Hard Boiled Brexit

Up until now there have been two dominant assumptions:

  • Fools: Brexit won’t happen.
  • Everybody else: Brexit will happen but the Tories love their money too much not to go for the least damaging Brexit option.

Well, weren’t we all wrong about that?

It seems that not only is the Norway model (where we leave but continue to pay the membership and get the benefits) as dead as a Norwegian Blue parrot. It also seems that we are now playing that old style game of Tory masochism where we try to go for the most painful option even if we need to invent it ourselves.

Shortly after the referendum, CGP Grey put the odds on “Maximum Brexit” at 15% (Video here: Watch it). What he called “Maximum Brexit” is what people now call “Hard Brexit”. It is pretty damn bad. It means no deal with the EU on the single market. No free movement. No bank passporting. Visas for pretty much all travel. Worst of all, of course, for trade it means WTO or GTFO.

“What?” cried the Tories. “That’s nowhere near bad enough! We want to maximise the damage and drive businesses away from the UK. Is there anything we can do to make this much, much worse?”

So they had what passes for a “think” in Tory circles and they came up with some of the sort of genius ideas that almost did for the UK in the early 1980s:

  • Let’s talk some shit demanding unrestricted access to the single market while repudiating free movement and insisting on paying no membership fee. I mean, why wouldn’t the rest of the EU agree to that? They love nothing more than to sign one-sided trade deals which are exclusively to their disadvantage, right? What do you mean the USA is a special case?
  • Let’s talk some shit about withdrawing from international treaties on Human Rights even if they have nothing to do with the EU. That won’t scare all the best people and companies away will it? Everybody loves to live and work in a despotic hell-hole. Our lives are meant to be nasty, brutish and short, right?
  • Let’s carry on dreaming about what we are going to spend all the surplus money on even as it becomes increasingly clear that there is no surplus money and that Brexit has already cost us billions, and may well end up costing trillions, of the Currency Formerly Known As Pounds.
  • Let’s all look daggers at Nicola Sturgeon, as if the UK falling apart is all her fault, the evil cow, and completely ignore that fact that she warned us not to do it and that everything is now going exactly the way she said it would.

Imagine these ideas in the mouth of, say, Sir Keith Joseph. Takes you right back to the 1980s doesn’t it? God! I hated the 1980s.

The problem for the Tories is that it is harder to ignore reality than it used to be. Their friends in the press may be talking up record stockmarket levels (in Pounds) but with the Pound in free-fall and the UK stockmarket looking like a dead cat that has ceased to bounce when graphed in Dollars or Euros, their friends in big business are not fooled.

So, I agree with CGP Grey when he puts the odds on Scotland leaving the UK in a Hard Brexit scenario at 97% (although I’m much less sure about Northern Ireland). If you don’t agree then ask yourself what you would say to the Scots to dissuade them? Can’t think of anything? Me neither. If you see me getting on a train to Scotland that certainly won’t be why I’m going.

PS: Things are still too fluid to make it worth doing yet, but I will be doing a Brexit Scorecard type article at some point in which I compare my Brexit predictions with reality.

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October 8, 2016. #Brexit, Money, Politics, Sensible.

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