Even if Britain does leave on WTO regulates, life will go on, says Guardian correspondent 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 alerting. It treats such things as passports, air traffic control, financial gives, 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 imitation prediction. It is frontline reality. 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 event of a no-deal Brexit. There must be enabled massive laybys for traffic congestion at Folkestone and staff for” huge bureaucratic defers “. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are already stockpiling saves against a brand-new tariff government. AstraZeneca is stockpiling medications. Theresa May is touring the Irish border, like a field-marshal surveying trenches on the Somme.
Do we laugh or cry? I am still giggling, only. 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 responsibilities, while” take back controller of borderlines” would fulfill the leavers’ prime target of stricter immigration command. But the EU stands no new deals with third-party countries, under WTO conventions or whatever, until the UK is out next year. In March, ports would hurriedly clog up. The movement of people and tourism would plummet. It “couldve been” chaos, and even after that “new deals with the rest of the world” could not perhaps 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 maintain flying. Ferryings will keep loading. Channel Tunnel officials will ripple vehicles through. Orderings will go out to keep moving, and await further instructions. People at the coalface of the European economy cannot afford the posturing, pride and sillines of the Brexit parliament this past week. They have lives to live and mouths to feed. A closed frontier with the EU , not least in Ireland, would be like closing the Berlin Wall after it had reopened. There “couldve been” riots. That is why crashing out would not mean hard-boiled Brexit, but preferably remain in all but identify. When Brexit fantasy makes practical purposes, 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 manufactures no appreciation 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 market, it assembled Europe’s free trade zone, 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 opening. Johnson might call the plan a” fantastical Heath Robinson arrangement”, but that was because May reformed it to acquire his support. It is his fault. She should not have inconvenienced. As a upshot, 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 retains saying, entails Brexit. That is happening. It was likewise predicted frictionless transaction, which symbolizes 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 standards. This is all but unimportant. 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, predominantly fantasy, deals with the rest of the world. Talk of Chequers as “vassalage” is ludicrous. Taking back authority of commerce was always making a mountain of a molehill.
The outcome of Raab’s negotiations will be messier than were he negotiating 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 gate-crashes. It is not scaremongering to inspect the fenders and check the airbags. But a crash on Brexit will not happen, and even though it is it did, the outcome would not be” gate-crashing out” of Europe but preferably gate-crashing in. The UK is going to leave the EU next spring. That is principle. 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 disintegrate, so be it. In the longer run it will attain no change. Keep laughing.
* Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist