Even if Britain does leave on WTO patterns, life will go on, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins
Now they are talking car accidents. From Brussels comes Project Fear Mk II, a “preparedness” template for Europe if there is no deal on Brexit. It is Brussels-speak for a terrorism red alarm. It encompasses such things as passports, air traffic control, financial assigns, armed foundations, 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 is not an economic phony calculate. It is frontline reality. It is Brexit as Grand Theft Auto.
Britain’s National Audit Office is is engaged 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 are required to be gargantuan laybys for traffic jam at Folkestone and staff for” huge administrative adjournments “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling saves against a new tariff government. AstraZeneca is stockpiling medicines. Theresa May is touring the Irish border, like a field-marshal surveying trenches on the Somme.
Do we chuckle or cry? I is and remains chortling, merely. 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 chores, while” taking back ascendancy of margins” would satisfy the leavers’ prime target of stricter in-migration ensure. But the EU allows no new deals with third-party nations, under WTO regulations or whatever, until the UK is out next year. In March, ports would swiftly clog up. The motion 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 possibly 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 continue flying. Shuttles will preserve loading. Channel Tunnel officials will brandish vehicles through. Orderings will go out to keep moving, and await further instructions. Parties at the coalface of the European economy cannot yield the posturing, pride and absurdity of the Brexit parliament this past week. They have lives to live and mouths to feed. A shut mete with the EU , not least in Ireland, would be like closing the Berlin Wall after it had reopened. There “wouldve been” riotings. That is why crashing out would not mean hard Brexit, but rather remain in all but reputation. When Brexit fiction touches practical reality, reality will win.
Hard Brexit was surely put to bed by Boris Johnson’s resignation speech 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 able to say- but it prepares no feel to erect trade barriers between an island and its neighbouring continent. Britain has invested a century moving in the opposite direction. Even in the 1950 s, when it dreamed of a greater imperial grocery, it joined 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 possibility. Johnson might call the plan a” fantastical Heath Robinson arrangement”, but that was because May altered it to acquire his support. It is his omission. She shall not be required to be have vexed. As a decision, the opportunity to negotiate a customs union in Brussels from a married, bipartisan basi with Labour was scuppered.
The public was promised Brexit, which, as May deters saying, means Brexit. That is happening. It was likewise predicted frictionless swap, which intends 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 touchstones. This is all but inconsequential. Even if the UK were to go for hard-boiled Brexit, trade with the EU would still need some these agreements, as would the much-vaunted, primarily fantasy, deals with the rest of the world. Talk of Chequers as “vassalage” is outlandish. Taking back command of transaction was always making a mountain of a molehill.
The outcome of Raab’s discussions 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 ahead 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 always be on guard against car crashes. It is not scaremongering to scrutinize the fenders and check the airbags. But a crash on Brexit will not happen, and even if it did, the outcome would not be” disintegrating out” of Europe but instead disintegrating 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 to be translated into a gondola gate-crash, so be it. In the longer run for your lives will make no change. Keep laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist