Even if Britain does leave on WTO governs, life will go on, says Guardian correspondent Simon Jenkins
Now they are talking car disintegrates. From Brussels comes Project Fear Mk II, a “preparedness” navigate for Europe if there is no deal on Brexit. It is Brussels-speak for a terrorism red alarm. It extends such things as passports, air traffic control, financial transmits, armed footings, data security, 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 financial bogu calculate. It is frontline world. It is Brexit as Grand Theft Auto.
Britain’s National Audit Office is joining in. This week it warns that, as of next March, Britons driving on the continent will need new domestic permitin the event of a no-deal Brexit. There must be enabled massive laybys for traffic congestion at Folkestone and staff for” huge administrative adjournments “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling spares against a brand-new tariff regiman. AstraZeneca is stockpiling drugs. Theresa May is touring the Irish border, like a field-marshal surveying trenches on the Somme.
Do we titter or cry? I is and remains chuckling, 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 positions, while” take back domination of perimeters” would convene the leavers’ prime target of stricter in-migration limit. But the EU stands 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 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 informed about Brexit agrees on what will really happen if there is no deal in March. Nothing will change. Planes will hinder flying. Ferries will deter 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 yield the posturing, vanity and foolishnes of the Brexit parliament this past week. They have lives to live and mouths to feed. A shut border with the EU , not least in Ireland, would be like closing the Berlin Wall after it had reopened. There would be riotings. That is why crashing out would not mean hard Brexit, but preferably remain in all but refer. When Brexit fantasy hits practical reality, world 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 moves no feel 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 market, it assembled Europe’s free trade area, presage 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 varied it to win his support. It is his flaw. She should not have riled. As a upshot, the opportunity to negotiate a customs union in Brussels from a unified, bipartisan base with Labour was scuppered.
The public was promised Brexit, which, as May prevents saying, necessitates Brexit. That is happening. It was likewise promised frictionless sell, which means 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 gap is over agreeing tariff collection and regulatory alignment on trading guidelines. This is all but unimportant. Even if the UK were to go for hard-handed 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 power of swap 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 accidents. 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” crashing out” of Europe but preferably 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 promised frictionless. If Westminster’s midsummer madness does has contributed to a vehicle disintegrate, so be it. In the longer run for your lives will attain no gap. Keep laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist