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God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.  At first sight, it seemed to me that the chaos and confusion that was created over the weekend was throwing a cartload of spanners into the already parlous state of the Article 50 negotiations.  However, this hellish combination of farcical cock-ups might just be a catalyst for a reasonable outcome of the whole thing; and oddly, little Eire might be the key that unlocks the door to a sensible solution.

Nevertheless, it is of course necessary first to deal with the ridiculous notion of a “transitionary period” or “implementation period” as Mrs. May calls it, which absolutely everyone on this side of the water now takes as a done deal.  On the other side, there has been a lukewarm welcome to this oh so British attempt at compromise, for no other reason than that it indicates a willingness to pay billions of euros more than we need to.  Monsieur Barnier, however, being one of the few persons actually to have read Article 50, has stated clearly the truism that there cannot be any such period UNLESS IT FORMS A TERM OF THE AGREEMENT.  His wise words, unfortunately, have been completely drowned out by all the noise.

This is an immensely important point which it will be helpful to unpack here.  There is a beautiful, almost poetic simplicity to the Article 50 procedure, which every politician and journalist in the UK ignores, and therefore spouts rubbish.  It gives the UK an absolute and guaranteed right to leave the EU (by being released from its Treaties) without paying anything at all at a specified moment, i.e. when midnight chimes in Brussels on 28 March 2019, but only if no Agreement has been finalised before that moment.  If there is such an Agreement, the effect of finalising it is exactly the same, in that the UK leaves the EU by being released from its Treaties.

An Article 50 Agreement can, of course, be finalised at any time during the 2 years it provides for that purpose.  There is no prescribed form or minimum length for it.  As long ago as March this year I showed how it could be reduced to one side of A4 paper.  Accordingly, if there were no ill feeling, no bitterness, no greed, and a genuine willingness to achieve the best possible outcome for all concerned, an Article 50 Agreement could be finalised by the end of next month, at which point the UK would be released from the Treaties of the EU.  Sadly, that is not how it is.

Given these facts, let us return to the idea of a transition period or a period in which to implement something.  We have established that such a provision would have to form part of the Agreement.  That Agreement must, of course, set out the future relationship between the UK and the EU, including its trading terms, cooperation arrangements, citizens’ rights, etc.  Unless there is going to be some dramatic change in any of those things, there is no transition and nothing to implement.

The ideal, of course, is that there should indeed be no such significant change.  The UK starts from a highly advantageous position because ALL THESE MATTERS ARE ALREADY IN PLACE; there is, therefore, nothing complicated to be agreed.

At this point, let us nevertheless assume a hypothetical transition period which is set to expire on 29 March 2021.  This would not remove any so-called “cliff edge”; it would merely postpone it to that time.  Moreover, there is absolutely no reason to imagine that the EU would be any more reasonable in 2021 than they have been in 2017; so all it would achieve is that we carry on paying £161 million net every week to the EU for two years more than we need to; ah yes!  One extraordinary development over the weekend was the astonishing change of view at the BBC.  Having roundly condemned the Foreign Secretary for saying that it cost the UK all this money, it then pointed out following Mrs. May’s Florence speech that it would have to pay all that money for another two years!!!

The other interesting development was the gentle increase in urgent voices calling on the civil service to start making preparations NOW for a “no deal Brexit”.

This brings us back neatly to Monsieur Barnier and his team.  They are terrified out of their skulls that the March 2019 deadline is reached without Agreement, as that means they get no “divorce bill” payment, and EU exporters to the UK get WTO tariffs slapped on them.

This terror means that the UK is in an IMMENSELY STRONG BARGAINING POSITION.

Indeed, that position has been strengthened even more by the very intransigence of the EU, and that is where Eire comes in.  Stating the obvious, Eire is “one of the 27”; it is very much part and parcel of the EU and will so remain after the UK is released from the Treaties.  It is because of this that I am genuinely surprised that the EU in general, and over the weekend Monsieur Macron in particular, have chosen to make the solution to the Irish border issue a condition precedent for further talks to proceed.

Eire, as a member of the EU, is absolutely bound by the single market and the customs union.  It is FORBIDDEN from reaching any sort of independent trade deal with any non-EU nation.

Savour that point for a moment.

The background to this is that everyone knows, although nobody on the EU side admits it, that it is in the interests of ALL concerned that free and seamless trade is maintained between the EU and the UK post-Brexit.

Equally importantly, such a solution is the ONLY one which will work for Ireland if the fragile peace which has existed since the Good Friday agreement is to me be preserved.

What the UK must do very soon, therefore, is to call the EU’s bluff; and the very first point we must make to them is that we KNOW they are terrified out of their skulls that the UK might leave in March 2019 without agreement.  The second point we make is that AS A MATTER OF EU LAW, the trading deal on the Irish border binds the whole of the EU.  We then give them 28 days to reach a sensible agreement along the lines of the detailed documents we have supplied, together with the offer of a sweetener, say 5 billion euros, IF AND ONLY IF they so agree.  If the offer is not accepted, our parting shot is that in those circumstances we walk away from the table and wait for our merciful release.

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  1. Good article! I agree with everything written within it. Or Government’s negotiating stance is weak and indefensible. PM May and her team act as if they are supplicants begging favours from a ‘Lord and Master.’

    I was infuriated by the public display of bad manners other EU leaders showed to PM May at a meeting earlier this year. They ignored her! Likewise, another display of bad manners when Mr. Barnier was late (deliberately)? To attend a meeting with David Davis.

    For goodness sake! May and Davis are supposed to be representing GB and NI – you and I. Each of them should have shown some ‘back – bone’ and walked out ‘saying see you in London, phone for an appointment.’

