Friday 26 April 2024

(Still not) facing up to Brexit

During the more dramatic phases of the Brexit process, it was not unusual for some big development to occur just as I was finalizing my post for this blog. It happens less often now, but it did so last week, with two important announcements being made last Thursday, by which time I had largely written what became last Friday’s post, on Gibraltar and Brexit (since this was about a possible deal which hasn’t yet happened, it was a double fault on my part). The first announcement, which I only mentioned in passing in that post, was of further delay in the introduction of import controls on EU goods. The second, which I didn’t mention at all, was about the possibility of an EU-UK Youth Mobility Scheme.

Not taking back control

It’s actually not such a bad idea to have a gap between announcements and analysis, as ‘hot takes’ often miss important nuance. That applies to a degree to the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) issue, which I’ll come back to, but hardly at all to that of import controls. In the latter case, there is hardly a ‘hot take’ available, given that almost everything that could be said about it has been said on the five previous occasions controls have been postponed. Last time I discussed the issue, two weeks ago, when the common user charge was announced (about which, interesting new data and analysis of its likely costs was published this week by the UK Trade Policy Observatory), I said in a response to a comment on that post that the reason the checks were going ahead this time was that a further postponement “would be too ludicrous”. So that was yet another blunder on my part, and a particularly foolish one as I ought to know that nothing is too ludicrous when it comes to Brexit.

I don’t see much point in rehashing the reasons for this mess, which has its roots in the refusal by the government, and by Brexiters in general, to accept that such controls were the inevitable consequence of hard Brexit and, as such, have been in prospect since at least January 2017. Yet only in December 2020 did the government produce its policy paper on the ‘2025 UK Border Strategy’, having meanwhile refused to extend the transition period, thus creating a highly unrealistic timescale for a system that is heavily reliant on government IT procurement, as well as a new physical infrastructure (some of which has turned out to be unnecessary as government plans chopped and changed). There is, no doubt, a whole book to be written about the many mis-steps there have been along the way, and it is a reminder that the UK was not only totally unprepared for this very core aspect of Brexit, but is unable to afford it.  

The only nuance to be added about this latest delay is to note that the government has now created an almost dizzying array of partial introductions and phasing-in of measures. Part of that was in-built from the start. Whereas the EU introduced full controls the day after the transition period ended, the UK version was not just later but always included, for example, the phasing of dates by which, first, new paperwork requirements were introduced and, then, physical checks, as well as there being different dates according to the risk categorization of the product in question. But, on top of that, further layers of complexity have gradually been added. Examples include the announcements in March of a delay until 2025 on checks on goods coming from Ireland and, in January, that the risk categorizations of various fruits and vegetables had been changed so as to come within the ambit of checks, but, in these cases, not until October.

This has made it easier for the government to pass off this latest delay as if it were no more than a further ‘technical’ change to risk categorizations, so that only the highest risk goods will have physical checks “turned on” at the end of this month (though the common user charge will begin, regardless of that). As a result, this delay has passed off more quietly than the previous ones, for few people, unless directly affected, can begin to understand, still less to be much agitated by, changes to what has become so byzantine a story. However, those who are affected most certainly are agitated by a system which, in the words of the Chair of the Small Business Federation (£), “is in complete disarray”.

Labouring the point

From a policy, or public administration, perspective, what has happened is a farce, and one which, politically, could have a major impact if, as it risks, there were to be a major outbreak of animal or even human health disease as the result of contaminated products being imported. However, for the moment, the main political talking point is whether this latest delay amounts to a political trap for an incoming Labour government, forcing it to be the one to introduce controls which are likely to create long queues and supply disruptions, as well as price increases and reduced consumer choice.

My own view is that it is more likely that, fearing such effects, the Conservatives’ intention is more about avoiding that happening before the election than laying a trap for Labour afterwards. That is because one of the few Brexit-related commitments Labour seem clear about is to seek a Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) agreement with the EU which, if made, would obviate the need for most of these controls. That would, however, entail Labour accepting ‘dynamic alignment’ (about which they have been coy) and, even though it is likely the EU will be agreeable, it will take time to negotiate. So it can’t be ruled out that Labour would need to introduce some additional, interim checks beyond whatever is in place by the time of the election.

It is a mark of this strange political period we are living through that there is much attention to what an incoming Labour government would do. It’s not just that, as I wrote recently, we are a country on hold. It’s that this has been going on for so long, and the opinion polls suggesting a huge Labour victory have proved so durable, that political commentators have virtually lost interest in speculating about the next election and are already talking more about the government that will follow or, even, the election which will follow that. In some cases, that next Labour government is already being written off as a failure, doomed to win only a “hollow victory”, to become immediately unpopular with the public, and to be internally “ungovernable” into the bargain. All these things may prove true, but such predictions seem rather premature when we are probably six months from an election that has still to be fought, let alone won.

No mobility please, we’re British

Nevertheless, speculation about what a future Labour government would do is perhaps the key aspect of the other of last Thursday’s news stories. This was what was unhelpfully and misleadingly reported as an offer from the EU to the UK of “free movement for young people” (meaning 18-30 year-olds). It was misleading, firstly, because it was not an ‘offer’ to the UK. It was a proposal and recommendation from the European Commission to the Council which, if accepted, would empower the Commission to launch negotiations with the UK. Secondly, as the detailed text makes clear, the proposal is not for ‘free movement’, even for this age group, but would have severe constraints including on length of time (probably four years) and location (movement would be confined to one EU country, rather than to the EU bloc), and several other restrictions.

The idea behind the proposal is not novel, in the sense that something like it was envisaged in the non-binding Political Declaration that accompanied the Withdrawal Agreement. That never got developed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement talks because Johnson and Frost declined to do so, in line with their minimalist approach to the negotiations. That the EU should be making such a proposal at this particular moment is a matter of some speculation, but the Commission’s text includes under the heading ‘reasons for and objectives of the recommendation’ the words: “In the course of 2023, the United Kingdom approached several (but not all) Member States with the intention of negotiating arrangements on youth mobility, modelled upon the United Kingdom’s youth mobility visa scheme. This approach would result in differential treatment of Union nationals.”

Thus many well-informed commentators, including Anand Menon, have suggested, and I agree, that this suggests that a key motivation for the timing of the proposal was to fend off UK attempts to make bi-lateral agreements with EU member states, and, conversely, to preserve a union-wide approach to managing UK-EU post-Brexit relationships. This relates to a point I made in last week’s post, about how the UK has never really learned the lesson contained in the very first draft of the EU’s approach to the Brexit negotiations, namely that the bloc would act as a bloc. That failure doesn’t just show a continuing naivety about the EU. In the case of seeking bilateral youth mobility agreements, it also shows a maladroitness of diplomacy since those EU countries excluded from such approaches, and likely to resent that exclusion, are also likely to include some with which the UK is keen to have good relations for other purposes, such as defence or the control of irregular migration.

However that may be, the government immediately rejected the EU’s ‘proposal’ whilst repeating its preference for “country-by-country deals” with some EU members thereby displaying, at the least, a diplomatic tin ear and, at most, and in fact, its failure to learn that wider lesson. With equal alacrity, Labour stated that “it has ‘no plans for a youth mobility scheme’ if it wins the general election later this year” and that “it had already pledged ‘no return to the single market, customs union or free movement’ if it takes office.”

There was little to be surprised about in either reaction. The stranglehold the Brexiters have on the Tory Party needs no rehearsing, and the tedious assertion (£) of one commentator that this development meant that “the EU has finally admitted it needs Britain more than we need it” suggests that some parts of Brexitland still have the 2016 calendar on the wall. As for the Labour Party, as I noted recently, infuriating as many ‘remainers’ find it, there is simply no prospect of it making any fresh commitments about the EU before the election. However, the formulation of Labour having ‘no plans’ for a YMS is one which leaves a tiny amount of wriggle-room, whilst the reference to the freedom of movement ‘red line’ is, strictly speaking, irrelevant given that YMS is not freedom of movement. So it remains possible that they will become bolder on YMS and other EU matters after the election.

What is a certainty is that they won’t do so any earlier. Labour resemble a team in a three-legged egg and spoon race, with the egg being made by Faberge. They aren’t going to risk the tiniest spill by giving the Tories and the Brexit press an angle to attack them. That carries its own risks, even pre-election, as it might boost support for the LibDems, who favour a YMS. It also carries risks for post-election room for manoeuvre. But, like it or not, and agree with it or not, it is obvious that Labour have decided to take those risks.

Them and us

The political dynamics of the YMS proposal for Labour have led to much comment that the Commission’s timing was unhelpful to Starmer. Such comment is misguided, not just because, as discussed above, the timing had a different motivation, but because it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding about Brexit. However, I don’t think that misunderstanding is quite as presented by Menon, when he says that “some in the UK need to rid themselves of the idea that the EU are falling over themselves to get down to business with a new Government”.

I take that point to an extent – the EU’s approach to the UK will be driven by its own interests, not vague sentiment – but I also take the points made in response to it by Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group, another highly respected expert on UK-EU relations. Rahman thinks, rather as I do, that the geo-political context is now so different to that which obtained during the Brexit negotiations that quite significant developments in those relations are in both the EU’s and the UK’s interests, and are not just limited to security in its narrow sense.

Nevertheless, what continues to have definitively changed as a result of Brexit is that the EU no longer has any interest in tip-toeing around political sensibilities in the UK. There was a great deal of that when Britain was an EU member, just as there is for any member. Brexiters represent it as a weakness of the EU that it needs to accommodate the often-diverging priorities of its members (for example in trade negotiations), whilst simultaneously lambasting the EU for over-riding those priorities. But the reality is that the EU is a constant negotiation between these two poles.

In the UK’s case, its multiple opt-outs from core EU projects showed Brussels’ recognition of the constraints of British politics. That recognition continued even during the Brexit negotiations, but effectively ended once the Theresa May Withdrawal Agreement was finalised*, and the change was crystallised in one specific moment, in February 2019, when Donald Tusk made his ‘special circle of hell’ comment about those who had led the campaign for Brexit despite having no idea about how to deliver it. He did so knowing, but no longer caring, that, as Leo Varadkar warned, the British press would ‘have a field day’ with his remarks.

At all events, the point now is that, although Brexiters and the pro-Brexit media remain obsessed with the EU, the EU is no longer interested in them, and still less in placating them. That is not just a matter of indifference. Crucially, it is because, to the extent that there is indeed an EU interest in agreeing closer relations with the UK, that interest is only served by durable agreements with the UK state, rather than any that might be ‘slipped through’ by any particular UK government. In other words, if agreements were only possible through carefully-timed diplomacy that is sensitive to the domestic political constraints of such a government, then they would be inherently fragile.

 So it isn’t just that the EU isn’t interested in placating UK domestic political divisions, it’s that its interests aren’t served by agreements which rest on it placating such divisions. That applies to the YMS, but, writ large, it applies to any and every agreement that might be reached, up to and including the UK re-joining the EU. The consequence is that any progress that a future Labour government might make in repairing the damage of Brexit will require it to build a sustainable domestic political consensus for that repair quite as much as it will require negotiation with the EU.

Us and them

It is clear we are a long way from such a consensus. Indeed, the two stories discussed in this post are amongst many examples of the way that Britain is incapable of facing up to Brexit. In the case of import controls, we literally shy away from the damage of enacting Brexit. In the case of YMS, we can’t give careful consideration to, let alone accept, even a quite modest reversal of the damage which enacting Brexit has done.

I’m sometimes told that it is only ‘people like you’ who are still going on about Brexit, and that no one except a few ‘remainiacs’ cares about it anymore. If that were true, the path ahead would be easy and quick, leading at the very least to a very much closer relationship with the EU. But the reality is that there are plenty of voters, and a very large segment of the political class and commentariat, who continue to care very deeply about Brexit and who have scarcely moved on from positions they held years ago. David Frost, writing with Robert Jenrick in the Telegraph this week (£), is a prime example, still chuntering on about the need to “defend” Brexit rather than treat it as “an embarrassing secret”, still holding out the myth of wonderful Brexit benefits that can be unleashed, and still – incredibly – trotting out the line that the Northern Ireland Protocol was only “temporary” and that the Windsor Framework should either be re-negotiated or unilaterally dropped. Meanwhile, for all that ‘remainiacs’ bemoan Starmer’s rather constipated timidity, Frost insists that even that would be enough for Labour to “undo” Brexit.

It would be nice, and in a better polity it would be accurate, to regard Frost as no more than a fringe figure, promoted well beyond his competence, and seeking to defend his own indefensible legacy. But he speaks for the now rampant Brexitism of the Tory Party, as shamefully displayed with the passing of the Rwanda Bill this week. The Rwanda policy comes from the same ideological maw as Brexit, exhibits the same preference for belief over reality (‘Rwanda is a safe country’) and the same fantasy that ‘sovereignty’ can make it so, shows the same indifference to international reputation, and will share the same fate of simply not being able to do what it promises it will do. The only sense in which it is not the embodiment of Brexitism is that the hardline Brexitists think it doesn’t go far enough.

It is this implacable Brexitism which, without representing the majority of the population, is powerful enough to hold the rest of the country to ransom. It is a large part of what prevents us from undertaking the kind of honest national self-assessment provided by an excellent new book by Financial Times’ journalist Michael Peel, What Everyone Knows about Britain (except the British). Of course, such an assessment, when undertaken collectively, is never going to yield unanimity – in a pluralist society, that’s impossible by definition – but we do need a broadly shared understanding of some key policy issues, most notably immigration, and of Britain’s place in the world. If there is such a thing as national political psychology, then we are in dire need of an intense course of psychotherapy.

Some may bridle at my use of ‘we’ and ‘us’ in all this. The fault, after all, lies with the Brexiters and Brexitists – with ‘them’, not ‘us’. It’s certainly highly tempting to think so, and I doubt I’m the only person to still have a “don’t blame me, I voted remain” mug lurking in the cupboard. But, as time goes by, I’m increasingly convinced that this is part of the problem that Brexit has bestowed, rather than part of any process of solution, and that conviction has been increased by reading Peel’s book. There’s a sense in which we have, collectively – through the kinds of political institutions and political discourse we have allowed to develop or persist – arrived at this point, whatever individual lack of culpability any one of us may, with some justice, feel we have.

I’m not sure where that thought leads (perhaps I’ll return to it in a future post). I don’t mean to absolve Brexiters for what they have done, and are still doing. But I suppose it implies the need for a greater recognition from those of us who oppose Brexit that what lies ahead is going to be a slow and arduous process of consensus-building as regards repairing the EU relationship, as well as of wider political reform. If Brexit teaches us anything, it is to be sceptical of quick, easy, and simple solutions to complex problems, and Brexit has bequeathed us a complex problem.

That said, the costs, both economic and non-economic, of Brexit are so high that we don’t have much time to play with. If consensus-building is the pre-condition of a solution, it won’t happen on its own but will require political leadership. Realistically, that can currently only come from a Labour government facing up to Brexit. So, whilst Labour’s extreme pre-election caution is clearly not going to change, the moment the election is won they must not delay in starting to provide such leadership. How likely is that? I don’t know, but it’s the best hope that we have.



*It could be argued that it re-appeared at the moment that Varadkar and Johnson had their ‘walk in the park’ that led to the revised Northern Ireland Protocol. However, I think that was much more about Varadkar’s and Ireland’s interest in the island of Ireland than it was about trying to accommodate English Brexiters.


  1. "would empower the Commission to launch negotiations with the EU. " Negotiations with HMG, not the EU...

  2. Superb analysis as usual.
    I thought we might have seen the last of Frosty the No-man, but hey, Brexit unicorns are penned in the sunlit uplands and still to be set free, so it is important that the Telegraph continues to give voice to his delusions.

  3. "As for the Labour Party, as I noted recently, infuriating as many ‘remainers’ find it, there is simply no prospect of it making any fresh commitments about the EU before the election."
    "So it remains possible that they will become bolder on YMS and other EU matters after the election."

    There is a nettle to be grasped about Labour: they are the Brexit Establishment B-Team, not the "Great Remainer Hope"
    The constant re-hashing of "They're not in power yet" and "Starmer will change" and variations on the same theme are frankly as nauseating as they are puerile.

    We elect governments on their Manifestos, not on pipe-dreams that they will bin those Manifestos as they move into Downing Street, and while Labour have form on lying to the electorate in Manifestos (1997 and PR electoral reform for instance) Labour are not interested in changing anything.

    As with utility privatisations, once given a majority, Labour will carry out the wishes of their Brexit Establishment Masters, and daydreaming that they won't does not assist the parties that *do* want to un-ravel Brexit and move us back into the Single Market in neutering a Labour landslide to the point where Starmer has no choice but to buckle under the weight of Confidence and Supply.

    1. Just a friendly warning. I notice that in this and some of your previous comments you disagree with things I write. That’s no problem. But keep it civil. In this latest, and a couple of your previous, you’re right at the edge of being blocked from commenting. Since I re-opened comments on the blog the tone has been mainly reasonable and it’s going to stay that way.

    2. Respectfully noted Chris 👍, however I was referencing the kind of posts on Twitter made by the "Labour Faithful" with my pithy remarks, not your content, and I should have made that clear.

    3. Fair enough - apology accepted.

    4. 'We elect governments on their Manifestos ...'

      I don't know what fraction of voters are aware of the content of party manifestos, but it must be a small one.

    5. I think it's fair enough to point out that parties are elected on the campaign they fight, and that it's often wishful thinking to expect leaders to "change" and do something they are not telling anyone after they win. (I note that a lot of people were saying similar things about Johnson while he was saying contradictory things to different people before he became PM)

      I'm still not exactly sure what the "Brexit establishment" is or how it is that Starmer being their B-team works, beyond that this is what is often asserted about moderate/centrist Labour leaderships in a wider context. But I guess that comes from my being reasonably sure that the kind of high-finance people who like to fund lobbyists and donate to parties are not generally all that pro Brexit.

  4. Brexit is an asymmetrical Civil War for the UK. A very British Civil War in that nobody died and the structures of power within the country weren’t too noticeably changed from the outside. But like a conventional, symmetrical civil war, ordinary lives were tragically ruined, families and friendships destroyed, and relationships with neighbouring countries were soiled significantly. The ‘cause’ present in most ideological conflicts seems to be lacking with Brexit, and the Tories, enabled by the Labour party- themselves fully subverted to the British Establishment since Blair, pathetically acquiesced.

    The idea that Brexit is a solution looking for a problem holds a truth, but not the one that appears in the wild- that is was a way for the Conservatives to retain power, nullify the UKIP wing and avoid EU regulations regarding offshore accounts. In fact, it is a very British coup d’etat- one fostered on the remaining class yet to be fully colonised by the parasitical British Establishment, the British people themselves. It really doesn’t matter who is in power in the UK now, as Brexit has set the ideological landscape for several generations to come in the UK, in other words, the UK voted itself into a type of national self incarceration, and has to live with the consequences indefinitely, solely for the benefit of the powers that be. Divide and Rule at its best.

    I once asked a very well known war photographer about conflict and resolution. I proposed that the idea of conflict implies a resolution. As someone who had been a witness to conflict first hand in Northern Ireland, he corrected me with great wisdom. Resolution isn’t the outcome in such a civil conflict. The inevitable result is exhaustion, without any kind of permanent resolution. Unfortunately, I see the UK’s situation mirrored in the observation above. There is no resolution to Brexit, barring a complete rejoining of the UK to the EU orbit, which would imply no opt- outs, no special conditions and no concessions from the EU- membership with the same conditions as everybody else. I can’t see the UK ever accepting this reality (ironically, one that the UK gave itself). Perhaps, this, in itself, is the point and the objective of Brexit.

    The UK isn’t a country. Like the EU, it is a union of different countries, bound by a series of historical agreements and treaties. The idea that this disparity can ever be united to have a conclusive dialogue about what to do regarding Brexit seems like wishful thinking, to put it mildly, certainly a dialogue led by the very players who brought you the disaster in the first place, and especially given the statistics and voting tendencies in the nations that make up the UK regarding Brexit.

    Anyway, that won’t be the direction of travel post Brexit for the UK. We don’t live in a world of consensus politics anymore (doubtful we ever did). Permaconflict via political polarisation hyped by a rapacious media environment is the perfect storm normal and is here to stay, until such time as asymmetric violence gives way to the good old fashioned stuff and we go around the war cycle all over again (heaven help us- but profits for the international corporatist structures must be maintained). Sadly, this is our inevitable nature and fate as humans, and Brexit is a classic example of the worst that humanity can bestow on itself besides war. As an island, Brexit gives the UK its realistic place in the world. Marooned, its relevance questioned and undermined by its isolation, and subject to external forces it has given away its say in. There will be benefits for a few, but most will never see the benefit, or sense of Brexit.

    It is a sad situation, one that I wouldn’t wish on anybody, but it’s happened, to me, to you and everybody involved. Until the Brits have exhausted the Brexit fever, and this could take some generations, the UK is condemned to a fate it gave itself for no rational reason. The worst is yet to come, as the UK is only now beginning to understand what Brexit is.

    1. The UK isn't an island. Yet.

    2. Correct. It is a collection of islands.

    3. The very big difference between the EU and the UK is the England dominates the latter such that it can force its own views on the rest of its union, Brexit being the perfect example (it was the English in Wales that brought about the Welsh leave vote). The other nations don’t have the political power or resource to bring the English (and largely southern English) to their senses. So yes, Brexit will go on, as an anchor that the nation will have to carry on dragging across the seabed.
      Please can I change my nationality to ‘Inhabitant of the British and Irish Isles’? At least the part of me won’t have left.

    4. As an island nation,...

    5. The UK would more accurately and honestly be called the English Union, as it was created by, and mainly serves, the English.

      It's true the UK isn't a country, it really is England and a set of colonies, though they are not called that. One thing Brexit did was rip the sticking plaster from the Anglo-Saxon/Celtic conflict, starting 1500 odd years ago. The adhesive strength of this plaster varies depending on location but in addition to the many interesting outcomes of Brexit, it will be interesting to see where this aspect ends.

  5. Agreed. Looked at from Ireland it seems almost certain that, in the event of an application from the UK to rejoin, the EU will not look for a UK political consensus but to the complete acceptance by the UK of the aquis communautaire.

  6. The article correctly points out that the EU will only consider “durable” arrangements with the U.K. - ie ones that survive a change of government. This means that substantive partnerships with the EU are unlikely if the Brexiteer extremists could ever hold the reins of power again. So unless we see a complete excision of the Tories, substantive partnerships are only possible in the context of constitutional reform (including PR). Given how our political system let the country down over Brexit, such reform is long overdue.

  7. Concur with your footnote. Mrs May thought the EU should throw Ireland under the bus (effectively out of the single market), requiring it to have border controls between it and the rest of the EU, referring to the UK as a "more important" country. Ireland would just have to bend to its former imperial masters wishes as so often in the past. The EU declined to sacrifice the interests of a member state and made clear that the route to a deal was through Dublin. The optics of Johnson traveling to Dublin were too difficult for the British so in deference to their sensitivities a neutral venue was agreed.

    There was never the slightest chance of Varadkar agreeing to set aside the GFA, to leave the single market, or, even more ludicrously (but condescendingly suggested by John Humphries on BBC Radio4 Today to foreign minister Simon Coveney) rejoin the UK.

    Instead, Northern Ireland's unionists reaped what they had sown by campaigning for Brexit in the hope of a hard land border and in trusting Boris Johnson.

    1. Some will think your comments are fanciful. I happen to agree with you. I read Dominic Cummings’ analysis and his view was that the border was ‘Macron’s problem’. Brexiters just abdicated responsibility for the Irish border. Johnson used to say that Common Travel Area predated joining the EU and many accepted this analysis. It was extraordinary how he got away with saying something so superficial and irrelevant. A lot more people in Britain are going to have learn and understand a lot more about regulated trade.

    2. Was the aim of the Brexiteers to worsen the status quo for UK passport holders while maintaining it for the Irish? They are as free as ever to travel,study, settle, vote and work in the EU and the UK. Who else holds such privileges?

    3. Throwing Ireland under the bus was never on the cards. Most of the members of the EU are small countries. The day the EU throws small members under the bus is the day the EU falls apart.

      There is irony in the fact that EU membership is almost a no brainer for small countries, but the real question is why countries like Germany, France, Italy and the UK would ever sign up? That requires leaders who understand that even countries their size can no longer go it alone in the modern world.

      It was the danish finance minister who said: "There are two kinds of European nations. There are small nations and there are countries that have not yet realized they are small nations.". Which produced the predictable responses from the UK, completely missing the point.

  8. You are making the common psychological error of projecting the recent (Brexit) past into the future (we all do it). The current odds of effectively reversing Brexit within the next ten years must be considerably lower than the overturning of the seemingly impregnable Tory majority from a 2019 perspective.

    1. Good luck with that. It appears that Brexit attitudes are hardening into facets of identity. Until that breaks down and a common consensus develops regarding the UK's place in the world and its relationship with the EU, the possibility of reversing Brexit remains remote.
      As Chris Grey writes, the EU will not countenance any sort of reversal until such a consensus across the political spectrum is evident. Sector specific agreements yes, perhaps including a SPS deal. But significant reversal of the core aspects of Brexit would necessitate some sort of treaty that could not be easily undone by a successor government.

    2. The logic of that position is that a vociferous minority can hold the country to ransom, almost indefinitely. My point is that the tectonic political plates will move unexpectedly and chaotically, but in a proper democracy this situation can't persist. I think we have a consensus at least that Brexit is fundamentally and historically important in terms of living standards and health outcomes - and not just identity politics. After all, that is how it was sold by the Brexiteers and the Brexit media.

    3. @Anonymous. I largely agree that attitudes to Brexit are now a baked in facet of identity and not for changing.

      Hence the likelihood of the United Kingdom as a whole rejoining the EU inside a generation is remote.

      There is no doubt that Brexit was/is a project of English Nationalism as stated a couple of days ago by the former advisor to PM David Cameron.

      Given that England makes up 85% of the UK population what England wants happens.
      But the English in their arrogance have miscalculated. Scotland and Northern Ireland are distinct societies, both voted Remain in 2016 and in both support for the EU has only risen higher since. Both are furious with the English.

      Both have pathways out the UK union (and in the case of NI is already on the pathway) and as the ghastly malign effects of Brexit unfold they will leave the UK union.

      Little England and its last colony Wales will sail on alone.

  9. Another great blog - many thanks.
    Thanks also for your warning to Harry James Books - the general tone of comments here is one of the things which sets this site above the majority of the "rant repositories" out there. Looking forward to next Friday already!

    1. Thanks, re blog. Re comments, it's a fine line - I don't want to be heavy-handed but it's easy for things to slip, bit by bit, into the usual online insult-fest. I've actually been very pleased by the way things have gone since I re-enabled the comments facility, and have learnt from some of the comments.

  10. With respect to the Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) agreement with the EU, somewhere in the back of my mind I have a recollection of Labor clinging to the New Zealand which the EU had already rejected. Am I wrong?

    1. This is the big ambiguity. They have often referred to the NZ (equivalence) model in this context and, as you say, that has already been rejected (for good reasons, it wouldn't work in the UK context). But I think that when it comes to it they will agree a dynamic alignment model.

  11. Having read lots of your blog posts, I usually agree by and large. This time, however, I agree emphatically, from start to end.

    Primarily for geostrategic reasons, I've always thought that I happily will greet Scotland, England and Wales welcome back, jointly or separately, once you've had your much needed sessions on the psychoanalysist's couch.

    (Who am I, who prefer to remain anonymous?
    I grew up in the Nordics at a time when only Denmark, but none of the other four countries, left EFTA for the EEC — it never got as serious effects, as some people had warned for — an experience that makes me wary of hyperboles about catastrophic results of Brexit.)

  12. I strongly encourage you to write about the aspect you discuss in the last three paragraphs of this post. I would also suggest that it should be in a form much longer than the usual length of your weekly blog post. There is a great deal to unpack and explore - possibly even in a book.

    1. Thanks - I'll consider doing that (not the book! But a dedicated post of whatever length).

    2. While we are asking the DJ for ole favourites…….can you explain why non-trading firms in the Single Market follow EU rules? I have been asked by Brexiters why SM rules are not just applied exclusively to goods and services traded with the EU.

    3. Non-trading firms don’t need to follow any rules

    4. Are you sure? How about the Working Time directives?

    5. I think the poster was making a joke i.e. firms don't need to follow any rules if they are not in business (cease to trade). At least I hope so.

    6. With the reference to the Working Time directive, I'm guessing they're talking about directives rather than regulations. With things like the Working Time directive you're not following EU rules, you're following your national law which (hopefully) aligns with the EU directive. And national laws can obviously go way beyond what's described in the EU treaties, and don't just cover goods and services.

      I also considered it might be a joke, but a huge number of people don't understand the difference between directives and regulations.

  13. EU nations have suffered a brain drain to the UK for years. Fortunately, Brexit put a stop to it.
    Now, to say openly that you don't want brains aged 18-30, for a young European means that the UK is a place that offers no reason to expatriate.
    Thank you.

  14. First, apologies for not having read your blog for many months. I fear other world affairs have rather taken my attention away.
    Second, I realise that Brexit events go from bad to worse as any offer to ease the burdens is rejected.
    Third, my patience with Labour’s attitude is wearing thin but I hold on to the hope that all will change when they get their majority.
    Fourth, my hope usually disappears when I read other commentators, Peter Foster (FT) in particular.
    Finally I think I will have to read Michael Peel’s book to achieve peak despair.

    1. "Third, my patience with Labour’s attitude is wearing thin but I hold on to the hope that all will change when they get their majority."

      So in your opinion Starmer and every member of the Shadow Cabinet yet asked is going to swing 180 degrees from their openly stated ambition to follow through with hard Brexit - no Single Market, no Customs Union, no nothing - once elected?

      Leaving aside the question of why anybody would vote for a party which so blatantly deceives the electorate, this belief seems to me on a par with the mass delusion of the French after the Battle of France, where they convinced themselves that Petain was playing some clever "Double Jeu" rather than selling out their country to the Third Reich.

    2. Michael Peel's book is not about brexit per se but more about the delusions people can have about themselves, their society and people. Its actually more general than its title implies (at least in the early chapters where I am reading at the moment) and pointing out different misperceptions in different countries as well as those specific to the UK. My country has its own delions: for instance the UK's Rwanda legislation isalmost a copy of Australia's Cambodia legislation (a complete failure btw, the Cambodian government was given many millions of dollars to resettle 10 (yes 10) people). Politicians in both countries have been whipping up fears regarding immigration, resulting in very exaggerated perceptions of its impact and very stupid (and cruel) solutions.

  15. I would assume our Conservative government won't go with the Youth Mobility Scheme because it would likely over time engender positive pro-EU sentiment in the hearts and minds of british participants and pro-british feelings among those from the EU mainland. I wonder if the government has openly declared this as a motive.

  16. I don't know if you saw this on Con Home, a rare burst of anti-brexitism on the Tory site...

  17. There is nothing wrong for a young person to explore other places/ experiences and spend working time abroad. That's a great choice available for Europeans in the EU 27. If I was 30 years younger, I would like to spend some time living and working in a seaside town in Spain, Italy or Greece. Thanks to Brexit, it's no longer possible to work, study or love in another European country.

  18. Thanks as always for your detailed analysis and sanity.
    There’s something so pitiful about the UK’s attempts to strike bilateral mobility deals with individual EU states, acting as if the EU doesn’t exist and wishing it away - whilst simultaneously disproving the age-old Brexit complaint about the ability of individual states to make important sovereign decisions, especially in relation to third countries. The EU has played an absolute blinder in asserting itself. Meanwhile the cause of UK youth mobility remains tied up in knots.

  19. Thanks as always for your detailed analysis, rigour and sanity.
    There’s something so pitiful about the UK’s attempts to strike bilateral mobility deals with individual EU states, acting as if the EU doesn’t exist and wishing it away whilst simultaneously disproving the age-old Brexit argument about the ability of individual states to make important sovereign decisions. The EU has played an absolute blinder in asserting itself. Meanwhile UK youth mobility remains tied up in knots.

  20. Your consistently excellent blog Chris seems by this posting to have engendered some extremely notable and insightful comments from your readers.

  21. Great blog. For the broken political discourse, I think this has been clear since Dominic Cummings decided to marry Russian 'political technology' to the power of the RW press in 2016. The conjuring of a fantasy world with power that the Tory 'party in the media' has to the agenda at the BBC and for most of the centre/left commentariat has been rather unstoppable. It just seems beyond us to break out of. For example, if you'd told me before 2016 the NHS would be in the state its in I'd have said the BBC would talk about nothing else. Yet Angela Rayner's living arrangements 15 years ago it is.

  22. When a politician says they have no plans to do something, that means they are definitely going to do it.

  23. I find it intriguing that the EU is openly having discussions about offering specific areas of reprochement to the UK, particularly at a time which means any agreed approach would be just when there is an expected change of government. It is obviously (except not to the Conservatives) in everyone's interest to restore a co-operative relationship, and I wonder whether they have accepted the reality that it may have to be a collection of multiple individual treaty agreements like for Switzerland rather than a single overarching relationship (full EU or EEA membership)?

    1. We all have to accept reality. But reality changes - usually unexpectedly in politics and economics. The fear of the Brexiteers is that gradual, common sense realignment with the EU will only focus more public attention on the point of Brexit - and remaining outside while opting-in, with no say in the rules.

    2. I think it's exactly like Chris says: the EU no longer has to care about the state of British politics. With respect to EU member states the Commission has to tread carefully, building consensus, feeling out the possibilities, etc. With respect to non-EU/EEA countries it just won't bother. Even the EFTA countries get more attention from the EU Commission than the UK gets.

      The YMS would become part of the TCA. No more individual agreements.

  24. I find it intriguing that the EU is openly discussing making a formal approach to the UK on a softening of the current Conservative-inspired Brexit arrangements, at a time when agreement on an actual approach will coincide with an expected change of government. Is it possible that they have decided a piecemeal approach to a more collaborative future relationship (which everyone except hard core Conservatives sees as desirable) is needed in the absence of a route to any overall agreement such as EEA membership? With the aim of ending up with a working relationship on something closer to the Swiss model.

    Mobility of young people is an excellent first move if that is the case, it will be supported by those from all countries who gained from it in the past - in the UK's case those who worked as travel reps or chalet hosts as well as those who were able to work professionally in a different country at an early stage in developing their career. We have just returned from Spain, and two of the people we met commented how formative it was for them to spend a couple of years in Britain in their twenties.


  25. Chris - as ever an interesting blog spanning more than Youth Mobility & Import controls - the latter I agree is a shambles & as you indicate, Labour will likely pick up the pieces and get the abuse that goes with the costs of administering import controls and inspections.

    Your writing this "...But I suppose it implies the need for a greater recognition from those of us who oppose Brexit that what lies ahead is going to be a slow and arduous process of consensus-building as regards repairing the EU relationship.."

    I agree wholeheartedly, albeit as a leaver and I trust, a realistic brexiteer, who always thought that Brexit was a process and that it would take 10 or so years to 'settle down' given the not exactly happy 45 preceding years.

    I've often likened Brexit to the 5 or so stages of bereavement - maybe we're all more in the 'acceptance phase' - not happy that we've lost a loved one (ok, loved is the wrong word here) , more that we accept a person is departed & we have to move on - which, in reality is a good thing. Grieving as we all know - can take years.

    Specifically, on Youth Mobility, I think the EU and the Commission in particular had been more honest in its intentions and reciprocity clauses. The reality is that far more youth from the EU will likely want to come to the UK (as students, bar workers whatever) than the other way around - the numbers of EU citizens having the right to stay in the UK is roughly in the ratio 6:1 - therefore even if 5 times the number of students come to the UK for study or work , far fewer UK will likely go to the EU because it just isn't quite so attractive.
    Plus, the EU are not offering EU wide mobility - it's limited to a member state, the EU want UK education fees c. £9K per annum when 3rd party states (the EU is now a 3rd party to the UK) pay c. £25K per annum - I suspect this will ultimately be why the YMS fails at the first hurdle. Youth unemployment across the EU is especially high in Greece, Italy and Spain - I can fully understand the benefit of these states benefiting from UK largesse but it has to be reciprocated for it to be equitable. We all know - the EU only , can only do what's best for the EU - likewise with the UK now. As currently proposed it's hard even for Labour to accept the lop sided proposal as is.

    On Ireland - migration from the North , I'm not talking Northern Irish, it's non UK people who travel to NI and use the CTA to cross 'the border' is starting to get the attention of Dublin - the legacy of the NIP/Windsor Framework was always a slow burn & some of its consequences unforseen as we are now beginning to understand.

    1. On seems the obvious solution is for the Republic to terminate the CTA...its not a treaty anyway..

    2. "I agree wholeheartedly, albeit as a leaver and I trust, a realistic brexiteer, who always thought that Brexit was a process and that it would take 10 or so years to 'settle down' given the not exactly happy 45 preceding years.

      I've often likened Brexit to the 5 or so stages of bereavement"

      Aha! Brexit as a bereavement.

    3. Bereavement can be a positive too :-)

    4. "Plus, the EU are not offering EU wide mobility - it's limited to a member state"

      Of course, because EU wide mobility is exclusively for EU citizens. No non-EU citizen can get full freedom of movement in the EU by any means, except by marrying an EU citizen.

      "The EU want UK education fees c. £9K per annum when 3rd party states (the EU is now a 3rd party to the UK) pay c. £25K per annum"

      So? This is setting the boundaries of negotiations. If you want something else, suggest it. That's what a negotiation is. We saw this a lot during the Brexit negotiations: the EU makes a proposal, the UK government falls over itself to complain how it's terrible, but never actually comes up with a counterproposal, meaning the EU position get adopted by default.

      The UK needs to put it's big-boy pants on and start negotiating like an adult.

      But frankly, a YMS that doesn't cover tuition fees seems kind of pointless. Why would anyone use it?

    5. The Common Travel Area rules apply only to British and Irish citizens.
      "Other nationalities travelling within the CTA remain subject to national immigration requirements. You need to check if you need a UK visa if you’re not British or Irish and are travelling to the UK from Ireland."

    6. CTA rules only apply to British & Irish -agreed - however, once in the UK and, in effect NI, non UK citizens & illegals can travel with relative immunity to Ireland - there are no border checks between NI Ireland - because the Windsor Framework and preceding NIP put them in the Irish sea. It was, and is an unintended consequence.

    7. "Brexit was a process and that it would take 10 or so years to 'settle down' given the not exactly happy 45 preceding years." you write John.

      Well, the UK Government is delaying the implementation of Brexit, as an example checks on incoming goods, in effect hiding negatives.

      I am not sure that will be possible for 10 or so years.

      Some serious negatives are beyond their control and the cracks are already appearing.

    8. The 6:1 ratio is merely a result of relative populations sizes. 448:67 million is roughly 6.5:1

    9. Other CTA rules according to

      Asylum seekers presently in the UK who do not qualify for asylum in Ireland, cannot use the CTA to travel from the UK to ROI and that ROI has the right to stop them at the border and prevent them from entering ROI. Also, under the CTA the UK has to take them back.

      The UK government further specifies that if there is a deportation order against you, you cannot travel freely within the CTA. Hence those marked for deportation, cannot travel to ROI either and the UK has to take those back.

      2) The UK government further specifies that if there is a deportation order against you, you cannot travel freely within the CTA. Hence those marked for deportation, cannot travel to ROI either and the UK has to take those back.

    10. mc - here's the rub - if you're in the UK , legally or not, it's still pretty easy to travel to Northern Ireland - no passport needed other than than a valid ticket.

      As there are no border controls between NI & RoI - the Irish genuinely have no Idea whi is entering their country from NI.

      It's one of the reasons why Dublin, rightly finds the ever growing 'tent city ' and other migrant hotspots so challenging. Migration in Ireland is a real problem & Dublin are struggling to manage & mitigate the problem.

    11. Rest assured, there will be plenty of the CTA etc in Friday's post!

  26. (which everyone except hard core Conservatives sees as desirable)

    Labour are now hard core Conservatives. They have categorically stated that there will be no rowing back on any aspect of Brexit, therefore what the EU may or may not be openly discussing doesn't really matter.
    That more collaborative future relationship will only happen if the LibDems, Plaid and the SNP are voted into a strong enough position to stymie Starmer using Confidence and Supply.

    1. I don’t believe this is true of Labour. But only time will tell.

    2. "I don’t believe this is true of Labour. But only time will tell."

      What don't you believe from the following:

      "...the first step in doing so is to ensure Britain thrives in its new role in the world by ensuring we Make Brexit Work.
      There are some who say “we don’t need to make Brexit work - we need to reverse it.”
      I couldn’t disagree more..."
      "We cannot afford to look back over our shoulder because all the time we are doing that we are missing what is ahead of us.
      So let me be very clear:
      Under Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU.
      We will not be joining the single market.
      We will not be joining a customs union."

    3. I don't think we can know whether Labour are really now hard core Conservatives. I agree with Chris Grey's view that they are holding back from admktting to any policies that would allow the Conservative-supporting press to attack them, at least while their electoral prospects are sufficiently supported by Conservative failures. But it is disappointing to people like me who would welcome clear arguments about making the UK a better place - just getting the NHS and public services back to roughly where they were in 2010 would be a decent ambition.

      On the EU there is no prospect for rejoining in a single parliament, and in fact not unless there is a cross-party consensus. But a much more collaborative relationship would be welcome, and could mitigate some of the more deleterious effects of Brexit.

      I agree that it would be good if there were a stronger pro-EU voice in Parliament from the smaller parties but I can't think of any tactical voting strategy under FPTP that might encourage that. It might help if the LibDems and Greens could agree an electoral pact to work together in winnable seats for either party.

    4. Of course Labour are not "hard core Conservatives". As far as I am aware, no-one in Labour is talking about the joys of Brexit "sovereignty" or other dubious Hannan style Brexit "benefits".
      Brexit is seen as a handicap at best, and we can form our own judgements how viably a highly indebted, low productivity and low growth economy can carry significant self-imposed long term handicaps.

    5. Jonathan B: "I can't think of any tactical voting strategy under FPTP that might encourage that."

      There is one, and if you contact me on Twitter I'll happily share it with you.

    6. Mark Sullivan: "Of course Labour are not "hard core Conservatives"."

      I can only imagine that you haven't got a clue what Labour policies are.

      On the five major rafts of policy, there isn't even a grey streak, let alone clear blue water between Labour and the Tories.

      Arguably, the NHS would be better off under the Conservatives, since the disgusting Sweeting is going to hand it lock stock and barrel to his US Health Insurance owners.

    7. You are right - I only have a small and approximate clue.
      This is because most people have no interest in political strictures or indeed manifestos - which can be changed on a whim. My parents always voted Conservative and never read or took any interest in election manifestos. If people vote for Starmer, it will be because they feel he is fundamentally honest (for a politician), decent, diligent, competent, intellectually qualified and sufficiently motivated by the national interest.

  27. I'm drinking from my 'DON'T BLAME ME. I VOTED REMAIN.' mug as I'm reading this.

  28. I read this post, and re-read the earlier one from 2022 you linked to, with particular interest in the light of our experience this week. We buy a veg box from a well-known organic scheme and found a Colorado beetle, alive, in the chard we were washing at the time. I knew what it was because I worked, in my youth, for HM Customs and Excise at London Port, when posters of these dangerous pests were displayed at all ports. Passengers were not allowed to bring in potatoes or plants because of the risk and staff were alert to them. How lucky was it that I knew what it was even before I confirmed with Google?
    What has followed so far, having notified Defra’s plant agency and our supplier has been responsive so far. We froze the beetle (it was still swimming in the sink after over a week in the fridge) as we thought it might be needed and someone will come to collect it this week. No-one in my family, or a farmer I spoke to, had even heard of Colorado beetles before!

    I have said frequently, to anyone who might listen, that the risks we are running on imports with no border controls is high. I worked in Exports, managing staff in the 70s responsible for validating export forms, and know how often those forms were wrongly completed. This happened even though shipping agents did these day in, day out for their clients. Goods delayed, tides missed so ships couldn’t sail many, many times. How much harder for these forms to be correct now with a whole generation ignorant of them and despite the use of the internet?
    I worry for those farmers and food producers as well as myself and my children and grandchildren who are, and will be, affected by the long term fallout from Brexit. I am and was a remainer but ‘remainiacs’ now irritate me: we have to deal with what is and work to improve/change/educate our population and political leaders not continue to berate Labour for refusing to wave a magic wand. I save my ire for the mainstream media who are complicit, complacent and craven (with notable exceptions).
    Sorry for the long comment but hope it’s of interest and thank you so much for all your work and wisdom.

  29. Dear Prof. Grey - super post.

    You write:
    "... But the reality is that there are plenty of voters, and a very large segment of the political class and commentariat, who continue to care very deeply about Brexit and who have scarcely moved on from positions they held years ago."
    "It is this implacable Brexitism which, without representing the majority of the population, is powerful enough to hold the rest of the country to ransom."

    YES!!!. For a long time I I've wanted to read something like this.

    Put the 2 extracts together and you have your "Faberge Egg" being carried by the Labour Party towards the next election.

    Unless a large majority of the electorate are forced by the real consequences of Brexit to finally see it, in itself (not just in its implementation), as a serious mistake - the "implacable Brexitism" will continue to "hold the rest of the country to ransom" and there will not be a large enough and durable enough majority for a seriously closer alignment with the EU. And if sufficient numbers of the voters aren't there, neither can be a party in Government to represent them, neither the Labour Party or the LibDems or anyone else. We are still (sort of) a democracy.

    I feel that for the good of country, the longer the Tories hang on the better (seriously!). Then more and more of the "Brexit Reality Show" will kick in and become more difficult to ignore. For my taste the biggest disaster that resulted from the Brexit movement was the Johnson HMG and those that followed from it. At least, if they (and Reform) lose the next GE resoundingly it would be one small sign of that the "implacable Brexitism" is beginning to lose its hold on a large enough part of the country.

    1. "Unless a large majority of the electorate are forced by the real consequences of Brexit to finally see it, in itself (not just in its implementation), as a serious mistake"

      Not going to happen. I think in this respect something like Planck's principle applies:

      "A new [political reality] does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually [leave politics]."

      It's going to take a while.

    2. But Brexiteer politicians and activists only ever constituted a small minority. (By the way I don't include opportunists and shape shifters like Johnson and Truss.) For the normal public, the EU and our membership was never a major concern or ideological identity. Respected electoral observer John Curtice points to rapidly diminishing Brexit belief among Leave voters - which is exactly what you would expect if no realistic benefits are likely.

    3. "Not going to happen. I think in this respect something like Planck's principle applies:"

      Not really, because Brexit is dead. The only people left as Believers are the terminally dense, the Nazis hiding in plain sight under the Tory and Reform banners, and racists.
      Not one of the people I fell out with over Brexit still believes in it.
      It survives simply because Labour have been told by their Establishment Masters that they must support it - even if the vast majority of their membership and voters don't want it.
      They are relying on the Labour Sheep effect to get a big enough majority to keep steamrollering on with it.
      If the next election were held under STV-PR, Labour and the Tories would be lucky to get 300 seats between them - and that's how dead as a Dodo Brexit is.

  30. If the two developments only the second one came as a surpise.

    The first one, the UK governments incapability or unwillingness to introduce border checks, has already become somewhat like a running joke.
    Just not even remotely funny.

    The second one, however, the almost instant opposition of even a remote chance of a YMS was very surprising.

    First the almost ignorant misinterpretation that the designated receiver of the proposal was the Council, i.e. the EU's own members, and not the UK.

    Then the extremely flawed interpretation, even by quality media, of the proposal's content as "youth freedom of movement", despite the very obvious limit on duration and being valid for one country only.

    As some other comments have already pointed out, these limits aren't surprising themselves.
    Actual freedom of movement of people is a privilege for Single Market members and will not be made available to third countries.

    It is a bit surprising, and likely annoying to a lot of their voters, that Labour has not taken these explicit non-FoM limitations as an opportunity rather than reacting with the same outright rejection.

  31. Surely the timing of the EU’s YMS offer is partly determined by the knowledge that the EU Commission is running out of time. The next Commission will likely be selected by a new EU Parliament far keener on state sovereignty and there is the prospect of similarly-minded national leaders like Le Pen and Wilders coming to power. It is clear that the EU does not, in fact, act as a bloc regarding mobility, as non-EU migration, work visas etc. are member state competences, and, since Brexit, Britain has already confirmed one bilateral mobility agreement with an EU member state, Ireland.

    It’s therefore a possibility that EU MS would indeed negotiate bilaterals, as is in their power. It also seems clear that negotiating bilaterals would be very much more in the British national interest than a pan-EU deal, due to the extremely varied profiles of Britons migrating to various Member States and consequent desirability of tailored agreements rather than a one size fits all approach.

    My prediction is that should Starmer continue the current government’s approach of only pursuing bilaterals then within the next Parliamentary term we’ll have agreed several bilaterals with EU member states.

    1. The Anglo-Irish agreement dates from the 1920’s and is a special case recognising the then new constitutional status of Northern Ireland as a hybrid being both a part of the UK union and also a part of the whole and indivisible island of Ireland - as laid out in the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 and then updated in the 1998 GFA (another constitutional document) and indeed this was the basis of the 2020 NIP (which is part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Act) and which is also a constitutional document relating to NI.

