Sunday 26 June 2016

Why the Article 50 foot dragging?

36% of the UK electorate voted to stick their fingers up at the rest of Europe. There's no going back on it now (unless 17 million people sign that daft petition!), the decision has been made.

The UK is leaving the EU and we've already succeeded in "making Britain great again". Well at least that's how it would seem if you believed the delirious reactions of Brexiters when the result was announced, but anyone who actually knows what is supposed to happen next must be wondering about why the pro-Brexit Tories are suddenly all talking about delaying the Article 50 notification for months and months.

Boris Johnson

Interestingly Boris Johnson didn't look delirious on Brexit day. He looked ashen-faced when he made his victory speech, which was very odd indeed given that he'd just backed the winning side and left David Cameron with no choice but to resign, leaving the door to 10 Downing Street open and waiting for the nation's favourite tousle-haired buffoon dishonest hard-right Old Etonian former Murdoch hack to stride confidently through it.

Johnson should have looked like the cat who got the cream, but for some reason he looked as if he'd woken up to find a horse's head in his bed that morning.

Michael Gove

During the campaign Micheal Gove repeatedly told us how evil the EU is, and he implored the electorate to ignore all the expert opinion and to instead rely solely on our uninformed prejudices and gut instincts in order to make the most important political choice any of us (outside of Scotland) have faced in decades.

Given his strength of feeling against the EU, one would have thought that Gove would be itching to the Article 50 notification submitted and set in motion the two year process of extricating the UK from dictatorial European Union rule. But no - suddenly he wants to wait ... the EU isn't so evil after all ... we apparently need to delay the process of quitting for several months, despite the fact that the remaining 27 member states have told us to get out as quickly as possible.


Why was Boris Johnson so ashen faced? Why does Michael Gove suddenly want us to drag our heels as much as possible over leaving, and further infuriate the 27 other member states in the process?

The answer seems to be that they've only just realised what they've done. They appear to be behaving in the manner of people who never actually expected to win; As if they expected Remain to win; For everything to go back to normal; And for them to get a pat on the back from a grateful but relieved nation for having put up a jolly good fight.

I'm never going to have much inclination to find sympathy for David Cameron. Over the last six years he has enabled a hard-right ideological rampage that has done an immeasurable amount of social and economic damage to the UK; The whole basis of his austerity agenda was a con designed to trick the economically uneducated into believing in the ridiculous economic fairy story that "we need to cut our way to growth"; He was an inveterate liar who dragged the standard of political debate ever lower (remember his utterly contemptible conduct during the London mayoral election); And to top it all off, he gambled the entire future of the UK in order to win a bit of short-term political advantage at the 2015 General Election, and lost.

David Cameron was a disaster as Prime Minister, but it's undeniable that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove stabbed him in the back. In the end Cameron has got a measure of revenge though. He might have been the one to gamble and lose, but someone else is going to have to unleash the shit-storm by submitting the Article 50 notification. And suddenly, after all of their anti-EU rhetoric, the likes of Gove and Johnson are very reticent about triggering the process that they spent the last month arguing day and night for.

The reason seems obvious. They know that the other 27 EU member states are going to stand in solidarity, while the UK tries to argue in vain for a better deal than the one it already had and threw away. The UK argued for a massive discount on our membership fee in the 1980s and got it and kept it for decades while the likes of Germany, Denmark, France and Italy bore a much bigger proportional burden, then in the end we humped off in a massive strop anyway.

After a display like that there's no way the rest of Europe is going to adopt a weak negotiating position and cave in to all of the Tory demands. The Tories wrangling a brilliant settlement from the EU isn't just unlikely because of the petulant way we stropped off either; They EU leadership know perfectly well that if they don't negotiate with the UK with an iron fist, then other member states might well fancy quitting too.

Some shit options

I tried to ask questions of Brexiters about what their actual plan for what comes after Brexit was, but neither Brexiters from the left, nor Brexiters from the right could answer it. They generally just started talking in empty slogans ("make Britain great again", "restore our sovereignty", take control", "the EU is undemocratic" ...) rather than answer the damned question, which is a debating tactic that David Cameron himself was undeniably a master of.

There are three main options when it comes to the negotiation. The most likely one is that the overwhelmingly pro-EU Westminster establishment will aim for the "Norway option". The UK would get to stay in the single market for a membership fee (higher than the original rebated fee we were paying before? Probably.) but with no power to influence the future direction of the common market. With this would come the necessary condition that the UK continues allowing the free movement of people. One without the other is never going to happen.

The "Norway option" would blatantly be a far worse deal than the one we already had, but it would come with the small added benefit of seeing the xenophobic little-Englanders, Biffers and 'Kippers go apoplectic when they realise that their vote for Brexit isn't going to make all the "nasty" foreigners go away after all.

Another option is a complete renegotiation, but this is even worse than the "Norway option". Does anyone think that it would be a good idea to have a radically right-wing bunch of Tories trying to completely rewrite our trade relations with the rest of the European Union?

Anyone who voted out of the EU because "it's a neoliberal behomoth" is going to be horrified to see the UK government trying trying to negotiate some kind of fanatical hard-right settlement with the EU, and the rest of Europe saying "no thanks, you Brits can keep your ideological fanaticism to yourselves from now on and accept the much less radically right-wing settlement we offer you".

Every other EU state is going to have a veto over the negotiating process, so if the deal does go ahead, it will need the support of left-wing governments like those of Greece and Portugal, as well as the support of more right-wing ones like Germany.

The last option is for the UK government to take such a belligerent position that no deal is possible. This would see the UK-EU trade relations revert to the basic World Trade Organisation rules at the end of the two year deadline. Nobody short of full blown Biffers could see a complete meltdown in trade relations between the UK and the continent as a desirable outcome.

Foot dragging

The reason that the likes of Gove and Johnson are so reticent about making the Article 50 notification is that there is no conceivable way that they can achieve a better outcome than the rebated deal that the UK already had with the EU. They know that whoever takes over as leader of the Tory party will have to try to negotiate a settlement with the 27 pissed off and highly defensive remaining members of the EU, while trying to deal with stuff like bitter recriminations from the Europhile majority of the Tory party, the post-Brexit recession and the ongoing criminal investigations into Tory electoral fraud at the 2105 General Election.

The Tories who were leading the charge towards Brexit are suddenly dragging their feat because they know that they're going to get pasted by the 27 remaining member states in the negotiations, while having to fend off criticism from both sides (failure to retain a place in the common market would be unacceptable to the majority of MPs and the British export industries, but any concession at all to the EU are going to cause howls of outrage from the extreme-right who think that Brexit secured them complete isolationism forever).

The Tories are terrified of the brutal shafting they've invited upon themselves, so they're delaying it as long as possible out of pure self-interest, which is the same reason they do anything. Pure self-interest isn't just their modus operandi, it's the fundamental basis of the crackpot hard-right economic theories they've been pushing for the last four decades

The self-interest based ideology of the Tories is the main reason for all of the massive social and economic problems that snake oil merchants like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson blamed on the EU, David Cameron's self-interest at the 2015 General Election is the reason we had an EU referendum at all, and yet more Tory self-interest is the reason these Brexit cheerleaders are suddenly so desperate to drag their feet as much as possible instead of triggering the complicated political process they were so incredibly keen on just a few days previously.

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