How Not to Buy a Car
We have a Conservative Party that, quite alone, quite brutally, coldly, deliberately created the crisis we are brought to; for it is the Conservative Party that has been in power for almost a decade. It was a Conservative “Remain” Government that proposed a Referendum, in order to dish its own Brexiteers, and nevertheless over three years since has run through three Prime Ministers; began by backing Remain as its core policy, while simultaneously providing the leaders of VoteLeave; was defeated in the Referendum, sacrificed a PM, but neither power nor office; abruptly and cynically switched sides to save the Party and its fading grip on power; failed to deliver Brexit; dumped another PM, and simply rebranded itself as the Brexit Government of a Brexit Conservative Party; and still fails to deliver Brexit, or an election or anything at all.
Nevertheless the Conservatives have desperately clung on to power through every disaster and every continuous abject step towards defeat, failure and self-destruction their Government has taken; transparently put the Conservative Party before people or country (in the hope the electorate believe the national interest and the Conservative Party are the same thing); comprehensively trashed the Constitution for Party interest in the process; created a British existential crisis; and through it all it has grimly leached itself to office, even when finally bereft of parliamentary power; then, in the final hubris of disintegration, began purging any Conservative MPs possessing a spine, or who did not literally flee the field of political carnage first; insisting throughout that everyone else BUT the Conservative Party and Government – EU, Opposition, every single “Remoaner” who ever voted for or believed in Remain; is wholly and solely to blame for the disaster which imminently confronts us: the failure and chaos is nothing to do with the Government or Conservative Party: that is the official position of Conservatives – including thirteen Scottish Conservative Party MPs who have effectively supported every step this Government has taken, from Remain to Brexit to No-Deal; in a slow, dead march to their own political self-destruction; inured or indifferent to the grim prospect of dragging their constituencies and country to destruction with them.
The principal argument of the Brexit-Conservative Party is that the Conservative Government hitherto has not negotiated a deal with the EU effectively; this, we should not simply forget is entirely the responsibility of Conservatives: they are, after all the Party of Government – excuses will not do. The oddest part of this argument, however is that the Government should not reveal its negotiating hand to the EU, in order to ensure it negotiates from strength; while, bizarrely the Brexiteers use megaphone diplomacy to make it obvious to the EU the nature of the critical card they intend to play; while simultaneously keeping secret from both the EU and British public the solutions to the impasse in negotiation. This is because Brexiteers have no interest in negotiating niceties with the EU; the Brexiteer target audience is exclusively a British pro-Brexit public. There is only one object of this campaign: ‘no deal Brexit’; because the prospect that this tactic will work in order to achieve a deal can be discounted, indeed may be treated as being disingenuous.
The key UK Brexiteer weapon in negotiating with the EU is the ‘no-deal’ card; not really a ‘card’, but a threat: Britain could walk away. Somehow, we are supposed to believe, the EU effectively (‘at the death’ – the famous past-midnight characteristic EU last-minute deal-making closure) needs the UK more than the EU needs the Single Market in order to survive; or, that a deal with the UK is more important to the EU than ensuring that there is any point being a member of the EU after the UK leaves with a cost-free deal. Faced with this existential threat to the EU by Britain’s Brexit negotiation tactics, the EU has no real choice other than accept the UK walks away with no deal. A Brexit deal on Brexiteer terms would breach the immovable EU red line it can never betray: the survival of the EU. The Brexiteers know this very well. From a Brexiteer-Conservative perspective this is a win-win strategy; either the EU caves in (and the EU is finished – therefore it will not happen) or the Brexiteers will have the no-deal they want.
The publicly spun assumption behind this Brexiteer negotiating tactic, as peddled to the British electorate – the threat to walk away- is that the negotiations between the EU and UK are not really a matter of geopolitical diplomacy between States, but rather are just another business deal. Not even a global, multi-national business deal, but a shopping expedition. The favourite Brexiteer analogy is buying a car. Think about it; we are just buying a car. No we aren’t – first and foremost the EU is, in the words of Donald Tusk (a Pole who had to spend his early years under the tyranny of the Warsaw Pact) “a Peace Project”; but allow me to tease out the logic of the shopping expedition metaphor. We are buying a car. The dealer knows when we come in that we can walk away. This gives us power – we can walk away, the dealer knows it and wants a sale. We may need to remind him of the force of the threat when we negotiate for the car we want. We have to hold the threat to ‘walk away’ to the bitter end, in order to achieve the best deal. Then we walk away, if the price is too high.
Of course, this is nothing at all like our negotiations with the EU, or any present, past or future member’s negotiations with the EU, ever; because if I ‘walk away’ from a car dealer I do not go back. I do not then return to the dealer and say, forget all that, we need to do some sort of deal about a whole lot of other matters, because this is really nothing like buying a car. I do not go back in to the dealer and say; look, what are we going to do about all the close relationships we already have with you? My family members who work with you? Your people who work for me? The goods and services I already supply to you? The services you supply me? The security arrangements we have together? The energy links? I could go on, and on, and on in an endless list of complex relationships we already have. This is nothing like buying a car. We can leave the EU, but we have to do a deal because this is nothing like buying a car. If you don’t buy a car you walk away, and you do not go back to the car dealer: it is over. Our relationship with the EU does not end with Brexit. Not now, not in any foreseeable future. Beyond the next Brexiteer headline we will be back to the EU. To negotiate. Something. It is inescapable. It is inevitable. Brexit is nothing like buying a car. Period.