Even if Britain does leave on WTO rulers, life will go on, says Guardian correspondent Simon Jenkins
Now they are talking gondola gate-crashes. From Brussels comes Project Fear Mk II, a “preparedness” guidebook for Europe if there is no deal on Brexit. It is Brussels-speak for a terrorism cherry-red notify. It encompasses such things as passports, air traffic control, financial conveys, military foundations, data protection, drugs licensing and all the border clutter we have wasted half a century removing. Unlike the remainers’ bloodcurdling Project Fear in 2016, this is not an financial bogu calculate. It is frontline reality. It is Brexit as Grand Theft Auto.
Britain’s National Audit Office is joining in. This week it warned that, as of next March, Britons driving on the continent will need new driving permitsin the event of a no-deal Brexit. There is necessary giant laybys for traffic jam at Folkestone and staff for” huge administrative procrastinates “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling saves against a brand-new tariff government. AstraZeneca is stockpiling remedies. Theresa May is touring the Irish perimeter, like a field-marshal surveying excavations on the Somme.
Do we titter or yell? I am still tittering, simply. The car-crash option is favoured by some leave ideologues. They are technically right that in March a no-deal UK would” crash out” of the EU and restored to World Trade Organization rules. Such disorder has disruptive appeal to those careless of other people’s places, while” taking back power of borders” would convene the leavers’ prime target of stricter immigration hold. But the EU lets no new deals with third-party countries, under WTO principles or whatever, until the UK is out next year. In March, ports would swiftly clog up. The movement of people and tourism would plummet. It would be chaos, and even after that” new deals with the rest of countries around the world” could not maybe compensate.
In reality, everyone knowledgeable about Brexit agrees on what will really happen if there is no deal in March. Nothing will change. Plane will continue winging. Shuttles will stop loading. Channel Tunnel officials will motion vehicles through. Tells will go out to keep moving, and await further instructions. Beings at the coalface of the European economy cannot afford the posturing, pride and insanity of the Brexit parliament this past week. They have lives to live and mouths to feed. A closed margin with the EU , not least in Ireland, would be like closing the Berlin Wall after it had reopened. There would be rampages. That is why gate-crashing out would not aim hard Brexit, but rather remain in all but name. When Brexit fantasy stumbles practical purposes, actuality will win.
Hard Brexit was surely put to bed by Boris Johnson’s resignation lecture in the Commons this week, a confection of negativity and verbosity. He offered no “frictionless” alternative to a customs union with the rest of Europe. The UK may be leaving the EU- for which I believe there is something to be said- but it makes no gumption to make trade barriers between an island and its neighbouring continent. Britain has expended a century moving in the opposite tendency. Even in the 1950 s, where reference is dreamed of a greater imperial grocery, it connected Europe’s free trade zone, precursor of the current European Economic Area. Hard Brexit is flat-Earthism.
The failure of the House of Commons this week to vote in favour of a customs union, as opposed to May’s botched Chequers plan, was a lost opening. Johnson might call the schedule a” fantastical Heath Robinson arrangement”, but that was because May changed it to win his support. It is his flaw. She should not have riled. As a make, the opportunity to negotiate a customs union in Brussels from a united, bipartisan basi with Labour was scuppered.
The public was promised Brexit, which, as May stops saying, entails Brexit. That is happening. It was also promised frictionless swap, which means frictionless. That is achievable simply under a customs union and single market.
As an expression of the results of the current shamblings, the new Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, must go to Brussels to negotiate “frictionless” on the basis of Chequers , not a simple customs union. The gap is over agreeing tariff collect and regulatory adjustment on trading touchstones. This is all but trivial. Even if the UK were to go for hard Brexit, trade with the EU would still need some such agreement, as would the much-vaunted, mainly fantasy, are dealing here with the rest of the world. Talk of Chequers as “vassalage” is ludicrous. Taking back verify of commerce was always making a mountain of a molehill.
The outcome of Raab’s arbitrations will be messier than were he negotiating based on the results of remaining in the EEA. But the destination has to be the same. There may be more bloodletting onward but, come the autumn, I am sure we will all be in sight of the Norway option. Whatever may one day be agreed on movement- still Brexit’s hard core and still to be negotiated- a customs union between the nations of Europe cannot be avoided.
Prudent government should ever be on guard against vehicle clangs. It is not scaremongering to inspect the fenders and check the airbags. But a crash on Brexit will not happen, and even if it did, the outcome has not been able to” disintegrating out” of Europe but preferably crashing in. The UK is going to leave the EU next spring. That is statute. But no one was asked if they wanted to leave Europe’s economic community. We were predicted frictionless. If Westminster’s midsummer madness does lead to a gondola clang, so be it. In the longer run it will realise no difference. Save laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist