This is now my ninety-fourth attempt to write an update on Brexit. It would be nice if that was because my drafts kept being overtaken by events. But there haven’t been any events. My drafts get overtaken by confusion and ignorance. I can imagine assorted Government ministers also writing daily pieces on how we are going to leave the EU, and tearing each one up the following day.
So I am writing myself a questionnaire to see if that makes things any clearer.
Is it possible to retain access to the single market while restricting freedom of movement?
Are you sure?
Liechtenstein managed it. Why can’t we?
Because we’re not as popular with EU members as Liechtenstein. We have voted to undermine everything that the countries of western Europe have been trying to achieve since 1945. Our popularity is on a par with that of North Korea. Maybe worse.
So which of the two should we choose?
If we choose access to the single market, there will be continued freedom of movement, UKIP will say we might as well not have left, there will be riots in the street, and the Government will dissolve in chaos. If we choose restriction to the freedom of movement, we will lose access to the single market and a large chunk of our economy, we will become a nasty, insular country and the Government will dissolve in chaos.
You haven’t answered the question. Which one should we choose?
So what’s the other option?
I don’t think there is one.
Would you be in favour of not negotiating with the EU at all and simply conducting our trade under World Trade Organisation rules for the time being?
Haven’t you read the forty-eighth draft of this blog?
That’s what I suggested there. Then I discovered all the monumental drawbacks to the WTO rules, which is why we are here in the ninety-fourth draft.
How about leaving the EU while staying in the European Economic Area?
I addressed that in the thirteenth draft of this blog. No one knows whether it’s possible.
Can’t the courts decide?
Yes. The European Court of Justice.
Ah. Could be difficult.
But there would be lots of legal wrangles until it got there, and what with all the other legal wrangles going on, another thought strikes me.
At present we are not just the financial capital of Europe, we are the legal capital. We may lose some of our financial business, but our legal potential remains enormous. We have only 140,000 lawyers at the moment.
That sounds rather a lot.
Not compared with America. They have 1.3 million. Maybe we could build an entire economy based on shuffling money around and suing each other.
I thought we already had. There must be something practical you can suggest.
Lots of things. The main problem is that we have to negotiate with the EU and they hate us. What if there wasn’t an EU, eh?
Well, there’s likely to be a financial crisis in Italy. The EU-Canada trade deal could get scuppered in the Dutch Parliament. A fascist might become President of Austria. The next French President might want to leave the EU.
Is any of this a good idea?
No, of course it isn’t. But if the EU’s aim is to make the countries of Europe more like one another, creating a collection of nationalistic, xenophobic states would be one way of achieving it.
Let’s get back to the main point. What exactly are you in favour of?
I’m in favour of staying in the EU.
But we have to leave, don’t we?