Sir Ivan Rogers, the former senior British diplomat to the EU, who, after three and a half years, resigned (or was he sacked?) at the beginning of 2017, has been speaking recently at Liverpool University on Britain leaving the EU. He it was, who pointed out some months ago that the EU was not just a trading partner but a regulatory superpower.
His new speech puts on display the enormous knowledge that is now no longer in the service of the nation, and though he is careful not to quite spell it out, it is clear that his predictions have turned out to be correct, largely because most politicians have played fast and lose with facts and failed to understand that negotiating from the inside of the EU is different from negotiating from the outside when, having triggered Article 50, you are outnumbered 27:1.
He talks “about nine lessons we need to draw from the last 2 ½ years, if the next 2 ½ – indeed the next decade – are not to be even more painful“.
He suggested that he arrived at nine lessons as he was thinking of the Christmas season though, in turn, I have to advise that there are unhappily, no carols. The full text is here and, forewarned is forearmed, it is a long, if well constructed, read. True to civil service form (and to continue the religious metaphor) he gives chapter and verse on what the UK has done wrong and how the government still seems not to be thinking straight or/and being honest with itself or the public.
Most of his conclusions will, I think be familiar to ‘Progressive Pulse’ readers so I will not list them here but there are two points in particular that do provide some additional insights.
Brexit is a process, not an event.
Even if the Withdrawal Agreement gets signed, sealed and delivered next month, which currently seems unlikely, much as it might disappoint people like Brenda of Bristol who are inclined to suggest, flatly ‘Just get on with it’, we have years more of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU. These talks will be difficult and protracted because the EU will be negotiating a new trade agreement with a third country and will necessarily be subject to the whims and wishes of the preferences of its 27 members. It will make the Withdrawal Agreement look like a breeze by comparison.
Britain will be continually wrestling, not with taking back control, but precisely how much control to cede in return for a trading quid pro quo. This will be boring to Brenda but essential to UK economic wellbeing, for, as Ivan Rogers points out “2/3 of UK exports are currently either to the EU or to countries with whom the EU has a preferential trade deal” and that does not include the recently signed EU-Japan trade deal which is likely to increase the figure still further.
Even worse, every UK election will be an opportunity for the EU to exert more concessions, or as he puts it “[a Free Trade Agreement] won’t be done by the end of 2020, and the EU well knows the U.K. won’t be keen on [jumping off any cliff] in the run up to an election.”
His last point is something that Labour should really take to heart:
“[Any] new Prime Minister who attempts to reset direction… will find… that whatever reset they attempt, rather a lot of the negotiating dynamics and parameters remain completely unchanged.”
Completely stuffed, probably covers it.
This is only further confirmed now that ITV’s Robert Peston has found that one, David Cameron, is advising Theresa May.
That’s all we need.