form or another, whether it be xenophobic tendencies, EU heading to wrong direction e.g. military spending, mismanagement of the recession, or combination of multiple reasons. Since some of these countries had a relatively strong left, this drift might (emphasis) not have happened had EU never have existed, or cease to exist. The splinter you mentioned happening in UK reinforces the point that pro/anti EU is splitting the left.

    On the second point of political parties come and go, I do not disagree. However history has a lot of evidence that supports the theory of when centre-left and centre-right loses support while the ultra right gains support is mostly when severe and prolonged economic downturn occurs. History also tells us this don’t generally go down very well. While this is not related to Brexit, it is related to the Eurozone which consists of vast majority of EU countries.

  2. J-D,

    “Brexit means massive disruption and huge loss in exchange for doubtful benefits.”

    This is pure opinion on your part. You have no way of knowing “massive disruption” will happen. It’s just your wild prediction. Where’s your evidence? In fact, business and market indicators are suggesting that business players around the world believe that UK business will continue pretty much as normal after Brexit.

    See “British data confirms strong FDI continues despite Brexit chaos” on Bill Mitchell’s MMT blog. There are several pages of data and links which show there are no real predictions of problems thus far. And let’s remember that the “Brexit Chaos” so far is simply caused by Tory ineptitude and EU intransigence.

    The chances of real economic chaos look low and are still factored that way by world markets. However, the pain and cost of remaining in the EU (for those countries that do) will simply get worse and worse. The EU is spiraling down the plughole. Just look at the mess in France now. The EU has been the economic basket case of the developed world for at least ten years… but gee that’s only real-world empirical evidence. Why bother paying attention to that?

  3. Iko, have you thought about the Irish problem? A hard Brexit means a hard border with customs posts between Ulster and the Republic. This be an abrogation of the Goid Friday Agreenent which is given effect by a treaty (the legally binding variety) between the UK and Ireland and would almost certainly lead to a resumption of violence (the bombing and shooting variety).

    Alternatively if there was no hard border there would be infinite smuggling between the UK and EU to get around the tariffs and differences in regulations and standards that would take effect immediately the UK leaves the EU.

  4. Northern Ireland is a conquered territory of Ireland. It should be given back to Ireland.

    Bill Mitchell quotes macroeconomic facts far more than his opponents. But specifically, I take the most notice of Joseph Stiglitz on this issue, again because he has an empirical attitude to the issue in question.

    “From its conception, Stiglitz argues, the euro zone was a project carrying a staggering amount of ideological luggage that effectively blinded its creators to deep flaws in the system. For instance, by adopting a single currency, countries that underwent economic shocks could no longer take advantage of a weaker currency to boost exports and domestic demand.

    And in addition to such structural problems, the response of eurozone officials to the debt crisis that erupted in Greece in 2010 has effectively doomed large parts of the monetary bloc to perennial depression. The mechanism is a punishing system of drip-by-drip bailouts, accompanied by demands for steep cuts on spending and disruptive “structural reforms” that only worsen the economic malaise and make it more difficult for a country return to economic expansion.” – Matt Philips, Quartz.

    The empirical facts bear out Stiglitz’s analysis. The Eurozone is now staggering from crisis to crisis: economics crises and social crises.

    “Going back to the founding of the euro zone, it was premised on two ideas. One is that it would bring greater prosperity, and the success of the euro zone would reinforce European solidarity. And then that would lead to the next stages of European political integration.

    But it has been an economic failure. And as one would have anticipated, economic failure has contributed to undermining political solidarity.” Joseph Stiglitz.

    “What is very clearly true, and I do emphasize in the book, is that German economics is different from economics everywhere else in the world. They still believe in austerity even though the IMF, which is not a left-wing organization, has said austerity doesn’t work. The IMF used to be pro-austerity and now they say no, it doesn’t work. So they’ve learned. And remarkably, Germany still pushes ahead.

    It’s this peculiar brand of economics which has deep popular support, mostly in Germany.

    If the Brexit leads to a weaker UK economically, it’s going to lead to a weaker EU and vice versa.

    But the way the euro zone handled Greece and Spain was not a manner which would lead one to say, “I want to be a part of that club.” Do I want to be tethered to an economic club where Germany seems to be dominant and so insensitive to democracy and democratic processes in other countries?

    That also fed into a perception that the Conservatives have fostered in the UK, of European bureaucrats being very rigid. I think an example of that kind of rigidity that we saw after was European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s response to the question of what kind of negotiated agreement [would occur.]

    His response was in part, “We’re going to be very, very, very tough with the UK, because we want to make sure that no one else leaves.” But [member states] should believe that the EU and the euro zone are bringing such benefits that no one would want to leave! If the only way you can get people to stay in is to say, “If you leave things will be so miserable. We caught you in a cage and we’re not going to let you out,” that’s not a way you sell.

    About democracy, about prosperity, and about solidity. It says, “We have no solidarity. We don’t pay attention to democracy. And we know our system is not working and the only way we can keep you in is by threatening you.”

    To me, that response was symbolic of why the EU is not working.” – Joseph Stiglitz.

  5. Iko, you keep banging on about the Euro, but Britain doesn’t have the Euro. It has all the advantages of being int the EU, plus special advantages negotiated by British governments, without any of the disadvantages of being in the single currency Britain should be the last country to want to leave the EU.

    As for Northern Ireland being given back to Ireland, LOL. I want to win Lotto. That’s not going to happen either.

  6. “Brexit means massive disruption and huge loss in exchange for doubtful benefits.”

    This is pure opinion on your part. You have no way of knowing “massive disruption” will happen. It’s just your wild prediction. Where’s your evidence?

    International trade is conducted within a complex regulatory framework, which has become more complex over the years. Now most of it can’t happen without complex international agreements. Something similar is true of some other kinds of cross-border interaction, such as aviation. These agreements require time, resources, and effort to develop.

    Before it joined the European Communities, the UK had its own international agreements for managing international trade and other cross-border interactions. But since it joined the European Communities those have mostly been superseded by agreements made within other countries by the European Communities/Union. Once the UK leaves the EU, it will cease to be covered by agreements made with the EU. So for international trade and some other cross-border interactions it will need entirely new international agreements of its own. That’s not impossible, but it’s also not simple, easy, quick, or cheap. Lots of time, effort, and resources will have to be devoted to the development of those agreements. It will be done, because it will have to be done, but in the meantime there will be massive disruption.

    Now, what are the benefits to the UK you expect to outweigh these costs?

    Northern Ireland is a conquered territory of Ireland. It should be given back to Ireland.

    If the UK and Ireland made such an arrangement, or any other change in the status of Northern Ireland, without first confirming that it was the wish of the people of Northern Ireland, they would both be violating the Good Friday Agreement. They are not going to do that. Why do you think the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland should be ignored?

  7. “In demographic terms, the six counties of Northern Ireland taken as a whole contain a plurality of Ulster Protestants[8] who almost all favour continued union with Great Britain, although individually four of the six counties have Irish Catholic majorities and majorities voting for Irish nationalist parties.” – Wikipedia.

    Why should the four counties who clearly want at least a referendum about joining Ireland be denied their rights? These arguments depend on where boundaries are drawn. Indeed, support for rejoining Ireland is getting very close to 50% in Northern Ireland in total. A Brexit and especially a Hard Brexit would very likely increase this to a clear, workable majority.

    Following that line of thought, a United Ireland is the way to go. Then it is a matter for the people of a United Ireland whether or not they stay in the EU and Eurozone. They almost certainly would do so for the foreseeable future. I’d think it a long-term mistake but it would be their decision of course.

    The long term future of the Eurozone is the destruction of the economies of the periphery for the purposes of strengthening Germany’s economy, and not even the entirety of Germany’s economy, but just that part which favors concentrated German capital.

  8. Tom

    However, we are seeing a trend of significant (not necessarily a majority yet) drift to ultra right in a lot of EU countries where the left was relatively strong, for example France.

    A few instances are not the same thing as a trend.

    Ikonoclast

    The Good Friday Agreement was approved by a 71% majority of the voters of Northern Ireland in a referendum with an unusually high turnout of 81%. There was no official tally by area, but an exit poll reported that only one of the eighteen Parliamentary constituencies into which Northern Ireland was then divided had a ‘No’ majority. Under the terms of the agreement, if there is majority support in both Northern Ireland and the Republic for a united Ireland, then the UK and the Republic of Ireland are both bound to arrange that; but it is only to happen if there is that majority support (and there isn’t now majority support in Northern Ireland).

    The long term future of the Eurozone is the destruction of the economies of the periphery for the purposes of strengthening Germany’s economy, and not even the entirety of Germany’s economy, but just that part which favors concentrated German capital.

    Even if this is true (which I doubt), the departure of the UK from the EU will make no contribution to preventing this from happening.

  9. Far the shrewdest comment on this thread is John’s – that like the Iraq war the proponents of Brexit have differing and incompatible reasons for wanting it, and most are going to get a very nasty surprise when it is their temporary allies’ reasons, not theirs, that prevail.

    Far from “neoliberalism” (a word which has itself become a term of abuse to stigmatise a range of different and incompatible positions, BTW) driving Brexit, all the evidence is that it has been driven by the most reactionary sections of British society – Tory workingmen and Old Etonians – that basically believes the wogs begin at Calais and the sun still never sets on the Empire. As can be seen by the appalled reaction of the City (ie New “neoliberal” Money) and the Northern Irish (nationalist and loyalist alike).

    It is surely a jest to argue that the EU is more “neoliberal” than the UK anyway – it is the importing of EU “socialism” and its undue concern with les droits de l’homme (the ECJ being a particular bete noire) that the Brexiters who matter object to. And, Iko, WTF does the Eurozone have to do with the matter at hand?

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