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.

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81 thoughts on “Wild Bill Pillock

  1. Macron is showing his ignorance (Quelle surprise!) in talking about Sovereign Debt Default since there is no credit instrument involved here.

    A better analogy would be that the EU has drawn a bill on the UK which the UK has not accepted and may or may not meet at maturity.

    Boris might simply endorse the bill thus: “Va te faire foutre, Manu!”

  2. “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.”

    Moves that would have no hope of success against a proper opponent can still make sense vs an amateur – create the opportunity for them to do something stupid.

    Either thesis from your para or mine are consistent with the evidence here.

  3. For a transatlantic watcher with no skin in the game, it is interesting to consider (as an academic exercise) how Macron & Verhofstadt should have responded to possible future Tory leader Boris’s comments.

    A smarter approach might have been along the lines of:
    ‘We have been negotiating in good faith with the UK government for the last 3 years on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. As part of those negotiations, and recognizing the very difficult trading situation the UK will face once it is outside the world’s largest free trade area, the EU offered to reduce the 100 Million the UK will owe to only 39 Million. If a new UK government unwisely throws away those three years of difficult negotiations, the EU is prepared to start again from the beginning.’

  4. We have been negotiating in good faith

    Not particularly. The withdrawal agreement is akin to the sort of demands you would place before a capitulated enemy rather than a trading partner. As a withdrawal agreement it fails even on its own terms since it does not allow the UK any guarantee of actual withdrawal and additionally binds the UK in effective non-compete agreements for years (if not decades).

    Any UK government ratifying this would be idiots (but I repeat myself) and even the current Parliament of knaves realises the consequences if this was to be agreed (both electorally for the party and personally), which why it wasn’t.

    Can’t see any of the likely candidates for PM (BoJo, Gove, Hunt and Raab) bringing the BRINO turd back to the house for a forth time, since to do so would simply contaminate their own premiership with Theresa May’s failure.

    So all of this is moot and amounts to little more than EU whining that their Quisling PM has been ousted without being able to inject their federalist poison into UK legislation.

    BoJo says “I’d still prefer a deal”, which is almost certainly true, but he knows full well that the only form of a deal likely at this stage would be a stake through the heart of the European Project’s dreams of a federal European superstate. The EU would rather accept the existential threat of a “No Deal” than let that happen.

    So we’re just playing a game of political chicken where either the UK will walk away or the EU will refuse further extensions. It’s just a matter of time, but the uncertainty is the most damaging thing at this point.

  5. “I suspect the EU mouthpieces are trying to be clever here”

    I think you are right, just as Boris Johnson who is not yet able to or in a position to negotiate on this proposed payment term is.

    Herb Cohen in his best seller “You Can Negotiate Anything”, coined the phrase “‘Soviet style negotiation” which was the opposite of the well-entrenched American business negotiation style of the day, that negotiation was a logical process that proceeded in an orderly manner with both parties reaching consensus and meeting in the middle a kind of win/win situation. The Soviet style was the opposite of this, it was a win/lose, no rules pool, anything goes, lying, cheating, intimidation, manipulation, bluffing process.

    Some oldies, including me, still use the term when discussing potential negotiation strategies prior to commencement. Trade Unions for example quite often use the Soviet style, when say after a protracted and tortuous negotiation they agree to sign the workplace agreement allowing you to start work on site, but when it comes to signing they simply don’t show up, dont ring, nothing! You on the other hand, having been under massive time pressure, due to the protracted nature of this negotiation having taken months longer than you had scheduled and believing the deal was finally done and in anticipation of signing it next Monday, may have made some big financial commitments such as boats sailing, personnel mobilising, supplier commitments having been made in advance of this signing.

    Depending on the circumstances the Soviet style can be a very effective way of getting what you want, it may be perceived as being below the belt, but the negotiators job is to get what his side wants, and not to stay friends or have the other party like you on completion, like the saying, All Is Fair In Love & War. It is effective in small negotiations as well I used it earlier in the year, when I was leaving my firm and it worked very well for me.

    Some other rules that are relevant to Brexit are:

    – all deadlines are negotiable
    – if they are still in the room then they are still negotiating.

    I’m not sure if it was Herb Cohen or Robert McNamara in Fog of War, that described how astonished and ill prepared the yanks were at the start of the Vietnam War peace negotiations in Paris in 1968 when they discovered that the Vietnamese bought a house in Paris for their negotiating team to live in. The yank negotiators had all allocated a couple of weeks out of their busy schedules and booked a floor of two in the Paris Sheraton or similar on the basis that this is how long the negotiations to reach a treaty should take. The final peace treaty was signed in January 1973!

  6. Given the likelihood of Parliament, abetted by the poison dwarf, voting through some sort of way of preventing the new PM from even threatening a No Deal Brexit from the UK side, I’d say the new PM’s best bet at getting the UK out is to p*ss the EU off so much they refuse to negotiate any more, or extend the A50 period further, and launch us out into the big wide world without further ado.

    After all there’s two sides to this dance – the UK can choose to leave under No Deal, which the traitors in Parliament can prevent, but the EU can also choose for us to leave under No Deal as well, which they can’t………….

  7. I quite sure I saw a retweet from one of the credit rating agencies last night along the lines of “nowt to do with us, guv”.

    Gavin,

    If the EU had been really smart they’d have realised what was happening and given May a deal she could have got through Parliament after the first rejection.

  8. John Galt: “The EU would rather accept the existential threat of a “No Deal” than let that happen.”

    We are probably coming at Brexit from rather different perspectives. It sounds like you have skin in the game. For an outsider like me, this is all academically interesting.

    As Tim made clear, we have to think about all of the parties to a negotiation. From a French/German perspective, rather than No Deal being seen an existential threat, it may secretly now be their preferred outcome. If the UK leaves the EU without any agreement and then visibly goes through some lean years, this would remove the biggest obstacle to their EU superstate plan, plus help to keep the other EU members in line.

    The EU will certainly have the power to make life difficult for the UK in the early years after separation, if it so chooses. Regardless of WTO, there are lots of opportunities to put non-tariff barriers in place to limit the UK’s access to its former largest market. The EU can follow Chinese practice and buy influence in the US, Australia, etc. to help isolate the UK. They can bring in China or Russia to make Airbus wings, cutting out the UK. They can avoid London financial markets, cutting into the UK’s main export revenues.

    Hard-line Brexiteers may now be exactly what the EU wants, in its Machiavellian way.

  9. Given the likelihood of Parliament, abetted by the poison dwarf, voting through some sort of way of preventing the new PM from even threatening a No Deal Brexit from the UK side

    I think tonight has shown that’s not going to happen. There may not be a majority in Parliament for no-deal, but there isn’t one for stopping no-deal either, not once you subtract those Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats who are terrified of a Brexit Party challenge if they go on record as voting against leaving.

    So that means the only way for a PM determined to leave, with or without a deal, on the date currently in legislation, can be stopped, is a motion of no confidence in the government far enough in advance of the leaving date that there can elapse two weeks in which a government fails to be formed, followed by five weeks of a general election campaign. That means around or about the beginning of September (otherwise we leave in the middle of an election campaign, which would be fun, but probably not what anybody wants).

    Could a motion of no confidence pass? Well, it would be hard for any Labour MPs, even ones in Leave constituencies, to justify abstaining. But, equally, it would be harder for Conservatives to rebel: of the ten who did tonight, how many would destroy their careers by voting against their own government? Yes, it would only take three… but then there’s Chuka, Allen, Anna and their mates, who are all guaranteed to lose their seats in an election. Would those turkeys really vote for Christmas?

    Hard-line Brexiteers may now be exactly what the EU wants, in its Machiavellian way

    I don’t think so. The EU isn’t actually that Machiavellian. It has basically one mode in which it operates: lay out its demands, run down the clock, wait for the other side to blink. It’s what they did to Greece, it’s what I said they were going to do to the UK and, oh look! it’s what they’ve done: make an offer that is absolutely unacceptable to the UK, and assume that at the very last second the UK will back down and agree not to leave after all.

    If they do refuse another extension, it will not be part of some cunning master plan, it will be because they think that the UK will, if it can’t get another extension, cave in and revoke Article 50.

    The EU doesn’t play chess: it plays chicken. And so far it’s always won, so why would it change?

  10. I’ve never understood the rationale for the UK paying anything to the EU for the privilege of leaving. Someone explain it to me, please!

  11. “The EU doesn’t play chess: it plays chicken. And so far it’s always won, so why would it change?”

    Quite, but every time it plays chicken, the stakes get higher.

    What they want – expect? – is utter and absolute prostration and surrender. And not just from us. From Italy and Greece economically. From Hungary and Poland on third world hordes.

    But forget the political circus. This is all happening against the background of the economic cancer it has given itself euphemistically known as the Euro. You can imagine all sorts of things they could do, things I’m sure they – the nomenklatura – would want to do but there is the real world.

    Let’s not forget what they “were going to do” if we didn’t join the Euro. As Bernard Connolly put it, if they did try to “get us” they would be showing themselves so irrational and out of touch with the own interests that a few trade difficulties would be a small price to pay to remain free of their clutches.

    Maybe no deal is the preferred option politically for the nomenklatura but how can it be economically for the real world European economies? What about the future Eurozone bailouts that are going to be needed. If we “crash out” how are they going to be able to force us into those?

    How much of an economic shock can the eurozone take, given that it is basically a mechanism for Germany to enrich itself at the expense of the other EU countries and the wider world (for the latter, via the Euro being noticeably weaker than the mark would have been)

    Volumes could be written – and doubtless will be – as to the origin of this pitiful urge of the Oberkommando der toytown Austria-Hungary to humiliate, but every time the stakes raise it becomes more and blatant and more obvious that it is humiliation essentially for humiliations sake.

