Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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Well, Mrs May will be swatting up on her Italian pronunciation and prepping for her big speech, nay, announcement in Florence.  As usual, there has been much speculation (or even leakage) about what she will offer the EU as an inducement to engage in trade discussions post-Brexit.  In some respects I really hope she can pull this off and get the leap forward that the negotiations are sadly in need of but, like most things in life, there is a cost which will be likely both financial and political.

The financial cost could be anything from the reported 20 billion euros a year for three years continued contribution to the EU to the £40 billion suggested elsewhere by the media.  In essence, if this all comes about, we'll be still paying a levy into the EU purely for the privilege of having access to the single market and customs union along with some continued interference in our legislation by the ECJ and ongoing free movement of labour.  All in all, doesn't actually sound like a deal at all and will annoy the hard Brexit camp and likely a good proportion of the electorate that voted for severance rather than lingering and acrimonious divorce.  This is certainly not what Brexit was supposed to be about but in the spirit of conciliation we perhaps need to recognise the impact of Britain's departure upon the EU budget and the downturn in European affairs that would result from a rapid cessation of payments.  If I was a cynic - who, me ? - then it could be argued that that is Europe's problem and not ours.  After all, Article 50 includes no requirement for a continuance of financial contribution.  However, we clearly want to stay friends with Europe and it looks very much as though we are going to have to pay them to still play marbles with us in the playground.  

The political cost to Mrs May and her government could go in several directions.  If there is a public outcry at the deal she offers and a constitutional uproar over how Brexit should be conducted then there will be great pressure to dissolve parliament and have yet another general election.  This is what the Labour Party (and no doubt the LibDems) are hoping for - they see this as the best opportunity for them to deliver the coup de grace to the Conservative government and walk into No. 10.  Alternatively, if Mrs May just scrapes through this ordeal but emerges somewhat more bruised than she already is, whilst the government may survive, a leadership challenge might well oust her.  A third option might be somewhere in between - a general discontent over the deal might, in fact, be overruled by the EU itself.  The presumption that the cards are exclusively in British hands is wrong - no deal will be struck unless the remaining 27 EU states approve it, and if that approval didn't quite quickly follow Mrs May's offer then, again she would be in a politically untenable position and would likely need to tender her resignation.  Whether that could lead to a general election or just a leadership election is something of a fluid debate these days - but it all could happen.

What we are seeing in this highly controversial episode in our affairs is the impact of lobby's and pressure groups upon government actions.  It's not new and has probably gone on in modern times since parliament became the superior governmental force at the time of the Civil War.  So there's no surprise that the influential and wealthy elements of our world will be at work manipulating the best options for themselves.  The question then becomes, is what's best for them in any way beneficial for the country ?  Now there's a thorny bucket of hawthorns for you to consider dipping your arm into.  I suppose the true answer to that is that nobody actually knows until it's happened and that is probably the single biggest concern in the whole Brexit debate - do we actually trust, or indeed wish to trust, those vested interests that can sway governmental policy for their own ends in the belief that there will be some collateral benefit for the population as a whole ?  I'm afraid I haven't got a crystal ball (waiting for one at Christmas) but what I do see is that the hopes and expectations of what Brexit was originally conceived to be will be somehow diverted, re-directed and compromised - in this instance, what you see isn't going to be what you get.

Let us see what Mrs May declares in Florence...