Thursday, 6 February 2020

Let us move on?

I am great Dido fan and I particularly like the track 'Let Us Move on': Lyrics video. It it is apposite to Brexit: 'Let us move on … and it will pass.' She is, of course, referring to a love affair, although the relationship of some people to the EU does seem rather emotional, whereas for others (and for successive UK governments) it is more transactional. Even so, I have not found it that easy to move on.

I voted remain and I campaigned for remain, the high point or low point being when I was the warm up act for Ken Clarke in front of a partially hostile audience in Skipton. The first question I got was 'Why are you a waffler?' and the second was 'How much does the EU pay you?' As Dido says, 'we've done all we can.'

Nevertheless, I do have some reservations about the EU having seen it close up for the whole span of our membership. I don't think that EU decision-making is necessarily undemocratic, indeed I think that the European Parliament is a more effective institution than some national legislatures. I do think that the decision-making process is overly complex. Perhaps that is unavoidable when you have 27 member states, but it does give a lot of scope for corporate business interests to exercise considerable influence.

As for the 'reform from within' argument, I would find this more convincing if a dysfunctional Common Agricultural Policy did not still absorb not far short of 40 per cent of the EU budget.

Even so, I am not sure that I can 'let all that is lost be forgotten.' The economic benefits of membership are in my view considerable. Free trade pacts with countries like Australia carry hazards as well as opportunities: Dom's deal. There are also strong security arguments for membership, although there may be other ways of pursuing these as in President Macron's proposal for a European Security Council.

'Don't fly it like a kite (Dido)'

What does concern me is that the Government is evidently intending to have a no deal Brexit because that is what an 'Australian solution' amounts to. Of course, this is a negotiating ploy and what the Government would really like is a basic Canada style agreement covering trade in goods (but not financial services). That might be possible, although there isn't much time and the issues of state aid and the emotive subject of fisheries are major stumbling blocks. A no deal exit would be economically damaging, although politically the blame could be put on the EU (again).

I might add that my view is that there was a window of opportunity for a softer Brexit, but hard core remainers persisted in their demand for a second referendum. It always puzzled me that they were so confident that they would win it on the basis that people would be 'better informed', although some might have felt that what they learnt was how obdurate the EU could be. Some leavers might have voted remain, but some remainers might have voted leave. The result would have probably been close.

My hope would be that the EU and the UK realise that a working relationship is in both their interests, although the UK has more to lose than the EU. I am not too hopeful.

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