So the summer is over and we are all getting back to the business of business, government and earning a living in whichever way we do. The summer has been a season of fantasy and now we are having to face up the facts of our summer romance with Brexit. For this os you with short memories back in June we voted to leave the European Union and ever since we have been trying to work out what the hell that means. To date no one has come up with any answers other than “…Brexit means Brexit and we’ll make a success of it…” – boy is that now sounding tired.
Recently the Leadbangers of the Tory party have taken it upon themselves the Delphic responsibility of defining what the Brexit vote means. They have assumed that they have a great insight than lesser mortals as to what the voters meant by voting No. The latest harrumph has been about the fact that government has gone back on a promise by the Leave campaign over an Australian style immigration policy. They seem to assume that the government is bound by such promises, which of course they are not. This cry has also been taken up by the soon to be departing leader of UKIP and now best friend of the Donald, Nigel Farage. You have to wonder what is the point of UKIP now there reason for being has been achieved.
The truth about Brexit is that it won’t be easy, it won’t be quick and it certainly won’t be cheap. It is something that will take a generation to sort out and article 50 is only the first step. None of these things were highlighted by the Leave side but then again they were the people who claimed that £350 million a week could be repatriated and used to pay for the NHS which no one has ever been able to show is anywhere near true.
So in the dirty world of politics what does the landscape look like now? What opportunities are there that can be used to help achieve Brexit?
EU Migrants in Britain.
Just after the vote Theresa May got into hot water when she said that the EU citizens in the UK could not automatically assume that they could stay after Brexit. Some of those making the loudest noises against this were those who just a few weeks previously had been complaining about the very same people which is somewhat ironic. Anyway, it now seems that they can stay post Brexit but this does offer some form of a deal on free movement between Britain and EU. If the EU citizens have a right to stay then what happens when they move back to the EU? Does that right disappear or does that right still exist should some person from the EU wish to move to Britain. In short we appear to have a figure of around 3.5 million people who may or may not have different rights than other citizens of the EU. Equally what about the British citizens who live in the EU, what right to stay have the got? On the last count there were around 4.5 million of these. So we have a figure of 3.5 million and 4.5 million people – could this be used as some form of basis of movement of people? Could Britain allow 3.5 million people into Britain from the EU without causing too many more problems? If so then this could form the basis of ‘restriction’ of the free right of movement whilst at the same time honouring the rights of the EU citizens in Britain already.
It is not the most beautiful of French cities and has been a thorn in the side of Anglo French relations for centuries and so the current situation is nothing new. However, there may be an opportunity for the situation to be used to persuade the new French president, whomever he or she is, to be a little more accommodating on the negotiations with the EU.
City of London.
There are an awful lot of concerns being expressed about the ability of the financial institutions of the City of London being able to ‘passport’ their products into the EU. I might be wrong but I suspect that the City of London is more than capable of looking after its own interests and that fear of a flight out of London will be overblown. The one thing that the City is good at is getting policy distorted for its own benefit. Yes some foreign owned companies might move to Frankfurt but I suspect they will quickly discover that the many unseen advantages that the City of London provides far outweigh the advantages of being in Frankfurt.
United States of America
It would be foolish at this point to try and understand where the USA will stand on any Brexit deal. I know that President Obama has said that Britain will be at the back of the queue for trade deals but come January next year he won’t have a say in the matter. We don’t know who will be the next President at this moment nor the make up of the next Congress as most of it is also being elected/re-elected in November as well. So until that picture is known it is better smiling and then ignoring anything that President Obama says. In a crises the USA still needs Britain if only because we have a permanent seat on the UN security council which the EU nor Germany have. Remember it is the unknown unknowns that tend to show who your real allies are.
The manufacture of automobiles is a huge and expensive process. The Germans are very good at this as are the British. These processes are complicated and usually span the globe. So whilst a Ford, an American company, car maybe assembled in Cologne (Germany) or Valencia (Spain) its engine may well have come from either Dagenham or Bridgend (Britain). There are many other components that make up the car that have been sourced throughout the EU and probably beyond. In short just to look at car production as being solely German is a nonsense and this does offer an opportunity for some form of EU/Britain trade deal. On top of this the British do like German cars and buy an awful lot of them which again offer opportunities for some sort of a deal.
None of these things are easy, quick or cheap to sort out but they are doable given the right set of circumstances and willingness on both sides to compromise. Whether the Leadbangers understand this is another matter and only time will tell just how much of a problem they are going to be. I suspect they may make an awful lot of noise but are not willing to bring down their own government over this. In short they may well not be the force that some in the media would like us to believe.