The finish line of 29th March is nothing more than a mirageby Ian Dunt / October 2, 2018 / Leave a comment
Brexit has three qualities which make it so insufferable. It is very boring, very demanding and very long-winded. It is quite likely that you are going to have to talk and read about it for at least the next decade of your life.
That seems intolerable. After all, we’ve so far been discussing it for about two-and-a-half years and we all seem to have aged at twice the normal speed. The news, which used to be full of current affairs and the latest developments in ongoing moral and political debates, is now a series of ever-evolving contortions on the basis of technical jargon. Nothing actually seems to happen, ever, but it all makes an extraordinary amount of noise while not happening. The great battle of ideas which shapes the country has been replaced by incessant internecine party squabbling. Basic standards of decency in rhetoric and accuracy have deteriorated at a remarkable speed.
It feels like there’s a finish line in sight. March 2019 will see us leave the EU. A final deal needs to be brought before the British and European parliaments before then—probably by the end of the year. Article 50, which is not so much a law as a punishment mechanism, does at least have one virtue: it provides a firm end date.
But in the reality the finish line is a mirage. The negotiations are in fact split in two: one deals with the divorce and the other deals with the future relationship. The divorce covers the budget payment, citizens’ rights and the Irish backstop. The future relationship is where we agree what on earth we’re going to do in future. The first is a legal treaty. Once you sign it, you cannot go back on it. The second is just a political declaration. You can stuff it full of all sorts of sweetness and light and then get the daggers out afterwards.
This means that Brexit never ends. It goes on forever, with fewer and fewer returns. We leave the EU in late March 2019. On 1st April—perfect day for it—we start negotiating our future relationship.
Brexiters say this can be done quickly. They are wrong. Their preferred model—a Canada-style free trade agreement—took five years to negotiate and another two to ratify. That includes the…