2007 - 2022

Europa and the bull(shitters)

Douglas Ross, the Tory MP for Moray, can kick back. His place in history is assured by his golden phrase: a cold sick Brexit.

Us SNPers want the softest possible Brexit, because our border with England will be a European border, and we wish the freest, most open relationship across it.

A vindictive England could cause us serious problems after independence. Constraints of civility on both us and our neighbour are a good thing.

So, 1 year to go, things are going great. There is a clear coalition who want the same outcome — a UK more or less in the Customs Union and the Single Market — and that outcome remains the most likely.

This coalition ranges from the EU in general and Ireland in particular, through the combined Scottish political classes, and the bulk of the Labour and Tories in Westminster.

That position is drafted in the Phase I documents as the famous Option C fallback for ‘no border in Ireland’ — everybody in the Single Market and the Customs Union.
Ranged against this coalition is a motley bag of hard-right Tories and Corbyn’s coterie of Lexiteers.

Mrs May’s strategy appears to be to trumpet that Brexit is happening, will happen in a year, is a done thing. Brexit being Brexit, the red, white and blue Brexit is just around the corner.

But on ‘Brexit day’ we will only have withdrawn from the political institutions of the European Union — we will still be implementing EU laws, under the European Court of Justice, in the Single Market and the Customs Union — the full bhuna.

The Tory Party remains in a cold civil war — the Remainers have what they want written down in the agreement, the Brexiteers have nothing. Mrs May’s gambit of putting Brexiteers in the hot seat is going swimmingly.

The ludicrous Jacob Rees-Mogg, a berks idea of a Burke, managed to miss the boat for his own boat. He washed up on the banks of Thames delivering his I Have A Bream about the ‘betrayal’ of the fisherman in his trademark wooden Pinochettio fashion.

His bathetic disappointment, tempered with dreams of the great day to come, the cold sick quaffed today, for future greatness, is how it will go.

The Brexit-to-come of fervid prayers would need the uncommissioned Customs systems, the unacquired lorry parks across Northern Ireland, the uncreated Atomic Authority, the unconjoured new medicines agencies and so on. It is David Allen Green’s famous Beano — Brexit Existing As Name Only.

The Tories can’t agree, so they don’t agree, but only one side has a proposal on the stocks — and a team in Europe working it up. If the old remainers do nothing they win, so they do nothing.

Resignation is a coin that can be spent but once, and the Brexiteers are scared to spend it.
But each time they don’t it loses value.

Mrs May has contrived to give them not a pint of cold sick, but merely a cheeky shot of it. Close your eyes and chug, it will be over in a sec. Until tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow.

And so Alexander ‘The Piffle’ Johnston goes about his wheedle in a haystack schtick, and Double D does his punch drunk shuffle, Slithey Gove slithes and Liam ‘Foxy’ Fox aaaand write the joke yourself.

The Brexiteers fold like cheap suits: on timing, on phasing, on Ireland, on fish.

Even their victories doom them. Fighting to remain in Galileo (sure, pay here, sign up to the ECJ here), the struggle for Open Skies, Netflix roaming and cheap phone deals on yer holiday.

All of these are bricks in the Customs Union, the Single Market, and each ‘victory’ already ‘won’ will be threatened unless they fold again when pressed; which they will.
For much as they love the broad idea of Brexit, they recoil in horror from the corporeal reality of it.

The Tories will go into the next election like Sinn Féin in 1922. Two parties trapped in one body, with Treaty and Anti-Treaty candidates in neighbouring constituencies not fighting each other for votes. Labour too.

Brexit-as-withdrawl-from-European-political-institutions-only is the worst of all worlds for supporters of the Union. It both eases Scotland’s journey out of the Union, and damages Union institutions and Britain’s place in the world beyond repair.

This most cynical rebadging of the status quo as a brave new world, this endless “the boy who cried Wolfgang”, this English domestic politics put in the deep freeze by this non-change fandango, all of this can and will have political consequences.

What is the point of Westminster consumed by this self-immolation?

One man’s cold sick is another man’s gazpacho. We, Scotland, have a functioning parliament and government and a functioning polity (importantly that includes both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories).

There is no automatic route to independence, it will be a hard won fight, and there is plenty of work to do. But our starting position is strong.
So raise your glass in a toast to Douglas Ross ¡Y Viva Europa!

Comments (43)

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  1. Crubag says:

    I don’t think I’m watching the same process as Gordon. Article 50 can’t be rescinded, and the transition period isn’t a done deal. The rEU has recognised that the UK will be negotiating internationally in its own right after “Brexit day”, hence no ongoing voice on fisheries, trade etc. so the expectation is that the UK (and Scotland) will be a third party.

    The default is a no deal Brexit. If another EU state votes down the transition or the final deal it’s a no deal Brexit. If the UK votes down the transition or the final deal it’s a no deal Brexit.

    Given the uncertainties I’m not surprised the SNP has put off any indy2 until well after Brexit is complete – and really they’re the only part of Yes that can call it. Depending on what does emerge in the next half-decade, I could see that the SNP’s own position is cooler. Even now the Common Fisheries Policy or European Arrest Warrants (or relations with the Spanish state generally) are cutting accross the previous party lines.

    1. John S Warren says:

      “Article 50 can’t be rescinded”. Please provide your source; preferably an authoritative one, sufficiently clearly identified to be examined. Meanwhile, I offer an authoritative source; Lord Kerr, the man who actually drafted Article 50. He was reported as saying this in BBC Radio 4:

      “At any stage we can change our minds if we want to, and if we did we know that our partners would actually be very pleased indeed. The Brexiters create the impression that is because of the way Article 50 is written that having sent in a letter on 29 March 2017 we must leave automatically on 29 March, 2019 at the latest. That is not true. It is misleading to suggest that a decision that we are taking autonomously in this country about the timing of our departure, we are required to take by a provision of EU treaty law.”

      This was also reported by Michael Weaver in ‘The Guardian’ (Friday, 10th November,2017 – accessible on the Web-page ‘Brexit is reversible even after date is set, says author of article 50’). There are other sources for Kerr’s opinion, but I am trying to keep this comment brief.

      Until you provide a better source; or the result of the current Court cases on the issue are known, I think Kerr’s position has greater merit.

      1. Crubag says:

        Brian Kerr (please, no “lords”) has his opinion, but it’s just that. And as a dedicated remainer I’m not surprised by what it is.

        But the Article 50 text provides no mechanism for withdrawl, no room for handbrake turns.

        The EU is a political club (witness the differing applications of the Stability and Growth Pact) so one could never say never, but I think are EU partners have moved through denial and grief and are now at acceptance. This includes a reworking of the EU budget and a removal of all rebates. I can’t see them retreating now.

        And I doubt there will be a legal option to support such a move.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Yes, it is an opinion. That applies to all such opinions until they are decided by a Court. My point remains that Kerr’s opinion is an authoritative opinion on this matter, and carries weight for rational observers.

          You are entitled to your opinion but for me it is unsatisfactory, for two reasons. First, with all due respect I do not believe your opinion carries the same weight for rational observers, simply because you advance it; for reasonable opinion prima facie that is not a reason to prefer it over Kerr’s much more authoritative opinion. That seems to me quite obvious.

          Second, you advanced your opinion, but provided no reason in your first comment, why anyone might give it any credence. In your second comment you now gave a brief explanation, but scarcely a compelling one. The fact that there is no mechanism does not mean Article 50 cannot be withdrawn. You seem, grudgingly, to be aware of this. As for proposing there is “no room for handbrake turns”; your conclusion does not follow inevitably from the lack of a mechanism (a non-sequitur), and I doubt the colourful vocabulary of “handbrake turns” will carry much weight as an argument in court. I can fairly say that in hard, substantive terms, I have no idea what that phrase REALLY means. You do not convince me; but the readers can make up their own minds.

          1. Crubag says:

            My take on it is:
            – there is no basis in the text for any second-thoughts. In fact Article 50 is designed to secure a fast (in state terms) exit to prevent any shilly-shallying.
            – there appears to be no political basis to even entertain such second-thoughts, our rEU partners, and particularly the Commission and the Parliament, can see a new trajectory minus the UK.

            Brian would seem to be not so much whistling past the graveyard, as wondering if the sound of earth being thrown on the coffin is sounding out “My Way.”

    2. Gordon Guthrie says:

      The UK is out of the political institutions of the EU – without a shadow of a doubt – the question remains what sort of relationship the UK will have after – and in my opinion that will substantially be the single market and the customs union – perhaps dressed up in some fancy language – ‘a new deep and extensive free trade agreement’ and ‘a customs union’ – I think we are heading for a soft Brexit – based on the fact that nothing for a hard Brexit is being done, the EU would prefer a soft Brexit…

  2. Scotter says:

    Found this article very heartning amidst the sea of fishy smelling bullshit we are fed on a daily basis on our tv screens.

  3. Somerled says:

    As far as flawed accounts of where we are right now go, this was definitely more entertaining than most.

