Even if Britain does leave on WTO conventions, life will go on, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins
Now they are talking car 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 red alarm. It plows such things as passports, air traffic control, financial transports, military footings, data protection, medicines licensing and all the border clutter we have spent half a century removing. Unlike the remainers’ bloodcurdling Project Fear in 2016, this does not constitute an financial sham projection. It is frontline actuality. 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 domestic permitin the event of a no-deal Brexit. There are required to be gargantuan laybys for traffic congestion at Folkestone and staff for” huge bureaucratic stalls “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling saves against a brand-new tariff regime. AstraZeneca is stockpiling remedies. Theresa May is touring the Irish border, like a field-marshal surveying trenches on the Somme.
Do we titter or cry? I am still giggling, just. 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 revert to World Trade Organization rules. Such anarchy has disorderly appeal to those careless of other people’s activities, while” take back govern of perimeters” would convene the leavers’ prime target of stricter in-migration limit. But the EU earmarks no new deals with third-party people, under WTO conventions or whatever, until the UK is out next year. In March, ports would rapidly clog up. The movement of people and tourism would plummet. It “wouldve been” chaos, and even after that “new deals with the rest of the world” is not able to maybe compensate.
In reality, everyone knowledgeable about Brexit agrees on what will really happen if there is no deal in March. Nothing will change. Planes will hinder flying. Boats will prevent loading. Channel Tunnel officials will curve vehicles through. Tells will go out to keep moving, and await further instructions. People at the coalface of the European economy cannot afford the posturing, pride and foolishnes of the Brexit parliament this past week. They have lives to live and mouths to feed. A closed border with the EU , not least in Ireland, would be like closing the Berlin Wall after it had reopened. There would be riots. That is why crashing out would not mean hard-handed Brexit, but instead remain in all but call. When Brexit fantasize thumps practical reality, reality will win.
Hard Brexit was surely put to bed by Boris Johnson’s resignation speech in the Commons the coming 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 constructs no sense to make trade barriers between an island and its neighbouring continent. Britain has spent a century moving in the opposite direction. Even in the 1950 s, when it dreamed of a greater imperial sell, it connected Europe’s free trade zone, forerunner of the present 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 opportunity. Johnson might call the plan a” fantastical Heath Robinson arrangement”, but that was because May changed it to win his support. It is his demerit. She shall not be required to be have vexed. As a result, the opportunity to negotiate a customs union in Brussels from a merged, bipartisan basi with Labour was scuppered.
The public was promised Brexit, which, as May prevents saying, signifies Brexit. That is happening. It was too predicted frictionless swap, which entails frictionless. That is achievable merely under a customs union and single market.
As a result of the current shambles, the new Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, must go to Brussels to negotiate “frictionless” according to the principle of Chequers , not a simple customs union. The gap is over agreeing tariff collection and regulatory adjustment on trading guidelines. 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, predominantly fantasy, deals with the rest of the world. Talk of Chequers as “vassalage” is outlandish. Taking back ensure of craft was always making a mountain of a molehill.
The outcome of Raab’s arbitrations will be messier than were he arbitrating on the basis of remaining in the EEA. But the end 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 migration- 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 car crashes. It is not scaremongering to inspect the fenders and check the airbags. But a crash on Brexit will not happen, and even though they are it did, the outcome would not be” disintegrating out” of Europe but rather disintegrating in. The UK is going to leave the EU next spring. That is constitution. 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 gate-crash, so be it. In the longer run for your lives will prepare no gap. Keep laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist