Steve Bullock is one half of the CakeWatch Podcast along with Chris Kendall and a tireless Brexit-watcher and Remain campaigner. Chris has already had an outing on the PP Blog with Brexit negotiations: how is the UK doing? and it seemed this is now the time to feature Steve.
I would strongly recommend CakeWatch. The news in the UK is extraordinarily insular and centres almost exclusively around Westminster. Both Steve and Chris are based in Brussels, have years of experience in UK/EU negotiations, and hence can and do give a wider European perspective.
Everything tends to be rigorously fact checked. The only thing I have ever had to pick them up upon was the rumour that “Brexit had already cost the EU an amount equivalent to the annual GDP of Greece” which they aired. To be fair I had heard this as well, but the figure seemed so extraordinarily high not to be credible. Steve and Chris agreed and were going to try to track down a proper source, but I think none materialised?
Steve is from South Shields on Tyneside and still keeps his accent. I would like to say Geordie but one needs to be careful. One of my friends who is a nursery teacher found one of her children crying uncontrollably. Through the sobs the child eventually said “I was called the worst insult in the world – she called me a Mackam!” Mackams are from Sunderland, Geordies from Newcastle. South Shields is borderland. I’m an honorary Geordie (by the power vested in Lord Stephens of Kirkwhelpington) but if Steve self identifies as a Mackam – I can live with the disappointment!
Steve has come up with a 51 point list as to what every MP should already know. This is essentially a Brexit 101. What is horrifying even at this late stage is how little many MPs seem to actually know, particularly the ultra-brexiters. Indeed the ultra-brexiters give every appearance of being a religious cult, rooted in an alternate reality and locked in their own self-referential bubble.
Sadly also Labour seem not to accept reality and believe somehow that they can reopen negotiations and get a better deal. Cakeism is not just confined to one side.
The list has already been published as a Twitter thread and on the excellent Politics Means Politics site.
Steve has kindly agreed that his list can be published on Progressive Pulse and hopefully will have time to answer any questions. He can in any event be contacted on Twitter as @GuitarMoog.
1. The Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation.
2. The Political Declaration might be tweaked cosmetically.
3. The future relationship will be negotiated during the transition period.
4. There will be no transition without the Withdrawal Agreement.
5. The will be no Withdrawal Agreement without the Financial Settlement.
6. A backstop cannot be unilaterally ended or it is not a backstop.
7. There will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop.
8. The Political Declaration is not a deal on the future relationship.
9. The Political Declaration is wish list, not binding.
10. The Political Declaration leaves huge, crucial questions entirely open.
11. The level of access to the EU markets and programmes is dependent on the level of alignment to EU rules the British Government is willing to commit to.
12. British restrictions to Freedom of Movement will be directly reciprocated by the EU27 for UK citizens.
13. Frictionless trade is impossible outside the Single Market and a Customs Union.
14. Neither the Single Market or a Customs Union are enough alone for frictionless trade.
15. Single Market membership requires Freedom of Movement, whoever is negotiating it.
16. EFTA membership is technically very difficult to combine with membership of a Customs Union.
17. EFTA or EEA membership requires acceptance of Freedom of Movement.
18. EFTA or EEA membership means very little influence and no formal control over Single Market rules.
19. Adjusting the Political Declaration to include EEA + Customs Union would not eliminate the need for a backstop.
20. A new EEA pillar with a Customs Union would not be off-the-shelf, and would need to be negotiated.
21. Negotiations on any future relationship may fail.
22. The British Government has explicitly ruled out being in the Single Market, making this a hard, not a soft Brexit.
23. Labour has implicitly ruled out being in the Single Market by not accepting Freedom of Movement or EU State Aid rules that are required for membership of it.
24. No Deal is a certain national catastrophe.
25. There is no such thing as a “WTO Deal”.
26. Britain already trades extensively with non-EU countries.
27. The projected economic benefits of new trade deals are very small in comparison to Single Market membership.
28. There are, in practice, no EU tariffs on goods from the poorest countries in the world.
29. The Withdrawal Agreement does not protect all the rights for EU Citizens living in the UK or UK Citizens living in the European Union.
30. It does not allow either groups to live “exactly as before”.
31. The British Government has complete control over its policy towards non-EU migration.
32. It is impossible to enter the UK, except across the Ireland/Northern Ireland border, without having your passport checked.
33. Article 50 can be revoked, certainly with the EU27 agreement, probably unilaterally.
34. Article 50 can be extended, with the EU27 agreement.
35. The EU27’s priority is to avoid a chaotic no deal Brexit while not crossing their red lines.
36. The EU27 will not negotiate a future relationship that crosses their red lines.
37. The EU27 are likely to agree to an extension of Article 50 for a Ratify vs Remain referendum.
38. The EU27 are by now largely ambivalent about which one is chosen.
39. The EU27 are unlikely to grant an extension for more messing around with obvious route to a solution.
40. The EU27 are unlikely to grant an extension of Article 50 and will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement just due to a change of government.
41. Reviewing a previous decision using the same method that decision was based on is not undemocratic.
42. Proceeding with Brexit will not heal divisions.
43. There is no problem that being poorer helps.
44. All versions of Brexit will leave the UK poorer.
45. EU member States are unlikely to allow Britain to rejoin for many years, possibly decades.
46. Britain would retain its vetoes, opt-outs, and rebate if it decided to remain a member of the EU.
47. No responsible Government or Parliament could allow No Deal. If, however, nothing is agreed and no action is taken, Britain will leave the EU on 29 March with a (catastrophic) No Deal.
48. MPs should not vote for any deal they believe to be bad for the country.
49. The British Government can choose to try to stop a No Deal Brexit at any time before it happens.
50. If No Deal happened, it would be because the Government had chosen not to stop it, and considered that appalling harm to Britain and its population was worth it for their own political ends.
51. Leaving with No Deal does NOT mean that nothing changes.