It looks as if Britain is heading for a no-deal Brexit on the 31 October. This can only be avoided if the British Parliament either approves a withdrawal treaty or revokes the Article 50 notification; or else there is a general election and a new parliament does one such. In the absence of which, Britain will automatically cease to be a member of the EU.
The withdrawal agreement is intended to resolve the few outstanding matters around British withdrawal and approval of which should not be contentious. The reason why it has not been approved is that almost all of Labour and the SNP vote against it because they are against Brexit, and European Research Group Tories voted against it because of the backstop.
British Labour Party MPs overwhelmingly voted against it despite not objecting to its contents pertaining to financial payments, citizens rights, a transitional period and the Irish Protocol. These Labour MPs voted to invoke Article 50, initiating a process whereby Britain leaves with or without an agreement, but now repeatedly voted against the withdrawal agreement with which they have no objections. This is the single largest reason why a no-deal Brexit could happen.
Those who are against the backstop don’t seem to realise that it would only apply if a future agreement could not keep the Irish border as open as it is now. Given that Britain would need to have such an arrangement, as well as needing to keep the Dover-Calais route as open as it is now, they would need a future relationship that by its very nature would make the backstop redundant.
While Boris Johnson seems to think that leaving without a deal would be in the interests of those who want to leave the EU this cannot be further from the case. In fact the adverse consequences could completely and permanently discredit the idea of leaving the EU among the general public. It is notable that many of those pressing for a no deal withdrawal are people who are only relatively recently interested in leaving the EU at all. Such people’s interest is so shallow that it devolves around not conceding anything during the negotiation.
If there is a no-deal then Britain will become a ‘third country’, which means that the EU will have to impose regulatory and customs checks at its borders. It will also mean that Britain will be entirely reliant on EU-promulgated mini-deals to regulate activity between them.
There is an orderly way to leave the European Union. Firstly, Britain would agree a withdrawal treaty with a transition period. During the transition period, they would re-join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and through which would remain in the European Economic Area; and would also conclude bilateral treaties. Norway has more than 50 such treaties with the EU in addition to the EEA Agreement. The most necessary would be treaties providing for the abolition of customs, VAT and excise application and inspection.
EFTA-EEA membership would remove the need for sanitary and phyto-sanitary controls at the Irish border and Calais. EFTA membership would require the current members agreeing to Britain’s membership. If admitted to EFTA they would then negotiate with the EU the annexes and protocols of their EEA membership. These would take two years to negotiate.
The EEA Agreement functions in a bespoke manner for each of the EFTA members. Efta-EEA would mean being outside the application of the three quarters of EU law not pertaining to the ‘Single Market’.
EU made law pertaining to the ‘Single Market’ is implemented though after consultation through EEA committees. The ‘four freedoms’ apply, though Efta-EEA members also can unilaterally suspend the application of these if they do so in a proportionate way.
If EFTA did not assent to Britain’s membership, it could unilaterally adopt and follow the EEA acquis. Continued participation in the ‘Single Market’ would be self-advantageous for Britain given that most of its economic activity is largely reliant on and legally provided for by the Single Market’s regulatory systems.
A longer term relationship which could replace the existence of the EEA would be if the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) -a pan-European, inter-governmental agency which formulates some standards- was to become the custodian of the European single market. This would entail political independence within an inter-governmentally managed single market.
Boris Johnson is likely to pursue a no deal Brexit in ignorance of the consequences. This policy also burnishes a fake right-wing image around Johnson and his government. This is despite the fact that they have no such ideas or policies and that Johnson himself is a licentarian.
Pursuing a no-deal Brexit is an easier objective, aided by flatterers in the legacy media, than would be reversing the nationalisation of private life or introducing high-grade public sector schools. These would require confronting the teacher unions; abolishing tens of thousands of functionarial public-sector jobs, dozens of quangos and BBC News.
The lightweight Johnson will not begin to pursue any of these policies, though there will be a fake media game where his supporters and detractors will pretend that his is a right-wing government, much like how the Fine Gael government is treated in Irish media. Johnson isn’t a new Thatcher, he is just a straight Varadkar.