Thursday 30 March 2017

Theresa May's fantasy of a quickfire EU-UK trade deal lies in ruins

The EU's draft resolution on Brexit negotiations delivers several massive hammer blows to Theresa May's fantasy of a quickfire EU-UK partial free trade deal.

Theresa May's impossible fantasy

When Theresa May outlined her "negotiating tactics" in her January 2017 clown costume speech the hard-right press pack responded with glee at her diplomatically inept threat-based posturing, but anyone with a few brain cells to rub together realised with horror that she was slow-marching the UK towards a catastrophic "no deal" strop.

What she did was outline an ridiculously impossible fantasy of what she expects from the EU and then threatened that if she doesn't get it she'll take the nuclear option of stropping away from the negotiating table with no deal whatever.

A lose-lose situation

For ordinary people this negotiating stance was always going to be a lose-lose situation.

Even if by some miracle the EU caved into Theresa May's ridiculous demands we would be stuck with a situation where major corporate sectors (finance and vehicle manufacturing were mentioned by name) get to retain access to the Single Market, while small businesses, sole traders and individual citizens are locked out of it and hit with import and export tariffs. This would leave the UK economy even more rigged in favour of gigantic multinational corporations than it already is.

Given the fantastical nature of Theresa May's demands the more likely option was always going to be a socially and economically ruinous nuclear Brexit. The London School of Economics has estimated that a retaliatory nuclear Brexit would cost the UK somewhere between 6.3% to 9.5% of GDP, which equates to (£4,200 - £6,400 per household). Anyone who thinks that sounds like an attractive option is clearly bonkers.

The hammer blows

In this section I'm going to outline just five of the most significant hammer blows to Theresa May's wildly over-optimistic fantasy of a quickfire partial free-trade deal with the EU. These are five of the most serious issues, but there are plenty more too. If you want to see more take a look at the draft EU resolution here.

Separation first, trade deal after

In her Article 50 letter Theresa May begged repeatedly for parallel negotiations so that the UK's divorce terms and post-divorce trade deal can be negotiated in unison. The draft resolution shoots this wish down in flames.

The EU have made it absolutely clear that Theresa May won't be getting any kind of quickfire trade deal before the UK has officially quit the EU. The best they're willing to offer is a three year transitional arrangement so the post-divorce trade deal can be negotiated under relatively stable conditions.

A mixed agreement

The EU's lead negotiator Michel Barnier has stated that any post-Brexit trade deal would be classified as a "mixed agreement". This is highly significant because it means that aside from requiring ratification at the European Parliament, the trade deal would also need to be ratified by the national parliaments of all 27 other member states.

Essentially every other country in Europe is going to have a national veto over any EU-UK trade deal, plus, due to the special ratification procedures in Belgium, several of their regional parliaments like Wallonia will also get a veto too.

You'd have to be spectacularly optimistic to think that the likes of Theresa May, David Davis, the disgraced Liam Fox and Boris Johnson would be able to cobble together an agreement that is both acceptable to all of the 27 remaining EU states, and also to the hard-right tabloid propaganda rags that are looking for any excuse whatever to screech for a socially and economically ruinous "no deal" nuclear Brexit.

No sectoral deals

One of Theresa May's big demands from her clown costume speech was that certain sectors of the UK economy (she mentioned banking and vehicle manufacturing specifically) should be given preferential access to the Single Market.

This fantasy lies in ruins now because the EU have clearly stated that there will be "no sectoral deals" that replicate the benefits of being in the Single Market only for certain sectors of the economy.

The EU have made it absolutely clear that they don't intend to allow Theresa May to cherry-pick special access to the Single Market for favoured corporations (those with the financial power to bribe or coerce the Tory party into representing their interests). Either everyone gets fair access or nobody does.
  No jumping the gun

In her clown costume speech Theresa May naively pinned her hopes on getting a quickfire trade deal with the United States and then soon after she went scuttling off to lick Donald Trump's boots and plead for a special US-UK trade deal in the national humiliation that was her "begging bowl" speech.

The problem here is that the EU have made it explicitly clear that if she tries to jump the gun by negotiating trade deals with other countries before the divorce settlement is finalised, the EU-UK deal is off the table.

Here's exactly what the draft resolution says:

"Should Britain seek to negotiate any free trade deals with other countries while it is still an EU member state, there will be no future discussion of a deal with the union."

If Theresa May tries to jump the gun by negotiating trade deals with other countries (such as the United States) before we've fully left the EU then she'll be completely trashing the possibility of any kind of trade deal with the EU (which accounts for well over 50% of the UK's trade in goods).

No blackmail over terrorism
  The stipulation that neither side should try to use the withdrawal of security and defence cooperation as blackmail is eerily prescient.

It just goes to show how Theresa May is perceived on the continent that the EU would bother to add a clause to prevent her from using the threat of turning a blind eye to terrorism plots as a bargaining chip in the trade negotiations.

To have explicitly ruled out such sickening blackmail tactics they obviously see her as a fanatical and dangerous hard-right extremist who would use literally any kind of threat, no matter how depraved, in order to get her own way.

Astonishingly Theresa May managed to live down to the EU's worst expectations by including the threatened withdrawal of security cooperation in her Article 50 letter.

The right-wing press reacted gleefully to Theresa May's disgusting blackmail tactics, but any Brit with a shred of human decency must surely be horrified that Theresa May is actually threatening to turn a blind eye to terrorism in order to blackmail the EU into caving into her fantastical demands.

Did Theresa May want a "no deal" nuclear Brexit all along?

The sheer incompatibility of Theresa May's fantastical expectations and what the EU have outlined in their draft resolution makes her threat of launching a mutually destructive nuclear Brexit look almost inevitable.

The Tories and the hard-right press have been indoctrinating the public for months with their "no deal is better than a bad deal" rhetoric, but this has left Theresa May no room for manoeuvre whatever. Any concession she makes to the EU will be leapt upon by the hard-Brexiters and the right-wing press as proof that Britain is getting a "bad deal" so that they can demand their favoured "no deal" scenario.

At the absolute best Theresa May's "no deal is better than a bad deal" rhetoric is a catastrophic failure in expectation management, but it actually seems more likely that it's a deliberate ploy to condition the public into actually believing that driving the UK economy off an economic cliff edge is the best course of action!

The quickfire cherry-picking Brexit deal that Theresa May outlined in January is never going to happen. It always was a ludicrous fantasy. The big question of course is whether Theresa May outlined such a ridiculous fantasy because she's totally delusional, or because she knew it was impossible nonsense all along and saw the making of such ludicrously unrealistic demands as part of a Tory ploy to walk away from the negotiations empty handed while pinning the blame for the ensuing social and economic catastrophe on the EU.

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