The politics of compromise

The UK cabinet met for most of today in Chequers to finalise a common document to put before the EU as the basis of the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit.  It is a historic day, which may yet prove to be a watershed in the process of the UK exiting the European Union.

It proposes a UK-EU free trade area, but the question is whether Brussels will agree with this bespoke trade deal.  It is more likely that Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, will turn the screw once too often in an attempt to give priority and jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice, and then it will come back to the UK Parliament for a final decision.

It reminds Christians what one can expect from secular politicians who say one thing and do another.

It reminds Brexit voters that politicians may second-guess voters in spite of MPs’ protests and assertions to the contrary.  Christians have known this for a long time, at least since MPs second-guessed the public on subjects such as capital punishment.

The BBC’s political editor gives her assessment here.


9 Jul 2018: after the double whammy resignations of David Davies as the Brexit Secretary and Boris Johnson as the Foreign Secretary, BBC’s Evan Davis apologized on BBC Newsnight tonight that ‘we got it wrong’ last Friday by saying that Theresa May had ‘pulled off a major coup in securing cabinet agreement’ about Brexit.  ‘It didn’t quite turn out that way.’

He continued: the resignations have exposed the divisions in the Conservative Party but also a tactical split within the Brexiteers, as Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom want to get out of the EU with Brexit in any form and pick up the pieces afterwards.

Evan Davis’ guest on Newsnight Sarah Wollaston described Theresa May’s action as listening to business and she has ‘put the economy first’. This betrays the real problem – the country is not first but the economy a.k.a. corporate international business.  This was always the reason for joining the E.E.C. – the precursor of the EU. However, the economy is doing well since the Brexit vote.  Many journalists are unable to unpick the arguments in their desire to keep to their previously-scripted questions.

His other guest Jacob Rees-Mogg said the legislative basis for Brexit is in place.  The EU Withdrawal Act and Article 50 are already passed and the UK will leave at 11 p.m. on 29/3/2019.  He supported her Lancaster House speech but the Chequers position is going back on it.

Evan Davis described Theresa May as the ‘middle of the road’ option for Prime Minister.  This usually happens when a group is divided and it is not a happy place to be, for at best it indicates that one is the third option behind the best option(s) on the two sides.  Whereas a premiership may muddle through in calm times, in critical times it takes not just authority, nor even leadership, but competence which a third choice does not necessarily have.


10 Jul 2018: Discussion over the past few years has been repetitive and many contributors have not been very enlightening.  Today the BBC Daily Politics discussed the Deal or No-deal scenarios post-Brexit. Even now it has not dawned upon commentators that with the passage of the above UK legislation the UK is already in a ‘no-deal’ situation.  The question now is not, how should the UK appease the EU? as if we need their blessing, but how does each side negotiate as sovereign partners to arrive at a mutually beneficial deal?  We have already ‘crashed out’ of the EU, to use the emotive language of nay-saying Remainers, and now we are using the remaining time until the implementation date to find a sustainable relationship, not a servile one.

The debate about ‘heading towards’ a no-deal Brexit needs to be turned around to explain that we are there already and what will the EU do to facilitate moving ‘away from’ a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit?

The UK has already recovered its sovereignty and the EU needs to be reminded that it cannot treat us as a vassal state, and our own negotiators need to be reminded not to behave as if we are a vassal state.  The UK negotiators should not repeat the mistakes of the past and negotiate away our sovereignty again.


26 Jul 2018: as predicted, Michel Barnier has slapped down the mutual collection of tariffs and customs duties, a key UK proposal of Theresa May’s Chequers paper for post-Brexit trade.  He said that “the EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules and VAT and excises duty collection to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures”, showing that the debate is about authority and not about trade or practicalities.

The EU wants to be in charge.  All its ‘negotiations’ so far have the common theme of throwing its weight around.  It forgets that Britain is already a sovereign state and EU still behaves as if it can tell the UK what to do.

The mutual collection of customs duties is simple bureaucracy, and sovereign authorities can decide, refuse or modify how it does business.  The EU has still not arrived at negotiation and is still stuck in the control phase.

Barnier said that the UK wanted to “take back control” of its money, law and borders, but so did the EU.  His mistake is that the UK has already done so and now we wish to talk.  His other mistake is to omit that the EU wants to continue to control the relationship between the EU and the UK.  The EU has still to begin negotiating.

The progress and agreement in security measures probably means that one of our strong cards is being squandered away, although Theresa May had suggested she would use it to negotiate EU concessions.  The EU has no intention to concede anything.  It has not begun the negotiating phase, pretending it is the UK that is dragging its heels.

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