Thursday, 19 January 2017

Prime Minister’s Brexit speech 17Jan2017

As an opening pre-negotiation statement, the speech ticks most of the domestic political agenda’s boxes.  It probably also sets the equal and opposite unreality to match the pre-negotiation statement(s) uttered by European Union officials, playing to their “home” audience.  So far, so theatrical.

But for those with marginally more issue-literacy than most - on both sides of the negotiating table - then the speech gives away more than it should.  In particular, it reveals UKGovt’s overall technical illiteracy and complete lack of basic management of time & task in the preliminary planning stage.  There appears to have been zero calculation about the timescale required by the UK state to implement the Prime Minister’s stated objectives, never mind the timescale available to the EU to reciprocate.

Reverse-engineering the objectives results in a nonsense timescale.  The workload required just can’t fit within the implied window of only two years.

There appears to have been no strategic or tactical view about how to play the game over time and between measurable, interim results.  The speech gives the impression that 43 years of piecemeal, disjointed, incrementalist political integration with the EU can - and should - be instantly reversed within a very short two-year period.  No phasing, no buffer zones, no interim measurements, no provision for unforeseen consequences (which, given the lack of planning are both inevitable and blindingly obvious to us outside the narcissistic Westminster bubble).

Instead of using existing positions within existing treaties to implement Brexit in stages over the next decades, UKGovt wants to make the best be the enemy of the good.  UKGovt wants to re-design the wheel, and improve it by making it a triangular wheel.  A Big Bang Brexit!

It is really is amateur-night-out!

As an opening pre-negotiation statement, the speech is incredible.  It does not stack up.  The objectives are not readily interpretable as specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely.  Everybody can see that the Empress is naked, but the Empress herself seems not to have noticed.

The amount time of EU officials and leaders that the UKGovt’s speech threatens to waste - free trade agreements?  bespoke arrangements? - is possibly the worst start to pre-negotiation positions possible.

So it seems that in leaving the European Union, UKGovt is going to try its best to piss the EU off to an extent that UKGovt has never previously achieved in forty-three extremely frustrating years for the European Union.

Detailed points follow.

PM said:
Immediate reaction:
And it is why, as we repeal the European Communities Act, we will convert the ‘acquis’ – the body of existing EU law – into British law.
Umm… how is this actually going to work?

What would be the point of converting an acquis into UK law when, for example, it cannot lawfully refer to an EU regulation that cannot apply to non-members of the EU?

Who has calculated the quantity of acquis to convert into British law?

Who has calculated the duration of Parliamentary time required to enact - and, where appropriate, to delegate to tertiary legislation - the acquis into British law?  What is UKGovt’s expected date of completing this conversion exercise?
I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.
Does the use of “final” imply that Brexit is a one-deal act, and not a multi-year/ multi-generational process?

Are we being told that Brexit can overturn 43 years of disjointed, incremental legislative evolution in a couple of days?

As an opening position for political negotiations, it is vacuuous, confused and confusing.
In the last decade or so, we have seen record levels of net migration in Britain, and that sheer volume has put pressure on public services, like schools, stretched our infrastructure, especially housing, and put a downward pressure on wages for working class people.
Is UKGovt at last on the verge of grasping the peoples’ concerns?

Uneven levels of immigration over time are the catalyst that reveals poor quality public service planning, design and delivery.  Short-term excess capacity in the labour market can happen at any time, even without foreign immigration, i.e. domestic immigration has the same effect locally/regionally.
under my leadership, not only will the government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, we will build on them.
How does who measure this?
we will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement
When?  Before Article 50’s two-year period expired, or after?

Do we know of any FTAs,  equivalent to 43 years of EU membership, that took only two years to conclude?

Shall we take bets on how Wallonia shall torpedo this proposed UK-EU FTA?

Would the scope of this FTA be the same as the existing EEA?  If so, wouldn’t re-joining EFTA as an interim stage be easier for the EU to process?

(nb: President Elect Trump wants to re-negotiate NAFTA (wiki), starting from his first full day in office.  This will ring alarm bells in Brussels, given that CETA is not yet operational.)
being out of the EU but a member of the single market would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations that implement those freedoms, without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are.

Membership of the EEA enables use of EEA’s Article 112 (“If serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature liable to persist are arising, a Contracting Party may unilaterally take appropriate measures under the conditions and procedures laid down in Article 113.”).

If so, I’d be grateful for a reminder of which negotiations France held prior to enforcing the limit.

Membership of EFTA - assuming EFTA allows UK to (re-)join EFTA - gives the UK a voice at EFTA’s table.  By contrast, membership of the EU means UK surrendering its voice to a shared EU representative (who could -  probably does - cherry-pick whose interests to favour, depending on which lobbyist left which brown envelope in whose office earlier in the morning).
So we do not seek membership of the single market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement.
When?  Before Article 50’s two-year period expired, or after?

How deliverable is this, and by when?
it is true that full Customs Union membership prevents us from negotiating our own comprehensive trade deals.

How many trade deals has Turkey concluded with others during its membership of a customs union with the EU?
I do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff. These are the elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries. But I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU.
OK, this is better.

Don’t be so sloppy with language during the negotiations proper, especially when/if they are being translated live.

Get it right.
I want to remove as many barriers to trade as possible.
For a service economy, to what extent is a  desire to remove barriers compatible with an equal desire to erect barriers – howsoever designed - to stop the labour market being flooded by short-term immigrant workers?
I do not mean that we will seek some form of unlimited transitional status… Instead, I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the 2-year Article 50 process has concluded.
Airborne porcines.

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