The dangerous nonsense of “No Deal”

It really should not be necessary to write this piece. But, particularly if you voted Leave, you need to read it – because a “No Deal” Brexit is not what you voted for.

The core problem the UK is having as it fails abjectly to negotiate its way out of the EU is that those leading the negotiations have no comprehension of the EU. The EU is a union of sovereign states which pool their sovereignty to create and regulate a Single Market of rules. This means, for example, that it is not just a free trade bloc but also a regulatory framework within which, for example, dangerous criminals are extradited, hazardous but vital materials are transported, and trade deals with the rest of the world are concluded. Without these arrangements, there is no way to secure, for example, the extradition of dangerous criminals , the transport of hazardous materials, or the arrangement on preferential terms of international trade – just by way of example. For all of these things, given cultural differences and potential one-upmanship, there are agreed rules – and there is that word again, because the whole thing cannot work without rules (and the means of enforcing them). After all, if you extradite a criminal or transport nuclear material or indeed simply engage in trade, you need to know what the rules are to be sure you are secure in what you are doing. Where such rules do not exist, extradition is often delayed or halted, transport is often blocked or stopped, and cross-border trade becomes subject to tariffs and bureaucracy.

As a member of the EU, in areas such as the European Arrest Warrant, Euratom and the Customs Union, the UK can do all of the above freely. If it opts to leave the EU, it opts out of the rules with govern the European Arrest Warrant (say, for criminal extradition), Euratom (say, for transport of nuclear material for radiotherapy) and the Customs Union (say, for barrier-free trade). EU countries can no longer cooperate with the UK on these matters because they have no guarantee of the rules which the UK will apply. In any such international situation, the rules around criminal extradition, transport of hazardous material or indeed trade and tariffs are governed by treaties – yet “no deal” means “no treaty”.

So “no deal” Brexit means the UK will become less safe – having to house other countries’ criminals while being unable to get to those who have fled the country (but no doubt have networks within it still). “No deal” Brexit means its population will lack access to vital cancer treatment as there is, for example, no agreement on the transport of nuclear material such as the radioisotopes needed for radiotherapy (which the UK must import as its own reactors do not create it, and will not for another decade at least). “No deal” Brexit means not just that the UK loses preferential access to the Single Market (the largest trading bloc in the world) but actually to any market anywhere – with trade deals then negotiated by the UK without any trained negotiators with other countries certain to capitalise on what they know to be an extraordinarily weak economic and political position.

This is of course before we get to the point that a “No Deal” Brexit has no democratic legitimacy whatsoever. Many who voted Leave were duped (and they were duped, as is now obvious) into believing a deal/treaty with the EU on terms favourable to the UK would be “easy”. They should not now be duped by the very same people complaining that it is “too hard”!

This is not the EU “being awkward”. It is the EU saying simply “We are a union of sovereign states; as such we have rules; and if you want to cooperate with us you need to abide by those rules (and, by the way, if you want actually to influence them you need to, y’know, be a member…)”

It’s not complicated. This point is accepted by many Leavers, who thought they were leaving for a new associate arrangement (e.g. through EFTA), not to isolate themselves from the entire planet.

So there is no way to put this other than this: the UK cannot suggest it is prepared for a “no deal” Brexit for the simple reason that it isn’t. It would be catastrophic – for security, for health, for jobs and for much much more.

So maybe now, more than half way from Referendum Day to Brexit Day, it would perhaps be wise to hand over the negotiations to someone who actually knows that they are doing?




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