Even if Britain does leave on WTO governs, life will go on, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins
Now they are talking car accidents. 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 alerting. It covers such things as passports, air traffic control, financial carries, military bases, data protection, medicines licensing and all the border clutter we have spent half a century removing. Unlike the remainers’ bloodcurdling Project Fear in 2016, “theres not” an financial imitation foreshadow. It is frontline world. It is Brexit as Grand Theft Auto.
Britain’s National Audit Office is is engaged in. This week it warns that, as of next March, Britons driving on the continent will need new driving permitsin the event of a no-deal Brexit. There must be enabled giant laybys for traffic jams at Folkestone and staff for” huge bureaucratic delays “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling saves against a new tariff regime. AstraZeneca is stockpiling medications. Theresa May is touring the Irish border, like a field-marshal surveying trenches on the Somme.
Do we chortle or cry? I is and remains chortling, precisely. 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 enterprises, while” taking back restrain of borderlines” would gratify the leavers’ prime target of stricter immigration domination. But the EU earmarks no new deals with third-party countries, under WTO regulations or whatever, until the UK is out next year. In March, ports would swiftly clog up. The progress of people and tourism would plummet. It “wouldve been” chaos, and even after that “new deals with the rest of the world” was not possible to compensate.
In reality, everyone well informed about Brexit agrees on what will really happen if there is no deal in March. Nothing will change. Planes will deter flying. Boats will hinder loading. Channel Tunnel officials will curve vehicles through. Prescribes will go out to keep moving, and await further instructions. People at the coalface of the European economy cannot render the posturing, egotism and idiocy 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 “wouldve been” rampages. That is why crashing out would not mean hard Brexit, but rather remain in all but name. When Brexit fantasize smacks 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 told- but it forms no feel to make trade barriers between an island and its neighbouring continent. Britain has expended a century moving in the opposite direction. Even in the 1950 s, when it dreamed of a greater imperial market, it met Europe’s free trade area, precursor 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 triumph his support. It is his defect. She should not have inconvenienced. As a result, 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 maintenances saying, means Brexit. That is happening. It was too predicted frictionless craft, which necessitates frictionless. That is achievable exclusively under a customs union and single market.
As a result 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 change is over agreeing tariff collection and regulatory adjustment on trading guidelines. This is all but inconsequential. Even if the UK were to go for hard-boiled Brexit, trade with the EU would still need some such agreement, as would the much-vaunted, mainly fantasy, deals with the rest of the world. Talk of Chequers as “vassalage” is outlandish. Taking back govern of busines was always making a mountain of a molehill.
The outcome of Raab’s discussions will be messier than were he negotiating on the basis of remaining in the EEA. But the destination 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 ever be on guard against car gate-crashes. 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 were not able to” crashing out” of Europe but preferably crashing in. The UK is going to leave the EU next spring. That is law. 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 auto crash, so be it. In the longer run for your lives will manufacture no gap. Keep laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist