Wild Bill Pillock

A Tweet from the chief Brexit coordinator in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt:


A day or so earlier, French president Emmanuel Macron said Britain’s refusal to pay the £39bn negotiated by Theresa May would amount to a sovereign debt default.  Naturally, this has been held aloft by Remainers in the UK who for some reason want it paid even in the absence of a deal.

They’re wrong. One of the crucial elements of any negotiation is understanding who all the players are, particularly those who are not sat around the table. For instance, if you’re negotiating a large corporate takeover you don’t want to forget about the competition commission, who is not represented in the negotiations but who very much gets a say on the final outcome. Another golden rule is you must understand who is able to negotiate what. When Pirelli attempted a takeover of Continental in the early 1990s, they didn’t fully appreciate than even if they owned more than 50% of the stock, they wouldn’t have full control of the company thanks to German law stipulating employees must be represented on the board.

The £39bn “divorce bill” was agreed between Theresa May’s negotiating team and that of Michael Barnier, who leads the EU’s negotiation efforts. However, this is not a stand-alone agreement and instead is incorporated into the draft withdrawal bill which Theresa May failed to get ratified by parliament. No serious negotiator would believe the £39bn has been finalised while knowing full well the withdrawal agreement needs to be ratified by parliament. All they’ve done is negotiate a rough figure to move things forward and agreed some more stuff before May’s gone back to “ask her people”. This is the consensus approach to negotiation whereby you make sure everyone is on board with everything before celebrating an agreement. As the European Union itself has made clear “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. I suspect the EU mouthpieces are trying to be clever here, hoping they can get Remainers to scupper Brexit altogether, but the more they cling to this approach the more amateur they look.

Nobody negotiating a future deal with Britain will take this divorce bill as a serious agreement which they’ve reneged on, and nor will it be viewed by ratings agencies as a debt default. Britain might owe the EU a sum of money, but it does not follow that they are legally obliged to pay this £39bn in the absence of any deal ratified by parliament. People are not stupid, and they will understand this was never a proper deal, more of an agreement drawn up between one negotiator and another that was never endorsed by the people who mattered. This is also why Trump’s scrapping of the Iranian deal and his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement didn’t matter. Despite all the howls that America was proving itself untrustworthy, people looking to do serious business with the US knew these two deals were unilaterally signed by Obama and never put before Congress. In other words, they were not proper, binding agreements at all.

The lesson here is if you wish to make a deal that sticks, make sure you secure the agreement of everyone that matters. Signing deals with emissaries with no lasting authority is something any half-decent negotiator knows to avoid. The EU might be simply trying it on here, but in doing so they’re making themselves look like rank amateurs. I’m starting to get the impression they are.

Liked it? Take a second to support Tim Newman on Patreon!
Share

81 thoughts on “Wild Bill Pillock

  1. I’m surprised this thread has been about UK negotiations with the EU. Do you really think there’s been any? As far as I can ascertain May’s team sat down with the Commission’s team to work out a deal that was least like actual Brexit they could sell to a mostly Remainer HoC, who were looking over their shoulders at the prospect of getting re-elected by a Leave electorate. The big prize was to make it so impractical they could get a majority for revoke Article 50.

  2. @MJW
    Bollocks. That argument would work if we hadn’t had Project Fear & both major parties shrieking about the downsides to leaving. The Remain result discounted all this.

  3. Leave means leave, unfortunately what that means is not properly defined in law, possibly because the referendum was advisory and it wasn’t considered critical…at the time

    No, the reason leave wasn’t defined, and that no work was done to prepare for it, was that Cameron thought it would be easier for Remain to carry the referendum if it looked like there was no plan — because he thought that the Scottish referendum had been won due to the independence campaign being unable to aswer questions like, ‘What currency would Scotland use?’, he therefore thought that if the Leave campaign couldn’t answer any questions (especially economic ones) then surely they would be doomed?

    He seemed not to understand — possibly because he hasn’t got a single really patriotic bone in his body — that in both cases people would vote on deeper principles than mere economic self-interest.

