Submitted by Taps Coogan on the 13th of December 2018 to The Sounding Line.
Despite the day-to-day political hemming and hawing, Brexit has always been a binary proposition: leave the EU or stay. As we first detailed here, if the UK is to leave the EU, ‘Hard Brexit’ is virtually inevitable:
“If there is a novelty in the ‘European Project’ it is in the idea of using the offer of free trade as the means to exert direct governance over other countries… In order to get full access to the EU’s 511 million person market, European countries have either had to join the EU or adopt a deal that meant complying with EU rules, regulations, immigration policies, submitting to EU courts, and making financial contributions to the EU’s budget. Countries not in the EU such as Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein have acquiesced to all these demands in order to get access to the EU market… Access to the EU’s market isn’t just the glue that holds the EU together, it is the very essence of the EU. Every European country has its own central government, police force, education system, healthcare system, social system, military, and most are in NATO. The EU only offers access to the common market and in some cases development money. For that, a country must give up its sovereignty. That is the fundamental EU bargain.”
The EU is not going to grant the UK a sweetheart deal that provides deep access to the common market without all of the strings attached. Not surprisingly, two years of trying to negotiate such a deal have led to the following:
As long as the UK follows all EU rules, regulations, submits to EU courts, and continues to make financial contributions to the EU, they can continue to try to negotiate a sweetheart deal for a few more years. In other words, the EU will permit the UK to become a non-voting, paying, rule taking member of the EU while the UK tries to convince the EU to accept a different deal than the current one that gives the EU everything it wants. If, after a few years of failed negotiations, the UK gives up on the deal that the EU has repeatedly said it will never offer, North Ireland will secede from the UK from an immigration and regulatory perspective, until the EU agrees to give it back. Presumably, the EU would only do that if the UK rejoined the EU immigration and customs union as well.
If the UK wants to be an independent country charting its own course on the world stage again, it’s going to have to make some tough decisions. If the UK is not willing to endure some near term economic hardship for the long term prospect of sovereignty, better trade deals, better regulations, better taxes, and better courts, and is not willing to actually impose the immigration and customs policies it aspires to have on its own borders, it isn’t going to leave the EU.
A temporary Norway-style Brexit-in-name-only deal where the UK gets demoted to a non-voting member of the EU, with North Ireland as a hostage surety, is the worst of all worlds and leaves the UK without any leverage. The UK needs to rip the band-aid off and leave or end the Brexit charade. The sooner the better.
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