    Are they so sure that they command the forces they think they do?

  12. @Jerry – “I’ve never understood the rationale for the UK paying anything to the EU for the privilege of leaving. Someone explain it to me, please!”

    Excellent question, that should be revisited and answered at the highest and purest level.

    I have stated my view on the Brexit negotiations to date on here a number of times. Taking that and any politics or personal positions aside and in order to better understand the Brexit negotiation at its highest and purest level. I have formed an outsiders view on the negotiation setting, which could well be challenged and I am quite sure that many of the folk on here will have a far more considered and substantiated view than me on.

    There is a fundamental term in negotiation strategy called the Golden Rule being that whomever has the gold, rules. Its important for a negotiator to know which party has the gold before they commence negotiations, not having the gold doesn’t mean that this party cannot succeed in achieving their negotiation objectives, far from it, they just need to understand the rule and who has the gold in order to align their strategy accordingly. In a typical commercial/contractual negotiation there tends to be a client and a supplier type situation where the client has the gold and the supplier wants to get his hands on it, although a skillful negotiator for the supplier can turn this around and convince the client that they have a unique solution (gold) that the client wants.

    Recognizing that Brexit is not a master/servant or client/supplier type relationship, can anyone share an analogy of the Golden Rule for Brexit at the highest level ie between UK leaving the EU and the EU agreeing on the terms on how this will be done, who has the gold here?

    Which side would a competent negotiator tasked with negotiating an exit see themselves sitting on the Golden Rule and equally where would an EU negotiator see themselves sitting on the Golden Rule based on the situation that the UK is definitely leaving and its just a matter of when and under what terms they do?

    The reason for my untested view that Britain has the gold here and that it should be the principal setting that each party takes in negotiating for their best interests in agreeing on the the eventual outcome is based on the market laws of supply and demand. I have formed this view entirely on an economic basis and market theory that everything begins with demand and supply is always secondary. The UK has 67 million consumers that will continue to demand goods and services in exchange for their gold, this will not change post Brexit and the EU will continue to want their gold post Brexit.

    I know that its not as simple as this and there is a fifth column in the UK that does not want to leave, but lets just say that the UK is leaving and they need to reach agreement with the EU on the terms.

    Can anyone else share their views on this rule here?

    Which will go a long way to answering Jerry’s question as well.

  13. It’s pretty obvious that, if the EU were capable of willing to negotiate in good faith, Cameron wouldn’t have been cornered into calling a referendum, and, three years later, we wouldn’t still be asking tedious questions like, “how on earth will the Northern Island border work?”.

  14. @Bardon

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We have the actual gold, the real world economics. They however believe they have the political gold, basing this on the behaviour of the British vichyites for whom the EU represents a political heaven from which being cast out is unthinkable.

    Fuck the people, fuck the economies, fuck principle, fuck sovereignty. The titanic is sinking and all they can think about is who gets next turn in the barrel.

  15. @Bill – “we wouldn’t still be asking tedious questions like, “how on earth will the Northern Island border work?”

    Absolutely, who cares how a horse and cart may get in and out of the Ulster Plantations anyway. Although I got to say that merely trying to discuss this with my mother is tantamount to demonstrating my gross ignorance and obviously due to me being a fat Aussie capitalist pig.

  16. Thank God the opposition remoaners bill – allowed by pygmy Bercow – supported by Cons Grieve & Letwin was defeated.

    Raab should not have revealed his prorogue parliament tactic. Now it’s out, BoJo/Raab should do it instantly after winning.

    Leadsom – big minus for her top priority after Brexit is Global Warming; another gullible virtue signalling fool like Gove

    £39bn? It was a stupid offer in return for nothing by Teresa Merkel

    On Brexit, Elections, Labour, silence:

    Tories’ mysterious silence over ‘dodgy’ by-election

    Do you remember the tenor of the media reaction in the wake of the EU elections just under three weeks ago? Admittedly, the Lib-Dems did reasonably well, but despite coming a distant second on 19 per cent to the Brexit Party’s 30 per cent, the overwhelmingly dominant media narrative was ‘Lib-Dem surge’, or even – stretching mathematics far beyond anything Archimedes might have envisaged – ‘the Lib Dems were the real winners’

    We’ve seen something of the same in the wake of last Thursday’s Peterborough by-election, in which Labour narrowly managed to retain the seat – which fell vacant because of a successful recall petition by voters against its disgraced previous MP – by the wafer-thin margin of 683 votes. That result has since been attacked as potentially fraudulent owing to abuse of postal voting, of which more later.

    From sections of the media coverage, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Labour had captured the seat, defying expectations and against all the odds. ‘Labour shows Farage the exit’, rejoiced one Guardian commentator. ‘A major blow to Farage’s ambitions – the Brexit Party has a major problem’, burbled one report in the Daily Telegraph. ‘Nigel Farage’s swift exit is significant as Brexit Party bid fails’, exulted Sky News.

    Less remarked upon, if at all, was the fact that the Brexit Party was formally launched only on the 12th of April, which made coming from non-existence to within a whisker of winning a by-election and securing its first MP in a mere eight weeks unprecedented. In comparison, the Labour Party took six years to acquire its first MP.

    Or that the Labour vote had collapsed from 48 per cent of the vote in 2017 to only 31 per cent, haemorrhaging 17 percentage points in under two years. Or that the ‘Conservative’ Party vote had also collapsed, suffering an even steeper decline of 26 percentage points, from 47 per cent to 21 per cent between 2017 and 2019.
    ….
    It didn’t take long for indications to emerge of where the reasons for the apparent anomaly might lie. The lights started flashing amber even before the count, when the unusually high proportion of the turnout – itself high for a by-election at 48 per cent – that was accounted for by postal votes was revealed, namely no less than 69 per cent. That’s about 50 per cent higher than the largest ratio of postal votes to overall turnout previously recorded.

    Commentators soon picked up on the fact that among Labour’s local campaign team was one Tariq Mahmood, a convicted vote-rigger, as well as the appointment by Jeremy Corbyn to his party HQ staff of Marsha-Jane Thompson, herself possessor of a criminal conviction for electoral fraud.

    Pressure is mounting on the Electoral Commission to mount a formal investigation, and as this article was being completed unconfirmed reports were circulating that Peterborough Council had launched its own investigation after numerous complaints.

    A comprehensive summary of all these events and their background can be read here.

    Yet on this, intriguingly, the ‘Conservative’ Party has been noticeably silent. The Tories appear to be virtually ignoring the mounting accusations of Labour’s potentially criminal electoral fraud via postal vote rigging. One might reasonably have expected them, if not to raise objections immediately, at least to be joining in the growing expressions of concern and suspicion

    Or is it something else?…They don’t want to be instrumental, or even prominent, in having the Peterborough by-election annulled and re-run, which would almost certainly see a Brexit Party MP in Parliament?

    Electoral Fraud – Conservative MPs too scared to discuss for fear of being called Racist shows how weak and insipid they are. They should hire Jordan Peterson to educate their MPs and candidates.

    My preference is don’t obfuscate, tell the truth as Farage, Trump, TR etc do.

  17. @Mark – “Fuck the people, fuck the economies, fuck principle, fuck sovereignty.”

    I have just returned from a holiday in the Balkans and your comment reminds me very much of the sentiment expressed by a Slovenian bloke that I had lunch with in Ljubljana. I feigned ignorance of the EU program and never offered my view on it and just listened to him and encouraged him to speak openly about it.

    Slovenia was the first to break away from Yugoslavia and with the least bloodshed and were early into the EU and NATO. They were understandably dead keen to do so after so many years of empire and then communism to be once again recognized as Slovenians and get fully on board of all the new Euro type programs when they did. He struck me as being a successful type of person, was previously a director of Slovenian telecoms and came across as having a world view. He was was the only local guy that I met on my entire trip across the Balkans that understood the purpose of my trip and gave me some very good advice on it as well.

    His view was that the average Slovenian is now having second thoughts about their membership of the EU. Under Hapsburg they were fine, under Tito they didn’t have much material wealth but were quite happy with their lot in life. Now they are in the EU and have a materialistic culture, but not enough money to participate in it and are far less happy with their lot in the EU in the cold light of day. Fascist was a word that I heard mentioned a lot in the criticism of the EU from him and others.

    By the way, Ljubljana is a fantastic city that I would highly recommend visiting. On Slovenian nationality, this dude below playing the Slovenian anthem by accordion is related to a mate of mine from Brisbane, for what its worth!

    Slovenian National Anthem performed by Martin Težak

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7mZkNUehc

  18. @Jerry C

    Actually, Verhofstadt is wrong about the bill being due and “contradicts what almost every lawyer in the UK thinks about it”.

    The Lawyers for Britain did an analysis a few years back in conjunction with Charlie Elphicke, MP and came to the conclusion that leaving the EU entailed absolutely no obligation to pay anything after leaving (and personally, I would say that the contributions paid into the EU between the referendum result and the actual leave date were not due either since Britain would receive zero benefit from them).

    The discussion is HERE along with a link to the report which you can download and read at your leisure.

    Similarly, CIVITAS concludes that the financial costs in tariffs to the EU far outweigh those costs to Britain:

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/reports_articles/potential-post-brexit-tariff-costs-for-eu-uk-trade/

    Indeed, when you look at the British funding of the EU central bank and other monies paid to the EU, they owe Britain a refund of those monies. The report comes to a quick calculation and conclusion that the EU owes Britain a refund of 10 Billion Euros.

    It is all there if you care to do some digging and research, rather than relying on the politically biased newspapers and mainstream media.

    But since the Government doesn’t want to leave the EU, the “divorce” payment is a convenient obstacle to point to when dreaming up scare and horror stories, I suppose.