  4. Genuine question for Remainers;

    If, despite the Leave camp saying it meant getting out by any means and the Remain camp predicting economic doom immediately following the result but certainly following the exit date, yet the majority who could be bothered to vote heard that and went, “yep, sign me up”, what is your best one argument that we didn’t know what we were in for?

    Best single argument, please, not a laundry list.

  5. “If, despite the Leave camp saying it meant getting out by any means and the Remain camp predicting economic doom immediately following the result but certainly following the exit date, yet the majority who could be bothered to vote heard that and went, “yep, sign me up”, what is your best one argument that we didn’t know what we were in for?”

    I’m beginning to consider that the Leave/Remain divide is less one of politics or even economics, its more a psychological one.

    My feeling is that leavers are more receptive to change, the ones who think ‘Oh f*ck it, lets just go for it and see what happens’ while Remainers are the ones wedded to the status quo, for fear of what might happen. Leavers consider they can cope with change, Remainers worry that they can’t. Hence why the argument is so heated, it divides us by very deep seated psychological characteristics.

    Of course there is an economic element attached to those psychological leanings – Leave tend to be those doing less well in society, and thus have less to lose from change, and potentially more to gain, while Remain are generally those doing quite nicely thank you, so understandably are more fearful that change may harm their position.

    So you have two camps, one who is psychologically minded to fear change, and who has a financial position to defend, and one who is psychologically in favour of change and has less to lose financially. Its no wonder there’s not much chance of a measured debate.

  6. My feeling is that leavers are more receptive to change, the ones who think ‘Oh f*ck it, lets just go for it and see what happens’ while Remainers are the ones wedded to the status quo, for fear of what might happen

    No, that can’t be it: the reason I voted Leave is because I don’t want the inevitable changes which will come with being dragged further into the EU integrationist project.

    (One thing I really, really hate is people claiming that ‘Remain’ was ‘the status quo option’. It absolutely totally wasn’t and isn’t. The EU is not a stable status quo. Just look at the Euro, in perma-crisis because it was designed that way. The Euro, and therefore the EU, cannot survive as it is: it either has to become a proper federal transfer union with direct taxes raised in richer areas and spent in poorer, like the USA, or it will crumble apart.)

  7. @Jim,

    Nice hypothesis but it’s not in line with my anecdata; my elderly (and generally not radical) relatives all voted Leave and hang the economic consequences.

    @S,

    Yep, declining the “ever closer union” option was very front of my mind when I voted. We tried that a few times before in Europe and it didn’t go too well.

    Back to Jim’s point; there is a mindset difference. Some of us are conscious of the legacy of freedom and law we’ve been lucky enough to inherit, not through any skill than being born in a place, but we have it anyway and throwing it down the drain would be ungrateful to those before us. The likes of Cable and Soubry hold this legacy as outdated and worthless, which they are free to do but they lost the important argument when we were asked.

  8. @ William of Ockham

    Your question isn’t genuine, because getting out at any means was not what we were told by Leave, this is revisionism. However, I would honestly settle for the ‘cake and eat’, ‘aspirational’ version of Brexit pitched before and during the referendum by various experienced, high profile Leave backing politicians. If they deliver this, if they prove to me this wasn’t just magical thinking from charlatans I’ll drop my opposition. But I won’t accept it was somebody else’s responsibility to turn those claims into something credible, nor do I accept that people who’ve spent decades pursuing a policy didn’t have time to work out the practicalities of their ‘aspirations’.

  9. “No, that can’t be it: the reason I voted Leave is because I don’t want the inevitable changes which will come with being dragged further into the EU integrationist project.”

    Its doesn’t matter whether Remain is or is not a status quo option, if the people voting for it think it is. The Remain campaign was VERY insistent in painting Leave as the ‘danger’ option, and by implication that Remain was the ‘safe’ one. That may or may not be true, but the issue was never really discussed in any depth in the campaign, as Leave were being assailed on all sides by the Establishment Fear Project. So the idea as Remain as the status quo would have resonated with many floating voters, and attracted those who psychologically prefer the known to the unknown.

  10. @MJW,

    No, it was genuine. I am really curious how you’d explain they didn’t choose to leave despite the doom-laden predictions.

    People voted to leave despite Project Fear. People who didn’t want to leave then tried to negotiate with the EU who didn’t negotiate in good faith (a time limit on the backstop would have done the job 6 months ago and cost them nothing).

    Ironically, their poor efforts have made no deal far more likely than before. A Leave PM two years ago would have been too embarrassed and worried about their legacy to just walk us out. Now it’s the most honourable thing to do.

    Have another go; do you really believe people didn’t know it might cost them economically?

  11. I love the new ‘tragic mode’ of Remoanerism.

    ‘I wish I could get behind Brexit, I really do. It breaks my heart that I can’t! (Please forget that I have spent the last three years wailing and gnashing my teeth at how stupid racists were hypnosied by the sight of a red bus and mind-controlled by Russian robots into destroying the country) If only, if only, Leaving had been as simple and painless as you promised — as you promised! — then I would joyfully join you in celebrating the UK’s independence day. But alas no! It is not to be. I know, I know, I’m just as disappointed as you, but it’s hardly my fault is it? (Please forget that ever since the day after the referendum I have been pleading with the EU to show no mercy to my evil, backward, monoric country, and telling Barnier and Juncker that if they can just hold firm they will bring us to our knees) So you see, it’s all so sad. I wish you could have got what you wanted. I would have loved for you to get what you wanted! Nobody wished more that you could have got what you wanted than I did! If there was anything I could do, anything at all, I would. But, sadly, I can’t. Nobody can. Theresa May has ruined it for all of us, and all that’s left is to — in tears, look, I’m in tears! — accept reality, man up, and move on. Now, about joining the Euro…’

  12. @MJW

    Sophistry again I’m afraid, on steroids this time.

    “Not considered critical?” Puhlease!! A remain win would have allowed the issue to have been shut down forever, as you well know. That was the sole intention and had the remain establishment known they were going to lose no referendum would have been held. I can’t prove this of course, but the circumstantial evidence is very compelling.

    Please clarify what “can’t be defined in law”. The EU is a regulatory framework and we want to untangle ourselves from it. Making our laws sovereign again and no longer being subject to theirs. Doesn’t repealing the 1972 act do much of that. Of course, the relationship with the EU has to be sorted and in three years the remain dominated establishment have given us May’s “deal”, which even they seem to realise is an embarrassment.

    Lied? Like the EU”army” being a fantasy. The massive flight of capital and companies that was going to occur, the £30 billion emergency budget that would have been needed within days of a leave vote?

    I don’t know about anybody else here but my decision to vote leave had nothing whatsoever to do with any campaign. It had everything to do with watching the EEC morph from the trading arrangement into which we had been taken in (pun absolutely intened) to the purposefully anti-democratic wannabe empire it now is.

    And if really want to be that pedantic, we DID vote to make the economy worse off. See scare stories above, all of which made it clear that a leave vote was a vote for poverty, isolation and degradation.

    Poverty isolation and degradation BTW that simply voting leave was going to cause. Actually leaving was going to bring time itself to a halt (I believe it still will. Although obviously, world war 3 will have to happen first).

    Parliament won’t vote for anything that will make us worse off? Fine, can we please see the detailed cost/benefit analysis of EU membership going forward on which this cross party consensus is based. If you include world war 3 mentioned above, I suppose staying in does make financial sense (until Vlad the Putin turns the gas off and nukes Berlim).

  13. 17 Million citizens — 37% — voted Leave in the Referendum; 63% did not vote Leave

    It’s this sort of retarded, asinine bullshit that makes me dump all the rest of your argument in the trash.

