Even if Britain does leave on WTO governs, life will go on, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins
Now they are talking car 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 red alerting. It deals such things as passports, air traffic control, fiscal transposes, military basis, field of 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 forecast. It is frontline world. It is Brexit as Grand Theft Auto.
Britain’s National Audit Office is are engaged in. This week it warned that, as of next March, Britons driving on the continent will need new driving permitsin the case of a no-deal Brexit. There must be stupendous laybys for traffic jam at Folkestone and staff for” huge administrative defers “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling saves against a brand-new tariff regiman. 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, 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 disruptive appeal to those careless of other people’s places, while” take back restrain of margins” would gratify the leavers’ prime target of stricter immigration limit. But the EU tolerates no new deals with third-party countries, under WTO patterns 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 would be chaos, and even after that “new deals with the rest of the world” has not been possible 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 deter flying. Ferryings will hinder loading. Channel Tunnel officials will curve vehicles through. Orders will go out to keep moving, and await further instructions. People at the coalface of the European economy cannot yield the posturing, pride and insanity of the Brexit parliament this past week. They have lives to live and mouths to feed. A closed perimeter with the EU , not least in Ireland, would be like closing the Berlin Wall after it had reopened. There “couldve been” riotings. That is why crashing out would not mean hard Brexit, but rather remain in all but reputation. When Brexit fantasize affects 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 said- but it realise no appreciation to erect trade barriers between an island and its neighbouring continent. Britain has wasted a century moving in the opposite direction. Even in the 1950 s, when it dreamed of a greater imperial grocery, it met Europe’s free trade area, predecessor 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 opening. Johnson might call the plan a” fantastical Heath Robinson arrangement”, but that was because May varied it to acquire his support. It is his flaw. She should not have vexed. As a decision, 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 holds saying, represents Brexit. That is happening. It was too predicted frictionless craft, which entails frictionless. That is achievable simply 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 difference is over agreeing tariff collection and regulatory adjustment on trading standards. This is all but trivial. Even if the UK were to go for hard 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 see of trade was always making a mountain of a molehill.
The outcome of Raab’s mediations 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 always 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 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 automobile gate-crash, so be it. In the longer run for your lives will establish no difference. Keep laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist