Unpopular opinion: why no deal may be our only option

16 Feb 2019

 

'No Deal'. Rarely do we see two words as divisive as these. On one side you have people arguing that this this is the absolute worst case scenario, a cliff edge, something we must avoid at all costs. They are, therefore, unsurprisingly demanding the Prime Minister takes it off the table before they themselves come to it. And on the other side, a group arguing that this ideal is what they voted for. Anything short of no deal is an absolute betrayal. The reality, like with most things, is somewhere in between.

 

No deal is not ideal. A good deal was always the most favourable outcome. However, failing that, politicians always maintained the mantra: 'no deal is better than bad deal'. It now appears that many politicians used this as cheap rhetoric to win votes and are now demanding it be taken off of the table.

 

That idea is fundamentally flawed; no deal should never be taken off of the table. It is the last piece of leverage we have left. To signal that this is a completely unacceptable outcome gives the European Union even more reason to dig in and make us accept it as a way to 'punish' us for leaving and deter others from doing so. Leaving it on the table, however, gives both parties, both of whom want to avoid this outcome, even more reason to push harder to cross the finish line.

 

Secondly, it is not actually possible to take 'No Deal' off the table. No Deal is not a piece of policy that a Government can take off the table when they see fit but a legal position that when the two year period expires, in this case on 29th March, we automatically leave with no deal in place.

 

At this late stage, is achieving a satisfactory, let alone a good deal, even possible? At this moment it appears not. Despite the Brady agreement, which called for the Government to find alternative arrangements for the Irish border in exchange for a Parliamentary vote, passing in the Commons, the EU have seemed reluctant to renegotiate on the main section the deal that seems to be causing the impasse - Ireland. So it appears that we are still back to the looming prospect of a No Deal. Therefore, what must we do to make this a success?

 

 

The most obvious answer is prepare.

 

But this Parliament seems unwilling to do so, making it harder for the Government to receive funding for preparation for this outcome. And some Government departments seem utterly inept at putting such preparations in place. Most notably the Department of Transport led by Chris Grayling. They handed out a contract for no deal ferry crossings to a company called Seaborne Freight. This company had no ferries, no website, timetables and the T&C's of a takeaway business. Then to make this mind boggling situation worse, they redacted the contract so we are back to square one.

 

The next step is: gain public confidence. If you can reassure the public that all will be OK in such a scenario, then that will go a long way into achieving the preparation required as you start to remove some resistance from the situation. But even this Government do not seem to be able to achieve this. They go on Sunday morning shows and start talking about stockpiling of food and medicine. If they wanted to secure public backing then they are not going about it in the right way. This can only be put down to a deep desire within the Government and halls of Whitehall to bring Brexit to a grinding halt.

 

And then once we do that we must go back to the EU. There are a number of solutions to mitigate the risks of a no deal outcome. We could negotiate and put in place a 30 day temporary Free Trade Agreement. This can be renewed every 30 days until we inevitably put a permanent FTA in place. Then we will not be back at the table as a country trying to leave the EU but as an equal country. We will be at the table as the country that the German Automobile industry has 2 million jobs reliant on, the country who's fisheries France desperately want access to and the country who Spain so desperately want to share control over Gibraltar with.

 

No deal was never the desired outcome. We should have, and in my belief did, strive to achieve a good deal. That was the favourable outcome. But having failed that, our only option is to leave without a deal. We, the public, did everything the Government and Parliament asked of us. As a country we went to the polling stations and cast our votes for either sides and now they must hold up their side of the bargain: to enact the will of the majority.

 

We must do three things to mitigate the risk; prepare, reassure the public and then, and only then, go back to the EU to negotiate our future relationship. This is how we make it a success. But the Government has not done a good job at the first two so far. This must change and must change now. And if it does we can make No Deal a success. We must make No Deal a success because at the moment it is our only option.

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