As the EU negotiations traverse this predictably tricky stage, the Usual Suspects appear on television blithely arguing that we should just walk away from the negotiations with the EU with no deal because it’ll all be fine, really.
Except anyone can see that that outcome is far from desirable.
The House of Lords European Union Committee has skewered any notion that “no deal” is anything other than a highly damaging option in a report published today. It also slams the Government for enshrining the date of withdrawal in the European Withdrawal Bill.
They also make the obvious point that it is not possible to reach a deal by the March 2019 deadline and so our membership of the EU should be extended to cover this.
We may not have much information from the Government in terms of the impact of Brexit on certain sectors in the economy, but we do have some pretty strong evidence in this report of what a disaster a “no deal” scenario would be for the agri-food business, for the ports, for aviation, for the financial sector and it really isn’t pretty. Read through the evidence and wonder how anyone can actually go on telly and advocate it as an option.
The report’s conclusion is damning:
A complete ‘no deal’ outcome would be deeply damaging for the UK. It would bring UK-EU cooperation on matters vital to the national interest, such as counter-terrorism, police, justice and security matters, nuclear safeguards, data exchange and aviation, to a sudden halt. It would place the status of UK nationals in the EU, and EU nationals in the UK, in jeopardy, and would necessarily lead to the imposition of controls at the Irish land border.
The wider economic impact of an abrupt departure from the EU single market and customs union, and the adoption of WTO conditions for trade, would be felt across a range of sectors, including financial services, the agri-food sector, and aviation. It would have a particularly disruptive impact on cross-border supply chains. The short-term impact on trade in goods would also be grave: the UK’s ports would be overwhelmed by the requirement for customs and other checks. There is simply not enough time to provide the necessary capacity, IT systems, human resource and expertise to deal with such an outcome.
Vince Cable echoed the Report’s conclusions, saying that “no deal” would leave us “poorer, weaker and more isolated than at any time in modern history.”
This report is damning, and confirms the scale of the damage which could be wrought by the worst case scenario of ‘no deal’: we would be poorer, weaker and more isolated as a nation than we have ever been in modern history.
The government has already committed around £50bn to getting some sort of deal without knowing what it is.
By foolishly stating at the outset that it intends to leave the Single Market and Customs Union as well as the European Union the government has created a self-fulfilling prophecy: that we shall indeed have a choice between a bad deal and no deal.
For that reason the people need the safety net of a vote on the final terms of Brexit. The UK must be given the opportunity to exit from Brexit.
It looks this week as though we are really starting to win the argument on the idea of a referendum on the deal and it looks like the public might vote to stay in the EU if there was one. The Survation poll last weekend had a 15 point lead for a referendum on the deal with Remain holding a narrow lead when asked if there were a referendum tomorrow how would you vote.
What I would like to see our people do is to set out a roadmap of how we could exit from Brexit. It’s a nice phase, but people need to be convinced that it could happen. So, let’s see the steps to staying in the EU and getting ourselves out of this mess presented clearly and simply.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings