Observations of an ex pat: A sad tale

Once upon a time there was a venerated institution in the not so distant land of Great Britain called parliament. In fact, it was called “The Mother of Parliaments” as countries around the world emulated its structures and system of representative democratic government.

Parliament became the legal and political platform on which the largest empire in the history of the world was built. Its members were respected and their opinions were sought in world councils.

But times change. The empire sank below the waves.  If Britain was going to continue to prosper and retain political power than it needed to increase its voice by joining it with others—the European Union.

This made sense to many Brits, but not all.  Some thought in terms of pragmatic economies of scale. Others felt with hearts which yearned for an imperial past and bridled at the thought of being told the size of their beer mugs by Brussels Eurocrats.

In a 1975 referendum “the metropolitan elite” (as they were later called) won the argument and Britain joined the Common Market.  Thus began one of the most prosperous and stable phases of British history. Then Europe began to change. Other members wanted political as well as economic union and the Common Market morphed into the European Union with the reluctant agreement of successive British governments.

The reluctance of British politicians was down to the knowledge that moves towards European union would be interpreted as a loss of British sovereignty which was grist to Britain’s anti-European mill. This was especially true of the Conservative Party, whose members tended to view the days before EU membership  through rose-tinted spectacles.

The party split between the pro and anti-EU factions. Then along came the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), offering a home for disaffected anti-European Tories. The party leadership was worried. So the conservative prime minister—David Cameron—called a referendum on British membership of the European Union. It was a clear-cut abrogation of parliamentary responsibility with the sole purpose of preserving conservative party unity.

The resultant campaign was long, bitter, and littered with character assassinations, misinformation, half-truths and lies. Immigration grew to rival sovereignty as a major issue as Brexiteers (as they became known) played on the latent xenophobia of an island nation.  On June 23, 2016, 33.5 million British people voted by a margin of four percent to leave the EU. The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, declared that Brexit was now the will of the people. The problem was that it was not the will of all the people. At least 48.1 percent of the electorate remained vehemently opposed to the referendum result and determined to overturn it. The result: A bitter national divide.

Theresa May called a general election to strengthen her hand in negotiations with the EU. She weakened it. Her slender majority disappeared and Mrs May became dependent on support from Northern Ireland’s far-right anti-EU Democratic Unionist Party which only strengthened the position of Tory Brexiteers and infuriated conservative Remainers. She spent most of the next two years negotiating not with the European Union but with the feuding factions within her own conservative party.

Eventually a deal emerged which—because of the predicted problems around Northern Ireland—left the UK subject to EU rules for an indefinite period but without any say in  the construction of those rules. Not surprisingly this was voted down by the House of Commons not once but twice—in overwhelming numbers.  Mrs May’s government and her authority lies shredded on the floor of parliament. The British people are now faced with the unpalatable choice of the black abyss of a “no deal” Brexit,” accepting Theresa May’s  bad deal with a third vote, remaining in the EU, or somehow or another cobbling together a mongrelised cross-party proposal that satisfies a majority of the parliamentary factions. At the same time, lurking in the background is the possibility of a second referendum, perceived threats to British democracy and even violence.

The Mother of Parliaments has fallen from its pedestal and falling with is the British nation that it represents.


* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain” that has sold out in the US after six weeks but is still available in the UK.

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  • I actually think that Parliament is operating rather better than it did in the past. When the gentlemen would turn up for a good meal and follow the whip as a little light diverting stroll through the lobbies afterwards. Perish the thought that they should actually consider what the unwashed masses actually might want – that only encourages them. Why is the BBC even covering Parliament?! It should return to the rule that it doesn’t allow discussion of any issue discussed in Parliament within two weeks. It only gets the masses excited.

    No doubt normal service will return shortly!

    In the meantime we as democrats should consider carefully the issues raised – not totally easy – of the Executive versus Parliament versus the people and allowing them many more referendums.

    That our Parliament is somehow a marvellous institution to be venerated was of course pure bunkum fed to the masses to keep them quiet.

