Something will turn up

Wilkins Micawber and Theresa May have a lot in common. They both pin their faith on something turning up.

“The DUP’s resistance to this fudge has been tempered simply by Theresa May’s broad accession to their objections, and then simply to add them on top of the other undertakings by Britain to the other parties;”

So far, nothing has turned up for Theresa May. The ‘agreement’ over Ireland that has allowed Britain to move to phase two of the Brexit negotiations with the EU, have cost the other parties to the agreement (Ireland, Northern Ireland and the EU), precisely nothing. Theresa May has attempted to be like St.Paul, to be ‘all things to all men’ (and women), and devise a form of words that gives everybody, broadly, everything they asked. The promise to meet the hard substance behind the vague form of words that have moved everything along, however is Britain’s alone.

This is why all the other parties can relax, move on and still provide this warning; summarised cogently and softly by Donald Tusk:

“We need more clarity on how the UK sees our future relations, after it has left the Single Market and Customs Union …let us remember that the most difficult challenge is still ahead. We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder. Since the Brexit referendum, a year and a half has passed. So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task. And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”

Let us look at the terms of the joint statement this morning, on the matter of Northern Ireland; paragraphs 42-56 of the ‘JOINT REPORT FROM THE NEGOTIATORS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE UNITED KINGDOM GOVERNMENT’, for anyone who wishes to read the full text. I have reproduced paras., 49-51 in full below:

“49. The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all- island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

50. In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.

51. Both Parties will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union.”

It requires little close reading or forensic analysis to see that it is very difficult to reconcile the statements offered here to Ireland (and the EU), or to Northern Ireland, or to see how the inherent tensions, inconsistencies and fault-lines that run through these three paragraphs can be reconciled to the satisfaction of all parties, or even fixed; save that it is Britain – nobody else – that is undertaking to reconcile them.

Phase two negotiations are clearly going ahead only because Britain has undertaken to all the other parties, to unravel this Gordian knot on everyone’s behalf, somewhere down-the-road, and without cutting it. The DUP’s resistance to this fudge has been tempered simply by Theresa May’s broad accession to their objections, and then simply to add them on top of the other undertakings by Britain to the other parties; and no doubt, also by DUP reluctance finally to destroy the British Government’s weak grip on power altogether, at this precise moment.

The rest of this flummery is window-dressing.

Of course there is at least one simple resolution of the conundrum. If Britain leaves the Single Market and Customs Union, but undertakes to run a parallel, ghost EU-aligned regime that continues to follow closely all the EU single market and custom unions requirements, without being a member, and paying the consequent price (including the large bureaucracy required to duplicate the regulation, trade, tariff requirements currently supplied by the EU and paid by 27 countries); then that may fulfil the needs of all the parties. Of course in doing that, it is not quite clear what point there is in leaving the EU, or in undertaking Brexit ….

Eventually, after a series of false starts and misadventures, something did turn up for Micawber; he emigrated to Australia. Theresa May should probably look for a solution along similar lines, taking her Government with her.

Comments (12)

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  1. George Anderson says:

    I think this just about sums up this situation perfectly. It would of course have made much more sense if, and been a lot cheaper for the UK, if May had just agreed that the UK would stay in the single market.
    So where have all the Brexit fanatics gone? Do they not understand what this ‘agreement’ means for their ‘hard Brexit’?

  2. Jamsie says:

    Well, well, well, I am surprised , no in fact I am shocked.
    The superior intelligence and analytical skills which JSW Esq normally advises he has in spades have failed to see the blindingly obvious.
    He seems to know something is not quite right but what could it be.
    No matter let’s just call the agreement a victory for the EU and the ROI.
    After all it will be down to the UK to fix any problems!
    Will it really?
    I suspect not.
    Why JSW are you not asking questions of substance on the clearly contradictory statement put out on the so called agreement.
    I know you know there is really no agreement, you intimate as much, but you really don’t want to admit that this wording presented just might actually be the result of the UK Government playing an absolute blinder and the EU capitulating at the thought of trade talks not getting started.
    Why are you not questioning the loop holes left in the “agreement” which really would let the UK off the hook in the event that the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly do not agree the final solution.
    Why are the ROI content with assurances from the UK that there will be no hard border when clearly if a hard Brexit is the decision then there will be one imposed by the EU.
    To answer George Anderson this “agreement” means nothing in the event of a hard Brexit.
    The DUP still have a veto.

    1. John S Warren says:

      This is what the British Government has agreed (if you read either the statement or my article):

      “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all- island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.” (Para., 49). This is a clear statement of the British Government’s policy. Note it is the british Government giving the undertaking.

      The British government has put itself “on the hook” to use your own words, ‘now and in the future’. So if you have a problem, take it up with the British Government (if, we can really claim there actually is one, buried somewhere in this incoherent mess). Of course the British Government can break this agreement. It would not be a very good look, but it could do it. Of course the British Government could also implode; anytime.

      There is no doubt that the hapless crew currently in government (or at least one clique in this crackpot nest of self-devouring vipers) may yet attempt a “hard Brexit” in desperation to break out of the oxymoronic predicament into which they are currently being committed by their own leaders; but of course if you had a any attention-span at all, you may remember that was precisely my argument as presented in my article last week here: ‘Brexit and the Art of Deflection’: in which I wrote, that there was a purpose among Conservatives, to achieve “the Brexiteer Conservatives idea of Utopia: a ‘no deal’ Brexit”.

      Beware of what you wish for, but meanwhile at least do try and keep up.

      1. Jamsie says:

        This is probably the meekest most submissive response I have seen on here from you.
        Perhaps you have seen the light?
        I remember very well your article and your conclusion aided by your reference to the Daily Telegraph article in support of this.
        I also remember following this that you responded saying that it looked as if somehow Dublin would be able to veto Brexit.
        Strange is it not that having the text agreed with Dublin and the EU that it should all fall apart as the DUP would no agree to allow this.
        They really did not figure in your scenario did they?
        As Punklin says the unresolved contradiction remains.
        I suspect however that the unravelling will arise when the EU cannot agree to allow the ROI to import from the UK i.e. Northern Ireland with no restrictions or EU laws being applied.
        Why therefore would the UK allow the ROI to export to the UK i.e. Northern Ireland as if nothing has changed.
        The DUP position seems to be clear in that they do not want the 6 counties treated any differently from the rest of the UK.
        What I don’t understand and perhaps your superior intellect and insight could help here is why the EU suddenly flipped from a position where the conditions to enable trade talks to start had not been met to one of almost panic after the DUP made their announcement on Monday.
        After all they did not get anything like the concessions they had been holding out for and those they did get are so qualified as to almost be worthless.
        Could it be they are terrified of a hard Brexit as it will hurt their exports to the UK dramatically?
        And could it also be that the UK government has sensed this and are prepared to allow the hard Brexiteers to continue to agitate towards this in the knowledge that the EU fear this very situation?
        Given the balance of trade between the EU and the UK I can understand why this would be of such great concern to the EU.
        Just a thought.

        1. John S Warren says:

          You do seem to have great difficulty understanding what is going on, or even to concentrate on the issues rather than your trite observations about me (about which, I and – I am sure – the reader, does not care a fig, whether they agree with me or not). I doubt if I can help you understand.

          On your fatuous point about the DUP, the journalist Faisal Islam grasped the bizarre nature of that interlude. For a week Britain was negotiating with itself; and, I might add – it failed. The minor re-draft was a fudge (with itself), and everybody can see it. That really ought to tell you something; about Britain. It tells you nothing about the EU, or the reality of the negotiations. Of course there are unresolved contradictions. I spelled that out. You seem constitutionally incapable of figuring out why.

          If Britain negotiates Phase Two in good faith, it is ‘on the hook’ for Phase One. The EU is negotiating in good faith (read Chris Kendall on Progressive Pulse for how negotiating works, or does not work). Of course Britain may not be negotiating in good faith. As I said, some Conservative Brexiteers wish no deal. Britain can always walk away from ALL its obligations. I think this is quite possible, but the consequences are utterly appalling. David Davis says that is more unlikely now, but actually it is more likely now (he ‘protests too much’).

          Here is what Theresa May is now telling her Conservative MPs in a letter:

          “The Government has said that we are a country that honours its obligations, and that is what we will do. We have agreed a fair settlement of commitments we have made while a member of the EU, in the spirit of our future partnership. It depends upon a broader agreement being reached – as I have said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – so if there is no agreement then our offer also falls away.” (Telegraph website, 11th December).

          There you have the key to Britain’s negotiating position. Far from a ‘no deal’ Brexit being further from happening (in Davis’s spin), it is now much closer. The hardline Brexiteers can hardly believe their luck. I can see the spin from that ‘Leave now with nothing – and save £40Bn’.

          Now that is fairly clear. I think we may describe the Phase One negotiations, taken as a whole – as being …. …. Fake News.

          If you do not understand what is happening I cannot help it. My position is clear, and I have explained it at length. I have nothing to add. You, however have not offered a single word – a single word – that illuminates anything about what is happening, that we cannot already find in the Government’s ill-judged statements, or the propaganda it spins through its tame mainstream media. Your contributions add absolutely nothing to the debate (and are argued even less cogently or effectively than the Government – and that says something), so what is the point?

    2. George Anderson says:

      When is an ‘agreement’ not an agreement? Can an agreement be faked in order to gain advantage in negotiations? This is what Jamsie is implying I believe. I spent my whole working life as a trade-union negotiator starting by representing a small group of miners with local mine managers at the coal face, and ending representing huge numbers of staff in negotiations with UK Government Ministers and their Civil Servants. Now one thing which is clear to me Jamsie, is that the only way you can fake an agreement is to try to fool others, or to fool yourself. Negotiations only make sense if your opponent has something which you want, and you have something that they want. So an ‘agreement’ is useless to any negotiator unless it gives the group he/she is representing what they are seeking, even if they have had to sacrifice other things to get the agreement. Now this agreement with the EU has forced the Brexiteers into many concessions; but what has it gained. It has secured a road into trade negotiations with the EU. The UK Government thinks this is worth doing so they have committed to it. This is of course just a stage in the negotiations, it is not the end by a long way, but neither the UK or the EU can go backwards in negotiations they need to proceed forwards. So the UK might never find a suitable basis for final agreement in the trade negotiations and they may decide to walk away without a final deal; but what they can’t do is re-open discussions on the terms of trading without a ‘hard border’ because they have agreed that, and we all now know that they are prepared to accept the main principles of the single market as a basis for trading. So we have all learned something. If the Brexit fanatics don’t like this, now is the time to speak up.

  3. Redguantlet says:

    John, I feel you are missing a slight difference in your comparison here.

    A Micawber is somebody poor but optimistic…

    Whereas Theresa May is wealthy but totally stupid….

    I don’t know the word for somebody poor and pessimistic, but put me down for that…

    Meanwhile, I can’t listen to BBC Scotland Open All Mikes and tune in to the fitba in Scotland because the retard, backward, tight-fisted, upper class, mendacious and totally SHIT BBC refuse – unlike every single other public broadcaster in the European continent – to offer their services free to the European public….

    The BBC are just the worst there is. You can’t listen to say, Kilmarnock- Partick Thistle, on the radio for “rights reasons”… Can you imagine the number of frustrated European fitba fans there must be out there trying to tune in? Hee hee hee….

    Who the FF do the people who run Britain think they are? Where do they get this ludicrous self-confidence / superiority complex from? What drugs are they putting in their Cornflakes?

    They are unbelievable. Brexit is THEIR project, they wallow in an absurd sense of superiority…. the Germans had a similar superiority complex when Hitler came to power. The Germans thought they were the heirs to Classical Greece, not least because of the grammatical similarities of their language with Classical Greek…

    …German intellectuals, like Heidegger, subscribed to this nonsense in droves. A similar scale of madness as the Brexit shambles, albeit with much worse consequences, at least to date… but when lunacy takes hold, the history books show it is notoriously difficult to shake off. Why? Because the mad have more energy than the sane.

    Say what you want about the Spanish or the Greeks or the French and Italians, but at least they know how to eat. The British don’t even know how to eat, not even that, and it is something most of us do three times a day… if they can’t even get that right, what hope remains for the country in other areas? Britain is three centuries old, but the people still haven’t worked out how and when to eat a meal, and what good food looks like…

    That, by the way, is a very common slur / insult of the Brits on the continent, their frankly horrific diet, and not only the diet, but the fact that they eat walking to work, in the rain, say….

    …people, Spanish people for example, openly express their sheer disdain for the British mentality to food, which is, to say the least, a functional approach.

    By the way, good, proper, nutritious eating is common in the south of Europe at large, the rich don’t eat better than the poor in Spain. Not at least in terms of nutrition. The rich eat in more fancy surroundings, but you can get a good nutritious meal in the centre of Madrid for about seven pounds, three courses, John, eh?

    The sooner this ludicrous farce is over – the painfully embarrassing process which is Brexit – and the monarchy and the House of Lords and the Union of 1707 are consigned to the rubbish bin of History, the better. The Tories are making a complete are of the country at large.

    The only saving grace, for us Scots, is that people in Europe DO distinguish between the Scots and the English… thank God for that…

  4. Willie says:

    If I may opine irrelevantly, the statement that something will turnup is actually is an appropriate choice of words.

    Substitue one vowel for another and you get to the root of the matter.

    Root vegetables – aka turnips, Scotland grows plenty of them. Grrr!

  5. punklin says:

    This deal is bound to unravel. At its heart is the unresolved contradiction of trying to avoid a hard border whilst planning to leave the single market and customs union.

    With the hardest negotiations still to come, the fudge will become unworkable and the uk will be back to square one.

  6. George Gunn says:

    Well, as John has pointed out, and no matter what the Tories say and do to the contrary, the narrative road to the hard Brexit hell is still being walked by the Westminster faction. To call them a government is to debase language.

  7. w.b.robertson says:

    These long running “negotiations” are nothing more than sand dancing, as anyone who has ever been involved in real negotiations is very much aware. At the end of the day (for the EU) it is all about money. And the rich, on both sides of the Channel, will be left richer and the poor will still remain poor.

  8. Redguantlet says:

    “The Spanish State promises social housing /
    But then they waste you with a thrashing /
    Mercenaries! Animals! They keep the stash /
    They beat up workers asking for bread for their families /
    The rich kids it seem like they don’t worry them, ha ha /
    Take part in high risk sports in the North!
    Slaves of The Court in a medieval country /
    The Head of State is obtained by via vaginal /
    A Police State which never stops /
    They fine you for parking, they torture you for being Basque /
    The cameras showed how dangerous it is /
    An interrogation with the Mossos de Esquadra /
    A joke of a fucking democracy /
    And then they want you to cry when a Guardia Civil is blown up /
    But all these coffins don’t add up /
    Galindo is iin the street and wanting to reconquer South America /
    A homicidal instinct, and their homophobia is just repressed homosexuality /
    The Spanish Police persecute the Top Manta /
    While the “progre” Zapatero injects money into the Banks
    Racist and white, abuses and outrages.
    ¿Protect and serve? No, perpetuate a system of classes…

    Grandes poetas españoles: los Chikos del Maiz:

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