  19. They are amateurs, against may and with the connivance of Robbins the fact was somewhat obscured.

  20. This negotiation is clearly by amateurs.

    The only successful strategy is to go no deal, and leave a phone number for the EU to call if they have a better offer.

  21. It’s like watching children in a playground. It a game of ‘”off ground tick” (anybody remember that?)

    May is “it” and because they won’t put a foot on the ground she can’t tick them back. Sorted.

    And these people think, once they have brought their various recalcitrant provinces to heel that they will be going head to head with China and the US?

  22. “I think tonight has shown that’s not going to happen. There may not be a majority in Parliament for no-deal, but there isn’t one for stopping no-deal either, not once you subtract those Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats who are terrified of a Brexit Party challenge if they go on record as voting against leaving.”

    I agree that the vote the other day was a win for the ‘No Deal’ scenario, but it must be remembered that MPs are nowadays like a bunch of little children – they react to their immediate surroundings, not something months away. When the deadline for No Deal approaches, and that is the obvious way we are heading, you can bet your bottom dollar that all the usual suspects will be running around like headless chickens and trying everything they can (and given they have the Poisoned Dwarf on side, there’s probably a lot of things that he can do to aid them in this) to get the idea annulled somehow.

    Voting against No Deal today is one thing, because its not going to happen tomorrow. Voting against it when it will happen tomorrow is another thing entirely, and the votes may stack up differently then.

  23. An interesting exposition of “The Golden Rule”, thanks Bardon.
    For these international matters, I wonder if Canon Law is more appropriate?
    i.e. whoever has the cannon makes the laws….:)
    Seriously, the EU position reeks of desperation, they have played chicken and see defeat approaching. They need our money to keep their gravy train afloat. Without us, the pain on the German taxpayer will become too hard to hide.

    I like TimN’s point about needing to understand all the parties, even those not in the room. An awful lot is talked about a trade deal with the EU. But we don’t do any trade with the EU. We do a lot of trade with EU member countries…but they aren’t in the room. The EU political apparatus has no trade skin themselves, and an urgent need to punish the heretic, to intimidate the next in the exit queue.
    We should be undermining that position like fury. We won’t be the ones blocking sales of German cars, that’d be the EU Commission. We won’t be the ones building a hard border in Ireland, against the Irish stated wish: that’d be the EU Commission.
    Then light match.
    Boris, for all his faults, may just have the brass face to do this. Anyone else….

  24. The problem has always been unicorn Brexit; the fantasy sold by the Leave campaign during the referendum. The EU may fudge plenty of things, and there is much wrong with it, but it has always been explicitly clear it will protect its fundamental integrity. Nobody should be surprised by this, and it’s definitely not the EU acting in bad faith if people are stupid enough to fall for tall tales from charlatans in the pockets of lobbyists. In the real world the EU has held a consistent and logical position, but the UK Parliament will not endorse any of the actually existing options for leaving because they are all, economically speaking, materially worse than remaining. The Remain faction will not let the Leave faction progress until it offers a credible plan for delivering the unicorns it promised. Both sides know there are no unicorns and there never were, but Leave won’t formally acknowledge this because it would be acknowledging it acted in bad faith and it would undermine its own legitimacy. The whole thing is a bait and switch that broke down half way through the execution. So we’re stuck. At some point, somebody in the UK needs to establish a democratic mandate for an outcome that can exist in the real world. Until that happens, all sides can talk cheap about whatever they want, it doesn’t fundamentally change anything.

  25. “The problem has always been unicorn Brexit; the fantasy sold by the Leave campaign during the referendum. ”

    What the utter f&ck are you wittering on about? There is nothing fantastical about Brexit, its perfectly possible to just leave, WTO rules, no cash beyond a few actual legal obligations, bye bye, we’re out. Practically and legally thats totally doable, its not fantasy at all. Now I accept that doing that ‘may’ have consequences in terms of economics etc (I would dispute that the long term effects would be negative) but the mere fact of doing it is NOT a fantasy. And as the future hasn’t happened yet, no one can say whether if we did that the economic consequences would be a) terrible, b) brilliant or c) meh. They can make predictions but making declarations of fact are bald faced lies.

    And given the one lot of economic predictions made about Brexit that have been tested by events were made by the Remain side, namely that if we voted to leave in 2016 there would be immediate economic catastrophe, and that has been shown to be utter garbage, I think a period of silence from the Remainers on the subject of economic forecasts would be recommended.

  26. [On the Conservative Party’s reaction to accusations of vote-rigging in Peterborough:]

    One might reasonably have expected them, if not to raise objections immediately, at least to be joining in the growing expressions of concern and suspicion

    Why? They wouldn’t be the beneficiaries. Imagine a Scottish seat where Labour won with the SNP in close second place and the Tories distant third, and then similar concerns broke. You’d expect the SNP to raise merry Hell, of course,but why should the Tories do so? Even if it’s re-run, it’s not going to go to them whatever happens.

