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