  • The ever closer union was in the preamble of the Treaty of Rome. It was a path the founders wished to take from the outset of the idea of a new Europe post WW2.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Mar '19 - 1:14pm

    Besides the folly of delegating the most complex question in its crudest form in a totally unguided fashion to the people, another fundamental weakening of Parliament is often overlooked: the election of party-leaders by unelected members. It currently prevents both big parties from acting in an effective and aligned manner in Parliament.

  • Steve Comer 15th Mar '19 - 1:39pm

    I’m not sure widening the franchise for Leadership elections to party members has weakened Parliament. Most parties have some mechanism that requires a level of support amongst MPs before someone can stand for Leader.

  • William Fowler 15th Mar '19 - 3:16pm

    If you look at recent voting there seem to be about 200 MP’s who want a no-deal Brexit or a deal that replicates that idea, which is probably the same percentage of the populace who want a no-deal Brexit… in a weird way democracy does seem to be represented by the current impasse which suggests the country should leave, due to the referendum, but can’t quite bring itself to actually do so… i am mildly optimistic now that we won’t actually leave.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '19 - 5:27pm

    “At least 48.1 percent of the electorate remained vehemently opposed to the referendum result and determined to overturn it.” ???

    You need to get out a bit more and talk to people.

    For a start, as Remainers are wont to always point out re the Leave vote, the Remain vote wasn’t 48.1% of the total electorate. Secondly, as Remainers always like point out re us Leavers, some of these voters will have died since! If you’re dead you can’t oppose anything.

    But if you did talk to typical live voters on both sides, you’ll find they will have voted one way or another on balance. Remainers, typically, aren’t that keen on the EU.They typically don’t want the euro and they don’t want Schengen. They don’t want more Europe. Typically they have decided that the disruption to UK trade isn’t worth the hassle of Leaving. Typically, they aren’t, however, “vehemently opposed” to leaving and they aren’t “determined to overthrow” the result. That would be just 10% or so of all Remainers.

    Where I live in the real world, Remainers and Leavers get along just fine. We don’t hate each other. We understand each others’ reasons. The most common sentiment you’ll hear, from both sides, is that we’ve been asked what we think, we’ve had a ballot, the Govt has counted the votes and now the Govt should just get on with it.

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '19 - 8:03pm

    @Tom Arms
    The Fixed Term Act makes perfect sense to me in that in most circumstances it should take the decision about when to call an election out of the hands of the Prime Minister. It’s not foolproof, witness what happened in 2017; but it’s better than having a free for all. Besides, if we ever do get PR, it would surely be an essential tool to give a measure of stability to any incoming coalition government. After all, nobody seems to complaint about fixed term councils. Leave it alone. You talk about ‘the British constitution’. What constitution? It’s ‘make it up as you go along’, isn’t it?

    @Peter Martin
    Why can’t people tell the truth? Around 38% of those eligible to vote supported Leave in 2016 while around 35% supported Remain. Around 27% didn’t vote at all. What you have (possibly inadvertently) argued for is a case for a compromise. That means half in and half out. So, why not Norway Plus? Now, if over 50% of those eligible to vote had supported Leave, there’s your majority.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '19 - 9:20pm

    @ John Marriott,

    The time for compromise would have been before the referendum. We could have agreed that if the vote was close, either way, we could have had your half-in-half-out suggestion.

    It sounds like you just want to change the rules as you go along to suit the Remain side. For example, there was no rule about 50% of the total electorate when we voted to go in. The actual ‘yes’ total was about 44%. I don’t remember anyone griping about that at the time. The No side lost and we just accepted in. OK we did point out that the Yes side had ten times our budget! But we soon let it go.

