Monday 17 April 2017

How to deal with toddler tantrums

After the Brexit vote the Tory government spent six months fobbing the public off with meaningless platitudes like "Brexit means Brexit" as they desperately tried to cobble together some kind of Brexit negotiating stance.

After half a year of blabbering excuses and pathetic distraction tactics Theresa May finally announced that her long-awaited negotiating tactic was going to be the diplomatic equivalent of a toddler tantrum.

In her January 2017 clown costume speech she demanded all kinds of implausible things, like an end to free movement but special access to the Single Market for favoured sectors of the UK economy and a quickfire trade deal to be negotiated in parallel with the exit agreement, and before the rights of EU citizens living in the UK have even been secured. She made it clear that if the EU didn't cave in to her ridiculous demands, the Tory government would set about turning the UK into a low-skill, low-tech, low-wage, low-welfare, low-regulation corporate tax haven in retaliation.

It was the diplomatic equivalent of a toddler shrieking that if they don't get the whole tub of ice cream they'll smash up their own bedroom, and then the adults will all be sorry.

Of course anyone with kids, or experience of kids, will know that the last thing you do in the face of a screaming toddler tantrum is to give in to their demands. If you do that, you reinforce the behaviour by teaching the child that having a massive strop is an effective way of getting what they want.

If the EU caved in to Theresa May's ridiculous demands, they would just be inviting her to resort to threats and extortion at every diplomatic juncture from then on.

A major problem for Theresa May is that she's not just having a toddler tantrum to one adult, she's doing it in front of 27, and not a single one of them has given any indication that they intend to give in and give her what she wants.

The EU's draft negotiating strategy has explicitly ruled out sectoral Single Market access for favoured UK corporations (the ones with the financial power to bribe/coerce the Tory government into defending their interests), and they've also ruled out a quickfire trade deal until after the separation agreement and the rights of EU citizens in the UK have been agreed. All 27 remaining member states have indicated that they will sign up to it, meaning Theresa May's demands for all the ice cream are being denied by everyone in the room, with nobody willing to even negotiate about ice cream until the tantrum behaviour subsides.

This leaves Theresa May and the UK in a really desperate position. The Tory government should probably try to climb down from their threats, then try a belated charm offensive in order to try to at least get a small portion of the ice cream.

But it's obviously very late in the day for that if they've even managed to turn fellow hard-right governments like Spain and Poland against them with their diplomatic toddler tantrum.

It's obvious that the Tories should have been trying to build allegiances from the beginning, not hardening the resolve of the rest of Europe by using the lives of EU citizens in the UK as bargaining chips and making the centrepiece of their negotiating stance the threat of triggering a mutually ruinous nuclear Brexit by stropping away from the negotiating table with nothing.

The other option for the Tories is to actually follow through on their threat to smash up their own bedroom by turning the UK into a universally despised hard-right corporate tax haven economy, and completely wrecking 
workers' rights, the welfare system, and the NHS in order to pay for it.

Of course the fanatical hard-right fringe of the Tory party would love an economically ruinous "no deal" nuclear Brexit to happen because it's what they've been demanding all along.

Right-wing propaganda rags like the Express, Daily Mail and S*n would love that outcome too. But anyone with any sense at all should be capable of seeing that if Theresa May reacts to the unity of the EU 27 by intensifying her tantrum and smashing up her own bedroom, the people to suffer the worst of the consequences won't be wealthy Tory MPs and comfortable right-wing hacks, it will be ordinary people.

The EU 27 are absolutely right to show resolve in the face of Theresa May's tantrum, and it's now up to the British people, and British businesses to try to prevent her from escalating it into self-destruct mode.

What you can do

Write to your MP to make it clear that the threat of a mutually ruinous "no deal" strop is an unacceptably poor diplomatic negotiating position.

Avoid voting for hard-right candidates at the upcoming local elections. If they support Theresa May's crude threat-based "negotiating strategy", consider voting for a candidate who isn't so keen for her to gamble so recklessly with the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.

Boycott jingoistic extreme-right newspapers like the Express, Daily Mail and S*n that are pushing the UK towards an economically ruinous "no deal" cliff edge Brexit. Don't buy their papers, and don't share links to their websites.

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