    When the deadline for No Deal approaches, and that is the obvious way we are heading, you can bet your bottom dollar that all the usual suspects will be running around like headless chickens and trying everything they can (and given they have the Poisoned Dwarf on side, there’s probably a lot of things that he can do to aid them in this) to get the idea annulled somehow

    True, but that cuts both ways: because it’s so far in the future, and because it was just a procedural motion, a Labour MP who voted for the motion this week could have plausibly claimed that they weren’t actually voting to stop us leaving the EU, they were just making sure that Parliament could have its say as a matter of principle.

    That a good number of them didn’t take that way out, and abstained, or in some cases even voted against, instead, shows, I think, that they were scared of how their constituents would see even such an abstract vote that could be interpreted as being agains leaving with no deal.

    How much more, then, will they fear putting their names on the list of those who explicitly and unambiguously voted to stop the UK leaving the EU for a second time?

    The usual supects will certainly be hyped up: Letwin and Cooper and Bercow will be huddled in their plotting corner again. But they can’t do it alone; no matter what schemes the dwarf comes up with, he can’t — apparently, and, at least, yet — fix the votes to his liking. They need to persuade the likes of Melanie Onn to go with them, and this week shows that she knows that if she does she will lose her seat.

  27. @ Jim, the issue isn’t whether WTO is fantasy. WTO is indeed used by small countries who don’t do much trade with each other. But Leave wasn’t sold as a fall back mechanism used by small countries, it was supposed to be a quick and easy ‘cake and eat it’ free trade deal with the EU, plus quick and easy free trade deals with fast growing economies in far flung places. Instead, if we want free trade with the EU there are significant costs, and those quick and easy deals elsewhere are too small, too few, too far away and will take too much time.

    What we know is that the UK hasn’t left the EU, but plenty of international businesses have made plans to relocate if/when their supply chains get disrupted by being pulled out of common market. That’s why banks have set up shells in Dublin, that’s why manufacturers using cross border supply chains are getting edgy about future manufacturing.

    You can take the Hannan view that the good stuff promised was just ‘aspirations’ but the impasse still remains, Parliament is not going to vote through an option that is economically inferior to EU membership, and even the most extreme Brexiters are unable to come up with a credible resolution. The Govt certainly isn’t confident enough to test WTO via a confirmatory referendum or general election.

  28. “Why? They wouldn’t be the beneficiaries. Imagine a Scottish seat where Labour won with the SNP in close second place and the Tories distant third, and then similar concerns broke. You’d expect the SNP to raise merry Hell, of course,but why should the Tories do so?”

    Because there’s lots of seats where Tory and Labour are neck and neck, and a similar level of voter fraud would sink their chances there too. The Tories have a horse in the voter fraud stakes, and you’d have thought they’d have been making more noise about it, since it could well sink them at an election in the future, regardless of the whys and wherefores of the Peterborough bye election.

  29. I do hope that Boris, if he becomes PM, has the good sense to get advice from Trump.

    As somebody has said earlier, the EU negotiators are civil servants (usually failed politicians in their own country) and have time on their side, unlike politicians, and especially have no skin in the game whatsoever.

    I would be mighty surprised if Merkel or Macron would not get some calls from their large industrial companies reminding them that the UK is a large market and consequences would be shared between the UK and the continent. Add to that the fact that the balance of trade is in their favour, that unemployment in France is far from rosy or that the economies are slowing everywhere and reality would soon set in.

    Considering that the UK has been a net payer forever, I would tell them that we will not present them the bill for past payments because we are generous and to consider it as payment in lieu.

  30. re “unicorn Brexit” —

    The astonishing aspect of the last few years to an outsider has been the almost complete lack of discussion about what happens the day after Brexit?

    The world has learned over the last three years that (a) the UK’s political establishment is dysfunctional and incompetent, and (b) the people of the UK are highly divided. (17 Million citizens — 37% — voted Leave in the Referendum; 63% did not vote Leave. Only 6 Million voted for the Brexit Party in the EU elections).

    It is clear that the UK will leave the EU, one way or another. It is time to start thinking about how to reform the UK’s Political Class and build solid widespread support within the people of the UK for life outside the EU.

  31. I do hope that Boris, if he becomes PM, has the good sense to get advice from Trump.

    Mm, I don’t. Trump’s far better at spinning that whatever the end result of a negotiation was was what he wanted all along and therefore he must have won, than he is at actually negotiating.

  32. 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 do hope that Boris, if he becomes PM, has the good sense to get advice from Trump.

    Not really. While Trump does have the advantage of having operated in business his mercantilist approach to trade balances are about 200 years past their sell by date.

  33. @Jerry – “I’ve never understood the rationale for the UK paying anything to the EU for the privilege of leaving. Someone explain it to me, please!”

    It’s like bail, yeah? You pay, you get to leave prison.

  34. “WTO is indeed used by small countries who don’t do much trade with each other. ”

    You mean how Japan traded with the EU before the recent free trade deal? How the USA still trades with the EU, as the TTIP is under negotiation? And how China trades with the EU now and for the foreseeable future, as there’s no free trade deal even on the cards? Thats the 3 largest economies in the world right there, all (untill recently in Japan’s case) trading with the EU under WTO rules. Some ‘small countries’.

    Just stop lying.

  35. @MJW

    Leave was leave. Leave the EU, the customs union and the single market. Cameron made this clear in the propaganda sent to every home. Part of project fear, and if he thought we were too stupid to understand why did he say it?

    The “EU integrity” you talk of is a political structure increasingly at variance with the interests and wishes of the individual nations which it sees as provinces to be broken up and reassembled in accordance with “the project”.

    THIS is the unicorn fantasy and it becomes clearer with each passing day how much of a fantasy it is. It is doing hideous damage, economically and politically to the countries in its grip.

    Believe in it if you wish, you are perfectly at liberty to do so. Think of us as morons, you are perfectly at liberty to do that.

    But please, spare us this sophistry. Leave lied and deceived morons and we responsible remainers are simply doing our duty by keeping us in protect these morons from their own stupidity.

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

    Ayn Rand’s John Galt character had a firm grasp on reality. ‘Know Yourself’, as Sun Tzu wrote. Pretending that the numbers are not real is a certain path to failure.

    The people of the UK are deeply divided, and the country is poorly prepared for life outside the EU. Time for Brexiteers to stop slapping each other on the back and get down to serious work!

  37. the country is poorly prepared for life outside the EU

    But this will always be true, because those whose job it is to get the country ready for life outside the EU don’t want us to leave it. So they will deliberately never get us ready.

    If we wait to be ready, then we will never leave.

    (If the abused wife waits for the perfect time to leave her husband, she will never leave. That’s why the only perfect time is now.)

  38. “The people of the UK are deeply divided, and the country is poorly prepared for life outside the EU. ”

    No more divided than its been in the past. Its just that the divide between the views of those in power and those of electorate are utterly at odds, in a way they never are when one side wins an election by a similar margin to the Brexit referendum. Thats why there’s such rancour – the losers are given succour that they might not have lost really and the winners are (potentially) being denied their victory.

    Under the usual FPTP post rules the Leave party would have over 400 MPs in the HoC, a majority of a similar nature to such landslides GE victories as Blair in 1997, Mrs T in 1983 and better than the Labour landslide of 1945. Thus you have to ask if in 1945 the ‘winning’ Labour party had been told ‘Sorry, yes you won the election fair and square, but the country is so divided you can’t implement your manifesto, and all the existing MPs will continue to decide what happens’, what do you think would have been the outcome? Quite possibly a bloody revolution, given that plenty of the people who voted Labour had only months previously been fighting Nazis, and might have considered that if the British Establishment were going to deny them their democratic rights then they might as well continue fighting, just against another bunch of fascist arseholes.

    If losers don’t lose with grace, then democracy is dead.

  39. Jim “Its just that the divide between the views of those in power and those of electorate are utterly at odds ….”

    Hardly. The population is divided on the issue of separation from the EU, and the MPs are divided.

    It makes one realize how wise the drafters of the US Constitution were to require super-majorities for certain key actions. E.g., Article II, Section 2 — the President shall have power “to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur”. It makes sure the country is really behind major proposals. Think! — if the UK had such a provision, the UK would probably never have signed up to join the EU in the first place.

    This is an example of where Brexiteers are falling down. They should be working on giving the UK a real Constitution, so that issues like joining the EU never happen in the future unless they have widespread support from the country.

  40. WTO is a fall back mechanism used for small amounts of trade. Where large volume trade is concerned other arrangements are used. If anybody genuinely believed WTO was anything like a good option for replacing comprehensive, deeply embedded integration with the UK’s largest market the UK would have left the day after the referendum and there would have been no need to even promise what Daniel Hannan euphemistically calls ‘aspirations’. The sticking point isn’t leaving, the sticking point is where we go next. We should have a general election, those parties who believe in No Deal should commit to that outright and then we’ll at least break the deadlock on where next…

  41. @ Gavin Longmuir

    Part of the issue is that referendums are constitutionally ‘advisory only’. An Act of Parliament could make one binding, but then it would be held to a much higher standard regarding all the shite around spending, funding, dodgy claims etc, and there would have to be a what next set out in advance…

  42. @Jerry – “I’ve never understood the rationale for the UK paying anything to the EU for the privilege of leaving. Someone explain it to me, please!”

    “Bobby, Mummy says it’s late and I have to go home to wash, so I have to take my bicycle and go”.

    “You can only take your bicycle if you pay me a hundred zillion dollars!”

    “But I don’t have a hundred zillion dollars”.

    “Too bad for you”.