    I’m with JG on this. The crime is in pretending that those who didn’t vote must agree with you. No. They didn’t vote. No one knows what they think on the matter, indeed if they have any view on it at all. If they do, they should have made that known by voting.
    The only test is between the votes cast. And on that basis Leave one, fair and square, despite all the shrieks of Project Fear and massive Government bias. 52% to 48%.
    Or perhaps you’d rather the smaller number of votes win? That’d make for interesting elections for Screamin’ Lord Sutch.
    Mind you, we’d get a better Parliament than now! [/sarc]

    So to repeat: do not count non-votes as votes for your preferred option, if you wish anyone to listen further.

  14. Amuse yourself by imagining the reaction if the result had been 52% Remain and someone had said, ’17 Million citizens — 37% — voted Remain in the Referendum; 63% did not vote Remain, so we must leave!’

  15. “Amuse yourself by imagining the reaction if the result had been 52% Remain and someone had said, ’17 Million citizens — 37% — voted Remain in the Referendum; 63% did not vote Remain, so we must leave!’”

    You don’t have to imagine it, it happened, in numbers of votes terms, in1975. OK, Remain did a bit better then than Leave did in 2016, they got 43% of the whole electorate, but were massively outvoted by Leave plus DNV, on 57%.

    So according to Remain logic, we left the EEC in 1975. Can we have our 40 years of contributions back please?

  16. You could either vote (leave or remain) or abstain. Abstention is basically saying “I’ll go with what everyone else decides.”

  17. “It’s this sort of retarded, asinine bullshit that makes me dump all the rest of your argument in the trash.”

    I don’t even understand the need for the original argument, if you want to show that the UK population is split then the 52-48 result plus polling that shows perhaps a narrow move to remain (but still the sides within touching distance and people’s self-reported strength of opinion becoming deeper entrenched) plus the rise of polarising Leave/Remain parties in the Euro elections (at the expense of the traditional right/left ones) … All of these things point to a Britain which is torn and struggling to achieve consensus. In fact almost certainly won’t form consensus around any one particular politically viable vision of Leave, nor any version of Remain. No need to play disingenuously with the figures.

    Something that might have got close to the middle ground – acceptable to the less strident Leavers and more lukewarm Remainers – might have been a Norway-style EEA option. But although that would have probably been the solution most acceptable to the median voter, I don’t think it would have done well in terms of % of the electorate supporting it.

  18. @ William of Ockham

    I genuinely believe that lots of people, at the time, accepted claims to the ends that we could have our cake and eat it. I don’t believe everybody accepted this and I certainly didn’t believe it then, although I would genuinely, honestly, settle for it if now even though I still believe it’s magical thinking. Since then the narrative has hardened, people have doubled down, a WTO style outcome has been retrofitted into the centre of a revisionist history, and a kind of ‘redemption through suffering’ schtick has emerged e.g. Rees-Mogg’s ‘fifty years till we see the benefits’. Funnily enough, I think for Leavers, a WTO type outcome has shifted from being a Project Fear fantasy, to being a ‘pure’ goal to be chased.

  19. My view of the remainers is that they really are pretty hopeless in terms of their analyses. Here’s David Gauke claiming “In a no-deal scenario vast swathes of British agriculture may well become uncompetitive, given the huge tariffs they would face on exports to the EU, Gauke says, but ultimately the government would not be able to bail them out for long.

    “Both choices are pretty terrible but I’m instinctively a free-trader,” he says. “The much better choice is ‘don’t start from here.’””

    https://www.politico.eu/article/david-gauke-uk-justice-secretary-warm-beer-and-the-existential-brexit-threat-to-uk-tories/

    This is a moronic statement by someone considered to be reasonably intelligent within the government. Here’s the EU’s OWN analysis of agricultural trade:

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2017/602008/IPOL_STU(2017)602008_EN.pdf

    “The case of the UK is worthy of mention because Brexit would cause British agri-food value-added to increase by 2.1%. The UK’s imports from the EU27 will be replaced by domestic production more than by imports from other countries, anyway at the expense of consumers who face higher prices in both cases (domestic or imported)”

  20. ” we need another vote”
    It is a corrupt process to keep voting until the desired result is achieved and then stop