    But there’s no reason to think that the hard core fruitcakes of the Tory right will surrender in the way suggested here. And there’s every reason to suppose they will lurch further to extremes.

    It’s the vision thing that you forget. They have this idea of Britain rekindling its global role and becoming some sort of Victorian wet dream off the coast of Europa; perfect isolation with all the trimmings, workers treated like shit, welfare only for the rich, and the privateers of the business community set free to indulge in their seediest perversions.

    The EU will more than likely bend over backwards to accommodate this monster in the making and do what it does best; disappoint us — just as they have disappointed over Catalonia and so much else.

    As for Scotland, we are up shit creek without a paddle or a boat. There’s actually a case for saying we are up shit creek without a creek.

    The functioning polity you mention is functioning very well — to keep us in our place. Sturgeon is out of her depth and her ‘safe pair of hands’ act is frustrating, inappropriate, boring, ineffective, and lame all at once.

    And by the way, if anyone thinks the EU or the Tories are going to lose any sleep over the fate of Ireland, they definitely haven’t been paying attention. It’s all just posturing and pre-negotiational piss. None of these types every cared about Ireland. 400 years of misery and torture testify to that.

    1. J W B says:

      That’s cheered me up no end.

    2. John S Warren says:

      I have no axe to grind in this general debate, but I am at some loss to understand why people write comments like this; full of airy waffle, confident assertions, declamations that amount to nothing more than self-promoting claims to the writer’s own superior vision over those he chooses to criticise; but not a single attempt to address the argument made or rebut it with evidence. I have no comment to make on whether the commenter is right or wrong; but behind the rhetoric there is not a single idea, a verifiable fact offered that I can find; not a single matter of substance offered that the reader can actually USE.

      I consider this kind of comment to be simple, empty, ever-rising hot air. If you have something to say, it would help we mere mortals if you supplied a substantive argument with independent verifiable, or falsifiable, facts that are open to examination.

      1. Somerled says:

        Not sure who your criticism is aimed at, John Warren, but, if need be, I could easily give foundation to every point I have made above.

        Brexit didn’t suddenly and unexpectedly appear like some random poltergeist. It was conjured up, deliberately and purposefully, by people who have a very clear vision of what they want for Britain in the future. It took a lot of time, effort, and cash to get us here and I simply can’t imagine them backing down now when they are so close to getting us over the line.

        One thing that I think is missing in all this is serious discussion and consideration of what is the most likely scenario: a ‘no deal’ scenario with Britain left to its own devices and detached on the periphery of Europe.

        That scenario isn’t necessarily the nightmare some people think it would be, at least, not for everybody. It’s possible Britain would do quite well as a low tax, low wage economy, laundering money on behalf of the global elite, etc.

        I suspect there’s quite a lot of demand for that sort of stuff. When you look at the demand for tax breaks, and facilities offered to Russians and trans-national corporations by London right now, who could disagree?

        I’m not sure what the bookmakers make of it, it might be worth looking into, but I’d say the chances of a deal being struck that keeps us in the single market are extremely unlikely, close on impossible.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Thank you. I can follow this now; and the use of such terms as “I think”; “I suspect”; “isn’t necessarily” are qualifications that seem to me to fit better the not unreasonable, but not quite decisive nature of the evidence you actually advance.

          When you say “if need be, I could easily give foundation to every point I have made above”, I am however not clear whether your following comments are intended to provide that “foundation” for every point made, or not. If it is, in my opinion it does not quite meet that standard. I offer this as my genuine attempt to clarify the matter, rather than seeking to ‘score points’.

      2. Lorna Campbell says:

        I agree with much of Somerled’s post. There is another factor that is never given recognition either, and that is the fact that so many English/Welsh people voted for Brexit. If that vote is not honoured, they will not sit back like the Scots and absorb the punishment; they will have something to say about it, and I would imagine that will take the form of civil unrest and either a revival of UKIP or the rise of another even more right-wing party, which the Tories will fear a lot more than they fear the SNP. In the end, this crisis will either finally see Scotland absorbed and subsumed (if we Brexit with rUK) into that Tory one nation nightmare, or it will lead to another independence bid. I’m not so sure that Nicola Sturgeon is out of her depth, and the June Conference might just be the location and date for another upheaval – but on our terms, this time. We shall see. What is very evident is that another version of ‘wait, I have a better plan’ cannot be sustained for much longer without action to back it up.

        1. Jo says:

          Hi Lorna
          I read recently that there are some regrets in Wales over their Leave result. It’s interesting too that the Welsh Assembly is with the Scottish Government in fighting for a direct transfer of all powers coming back from the EU to the devolved parliaments.