    Move the negotiations to London forthwith, and let the EU now tell us what they are prepared to offer in return for our goodwill. After all when buying an existing business, the value of goodwill is an asset that has to be paid for.

  2. We should “Leave the EU Immediately” Agree?
    If so then why not sign up to the current petition which is growing fast by the day.
    It seems obvious that we are being strung along by Barnier & Co. and that the EU is not interested in a normal process of open discussion with a view to reaching conclusions.

    The negotiations are a meaningless farce and complete waste of time.
    Sign up for this and put pressure on our incompetent political class to leave the EU without further delay.

  3. “Transition period”:
    Imagine a household of 5 that subscribes to Virgin Media. It costs them £60 a month for broadband, phone and TV.
    There’s a vote amongst the household and 3 out of the 5 members of this household vote to cancel the Virgin Media contract, because they can get a better (cheaper) broadband deal elsewhere, and most of the channels they watch they can get for free through Freeview.
    The 2 members really love Virgin Media though, and can’t live without it. So they try and stop the others from making the call to cancel the contract.
    Now, as a former Virgin Media customer myself, I know how much that VM really don’t like their customers leaving, and do everything to try and get them to stay (unlike the EU).
    So its a bit like my fictional household telling VM that they want to finish their contract after the 30 days notice period, but they’d like to carry on accessing the broadband and watching all the channels available for another 60 days, while continuing to pay the monthly fee.
    All because the 2 members of the household (and occasional friends they invite around) need a ‘transitional’ period to adjust to having their broadband through BT, and figuring out how to use the new Freeview DTV receiver they need to buy.
    Meanwhile the other 3 just want to cancel the subscription and order a BT phone line and a new Freeview receiver, and are just getting frustrated with the dicking around of the other 2.
    I hope Theresa May doesn’t subscribe to Virgin Media, otherwise Brexit is doomed.

  4. Just looked up the odds. Today Jane appears to be third-favourite. Obviously Bet365 don’t visit this website.

    Third-favourite? She’s our worst candidate by a country mile and three quarters.

    IMHO, of course.

  5. I have heard several MPs say, “Ah, but you aren’t aware of the complicated issues that need agreement,” which they then fail to detail or even mention.

    I assume there are some. I read an article on Buzzfeed (not known for their economic or political insight) that listed 30 difficulties most of which seemed trivial to me and one of which was ‘avoiding the cliff’ which is there to round up the numbers.

    The negotiating style of May seems to be submission. I hear that she is planning to write it up in a Trump style book called “The Art of the Kneel” how the UK knelt down to the EU.

  6. This was pointed out during the sham court case that Gina Miller caused to be. International Law I would presume over rides the ECJ. We are bound only by Treaties, now surely a Treaty has to be beneficial to both parties to that Treaty, if one signature believes itself to be no longer benefitting but actually suffering because of such a Treaty, then what in International Law stops it from declaring itself no longer a participant in the said Treaty.I suppose though there is not an International Court that could decide such a matter.

  7. Roving:

    I see your article, common sense though it is, as just another indication that May is not on our side.

  8. I am copying this article sending it to my tory remoaner MP and asking her to pass it on to her leader. I am sure May knows full well how strong our position is but she is willing to go to any lengths to prop up Europe at our expense, as if we havent done enough for Europe! We need a firing squad and a brick wall for this government.

  9. At the moment Eire is an unimportant minor member of the EU which espouses a policy of the end of nationstates and the reduction of said Eire to no more than a County in the EU Empire.
    Do they have enough sense to leave the EU and reintegrate into the UK with devolution as great as Scotland and the possibility of a United Ireland with a democratic government in Dublin?
    Probably not. They will stick their tongue out at us like children.
    By the way I am starting a boycott (Irish word) of as many products I can from France and Germany. I can survive without visiting either for the next few years, we have a Skoda car which is owned by VW but made in Prague so I might cheat a little. Otherwise no more wine or produce from France; no more household items nor footwear nor clothes from either as far as humanly possible. Any suggestions?

    • Bottom line is as we all knew from the “Off”- Mrs May is an appeaser. A fully fledged remainer as are most of her government. What she fail to understand is how determined us Brexiteers are about getting out of the clutches of the EU. The streets are going to be filled with the 17million and more pretty soon. She and her cabinet are an utter disgrace to this country. As for Amber Rudd, and Hammilton they need to be pushed out and fast. The poisonous duo do not run this cabinet.

  10. If we left the EU, then Eire would be forced to follow in order to maintain free trade through a treaty with the UK as well as the need to maintain a soft border.

  11. I am surprised the government feels the need to negotiate at all. I could do a better job by just not turning up!

  12. “This terror means that the UK is in an IMMENSELY STRONG BARGAINING POSITION.”

    I and I think many others know this, if only Theresa May did. I think even she does, she’s just hell bent on selling us out, she needs to go quickly.

    Any ideas who should replace her? Jacob Rees-Mogg perhaps?

  13. Good article, but I am afraid there is far too much common sense there. Politicians/bureaucrats, by their very nature, always choose complexity over simplicity. Their own self-importance, opportunities to posture and private empires are at stake. Straight forward, rational solutions are never acceptable. The really simple truth is, that we didn’t need article 50 (beyond para1 – notification) in the first place. We could have legally chosen to walk away (WTO) and conducted all trade negotiations from outside the EU looking in (just as every other non-EU country has done). My goodness, how EU minds would have been focused. UK money cut off and a budgetary brick wall, fast approaching…

  14. A great article, Staff-writer, and a tempting vision of freedom! The only thing is, it seems to me, although I am ignorant of the ins and outs of these things, that there’s no-one actually batting for Britain – I keep hoping it’s a kind of double bluff….

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