    “leavers had no plan”
    I have seen plenty of plans proposed.
    The charity commission investigated think tanks who proposed plans (“too political” yet oxfam, etc are fine)

    “it was leavers job to deliver”
    At the time appointing a remainer to run the process was seen as a concession in recognition of the middle result. Of course TM then pushed her hard remain plan. We should also recall that she scrapped the sensible work on leave developed by DexEU and switched in her and a few close friends version

    “the irish border means that legally we have to remain inside the EU customs union”
    The author of the good friday agreement doesn’t see that in the document he wrote, and I can’t see it in there either.
    Any movement across that border already involves filings, eg statistical ones; and is already monitored (booze and fuel smuggling).
    Saying zero tariffs and the existing declarations are sufficient documentation would work. The objections come from those who don’t want a solution, so unless you achieve North Korean levels of control they demand the customs union.
    We also know that there was another plan as in the last weeks of March the EU/Irish started solving all kinds of previously unfixable issues (flights, etc). No journalist has pushed the Irish for disclosure of what this plan b looks like. An alternate solution would be a disaster for the current EU-May strategy.

    “leavers want a wto exit even though it will crush the economy for rigid ideological reasons”
    People make fun of it but if the UK had tabled:
    – zero tariffs with the EU
    – product in the EU are legitimate in the UK, but the UK will also recognise other countries standards (mutual recognition approach)
    – and used the past 2.5 years to sign at least basic FTA with Japan, Canada, Australia, etc.
    Would the EU really have held out? Come the joint signing ceremony on 29 Mar 19 would those people be present and the EU chair empty?
    How does that work with EU criticism of trumps raising walls against trade?
    The increasing resistance to a deal with the EU is (to me) driven by the absurdity of EU demands, and the fear that the civil service will sneak into any treaty blocks on agreements with other places (or even blocks on the ability to unilaterally drop tariffs)

    Many people have characterised this as a negotiation for sharing something (zero sum).
    An agreement with the EU is positive sum. There are gains to both sides. The EU – acting as agent for the member countries – has taken the economic gains to both sides, and inserted costs (political transfer of power from UK to EU). Do people push this deal through – at the moment no.
    If the UK tabled a deal that provided the economic wins to both sides, without gifting power to the EU would the EU member states get that passed, or would the EU manage to veto (to its benefit and the member states cost)?
    We have spent the past 2.5 years not bothering to ask that question.

  21. For the avoidance of doubt — I am an outsider, with no skin in the UK’s game. As an outsider, I assume that the UK will separate from the EU at some point In some way.

    And then the UK will be back to the same incompetent rule that got the UK into the EU in the first place; the same incompetent rule that has messed up the negotiations about leaving the EU; the same incompetent MPs that chose Mrs May as Prime Minister and then were unwilling to remove her when they saw her years of incompetent performance. Or maybe you get a reshuffled set of the same kind of remote metropolitans.

    And yet doughty Brexiteers are not looking down the road; not looking at what they need to change in the UK’s dysfunctional political system after Brexit to prevent the last several decades’ foolishness from happening again. When you get Brexit, do you really want to have a Conservative Party government that says the next big item on the list is combatting the chimera of Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming?

    It is time for Brexiteers to get down to work!

  22. “And yet doughty Brexiteers are not looking down the road; not looking at what they need to change in the UK’s dysfunctional political system after Brexit to prevent the last several decades’ foolishness from happening again. When you get Brexit, do you really want to have a Conservative Party government that says the next big item on the list is combatting the chimera of Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming?”

    There is no point trying to get a ‘Sensible Party’ off the ground (whether that comes from the ashes of the so called conservative party, or from a new place such as the Brexit Party) if it is entirely constrained by EU rules. We could not repeal the eco bollocks while in the EU for example. First job is to get out of the EU, then the fight for what we do next begins.

  23. “And yet doughty Brexiteers are not looking down the road; not looking at what they need to change in the UK’s dysfunctional political system after Brexit to prevent the last several decades’ foolishness from happening again”
    You might not have noticed but the Brexit Party just wiped the floor, in the Euros, with the two formerly major parties. And came within a few hundred votes of winning Peterboro. No 200 & something on its list of winnable seats. From a standing start in 8 weeks.

