As the British Government prepares the ground to trigger Article 50, and formally announce its intention to exit the EU, the sabre-rattling has already begun.
Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker along with Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and many other national leaders across the EU are sticking firmly to the line of no negotiation without notification.
It seems that whatever hope the UK may have had when it came to pre-negotiation hints and what may be achievable were dashed following Theresa May’s Conservative Conference announcements of a hard Brexit a few weeks ago.
For Ireland, the stakes are enormous. In addition to the possibility of a hard Brexit border, stretching from Derry to Newry, a real threat to the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland is now emerging.
For the UK, a belief that their massive market for expensive German cars would force concessions from the EU were dashed by Angela Merkel when she pointed out that politics would trump trade. Besides, there is a real risk that the UK capacity to continue affording expensive German cars in the future will be undermined by a weakened pound and lower economic growth following Brexit. This will be especially true if London-based financial service firms lose their passporting rights to the EU as many now expect will happen.
If the UK is unable to use economic leverage in order to win concessions, there is a real risk it will take a more nuclear approach. This could include a decision in Whitehall to end the CTA between the UK and Ireland and force some real pain on an EU member state. Why shouldn’t it use what power it has to win concessions. I have no doubt that the UK will resort to this if and when it comes to it.
For Irish parliamentarians, they will likely find themselves in a very difficult situation. On one hand, they have no choice but to support the EU position in negotiations. This will have enormous implications, including:
Across Northern Ireland, there is a real risk that some or even all of the good work brought about since the Good Friday agreement could be undermined if the region is cut off from southern markets and cross-border initiatives.
An introduction of trade tariffs and duties will have a massively negative impact on manufacturing, tourism and agriculture across both Northern and the Republic of Ireland. For the Republic, the UK is its biggest export market.
The UK has served as a social safety-valve for the Republic of Ireland for over 100 years, especially during periods of economic recession. This has meant fewer unemployed people using social services in Ireland. But if the UK escape-door is closed off, this is likely to create a much more troublesome situation for Irish political leaders during periods of economic slump. Additionally, this will mean more demands on social service resources.
Ireland could end up becoming the guinea pig of the Brexit discussions, especially if British negotiators are unable to secure favourable terms. If that does happen, Ireland may well end up being the victim of the ensuing proxy fight between the EU and UK.
We could become the Brexit equivalent of Aleppo!
When I wrote about Brexit before the June vote, I predicted the uncoupling of the UK from the EU had the potential to be a really nasty divorce. That now looks to be a certainty. As Prime Minster May and her Brexit team prepare the ground for triggering Article 50, it is becoming clear that many UK politicians were totally unprepared for a Yes outcome, especially those that campaigned for a No.
According to Prime Minister May, Brexit is a done deal. It’s just the details that need to be sorted.
Brexit is no longer the real issue.
A major problem on the UK horizon is the creeping protectionism that is slowly taking hold globally.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May will be under enormous pressure to deliver on Brexit.
When Prime Minister May’s Secretary for International Trade, Dr. Liam Fox claims that the UK is about to embark on a new era of British greatness underpinned by free trade, he missed an important point; global appetite for free trade is on the wane.
Voters in the US, whether they backed Donald Trump in their millions during the Republican primaries, or Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, were motivated by one common goal; reform of free trade.
NAFTA + GATT + WTO + TTIP + CETA + ISDS + TPP = Voter Rejection
Voters across the EU and US have concluded that free-trade deals have been a bad deal for them and their families. The Walloon Parliament in Belgium has just rejected the Canadian-EU trade deal CETA. Voters in their tens of thousands in Germany and France now frequently march in opposition to TTIP and ISDS. Voters in the US blame NAFTA for loss of manufacturing jobs across the traditional manufacturing states, and beyond.
For die-hard Brexit advocates such as Dr. Fox, the popular backlash against free trade could not come at a worst time.
As the UK Brexit team prepares to negotiate with Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, it is becoming increasingly clear that either the UK is cut loose with no EU market access or the UK is forced into a humiliating climb-down on Brexit. Both choices represent a poison pill; the latter option would likely mark the end of Prime Minister May’s political career but exiting the EU completely could herald a prolonged period of economic turmoil in the UK, especially if financial services passporting is blocked.
But what is perhaps most concerning is the potential impact of Brexit on the union of the UK itself. The EU was originally formed as a bulwark against rampant nationalism across Europe that resulted in two world wars in 25 years. From that perspective, the EU has been a resounding success. It continues to provide peace. And while it is still evolving towards ever greater union on trade and services, its biggest failing has been not to communicate its message effectively.
For the UK, the irony is that its departure from the EU could herald the economic, social and political turmoil that Brexit campaigners campaigned against.
For Prime Minister May, she will live in interesting times.
It’s been an unusual campaign to say the least but the true Donald Trump was finally revealed for all to see at last night’s third and final Election 2016 Presidential debate.
When pressed by moderator, Chris Wallace on whether or not he would respect the result of the US presidential election, Trump refused.
Bad as it is that he holds women (“slobs“), Mexicans (“rapists“), immigrants (“thieves“), war heroes (“John McCain isn’t one“), allies (“cut them loose“), international treaties (“tear them up“), the duty to pay taxes (“it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault I haven’t paid any taxes in 18 years“), honesty (“election is rigged“), free media (“bad thing“), it is his complete and utter contempt for the democratic system that should have alarm bells ringing everywhere.
Donald Trump rejects the democratic system and for this reason, he is unqualified to become the next President of the United States.
Aside from the obvious rejection of American democracy, what was also particularly interesting during last night’s debate was how poorly prepared Trump was. Donald Trump acted like a lazy school boy who instead of studying for a major exam squandered valuable study time playing video games. Trump turned up at the final debate with no facts and no ideas. He replaced policy with bull***t and when the going got tough, rambled long meaningless diatribes.
And Trumps physical demeanor was a sight to behold. His ever-increasing discomfort with his well-prepared opponent didn’t sit well. Instead of getting stuck into a good debate, the best he could offer were more personal insults (“she’s a nasty woman“).
On economic policy, Trump has none.
But it was his rejection of the US election process that proved his watershed moment. Although in major difficulty heading into the debate, Trump hammered the last nail into his campaign.
He could have agreed with his Vice-Presidential running mate and offered a simple Yes, he would respect the final election result. He didn’t.
Instead, caught in the headlights of being forced to give a straight answer, Trump bottled it. He screwed up and missed a golden opportunity to appeal to the last of the undecided holdouts.
For democracy, it will move on, it always does, that is the great thing about democracy. But for the Republican Party, Mr. Trump’s increasingly erratic and totalitarian tendencies will have a long-term impact on that party.
As for Donald Trump, good riddance!