      The Anglo Irish Act is in no way a template for bilateral youth mobility deals with individual EU states.
      As the UK Trade Policy Observatory (a think tank related to Chatham) noted in a position paper way back during the transition period what the British negotiators then under Lord Frost really wanted was a mobility pact with the EU for professionals- especially in finance- so as to allow UK bankers and business leaders a work around to live and work in EU nations and so remain as directors in charge of the EU subsidiaries of UK domiciled companies without being an EU citizen.
      Quite rightly the EU said no. Brexit means Brexit.

    2. Erm, Northern Ireland is part of the UK. It is not in any way a part of the Republic of Ireland. ‘Whole and indivisible!’ What a strange take.

      I don’t think any other mobility arrangement with any other EU member would look like the one with Ireland. That does not mean that none can or will be signed. I mean, the whole point of the EU YMS offer was to provide a pan-EU alternative to bilaterals. It therefore recognised that such things were possible.

    3. The 1919 partition of Ireland was accepted at the time as being a temporary answer to the problem of Protestant led and Tory supported violence brought on by the move to Home Rule for Ireland.

      The fact that partition was temporary and that Ireland was ‘whole and indivisible’ and would ‘one day be reunited’ was implicit and explicit to the ire of Northern Protestants. To assuage them both SI & NI were given the sole right via there respective parliaments to decide on future change to their status via a calling a binding referendum and the decision lay not with Westminster -as it does with Scotland which cannot call a referendum without first an enabling act from Westminster.

      Constitutional experts of the time compared this new self governing status of SI and that of NI to the Dominion status then recently granted to Canada and Australia.

      At the time of partition there was a Protestant majority in NI but Catholics still were a significant minority (40%) and knowing they had a higher birth rate and fearing a future Catholic majority the Unionist Protestants set about a systematic process of extirpating the Irish language and culture from NI and turned the Catholic minority into second class citizens.
      They intended to make partition permanent by ensuring that parliament and the executive would only ever be Protestant.

      This led directly to a decades long civil war - The Troubles - that was eventually ended by a peace deal brokered by the US and a new constitutional set up in NI with a government elected by PR and not highly gerrymandered FPTP constituencies designed to ensure enduring Protestant hegemony.

      Now as seen in the latest
      Census and in election results the Catholic community is in a small majority and Sinn Fein is the largest party in Stormont and this is intolerable to militant Unionists who fear a reunification referendum.

      However this is unlikely since 1998 NI Is far less sectarian and far more seculars - reflecting change in the ROI as well.

      Reunification is not high on the agenda - except if Unionists try and force a border across the island which they tried to do with Brexit, but ended up wit an Irish Sea border instead reflecting the constitutional reality that NI is a hybrid both a part of the UK union and a part of the indivisible island of Ireland. Despite the best efforts of the DUP and their allies the ERG who are the latest iteration of the ‘British Nationalist’ faction of the Tories which dates from the days of George II and who falsely claim the UK is a unitary state when it is an union of several parts each with its own unique constitutional status and joined by treaties made and amended over centuries and which form the constitutional documents of the UK.

      Serial election results show Militant Ulster unionists only speak for at best 50% of Protestants in NI and for a shrinking aging demographic at that.
      The majority of the young (under 40) in NI, both Protestant & Catholic, regard themselves as Northern Irish or as Irish and not as British nor Unionist or Nationalist.

    4. NI is not an integral part of the UK. It is, under international law, a contingent part of it.

      Partition was always intended to be a temporary solution to the problems created by British colonialism in Ireland--and for which religion was merely a proxy identifier.

      Unionists are a minority in decline and they will have no veto on future change in NI. They have nothing to offer either nationalists or swing voters. Even the DUP's founder Wallace Thompson has publicly accepted that reunification is inevitable.

      Most passports issued to NI residents are Irish not British. This trend will continue. Brexit simply accelerates it.

  32. Prof Grey, I very much enjoy your blog (perhaps "enjoy" is the wrong word, given that it is devoted to forensic examination of the greatest act of national stupidity for centuries - perhaps "greatly appreciate" your blog would be better).
    Anyway, I just wonder whether the much-trumpeted statement that the UK has now become the world's 5th biggest exporting nation is the unalloyed good news Brexiters claim? Perhaps that could be the subject of a future blog?
    Anyway, do please keep up the good work, and thank you!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. On your point, I keep meaning to look into this and write about it, but there's always too many other things. I think the claim is 4th, not 5th, and services exports not all exports? I suspect, but haven't checked, that it ignores inflation, or there's some other sleight of hand in the figure? But, anyway, as regards Brexit it is irrelevant, as if there has been an improvement since Brexit there's nothing that Brexit has done which could have contributed to it. So, at best, it's a 'despite Brexit' not a 'because of Brexit' story.

    2. Even if it were ‘despite Brexit’ it would still show that exporting success is entirely compatible with Brexit.

    3. The question is whether that success if greater or smaller as a result of Brexit. On the original point, yes it was 4th - and the sleight of hand is to include gold and precious metal flows - the "gold illusion".

    4. Hmm, I suspect that had the electorate known in 2016 that (to a squinting approximation) Brexit Britain's trading performance would be similar to that under EU membership and general GDP growth would be similar to that of France and Germany then firstly the margin of victory would have been significantly greater, and secondly there'd have been vastly less toxicity and fear about the consequences of the referendum decision, and less investment-sapping delay and uncertainty in the implementation of it.

      As for counterfactuals, I find it very difficult to take them seriously, especially regarding Brexit. Economists spent years being continually and confessedly befuddled by the failure of productivity growth to recover after the Great Financial Crisis -- and then, without resolving this problem and therefore demonstrably lacking sound expertise in the matter, turned round and solemnly prophesied precise details of the effect of Brexit on productivity (and if you questioned their authority you were clearly a knuckle-dragging window-licker). Shameless, lol!

    5. For the record I was the first anonymous poster 1May 15.41. The subsequent replies were not from me but some other Anonymous. I still hope you’ll look into this question in a future blog.
      As an aside, I am amused that Anonymous 2 at 3 May 11.41, in their 2nd para finds it hard to take counter factuals seriously - but in their 1st para is happy to claim that had people known the UK’s exports and growth rate, the margin for Leave would have been bigger - which is a counter factual! Consistency, ladies and gentlemen, consistency!
      Best wishes

  33. The Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA) said the Sevington facility in Ashford, which is 22 miles inland, had not been designed to handle the scale of imports expected, and claimed its geographical position would “create an open door for disease and food fraud”.

    As if not bad enough, what is still not clear is how the re-export of rejected goods will be enforced.

    Telling the operator to return to Dover with the full cargo seems to be the "Keystone Cops" genius plan.

    Last week the FT informed us:

    Anyone found to be carrying unsafe or contaminated food could be asked to turn around and drive back again.

    The government has not explained how lorries will be monitored between the port and its control post, or how it will ensure goods that have been identified as unsafe leave the country.

    “How are we going to make sure those products get back on the ferry?” asked Nan Jones, technical policy manager at the British Meat Processors Association. “With that gap, how do we know they haven’t unloaded a load of products when they’ve been rejected?”