  24. “And came within a few hundred votes of winning Peterboro. ”

    Probably did win Peterborough if the ‘diverse’ postal votes were properly scrutinised.

  25. “”….And then the UK will be back to the same incompetent rule that got the UK into the EU in the first place…..””

    I tend to agree. Despite a lot of mess, general taboos and dogmas haven`t gone anywhere. I predict UK will be common Anglo country like New Zealand. or Canada. Outside EU but strong communism and mass immigration.

    Psyche of the Nation is important. Just talk with South Africans. Despite decades of madness, they haven`t learned anything. They are also outside EU and have always been.

  26. Bloke in Spain: “You might not have noticed but the Brexit Party just wiped the floor, in the Euros, with the two formerly major parties.”

    That is precisely the issue — the formerly major parties are (deservedly, as seen by an outsider) crumbling. The brand new Brexit Party is doing very well (although the 17 Million votes for Leave in the Referendum dropped to 6 Million votes for the Brexit Party in the EU elections). So the UK will get Brexit and separate from the EU. Then What?

    Unless Brexiteers have a plan in place for how to reform the broken UK political system, they are going to wake up post-Brexit and find that the same old Davoise crew are in charge.

    Brexit is coming, and coming fast. Time for Brexiteers to get busy — before they find themselves in the position of the dog chasing a car that finally catches it.

  27. This is where I thoroughly agree with you. I think those who campaigned for a leave result were incredibly naive when they achieved it. They seemed to think they’d won a war rather than the opening shots in a battle. But what was likely to happen was obvious with almost the entire establishment having campaigned for remain. Yet there seemed to be no planning for what to do to get the result honoured. And part of that planning should have been what a Brexit should look like. Right down to the nuts & bolts. Expecting the Remainers to do it for them was insane.

  28. I predict UK will be common Anglo country like New Zealand. or Canada. Outside EU but strong communism and mass immigration.

    Man, you talk some shit Juri.

    Australia has consistently voted to keep immigration down, and specifically to eliminate illegal immigration.

    NZ has a lot of immigration — it’s an immigrant country. But “mass” isn’t even close to the truth. We also don’t import masses from the same areas, to stop ghettos forming. This result is the mix of Chinese, Indians, Polynesians etc are integrating quickly.

    As for our alleged “Communisim”. The top tax rate in NZ is 33% and a VAT of 15%. We have an incredibly open economy, with almost no tariffs. The government doesn’t own many businesses, and those it does it runs at arm’s length. New Zealand is the poster country for free trade and liberal economics.

    Don’t let the media frenzy about Jacinda Ardern fool you. If she starts nationalising industry or raising the tax rate too much she’s toast.

  29. The last time I checked NZ doesn’t have stamp duty or capital gains tax. Plus if you are an NZ resident for tax purposes and receive foreign income its not subject to income tax, that’s huge for some and makes it a tax haven of sorts. They do a good range of nuclear shelters as well!

  30. The argument that the current politicians are so weak that the UK might as well stay in the EU is foolish. When a good crop come along, being out will untie their hands. Imagine if Margaret Thatcher had tried her reforms from inside!

    Being out will also so confuse the Left, trying to get back In, that they’ll be fighting each other for decades.

    Bardon: Jacinda Ardern took the biggest hit of her time so far when she floated a Capital Gains Tax. It was so unpopular it was withdrawn, never to be spoken of again.

    Her other vote loser has been trying to get houses buoy faster. As usual, government interference has made things worse. The she thing is,a laughing stock, from all sides.

  31. “Jacinda Ardern took the biggest hit of her time so far when she floated a Capital Gains Tax”

    Great to hear.

    Labor up here in Oz went to the recent election with a policy to half the CGT discount from 50% to 25%, if you held the asset for more than a year, which in effect was a doubling of the tax, thankfully the electorate voted it down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *