Every time I think things are calming down…
Sterling is down, the FTSE is up, consumer confidence is up, no down, no it’s…
“Boo! Soft Brexit!”
“Wait! No Brexit.”
I do wish that everybody would take a moment and calm down.
The UK voted to leave the European Union. To do so, it must trigger a process. It must say, “We are leaving.” There then follows a period of negotiation, on how the UK and the EU will interact.
That’s it folks. No Armageddon. No plagues of locusts; essentially, a lot of chat.
As the Prime Minister has indicated that she is going to trigger the process, the negotiations have, in effect, started. The ones that we get to hear about are the pointless ones – where politicians posture and spout nonsense, all the time checking polling indicators after each comment.
Again, the nonsense is not from one side or the other – everyone is talking rubbish.
Negotiations can be daunting things. Actually though – they are straightforward.
Right now – there are no tariffs between the UK and the EU. Post exit, they could be left as they are, revert to World Trade Organisation defaults or be somewhere in between.
On the UK side – pretty much everyone is happy for there to be no tariffs. Where there is difference is on what other things might need to be accepted. Free movement of labour being the current hot topic.
The EU side is a little more interesting. There is an open secret that many EU leaders fear that should the UK prosper outside of the EU, then the Union itself is under threat. They want the UK to struggle. “There must be a price.” This is a political imperative.
For the majority of member states, free trade with the UK is profitable and contributes to economic prosperity. There is a clear economic argument for free trade to continue, unfettered.
Were I a cynic, I might believe that some EU leaders will only offer access to the single market at a price that they know the UK won’t pay. I might believe that they are prepared to put their own political agendas before the interests of their citizens welfare and prosperity.
The negotiations around Brexit may become about the reshaping of the EU, they may not. The UK may have unfettered access to the internal market, it may not.
The British civil service rates itself as the best of the best. With some justification, it considers itself as the body that gets “the real work done.” The diplomats and technocrats are doubtless already working away. We should keep calm and let them get on with it.
Let me leave you with a quote from Sir Humphrey Appleby, in “Yes Minister” 1980.
“Diplomacy is about surviving until the next century – politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon.”