Deal or No Deal?
Matthew JAMISON | 23.08.2017 | OPINION

Deal or No Deal?

In the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq War the Atlanticist Oxford historian, Timothy Garton Ash, rolled out an excellent work «Free World» - an analysis of then rising levels of anti-Americansim - and the detrimental impact war in Iraq had and was having on the stability of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance. The structures of the post-WWII US-EU Alliance have come in for a battering in recent years. In many ways a great source of the international tension we are experiencing is linked back to the invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003. Russia, together with Germany and France warned the US and the UK that regime change was too risky, too dangerous and unwarranted in Baghdad. Despite some thawing and a relaxing of tensions in the early days of the Bush Jnr administration and Putin administration in 2001 and a pulling together after 9/11, this new accommodation between the West and Russia, Washington DC and Moscow, fizzled out and turned to old style Cold War confrontation and mistrust at the United Nations Security Council regarding the fate of Saddam Hussein as well as Qaddafi and Assad. 

With geopolitical security divisions acute across the European Union and NATO internally with the challenges of Islamist terrorism and finding a way forward for a new partnership and alliance for the 21st century with Russia - and externally - the challenges of the migration crisis from North Africa and the Middle East as well climate change, it is an unwelcome, highly irresponsible, irrational and tedious distraction with regards to the British decision to leave the European Union. After holding a Referendum which was bad enough and also a disgraceful abdication of sound European leadership and responsibility on the part of the British Government and electorate during that Referendum and in the run up to it, and now at this critical historical period in word affairs, Britain is busy naval gazing in the most ridiculous, counter-productive fashion and too busy playing in to and up to the English national characteristics George Orwell outlined in his «England: Your England» with regards to what precisely its Brexit is to be. It was not shameful enough that the British Government decided to hold the Referendum on the UK's membership of the EU to begin with; but now; the UK Government has had a year to get is act in together and sort itself out with a coherent, consistent and credible plan to exit the European Union. 

Yet, it has still not been able to manage that. There has been chaos within the British Government basically since David Cameron stepped down last summer. The wider national public policy and international agenda has ground to a halt while Whitehall has been at war with itself (and most debilitating of all 5 versus 6) regarding what the terms of Britain's exit from the EU are to be. The chaotic situation was made even worse with Theresa May's decision to hold a snap election and subsequently throw away her Conservative Party working majority in the House of Commons. After a deeply divisive and bitter national referendum and then a year of drift capped by a deeply unpleasant, unstable and un-necessary General Election the UK headed into one of the most important political, economic, diplomatic and constitutional negotiations of its modern history and has currently demonstrated no ability to find its way out of this self inflicted mess

Currently the country is headed for the exit from the European Union without a deal. In such circumstances the events of Black Wednesday will be like a walk in the park (as David Davis former Chief of Staff James Chapman has valiantly made clear) as will the fall out from the reversion to WTO rules and the near total collapse in its national currency, the pound sterling. The policy position papers emanating from the British Government are a fantasy world and like living in cloud cuckoo land. It is all fine and well all setting out what the UK may like from an Exit deal but it is Brussels that will decide and so far not enough progress has been made on the subject of the divorce bill; the status of EU citizens living and working in the UK and vice versa with British citizens throughout the EU and the matter of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. All these matters must be sorted before there can be any discussion of trade issues for a UK-EU Free Trade Agreement to replace the Single Market and Customs Unions. With a British Government in disarray and in capable of forging a united position across an array of policy matters, the «Prime Minister» off busy walking in the hills and the Cabinet running riot taking up contradictory positions with no authority and consensus from the centre, it is hard to envisage that a deal can be negotiated when the partner asking for the deal is so confused and unable to answer what it is they want. 

Before any UK-EU Free Trade Agreement can be reached replacing the Single Market and Customs Unions the issues of the divorce settlement, people, and Ireland must be resolved. The clock is ticking thanks to Theresa May who triggered Article 50 in March and the British people who voted to Leave. Mrs. May took her country unprepared into a seminal negotiation just as it was unprepared to deal with the fall out of a Leave vote. Britain is now contributing to major instability in Europe through its reckless, disorganized and unprincipled tactics and lack of strategic vision and policy. The sooner this ridiculous British farce of Brexit is wrapped up and brought to a close the better.

Tags: European Union  UK  Brexit 

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