Monday, 16 January 2017

Have we passed Peak Flexcit? Clean Brexit momentum builds

Make no bones about it, when it was crafted Flexcit was the only serious plan for a post-Brexit settlement. Flexcit was a detailed output from years of research. At that time no one else had devoted as much effort to understanding the mechanisms that could enable the UK to make the move between the EU and an EEA only status (via EFTA membership).

It provided a roadmap for what was considered to be a vital and necessary adjustment from the EU to the EEA in order to maintain a smooth trade in goods and ability of firms to provide services throughout the member states, not least financial services. It was a product of its time for its time. But EU membership and withdrawal from political union is inescapably about politics.

Things are rarely constant in politics and change according to and in response to events. Since the referendum much has shifted and rather than embody the flexible response it speaks of, Flexcit is remaining doggedly resistant to events and the changing political landscape. This failure to adapt and continuously improve may mean Flexcit has become obsolete.

It is for that reason that we have seen two blogposts here and here declaring Flexcit to be dead, from people who supported and promoted Flexcit as a roadmap for a post-Brexit settlement.

A plan that is wholly dependent upon factors outside the UK's control (UNECE becoming the administrator of European-wide market not yet agreed or finalised), which is presented by its own author as having only a slight chance of achieving one of its main benefits (making it possible to have a deal of sorts with the EU within the two-year negotiation period), and which the author says will require a huge number of concessions to make it happen (no short term cuts in immigration and no end to payments to the EU), was never going to survive when knowledgable and informed people began to enter the debate and propose alternative ways of getting to a deal that would result in true political independence.

It is telling when a substantial number of proponents of a plan move on because the plan hasn't kept pace and isn't keeping pace with developments. It is also telling when the plan becomes more popular with people who want to remain in the EU and are already working towards a strategy to rejoin the EU after Brexit, than leavers. Politically that is not viable.

No amount of namecalling or insults can conceal the fact many of the doom-laden prophecies, that we have long been told will come to pass if Flexcit isn't followed to the letter, are being challenged by people experienced in related fields boasting expert contacts and resources and people who have done extensive research of their own. It is becoming clearer by the day the UK has more leverage it can use in negotiating a deal with the EU than was supposed when Flexcit was crafted and that a new trading agreement can be built to satisfy most mutual interests. We don't need to subject ourselves to enduring control by the EU.
It's time to move on. If so much time and effort and so many concessions need to be given up to only move the UK part of the way towards the independence voters have called for, there is no compelling reason not to focus directly on the endgame and bypass the 20+ year hiatus and reliance on structures being built that due to shifting political landscape may not ever be implemented. We should devote our limited resources and our efforts on a clean Brexit that removes the need to incorporate between one fifth and one quarter of EU law into national law enables us to skip 'interim' lay bys such as EFTA EEA and being bound by ECJ case law through the EFTA court.

The Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA) has shown us that a good, far reaching and beneficial deal can be done. The EU's desperate efforts to shore up that deal after it was held to ransom by Wallonia showed it was critical to the EU. A good trade and services deal with the UK is far more vital to the EU member states than the Canada agreement ever could be. There is no need to hold ourselves back.


  1. I'm embarrassed by how the Leave Alliance seems to have lost their collective shit over May's speech, with the North's deeming it "a car crash", and "the Tories Iraq". This mostly seems to be over conflating the start of a negotiating position with the end of one, and outright misreading May's remarks about the negotiation process within Article 50. The speech gave little detail, and focused little on process, so I think it's fair to assume that we should not take this as the be-all-end-all, especially when May has made it clear that concessions will be made either side, and a transitional arrangement will be put in place. When pointing this out, I was given the predictable torrent of abuse. It just disappoints me that a set who tend to put out the most interesting and constructive work in regards to Brexit are quite childishly lashing out at ghosts here. And I'm relatively supportive of Flexcit, although i think there's a halfway house between clean and soft which it seems May is going for.

    1. I completely agree with you. But it is worth noting the Leave Alliance is more than just Richard North, regardless of what he thinks, and not everyone shares his viewpoint on every matter.

      I too think May is going for a comprehensive FTA, knows it will take time (certainly more than two years) and will seek an interim accomodation that suits both the UK and EU. If there is political will, then the EU has shown rules are more like guidelines and things can be done.

  2. May I compliment you on a good blog. I wholly concur with the sentiments expressed in your opening paragraph, in respect of which the Dr North is to be heaped with gratitude, for the Flexcit roadmap has provided the foundation for consideration of the essential elements of brexit. Flexcit has clearly informed the starting point for arguments and analysis of those who have come later, (and has enabled me to identify the obvious delusion pedlars).
    That said, I tend to agree with MyNameIsn'tDave - the torrents of abuse on his blog for any query of any core assumptions or conclusions, even where plainly genuine and overtly legitimate, does leave the sense that only sycophants need post and your 6th para Is telling. To which end, I'd like to suggest the following link is worth a quick look: (not my authorship) which is a detailed referencing of MRA related issues.

    1. Thanks Jim. Yes, I too recommend Andrew Chapman's blog for its exploration of areas North doesn't find convenient because they don't support his conclusions.