    “Mummy! We have to stay! Come on, Bobby, let’s start up the xbox again…”

  43. I think the confusion around the settlement is down to popular perception of the UK’s role in the EU, something perpetuated by the press. In the UK the EU is presented as a bogeyman whose rules we have to follow. Everywhere else in Europe people understand the UK has been one of the most significant contributors to shaping the direction and policy of the EU, to setting those rules, and that the UK has made significant commitments that have ongoing costs. The EU will obviously miss the UK’s net contributions, but there are remaining members who will miss the UK’s power in anchoring the EU against the more federalist tendencies. Leave are correct about many flaws with the EU, but that doesn’t mean the popular characterisation of the UK’s actual role in it is at all accurate.

  44. “Hardly. The population is divided on the issue of separation from the EU, and the MPs are divided.”

    Yes but the electorate are divided in favour of Brexit, and the MPs are divided 2 to 1 against it. If the MPs were even directly representative of the electorate then we would have Brexit by now.

    There has not been one election in the last 75 years where the number of votes for the ‘winning’ party have not been outnumbered by the number of votes for the ‘losing’ parties, yet no one ever disputed the right of the winner to rule as they see fit, whereas Brexit has an overall majority, over 50% of the votes cast. Yes that victory would be magnified if processed via the FPTP system, but all UK governments have benefited from that process, so why complain about it now? Or are we going to say that no government is legitimate from now on unless it wins what, 55% of the total votes cast? Can the public ignore any laws passed by a government not voted for by well over 50% of the voting electorate? If not why not? If 52 % of people voting for something is not legitimate, then why is 35% of people voting for a party that then forms the government legitimate?

  45. if the UK had such a provision, the UK would probably never have signed up to join the EU in the first place

    Depends what you mean. The referendum in 1975 was 67% in favour of staying in, so that probably would have been safe; but of course what it was in favour of staying in was not the EU, but the EEC.

    The EU was only created by the Maastricht Treaty, and if that had been put to the people it would almost certainly have been rejected even on a bare majority. It only got through Parliament when John Major basically blackmailed his own MPs into voting for it by making its ratification a matter of confidence (an option, of course, not open to Theresa May: the constitutional vandalism of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act continues to have unpredictable consequences).

    In fact almost no countries put supermajority requirements on referendums. I haven’t found any examples, and I’ve looked. Some do put supermajority requirements on votes in legislative bodies (the USA is fond of those with lots of things requiring two-thirds of senators to vote in favour), but none have such requirements for votes of the whole population (though some do have other weird and wonderful systems; check out the rules for Australian federal referendums sometime).

  46. “We should have a general election, those parties who believe in No Deal should commit to that outright and then we’ll at least break the deadlock on where next…”
    You had a general election. Both major parties’ manifestos pledged to honour the result of the referendum. And there was nothing in the referendum about leaving being subject to a deal. How many bloody elections do you want before Parliament acknowledges the wishes of the electorate?

  47. Edit – this was a response to S talking about Trump from dozens of posts back – should have hit refresh before replying!

    @S

    That’s still more of an achievement than our current lot of politicians who have managed to both negotiate terribly, and then spin it as a national humiliation. The EU negotiators aren’t much better – they may have got an abject surrender out of May, but their total failure to consider what to do if she couldn’t get her surrender document through parliament looks like it will lead to a mutually damaging mess when patience somewhere finally snaps and we end up with no deal at about 2 days notice (which looks like the inevitable way this will eventually play out).

    I’m not much of a fan of Whitehouse tangerine, but having seen how poorly both sides have played (and spun) these negotiations, I’d expect him at the very least to emerge with something at least more popular, and possibly an actually better deal. The only possible downside being that the EU hates him so much it might actually do more harm than good to the negotiations sending him in to bat for us (although given the currently dismal showing, I’m not quite sure how matters could be made worse!).

  48. Helen Dale summed the situation up neatly; for the first time in centuries, the people outside of parliament have asked the people inside of parliament do something the people inside parliament don’t want to do.

    This is the only reason why we haven’t left already.

    There are several ways this can be resolved. Few of them will leave a civil, non-violent, functioning democracy in their wake though. If I were an MP, THAT would be the thing I would worry about most, not some couple of percentage points drop in GDP predicted by people who rarely managed to predict anything accurately, particularly anything economic and in the future.

  49. 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. So we each get to pick what we think Leave looks like from a variety of competing claims made by current/former politicians, some of which are mutually incompatible, some of which are improbable, and some of which were probably lies all along. Perversely, we can pick from claims made by the opposite camp, and we can reject claims made from the camp we support. Once we’ve picked the claims we prefer, and chucked out the ones that don’t suit, it’s obvious the democratic mandate was explicitly for the version that we’ve chosen, and people selecting from alternate claims (even ones from politicians we actually support) are acting in bad faith. After all, we’ve had a referendum and a general election, and the verdict was unambiguously in favour of the claims we accept as legitimate.

    Back in the real world, Parliament still won’t pass any option that makes the UK economy materially worse off than current membership, this is an outrage, even if nobody is actually claiming they won an explicit mandate to make the economy worse off. So, we need another general election to break the impasse.

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