Buckle up, we’re heading for the BREXIT tunnel, a dark/spooky place but we hear it’s gonna be great at the other end-just keep faith and stay quite because the experts need to work in peace. OK, so our masters seem to suggest that publicising a plan or baseline for negotiations is actually bad for negotiations, that’s a new one-I could have sworn that the opposite is true; there you go, fake news again!
What actually seems to be happening is that the government is doing all possible to fast track BREXIT with no clear strategy or even backup plan if no agreement is reached. Their arguments revolves around 2 falsehoods;
- Revealing the plan could jeopardise the negotiations. Actually common sense-used by common men/women-suggests that we need to define our objectives clearly as well as our red lines going into this thing. Our strategy in achieving these objectives can be held close the chest NOT the core objectives themselves-the deal.
- The 2nd false argument we hear often in interviews/speech’s is that the government is merely applying the will of British people as reflected by the referendum. Well, the referendum was in reality about competing visions/pledges as articulated by politicians representing the different sides of the argument. It follows then that these pledges/visions need to be respected and outlined in the baseline objectives for the negotiations; in other words there is no blank check here. This is precisely what it means to “apply the will of the British people”. It also follows that transparency is key here and that if changes are made to original pledges we need to go back to the British people to get their consent.
Anyway, the real problem is NOT really the government approach in dealing with BREXIT, but rather it is lack of strategy/leadership for Remain supporters in Parliament; their performance has been dismal to say the least and the mess we are in when it comes to lack of input in defining the BREXIT process is largely due to their failure/division and lack of strategic thinking. The government has certainly been effective in lowering their expectations to the point where there is hardly any left to defend.
So what now? Well it seems unlikely there will be any way to block the government from triggering article 50 next week. The only hope we have if we are to have any meaningful oversight is to “request” the European Council as the body responsible for defining negotiation guidelines to provide maximum flexibility/transparency in the negotiation process. Suggestions include the following;
- Negotiations should NOT be allowed to continue if there are fundamental differences on key issues in which case they should be suspended until parliamentary oversight is completed to determine alternative paths. It follows that issues on the table should be prioritised based on their importance/significance to the entire agreement and red lines clear from the outset so that substantive discussions are conducted from day 1.
- If at any stage of the negotiations parties reach unreconcilable differences the UK should have the option to either withdraw it’s application to leave EU or voluntarily exit this based on government decision, Parliamentary vote or a 2nd referendum that would be for an all inclusive mandate for the government to make a judgement (unlike 1st referendum that was based on specific pledges). This is better than crashing out of the negotiations after a long winded process with all the uncertainties this entails on our economy-we need NOT go into the business of comparing losses.
Ultimately what is needed is a more flexible negotiation process that is less damaging to both sides and a level of transparency that provides confidence to the public, parliament and business-which is the key takeaway here. I just hope there is appetite for compromise when there seems to be an exchange of quite aggressive statements coming from the negotiating “partners”.