    We didn’t carry on for years afterwards.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Mar '19 - 10:19pm

    tom arms 15th Mar ’19 – 5:26pm
    I think you’re absolutely wrong about the effect of the FTPA here. In the old days, because the government could declare any vote to be an “issue of confidence” it could effectively force rebellious backbenchers to choose between toeing the line on the issue or cutting their own throats. That’s how John Major got Maastricht through a hostile parliament in 1993.
    Under the FTPA, MPs of the governing party can rebel on the issue they care about but still swing behind the government on a vote of confidence – as has in fact happened during the current crisis. It’s true that it makes it harder for the executive to govern – which is probably a good thing, as the executive has for many years had an extremely strong grip over parliament. I don’t think it makes it any easier for the government to survive – I know of only two governments in the last hundred years that fell due to defeat on a vote of confidence of the House: MacDonald’s first government in 1924 and Callaghan’s in 1979.

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '19 - 10:38pm

    @Peter Martin
    I guess you are referring to the 1975 Referendum. Wasn’t life simpler then? By the way, we were already in the EEC As Ted Heath had signed us up a couple of years earlier. At 2 to 1 it was pretty obvious which side came out on top.

    What you seem incapable of grasping is that the result in 2016 was very close and that what has happened since, for various reasons, really has not out the matter to bed. I appreciate that most Brits will probably always remain lukewarm about what is now the EU.

    I’m no fan of a United States of Europe either. I just happen to recognise the economic benefits of being part of one of the world’s major trading areas. I could certainly live with something like Norway Plus. Why can’t YOU? Or is it pay back time for all those years of hurt, humiliation and unfairness? Unless both sides of the argument come to terms with the fact that you rarely get everything that you want this nightmare will never end.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '19 - 11:11pm

    John Marriott,

    It’s not for me to say just what compromise would be generally acceptable. Everyone has their own angle on the situation. You sound as if you think the EU will go on indefinitely. Or at least until the next big asteroid hits or we get wiped out by climate change. If the EU can turn itself into a United States of Europe it might.

    However, that’s unlikely IMO. There’s nowhere near enough support to make it happen. It’s stuck in an unstable and nonviable in-between state between a community of several countries and a single country. It probably won’t last too much longer. The eurozone is ultra fragile and won’t survive the next global crisis. That could be just months away. A collapse of Italian banks could actually be the cause of that.

  • If a majority of MPs could agree on an alternative to Ms May, she could be out of office tomorrow.

  • After the Referendum, Gina Miller went to Court and as a result, effectively the decision was handed over to Parliament. That’s gone well hasn’t it?! I wonder if MPs realise how low (and getting lower) they are held in public esteem. I have friends who voted both Remain and Leave and I have yet to find one who feels anything other than utter contempt for politicians in recent weeks. Maybe this has been ever thus, but what is more worrying is the number of people who say they won’t vote in future, including people who have been very conscientious about doing so hitherto. Whatever your political stand point, surely this is of concern?

  • Bless Peter are we rerunning the Euro will fail line. Well so far it hasn’t. What next, we have all the cards, well playing Mr Bun the Baker isn’t working too well. Let’s look at the facts should we. You voted for a mess and you got it. The mess empowered nasty people, tick you got that. The economy went from the fastest growing to the slowest, tick you got that. We look like the worlds idiots, tick you got that too. You voted to drive down immigration, well you failed on that you’ve just changed the mix, no more EU citizens, now truely we are searching the world to find their replacements, doubt your fellow Brexiteers will see that as a victory. You voted for mess, you have achieved mess rejoice but don’t expect history to thank you.

  • John Marriott 16th Mar '19 - 10:05am

    I wonder how many of the MP knockers have ever served on a Council. Having spent thirty years on various types of Council below ‘the big one’ I can tell you that the wheels of government, both local and national, move very slowly, especially if there is no absolute majority to be had.

    We live in a society where people expect to press a button to get an instant result. “We voted to leave, so just do it!” Now first of all I would dispute the use of the pronoun ‘we’. Secondly, if only it were that simple to unpick over forty years of trade agreements etc. But it’s not, especially when all we were asked was ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. As for people saying that they won’t vote ever again, I bet a few of them haven’t voted that often anyway.

    Come on, folks, life isn’t that simple, even if it ought to be. If a few of you had taken more of an interest in how your governments and councils work instead of being continually seduced by how low they can keep your taxes over the years, you might have had better representation from people who not only have a modicum of savvy; but might have your interests rather than their career advancement at least.

    @Peter Martin
    The EU might about to become a super nova, according to you; but currently it’s still the sun that warms most of our economic parts. As I keep saying, I’m no fan of its current political direction of travel; but I’m even less of a fan of what is happening over the pond, where most hard brexiteers appear to be looking for salvation. And as for the Commonwealth, as ex Aussie PM, Kevin Rudd wrote recently in The Guardian, the idea that giving up trading with 400 million people for trading with 70 million people is a good idea is “b*****ks”.

    I have a feeling that things may change dramatically for the political mission of the EU after its parliamentary elections. If Parliament can hold its nerve and agree on a deal it might find that the transition period may prove to be easier than has so far been imagined.

  • @frankie
    “Bless Peter are we rerunning the Euro will fail line.”

    You are in serious denial if you believe it wont.

    Italy has been stagnant since joining the Euro. 20 Years with 0 growth
    Italy holds over a 1/4 of all the Eurozones bad loans
    It’s banks are propping up zombie companies with just enough loans to pay them back and stay on current obligations, but enough money in order for them to grow or to get into more trouble.
    Talk about denial, Nothing more than false hope that the economy will magically get better down the road.
    The paradox in Italy is that the banks can’t get healthier without economic growth—and the economy can’t grow without healthy banks to lend money.

    Italian Government Debt @ 132%

    Do you seriously not believe the whole project is going to come tumbling down when the proverbial hits the fan, or do you believe that Italy can continue for another 20 years on this course. To coin a phrase from you, unicorns and fairies

  • Insert “NOT” into but “Not” enough money in order for them to grow or to get into more trouble.

  • No Matt I’m not in serious denial, because they will fudge and wriggle and it will survive. The Euro will fail has been running since its inception and so far it has actually grown. Your concern however is noted. While I’m sure the EU is happy you are concerned, I really feel you, Martin and co should concentrate in amelioating the damage your vote to open Pandora’s box did. We are demonstrably a poorer, angrier, diminished state, so your thought on fixing that would be appreciated. What was that you say ” The Euro will fail, run away”, well bless that really doesn’t help.

  • Im quite clear what I would like to see frankie.
    For us to leave the EU single market and the “the” customs union.
    A free Trade agreement with the EU would be great, but I am more than happy to resort to WTO.
    We have a shared history with Ireland that dates back far further than that of the EU.
    I don’t see why the UK cannot say, we are simply not going to put up a boarder between Northern Ireland and Ireland, We will continue to honour the good Friday agreement and we will continue to allow goods and people to move freely between the 2.
    If the EU wants to put in place Border controls between the republic of Ireland and the continent, then that is a dilemma for them to resolve (not us)
    Will that prevent us from striking up trade agreements between us and the EU, I dont believe so, after all, considering the state of some of the European economies, they need a trade agreement with us just as much.

    But like I said, I am quite comfortable with WTO rules, after all the EU makes up 7% of the entire globe with an ever DECREASING share of global GDP. So the sooner we get out of this protectionist racket, the better in my opinion.
    Hope that clarifies things for you

  • John Marriott 16th Mar '19 - 11:40am

    Message to ‘matt ‘ and ‘frankie ‘. Please spare us the philosophical ping pong. We’ve heard all the arguments before. Neither of you is going to get the other to change his mind. Can’t you just MOVE ON!

  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '19 - 12:39pm

    @ John , @ Matt, @ Frankie,

    Just to change tack slightly maybe you could offer an explanation for the demise of the EU centre left in recent years? This is another very “sad tale”.

    My partial explanation is that they have been far too timid and haven’t dared say boo to the EU goose. They have failed to stand up to EU imposed austerity and have lost their electoral base as a consequence. It’s quite hard to believe that parties like the French Socialists and the once powerful Italian Communists would willingly prefer electoral oblivion rather than do what they were created to do which is defend ‘their’ working classes.

    I can only explain the ‘how’. The ‘why’ part leaves me quite puzzled.

  • John Marriott 16th Mar '19 - 3:20pm

    @Peter Martin
    If I knew the answer to your question I reckon I might be considered the world’s greatest political analyst! As they say, every dog has his day. That’s why I doubt whether Labour under Corbyn and McDonnell is likely to go the final mile or that the new ‘socialist’ Democrats are likely to triumph in the USA. That’s also why I really do doubt that, if it weathers the present storm, the EU will be “about the same” in ten years time.

  • I’d be happy for Wto but don’t put a border in Ireland. Well Matt that shows you wouldn’t be happy for WTO because WTO wouldn’t let you do that without having no border at Dover. You happy to do that? I suspect the answer is no.
    Bless you’ve become a tagalong with the hard right and don’t even realise it. Your desperately searching for a party that doesn’t exist, well other than a deeply delusional section of UKIP.

    For the avoidence of doubt my opinion of our brave Brexiteers is that at best they are deeply delusional ( Matt and Co call for WTO) without realising the consequences, at worst they are frightened of new things and wish to retreat to their little village. I can understand their views because during periods of great change reality overwhelms people and they search for a delusion or a glourious past they can retreat too. Unfortunately for them reality will smash them into the ground. Tis be hoped they are wealthy because if they are not Brexit will crush them.

  • We face rapid change and dislocation. It has happened before and it should not come as a surprise that people flock to easy answers and a glourious past. The Brexit referendum is a case study in this wishful thinking. As to changing Brexiteers views, well the silent ones perhaps facts can but those that have nailed their colours to the mast not a chance. They need the delusion that they are right and life will get better because of what they have done, so any delusion will do.

  • Bless back in moderation, don’t upset the Brexiteers, well bless reality will. Just a point some people think being “nice” is what we should aim for, hate to break it to them but those you oppose and whose policies have inflicted such harm see “nice” as code for weak. They have a point that is why the Lib Dems got ripped to bits in the coalition. So stop doing “nice” and try to do successful.

  • @frankie

    “Well Matt that shows you wouldn’t be happy for WTO because WTO wouldn’t let you do that without having no border at Dover.”
    I never said anything about “NOT” having a border in Dover, I wouldn’t have a problem with border controls at Dover if we were to resort to WTO rules.
    What I said was the UK could refuse to implement a border between Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland and it would be for the EU to implement their own border between the republic of Island and the continent if they needed to do so to protect “their” single market.

    I am assuming that this is possible, though I am willing to stand corrected if not

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Mar '19 - 10:40pm

    Frankie’s point is that under WTO rules, if you have a border at Dover you have to have one in Ulster; so, conversely, if you decide not to have a border in Ulster then you can’t have one at Dover either (because that would count as giving preferential treatment to Ireland over other countries, in effect).

    I don’t know whether he’s right, because I’m no expert in international trade law, but it is an argument I have seen elsewhere (from, dare I say it, rather more sober commentators than our excitable friend frankie) and there is a certain logic to it.

  • Matt,
    And with that statement you show you don’t understand WTO. Everyone has to be treated the same, no border in Ireland, no border at Dover. You don’t get to pick the bits you want. You tried that with the EU and we all know how the cake and eat it policy went, you ended up with no cake.

    I suggest you read this article WTO is not as simple as you think. Another intresting link is

    I’m afraid what ever Brexit you thought you had voted for isn’t going to happen, they have just played you for a mug.


    Still this should cheer you up, certainly made me laugh.

  • @frankie

    Your link to the independent article does not work.

    I do believe however you are mistakes. Take a look at https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/wto-says-its-rules-would-not-force-eu-or-uk-to-erect-hard-irish-border-1.3710136

    ““There is nothing in WTO rules that forces anyone to put up border posts,” said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell on a visit to Dublin last week.”

    @Malcolm Todd.
    I dont believe the preferential treatment you refer to applies to “borders” but applies to Tarrifs under MFN clause.
    Though again, I could be wrong.

  • @frankie

    If you are so certain that you are indeed correct, please point me in the direction where I can read this for myself.

    “I’m afraid what ever Brexit you thought you had voted for isn’t going to happen, they have just played you for a mug.”
    I have not been played for anyone’s mug, thank you very kindly.
    Yes it is true I voted for a Brexit that included leaving the single market and the customs union, as that was what we were told leaving the EU would mean.
    If that does not happen and we end up with some half baked, half in half out Brexit, then I would take that for now and continue to fight for us to get our other foot out of the door, once all the hysterics had calmed down and people have seen for themselves that there was no Armageddon after all

  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '19 - 11:58pm

    @ Malcolm Todd,

    …..if you have a border at Dover you have to have one in Ulster; so, conversely, if you decide not to have a border in Ulster then you can’t have one at Dover either (because that would count as giving preferential treatment to Ireland over other countries, in effect).

    Yes this is true. The UK has to treat everyone else similarly, under the most favoured nation rule, unless we sign a FTA.

    The problem we have on both borders arises because there has been hardly any discussion at all on a FTA with the EU. The EU insisted there couldn’t be until we’d signed the leaving agreement. To be cynical, (or realistic?), it didn’t want the UK using the £39 billion , or more like double that if we have an extension, being used as a bargaining chip in trade talks.


  • Well, well Matt even Peter knows you can’t pick and choose where you put borders under WTO. It is a pity you didn’t. As to being excitable, Mr Todd, no I just have a low tolerance for idiotic decisions, probably because it reminds me of ones I’ve made in the past and have no desire to see others nake the same mistake. Brexiteers will have to live with their decsion for the rest of their lives, while delusion may protect them, for many one day an idiot will stare back at them in the mirror and they will realise tis them. Not a pleasant prospect, but one the effectively voted for.
    Still there is still humour in the world day two of Nigel’s mass March


    At this rate they’ll be lucky to make day three.

  • Peter,
    To turn a Brexitism on its head. Why would they negotiate before they have too, after all they hold all the cards. Tis sad but true, reality does not bow to delusion and the delusion of your dear leader Mr Gove
    “The day after we vote to leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.”
    Is likely to haunt Brexiteers to the grave.

  • Britain did not join the common market after a referendum in 1975. It joined in 1973 without a referendum. The referendum in 1975 was about whether or not to stay in the Common Market. . As for prosperous and stable what actually happened was deindustrialization, skyrocketing unemployment, inflation and loss of social stability which lasted until into the early 1990s. There then followed a period that looked good on paper until it didn’t in 2008, when it end in the biggest bailout in history and stagnation.That’s without mentioning terrorist attacks, riots, protests and wars, but aside from that stable and prosperous if you kind of squint through a pair of rose coloured spectacles.

  • Arnold Kiel 17th Mar '19 - 3:03pm
  • Yes Mr Hutton is correct. It can however be simplified by saying the case for remain embraces reality with all its draw backs, the case for leave embraces delusion, which is fine until reality shreds the delusion, at which point the squealing starts. The sad thing is once wedded to delusion the delusional amongst us will look for further delusion probably based on the “great betrayal myth”; tis sad but true.

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '19 - 9:11am

    Will Hutton’ piece, referenced in Arnold’s recent comment, is fairly typical of the kind of centre leftism that EU voters have largely abandoned in recent years, as the economic failure of what’s been created has hit the European working classes hard. The social liberal EU of Jacques Delors description is well past its sell-by-date. Mon. Delors is 95 and hopefully well enjoying his retirement.

    The EU was sold to leftish opinion, after decades of scepticism, largely on the basis of the kind of Europe that he articulated in the 80s. Will Hutton is still in possession of such a view when he says:

    “You do not believe in capitalism red in tooth and claw; you see the case for stakeholder capitalism, for the regulation of finance and for using state power to promote competition and innovation.”

    By “you” I think he means Guardian reading left -of -centre UK opinion. He really ought to bring himself up to date. The modern EU is not now run by JD’s heirs. They have abysmally failed what should be their natural supporters and are no longer electorally relevant.

    Instead the EU is indeed run by “red in tooth and claw” types. If it weren’t, would we see the social chaos we see in France right now? Have French people suddenly changed from being reasonable people to far right fascists for no apparent reason? Of course they haven’t and neither are the ‘gilets jaunes’ all from the political right. The social chaos that LDV doesn’t want to mention at all is there for all to see in the heart of the EU.

    LDV doesn’t even mention the name of Emmanuel Macron any longer. It’s very apparent that he isn’t exactly the sort of politician who could be relied upon to swing UK public opinion the EU’s way.

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '19 - 9:35am

    We hear the phrase ‘Brexit is dead’ quite a lot at the moment. Whatever happens, in the next few weeks and months, the real mortality is the UK’s place in Europe as the ‘progressive’ centre left has always seen it to be. We won’t have any influence at all, and so a good reason not to want to crawl back.

    Brexit started, not with the result of the ’16 referendum but the failure of the pro EU establishment to adopt fully the provisions of the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties, as many on this blog would have wished for. Once the UK wasn’t part of the eurozone and wasn’t part of Schengen, and had made it crystal clear that it never would be, then the UK and the EU were set on different courses. It’s not just the euro per se which is the issue. It’s the UK’s position on rejecting the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact which are the rules for the euro. No-one else, certainly not Denmark, has done that to anywhere near the same extent.

    We’re still on that separate course. So maybe Mrs May will get her deal through. Maybe she won’t. Maybe we’ll have a referendum which will almost certainly result in us staying in the EU – simply because the Leave side will boycott the poll if the choice is between May’s deal and Remain. Maybe we won’t.

    None of this really matters. The end destination will be the same for both the EU and the UK. We’ve never been members of the EU to the same extent as France and Germany. Sooner or later, but not too much later, we’ll have to choose to be inside or outside the United States of Europe. That’s if the EU survives that long!

  • John Probert 18th Mar '19 - 10:31am

    Peter Martin:
    “@ Malcolm Todd, …..if you have a border at Dover you have to have one in Ulster; so, conversely, if you decide not to have a border in Ulster then you can’t have one at Dover either (because that would count as giving preferential treatment to Ireland over other countries, in effect). ”

    Precisely – and therefore the so-called “open border with Ireland” is a misnomer.

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '19 - 11:22am

    @ John Probert,

    Yes, UNLESS you have a free trade agreement (FTA) in place.

    See previous comment and link. 16th Mar ’19 – 11:58pm

  • Andrew Melmoth 18th Mar '19 - 1:29pm

    An FTA doesn’t solve the problem of the Irish border. There would still need to be physical inspection of goods to establish origin and conformance with EU standards. Countries with FTA’s don’t thereby have open borders. Isn’t this really obvious?

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '19 - 1:57pm

    @ Andrew Melmoth,

    That depends on the nature of the FTA. In the case of the EU and the UK the question of how to keep the Irish border as open as its possible for it to be would have to take a high priority.

    Even now the border is still there and has to be recognised. It hasn’t completely been abolished. VAT in in Ireland is 23%. VAT in the UK is 20%. So there is an advantage for Irish consumers in buying North of the border. There has to be some kind of system in place to counteract this and ensure that Dublin at least gets its 20% on VAT sales which should rightfully go to Dublin rather than the UK. So, if we can do this now, we can extend the principle to what will happen in the rates of duty are different.

    No doubt you can raise all sorts of objections and reasons why this wouldn’t work. It certainly won’t work if one side doesn’t want it to work. If there was a genuine desire to explore all possibilities then the EU would have wanted trade talks to start two years ago. Instead, apart from the backstop clause in the WA, there has been no FTA discussion at all. Ms May should never have agreed not to have parallel trade talks. That was in the Tory manifesto. She should have said parallel talks or nothing.

  • Daniel Walker 18th Mar '19 - 2:13pm

    @Peter Martin So there is an advantage for Irish consumers in buying North of the border. There has to be some kind of system in place to counteract this and ensure that Dublin at least gets its 20% on VAT sales which should rightfully go to Dublin rather than the UK

    There is a system for cross-border distance selling, but not if you drive across and buy it yourself, AFAIK, although this is pretty common, especially as Sterling is weak at the moment.

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