Brexit: there are two parties to any relationship breakdown

There is no prospect of a deal being agreed between Britain and the EU before 31 October; any deal has to be agreed by the UK Parliament, the Council and the European Parliament, and there simply isn’t time.  That leaves only two options: delay or no deal.

It is easy to see the faults of the British governments, but the failures of EU diplomacy are just as strong.  The British position has been arrived at through a series of blunders:

  • giving notice without even having developed a negotiating position;
  • treating the negotiation as a question of government prerogative, rather than something subject to parliamentary scrutiny;
  • failing to engage all interested parties, and especially the political opposition;
  • establishing ‘red lines’ on immigration and trade relationships that were not part of or integral to the referendum decision
  • after the rejection of the proposed withdrawal agreement, failing to develop any other position for several months.

The problems created by the European Union, however, are no less important.  They include

  • specifying a two-stage process, when there was no time in the negotiating period to cover both stages;
  • insisting, in consequence, on a ‘backstop’ arrangement which could only have been removed by the resolution of the second stage;
  • treating the Withdrawal Agreement as if was a treaty that had been agreed, after it had been manifestly rejected;
  • refusing, despite its treaty obligations, to provide a position on the future relationship;
  • refusing to consider any arrangement when trading with the UK as a third party, that would not apply to all goods and services  – anything else was dismissed as ‘cherry picking’, when selection is in the nature of all negotiated settlements; and
  • failing to take any action relating to its declared priority – or ‘red line’ – of protecting European citizens.

The result is a shambles.  Neither party can hope to come out of this with any of the outcomes they wanted to achieve.

One thought on “Brexit: there are two parties to any relationship breakdown”

  1. A massive political failure which is causing mass anxiety. However, at the risk of being nonsensical, I think the Brexit debacle is the manifestation of mass psychosis rather than the cause. Since the end of WW2, we have managed to get through the “Cold War” and other existential threats to create relative (only relative) prosperity and stability. However we now have a significant “grouping” of “world leaders” (some elected, some selected) who wish to pursue narrower, nationalistic and at times paranoid policies. This is taking us in a “different direction” to “destination unknown”. If Europe has been a collective failure on Brexit, what do we realistically expect from “the world” on climate change? If climate change really is a general existential threat to humanity then we need collective world will and action on a scale we have only witnessed in sci-fi movies when the “aliens” are invading the planet (most such movies being based in the US of course). Apart from the outright deniers, I suspect there is a hope amongst other world leaders that we can find solutions via technology and minor changes in our way of life (which seems essentially based on relentless consumerism: I want; I can pay for; I will have) and/or that the worst effects of climate change will be experienced by peoples and nations with little or no political influence. No one in power is talking openly and seriously about: curbing population growth; abandoning (or at least redefining) economic growth; the end of capitalism/consumerism as we know it etc. Instead we are celebrating Glasgow hosting 30,000 “delegates” on climate change in 2020, ignoring the absurdity of so much international travel and consumption to talk about with climate change! Perhaps this is all nonsense; perhaps future political historians will tell a different story; perhaps there will be no political historians! What we witness on Brexit; whether in Brussels, Westminster, No 10 or for/against protests around the country, is a manifestation of a madness dressed in the language of politics. We each and all of us will have to live with and rationalise the consequences of our individual and collective choices. As humans, we are quite good at that, which is why we never truly learn from history.

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