Brexit, aka, the UK Shoots Itself


“Canada plus” with a low-friction (but not no friction) Irish border. Of course this may never have been on offer - the EU’s imperialist behaviour with regard to NI is in itself a populist recruiting tool. Then again I’m not sure how much people outside of NI really care about it.

The issue is not the specific nature of the deal, but that it doesn’t match (in spirit, rather than specifics) May’s position in the 2017 election. If May’s platform was “soft brexit” then the deal would be fine. But May’s platform at the time was very much medium - hard brexit.


Is this really what was happening? My impression from over here across the pond was that both sides wanted the open Ireland border. Britian needs it (for the sake of stability across all of Ireland) even more than the EU does.


It is as clear as mud, which is part of the problem. May had other red lines which were inconsistent with a no-friction Irish border.

However the following are clear:

  • The UK’s original suggestion for the Irish border was a low-friction solution, which was rejected by the EU.
  • The EU pushed strongly for the no-friction wording in the December agreement, and came up with the NI as part of EU customs union(*) with no option to unilaterally depart proposal in February. That is essentially preserved into this agreement, and has been the main sticking point in negotiations for 6 or so months.

(*: Which I assume means the central EU revenues would get 80% of all tariff income on tariffs for imports into NI, including from the UK. If anyone has any evidence otherwise I would love to see it. This is an issue I haven’t really seen discussed, and appears to be the most obviously odious aspect of the EU proposals.)

It’s entirely unclear to me whether May has folded to the EU’s imperialist demands or May has used them to lever a soft brexit deal which nevertheless ends freedom of movement into being. Which is certainly an achievement, but not, I think, the achievement her voters were expecting.

I note that one way out of the backstop for the UK is Irish unification. Which would make the problem of keeping the peace on the island of Ireland entirely the EU’s. And this withdrawal agreement might make that an actual challenge - if anything will goad the most extreme unionists back into terror it would be this kind of process. As I said before, short termism on all sides.

EDIT: The first two thirds of this is a fair summary of my position in a little more detail:

(The last third is a typical brexiteer advancing of alternatives to which the EU has no reason to agree to, and has said that it will not agree to, as realistic alternatives)


It might well be the best possible deal that satisfies both the criteria you mention. That doesn’t make the deal good. We’ve made a hell of a lot of trade-offs to make those two things possible - leaving the Single Market for the first, and sacrificing independent trade policy (and, if you believe a great many politicians, most surprising of which is Corbyn, jeopardising the future of the union) for the second. Those are incredibly unpalatable trades, especially in combination, and were nothing like the expectations that were raised during the referendum.


We’ve been over this before.

Ireland is not going to accept a deal that results in friction on the NI border. It considers this a prerequisite for peace, and this is non-negotiable from their point of view.

The UK can argue all it wants about this, but here’s the simple facts: 1) any deal has to be accepted by all 27 remaining member states in the EU, and 2) Ireland will vote against any deal that does not include guarantees for the state of the NI border.

That’s all there really is to it.

The Brexit-idiots agitating against the deal at this point are pretty much in two camps - those who have no conception of reality (aka people like Dorries mentioned above), and those who want “No Deal” so that they can capitalize on the chaos that follows in order to attempt a power grab. Neither of those types care at all about what happens in Ireland.


But then again, pretty much every single expectation raised by the Leave side during the referendum were either outright lies, or way exaggerated to begin with.

I always find it interesting when discussing with my less EU-friendly Norwegian friends to point out exactly the issue that got Dorries so agitated: Norway, as a European nation outside of the EU, is probably the European country that follows EU regulations most stringently, but has effectively zero say in determining what those regulations will be. That’s the reality of being outside the EU, when your primary trade partner is the EU.


Except Norway is in the single market. Outside the single market only exporters have to follow the regulations.


No wonder everyone is pissed off with the reality of Brexit, is it?


That makes perfect sense to me - if I were the EU, why would I give the UK some kind of special border? The EU wants to make Brexit difficult to discourage other member states from leaving in future, and the best way to do that (at least in terms of border control) is to treat the UK like any other foreign country. Either they get no special treatment at all (i.e. no deal Brexit) or they stay in the customs union in exchange for border freedom (i.e. Norway model). From an outsider’s perspective, I don’t see why the UK would expect anything other than those two choices…at least not without some other major concessions that don’t seem to be forthcoming.

I really don’t see how the EU side here is “imperialist”, when all they’re doing is exactly what Brexit asked for - demanding that Britain be treated like a foreign power.

I considered bringing this up earlier but figured that would be an ignorant American mistake. :) If Northern Ireland hasn’t left the UK and unified with the rest of the island prior to this, I figure there’s a good reason.


Norway isn’t in the customs union, and it has border controls. It’s a relatively open border (Norway is in Schengen), but there are still checks.


My bad, I thought those were the same thing. Is the EU refusing to allow that Norway model, then? Or is that a no-go from the UK side?


The latter. Norway is subject to FoM, and it pays into the EU budget, both of which are UK red lines, though I suspect the UK would drop the budget red line if it could get single market membership without FoM.


OK, thanks for the clarification! So the rest of my earlier point still stands - the EU is willing to work within the existing structures for foreign powers, but the UK is asking for something special.


Surely that means the EU did explicitly reject a Norway style model as a solution to the NI border, as they rejected any arrangement with checks.


Not really, I mean, there are checks in the backstop. For a start, the EU didn’t reject any arrangement with checks. They rejected the UK’s proposals on checks, which were either premised on non-existent technology, or didn’t cover the full range of checks, or both. The Norway option was never on the table because the UK rejected it from the very beginning.


This is true in the context of the wider relationship. In the context of the NI border it is the opposite - the EU is demanding a unique arrangement which qualifies as “taxation without representation” in the classical sense, as the EU will control the tariff border for NI, with no recourse for the people of NI to withdraw that control, nor representation of the people of NI in the decision making process.


The headline reads " New checks on some goods from GB into NI under backstop"

You fail at either honesty or reading comprehension.


It was the UK that explicitly rejected a Norway model from the get go, by having FoM as the main red line. Norway is subject to FoM, as it has to for access to the single market.


Except the withdrawal agreement does effectively keep NI in the single market in many respects - as your own link makes clear. The EU still insisted on NI remaining part of the EU customs territory (rather than the separate UK customs territory).


And that’s the price for frictionless trade — obviously. There’s nowhere in the world with frictionless trade outside of a customs union. Norway is about as close as you get, and it does that by accepting the single market rulebook entirely, something the UK refused outright. If the UK had accepted the rulebook, then the checks needed would have been commensurately less onerous, and most likely doable away from the border.