So Brexit is going well.
It seems that we have both no plan and the wrong plan; the EU don’t like what we’re putting on the table whilst simultaneously declaring that we have no plan at all. A microcosm of this is the NI border, where our plans are unworkable, the EU don’t have any alternative plans, and the latest is that this is the UK’s fault so screw us, they’re not going to make it easy (and, by implication, are rather happy to make it as hard as possible).
As someone who voted for Brexit I am not surprised; in a strange way, if the negotiations go well and both sides work properly towards a shared goal of mutual benefit to the residents, workers and businesses of in the UK and the EU, then that would show that the the possibility for that was there all along, and maybe the sort of reforms that would have made leaving the EU unnecessary could also have been delivered. The apparent bloody mindedness of the EU reinforces many of my own reasons for voting leave.
But many people did not vote leave – indeed almost half of those who voted (and more than half the population) did not. If Labour, after coming second in the General Election, treated their voters with the contempt that the EU is treating those who defended it only a year ago, then they’d lose voters in droves.
The EU is playing a strange game. Somehow 27 democratic nations have come together to behave like a spoilt child. Impossible red lines (how can a sovereign state ever agree to be subject to the courts of a body it is no longer part of?), game playing (eg leaks from private dinners), demands for ridiculous “divorce” payments with bemused looks when challenged to justify or explain their maths. The EU (as a whole) needs a decent deal, but those representing them would much rather walk away with nothing that have the UK get a good deal (regardless of whether it is good for both sides). This leaves the UK needing to be seen to try for a deal whilst behind the scenes prepare for what now seems inevitable – no deal.
Obviously if no deal can be done then it will hit the UK, but a lot of that is already built into the calculations of those who might invest here so the damage is probably less than many predict. It will in fact probably hit the EU harder, as there is the presumption that in the end the UK will pay a large sum to the EU and if that doesn’t materialise then this will hit the net contributors to the EU hard.
Tariffs on incoming goods will be under our control, so unilateral tariff free access to our markets is one option; it would certainly hurt our exporters but would benefit UK consumers (who are ultimately the people who pay any tariffs). In any case tariffs on our goods going into the EU would only counter the currency drop since “the vote” so it would be no harder to sell into the EU than it was a couple of years ago. That said I would personally look to remove tariffs from elsewhere in the world first – countries we currently impose tariffs on because our EU membership requires it – and continue to negotiate a trade deal with the EU for as long as it takes to achieve something of mutual benefit and which doesn’t simply seek to punish the UK.
Sadly, one of the criteria for achieving this is likely that the EU completely changes their negotiating position, which almost certainly means completely changing their negotiating team. I don’t foresee this happening before the official Brexit negotiations conclude.