          So I don’t expect trouble from Wales should Brexit collapse but there will most definitely be big trouble in England. And UKIP absolutely will be reborn. That is the biggest fear of the Tories. Let’s face it, UKIP terrified Cameron into calling that EU referendum.
          As for Nicola being out of her depth, that’s a separate debate and a complex one.

        2. Somerled says:

          Hi Lorna. I don’t think we need to worry about people in England feeling let down by the Brexit negotiations because I think they are destined to end without a deal and the hardest of hard brexits.

          Note that I didn’t say the negotiations were doomed to fail here. A ‘No deal’ outcome is a success for hard brexiters who are hiding on the sidelines waiting for this process to play out.

          It’s remarkable to me that just about everybody in the news and everywhere is assuming that there’s a genuine desire for a deal and it just so happens we aren’t doing very well when it comes to negotiating it. On the face of it, that is what is happening. That’s the official line on what’s happening.

          Imagine though that the real goal was the hardest of hard brexits. Wouldn’t they want — or need — us to believe they tried their level best to broker a deal? For political reasons that would be a useful argument; “as you all seen, we tried to be reasonable but the EU wasn’t having it…”

          And, yet, when you consider that all it takes to stop a deal is one EU member state tabling an objection, coming through all this without a deal is absolutely the most likely scenario. There’s other evidence too that this is the plan, namely;

          1) if all this was serious, wouldn’t the U.K. insist on exploring the possibility of withdrawing article 50 and remaining in the EU as a full member? It’s no accident that this subject is more or less avoided and dismissed and it points to them not wanting to contemplate any cancellation of Brexit, no matter what, deal or no deal. Well, that’s an odd thing, is it not?

          2) if the U.K. really wanted a sensible deal and relationship with the EU after Brexit, don’t you think the first thing they would have done is give assurances on the future status of EU nationals living here? Britain couldn’t have scuppered any chance of that more when it postured to use those people as bargaining chips. That’s no accident or blundering and has to be calculated.

          3) when you think what a trade deal with the EU by necessity would amount to, don’t you think it was telling that the U.K. dismissed out of hand the possibility of remaining in the single market or joining efta? Yet, if you were serious about future trade, that sort of stuff would surely be a top priority — these you might say are off-the-shelf options where May claims that she wants a bespoke solution but they contain all the same essential ingredients and if you are serious about a deal then they’d be a good place to start. But no.

          I could go on but I am starting to bore even myself. On Ireland though I don’t think there has been any serious attempt by Britain to come to a plausible arrangement. The proposal they wasted months on, the “technological solution”, was actually farcical in the extreme and dismissed out of hand. Again, it’s almost as if it wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously, and it wasn’t.

      3. Jo says:

        For someone with “not a lot to say” you’ve said rather a lot to other posters….some of it quite rude.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Thank you. I said I had no axe to grind. I didn’t. I do not believe that I was rude; robust, but not rude. I responded to a comment that itself robustly, if somewhat summarily dismissed the article. That is fine; but I did not see a close argument of what precisely was being dismissed, or evidence to justify the case being asserted. Had there been detailed engagement, and a persuasive rebuttal of the article with a well-worked, closely reasoned argument, I would have nothing to say. I didn’t see such a careful argument, and felt it fair to protest.

          I accepted the (second) follow-up comment very politely, I thought. Notably it was much more fairly framed; and because the commenter (second time round), was less sweeping and more considered in his approach, I thought it rather made my point.

          So I do not think your point is well-made; with all due respect.

          1. John S Warren says:

            As for the Article 50 discussion, what I wrote seems to me fair comment. The issues are very serious and I believe that it is not sufficent merely to assert an opinion, and expect not to be challenged to argue the case in detail, with clear and examinable evidence.

          2. Jo says:

            “So I do not think your point was well made; with all due respect.”

            That’s all right. Your other posts, and this latest one, helped to make my point for me. And you know, when people who adopt the sort of tone you use say things like, “With all due respect”, the intention is to show no respect at all.

            Other posters here, including Cru, expressed opinions. You dismissed those on the basis that the person you were quoting had a more “authoritative” opinion…..in your opinion. (I think you used the, “With all due respect” line there too.)

            On the upside, I’ve decided you’re hilarious!

          3. John S Warren says:

            That is fine. You are entitled to your opinion. No, I do not use the term “with all due respect” in the way you surmise; and it is a surmise on your part. You a reading into it something that isn’t there. I have no problem with the fact you find it all “hilarious”; by all means, be my guest. I do not possess the prejudices you presume.

            As for my judgement that Kerr’s opinion on Article 50 (from the man who originally drafted it), is prima facie more authoritative than “Cru” (a psyeudonym?) seems to me too obvious, almost to require stating. This does not mean “Cru” could not be right and Kerr may be wrong; but it simply establishes the quite reasonable starting point that Kerr manifestly possesses an expert opinion, while I have no idea whether “Cru” is knowledgable on the specific issue he raises and asserts, until he demonstrates it: in his first comment he provided no argument or evidence at all, beyond mere assertion; and in the second comment provided a case that I have already suggested was less than compelling, and to which I responded with reasonable criticism.

            It is perfectly reasonable to expect that “Cru” is required to state a very good , well evidenced, convincing case to be considered to have an opinion of the same value as Kerr’s, from the perspective of a reasonable and rational observer. You may, of course know more about “Cru” than I do; but why would I? I am at a loss to understand why you would think this proposition could be wrong.

            Incidentally, given the time and care I have given to adress and answer in detail all the points raised by three commenters, including you, I still do not believe your comments on my comments are well formed. I think that is itself a working demonstration of giving commenters “all due respect.” I rest my case.

          4. Somerled says:

            Hi John. I’m not in the least offended by your requests or points. In the comment you took issue with I really on made 2 or 3 points of notable substance.

            Note Gordon Guthrie in the article above makes the assumption that some sort of political Brexit is likely to occur, alongside continued integration on the economics side. This in my opinion is the least likely outcome and I think my reasons for thinking that have solid foundations. I alluded to my reasoning above in a follow up.

            Brexit, particularly for the hard core right who conjured all this up, is primarily about economics. If you look at what they have been saying over the years, going back to Goldsmith and the referendum party in the early ‘90s, the emphasis has always been on economics. None of those types have ever argued for a scenario that involved economic integration alongside political independence from the EU.

            I don’t think I need provide any more substantiation of that point since it’s everywhere but if you think I do then it might be an ideal opportunity for you to provide one example of a pro Brexit politician arguing for political independence alongside economic integration vis a vis the EU.

            On that crucial idea, then, I think Guthrie is very wrong. And as I understood it, that is the main message of his article.

            What I also said about Sturgeon’s handling of all this can be validated in a simple question; do you feel we are any closer to a second independence referendum now than we were say 12 months ago?

            Anyone who answers in the affirmative to that will need to explain why and show me some evidence. I think we are further away from it, a lot further away, and I attribute that dire truth to the personal character of Sturgeon herself.

            As for Ireland, it’s the one player in all this that perplexes me. If I was in the Republic of Ireland I’d be arguing to cut our losses, let them have the north, and build the biggest wall I could between us and that smouldering cesspit. Free movement is the last thing I’d want and I mean that.

            In terms of the facts of my clumsily put summation, though, I think the historical record of the last 400 years speaks for itself. Nobody in Britain or Europe has really done much to convince me that they gave a hoot about the Irish people over that period.

            Indeed, when about a third of Ireland was starving during the famine — and by that I mean literally starving to death — I don’t think one consignment of food or any other sort of aid was sent from any country on the continent to help.

            Britain as we know eventually sent some sort of corn that made people sick and despite being largely responsible for the debacle was content to watch food exports leave the country by the shipload as many thousands died.

          5. John S Warren says:

            As I said, I have no axe to grind on this issue and do not view the issues in the form they are discussed here; hence I did not comment on the content. It is more the manner, the “style” of comments, that I simply feel are too often (not just on this thread, but generally) too sweeping; generalised, broad, non-specific; not ‘concrete’, precisely evidenced: with proper referenced sources; at least sufficient for my taste.

            For the avoidance of doubt I am pro-Remain and anti-Brexit. We are in difficult and dangerous territory, but I am simply disinclined to discuss the issues as they have been aired here. I came into this thread in the first instance simply because of the reference to Lord Kerr and Article 50, which I thought typical of the excess of commenters, but without providing the weight of evidence to justify the exaggerated authority simply asserted by a commenter. I did not wish to go any further, but I felt an obligation to explain myself. I am disinclined to become involved in the grand speculation I feel is being somewhat overdone on this thread. That is all. I try to respect all commenters; provided they are not trolling, and I do not claim anybody is trolling here. I hope that is clear.

  4. Jo says:

    I broadly agree with the previous posts of Crubag and Somerled.

  5. Willie says:

    I fear our goose will be cooked in the Brexit that will emerge, but cooked slowly enough so as to ensure that the at the point of exit it will not be significant enough to fire the bellies for Scottish independence.

    Thereafter it will be the never ending slide of the UK as the European Union gets on with looking after its interests as a half in half out UK tries, as it has been doing quite well over the past decade, to turn the majority of citizenry into a low wage, low tech, austerity driven sweat shop.

    The EU’s very own offshore Puerto Rico with Scotland in it.

  6. Justin Kenrick says:

    “Brexit-as-withdrawl-from-European-political-institutions-only” is where we are likely to be heading.

    As the fog clears, and we remain (effectively) in the customs union and single market, the grounds would be clear for Scotland becoming independent and being able to trade with all our European neighbours.

    The other alternative – crashing out of the EU, and all the shock capitalism smashing of NHS etc that that would be used to justify – would make the case for independence even ore strongly.

    I prefer the first option, for the reason’s Gordon gives at the start of the article, but we need to also be ready for the second.

  7. DaveM says:

    I’m interested in the assertion that, “Brexit-as-withdrawl-from-European-political-institutions-only is the worst of all worlds for supporters of the Union. It both eases Scotland’s journey out of the Union, and damages Union institutions and Britain’s place in the world beyond repair,” but there’s no explanation of how or why this might be true. I want it to be the case, but it would be interesting and useful for this idea to be given some depth.

    1. Gordon Guthrie says:

      Because it means the UK is diminished in the eyes of the world – and diminished in terms of that which British nationalism holds most dear – its place in the world. It also means that the political parties are split and the institutions are shown to have been substantially duplicitious.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    “A vindictive England could cause us serious problems after independence.”

    I would go further and say that a vindictive and *unreformed* England and company would cause serious problems, with some comparisons between rUK-Scotland relations and post-Soviet Union Russia-baltic state relations. An oligarchic power struggle without Queensberry rules.

    This appears to be a factor in the reconsideration of supporters for Californian secession from the United States of America, who consider their state to have a progressive influence on their union, and wish to make that influence tell (and stick) before departing on better terms.

    The article might have followed this interesting statement up instead of descending into schlocky caricature.

    1. Gordon Guthrie says:

      There are no supporters of Californian secession in numbers over about 10…

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Gordon Guthrie, according to the Los Angeles Times on 24 January 2017:
        “One-third of state residents support peacefully seceding from the United States, up from 20% since Californians were last asked the same question in 2014, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.”

  9. w.b.robertson says:

    I have tried to stop laughing at Gordon Guthrie`s crystal ball gazing/wishful thinking. It is indeed a lot of bull. You might wish it to happen GG – but it won`t. Follow the money.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      w.b.robertson, given you are so sure Gordon is wrong,
      (1) how do you see these series of events turning out? And
      (2) what is your preferred outcome?

  10. Crubag says:

    @John S Warren – sorry, I tried to post this last night, but it fell off my phone.

    John (not Brian, apologies) has his opinion, but I think it belongs to an old world of EU15 and national vetoes, not the new order where states are much reduced – as is the design. John also thought the UK could not only reverse its decision but also hold on to its rebate in the process. In actuality ALL rebates are now on the table – the UK wasn’t the only state getting one – as this is an opportunity to reset EU governance.

    I’d count the European Commission as a more authoritative source than a private individual (him, me or, with respect, you) and this is what they’ve had to say:

    “What happens if no agreement is reached?

    The EU Treaties simply cease to apply to the UK two years after notification.

    Can a Member State apply to re-join after it leaves?

    Any country that has withdrawn from the EU may apply to re-join. It would be required to go through the accession procedure.

    Once triggered, can Article 50 be revoked?

    It is up to the United Kingdom to trigger Article 50. But once triggered, it cannot be unilaterally reversed. Notification is a point of no return. Article 50 does not provide for the unilateral withdrawal of notification.”


    1. John S Warren says:

      Well, now you have made a case; and that was the essence of my case (i.e., make a case, not an assertion). Your argument is not decisive.

      1) This is a memo from the European Commission (EC), but a decision on the matter will not be made unilaterally by the Commission. It is not the EC’s role. If made unilaterally by anyone (and challenged), it will be made finally by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
      2) Article 50 makes no reference to withdrawing Article 50, so the EC opinion (no more, no less) is not easily drawn from the text. The man who wrote the text, Lord Kerr (at least let us use an accurate name) draws a quite different conclusion from it; and he presumably understands its intent, where that is not transparent.
      3) There is at least once court case challenging the opinion you uphold before the Courts in London. I understand that there may be, at least a second case. It is possible that one or other will eventually be decided by the ECJ. Then, and only then, will you have an authoritative result (save one produced ‘politically’ by negotiation).
      4) Even if Britain sought unilaterally to withdraw Article 50, you appear to suppose this would immediately be challenged not only by the EC, but by the Council of Ministers, or the European Parliament. The politicians in Europe are, however quite likely to agree to the withdrawal of Article 50, for political reasons that trump the EC. This would then establish the precedent that currently does not exist in the EU for future ise, but which I feel you are trying to ‘speculate’ into premature existence, by assertion.

      1. Somerled says:

        Has Theresa May or any prospective government in waiting, or anyone likely to have a say in the matter, ever expressed a desire to withdraw Article 50? Didn’t think so.

        The whole discussion is moot.

        As I have said above, there’s a reason that this subject isn’t very prominent. If the Brexit negotiations were honestly aimed at finding a deal that worked for Britain and the EU, the potential for rescinding Article 50 would naturally be clarified by now.

        In a year or two people will read this and say “that Somerled guy was right…” That’s who I am writing for, people in the future. I’m ahead of my time 😐

        We are full steam ahead into a’no deal’ situation. That’s probably been the plan all along since the negotiations are not likely to lead to something that all parties will agree to. And it looks like the British government knows this and is just going through the motions. May is aimlessly running through wheat fields again, being naughty, but who gives a…

        Meanwhile the dark forces who manipulate elections and small minds are sitting in the background waiting to pounce. When the deal gets shot down they will make their move and they are assuming that the EU will rush to meet them with an offer that gives emphasis to German car sales in the UK.

        After 2 or 3 days of marathon talks they will come up with something that leaves Scotland, Ireland, and everybody apart from ‘The City’ pissing into the wind.

        Welcome to realpolitik.

        1. John S Warren says:

          My problem with your comments throughout this thread has been the uncontrolled vanity that seems to feed your opinion: “‘In a year or two people will read this and say “that Somerled guy was right…’ That’s who I am writing for, people in the future. I’m ahead of my time”.

          No, sir for all I know, you are ‘behind the curve’. It is not hard to find these ideas, not very well hidden in the words of the hard-Brexit Conservatives; Rees-Mogg, Cash, Fox et.al., to look no further than Westminster. Farage and UKIP represent the principle, but it goes on and on throughout Brexit politics, the alt-right and media.

          I do not claim prescience, but if you wish to consider a more extensive exploration of some of the relevant ideas and implications of the chaos and even a purposive ‘no deal’, I wrote these articles in Bella Caledonia, in which you will variously find the relevant ideas, in one or another of them:

          ‘The Brexit Trick’ (24th June, 2017).

          ‘Nothing has Changed’ (10th November, 2017).

          ‘Brexit and the Art of deflection’ (28th November, 2017).

          I would prefer, however that we stick to the issues; and I refer to these old articles, only because I believe they are still germane: because in Britain today, nothing has changed.

          1. Somerled says:

            Thanks for the links but I have no desire to learn a thing. I’m here to type, not read. Maybe if you read less and typed more, your life would be improved.

            Anyway, if I was interested in reading, I’d probably go for erotic fiction or something useful.

            I see you have opted for that omniscient narrator thing… I did that too once, for about 3 days. That was before I got into robotic dancing, of course.

  11. Crubag says:

    @ John S Wattren – “The man who wrote the text, Lord Kerr (at least let us use an accurate name)”

    What is he the Lord of? Do his tenantry know? Will he sound the slughorn and ride to the melee?

    The drafters failed to put in any break or brake clause, so John may have writer’s regret, but the professional legal team of the Commission have no doubt about the lay of the land or the meaning of the text.

    (and the ECJ has something like a four-year waiting list…)

  12. John S Warren says:

    And there readers (if there are any left…..), I am very content to rest my case.


  13. William Ross says:


    Your case is not convincing and I wouldn`t rest if I was you.

    Firstly, your point on Article 50 notification withdrawal is completely moot. There is no chance that it will ever happen.

    Secondly, even if the impossible happened and the UK did try to withdraw, the issue would be solved politically and the EU would accept us but on what terms?

    But if the issue became legal, the self-serving view of Lord Kerr would cut no ice with any credible court. (Personally I doubt the credibility of the ECJ but that is another matter) The article would be interpreted as it is written and the commentary of the Commission would be persuasive but not dispositive. The Commission is the “guardian of the EU treaties”.


    1. John S Warren says:

      I did not claim Kerr’s case was ‘certain’; I am challenging the sweeping assertion that Article 50 “cannot” be rescinded, and that is all I was arguing. Nevertheless, I do not find your argument convincing either. Your view that rescinding Article 50 would “cut no ice in any court” is simply another opinion; all I have said is that the real test is in a court, and certainly not in social media; I do not know what the outcome in Court would be. Meanwhile, I have still not seen a compelling argument that makes Kerr’s opinion look wrong (certainly not here); and that is the sum of my position; I think it is more ‘open’ than you think, or than the ‘evidence’ you have advanced.

      As for your view of the “credibility” of the ECJ, I have some difficulty seeing the relevance of your opinion on the matter of credibility, to the actual question at stake. As it stands the ECJ is and will remain the Supreme Court of the EU, a jursidiction that still (and for some time to come) includes the UK, whatever you think of it. As for the Commission’s “guardianship”, the matter will not be decided by them in the Court; and if the matter was raised by the UK but not decided in Court, on a matter of this importance, and without any precedent, it would ultimately be decided above the Commission’s pay grade; by the EU politicians.

      So I have no problem with “moot”, because my base position is that Brexit is extremrely “moot” however it is cut (and sold or mis-sold, or sold down-the-river); and it is certainly not ‘cut and dried’ by the kind of grandstanding speculation that has filled this thread.

  14. William Ross says:


    You may have misunderstood the point that I was making about Lord Kerr. It is not that Lord Kerr’s view that the Article 50 notification can be unilaterally revoked by the leaving state “cuts no ice” per se. Article 50 is genuinely ambiguous, though if unilateral revocation is intended as a possibility then it is very badly drafted. The UK Supreme Court in GINA MILLER observed that revocability was an open issue.

    My point was that JUST BECAUSE Lord Kerr drafted Article 50, he Lord Kerr, has the inside knowledge on how it is meant to work, even relative to an ambiguity he created, this “will cut no ice” Lord Kerr’s view as drafter is entitled to no special deference any more than any other legislative draftsman. If Lord Kerr had issued a judicial opinion in an actual case supporting revocation that would be entirely different. The Commission is the guardian of the EU treaties and its official commentary is much more persuasive than Lord Kerr’s.

    On mootness, you are a fantasist. You want to overturn the greatest democratic vote in British history, followed by a massive parliamentary majority to trigger Article 50, followed by a general election in which over 80% of the British people making up the huge majority of the Commons voted for Lancaster House Brexit. This was also true of a clear majority of Scottish voters. The one UK party seeking a second referendum was crushed underfoot. Polling shows that a huge UK majority want the government to get on with Brexit and Remain’s Project Fear is in ruins. An agreement with the EU is in sight. Ireland is not stopping trade talks beginning.

    You now have less than one year to turn this completely around so that the UK abjectly attempts to surrender before Juncker and Selmayr. Good Luck


    1. John S Warren says:

      I did not misunderstand you; but you misunderstood my argument. I was providing Kerr as an authoritative source for anyone who wishes to read and understand the content of Article 50. Kerr suggests there is a case to be made for rescinding Article 50, and it is reasonable to consider that there is one. That is quite separate from the the court case itself. That will be decided by the lawyers and judges in the ECJ; whether, how and to what extent they draw on Kerr’s view will depend on them. What opinion you or I are more “persuaded” by is neither here nor there; that is not how courts work: and that is my point. Our difference is, I do not claim to have all the answers.

      If you are proposing that Kerr is not an authoritative source, for any reasonable enquirer to be well informed on the content of Article 50 WHEN HE DRAFTED IT; then I consider you are simply, and profoundly mistaken; and if that is how you typically proceed in making your case, I see no point in discussing the matter further.

      I may add here that when you wrote: “… even if the impossible happened and the UK did try to withdraw, the issue would be solved politically and the EU would accept us but on what terms?”

      It would be decided politically; and that is precisely what I have always argued. It is still possible. Article 50 is simply another option, that takes one step back. The whole point of “rescinding” Article 50, is that Britain would therefore not have left the EU; therefore your proposition on “terms” of “rejoining” simply would not arise.

      As for “fantasist”, it is unfortunate you resort so quickly to the cheap shot, but I am not surprised; unfortunately your political prejudices are beginning to show; the wish is father of the thought, and somewhat ahead of reality.

      I do not wish Brexit to happen, and I do not know whether it will. It may, and it may yet not happen – or, perhaps it may seem to happen, but not “really” happen. It may happen in name, but not in reality; there is much of the current political negotiation that looks like a fudge. Your hope may well be sold down the river, in return for a paper victory; full of empty public flourishes. There is little doubt that whatever the outcome, the most likely result is a complete, unhappy mess for everyone. Enjoy.

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