One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Boris Johnson: Folly, Or Defence against EU Imperial Overlords?

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When the referendum in Britain came down as supporting ‘Brexit’ I was deeply saddened. disappointed. While there were perhaps valid reasons to support either leave or remain, it is clear that even if the number of racists and bigots is a very small percentage, that percentage was on the side of ‘leave’ in a vote decided by a very small percentage. Lets face it, for a variety of reasons, I felt in a better world Britain would vote to remain, and Britain would remain.

Yet now, surprisingly and even though I still prefer ‘remain’, I feel I see that Boris Johnson actually has a very important point, even if his lack of openness or clarity makes a mess of that point. Here are the points as I see them:

Why ‘No Deal’ Matters.

Imagine there is a problem at your house and there is only one repairer available. Say water is running from the toilet, and there is only one available plumber who is coming in order to provide a quote for the work. Must you accept their price, or should you negotiate on the basis that unless the price is reasonable, there will be no deal. In other words, without the ability to declare ‘no deal’, is there a risk you will be held to ransom?

The case for ‘yes, it is essential to have the ability to say no deal‘ depends on their being a risk the plumber will take advantage. But surely the plumber is in the business of providing plumbing services, at acceptable prices and to price gouge would be to damage reputation?

Unlike the hypothetical, plumber, the EU is not in the business of providing the service being requested. The plumber wants lots of customers who whish to make use of their plumbing services, but the EU does not want lots of countries to take up their ‘exit’ services. In fact, that is the very last things the EU wants!

So the position of Boris Johnson that without the very real possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the UK has will be unable to negotiate in good faith a valid position? Answer: Perhaps yes, if the Brexit trap is real.

Has The EU set a Brexit Trap?

It is no secret that the EU officials would prefer counties remain in the EU. At the time of the ‘Brexit’ referendum there was a danger of several other countries making a move to exit, threating the health if not the very existence of the EU moving forward.

Most officials in the EU, including those negotiating ‘Brexit’, almost certainly would prefer the UK does manage to exit for the UK. To stop Britain exiting, as long as ‘no deal Brexit’ is not an option, all that is required is any deal proposed by the EU meets with sufficient opposition in the British parliament to ensure the deal on offer is not accepted.

This means that as long as the EU team manage to ensure there are conditions in any Brexit proposal that would be blocked by the UK parliament, Britain remains in the EU. Any deal for exit between the EU and Britain simply needs to contain a ‘Brexit trap’ in the form of elements to cause at least one interest group to veto the deal- and Britain remains in the EU – indefinitely.

The sole requirement for any proposal by the EU, is that some clause, such as the ‘Irish Backstop’ is assured to see sufficient dissent to block the deal. As long as the deal contains the ingredients that will see blockage of the deal, it doesn’t matter what else is in the deal.

EU Imperial Overlords

The result is, for a Britain under no circumstances going to exit with a deal, the EU has full control over whether Britain can exit the EU or not. Prior to this process, there was always the feeling that if the EU introduced regulations that were too unpopular with any member state, that member state could leave.

Now it becomes clear – unless there is a commitment to leave even without a ‘deal’ to leave – it totally under the control of the EU as to whether a member state can leave. The new rules are: the threat of leaving has gone, the EU can now do whatever it pleases.

Is the EU correct, and Britain cannot be trusted to decide what is right for Britain?

For around half of Britain, remaining in the EU is the desired outcome anyway, so does it really matter that the EU can effectively force Britain to remain even though the country made a valid constitutional decision to leave? Certainly a complex problem.

What is clear is that having been shown to be incapable of leaving, there is a real risk that resentment against the EU within Britain will increase, and that the EU will see itself as more powerful than ever. While the later is not necessarily a bad thing, the risk of resentment is most disconcerting.

There is an adage, “if you love something set it free, if it does not return it was never yours”. Not sure how this could be applied with Brexit, but clearly while I feel the vote to leave was sad sign for humanity, the clarity that without the threat of the ‘no deal Brexit’ leaving is not even possible is a second sad sign.

There is no exit without a credible threat of a no-deal Brexit. And even threat of a no-deal Brexit just to play creditable madman of game theory seems impossible.

In the end, the fate of Britain is at least for now, decided by the EU and not by Britain. I hope they have chosen wisely. I do wonder if it would have been better to set Britain free (such as with a trial period during which the exit could be reversed).

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