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.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Fico to EU member state politicians: Don't trust your voters

Reuters has reported some comments made by Slovakia's Prime Minister, Robert Fico, yesterday which include this:
I am asking EU leaders to stop with adventures like the British and Italian referendums (...) on domestic issues which pose a threat to the EU.
He went on to pose this rhetorical question:
What will we do if ... there is a referendum in Italy on the euro and Italian citizens decide they don't want the euro?
This is just the latest in a line of clear examples of the 'them and us' segregation of the political class and voters, something that voters are increasingly deciding to challenge and reject.

The welfare of the EU matters far more to politicians like Fico than such triviality as Italian voters being able to determine the direction of their own country. Fico's solution to anything that undermines the EU getting its own way is to call on political leaders across the EU to deny voters in their countries any say on matters that could result in inconvenient outcomes. That is, to deny them democracy.

Supporters of projects like the EU and of the kind of politics that sees an elite govern in its own interests, beyond accountability, rather than govern in the interests of the voters who elect them, are evidently worried that people's resentment of the status quo is translating into action at the ballot box. Their response is two-fold:
  1. to follow the Fico approach and prevent voters having the opportunity to effect change in the first place, or 
  2. if votes are held and reject what the elite wants, to declare the vote was somehow flawed and seek to delegitimise it by claiming the voters were ignorant, or misled, or intended something else, or were seduced by 'populists', then pack the media with stories about protests, challenges, court cases to overturn the democratic outcome.
Politicians are supposed to be the servants of the people, carrying out their wishes and representing them in the law making chambers of the state. But over the years many of them have much preferred to accord themselves a special status, be a law unto themselves, and do whatever suits their own interests once they have been elected, assuming the role of rulers and masters. 

The political battle of this era isn't left vs right, or even the tussle of authoritarians vs libertarians, but between the anti-democratic political elite (and its hangers on) and ordinary people who are treated as pawns in power games. The Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump in 2016 suggests many ordinary people appear to be pushing back and lending their votes to those 'populists' who (shockingly) pledge to do what representatives are supposed to and put voter wishes and interests first. 

This is as it should be. Politics needs to change to counter the unhealthy two-tier hierarchy that has developed, so that real democracy, people power, has a chance of being realised. The likes of Robert Fico and the massed ranks of the EU and its supporters stand in our way.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A new blog for a new year

With the EU referendum done and after a long time spent reading the thoughts of others and looking on as the world continues to shape and reshape itself, I've decided to make a very small contribution to the sum of things and share my views and observations on wider matters through this new blog.

I'm writing this blog for myself. It's a way of getting things off my chest and clarifying my thinking on issues that resonate with me. But I hope some people may find my musings interesting, perhaps even thought provoking. If you're one of them, welcome.