Brexit Part II – Reasons to be cheerful?

Back in the distant past in the referendum campaign there were things I don’t remember talking about like the now centre-stage Irish border. Other topics changed focus; when talking about migration back then conversation was always dominated by the Calais jungle (which we never hear anything about now) but now a key issue is the realisation that filling unpopular roles such as those in healthcare and fruit/vegetable picking requires some tolerance of economic migrants. There was one question I do clearly remember regularly asking friends to ask themselves : “What do you think Mr Putin wants to happen?”   I would answer by telling them he wanted disharmony and instability in the West to cause disillusionment in our political systems; clearly I was sure he’d be gunning for Brexit and in response it was one of the reasons I voted Remain. Over the last two years those conversations stick in my mind as I see positions becoming more and more entrenched and a growing cancer of instability. Mr Putin must be laughing his socks off watching our Westminster pantomime performances.

            I don’t intend to go over the ground of my last Brexit blog (every Brexit blog has  only a one week shelf life before becoming hopelessly out of date anyway!) except to emphasise that I still fully accept the outcome of the 2016 vote and the necessity that we do leave in March 2019 to honour that clear mandate. I have no desire whatsoever to see a People’s Vote crashing into the party at this late stage; this would be an extremely dangerous political act and open the road to even more division and delay. The principal change between the last blog and now is that leaving with an agreed deal (with a soft Brexit landing) now looks very unlikely due to the constipated state of the UK Parliament. The deal on the table is not up for negotiation but is unlikely to ever achieve a parliamentary majority due to its Backstop flaws. Any attempt for renegotiation would imply an extension of Article 50 and as such would be a national humiliation in not being able to ratify the agreement that 27 other countries were able to sign off. So it looks like to still leave in March 2019 a ‘no-deal Brexit’ is now the most likely scenario. Not what I had hoped for.

Putting on my farming hat on I recall the clear words of the NFU President on a no deal outcome; “a catastrophe for farming” so rightly I am really concerned about this probability. However, and I choose my words carefully here, it is important to realise that a no-deal state is not automatically something which runs for a very long time-period. There is no need to set No-deal in concrete!  In fact a disorderly no-deal reality could well be the trigger for a new phase of EU-led negotiations and proposals for a lighter touch membership rearrangement. A no-deal Brexit clearly comes with potential risks and shocks but it is not the end of the world some are claiming. So in an attempt to look on the bright side of things here are a few thoughts on a no-deal dawn:

  1. The UK would not be a ‘muted’ rule-taker but free to make decisions on science and technology to suit our own interests.
  2. A No-deal Brexit will likely trigger a further fall in the £ making exports more competitive (Yes I do know about the tariffs but we do sell goods outside the EU too).
  3. Sometimes giving things a good shake-up can be a good thing; new and established businesses can find new economic opportunities and markets to tap into. The UK economy will adapt and evolve. Perhaps a trend towards more ‘staycations’ will rejuvenate the domestic tourism industry.
  4. Perhaps a no-deal Brexit can instil a greater sense of national identity and common purpose and boost sales of domestically-sourced goods and services (including food).
  5. £39 Billion is a lot of cash.

Am I trying to polish a turd here; perhaps!

There are really two likely outcomes for a no-deal reality: either the hard Brexiteers are right and it will not be an economic catastrophe but a tolerable re-boot or alternatively six months of no-deal will be enough to make it abundantly clear that we would’ve been better off staying in the European fold. Either way a six month no-deal trial period should be enough to settle this argument once and for all.

From the European perspective the worst eventuality would be if the UK actually manages to hold things together and make a go of it. Would that not put huge pressure on their leaders to get on with a round of trade negotiations before our independence becomes set and a model for other members? We may well have the upper hand in these talks as other EU countries observe our plight and wonder about themselves.

If the no-deal reality is clearly an economic disaster a six month toe-dipping should be sufficient time to settle these arguments. Would Europe throw us a lifebuoy and help us out of the quagmire if we need this; probably as it will still be in their own interest to see us return with our tail between our legs and full-reverse our decision. If there is future People’s Vote (sometime in 2019 after the 1st referendum has been enacted) I want to see a result with a massive majority this time; no 50/50s but 80/20 to settle this for a generation!!

I guess my hope for 2019 is that Mr Putin doesn’t get what he wanted for Christmas. All of us need to be open-minded and respectful of views contrary to our own. My wish is for a more tolerant and respectful 2019; further polarisation will get us nowhere. No-one really knows how a no-deal future will unfold but it doesn’t have to be permanent if we don’t like the way it shapes up; there will be options. There are ways we can all help the most vulnerable in society if there are hard times and we should strive to do so.

The recent French riots were a fresh sign that all is not well in the European core; Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Germany and even Belgium have seen riots or have underlying core problems. My natural instinct is to work with people and collaborate for the common good but perhaps the European project really is heading for the rocks and we are better to sail a different path. An important attribute is to always be prepared to listen to others and more than that to be able to change mindset when the need arises and as circumstances change.

We must not all allow our opinions to become further entrenched but respect alternative views; both camps must be prepared to be open-minded! We all want the same outcomes; a successful UK and a good place for our children to live and work and I really hope we can find a path towards that common goal.

Soon time to jump off the diving board and find out if we sink or swim….

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