Wednesday 7 September 2016

It's time to confront Brexiteer dishonesty

There's a lot of intellectual cowardice around at the moment. There is an ongoing pretense that Brexit is simple. It isn't. It's fraught with uncomfortable compromises and dilemmas. Much of EU integration was designed to be irreversible and if we want to do it properly we have to do it slowly and by the book.

Some would have it that the Article 50 process is designed to prevent us from leaving. It isn't. It's just that forty years of global evolution in trade law presents us with choices none of which are encouraging and whichever way we turn the options are not good. We still have a very expensive and time consuming process on our hands.

We are told Brexit means Brexit but in truth the government has no way of satisfying the expectations of leavers without inflicting a good deal of unnecessary self-harm. People think we are leaving a European legal system but it isn't that simple. We are stepping out of a partition and into a broader global legal system where we have to reconfigure our own laws while honouring legacy commitments and also being mindful that close cooperation is still a necessity for the normal functioning of business.

The leave campaign has caused a number of problems. They pretended that sunlit uplands were only a single bound away and that the alternative is instantly preferable to EU membership. It isn't.

The alternative is something we have to build over a long time. The process will be costly and time consuming and it doesn't come simply by waving the Brexit magic wand. Embarking on the Brexit process is the beginning of a long journey which does have a high risk of failure. I still voted to leave because I think that culturally it is necessary and because it's a festering sore that won't go away. Also because Britain does have the potential to be a world leader in global trade - but I won't for a moment pretend it's simple.

Over the years the EU has made some impressive inroads in its trade agreements and if we adopt the EU bilateral approach we could never in a thousand years hope to match them. I believe the alternative approaches are where we can made smaller steps and progress incrementally and in the end surpass the EU while it's still negotiating big bang deals like TTIP to no avail.

I am however becoming increasingly intolerant of Brexit-o-mongs who think we can just rip up treaties, contracts and agreements and then "free trade deals" will just materialise out of thin air. They won't. They will come but we'll have to invest to get them and we're not going to get them if we're sudden breaking international treaty law for shits and giggles. There is no unilateral Brexit and there is no complete restoration of sovereignty. In terms of laws made outside of London we are exchanging Brussels for Geneva and the volume of laws we accept will be about the same if not more. All we get is the power to refuse them, which in most cases we won't.

The Brexiteer vision of Brexit is a child's fantasy filled with rainbows and unicorns. It is a dishonesty of epic proportions and these pet theories belong to 1975. Since then globalisation has happened and nobody gets to do as they please anymore.

Worse still, if you thought Brussels lacked transparency wait until you try deciphering what the nexus of global governance is up to. It's all hidden in plain sight but you have to know what you are looking at. It makes TTIP look transparent by contrast. Brexit will mean that eventually we are in control of that agenda but for the time being we'll be taking baby steps and we're not going to get there without considerable cooperation with the EU. They are not going to help us if we start tearing up agreements and breaking the rules. So please, put your pet theories away and try to engage in the real world - or at the very least pipe down so the adults can get on with it.

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