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ChequersAs I write, Friday morning, July 6th, the UK’s faction-ridden cabinet is gathering at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence (Pic), to try to finally trash out an agreed UK proposal to the EU over the direction of travel of the future trading and economic relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit.

What the prime minister wants the cabinet to endorse appears to be a package of customs union and single market membership for goods, but not for services. The EU has already clearly signalled that it will reject any such proposal.

The clue is in the word “single”, as Chris Grey explains in this blog post: here. Let’s go further than Chris. How would you decide which companies fall within the definition of “goods” and which within “services”?

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This blogpost was written on May 14th 2018

It is increasingly difficult to see any way in which Brexit ends well. The reason is simple: The UK wants what it can’t have. It asks for two incompatible things.

  • It wants to be leave the EU and take back control over its money, borders, laws and trade policy so as to be able to say that it is a completely sovereign country, beholden to no one.
  • But it also wants to continue to trade with the EU in the frictionless manner that it does today so that it will suffer no economic damage as a result of leaving.

As we have repeatedly noted in this Briefing, it wants all the benefits of the customs union and the single market, but without the obligations and restraints that come with those benefits.

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This week’s blog was written on May 8, 2018
As of today, May 8th, the day after a long, hot, holiday weekend, it is difficult to see Brexit ending well.

It is difficult to see how it even makes it to March 29th, 2019, the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU, with, it hopes, a signed Withdrawal Agreement providing for an orderly exit.

The fault for this state of affairs lies not with the EU but with the UK itself and particularly with the UK government.

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Does Not Apply

Debating is too kind a word. Hand-to-hand, combat to the death between different factions more correctly describes it.

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This blog was written on Monday April 30th, 2018

Hammond BoJoYou can only understand Brexit if you understand that Brexit is not a rational economic calculation but is instead an ideology.

An ideology that can best be described, for want of a more elegant word, as “Angloism”. Angloism is a deep-seated set of beliefs with three main threads.

First, it holds that in joining the old Common Market the UK lost its sovereignty, the ability to take its own political decisions. This loss to the EU is seen by many Brexiteers as a betrayal of centuries of English tradition, of government through the “Crown in Parliament”. “Taking back Control” was about returning to this perceived happy state of affairs.

Secondly, it argues that the UK in general, but England in particular, is fundamentally different from mainland Europe. Its legal system is based on the common law, not the Napoleonic Code. Its economy is liberal and individualist, not corporatist and collectivist. And, not to be underestimated, its religions values are Protestant, not Catholic. Continue reading

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Written on Monday April 9th 2018

There is an old Chinese saying that you should always give your enemy a “golden bridge over which to retreat”. After the battle, you may need to negotiate terms with the other party and a bruised, battered and bitter enemy can makes for a bad negotiating partner.

Over many years involved in labour negotiations, I have also found that it is a wise negotiator who ensures that a golden bridge is available in case their initial plan does not work. This is known as having a Plan B. A necessary precaution for, to paraphrase Mick Tyson, “Everyone has a plan A until they get punched in the face”.

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Call this the Charge of the Light Brigade stratagem and it usually results in disaster.

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This Blogpost was written on Sat March 3rd, 2018

may snowIn the cold light of a snowy Saturday morning, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Mansion House speech yesterday can be read as an anguished plea to the European Union to help her out of the impossible position she has put herself in.

She knows the road she has chosen will result in the UK being economically less well off than it otherwise would have been, not to mention the loss of European and wider geopolitical influence.  But she is trapped.

Where Mrs. May finds herself is the consequence of decisions she herself has made. No one else. She now asks the EU to help her evade the consequences of those decisions by tearing up its own rules and laws, asking it to agree that the UK can be, at the same time in and out of the single market and the customs union, allowing it to pick the bits its likes and reject the bits it doesn’t.

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This blog was written and posted on Feb 18th, 2018:

BELGIUM-BRITAIN-EU-BREXITLast Monday I came across a Twitter exchange between two prominent Brexit supporters. Not politicians, but well-known members of the commentariat.

One of them accepted what the UK government had signed up to as regards the avoidance of a border in Ireland in Article 59 of last December’s “Article 50, Phase 1” agreement. However, she believed that the UK government had been trapped into doing so and should now actively be looking for a way out. Welch on the deal, in deed if not in word.

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