Brex­i­teers are court­ing dis­as­ter if they think leav­ing EU is a game

Daily Record - - NEWS -

IN the cheap seats above the Com­mons, Brexit is like watch­ing a bad, slow game of ten­nis – where the ball has been sub­sti­tuted by a hand grenade. As the politi­cians lob back­wards and for­wards across the net between Brus­sels and Bri­tain, lit­tle progress seems to be achieved. Yet, at some stage, we know this will end with a bang. On Wed­nes­day, Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond tried his best to nod me­chan­i­cally in agree­ment while Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May hu­mil­i­ated him by promis­ing cash for Govern­ment de­part­ments to pre­pare for a hard Brexit. Nei­ther of them, re­mem­ber, ac­tu­ally be­lieve in leav­ing the EU. But Down­ing Street reckon show­ing se­ri­ous in­tent to sim­ply walk away with no trade or le­gal ar­range­ment ought to demon­strate to the EU May’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to get a bet­ter deal. Some­how, I doubt it. Most of the EU 27 – whose uni­fied two-fin­gered re­sponse is de­liv­ered by chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier at dead­pan press con­fer­ences – couldn’t give a fig for a no-deal Brexit. A Bri­tish walk­out would be bad for Bri­tain and Europe, but the Euro­pean heartache wouldn’t be felt ev­ery­where. In this game, some Euro­peans are more equal than oth­ers. A re­port by credit rat­ing firm Stan­dard & Poors found the coun­try most af­fected by Bri­tain crash­ing out of the EU will be Ire­land. In this worst-case sce­nario, Ire­land stands to lose ex­ports worth 10 per cent of their GDP, a dis­as­ter for an econ­omy just back on its feet af­ter the bank­ing

WHAT does “Brexit means Brexit” mean?

In­stead of ut­ter­ing the dreaded B word, Ir­ish di­plo­mats in Brus­sels have taken to de­scrib­ing the im­pend­ing catas­tro­phe as “th­ese chal­leng­ing times”.

It should come as no sur­prise, as the Ir­ish are ex­pert at del­i­cately ma­nip­u­lat­ing the English lan­guage.

Af­ter all, neu­tral Ire­land man­aged to go through the whole of World War II re­fer­ring to the global con­flict as “the emer­gency”.

crash. This is on top of the po­lit­i­cal catas­tro­phe await­ing on the Ir­ish border.

Malta, Lux­em­bourg and Cyprus would suf­fer be­cause of ex­ten­sive trad­ing links with Bri­tain, but they are the ball­boys of the EU with hardly a voice in the game. Ger­many and France, the top seeds, would take a hit amount­ing to less than three per cent of their GDP in terms of ex­port rev­enues. Both big economies could gain sub­stan­tially from Brexit.

Agen­cies such as the Euro­pean Bank­ing Author­ity would go to Frank­furt. Ger­many’s eco­nomics min­is­ter says Brexit would be a bonus and Ger­man busi­nesses are pre­par­ing for a hard Brexit.

Euro­pean jobs, in sec­tors such as car man­u­fac­tur­ing, could be mag­ne­tised to France, where pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron must fight trade union re­form with job-cre­at­ing poli­cies.

Re­nault have the con­trol­ling share in Nis­san, who have big plants in the Leave-vot­ing north-east of Eng­land.

Here is where the big­gest calamity would strike. The EU is the UK’s largest trad­ing part­ner. It ac­counts for 44 per cent of all UK ex­ports of goods and ser­vices and 53 per cent of UK im­ports.

Im­pa­tient Brex­i­teers, who have the whip hand in the Tory Party, want the Govern­ment to pre­pare for a dis­as­trous sit­u­a­tion in which goods leav­ing and en­ter­ing the coun­try are sub­ject to border checks and tar­iffs, and live ex­ports such as seafood are left per­ish­ing in traf­fic queues.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, trans­fixed by this game of slow ral­lies, look pow­er­less to raise their voice.

May can­not bring her­self to say she would vote again against Brexit, Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn the same.

The leader of the SNP, Ni­cola Stur­geon, smashed her de­mand for a sec­ond Scot­tish ref­er­en­dum over the line in the first serve of the game. She’s out, though a hard Brexit re­mains her best worst chance of stag­ing an­other in­de­pen­dence vote.

But if there are any early lessons from the brinkman­ship in Cat­alo­nia, it is that there is no off-the-peg so­lu­tion to walk­ing out of some­thing as in­tri­cate as an eco­nomic and so­cial union.

By De­cem­ber, if talks haven’t moved on to terms of trade, May knows the Brex­i­teers will not al­low her to plough on in an at­tempt to get a deal. For her, the game will be up as Tories will de­mand full-on hard Brexit prepa­ra­tions for a March 2019 de­par­ture.

This has the mak­ings of dis­as­ter, but by pre­par­ing for hard Brexit, May has pulled the pin out the grenade in the hope of win­ning on match point.

LUCK OF THE IR­ISH But the Repub­lic won’t be cel­e­brat­ing Brexit

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